Cooking 101 – Miso De-mystified

001 Miso Demystified edited re-sized

When my friend found out that our next move was to Tokyo, Japan her farewell gift was a book called ” The Japanese Kitchen” by Hiroko Shimbo. Even though I didn’t use many of her recipes then as Japanese food was readily available, her book was an invaluable source concerning the various names of ingredients and dishes on the menu of the eateries there. It had made super-marketing easier and my settling down so much quicker. For instance,  I was confronted with so many different types of miso with labels all written in Japanese which I could hardly read.

Miso has live enzymes and possesses many health giving properties ( Click here Benefits of Miso). If we like to experiment, Miso is a versatile ingredient if we think of it along the lines of salt replacement in our cooking.

There is a plethora of different types of Japanese food in Singapore (available at restaurants, from shops as part of Japanese supermarket basements and food courts). Every quarter or so, Isetan, Takashimaya or Meidiya bring in regional Japanese specialities. “Japan Hour” has done much to induce frequent travel to all parts of Japan for its Oishi food. It is always good to understand what we are eating.

Article on “Miso” by Hiroko Shimbo

“Miso is a daily product,” says Hiroko Shimbo, author of “Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors.” “Just think of it as a source of sodium; it doesn’t have to be used in a strictly Japanese way.”

Miso is more than a salt substitute, though; it contains glutamate, a building block of umami, which helps lend a complex, savory note to dishes. Understanding how to use it is a simple matter of getting to know the three major types of miso: akamisosaikyo miso, and shiro white miso. Their range in hue—dark brown to ivory to amber—is due to the amount of time the soybeans ferment, says Shimbo. A darker hue indicates a saltier, more pronounced flavor.


Dark brown akamiso is a rich mixture of rice and miso that has fermented between one and three years. It’s intensely salty, which Shimbo says makes it a good pairing for hearty or oily proteins. Mix it with mustard, ginger, garlic and oil in a marinade flexible enough for steak, lamb, or pork. Or try it with fish; braise thick slices of whole mackerel in a ginger-scented miso sauce.

Saikyo Miso

On the other end of the miso spectrum is saikyo, or “white miso,” a young version originating from the Southern island of Kyoto. Whereas akamiso is profoundly salty, saikyo miso is mild, and subtly sweet. It contains just a fraction of akamiso salt content, thanks to its short fermentation period of only three weeks. Shimbo recommends using saikyo miso with delicate white fish, lobster, or crab. We like the looks of this take on chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s famous miso-steeped black cod.

Shiro White Miso

Occupying the middle ground between akamiso and saikyo miso is shiro white miso, a mellow miso that Shimbo tells us is fermented for up to a year. Despite the “white” in its name, shiro miso, as it is sometimes called, is light yellow in color. It’s a good middle-of-the-road miso, suitable for both heavy and light dishes, like this miso-glazed tuna kebabs or this Asian winter slaw.

There are other types of miso, too. Awasemisoa blend of several types of miso, is a common sight in American supermarkets. Others are made with barley, brown rice, and a variety of other grains.

More Articles on Miso

Those of you who would like even more information on Miso and how to use it, please click

 What types of Miso can we buy in Singapore?

When I think of buying Japanese ingredients, the places which come to mind would be Isetan, Meidiya or Takashimaya. With growing affluence here, I decided to just pop into NTUC Supermarket. I took the photo below at their branch at Chinatown Square. NTUC finest will offers a bigger selection but do bear in mind that each branch does cater to the demands of the people living that locale.

Photo above shows a small selection of the types of miso that is avaliable from one NTUC supermarket. Japanese supermarkets in Singapore such as Isetan and Mediya offer more selections. Marukome is a popular brand of miso. Marukome ‘s own description of Ryotei no Aji – “Just the right amount of Bonito and kelp Dashi are blended into the flavorful red Miso base. Our best seller of Miso with Dashi”.


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