Soya foods – Miso

There are many varieties of miso. All varieties are made from soybeans or cereals and a special koji. Koji is to miso, what malt is to beer. Koji are grains (mainly rice, but also barley) or soybeans which are fermented with Aspergillus oryzae molds. During the production of koji these Aspergillus molds will produce a lot of enzymes which will later break down the proteins and carbohydrates of the substrate.

These are the most common varieties:

  • Red Miso
  • White Miso
  • Barley Miso
  • Soybean miso

Red Miso

Red miso is made from white rice, barley or soybeans by a natural fermentation, which takes about one to three years. The colour of red miso is red to brownish. Red miso contains the highest levels of protein of all types of miso. When rice is used as ingredient to make red miso, normally white rice is used.

The fibres of brown rice are difficult to penetrate by the koji mycelium and it more difficult to prevent bacterial contamination.

Red miso is used for stir-fries, miso soups and stews or to make marinades for meat, poultry and vegetables.

White Miso

The white colour is obtained by using a lot of rice koji (about 60%) and fewer soybeans. Of all miso varieties, the white miso contains the most carbohydrates and therefore tastes the sweetest. It’s texture us very smooth. Because of the high carbohydrate content, the fermentation is very quick and only takes a few weeks. On the other hand, its shelf-life is limited to only one or two weeks at room temperature, or 2 months when refrigerated.

White miso is used to make light coloured soups, salad dressings and marinades for fish.

Barley Miso

Barley miso is made from barley grains, soybeans and barley koji. Barley miso has a very dark colour and quite salty but very rich taste. Although barley miso is the cheapest miso on the market it is loosing popularity. Barley miso is naturally fermented from one up to three years. The longer the barley miso is fermented, the darker the colour and richer the flavour.

Barley miso is used for seasoning rich soups, stews, beans, sauces and spreads.

Soybean Miso

Soybean miso is only made from soybean. Soybean miso will have low carbohydrate content resulting in a very long fermentation period, at least one year. Also the koji is produced from soybeans. A special type of soybean miso is Hatcho miso. The koji for Hatcho miso contains a special mold: Aspergillus hatcho instead of the usual Aspergillus oryzae. Hatcho miso should be aged for at least 16 months. Hatcho miso is considered the miso of Emperors. Hatcho miso is reddish-brown, somewhat chunky, and often used to flavour hearty soups.