Having cooked with miso for many years, I have come to know some common mistakes that ruin a perfectly good dish. To save you from these, make sure you are familiar with these 5 rules before you begin.
1. AVOID BOILING MISO
The number one mistake! The aromatic qualities of miso – as well as some of the nutritional benefits – are damaged when boiled. This is why miso is traditionally stirred in at the final stage of cooking, either over a gentle simmer or heat with turned off. If it is added at the start of cooking and boiled, the flavours lose there subtle of sweet and savoury tones and you are left with a much more one-dimensional taste.
2. STRAIN MISO FOR SOUPS AND BROTHS
This is an incredibly important step when miso is added at the end of cooking. Miso is a stubborn thing that doesn’t soften quickly with heat. So, if you simply try to stir it into liquid, you will be faced with lumpy miso in your broth. Guests might then be greeted with a less than pleasant sharp-salty nugget in their bowl that refused to dissolve. In all my soup and broth recipes, I advise that you strain the miso into the broth. You can buy a Japanese strainer or place the miso paste in a separate bowl and add a ladleful of stock from the pot, then whisk until smooth before pouring back into the main pot.
3. THIN MISO BEFORE MAKING DRESSINGS & SAUCES
Unlike most salad dressing ingredients, which you can throw into a bottle and shake, miso would remain lumpy, clinging onto your salad leaves in a rather unappetising way. I recommend that you thin the miso first with another liquid – perhaps olive oil or sake – in a bowl with a spoon or a small whisk.
4. WIPE OFF EXCESS MISO MARINADES
Miso makes a wonderful marinade but being composed primarily from soybeans doesn’t melt. Many miso marinades also contain sugar, so have a tendency to burn. This can create a great tarring flavour such as in grilled cod miso.. but there is a fine line between smoky umami flavours and a bitter coating that ruins a dish, so keep an eye on the heat. My trick is to blot marinated items with a kitchen paper before putting them in the oven, grill or pan, leaving the thinnest layer behind; not cooking them dripping them with sauce as a barbecue marinade. With miso marinades, less is more, trust that the flavour has already penetrated the meat, fish or vegetables.
5. STORING MISO – KEEP IT COVERED
Miso should be stored in a covered container and to maintain its colour and flavour, refrigeration is best. As a general rule, the lighter the colour and flavour, the more careful you will need to be and refrigeration is best.
Sweet miso should be consumed within three weeks of opening, white miso within 3 months. Darker misos, such as barley, brown rice and red miso keep for at least 6 months, and soybean miso for 12 months. Beyond these periods the miso wont spoil, but the flavour and colour will change becoming less aromatic. Soybean miso, which contains much less salt becomes harder too.If you see your miso forming white or green mould on top, simply skim off as you would with jam. Pinkish mould are a more serious matter and you will need to scrape very deeply and use the remaining untainted miso within the next day or too, or throw out.