Drop by any Japanese restaurant, and one of the most common appetizers you’ll see on the menu is miso soup. Order it and you’ll see a whitish, cloudy sediment in the bottom of your bowl that you should stir in before sipping.
That “cloud” is the miso paste, stirred in to give the broth a powerful salty, umami flavor. It’s made from soybeans or a combination of soybeans and barley or rice. This soybean paste is then injected with a mold and then fermented. The mashed product that emerges is miso paste. The three variants commonly available in stores are the soybean yellow miso, and barley or the reddish brown miso, and white or beige-colored miso that is a combination of soybeans and rice.
While all are salty, the bright yellow variant has an underlying sweetness to it while the red is the saltiest. The white miso, as you can probably guess from its color, can be considered the mildest in flavor of the bunch, the perfect complement to the meat and other flavors paired with it.
Whichever you choose, using miso in your dishes is easy and simple to do. To add miso to your sinigang to give it a complementary tang and salinity, stir in about 1 to 2 tablespoons miso paste for every 3 cups of the sinigang broth. You can start with 1 tablespoon and then add more to taste.
A word of caution: as with many fermented and salty ingredients, take note of the amount of salt already in your dish. Since miso is salty, reduce the amount of other salty ingredients such as salt, patis, bagoong, bouillon cubes, or premade mixes with salt already in it. By adding miso, you may find that your dish becomes more salty than intended if you don’t temper its use.
Not only will miso paste level up your sinigang, it can last for several months when properly stored, so you can have umami-packed dishes whenever you want.