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Miso is really essential in Japanese diet and cooking. It is mainly made from rice or soy, or even barley or oat. The most made misos are the white miso and the country miso.

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Your Japanese grocery store Nishikidôri tells you everything


History of Miso

Miso, like soy sauce, is an essential part of the Japanese diet. It is said to be originated from a seasoning called «hishio» (醤) (or «Jang» in Chinese reading) which had been made in China since before Common Era. «Hishio» was introduced into Japan and even mentioned in a Japanese ancient legal system called «Taiho Ritsuryo», issued in A.D.701. In the book, the word «misho» (未醤) is used and its pronunciation is said to have changed in due course and became the current «miso».

Since ancient times «hishio» has had many varieties. “Shishi-bishio” (肉醤) and “uo-hishio” (魚醤) are meat or fish sauce fermented with salt. “Kusa-bishio” (草醤) is fermented vegetables with salt; which is the origin of today’s Japanese pickles “tsukemono”. “Koku-bishio” (穀醤) is fermented cereals with salt; which has become today’s miso and soy sauce. At that time, fermented koku-bishio was not a condiment, but more like a preserved food which people used to pick some portions up and eat as it is. When the fermentation of koku-bishio proceeds, it liquefies and was considered to be incomplete, called “misho” (未醤) meaning incomplete sho.

In the 8th century (Heian period), it was said that there were some miso and kôji shops among many shops in Kyoto, where the emperor resided. It shows miso had gradually become common but it was still very expensive. At that time, miso was even used as salary and tribute of officials. From the 12-14th century (Kamakura period to Muromachi period), miso has spread to the general public with the development of agriculture and industry. The way to eat miso became closer to now, to eat in a form of soup after dissolving grinded miso with water or hot water. After the 16th century (Edo period), miso and soy sauce became industrialized and were made by specialized manufacturers. In this way, miso in today’s form was completed.


Definition of Miso

Miso is a fermented and matured semi-solid mixture of boiled or steamed soybeans, salt, and kôji (a type of mold cultured in the medium of steamed rice or wheat or soybeans.).

  • Rice Miso (kome-miso)

A fermented mixture of rice kôji + boiled or steamed soybeans + salt.

  • Barley Miso (mugi-miso)

A fermented mixture of wheat kôji + boiled soybeans + salt.

  • Soy Miso (mame-miso)

A fermented mixture of bean kôji + salt.

  • Blended Miso (awase-miso)

A mixture of two or more types of miso above, or miso made with two or more types of kôji.

  • Miso with broth (dashiiri-miso)

A mixture of miso (either type mentioned above) and flavor ingredients (katsuobushi (dried bonito), niboshi (dried small sardine), soy sauce, yeast extract, etc.). The content of flavor ingredients must exceed the content of additives.


Ingredients must be indicated on the label with an order of weight content, separating main ingredients, food additives, and other ingredients.


Type of Miso

Miso is categorized by its ingredient, taste, and color.

type of miso - japanese grocery store

Categories by Ingredient

Rice, barley, and beans


Categories by Flavour

Very sweet, sweet, and salty

When salt content is high, it becomes saltier. Even with the same salt content, one with higher kôji content is sweeter.


Categories by Colour

White miso, pale miso (light brown), and red miso (dark brown)

The color of miso is determined by the content of melanoidin generated from the Maillard reaction between sugar and protein (amino acids). The Maillard reaction progresses with time and high temperature so miso with longer fermentation has a darker color.

The color of miso can also be controlled by how the soybeans are prepared. When soybeans are steamed their protein fully stays which causes a stronger Maillard reaction and becomes red miso after maturing. On the other hand, when soybeans are boiled with changing water, some protein flows out of the beans which causes a weaker Maillard reaction and becomes white (yellow) miso. When soybeans are boiled without changing water, some amount of protein remains and becomes pale color miso.

The Colour of Miso correlates with the taste of miso. Pale and white miso has a light flavor while dark



Production and ingredients of Miso

Production Process

 miso production process - japanese grocery store



Kôji is a cultured kôji mold in the medium of steamed and cooled cereals such as rice, barley, and soybeans. Kôji mold is inoculated to steamed cereals and cultured under appropriate temperature, moisture, and atmosphere. The enzyme is made in the process of kôji breeding, and the enzyme is used to make miso, soy sauce, sake, etc.

Kôji varieties

Kôji is a type of fungus/mold which belongs to Aspergillus. There are four typical types of kôji as follows which are designated as “National Mold” of Japan in 2006.

  • Aspergillus Orzae / yellow kôji: Used to make miso, soy sauce, sake, vinegar, and “mirin”
  • Aspergillus Sojae / yellow kôji: Used to make soy sauce and miso
  • Aspergillus Kawachi / white kôji: Used to make “shochu” (Japanese distilled beverage) in the Kyushu area
  • Aspergillus Awamori / black kôji: Used to make “awamori”, an alcoholic beverage unique to Okinawa

Kôji secretes enzymes in order to digest protein and starches in substrates such as steamed rice or steamed barley. Making use of this enzyme, various kinds of fermented foods are produced.



Enzymes are essential substances to break down and synthesize vital food nutrients to sustain organism life. Kôji mold secretes enzymes in order to digest nutrients for its life maintenance and reproduction. The followings are the three representative enzymes produced by kôji mold.

