Long popular in the East, soyfoods have only recently found a home in Western kitchens. Yet beyond tofu, many people are still at a loss about what to do with the versatile bean. Use the primer below as one might use a tour guide to a foreign culture. All these soyfoods can be found in supermarkets, natural-foods stores or Asian groceries.
What it is: Miso is fermented soybean paste made by inoculating a mixture of soybeans, salt and grains (usually barley or rice) with koji, a beneficial mold. Aged for up to 3 years, miso is undeniably salty, but a little goes a long way.
What to do with it:
Akamiso (red miso), made from barley or rice and soybeans, is salty and tangy, and the most commonly used miso in Japan. Use in marinades for meat and oily fish, and in long-simmered dishes.
Shiromiso (sweet or white miso), made with soy and rice, is yellow and milder in flavor; use for soup, salad dressings and sauces for fish or chicken.