Starting my list of my favorite foods I’ve discovered here in Japan. And with some ideas how I use them!
Favorite Japanese Super-Foods
“There is no need for a doctor if you have miso,” is a traditional Japanese saying. Eaten since ancient times, miso is a staple of a traditional Japanese diet. It was an important source of protein here when a global food supply wasn’t available. I love miso and eat it just about every day!
Miso Super Food Nutrition
Miso is high in fibre and is packed with protein, iron, calcium, manganese, Vitamin K and B12, which is good for vegans. During the fermentation process, fatty acids and amino acids are released and add flavor and depth to the miso. Because of its estrogen content, miso is great for women who are menopausal too! In fact, there is no such word in Japanese for “hot flash.”
Miso is made from a process of fermented and blended soybeans, barley and rice.
Japanese miso uses Koji, a cooked rice and/or soya beans that have been inoculated with a fermentation culture, or mold, Aspergillus oryzae, which grows well in Japan because of its warm, humid climate.
This mold is also used to make other Japanese items, such as sake; mirin, rice wine vinegar; and soy sauce.
Since Koji is a live culture, this probiotic makes for a healthy digestive tract and immune system. The fermentation process also increases the levels of isoflavones, compounds said to be effective in the prevention of cancer. A super food indeed!
Varieties of Miso
There are so many varieties of miso, but are generally made from a fermented mixture of either soybeans, barley or rice.
White miso Shiro-miso 白みそ has more rice added to it to make it lighter with a slightly sweet taste. It’s used for soups, salad dressings and marinades.
Light Color Miso Tanshoku-miso 淡色
Red miso Aka-miso 赤みそ has been fermented longer and has a heartier, saltier taste. It good for hearty soups and sauces.
Miso as Japanese Culture
There are many regions where miso comes from too, and is part of the rich history and culture of Japan.
Shungate website explains: The miso of the Tohoku region, which was produced to keep the residents from starving and help them make it through the harsh winter climate, is reddish in color and has a strong taste. The Kansai region has a mellow white rice miso containing a large amount of rice koji. And the miso of the Hokuriku region, which had a great deal of interchange with the Tohoku and Kansai regions, carries the features of both regions with a pale, strongly flavored rice miso. The Tokai region is known for its hatcho miso, a rice miso with a unique flavor. In this way, there is a tremendous diversity of miso, each reflecting the culture of their area.
I often eat a bowl of miso soup 味噌汁 misoshiru, mixed with my own veggies and other items for breakfast or lunch. Or if you’re fasting or not feeling well, miso is the perfect broth aid.
Traditional miso soup recipes call to blend miso with dashi, which is a fish-based soup stock, and vegetarians use vegetable bullion. I simply mix miso with hot water. Don’t use boiling water or you will kill the culture.
I cook without a recipe, so here are my basics for a East-West Miso Bowl. Always adjust to your personal taste!
• Put a half a fork full of miso paste in a soup bowl. Pour hot water on it. Mix it up. Drink as is or:
• Add dried seaweed, kombu, and little wheat curlies from the grocery store.
From there add to the bowl:
• Negi, diced green onions.
• Flat mochi, rice, that melts in the hot water and becomes like gooey cheese, but vegan!
• Add rice, brown or white,
• Add some dried shitake mushrooms.
• Add special yuzu, citrus fruit, sauce to the bowl for a citrus flavor. Found in Japanese grocery stores.
• For variety I’ve even added half an avocado and cilantro. Add some habanero sauce for a Mexican style miso bowl!
• You can even add pesto to the miso soup for an Italian flare!
Try adding your own favorite ingredients as you introduce more miso into your diet and reap its healthy super food benefits!