This week we’re bringing you an ancient flavor of Japan, miso, paired with a staple of summer barbecues, corn on the cob. The salty miso perfectly complements the sweet corn, creating a unique pairing full of flavor and history. Before we start grilling, let’s take a minute to explore the roots of miso, a food that has sustained the Japanese for centuries.
In most cultures around the world today, miso is thought of as a seasoning. The fermented soybean paste has an extreme saltiness, and so most people use only a small amount to flavor their food. However, the Japanese see miso as much more than just a condiment. “It is a basic staple, a concentrated source of protein and other nutrients important enough to be thought of as a full-fledged food.”
Though miso is now thought of as a traditionally Japanese food, its origins are found in China. Jiang is the predecessor of miso and is believed to have originated in China before the Chou dynasty (722-481 BCE). One of the most ancient condiments, it was used to preserve foods and did not originally include soybeans. Seafood and other meats were immersed in a combination of salt and rice wine or water and allowed to ferment, thereby preserving the meats and enhancing the flavors of the food. Eventually, the process was recreated using soybeans instead of meat and the first version of our modern day miso was born. An interesting addition to the process, only included in the soybean jiang, was a yellow mold which made the jiang a living food with live cultures much like yogurt.
Soybean jiang was brought to Japan by Buddhist priests in the 7th century and over the following centuries the Japanese crafted their own version of the food. Instead of leaving the soybeans whole during the fermentation process, they ground the beans into a paste before mixing them with other ingredients including rice or barley, salt, water and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. The resulting dish was named miso and was found to be incredibly versatile, able to be used in soups and stews, dips and dressings, and more. Numerous varieties were produced, each with its own distinct color and taste. The darker versions were found to be earthy and almost meaty, while the lighter versions had a sweetness to them and were even quite refreshing. Miso became an invaluable addition to the Japanese diet and was expertly crafted throughout the years until finally it was spread to other cultures that would appreciate its unique flavor and versatility.
In 1907 miso was made commercially in the United States for the first time and by the 1960’s it was being produced from coast to coast. Today, it can be enjoyed all over the world in a myriad of dishes, including the unique one we’re sharing with you today.
So fire up the grill and enjoy a dish that is sure to surprise the most discerning taste buds at your summer barbecue!
Grilled Butter Miso Corn
*Recipe courtesy of NoRecipes.com
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cooke Time: 10 minutes
- 4 ears of sweet corn
- 3 tablespoons of butter – unsalted, softened
- 3 tablespoons of miso
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- 1 small clove of garlic grated
- Peel away the husks and silk of the corn, leaving the stem attached to the cob. Use a damp paper towel to rub off any stray strands of silk.
- Put the corn on a hot grill or in a hot broiler, turning periodically until there are some charred specks on every surface of the corn.
- In the meantime, add the butter, miso, honey and garlic. Use the back of a fork to mash the mixture together.
- When the corn is done, spread a generous amount of miso mixture onto each ear of corn and return to the grill.
- Grill, rotating regularly until the miso has caramelized onto the outside of the corn.
 Shurtleff, W., & Aoyagi, A. (1976). The book of miso. Soquel, CA: Autumn Press.
 Shurtleff, W.
 “Soy Info Center.” History of Miso, Soybean Jiang (China), Jang (Korea), and Tauco / Taotjo (Indonesia) (200 B.C. to 2009) -. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2014. <http://www.soyinfocenter.com/books/130>.