Miso, also called bean paste, is fermented soybean paste with a salty earthy flavor. Sold in dark and light varieties, with the dark being the pungent basis of many broths and the light the sweet and mild type used in dressings and sauces. To make miso, soybeans and sometimes a grain such as rice, are combined with salt and a mold culture, and then aged in cedar vats for one to three years. Most miso made in western countries is produced in a similar manner, although "quick" miso also is available. Quick miso is generally inferior in taste. Miso is actually a group of condiments. The addition of different ingredients and variations in length of aging produce different types of miso that vary greatly in flavor, texture, color and aroma. In Japan, different types of miso are prepared and evaluated much the way Westerners judge fine wines and cheeses. Miso is available in natural food groceries and in Asian markets. Use miso to flavor soups, sauces, dressings and marinades, and to make delicious patés. Use it in place of anchovy paste in recipes or as a substitute for salt or soy sauce in recipes. Because miso is high in sodium, use it sparingly.
Store miso in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months. The white mold that sometimes forms on miso is harmless, and can be scraped off or mixed into the miso.
For every cup of water 1 tablespoon of miso, stirred in at the end of cooking.