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The other night I made the "Bejing-Style Meat Sauce and Noodles" from the most recent (May-June 2018) issue of Cooks Illustrated. Usually their recipes come out quite good, even if they are often a bit involved.

I've done Asian-style food before but it is not something I do a lot. It's a basic recipe where you brown some ground pork, add some scallions, garlic and mushrooms (ground up in a food processor) to the mix and once browned add the sauce:

  • 5 Tbsp red miso paste
  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 cup water

I've never cooked with miso before but everything else is familiar. Unfortunately the resultant sauce, especially when cooked down a bit as the recipe calls for is just much to salty. Not to the point of being inedible but still just too much.

Wondering if anyone has some thoughts on what to do with this sauce mixture to lessen or dilute the saltiness without losing the umami that the sauce ingredients provide?

  • Did you get all the ingredients exactly? You made no substitutions? – GdD Apr 18 '18 at 14:53
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    Whoa !!!! I see you acceted an answer, and a nicely worded one. I would say please carefully check the soy sauce. 5 T is a LOT of soy sauce. Also, this is not a sauce to really coat the noodles, but to just toss a little with the noodles. It should just barely gloss the noodles, not lay a puddle down. – MarsJarsGuitars-n-Chars Apr 18 '18 at 15:11
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    all ingredients, exactly. Miso was MUCH saltier than the soy, and the recipe calls for a LOT of sauce, I ended up with about a cup of sauce. – Steve Chambers Apr 18 '18 at 16:08
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    Put less of the salty things in, and more of the not so salty things. – Strawberry Apr 18 '18 at 17:05
  • People like different things, my grandfather for instance would definitely add several teaspoons of salt more to this meal. – Aequitas Apr 19 '18 at 4:41
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The first thing that caught my eye was the soy sauce. However, I think the real culprit here is the miso.

From Wikipedia:

Typically, miso is salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory.

About red miso, from the same article:

Akamiso (赤味噌) or red miso is aged, sometimes for more than one year. Therefore, due to the Maillard reaction, the color changes gradually from white to red or black, thus giving it the name red miso. Characteristics of the flavor are saltiness and some astringency with umami. It is often a much stronger-tasting miso. Factors in the depth of color are the formula of the soybeans and the quantity used. Generally, steamed soybeans are more deeply colored than boiled soybeans.

(Emphasis mine.)

The base ingredients for miso can vary widely. Also from the Wikipedia article:

The ingredients used to produce miso may include any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and cycad, among others. Lately, producers in other countries have also begun selling miso made from chickpeas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa. Fermentation time ranges from as little as five days to several years. The wide variety of Japanese miso is difficult to classify, but is commonly done by grain type, color, taste, and background.

  • mugi (麦): barley
  • tsubu (粒): whole wheat/barley
  • genmai (玄米): brown rice
  • moromi (醪): chunky, healthy (kōji is unblended)
  • nanban (南蛮): mixed with hot chili pepper for dipping sauce
  • taima (大麻): hemp seed
  • sobamugi (蕎麦): buckwheat
  • hadakamugi (裸麦): Highland barley
  • nari (蘇鉄): made from cycad pulp, Buddhist temple diet
  • gokoku (五穀): "five-grain": soy, wheat, barley, proso millet, and foxtail millet

I would try a different variety or a mixture of more than one. An example from the Wikipedia article:

Chougou (調合) or 'Awase' (合わせ) miso, or "mixed miso" comes in many types, because it is a mixture or compound of other varieties of miso. This may improve the weak points of each type of miso. For example, mame miso is very salty, but when combined with kome miso the finished product has a mild taste.

Do a little research and find one or more varieties of miso that suit your taste.

  • very helpful, thx! next time I visit my local Asian grocery I will look for lower salt varieties – Steve Chambers Apr 18 '18 at 14:44
  • I would simply use less soy sauce. 3 instead of 5. – M.Mat Apr 19 '18 at 2:17
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Miso can also come pre-mixed with dashi concentrate (e.g. the brand HonDashi). Be sure you didn't use this kind.

  • nope, regular miso as far as I could tell – Steve Chambers Apr 18 '18 at 21:45
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Nutrition sodium (mg)
(I just used the first hit on Google)

miso   3700 
soy    4395   
hoisin  258 
mmolasses 7
total  8876

If you use the US nutritional guidelines that is close to daily allowance if serving 4.

Drop down on the soy and let people add soy to taste. Even low sodium soy sauce is still pretty high in sodium.

Look for lower salt miso as suggested in another answer.

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You could try substituting koikuchi for the soy sauce. (Less salty more rich Japanese Soy Sauce [Warning: slightly sweet]) I'd say do that and or add more water but that will lessen the flavour.

  • To me this is a confusing way to phrase things. Which do you mean: "replacing soy sauce with koikuchi" or "substituting koikuchi for soy sauce"? – Gossar Apr 18 '18 at 19:48
  • Sorry about that I edited it now, I meant you could substitute the soy sauce in the recipe with koikuchi, a less salty more meaty and sweet alternative. – Jade So Apr 18 '18 at 19:50
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    Hope you don't mind. I edited to clarify what you meant. – Cindy Apr 18 '18 at 19:52

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