How to choose the right miso- why you should spend money on miso

Did you know there are countless Japanese proverbs on miso, which are a testament to its importance towards a healthy diet and its effects towards Japanese health and longevity?

During the Edo period (1603-1868), families started to prepare their miso called temae miso, and from then onwards, proverbs and idioms related to miso started to emerge.

Today I want to introduce a Japanese proverb relating to miso that shows its health benefits and its amazing properties, as well as a method to choose quality and authentic miso.

Japanese Proverb about Miso

“Spend money on miso shops rather than spending money on a doctor’s fee.”

This proverb means you should spend money on miso shops to have miso dishes regularly instead of going to the doctor’s. As miso is Japan’s national soup, I agree with this proverb!

Miso is super nourishing (contains around 400 health components) has countless health benefits like:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Lowering the cholesterol
  • Contributing to a healthy gut 
  • Maximises longevity 
  • Gives you youthful skin 

However, we still see a lot of cheap or low-quality miso in the market. The proverb mentions you should “spend money on miso shops” specifically, advising you to invest in quality miso, not just any cheap one.

Only one type of miso was made in the Edo period, and this was the ALIVE (unpasteurised) miso. Alive miso is of good quality and made in an authentic, traditional way using very simple ingredients– just soybeans, rice Koji and sea salt.  Nowadays, it’s hard to find authentic, alive miso in the market. Most miso are DEAD, using refined salt and nasty chemicals to give miso flavour and last longer.

Traditional miso-making

How to buy quality miso

Each type of miso has a different flavour, as not all miso are prepared properly. This is why choosing the correct miso is important.

You should AVOID the following miso: 

  • Mass-produced miso, which usually contains sugar, MSG and chemicals (like alcohol, bonito extract, monosodium Glutamate, etc.) 
  • Miso which went through increased temperatures to shorten fermentation time, is often fermented in plastic or stainless steel tanks. Short fermentation means less umami flavour that leads to adding MSG, sugar and other unclear ingredients to give miso flavour. After the short fermentation, the miso is heated to stop further fermentation for longer shelf life and to avoid deep and strong flavour. This process kills all good bacteria as well as enzymes. Health benefits are not retained this way. 

On the other hand, you SHOULD BUY: 

  • Traditional miso, left to ferment in a wooden barrel for a long time. This long fermentation process gives the miso more nutrients as well as a better taste (more umami!) 
  • Organic, non-GMO and unpasteurised miso, that has not been heated, containing active enzyme and probiotics  This is the healthiest miso.

Usually, quality and authentic miso is more expensive, but considering all the unhealthy chemicals in bad miso, it’s very worth considering.

Making your own miso is the best! Every winter, I make miso because it’s the supreme time to make a fail-free and delicious miso. Making miso in summer makes it prone to mould and gives the miso less flavour and nutrients.

Hope you can join my basics cooking class, or my intermediate cooking class where we use different types of miso to make Japanese traditional cuisine!

If you’re interested in Japanese superfoods and want to learn more about miso, you may want to get my Japanese Superfoods cookbook‘. Latest edition is available Now!

Japanese superfoods cooking _vegan_cookbook



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