Miso-Vegetable Soup
Credit: Mark Thomas; Styling: Gerri Williams

Miso is a Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans (most commonly), rice, barley and other grains. A little packs a lot of concentrated, salty flavor. It is used in sauces, braising liquids, marinades, as the basis for soups and even in sweet dishes. Miso adds “umami” or savoriness to dishes: it gives vegetarian dishes “meatiness”. Miso comes in different colors; generally, the darker the color, the more intensely flavored the miso.

Miso can be purchased at any Japanese food shop, specialty stores, and more recently at some grocery stores as well. Store miso in the refrigerator and be sure to respect the expiration date.

For more information, see Global Pantry: Cooking with Miso from Cooking Light.