Miso paste is a staple seasoning in Japanese cuisine, used to add depth and complexity to soups, sauces, and other dishes.
With over 1,300 types of miso available in Japan, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your recipe. But have you ever wondered what kind of miso paste Japanese restaurants use?
In this article, we’ll explore the different types of miso paste and their uses, as well as where to find them and what to look for when shopping.
Whether you’re a seasoned miso enthusiast or a curious beginner, read on to discover the secrets of Japanese restaurant-quality miso paste.
What Kind Of Miso Paste Do Japanese Restaurants Use?
Japanese restaurants use a variety of miso pastes, depending on the dish they are preparing. The three main types of miso paste are red, white, and yellow, each with its own unique flavor profile.
Red miso paste, also known as ‘aka miso’ in Japanese, is fermented for a longer time than white and yellow miso, giving it a more intense flavor. It is made with a higher percentage of soybeans than the other types of miso and is often used to make miso soup.
White miso paste, or ‘shiro miso’ in Japanese, is fermented for the shortest amount of time out of all the miso pastes. It has a milder and sweeter flavor, making it a good choice for those new to miso. White miso is preferred in the Kyoto region of Japan and is often used in dips for fresh vegetables or sauces.
Yellow miso paste, or ‘shinshu miso’ in Japanese, is fermented slightly longer than white miso, usually up to a year. It has a slightly sweeter taste than red miso and ranges in color from yellow to light brown.
Japanese restaurants may also use mixed miso paste, which is a combination of white and red miso. This type of miso paste is versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes.
The Basics Of Miso Paste
Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans, salt, and koji, a type of mold. It can also include other grains like rice or barley. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years, resulting in a range of flavors and colors.
White miso paste is the lightest and mildest type, with a shorter fermentation time and a higher percentage of rice. It has a slightly sweet taste and is often used in dressings and light marinades.
Yellow miso paste is fermented longer than white miso, usually up to a year, and has a slightly sweeter taste than red miso. It ranges in color from yellow to light brown and can be used in soups, marinades, and glazes.
Red miso paste is fermented the longest, resulting in a concentrated and intense flavor. It has a higher percentage of soybeans and is often used in heartier dishes like stews and meaty vegetables.
Mixed miso paste combines white and red miso for a bold flavor that can be used in a variety of dishes.
When cooking with miso paste, it’s important to remember that it’s high in salt and should be used sparingly. It’s best to gradually add it to simmering liquids while stirring to avoid boiling directly, which can spoil the aroma and flavor. After opening, miso paste should be stored properly by covering the surface with plastic wrap or the seal from the package touching the surface.
The Different Types Of Miso Paste
Miso paste is a fermented soybean paste that is a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. There are more than 1,300 types of miso in Japan, each with its own distinctive flavor profile. Miso paste can be differentiated according to its malt type, region, texture, taste, or even color. Broadly speaking, miso can be categorized into three colors: red, white, and yellow.
Red miso paste is fermented longer than white and yellow miso, giving it a more intense flavor. It is also made of a higher percentage of soybeans than the other kinds of miso. Red miso is often used to make miso soup, especially in Japanese restaurants.
White miso paste is fermented for the shortest amount of time out of all the miso pastes. Usually, it is fermented for no longer than three months. If you are new to miso, then white miso is a good one to start with because it has a milder and sweeter flavor. White miso is preferred in the Kyoto region of Japan and is often used in dips for fresh vegetables or sauces.
Yellow miso paste ranges in color from yellow to light brown and is fermented slightly longer than white miso, usually up to a year. It is slightly sweeter than red miso and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Mixed miso paste is a combination of white and red miso. This type of miso paste is versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Many Japanese restaurants in the US serve miso soup made with mixed miso paste.
What Makes Japanese Restaurant Miso Paste Special?
Japanese restaurant miso paste is special because it is made using traditional fermentation techniques that have been passed down through generations. The process of making miso paste involves carefully selecting the right combination of ingredients, including soybeans, salt, and koji, and then fermenting them for a specific amount of time. Japanese restaurants often use high-quality ingredients to ensure that the miso paste has a rich, complex flavor profile that enhances the dishes they serve.
One of the key factors that makes Japanese restaurant miso paste special is the use of koji. Koji is a type of fungus that is used to break down the starches in the soybeans and other grains used in miso paste. This process creates a range of complex flavors and aromas that are unique to miso paste. Japanese restaurants often use high-quality koji to ensure that their miso paste has a rich, umami flavor.
Another factor that makes Japanese restaurant miso paste special is the fermentation process. Miso paste is typically fermented for several months to several years, depending on the desired flavor profile. During this time, the flavors and aromas of the ingredients develop and intensify, creating a rich and complex flavor profile that is unique to each type of miso paste.
Japanese restaurants may also use specific types of miso paste for certain dishes. For example, red miso paste is often used in miso soup because of its intense flavor, while white miso paste is preferred in dips and sauces because of its milder taste. This attention to detail and careful selection of miso paste types is what makes Japanese restaurant dishes so flavorful and satisfying.
Where To Find Japanese Restaurant-Quality Miso Paste
If you want to achieve the same flavor and quality of miso paste used in Japanese restaurants, it is recommended to purchase miso paste from Japanese markets or online stores that specialize in Japanese ingredients. Some US markets may carry miso paste in the Asian food aisle, but the selection may be limited.
When purchasing miso paste, it is important to pay attention to the type of miso and its color. Red miso paste has a stronger flavor, while white miso paste has a milder taste. Yellow miso paste falls somewhere in between. Mixed miso paste is also a good option for those who want a versatile miso paste that can be used in a variety of dishes.
It is also important to check the expiration date and storage instructions on the package. Miso paste should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a reasonable amount of time to ensure freshness and quality.
If you are unable to find Japanese restaurant-quality miso paste in your area, you can also try making your own miso paste at home using soybeans, koji, and salt. However, this process can be time-consuming and requires some knowledge of fermentation techniques.
Tips For Choosing The Right Miso Paste For Your Recipe
When choosing a miso paste for your recipe, it’s important to consider the flavor profile and intensity of each type. Here are some tips to help you choose the right miso paste for your dish:
1. Consider the dish: Red miso paste has a strong and salty flavor, making it great for heartier dishes like stews and braises. White miso paste, on the other hand, has a milder and sweeter flavor, making it a good choice for lighter dishes like soups and dressings.
2. Experiment with mixed miso paste: Mixed miso paste combines the flavors of white and red miso, making it a versatile choice for a variety of dishes. Try using mixed miso paste in marinades or sauces to add depth and complexity to your dish.
3. Pay attention to the color: The color of miso paste can give you an indication of its flavor profile. Red miso paste is darker and has a stronger flavor, while white miso paste is lighter and has a milder flavor. Yellow miso paste falls somewhere in between.
4. Start with white miso if you’re new to miso: If you’re new to using miso paste, start with white miso paste. Its milder flavor makes it more approachable for those who are not used to the taste of miso.
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment: Miso paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of miso paste to find the one that works best for your recipe.