Japanese Food: Miso Soup

Miso soup complete with a Doraemon Kamaboko (ドラえもんかまぼこ) or fish paste cake.

Miso is one of the most common soup broths here in Japan, if you take a look at my Ramen article, some of the others include Tonkotsu (pork bones), shio (salt), and shoyu (soy sauce). What is Miso exactly? Well, it really seems that in Japanese cooking employs many soybean derivatives…miso is no different. Though I don’t know exactly how it’s made, but it comes from fermented soybeans and barley, or fermented soybeans and rice malt. I have really taken quite a liking to miso soup in recent months, one, because it’s really tasty, two, because it’s extremely easy to make (even for horrendous cooks like me), and three it’s really cheap (saving money is a necessity for me right now). Not all types of miso are created equal, there several types of miso that I see at my local grocery store which include akamiso, shiromiso, and awasemiso.

The prefix “aka” actually means red miso and refers to the reddish color of the miso paste used to make the soup. The reddish or brownish colors are often an indicator of the soybean content of the miso paste. The prefix “shiro” is also supposed to refer to the color of the miso paste. In this case, the paste itself isn’t actually white, though it’s far lighter than the red miso, but once added to water, the soup does have an off-whitish color. My guess that the color of the white miso comes from a higher rice/barley content it’s red counterpart. The last of the three types “awase” means mixed miso. From looking at the paste, awasemiso looks a lot like red miso, but when making the awase soup, the color looks like a happy medium between the red and white miso colors.

What Does Miso Taste Like?

Hmm…I can’t say there’s anything I’ve had that tastes like miso. It’s different from soy sauce (they do have soy sauce based soups) even though it’s made of fermented soybeans, too. All I can really say is that it’s more of a savory soup (as many are) that’s is on the salty side. Not to say it just tastes like salt, it’s not briny by any means, but that’s the only element that I can describe with confidence. Because it’s hard for me to explain, you may have to try some on your own, sorry about that, but take heart, because I think you’ll like it.

My Take on the Different Kinds of Miso

To say it simply, they’re all DELICIOUS!! It’s hard to choose which one I like most, but I’ll put it this way, I like certain miso at certain times. When it’s really cold, I tend to have more of the akamiso (red miso, ) because it’s a bit heartier than the other two. But if it’s a hotter day and I still have a craving for miso soup, I go with white miso (shiro miso, because it has a bit of a lighter taste, if that makes any sense at all. Honestly, I haven’t eaten a whole lot of the awase miso (mixed miso), but it’s pretty good, too. Because it’s a mix it’s a little heartier than white miso, but not as strong as the red…something you may want to try.

See you next time,

Donald Ash

P.S.- If you want to add kamaboko (かまぼこ or 蒲鉾) or processed fish paste cakes in English, to your soup, they’re pretty easy to find at your local grocery store. They have different anime characters as well. I saw a Pikachu and a Doraemon kamaboko. It tasty way to add some zest, fun, to your soup 🙂

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  • SunnyCook

    very helpful. thanks!

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