Brownish, salty, and with a texture like Play-Doh, miso is an ancient Japanese mash of fermented soybean with moldy rice known as koji. Sounding delicious yet? Keep reading. It ferments for as long as three years or as short as three days, depending on the kind of miso you're getting. As you travel from the north tip of Japan toward the balmy south, miso changes from salty (Hokkaido's red miso) to sweet (Kyoto's white miso) and the grains change, too, with the north favoring rice as the base grain, center soybean and south barley.
But don't get us started on sub-regional styles. The only thing you need to know: Miso is good in everything. Make miso butter and slather it on corn or steaks. Stir a bit of miso into soup or spread it on fish for a marinade. Shiro miso, also known as white miso, is fragrantly funky, balanced and the easiest to find in any Asian grocery store and it's our go-to choice.