Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Making use of miso

Miso, a fermented food, is the essential ingredient at Yoka Miso. Photo courtesy Tilth Alliance

So much to make with miso!

Tilth Alliance's Community Kitchen highlights a tasty fermented favorite

People have been fermenting food for as long as they have been domesticating plants and animals, with records showing early examples in 7,000 BCE.

Its primary use was to extend the shelf life of foods, ensuring stock in the harsh winter months. These days, some people turn to foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha as part of their culture and tradition or for their probiotic properties. And for some, it’s about family.

Tilth Alliance recently invited neighbors to Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands for an evening with guest chefs Anna and Shoichi Sugiyama of Yoka Miso. Shoichi began making miso in 1990 after taking a class while living in Iizuka, Japan. Not long after, his family grew to welcome two girls, Anna and Maia. After moving to Seattle in 1999, homemade miso was a kitchen staple and was often shared with friends. Through this act, they realized there was no locally made miso in Seattle, and that’s when Yoka Miso was born.

Making use of miso

Shoichi Sugiyama, Anna Sugiyama, Maia Sugiyama and Michele Stanelun. Photo Courtesy Tilth Alliance

What is miso?

At its most basic, miso is a fermented paste made by inoculating a mixture of soybeans with Aspergillus oryzae—a mold called koji that is cultivated from rice, barley, or soybeans. The enzymes in the koji work with the microorganisms in the environment to break down the structure of the beans and grains into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars. This creates a paste that has a rich, deep umami and is a bit salty, toasty, funky, and sweet.

Besides being a fermented food in its own right, miso can also be used to pickle raw ingredients through a process called misozuke. Using a combination of miso and sake, mirin, or sugar, vegetables like cucumber, carrot, burdock root, and daikon, as well as meat, fish, or seafood, tofu, cheese, and egg yolks, can be flavored and preserved for an extended life.

While most stores stock soybean-based miso, there, in fact, are over 1,300 types of miso produced globally. Yoka Miso brings some of that variety to Seattle through its offerings of both soy and chickpea-based miso. They partner with local farmers for their legumes and with suppliers who share a common vision of sustainability.  They are committed to minimizing their carbon footprint, serving & supporting their local community, and maintaining transparency in sourcing, packaging & production processes.

Making use of miso

Anna Sugiyama and Maia Sugiyama put miso dressing on salad in the Tilth Alliance Community Kitchen. Photo courtesy Tilth Alliance

A night with Yoka Miso

During Tilth’s April Community Kitchen event, Anna, her sister Maia, and their mom and dad were in the kitchen to cook a family-style meal at the farm. The goal was to gather, eat, and learn how this beautiful, traditional food can play a role in every meal.  A lot of families are already familiar with miso through its use in many savory soups but might be surprised at the ways this family incorporated miso into each dish.

They prepared a local micro-green salad with a miso vinaigrette, grilled onigiris with miso glaze, a roasted miso eggplant dish, cooked spring greens with miso sesame, Japanese potato salad, pickled vegetables, and chocolate chip miso cookies with miso caramel sauce and ice cream.

Download the recipe booklet

About Community Kitchens Meals

Tilth Alliance’s Community Kitchen Meals program is based at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands in South Seattle and celebrates the diversity of food and food cultures in our neighborhood. Each month,  the organization partners with local home cooks and chefs to host an educational, cross-cultural event centered around a nutritious, delicious, and locally sourced meal. Get on the Community Kitchen mailing list to find out about and register your family for future events.


Traditional Miso Soup

Recipe from Yoka Miso

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp concentrated fish stock powder (dashi)
  • ½ block soft (kinu) tofu, cut into
  • ½ inch cubes
  • 2 scallions chopped into small rings
  • Four or five 1-inch pieces of seaweed (wakame)
  • 4 ½ cups water

Directions:

  1. Boil water with the dashi.
  2. After it boils, add the wakame and the tofu.
  3. Boil until the wakame is soft and the tofu is hot. Turn off the stove.
  4. Add the miso and gently mix until the miso is dissolved.
  5. Mix the soup before serving, as it tends to separate, and the miso forms beautiful clouds.
  6. Ladle into small bowls and add the scallions.

*adding the miso at the end allows for the miso to maintain is flavor at its fullest potential

Variations:

Various recipes call for a “clear” miso soup. To do this, dissolve the miso in your boiling water through a hand strainer and throw out the hulls.

  • Add other vegetables such as cubed potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, chopped onions, eggplant, mushrooms, etc. Make sure the vegetables are cooked thoroughly before adding the miso paste.
  • Crack a fresh egg into the bowl before you add the soup. Or cook it longer in the soup before serving.
  • Brown some chopped fall vegetables in sesame oil before adding them to the soup and finish cooking them in the soup.
  • Add seasonal vegetables from your garden. Fresh snap peas in the spring, and beets in the winter.
  • Drop in a piece of mochi and let it get soft and gooey before serving.
  • Add freshly rinsed mung bean sprouts to the soup just before serving.
  • Add a bit of Korean kimchi to your bowl of soup for some heat.
  • Make a few small carrot flowers with a knife and add them to the soup
    for something pretty.
  • Before you finish your meal, scoop the rest of your rice into your soup for
    a hearty last mouthful.
  • Use red (aka) miso for a deeper and richer flavor. Or mix two types of
    miso together for a unique blend.
  • Save a little leftover soup for breakfast and serve it with leftover rice.

Miso and all fermented foods are great ways to add flavor, nutrition, and longevity to your meals. If you are curious about trying out these miso-rich dishes yourself, check out the recipes from Yoka Miso, which include many creative varieties of traditional miso soup.


*This post is funded through a Public Participation Grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Ecology reviewed the content for grant consistency but does not necessarily endorse it.

*Reposted with permission from Tilth Alliance.

Read more:

Tilth Alliance Community Kitchens build connection

Kat Lieu makes Asian cooking easy for families

Our family kitchen: Three-generation pot roast

Tips for healthy summer eating for kids, families | Ask the Pediatrician

About the Author

Maggie Rickman / Tilth Alliance