This may be my new favorite seasoning… I got the idea from one of my Nobu cookbooks and adapted it a little bit, but the basic idea is simple and really pretty amazing. It’s kinda like taking regular miso paste and… turning it into crack.
Drying concentrates and intensifies flavor. You’re removing the water content, leaving behind the pure, undiluted flavor. It allows you to have the same flavors but in different textures and consistency. This can be applied to a lot of different ingredients to produce some pretty cool seasonings.
In the past I’ve often used miso paste as a substitute for salt when I have the opportunity to put it in soups or sauces. It’s a way of adding a salty seasoning while also adding some serious extra depth of flavor (and some extra protein and vitamins). This takes it to a whole other level – dehydrating the miso and turning it into a powder so that it can take over for your salt. This stuff is awesome, versatile and super simple. I really don’t know why I’d never thought of it before…
You can use whatever type of miso you want, depending on the flavor you’re going for. I used red miso in this batch because I wanted some of the extra saltiness and really deep, earthy miso flavor. Using the sweeter white miso would result in a more subtle flavor, but would still be plenty salty.
You could probably use a dehydrator to speed the process, but it’s definitely not necessary. If you live somewhere warm and sunny, drying outside in the sun is definitely the best way to go. Since I don’t, I went ahead and used a combination of drying in the oven at a really low temperature and drying at room temperature.
The first step is to spread a thin layer of miso paste onto a baking sheet. I would recommend lining it with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat if you have one.
The drying time really depends on your method. You can dry it in the oven on the lowest setting for about 24 hours, but you have to check periodically to make sure it’s not drying out too quick and burning. As the miso dries and loses moisture, the drying will speed and there’s a risk of burning. Near the end of the process you’ll want to either monitor the miso in the oven frequently, or take it out and let it dry longer at room temperature to avoid burning. I dried mine in the oven for about 5 hours, let it sit out overnight and the entire next day, dried it again in the oven for another 5-6 hours, and then let it sit out again overnight. This was enough time but it will really just depend on the temperature, humidity, etc.
I flipped mine (gently!) a couple of times throughout the drying after it was firm enough to hold. Once it’s dried out and crispy to the point where it cracks apart, you can break it into a bunch of little pieces and toss them in a food processor and whirr them around in there for a minute or so until you have a nice rough powder.
I found that the powder still wasn’t as fine as I wanted it to be at this point, so I ground it finer with my mortar and pestle in batches. If you don’t have a food processor you could just go straight to the mortar and pestle… if you don’t have that either… improvise. Toss the chunks in a paper bag or a plastic freezer bag and crush it with something else – a rolling pin, the bottom of a sauce pan, a wine bottle, a coffee mug – whatever you have. Just crush lightly until the big pieces are broken so you don’t puncture the bag. Be resourceful!
When it’s a consistency you like, that’s it. Sprinkle it on anything… fish, steak, chicken, pork chops, finish some vegetables with it… put it on your popcorn! I used it on salmon sashimi and it really gives raw fish an awesome little kick. The bigger pieces add some crunchy texture that’s pretty nice too.