The Miso Sandwich

You might have read in my more general article about miso that a Japanese person would be surprised to see you spread miso on bread, and that miso tastes good as a bread spread nevertheless. In this article I finally present my greatest invention: the miso sandwich. (If you search the web for »miso sandwich«, you will find many recipes. I hadn’t known of those until I wrote this article and my miso sandwich is different anyway.)

As for every sandwich, there are infinite variations to the miso sandwich. Before going into detail on anything, I will give you one instance of the miso sandwich. (Don’t be put off by the ingredient »home-made sourdough« bread; any bread is fine, as you can read further down.)

Example Miso Sandwich

Prep time: 15 min

Ingredients

For one person.

Instructions

  1. Spread the miso thinly on both slices of bread.
  2. Sprinkle sesame seeds densely on one of the slices.
  3. Cut the carrot lengthwise into 5-10 mm thick slices. Arrange on top of the sesame in one layer. Eat the rest.
  4. Put the slice of celeriac on the carrot layer. Trim excess. Eat the rest.
  5. Cover with the second slice of bread.

Now that you know one basic recipe, I will give you ideas on how to adapt it. To put it shortly, you can do whatever you like with the miso sandwich.

Miso

Any kind of miso or similar Asian fermented bean paste is fine, so use what you can find in the shops and what tastes good to you. See here for an overview over miso.

Vegetables

Any vegetables that you can eat raw are fine. (You can also use cooked vegetables, but I don’t do that often.) Combine however you want; I normally use regional and seasonal vegetables without paying much attention to combinations. Stack as many layers as you want; I often end up with something that falls apart when I eat it. Vegetable suggestions: carrot, celeriac, celery, tomato, cabbage, beetroot, swede, red cabbage, bell pepper, nagaimo, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, myoga, goya, cress, mizuna, komatsuna, Chinese cabbage, savoy cabbage, eggplant (microwaved and mashed), sprouts of legumes, wakame (or whatever kind of seaweed is local), lettuce, goya, chicory, onion (not too much), spring onion (not too much either), garlic (loads!), chives, parsley, kohlrabi, cucumber, parsley roots (don’t confuse with parsnips!), Jerusalem artichokes, radish, courgette, sweet potato, mint, other herbs. Don’t forget to cut them, so that they can be layered!

(Good places to read about Japanese vegetables are Makiko Itoh’s pages or this.)

Bread

Any bread is fine, although it can be difficult to spread miso on soft breads. I usually prefer whole-grain sourdough breads, because they taste better and are more nutritious. In Germany, Denmark and other western countries they’re cheap and easy to find (I used to make my own bread anyway). In Japan it’s difficult: (1) the cheap and ubiquitous white bread contains dairy products, (2) anything whole-grain or sour is expensive. So I’m again making my own sourdough bread. I’ve also made miso sandwiches with flatbread before. Adapt to what is available, cheap, healthy and sustainable.

Bean Pastes, Nuts and Seeds

In order to get more protein and flavour, I used to add all sorts of things under or on top of the miso: sesame seeds, rapeseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaked almonds, almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter (I’ll write an article about these sometime), hummus, kidney bean paste (articles about those are on my agenda, too).

Turns out that they all contain a lot of phytic acid, which clings to some nutrients (mostly calcium, iron and zinc, according to Wikipedia) and prevents them from being absorbed by the body. So for now I would only add bean pastes, nuts or seeds when I make a miso sandwich without vegetables, or when I’m getting enough iron, calcium and zinc from elsewhere. Since fermentation lowers phytic acid content, I will also experiment with including nuts and seeds in my sourdough bread, so that I get both protein and low phytic acid.

Add or Leave Out

The example miso sandwich consists of bread–miso–sesame–carrot–celeriac–miso–bread. You can take away any number of layers except the bottom layers of bread and miso, and still get a good miso sandwich (technically, you might end up with an open sandwich, but it would be tedious to differentiate between open and closed miso sandwiches all the time). When I’m in a hurry, I make a bread–miso–sesame sandwich. When I don’t plan to carry the sandwich around, I often put vegetables and all, but leave out the top layers of bread and miso. This can be messy to eat when the top vegetable layer consist of small pieces.

If your miso sandwich doesn’t contain much fat already (such as from nuts and seeds), you could (should?) spread some oil under the miso. I recommend olive oil, cold-pressed rapeseed oil and fresh linseed oil. Then, of course, you can add all sorts of  stuff on the first layer of miso, between vegetables, or instead of the second layer of miso. Examples: mustard, ketchup, ground horseradish, wasabi, curry paste – whatever you fancy.

Oh, of course you can add natto. Happy eating!

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