Spring is undeniably upon us. Here in Tokyo, the cherry blossoms have bloomed, there’s a warm plushness to the air, and the markets are full of spring greens and baby vegetables. Whether you’re planning a spring picnic or a light meal at home, this Niku Miso (肉味噌, literally “meat miso”) makes for a delicious condiment that ups your vegetable stick game.
I like to start my Niku Miso by caramelizing aromatics like shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and ginger. For the meat, I use ground pork, but ground chicken or lamb would work equally well. The miso, is a blend of regular yellow miso with a bit of hatcho miso (a.k.a. black miso) thrown in for its aged complexity, but just yellow or a mixture of yellow and red would work just fine.
One ingredient that may seem a bit out of place is the egg yolk, but it rounds out the harsh edges of the miso by adding body and richness to the mixture. Finally when the Niku Miso is nice and thick, a big dose of toasted sesame seeds finishes it off with a bit of crunch and a marvelous nutty flavor.
I ended up serving this for dinner with baby fennel, baby carrots, baby radishes, baby turnips, slices of bell pepper, and some blanched okra and baby corn. Although the miso is anything but light, the bulk of the meal is the vegetables, which leaves you feeling satisfied without bogging you down in the same way the meat sweats or a carb coma would.
Aside from serving it as a dip with vegetables, Niku Miso also makes for a great condiment for a bowl of rice, an easy seasoning for a vegetable stir-fry, and a tasty sandwich spread, along with veggies like shredded carrot, sliced cucumbers, lettuce and cilantro. The best part is that this will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week, which makes it perfect for those days you just don’t feel like doing much in the kitchen.
- Put the yellow miso, hatcho miso, egg yolks, sugar and sake into a blender or small food processor and run until smooth
- Add the oil to a frying pan over medium heat and saute the shiitake, scallion, and ginger until it's well browned and starting to caramelize.
- Add the pork and stir-fry, using a spatula to break up the meat into small crumbs.
- When the meat is mostly cooked, add the miso sauce and turn down the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly until the miso is thick enough so that when you run a spatula across the pan, the miso doesn't flow back into the gap created.
* In the US, yellow miso is often mislabeled "white miso". True white miso (shiromiso) is a unique style of miso from Kyoto that's made with a larger percentage of rice, which makes the miso very sweet. If you bought something labeled "white miso" in the US, chances are you have regular yellow miso. If you're unsure what kind of miso you have, taste a small amount, if it's very sweet, reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe.