Miso is indeed tasty; it’s a fermented soybean paste, for those not up on their food facts, and it has a rich, complex flavour that almost defines umami. It’s been used in Japan for hundreds of years and, like so many things these days, is said to have health-giving properties. You could probably argue that any food has health-giving properties as it keeps you from starving to death.
Bonnie Chung founded the UK’s only dedicated Miso brand and has taught herself a lot about it. She’s travelled back and forth to Japan and talked to the experts, the craft miso makers and the chefs who use it in ever imaginative ways.
In this book she’s collated classic recipes and and new discoveries, all using the various varieties of Miso available, and even gives a useful primer on how miso is made so that you can hold your own with any food blogger who corners you in a Japanese restaurant.
Rice miso is the most popular and is what most people will find in the shops. Miso is white up to around six months old and then it becomes caramel coloured, although usually referred to as’red’. The red has a sharper taste while sweet white miso is the more delicate and refined miso.
There is also a barley miso, but it’s popularity with young Japanese and urban hipsters is waning as it’s quite strong. All misos are rated highly for proteins, vitamins and live bacteria.
There are actually instructions on making your own miso, which might be fun but probably falls into the make your own pasta category – why bother when you can buy better?
Then come the recipes; for soups, spreads, dips, dressings, sauces, marinades, pickles, desserts and sweets. Yes miso is indeed very versatile. Apparently though 80% of miso is simply consumed as a soup, and most of us have had the classic made with wakame and tofu. But make yourself some Dashi, a foundation stock in Japanese cooking, and you can enjoy a lot more – such as slow cooked pork and vegetable soup or miso clam chowder.
And of course miso makes broth for ramen, the slurpy food beloved of single diners. There are recipes here for the classics, of course.
If you’ve ever enjoyed Miso Black Cod, then there’s a recipe for that although you may not find Black Cod in Tesco’s and you’d want to try miso butter over corn on the cob and even on toast.
Slow braised pork belly, honey and red miso chicken wings, broccoli with sesame miso dressing and a whole roasted miso cauliflower with ginger and lime, these all sound fantastic.
A warming book and a wealth of knowledge and ideas to help us all say’make mine miso’.