Even today miso soup is the breakfast of many people in Japan. Miso is one of the oldest traditional ingredients of the Japanese diet. According to author Emi Kazuko the ingredient can be traced back to the 12th century. The early product, a seasoning, was called hishio which was a preserve made from salt fermented with various grains and beans.
The three types of miso are categorized by strength, flavor and color.
Miso has a delightfully strong fermented flavor when used judiciously, provides flavor to soups, sauces, dressings, marinades and ramens to name only a few uses. In many cases miso is combined with dashi (a fish stock) for simple soups.
The stronger flavored miso (kuro-miso) are used for dipping sauces and soups or combined with other types of miso for a lighter result.
Miso will loose its flavor if cooked for too long so it is best to add it toward the end of the cooking process. Use only a small amount in soups or the flavor may be overpowering. Avoid the use of salt in recipes that use miso.
Miso has a very long storage life if kept in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Over time the flavor will deteriorate.
Miso has been made in Japan for over 1000 years. Miso actually comes from China where it is referred to as "Djan".
The manufacturing process begins by making the koji. The koji is prepared by fermenting rice, barley or soybeans and adding the koji bacillus. As the grain decomposes, it then recomposes to form a fermented mold-covered grain called koji. Koji is also used in the production of sake and soy sauce.
The quality of the final Miso product is totally dependant on the quality of the koji. During the fermentation process the grain starch and protein are converted into sugar. Yeast (kobo) is added to facilitate the fermentation process.
The different types of miso are produced by using different grains as well as different bacteria found in different regions of Japan. Miso is traditionally produced in Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka.
Shiro Miso (Saikyo Miso)
Used in Yuzu miso, karashi miso and Saikyo yaki