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Why I Eat Miso & My Favourite Way To Use It

Yum

miso eggplant is miso paleo

Having read a lot about processed soy products and the havoc they can cause in our bodies – read this and this and this – I naturally try to avoid them. That is except for a few soy-based ingredients, which pass my nutritional acceptance test. These are naturally fermented soy foods such as tempeh, natto and miso.

The reason these particular soy products are not as harmful as tofu or soy milk is that they are produced through a fermentation process, which makes them more easily digestible and reduces the amount of present anti-nutrients such as phytates and lectins. In fact, they are rather healthy and nutritious: great sources of probiotics, have high levels of isoflavones (cancer preventative ) and a good amount of protein (especially tempeh), minerals and vitamins (especially Vitamin K in miso and B12 vitamin in tempeh).

Let’s chat about miso.  I really like it and I think most of you are familiar with this ingredient as it’s easily obtainable from Asian grocers and health food stores.

miso_types

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning – usually a paste – that is made from fermented soybeans, salt, koji (this acts as a starting culture) and other ingredients such as rice, barley or buckwheat. It has a very complex flavour – savoury and rich – often described as umami (also known as the fifth taste after salty, sweet, sour and bitter). Basically, it makes food taste yummy and hearty, and of course salty. Now, unlike your ordinary table salt, the studies have shown that miso doesn’t have the same negative impact on the blood pressure (something to do with proteins and fermentation). I wouldn’t gorge on it as it’s high in sodium but it’s definitely a more nutritious way to season your food.

There are many varieties of miso depending on key ingredients and the length of fermentation. Some of the most popular varieties are hatcho (only soy), ganmai (soy and brown rice), kome (soy and white rice), mugi (soy and barley, I would avoid this due to gluten), natto (soy and ginger) and soba (soy and buckwheat). Wikipedia has a long list!

Lighter coloured miso pastes indicate shorter fermentation time and have a sweeter, less salty taste; while darker, richer colours and saltier, more concentrated flavour come from longer fermentation. The darker ones are usually considered more nutritious.

Miso has a strong, salty taste, which means that you only need to use a small amount to flavour the dish or a soup. I always look for non-GMO, gluten-free, organic varieties of miso. And of course, it should be unpasturised (found in the refrigerated section of the store rather than in the dry pantry goods), otherwise all that beneficial, live bacteria that we are after aren’t no longer present. Organic and traditional miso is not  usually pasturised. If you see miso dash iri on the label that means that this miso is for making miso soup and has an addition of dashi or broth. Some miso may contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) and preservatives, so make sure to read the label.

As miso is a living food, it should be stored in a refrigerator after opening. As it contains a lot of salt, it will last in the fridge for many months. Make sure to use a clean spoon every time you use miso as to prevent any foreign bacteria contamination. Another thing about miso is that it’s best used uncooked or rather only just cooked or heated as to protect its valuable live cultures. I use miso a few times a month, mainly to season sauces, such as in my favourite miso eggplant (see below), to use in salad dressings or to add to a soup right at the end.

Here are some ways you could use miso paste:

miso_soup
Image from Flickr by Adacito

  • Mix half a teaspoon of miso with half a teaspoon of butter to melt over a piece of grilled steak or fish.
  • Stir a litte miso paste into salad dressings.
  • Add it your chicken soup or bone broth at the end of cooking.
  • Add a little miso to dips such as a nut based hummus or a variation of eggplant babaganush.
  • Mix with a little water and add to stir-fries right at the end.
  • Add a little miso paste to your sweet or cauliflower mashed potato.
  • Mix with a little water and add to scrambled eggs right at the end.

My own miso eggplant recipe – always with a twist ;)

miso_eggplant_paleo

Miso Eggplant
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large eggplants (aubergines), cut into quarters going lengthways
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
For the sauce

  • 1½ tablespoons coconut oil (or 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
)
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 
2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • Pinch of red chill flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fermented miso paste
  • Handful of chopped green onion
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C (374°F).
  2. Brush the eggplants with olive or coconut oil and roast in a baking tray for 20 minutes. Turn them over and roast for a further 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add garlic, tomato pate, chilli and water. Stir and cook for 8-10 minutes until thickened. Turn the heat off, add the miso paste and stir through until well incorporated.
  4. Spoon the sauce over roasted eggplant and garnish with chopped spring onion.

miso_eggplant_making

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16 Comments
    1. You could use the same argument for those except that you would normally eat max 1 tablespoon of miso in one meal, and probably not just 1 tablespoon of fermented grains or beans. For the soy sauce, I prefer tamari sauce which is gluten-free fermented soy sauce. My general stand point is that sprouted and fermented grains and legumes are definitely a lot easier to digest and have less negative effects than regularly prepared stuff. It really comes down to HOW MUCH of it you eat. If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake or if you have serious auto-immune conditions, then I would be limiting even the sprouted/fermented grains and legumes. If your digestion is fairly healthy and you need a few extra carbs, then sprouted grains and legumes (especially the gluten-free options) are decent additions to the diet. It’s a personal choice and I encourage everyone to experiment to see what works for them.

  1. Omg, my favorite miso of alllll time is South River Miso. They are organic, well water, and completely unfiltered plus low in sodium. Miso can be super high but their blends have anywhere from 150-180 grams and average miso is closer to 700-1000 mgs. X_x I swear by them and my favorite one form them is the healing Dandelion Leek Miso with Nettles, GF! All of their miso are GF besides the millet and barley ones and they even have some soy free azuki bean and chick pea. I’m contemplating buying some Koji from them and making my own miso since generally the only time I consume legumes or rice is ahh… miso… considering the Koji is rice.. I was wonderin if there would be a Paleo friendly option for creating miso. I thought about cauliflower or eggplant ad the base but… not sure how that would go… any ideas?

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  2. Hey Irena,

    Nice looking recipe. Egg plants are something that I haven’t really grown up with, so not to many tasty recipes in my head. Thanks for sharing. Will definitely give it a go. Being a bit of a heathen, I imagine to be extra yummy with some melted cheese. mmmmm

    Tim

  3. I love miso and despite being Paleo I do still use it occasionally – I figure, being fermented that a lot of the harmful effects of the soy have been mediated.

    I most often use it in the form of miso soup for a quick lunch. But I am going to try your eggplant recipe.

  4. Hey Irena, do you know where to find unpasteurised, soy-only miso? The best type I can find in my area is with brown rice, which of course is not ideal. Also, great tips and recipe, thanks!

    1. Hey Gaby, I wouldn’t worry too much about brown rice as most of the nutrients such as lectins and phytates are destroyed during fermentation. I would mainly avoid any with gluten so no barley. There is a miso producer near Sydney in the Blue Mountains http://bluemountainsmiso.com.au/ and this is the one I used a lot http://www.spiralfoods.com.au/products/organic-genmai-0?cat=49 and they seem to also have the soy only organic one, if you really want to avoid rice as the ingredient.
      Spiral Foods are often stocked at health food stores, I would look for the miso in the cold section. You could shoot them an email to see where they stock it near you. Irena

  5. Hey Irina, do you know where to find unpasteurised, soy-only miso? The best type I can find in my area is with brown rice, which of course is not ideal. Also, great tips and recipe, thanks!

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