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Umami Intrigue

Umami Intrigue
February 2017
Not just a soup staple, miso is hitting a sweet spot all over town

What: Traditionally, miso is a Japanese seasoning created with fermented soybeans, rice, and barley (or a combination of those ingredients) that’s often found in Asian cuisines. There’s a wide range of misos—for example white (shiro) miso, made from mostly rice, is lighter and has a more subtle quality, while red (aka) miso, made from mostly soybeans, can be stronger and more bitter. Because of its salty and slightly nutty flavor, it’s widely used around the globe in condiments like butter, mayonnaise, and sauces for veggies or meats. In Charleston, several chefs are finding ways to incorporate it into their dishes in a seemingly unexpected place: dessert.

Where to taste:

Drawing Room (19 Vendue Range, Try chef de cuisine Forrest Parker and teammate James Rundle’s banana pudding with vanilla miso, pound cake, and candied pistachios ($8). “The miso partners brilliantly with the subtleties of vanilla in what’s frequently an overly sweet traditional dessert,” Parker says. “It’s unorthodox, but delicious and incredibly popular.”

Prohibition (547 King Street, Executive chef Greg Garrison serves up a miso caramel apple crumble ($10). “As soon as the weather starts to feel crisp, I think about spiced apple cake—it reminds me of the warmth and comfort of home,” explains the chef. Salted caramels are always classic, and “the savory aspects from the fermented soy add a nice bit of umami and intrigue to the dish.”

Warehouse (45½ Spring Street, “My miso butterscotch budino ($9) was inspired by the assortment of loose candies in my family’s cabin in Canada,” says executive chef Emily Hahn. “It’s sweet and salty from the miso and has fruit flavors from the fig jam and nutty deliciousness from the five-spiced whipped cream and honey-roasted peanuts.”