Miso soup, a traditional Japanese food staple, is known for its nutritional benefits and delicious taste. This flavorful, aromatic soup is packed with nutrients and is a perfect meal at any time of the day. It has a very interesting history, and although production methods have developed over time, the soup's primary ingredient, miso, has existed for thousands of years.
Main Ingredient: Miso
As the name suggests, the main ingredient in miso soup is miso (pronounced "MEE-so"). Miso is a paste made of soybeans. After the addition of a culture, the beans are fermented and then ground into a paste. According to Jan and John Belleme's informative book titled "The Miso Book: The Art of Cooking with Miso," there are two varieties of miso: sweet miso and red miso. Sweet miso is light yellow, beige or white in color. The fermentation period is not as long as that of red miso, which is red in color and saltier. Whfoods.com lists six different types of miso, each with a different combination of ingredients. The use of the soybean is common to all kinds of miso.
In addition to miso, miso soup is made with a fish stock called "dashi." This stock can be found at most Asian supermarkets. It is traditional to use tofu, seaweed and mushrooms as well. Other ingredient ideas include onions, leeks, potatoes, shrimp, carrots or radishes.
History of Miso
Miso may have originated in China as early as 800 B.C. Around the year 500 A.D., Buddhists probably brought miso to Japan, which began the soup's legacy as a Japanese tradition. The Chinese predecessor was probably a bit different from miso as it is today, and was most likely made of soybeans, wheat, alcohol and salt.
Development and Change
As centuries passed, the process of making miso developed. There are now three methods of miso production: traditionally made, naturally aged and temperature controlled. Originally, only the first of these methods was used in miso production, but with the rise of industrialization, the naturally aged and temperature controlled methods became more prominent. Today, less than 5 percent of Japanese miso is made in the traditional method, which is much slower and more difficult.
Miso soup was first mentioned about 750 years ago, when Japan was ruled by warriors. Traditionally, the soup was eaten for breakfast. Many Japanese families have retained this tradition. The Japanese originally developed soup made with miso soup, not the Chinese. The production of miso is considered a high art in Asia, and miso soup is considered one of Japan's most distinguished and important culinary discoveries.
Miso in America
Beginning in the 1960s, miso soup began to emerge in American health- and natural-food stores. Its popularity has been on the rise ever since. Miso soup is very versatile and has a delicious, salty taste. It also has numerous health benefits as a good source of protein, zinc, manganese and copper. It has also been shown to help in breast cancer prevention.
- Photo Credit Credit: www.cashclanjapan.com
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