The world has changed a lot over the last few years, and the most notable place to see this change is in the way we eat.
The staple foods in most people’s lives are completely different from what people would eat 50 years ago, especially in the west.
If you asked my mum or dad what they grew up eating, they would probably answer meat with two veg or some kind of root vegetable stew, whereas I grew up with these foods and stuff like marinara sauces, chilies, or curries, all from different areas of the world.
This is not a bad thing, in fact, it is amazing that we have access to all these different foods we would never have seen before.
Our examination of our diet and ourselves have changed our ethics surrounding food, especially whether food is ethically sourced.
This is where the problem lies with a lot of new food on the market, as sometimes you just don’t know what is in it.
One of these new foods, miso soup, is even slated as extraordinarily healthy and popular nowadays, but is it truly vegan?
Today, we seek to answer that question and get to the bottom of whether miso soup is vegan or not.
What Is Miso Soup?
Before we dive into whether or not miso soup is healthy, it is important to explain what miso soup is for those who don’t know. Simply, miso soup is a soup that is made from a stock and miso paste.
That is it in its purest form. There are other ingredients that can be added beyond this, and regularly are thanks to regional variations.
The most commonly added additional ingredients are tofu, seaweed, and different regional vegetables like spring onions or mushrooms, but the core two ingredients of miso paste and stock remain the same.
To break these down further, miso is a fermented soybean paste that is created using Koji, a type of fungus. This mold is used in the process of making all sorts of different foods in East Asia, including tofu.
The koji is grown by adding a koji culture to steamed white rice. This rice is then regulated and left to allow the mold to grow, which should take place over 48 hours.
After 48 hours, a thin layer of white mold should be on top of the rice.
Once this part is done, the rest of the ingredients are prepared. Miso needs soybeans in it, but beyond this many people experiment with the ingredients they have around them, as long as they are a form of grain or pulse.
Most people will use barley, rice, buckwheat along with soybeans to make miso, while others will use wheat, chickpeas, or cycad as they are the only things around.
These ingredients are cooked or soaked until softened before the koji is added.
Once the koji is thoroughly incorporated, the miso is transferred to the fermentation vessel, where it is left to ferment for months.
After it has fermented, it is packaged and sold on the shelves as miso paste. The paste is then combined with the stock to make a wonderful and invigorating soup that has been a breakfast staple for centuries.
So, Is It Vegan?
Well, it depends. That is the best answer, really. If you are solely a vegetarian who eats fish or a pescatarian, then you can definitely eat it, but maybe it’s not for all vegans.
This is because of the stock. In Japan, the traditional stock of choice for most restaurants and family homes is dashi.
Dashi is a type of stock that is designed to increase umami in a dish, giving it an incredible flavor while remaining light. There are four types of dashi that are incredibly popular today.
These are ‘kombu’, made from edible kelp, ‘niboshi’, made from dried sardines, ‘shiitake’, made from shiitake mushrooms, and ‘katsuobushi’, made from dried and smoked bonito.
The problem for those on a vegan diet is that the two most used for miso soup are kombu, which is vegan friendly, and katsuobushi, which is not.
This becomes a bigger issue when the stocks are combined, as happens quite often, and the kombu stock is frequently combined with the katsuobushi stock.
Now, that is not to say that miso soup is not vegan, it definitely can be a very nutrient-rich addition to the vegan diet, but miso made in restaurants or commercially probably is not vegan friendly.
Therefore, I recommend making miso soup yourself, miso paste is in most supermarkets now, and it is also relatively easy to find kombu stock or at least a suitable vegan substitute.
You can’t go wrong with homemade miso, in fact, you’ll find a nice compliment to your meals or at least an easy-to-consume nutrient filler for your diet.
Types Of Miso
There are a few different types of miso that can be bought today.
This is because the ingredients, methods of fermentation, and the food for the mold spores’ change from region to region, giving rise to various types depending on where you are.
Although we are unable to cover all types of miso in this article, we will cover the most common types:
- Komi Miso – This is made from rice and soybeans. The white variety is made from boiled soybeans, whereas the red variety is made from steamed soybeans.
- Mugi Miso – This is made from barley and soybeans. It has a unique smell to it.
- Mame Miso – This is made from solely soybeans and is not as sweet as the others. However, it is darker and is a huge umami booster for whatever it is put in.
- Awase Miso – This is mixed miso, and it is produced when two different kinds of miso are mixed together creating an enhanced and rich flavor.
- Aka Miso – This miso is aged for a long time, sometimes longer than a year, which gives it a very strong flavor profile. It is considered among the strongest tasting of the miso, and it has a lot of umami.
- Shiro Miso – This is the most popular of the misos and the most widely distributed. Thanks to its short fermentation time, Shiro miso is sweet and light, perfect for a breakfast soup.
A lot of these misos will be difficult to find outside of Japan, but aka miso and Shiro miso are widely available in many different supermarkets.
These two are perfect for trying miso for the first time, as they give you the broadest range of miso flavors between them without putting you off trying some for yourself.
Even with the difficulty of our diets and the trouble, is finding new foods, many of us would not want to go back to the standard diet our ancestors enjoyed.
Although people survived on it, their diets do not tickle our taste buds as much as we would like, and thanks to the globalization of the world, we can explore new flavors hitherto not thought of before.
Miso is one of those flavors. It is rich, salty, and wonderfully refreshing. The soup is easy to make and, amazingly, easy to make vegan as well.
We didn’t even get to explore its nutrient value, but it is great as well.
If you are struggling to find new foods to have for meals or are finding filling your nutrient quota difficult to fill as someone newly attempting a vegan diet, then I suggest that you add miso soup somewhere into your daily diet. You may find it is the exact thing you are looking for.
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