I make my own miso, so I haven’t bought any in years. I was surprised to learn that not all miso still has a live bacterial culture. Some of it has flavoring and additives. Last time I went to the supermarket I snapped some pictures of the ones that were still living and are additive free. As an aside, I didn’t see any that were one or the other.
What to look for:
生 (nama)- live (as in live culture)
無添加 (mutenka) – additive free
酵母が生きている (koubo ga ikiteiru) – the yeast is living
生詰 or 生詰め (namatzume) – “packed with life”, as in the culture is still alive
Note: the miso I make has three ingredients soy beans, rice malt and salt. Some misos will have barley as well.
Every year since I got married I have made miso with my mother-in-law. I love homemade miso, everything else pales in comparison. Miso making is really easy as you can order everything in one kit called a miso set in Japanese (味噌セット miso setto). If you search using that key word you can find lots of places to order miso kits. My mother-in-law orders from a company that isn’t online as far as I know. I just about had a heart attack when I was editing the photos because one of the ingredients (kouji kome こうじ米 – fermented rice) comes from Fukushima (of nuclear disaster fame). The heart attack subsided when I remembered that the rice used in this batch was pre-disaster. Phew. This last weekend we also ordered barley and brown rice miso to make for fun. My mother-in-law told me that when she was a kid barley miso was the norm because rice was to expensive. She can’t remember what it tastes like so we decided to order a kit. I’m also curious how the brown rice miso will be as it has a lower salt to rice ratio. The two new kits probably won’t arrive for a couple of weeks.
The miso we made has three ingredients salt, soy beans and kouji kome.
You start off like this mixing the kouji kome and salt.
Then you add soy beans.
And eventually you get this.
And six months later you can use it.
My new favorite thing is to add Chinese chili paste (四川辣豆板醤) to miso soup. I’ve made several variations over the last month or so. This particular one has carrot, Chinese cabbage and udon noodles in it. That is all. I’ve also added ground chicken or pork and daikon. It’s a simple, fast soup that warms you up quickly.
Spicy Miso Soup with Udon
1 serving precooked udon noodles
400mL dashi (fish stock) per person
1/2 carrot, chopped, per person
1-2 Chinese cabbage leaves, chopped, per person
miso, to taste
chili paste, to taste
Bring fish stock to a boil and add the carrots and Chinese cabbage spines. Simmer until almost cooked. Add the udon and Chinese cabbage leaves and simmer until the leaves start to go limp. Turn off the heat and add miso and chili paste. Serve immediately.
Note: you can skip the noodles, add ground chicken or pork and/or add daikon and it still tastes great.
Chinese Chili Paste – found in the Asian import section of most supermarkets in Japan
The brand I got was Lee Kum Kee and the name of the sauce appears to be shisen raa toubanjan (シセンラートウバンジャン)