A tub of this fermented soy bean paste will go a long way, empowering you to throw a miso glaze over vegetables and fish, whip-up a dressing or spread, or churn out a very modern ice-cream. Beginners, note that the mildest misos are also the lightest, made with a smaller amount of soybeans. Here, Leanne Kitchen's 10 easy, inventive recipes leave miso soup for dead (lovely as it is).
Leanne Kitchen

20 Aug 2020 - 2:02 PM  UPDATED 20 Aug 2020 - 10:21 PM

Miso is a staple Japanese ingredient, made by fermenting soy beans and grains (rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, rye for example) with salt and a particular type of fungus, called Aspergillus oryzae. The result is a thick paste, the colour of which varies according to many different factors (the exact ingredients, the season, the region, the duration of fermentation and the fermenting vessel, to name a few). There are three main types: shiromiso (white miso); akamiso (red miso); and awasemiso (“mixed” miso). Generally, white is the most widely produced type and is made using rice, barley and a smaller percentage of soy beans than other types. It is sweeter and softer tasting than other types, such as red, which is aged for up to a year, is salty and can even be a little astringent. Miso made using natural fermentation is still a living substance and, for this reason, it should be cooked gently or the beneficial microorganisms it contains will be killed through overheating.

1. Parsnip-miso pate

Boil 750 g peeled, chopped parsnip until tender then drain well and reserve a little of the liquid. Combine in a food processor with ½ cup toasted walnut halves, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 ½ tbsp white miso, 2-3 tbsp of the reserved liquid, 1 tbsp dry sherry and a small handful of chopped coriander. Serve warm or at room temperature with small toasts.

2. Potatoes cooked in miso

Boil 800 g of peeled desiree potatoes, cut into 2.5-cm pieces, for 5 minutes then drain well. Whisk together 2 cups dashi stock and ⅓ cup white miso until smooth, then combine in a saucepan with the potatoes. Cover the surface with a round of baking paper then cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

3. Orange-miso dressing

Combine ⅓ cup white miso, ¼ cup each rice vinegar, vegetable oil and orange juice, 1 tbsp honey, 2 tsp grated orange rind and 2 tsp finely grated ginger in a blender or food processor. Process or blend until creamy, adding a little more orange juice if too thick. Drizzle over green salads or toss through coleslaw.

4. Pork, sweet potato and miso soup (tonjiru)

This porky soup is a hearty winter dish that’s popular in Japan - you could make it using chunks of pork belly or small pieces of pork spare ribs cut through the bone, but you’d need to increase the cooking time accordingly. You could even use pieces of chicken thigh fillet; this is a highly adaptable recipe. For a meal in a hurry, you can’t beat using the frozen, thinly sliced pork belly you find in the freezer section of good Asian grocers. It’s brilliant in this dish.

5. Tuna-miso open sandwich

Combine 1 drained chilli-flavoured can of tuna with 2-3 tsp each of mayonnaise and white miso in a bowl. Stir in 1 finely sliced green onion. Thickly spread 1 piece toasted sourdough with mashed avocado and scatter over some watercress sprigs. Pile tuna mixture over and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

6. Grilled miso-marinated lamb

Trim 4 lamb back straps of all fat and silver skin. Whisk together ¼ cup white miso, 2 ½ tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tbsp minced ginger and 1 tbsp sesame oil. Pour over lamb and marinate for 1 hour. Grill drained lamb for 4-5 minutes each side, brushing regularly with marinade, or until medium-rare.

7. Chicken and miso skewers (tsukune)

This uber-simple, delicious recipe comes from the Japanese repertoire of yakitori, or grilled chicken, dishes. The basting liquid is called tare and brushing the chicken with this during cooking is an essential part of the dish. If you like, the mince mixture can also be formed into small balls, and 3 or 4 of these threaded onto each skewer (they should touch each other) instead of loading each with one long “sausage”.

8. Caramel-miso sauce

Combine 1 cup caster sugar and ¼ cup water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the mixture caramelises. Taking care as the mixture will spit, add 2 tbsp butter, ⅔ cup pouring cream and 2 ½ tbsp red miso, swirling the pan until the sauce is smooth. Serve over ice-cream.

9. Miso and brown sugar ice-cream with dried peach compote

Ice-cream is incredibly easy to make at home, with the assistance of a domestic ice-cream machine. And these are relatively inexpensive to buy. The only trick, however, is to not over-cook the custard base or it will curdle. To prevent this, do not, whatever you do, stop stirring it with a wooden spoon while it is over the heat.

10. Miso and raisin brownies

Culinary legend has it that the chocolate brownie was invented by the Palmer House Hotel as a dessert for ladies attending the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. The original recipe featured walnuts and an apricot glaze, and this version is still served at the hotel to this day. Red miso adds an intriguingly salty note to this adored American classic.


Photography, styling and food preparation by china squirrel.