Miso Paste; Brown Miso

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Miso is a Japanese flavoring and ingredient. It is sometimes called fermented soybean paste, though in fact it can be made from barley and from rice as well as from soybeans. It is rooted in the same tradition of fermenting soybeans to preserve their food value as the Shan fermented soybeans are. A number of the Shan recipes in this book call for fermented soybeans or for Soybean Disks. Miso paste—which has the advantage of being readily available in supermarkets and health food stores—is given as a substitute, for those who do not have access to fermented soybeans or the inclination to prepare them.

Miso comes in many colors and flavors, from sweet pale yellow miso to very dark and strong-tasting miso made from barley. The closest substitute for fermented soybeans is a miso that is a medium brown (sometimes labeled “red miso”), not sweet, made from rice and soybeans or just soybeans. When you shop for miso, look for a medium-brown paste and then be sure to store it in the refrigerator. When you are making miso soup, the instructions are to bring water to the boil, then remove it from the heat and stir in the miso paste, not letting it cook over the heat. But when miso is used as a flavoring, as it is in these recipes, it is added before the end of cooking and allowed to blend in with other ingredients.
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