At first glance, those new to miso may find the idea of a fermented soybean paste less than appetizing. But if you give it a try, the flavor, versatility and health benefits of miso are bound to change your mind.
Soybeans are usually the main ingredient in miso, but barley, wheat or rice can also be added. Regardless of the variety of grain or soybean used the most important ingredient is the “koji”. Koji consists of yeast inoculated with a specific type of beneficial bacteria called Aspergillus Oryzae.
After the koji is added to the soybeans and grain, the mixture is allowed to ferment for anywhere from a week to a number of years, depending on the flavor and quality of miso being made. While this may sound a bit strange to newcomers, fermenting food to increase its nutritional value and flavor is nothing new. This ancient process has been used for thousands of years and koji is also incorporated in the making of soy sauce and sake.
As the miso ferments, the healthy micro-organisms in the koji produce enzymes that help break down the proteins, carbohydrates and oils in the grain and soybeans. This process makes the nutrients they contain easier for our bodies to digest and absorb (the benefit of all fermented foods.) After the fermenting process is complete the miso is ground into a smooth tangy paste that is filled with vitamins, protein and beneficial bacteria (the good guys found in our guts.)
Next: Different types of miso and miso’s health benefits