I think many people in Portland know what miso is: a traditional Japanese seasoning typically produced by fermenting soybeans. But maybe not many of you know that there are variations of miso or some of you may be confused at a Japanese market when you see the five different packages of miso pastes.
Miso soup and rice is considered a staple of Japanese cuisine. However, usage of miso varies a lot. Miso is not only used for making miso soup, but is also used as an ingredient for other soup-like dishes such as Ramen and Udon. It is also used for marinating fish, pork or chicken for grilling as well as for stir-fry.
Generally, there are three major kinds of miso paste in Japan: Aka-miso (Red), Shiro-miso (White), and Awase-miso (Mixed). Aka-miso is salty, more likely to be used in the cold climates. Shiro-miso is very mild, and mostly use in the southwest part of Japan. I am from the Tokyo region, and I grew up with Awase-miso, which is a mix of Aka and Shiro-miso. This is my favorite kind.
When I get tired, I miss the taste of miso. I like to eat miso soup and rice for breakfast especially on the weekends. When I eat miso soup, my shoulders relax, and all my tension goes away. For me, miso is an important element to surviving living in a foreign country.