Awase miso (top) and Shiro miso (bottom). Both of these brands are MSG-free

What is it?

Miso actually predates shoyu as the main flavouring agent in Japanese cuisine. It is a fermented paste made from crushed soybeans and a starter made from wheat, barley or rice.

How do I use it?

It’s not just for miso soup! Miso is a versatile ingredient that can be used in dips, dressings, sauces and pastes. For lump-free incorporation into a soup or simmering stock, thin the miso paste first by mixing it together in a separate bowl with a few spoonfuls of the hot liquid.

What should I buy?

Miso comes in a variety of colours, and approaching the miso aisle can be intimidating. From white to beige to red, all miso pastes can be used for all types of recipes. Choose the one that suits your mood and the ingredients you’re using. Look for brands which are MSG- and preservative-free. Those labelled dashi-iri already contain dashi stock; just add water to make miso soup. If you are gluten-intolerant, be sure to read the ingredients list to see if the miso contains wheat.

  • Awasemiso

If you’re going to buy only one miso, buy this one. A blend of red and white miso, it is the best of both worlds. Not too salty, not too sweet, awasemiso is versatile in a number of preparations. Unless you enjoy a particularly mild or strong miso flavour, you only really need this one type in your fridge.

  • White miso

White miso is the sweetest and mildest of the miso colours, and when used in a soup, is most often served with root vegetables and other winter produce. It is also flexible for use in sauces and salad dressings.

  • Red miso

Red miso is the strongest flavoured and saltiest miso, and is popularly served in the summertime in a soup with mussels or shellfish. It is a good choice when you want a strong miso flavour.

Storage: Miso is a fermented and aged product, and so it keeps well. Close the package tightly and store in the fridge for up to a year.