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One easy way to make boiled or stir-fried vegetables more exciting is to drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil.

To diversify the flavor, and while still taking inspiration from Korean and Japanese kitchens, I have attempted to dissolve/dilute a bit of:

fermented and unfermented soybean paste

  • Korean, light-colored, fermented soybean paste,
  • Korean, dark-colored, fermented soybean paste, and
  • Japanese soybean (miso) paste

in some water and add to various dishes such as:

  • boiled vegetables,
  • stir-fried vegetables, and
  • vegetable broth and (largely unseasoned) homemade chicken broth

but the outcome is far from exciting. It doesn't come close to the flavors of even the basic dishes served at Korean and Japanese restaurants.

What is the correct way to use fermented (and unfermented) soybean paste?

(Hint: a little of any of these goes a long way; beware of buying too much too soon and being unable to use it before expiration.)

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    Try Miso sauce for vegetables in your search engine of choice, perhaps.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:09
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    What type of miso did you get? There are many types (white, red, yellow) that have different flavors. Also age and other factors affect the final flavor
    – Joe
    Oct 27, 2022 at 1:27
  • @Joe I wouldn't say it was yellow—beige perhaps. Red would signal more heat; is that the right impression? What about white?
    – Sam7919
    Oct 27, 2022 at 2:52
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    Red miso is not "hot" - the color does not come from chili unless you are adding hot sauce to white/yellow miso.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 27, 2022 at 12:31
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    Chunjang is also made of fermented black soybeans. Chinese black bean paste starts with the same (douchi), pounded with of garlic/allium and seasoned with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and/or aged tangerine peel. You can pound (or puree) to the consistency you like. The storebought stuff I've tried is much saltier, bitter in a blunt way, and generally lacks any hint of citrus/acidity. Chunjang seems to lack garlic, but has amore chocolatey bitterness along with some acidity. So instead of more douchi, it might want some garlic.
    – kitukwfyer
    Nov 6, 2022 at 2:16

3 Answers 3

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As regards your hint, the best-by date is a bit of a myth with this stuff, and not, in any case, an expiration date. It has its own set of microbes in residence and rarely actually "spoils." It does darken more with age, but that's not spoilage. I'm working on a 3-kilo tub very similar to your first two images. This producer states that there is no expiration date, and they have kept it as long as 20 years, without refrigeration, and it's still good. They do advise using your nose and common sense.

The inner cover over the product on my Korean package, which unlike yours has English translations, says (verbatim)

"The longer you leave it, the darker its color gets. It results in fermentation, so you can consume it without doubts about its quality"

Picture by me.

I spread it on toast or crackers, thinly, often with other things. I add it to cooked rice. I've put it in peanut sauce. I do not "dilute it with water" unless trying to make miso soup (to which it should, AIUI be added after heating and before serving, not before heating.)

Thus far, I don't concern myself overly much with "proper" usage, other than the "don't cook it" aspect. I'm constantly trying to find lower salt versions, as I find it overly salty in general. That, of course, informs an approach to using it, which is to use it to supply the salt (and additional flavor) in anything you'd otherwise add salt to that seems like it would play well with the added flavor.

As far as I understand, Miso is also fermented - the lighter colored stuff is less aged, the darker colored is more aged, but it's not "unfermented" in either case. Your brand's info here. They even have recipes.

I have to wonder if you are using it so sparingly and diluting it so much that it's not able to contribute much flavor...

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  • Dang! I had just earlier discarded the contents of all three and rinsed in preparation of recycling—determined to arm myself with usage scenarios before getting even one more.
    – Sam7919
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:28
  • Argh! That last container indeed didn't have an expiry date. I thought to myself that it's just sloppy practice throughout the chain from the factory, to the importer, to my local store. I applied the same duration for it as the other ones.
    – Sam7919
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:50
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    (pardon any confusion, I notice that they make many other versions so I needed to specify, and too late to edit comment, so I deleted and re-posted) Ouch. Live and learn. The Japanese organic stuff I've gotten as "claiming to be less salt" (Mitoku Hatcha, just a happy customer when I can find it) doesn't even have a best-by date on it. In general, the darker, long-aged stuff should have more developed flavor
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:52
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First of all, the Korean middle one is not soybean paste at all, but chunjang (춘장), a black bean paste. This is used as a condiment for stir-fries, in particular the noodle dish jjajangmyeon; it's not suitable for soups.

The leftmost one is Korean soybean paste aka doenjang (된장, you can spot the characters in the top left corner). Unlike miso, doenjang is not "diluted" with rice, so it tastes stronger. The most popular way to eat this (and also my favorite) is as the base for doenjang-jjigae, a tasty stew.

Finally, the Japanese one on the right is a "nothing added" (無添加 mutenka) plain miso, which means it's missing the other key ingredient for miso soup: dashi stock, which adds salt and umami flavors. Dashi can be made from bonito (katsuo) or kelp and is easily purchased in "instant" powder form, just add a pinch (quarter tsp or so per bowl, it's strong stuff!) to the boiling water and mix in before adding the miso. Many commercial brands of miso have dashi premixed (出汁入り dashi-iri), which eliminates this step.

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I can’t comment on the Korean pastes (which I use, but I don’t know enough about the cuisine to know if there’s a ‘correct’ way to use it.

For Japanese miso, traditionally you don’t want to boil it. You add it at the last minute, after whatever vegetables have been cooked. If using it in soup, you place some miso in a ladle or large spoon (held in your non dominant hand), dip it in the soup to get a little broth, then stir with chopsticks to thin it out and eliminate lumps, then stir the thinned miso into the soup.

You can also use a small strainer instead of a ladle, dip it into the broth, and then a spoon to stir the miso in to thin it.

Miso can also be mixed with Mayo or similar, sometimes with honey, garlic, hot peppers, or other flavorings to make a dip for vegetables

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  • A couple of clarifications: 1- Can you add miso simply to boiling water, or would you normally add it to chicken soup, vegetable stock, etc? and 2- Could you recommend a rough ratio to start with—might one tablespoon for each 1 litre/quart be a good starting ratio?
    – Sam7919
    Oct 27, 2022 at 2:48
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    Traditional (or "normal" if you like) Miso soup is based on dashi, which is a stock made from water, seaweed, and bonito flakes (with the solids strained out.) e.g. seriouseats.com/basic-japanese-dashi-recipe
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 27, 2022 at 12:50
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    @Sam: it’s difficult, because most Japanese broths aren’t simply miso + water, so the proportions vary depending on what other salty ingredients you might be using, and how much vegetables you have so there’s a good balance. NHK’s Dining with the Chef has a recipe index if you want to see their various miso soup recipes: nhk.or.jp/dwc/recipes
    – Joe
    Oct 28, 2022 at 1:33
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    @Sam I'd go with at least one teaspoon per cup. Some people like theirs stronger, but it can get quite salty if you put too much. As noted in my answer, dashi is critical, and only add the miso at the very end: it's not meant to be boiled for long periods of time. Oct 29, 2022 at 8:25

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