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Tysan Lerner

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Miso, a thick paste made of naturally fermented soybeans or grains and salt, is, according to ancient Japanese mythology, a gift from the Gods. It has been enjoyed in Japan for centuries, although its roots are from ancient China (chiang in Chinese).

Miso varies in flavor, color and aroma. It is an excellent source of essential amino acids, vitamins (including vitamin B12) and minerals. It is low in calories and fat and contains twice as much protein as fish and 10 times as much protein as milk. Unpasteurized miso contains lactic acid bacteria and enzymes that aid in digestion and food assimilation. Miso is known to break down and discharge cholesterol, neutralize the effects of smoking and environmental pollution. A major study done by the Japanese Cancer Institute shows that people who eat miso regularly have a 50% lower incidence of cancer.

The art of producing Miso is similar to that of fine wine, and since it is a manufactured food, its quality depends on how it was made and what it was made with. Miso is typically produced in three ways: temperature controlled, naturally aged and traditionally made. Ingredients may be grown organically or with chemical fertilizers and insecticides. I highly encourage relying on products made with organic ingredients, as it is beneficial not only to our bodies, but to the conservation of our earth.

Temperature controlled processed miso is highly utilized in Japan due to its fast production pace and is what is usually sold in oriental food markets. The ingredients used are not organically grown, and the final product gets pasteurized and often contains additives such as alcohol to slow the bacterial growth process down.

Naturally aged miso is what is commonly found in most health food stores. This production method utilizes an automated process, yet does not control the temperature to speed up the process. The quality of naturally aged miso ingredients vary widely. This form of miso is also pasteurized and packaged for distribution.

Traditionally aged miso dates back to 19th century Japan. Quality is key to this form of production. It utilizes organic ingredients that are slowly cooked and cooled and then aged in large wooden vats over a long period of time. It does not get pasteurized and it is not packaged in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags, which is important because it allows for the natural bacteria from the environment to thrive. This good bacteria is excellent for ones health and digestion, and can be strong enough to grow over detrimental bacteria existing in the body, thus maintaining a healthy balance of ecology in the body.

Miso is used in soup, marinades, dressings, and gravies. Miso light in color is sweeter, higher in carbohydrates and has twice the amount of niacin and 10 times the amount of lactic acid bacteria then darker miso, which contains more salt, fatty acids and protein.

Since autumn is a good time to focus on eliminating excess mucous from the body to prepare it for the upcoming chill of winter (flu season,) Daikon Miso soup will aid this elimination:

2- inches of daikon radish
1 t.oil
1 handful wakame seaweed
5 cups of water
1-2 T. miso

Soak wakame in cold water for a minimum of 10 minutes. Reserve water. Remove leaves from hard stems. Chop stems. Cut leaves into 1/2 inch pieces. Sauté daikon and wakame stems in oil for 5 minutes. Add water from soaking and simmer for 30 minutes after it comes to a boil. Add wakame leaves and fish powder and boil again for three minutes. Turn heat down to low, add miso diluted in water and continue to simmer, but do not boil, for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat immediately and garnish with finely sliced scallions.

Please note that boiling miso kills the healthy bacteria. If we do that, then we are just eating a salty soup and not enjoying all the health benefits miso has to offer.


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