The first version of miso was introduced to Japan from China in the the 6th century AD and quickly became a staple of Japanese cuisine. Miso is produced by fermenting rice, barley and soybeans. Aged from 6 to 36 months, miso develops into a thick savory paste that can be used to make sauces, soups, marinades, salad dressings, spreads, and to cure vegetables or meats.
Miso is a part of many Japanese-style meals but most commonly appears as the main ingredient of miso soup. Miso soup can be made by adding it to dashi (the Japanese word for stock, it is used as chicken stock is used in the United States) or boiling water. Add cubes of tofu, sliced mushrooms, seaweed strips or anything else you have on hand.
High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is known largely for its health benefits. While fundamental to Japanese cooking, miso is gaining world-wide recognition and popularity and can now be found in many mainstream grocery stores in the United States
Typically salty, there is actually a wide variety of miso available ranging in flavor from salty to sweet, fruity to savory.