Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

miso the Japanese name for what is also known as ‘bean paste’. This is a fermented paste of soya beans and, usually, rice or barley or rye. Similar products are used in SE Asia, especially Indonesia.

Miso was first made in China, where it and soy sauce developed from a common predecessor, thought to have been a condiment prepared from meat, salt, and wine, fermented with a koji (starter culture) made from grain. A substance of this kind is mentioned in the Analects of Confucius. On archaeological evidence it is certain that by 200 BC a fermented condiment made with soya beans, rather than meat, was known in China. Dou jiang, the Chinese equivalent of miso, is familiar as an accompaniment to peking duck but is less important in China than is miso in Japan. The first Japanese written reference to miso dates from AD 701.