I bet you’ve come across an amazing looking vegan dish, only to find out you haven’t got a damn clue what they’re talking about down in the recipe description. Fear not, my vegan food loving friend! I’m here to explain what these mysterious ingredients are, how you can use them and where you can get them. First up: miso
Miso is traditional ingredient for Japanese cooking. It is made by fermenting soy beans and a type of grain (like barley or rice) with salt and koji. The fermentation process can take up to 3 years. The flavour or type of miso depends on what grains are used and how long it has fermented – so there’s a lot of different kinds of miso out there. The most common ones are red and white miso. A red miso is usually stronger and more salty in taste than the white variation. Because it is a fermented food, it adds beneficial bacteria to the gut, aiding your digestive system and an enhanced immune system.
Using miso in your cooking will give the dish a salty and umami flavour. So no, it’s definitely not the same as using stock, since that’d just make the dish more salty. If I had to give it a go, I’d describe miso tasting like stock made from mushrooms, but that would sell it short tbh. I suggest testing it out when you make a noodle soup – try a bowl with regular stock and one with miso paste. You’ll never go back to stock again ;).
So how do I use miso in my kitchen? I add it to anything I want tasting ‘meaty’ or ‘cheesy’. I add it to my seitan experiments (soon on the blog, I swear!), and in this mac ‘n’ cheese recipe. It’s also great as a base for many soups, especially noodle soups, and in vegetable stews. Just keep in mind not to go overboard when experimenting at first, keep adding half a teaspoon until the flavour is just right.
You can find miso paste in some health stores, in Asian supermarkets, and online. They usually come in plastic packaging, but I advise to put the miso in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. Since it’s a fermented food, it lasts (almost) forever.