Miso is a flavourful paste constituted of fermented soybeans. Rice or kome miso, the preferred sort, is made with soybeans, water, salt and rice inoculated with a tradition referred to as koji. In barley or mugi miso, the rice koji is changed by barley koji. However the obvious distinction between misos is of their look: they are often straw-pale or near-black, easy or chunky. As a rule, the paler the miso, the sweeter and lighter it is going to be. Some main authorities on miso keep that the complexity of its flavour makes it exhausting for westerners to explain, however I’d beg to vary. It’s exhausting to explain the style of a courgette, however miso is so flavourful that it’s exhausting to cease describing it – you may detect barnyard, nutty, brown butter, caramelised, unique fruit (banana, mango, pineapple), olive, briny, boozy or chestnut blossom notes. It’s particularly good with rustic flavours akin to alliums, root greens and seaweed, however it has some much less probably companions, too.
The meals writers John and Jan Belleme advise that candy white miso can be utilized the place you may in any other case use dairy, say in mashed potato, added to tofu to make a cream cheese-style dip, or stirred right into a soup. Nobody would mistake carrot and miso soup for cream of carrot, however the miso does have a pleasingly enriching impact.
Scatter a free mosaic of chopped chives over a pink miso soup and wait a couple of minutes earlier than ingesting – it tastes like onion soup laced with sherry.
The miso brownie was in all probability conceived in about 2014, and recipes typically name for a small quantity of candy white miso, which can barely scrape your salted chocolate receptors. Crimson miso, in the meantime, will ship a pronounced fermented tang, which is each pleasing in its personal proper and authentically brownie-like, as a result of chocolate has lots of the identical flavour notes. Combined in a ganache, miso and darkish chocolate make for an excessive mixture of candy, salt and bitter. I wish to unfold it on a digestive biscuit, with its personal roasted, malty flavours and a touch of salt; the crumbly texture of the biscuit additionally properly offsets the sleek ganache. Miso chocolate digestives are going to make my fortune.
Combine miso with butter, oil or mayonnaise to unfold on a corn cob. The cereal-vegetal, fermented funk of miso hits first, earlier than the sweetness reveals itself, with the salt teasing out the corn flavours that may in any other case be sweetened into undetectability. Or strive miso ramen with a brood of vivid kernels nesting on the noodles. The expertise isn’t any much less satisfying for being much less intense.
Misozuke are meals pickled in miso, and are normally served as a snack or an accompaniment to a meal. Carrots, radishes, kabocha squash and cauliflower are all standard. The method can also be used for meat and fish, however my favorite misozuke are boiled eggs, which style a bit like they’ve been pickled in gravy. As compared, the expensive previous English chip-shop pickled egg is proven because the bald, vinegary thug it truly is. Boil 4 eggs for six to seven minutes, then allow them to cool earlier than peeling them. Loosen 200g miso with 50ml mirin and sweeten it with a tablespoon of sugar – you’re aiming for a consistency delicate sufficient to coat the egg simply, so if it appears too thick, add somewhat water or sake. Pour the combination right into a freezer bag, adopted by the eggs. Depart within the fridge for half a day to 2 days, gently palpating the bag from time to time. Inform your family members that that is to make sure the eggs are correctly lined, though you and I do know it’s simply because it feels good.
Miso lends a salty meatiness. For 2 to 4 servings, simmer 250g inexperienced beans till al dente, then refresh in chilly water. Combine two teaspoons of pink miso into two tablespoons of softened butter. Put two teaspoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium-high warmth, add the beans and heat them via for a couple of minutes. Add two tablespoons of finely chopped shallot and a crushed garlic clove, and cook dinner for an additional minute. Add 4 tablespoons of sake, simmer till decreased by half, then pour in 4 tablespoons of water and simmer till decreased by half once more. Add the miso butter and heat gently till it has melted and coated the beans.
Used as a dressing or a condiment, neri miso is a mixture of miso, honey (or sugar) and water (or sake) that has been simmered for a brief spell. Its extremes of salt and candy are so balanced, it’s as in case your tastebuds have been put right into a painful, but deeply soothing, yoga place. To make a fundamental model, simmer 5 tablespoons of pink or white miso, two tablespoons of honey and two tablespoons of sake or water in a small pan for 2 minutes, stirring till it’s thick however nonetheless pourable; you may additionally like so as to add two tablespoons of mirin. Make a batch and experiment with standard additions akin to nuts, seeds, greens and seafood; peanuts and sesame are a much-loved mixture in Japan.
Buttery is the commonest flavour observe for pecans, although it reveals itself late within the chewing. Some pecans, nonetheless, have extra of a plant-dairy high quality, like heat, barely sweetened soy milk, which makes miso a pure pairing. The mixture of candy white miso and pecan is cake-like, whereas pink miso and pecan remembers stone fruit. The miso maker Bonnie Chung pairs pink miso and pecan with maple syrup and rice vinegar to make a condiment for udon noodles and greens cooked in dashi or vegetable inventory.
Miso has the boldness and richness of balsamic vinegar, says the chef Tim Anderson and, like balsamic, its pronounced sweet-sourness can redeem common tomatoes. And let’s face it, on common, tomatoes are common. Dissolve a heaped tablespoon of pink miso in two tablespoons of rice vinegar with a pinch of salt, then stir in three tablespoons of rapeseed oil. Slice the tomatoes, toss them within the dressing and depart for an excellent few hours to soak it up.
“Miso-tahini is a vegetarian traditional,” writes fermentation knowledgeable Sandor Katz, “however miso-peanut butter and miso-yoghurt mixtures are simply as scrumptious.” Fattiness is the important thing, he explains, as a result of it acts because the provider for miso’s “dense, salty flavour”. Katz stipulates 4 components fatty ingredient to at least one half miso, with a little bit of sourness added for stability – use kimchi or sauerkraut liquor. Even in case you don’t like them, you possibly can at the very least bore on for hours about your intestine micro organism.
That is an edited extract from The Flavour Thesaurus: Extra Flavours, by Niki Segnit, revealed this week by Bloomsbury at 20. To order a replica for £17.60, go to the Guardian bookshop
Extra images: Ola O Smit, Louise Hagger, Getty Photos/Johner. Meals stylists: Ellie Mulligan, Emily Kydd. Prop stylist: Jennifer Kay. Louie Waller. Meals styling assistants: Susanna Unsworth, Emmy Fyles, Katy Gilhooly.