Miso soup is a mainstay in Japanese cuisine, and for a good reason — it’s delicious, energizing, and a perfect complement to any meal. However, it’s far from a recent innovation, as Japan has been enjoying miso in some form for well over 1,000 years! The origins of miso and how it became the soup we know today can be complicated, so let’s go back in time and review the basics of miso soup history.

Miso’s Roots

It’s commonly believed that miso’s roots can be traced back to the Asuka Era, which lasted around 552 to 645. During this time, many ideas and products from China and the Korean peninsula arrived in Japan, such as Buddhism, and the ancestor of miso also came with it.

This fermented food from Ancient China was called hishio, and was a combination of fermented soybeans, salt, and other ingredients. The fermentation process helped lay the foundation for miso, as the miso paste responsible for most of the soup’s flavor is made through fermenting rice or grain. The longer the miso paste ages through fermentation, the bolder and richer the soup will taste.

The Birth of Miso

The first known record of the term miso comes from the Heian Period, which lasted from 794 to 1185. In the True History of Three Reigns of Japan, also known as Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku, it was recorded that a monk received miso as a part of his salary.

While it may sound strange that miso was used for salary, it’s a sign of how valuable it was. At the time, miso was considered a luxury good and was only accessible to the wealthy and those in high-ranking positions. In addition, miso was not eaten the same way it was today, being spread on food or even eaten directly.

The Development of Miso Soup

Miso started being used to make the soup we’re familiar with some time during the Kamakura Period. Monks who practiced Buddhism who traveled to Japan from China brought suribachi mortar and pestles with them that could be used to ground grains, leading to the creation of miso soup. Miso soup ended up becoming a staple of a samurai’s diet, and, over time, more people across Japan began to enjoy miso too — cementing itself as an important component of Japanese food culture.

However, the type of miso the people of Japan prepared and ate differed by their class and place in society. For example, the samurai and the elite dined on the highest-quality miso made using white rice, which was very expensive and difficult to afford. Meanwhile, the lower classes had to make millet and barley miso as they were unable to use the rice they themselves harvested.

In times since, miso production has made the soup accessible to everyone in the country and around the world. A multitude of different types are prepared, including red miso, white miso, and others. 

To Enjoy Miso Soup, Visit Kabuto Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar Today!

If you’d like to taste this staple of Japanese cuisine yourself, come to Kabuto Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar! We prepare and serve the finest meals at our East Norriton, PA restaurant and have a diverse menu with something for everyone to enjoy. Reach out today for more information and to make a reservation!