Miso is a fermented food made from soybeans, malt, and salt. It is a seasoning unique to Japan and an essential ingredient for miso soup and many other Japanese dishes. Today, miso is also widely enjoyed by people outside Japan. There are many different types of miso and its taste differs from region to region.
Malt (fermentation starters, comprising aspergillus or other microorganisms cultured on the surface of soybeans, rice, or barley grains) plays an essential role in the fermentation process. Depending on the type of malt, miso is classified into mame (bean) miso; kome (rice) miso; and mugi (barley) miso.
According to the degree of saltiness, miso is classified into amakuchi (sweet) and karakuchi (salty). While the salt content determines the saltiness, the sweetness is determined by the proportion of malt.
Miso is also classified by color: aka (red) miso, light-color miso, and shiro (white) miso. The color is generally determined by the type of soy beans, the production process, and the length of fermentation period.
Individual regions in Japan produce different types of miso: miso of different malt types, tastes, and colors.
Soybeans, the primary ingredient of miso, contain high-quality protein in abundance. Through the fermentation process, miso also produces plentiful amino acids and vitamins, thereby becoming full of nutrients. Through fermentation, the protein contained in soybeans is hydrolyzed. During this process, 30% of the protein turns into amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids. In addition, miso contains carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.