What I Do With Miso

Words Harriet Boucher

Miso is one of those ingredients that you buy for a recipe that you desperately want to try, make it once, and then the jar sits in the fridge staring at you, wanting you to whip it out again for its next culinary use. We spoke to some local chefs for inspiration on how to use up that jar.


Miso has been a staple in Japanese and other Asian cultures for over 1,000 years. In brief, it’s made through fermenting soybeans, koji rice (steamed rice inoculated with a mold) and salt together for an extended period of time. Other grains can be added to the fermentation process to create different flavour profiles and the time it’s left to ferment can influence the colour and depth too.


Miso has become wildly popular in eateries and cookbooks over the last few years. It has a moreish umami flavour that can be used both sweet and savoury. You may have seen miso popping up in recipes from the likes of Peter Gordon, who uses it in Kumara Miso Mash, and Chocolate and Sweet Lemon Miso Brownie, or from Yottam Ottolenghi, whose Sticky Miso Bananas with Lime and Toasted Rice is currently sweeping the internet. The Duck Island Roasted White Chocolate and Miso ice cream is also an iconic local treat.


A gateway use to spark your love for miso at home is to mix it into butter. Justin Thomson from The Shack in Raglan uses miso butter for sautéing mushrooms or finishing potato roasties, where Brigid Sullivan from La Cave smears her miso butter directly onto meat, seafood or vegetables. I love finishing steamed baby carrots with lashings of miso butter and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds for an impressive yet simple side dish.


Miso soup is an iconic Japanese staple that is loved worldwide. Three quarters of the Japanese population consume miso soup at least once a day. A basic miso soup is made using dashi (Japanese vegetable broth) and miso paste, with the addition of nori. Lisa Quarrie, owner of Hayes Common and Weave, uses miso broth as the base for her ‘Get Better’ Soup, where she adds in any deteriorating veggies from her fridge, and loads of ginger and togarashi seasoning to finish. I know who to call next time I’m under the weather!


The salty umami goodness in miso makes it the perfect addition to a dressing, glaze or marinade. You will find it mixed into an orange and ginger vinaigrette for Justin’s beetroot slaw or in Brigid’s sesame honey and miso dressing to drizzle over a raw veggie salad or soba noodles. Be brave, next time you’re making a marinade or dressing, add in a teaspoon to enhance the flavour or mix it through your veggies along with olive oil before roasting them. If you aren’t a fan of eggplant, it’s because you haven’t had it cooked for you by the chefs of Hayes Common, where it is smeared with miso, roasted and served on a buckwheat tabbouleh. Are you picking up on the theme that miso can turn nothing into something yet?


In the restaurant scene, JK from Mr Pickles brushes meat with the Korean version of miso, Doenjang, then vacuum packs it and ages it for a few days before cooking. He also uses it for mayonnaises, purees and even in savoury macarons. JK talked me through how he uses Doenjang for Korean BBQ sauce by mixing it with gochujang and either peanut butter or tahini—a must try for some at home Korean cuisine.


Baking idol of mine, Christina Tosi, is famous for her salty sweet creations, which often feature miso as an ingredient, such as her Burnt Miso Pound Cake and Miso Butter Scotch Sauce. Head chef Ashleigh Brodie drizzles a miso coconut caramel over her cakes and slices at Weave Eatery. This caramel makes the perfect gift as it lasts for months in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge. One of Ash’s favourite things to bake, cookies, often has a spoonful of miso as their secret ingredient.


The beauty of miso is that it is forgiving; it won’t overpower your meal if you start with small amounts. It will only enhance the flavour as would salt. Take inspiration from these local foodies and their favourite uses for this punchy paste. You’ll start to wonder why you hadn’t utilised this ingredient sooner!


Quick ideas with miso:

-Make miso butter

-Whisk into caramel

-Stir into soup

-Brush over meats and vegetables to BBQ

-Use in dressings or marinades

-Balance out sweetness of baking

-Add to a stir fry




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