Amylase: An enzyme that breaks down starch into sugars such as glucose or maltose; digestive enzyme

The followings are the types of amylases secreted by kôji mold:

  • α-Amylase: converts starch into disaccharides such as maltose and oligosaccharide
  • Glucoamylase: breaks down sugar such as oligosaccharides and produces glucose

Protease: An enzyme that hydrolyzes protein into the level of amino acid. Proteases in pineapples and papaya are well known to soften meat.

Lipase: A digestive enzyme that breaks down ester binding, one of the components of lipid. It digests neutral lipid. Enzymes also produce various types of vitamins such as B1, B2, B6, and niacin by their own metabolism.


Difference between White Miso and other miso

White miso is a special miso developed with a focus of sweetness while other miso was developed as a preservative food. White miso has one-third salt content of that of normal miso. It uses two times more rice kôji than usual miso to achieve tender sweetness. Its fermentation method is also different: White miso does not use yeast for its fermentation in order to give a delicate flavor with a note of soybean sweetness.

With such unique characteristics, White miso is used in various ways. By combing with sweet ingredients, white miso enhances its sweetness. It has a good match of dairy products such as milk and cheese. It has a higher resistance to heat so can be used for simmering.

(When heated too much, Maillard's reaction of sugars occurs and it becomes brown and bitter. Also, when stored over 25°C, the protein contained in miso also becomes brown due to the Maillard reaction which causes the degradation of miso’s quality with less flavor.).


Nishikidôri Japanese grocery store introduces you to the Kantoya House which has been making Miso in Japan for decades.

Start of Gokomachi Kantoya

We Gokomachi KANTOYA are a long-established miso manufacturer. We have been engaged in miso production in the south of the old Imperial Palace, the center of Kyoto city since 1847 when our founder Chube Kantoya started the business.

Miso Made with Tile and Care

The miso we produce has a taste which can be only created with craftsmen’s great deal of care and effort. We only use groundwater from 60 meters underground of Hiei mountain system. We also choose the production method that involves a lot of handmade processes.

You will find in your Japanese grocery store Nishikidôri the following products:


How is miso made?

  • First of all, you have to make your own kôji by steaming the rice after having washed and soaked it. The rice is then spread in a fermentation chamber for 2 to 3 days.
  • While the kôji is being made, the bean sprouts are washed, soaked and cooked.
  • The finished kôji is then salted and mixed with the cooked soybeans. The mixture will be crushed coarsely.
  • The mixture is then cooked for about 8 hours at 55°C.
  • The mixture is then traditionally ground with a stone grinder and cooled.
  • Sugar cane alcohol is then added to slow down the fermentation.
  • The fermentation will then take place in a closed container either at room temperature or in a cold room depending on the season, and this for 1 to 2 months.

Discover in pictures the secrets of the making of the imperial" miso of Kyoto by the Kantoya house (in French).


What are the benefits of miso?

Miso is rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins, lactobacilli and food enzymes, magnesium, and potassium. Kantoya's miso, of impeccable quality, is not very salty, much less than most misos on the market.

Japanese researchers have highlighted the antioxidant and anti-tumor properties of miso, their ability to prevent osteoporosis and lower cholesterol levels, reduce fatigue, facilitate digestion, improve and purify intestinal transit, and prevent hypertension...


Where to get miso?

Your Japanese grocery store Nishikidôri offers you a complete range of all varieties of Japanese Miso of an unequaled quality:


What is the taste of miso?

The taste of Miso, a traditional Japanese condiment, is different according to its variety, find the details of each type of Miso in the articles on the website of your Japanese grocery store

The taste of Miso is undoubtedly synonymous with Umami


How to use Miso?

In cooking, Japanese people marinate meat and fish in miso. The meat is more tender and juicier, delicately spiced, and rich in flavors.

It can easily be used to flavor and salt your dishes or broths.

Miso is tasty in a sauce or a vinaigrette, amazing in pastry as a filling for macaroons or in a custard.

And of course, diluted in a Miso soup.

What type of miso to choose?

The choice of Miso depends on its use and the flavors you are looking for, find the details of the perfect matches for each type of Miso in the article sheets on the website of your Japanese grocery store

To marinate a fish, choose Kantoya's Special Miso marinade

For a delicious Miso soup choose Kantoya Sweet White Miso

For a preparation of dengaku choose Yuzu flavored white miso paste

For your ganaches and macaroons choose Vanilla flavored white miso paste


What is the best miso?

One of the best Japanese Miso is without any doubt the Miso of Kantoya House elaborated with care and patience for decades.


What is in miso?

Miso is made from kôji (rice) and soybeans. Sugar cane alcohol is also used to slow down the fermentation during the preparation of the paste.

You will also find other ingredients such as Yuzu when it is a miso with yuzu for example.


What is miso paste?

Miso’s paste or more commonly called Miso, is the paste obtained by assembling kôji and soybeans according to processes and techniques specific to each manufacturing company. You will find different colors of miso paste, the white miso which has a color close to yellow, the country miso (or pale miso) which has a light brown color, and the red miso which has a dark brown color with red tones.


What are the benefits of miso soup?

Light, tasty, and easy to digest, Miso soup is a concentrate of all the benefits of Miso.

Miso is rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins, lactobacillus and food enzymes, magnesium, and potassium. Kantoya's miso, of impeccable quality, is not very salty, much less than most misos on the market.

Japanese researchers have highlighted the antioxidant and anti-tumor properties of miso, their ability to prevent osteoporosis and lower cholesterol levels, reduce fatigue, facilitate digestion, improve and purify intestinal transit, and prevent hypertension...

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