What's a good MISO paste ?
I rarely buy them, and when I do I make simple miso soup with diced soft tofu cubes, kombu strips and chopped green onion.
In my fridge now is Miko brand mild miso paste. I can't read Japanese, hence I couldn't decipher the differences between brands on the store shelf (T&T). But is $$ = better quality ?
Miso is like bread or cheese or any other partly fermented food. Once upon a time all miso paste tasted different and the personality of a household miso was as distinctive and valued as any member of the family. Then, in the great national ramp up to modernisation and international integration and economic supremacy the government focused on food and designed policies that favoured fast efficient production over labour intensive artisanal/traditional methods. Within a generation, many many wild yeasts and bacteria and flavour profiles were gone for ever.
Just like with beer, most of the miso available is the equivalent of Becks, or Bud, or Coors, or Grolsch. You can get Guinness and other alternatives to lager also which you may or may not prefer. And THEN there are the craft brew equivalents and these need to be hunted out (where miso is made in wooden barrels over years instead of in vast metal vats over days). Finding and tasting these is one of the (many) joys of visiting Japan for me.
It could be that you prefer the miso Coors and Bud over the more characterful barley based miso equivalent to 'Sticky McWicket's Itchy Finger Grog Nog Brew'.
Outside of Japan the 'craft' miso that I like best out of those available to me is from the Yamato Soy Sauce and Miso company. They sell to stores over the border if you can't find it in Vancouver
Hopefully, Vancouver has a greater range than here in London.
Miso can range from "artisanal" to "mass produced". If you look at the labels on the miso at Fujiya (like I did today), you'll see the range. Some have adulterants such as MSG and High Fructose Corn Sugar and some only have soybean paste and/or rice, salt, water. Some labels list the inoculant(s) that ferments the miso. Also some traditonal miso have other ingredients added to them (eg dried bonito, sardine, kelp, etc)
If you are used to the miso served at the various cheap sushi joints in town, you may not like the overt complexity of these traditional and naturally fermented ones. YMMV so I say try a few and see what you like.
Thanks Fmed. Great info.
Whew, it seems I dodged the high-fructose corn syrup variety (that must be an Archer Daniels Midland brand .... wink).
This is what I have:
And the ingredients listed are: water, soybean, rice, salt, alcohol. Definitely mass-produced, but I will go to Fujiya and get a more artisanal variety just for comparison.
We use Hakari for both red and white miso and also get them at T&T or sometimes H-Mart. I don't think there is a huge difference between brands. Aside from Miso soup you could try it in dressings, marinades and sauces.I use it in our Gomae sauce, in my sesame ginger salad dressing, in other aisan marinades etc. It's quite versatile and a good sub for soy sauce sometimes too.