Sumiso (酢味噌) and Sanshosumiso (山椒酢味噌) – A sauce to spice up any meat, vegetable or seafood dish

If you are looking for a new sauce to put with your vegetable, meat or seafood dishes, I am happy to announce that your search is over. I would like to introduce you to something that was introduced to me by my host family: sumiso/sanshosumiso.

Sumiso is a simple sauce that is made from three ingredients. Despite that, it is served primarily at high-end restaurants in Japan; many people don’t even know how to make it – it is extremely easy! It is also very versatile and can be paired with many things. More on that below the recipe.

For those who are looking to stay away from oil, this is perfect for you – no oil needed! You can also use it to make a plain salad more interesting. You can also upgrade it using sansho – Japanese prickly ash/Japanese pepper.

How sanshosumiso looks once you have prepared it

Sansho is used primarily in Japanese and Korean cuisine, where it grows natively. Unfortunately sansho is a seasonal plant and in Japan, you can get it mainly in spring. A dried form may be available other times of the year. Unfortunately sansho is not used as often in modern Japanese cuisine, so it is not as common as other foodstuffs.

Sumiso Ingredients:

  1. Miso – a paste made from fermented soya beans and barley or rice malt. You can find an excellent (and simple) recipe for making your own miso here.
  2. Rice vinegar – depending on where you live, this can be difficult to find. In a pinch you can replace this with white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  3. Sugar – brown, white or other sugars will work. You won’t be using much anyway
  4. Sansho (optional but highly recommended!) – Add to give the dish a bit more pizzaz. Sansho is seasonal and grows in the spring, so it may not be available year-round. Check your supermarket or local Asian food store.

There are several variations on the sumiso recipe. They vary based on the amount of each ingredient. The recipe from NHK (Japanese national broadcaster) recommends 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar. However we (the host mother and I) used the following as we were making and testing it:

  1. 30 g Miso
  2. 100 mL Rice vinegar
  3. 2 tbsp sugar (we used brown sugar)
  4. Sansho (5 to 6 sprigs for this amount)

Preparation:

  1. If you are using them, wash the sansho leaves and dry them.
  2. Grind the leaves into a very fine size using a mortar and pestle. You can also use a blender. The final consistency should look like the leaves in pesto. If you use a blender, note that the result will be very foamy.
  3. Add the sansho leaves, sugar, vinegar and miso to a bowl and mix well. The final result will look like a runny pesto; the sugar should dissolve completely (i.e. you don’t feel any granules when mixing).
  4. Taste test and balance the flavours. None of the flavours of the individual ingredients should overpower the others.

How to serve:

Sanshosumiso drilled on vegetables

If you followed those steps, you made (sansho)sumiso. You can serve it with vegetables, either raw or steamed. I first had it with lightly boiled cabbage (bring a pot with water to the boil, add a head of cabbage, and remove after 2 to 3 minutes. It won’t have the raw crunch but it will still be firm and have a nice, milder flavour). Since then I have also had it with onions, peppers, and soft bamboo shoots (タケノコ), all of which have been delicious! Simply toss the sauce with the vegetables and enjoy.

You can also add it to meat and seafood as well. The NHK recipe linked above uses it with prawns (shrimp) and ginger and I have seen people here in Japan eat it with pork as well as chicken. The possibilities are nearly endless!

Please enjoy! お召し上がりください!


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