It occurred to me last week that for someone who absolutely adores seafood, it’s been a ridiculously long time since I last posted a seafood recipe. What the heck is up with that? Time for a change, I say! There’s Miso Ginger Cod Power Bowls to be enjoyed (you’re going to love them, I promise), but first, let’s chat about miso.
You’ve probably seen it on restaurant menus, in sauces, marinades, dips, and of course, miso soup. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly miso is, it’s a paste made of fermented beans (most often soybeans) with a very salty taste. Some miso varieties are made with a similar fermentation process, with other beans and grains, but soybean-based miso certainly seems to be the most popular in my grocery shopping experience.
The health-related question I’ve heard most often when talking about miso is whether or not it’s actually healthy. There’s a lot of controversy around soy, as well as plenty of science suggesting the argument could go both ways.
My stance on the issue is this: Assuming a person doesn’t have any intolerances, allergies or medical conditions where consuming soy could have a very negative impact, it’s ok in the right format and in smaller amounts. By right format, I’m not talking about the meat-like substitutes and highly processed versions of soy that don’t look or taste anything like a soybean. The kinds I’m personally ok with and choose to consume are minimally processed and/or fermented. Those include edamame (not fermented but these are straight-up soybeans in their whole, unadulterated form), tempeh, and miso.
What makes fermented soy better?
Like other probiotic foods, fermented soy contains live probiotic cultures to help keep our gut microbiome healthy. As I talked about in this post on probiotics and prebiotics, we can take these as supplements but our bodies often do a better job of using food-based sources.
Not only does fermentation help to introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut and boost immune system function, but the process also makes the nutrients in that food – soybeans in this case – more easily digested. That’s great news if you tend to stay away from beans and legumes because of their gassy side effects (soaking can also help with this!) or because of the anti-nutrients they contain (which become drastically reduced during the fermentation process).
Lastly, it’s not just the benefits of fermentation that you get with miso. It’s also rich in micronutrients, including copper, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K.
What kind of miso is best to use?
Obviously if you’re gluten intolerant, you’ll want to ensure you’re not buying a barley-based miso. My preference has always been shiro miso, also known as light or white miso. It has a fairly mild taste and is generally the lowest in sodium of the different varieties. You can easily tell how strong a miso variety is going to taste by its colour: generally, darker = stronger.
Due to its very salty taste, a little of any type of miso goes a long way. We’re talking teaspoons and fractions of teaspoons, not cups! When shopping, it’s important to look for an organic, non-GMO brand because many of the soybeans produced in North America and elsewhere are not. The two I buy most often are Eden Foods and Amano Foods, and the latter just so happens to be produced here in Vancouver!
How do you use it?
Once opened, miso should be kept in the fridge to maintain freshness. One of the most important things to know about cooking with it is that boiling or heating it to very high temperatures kills off the beneficial bacteria. This is why miso should never be boiled when making miso soup – simply stirred in near the end. It’s a bit of a clumpy paste, so whisking it into a bit of warm water first can help create a smoother consistency.
To make the marinade for the fish in this recipe, I whisked the miso paste with the other ingredients and let the fish sit in it for an hour. When stir frying the cod, I’ve found that keeping the heat around the medium mark on my stove is plenty to cook the cubes completely, without having to bring the liquid to a boil.
Aside from soup and marinades, know that you can also use miso in a ton of other ways, including dressings (like this one and this one!) and dips that require no heating at all. That means you won’t have a package of it sitting around in your fridge for months on end. Hooray for versatility!
Right, let’s get to this recipe!
Packed with protein, fibre, anti-inflammatory compounds and plenty of veggies, these Miso Ginger Cod Power Bowls are a perfect meal for balancing blood sugar and satisfying a growling tummy.
For the fish:
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp light miso (shiro miso is your best bet, and generally the lowest in sodium of all the miso varieties)
- 1 tsp pureed ginger root
- a few pinches of coconut sugar
- 1 cod fillet, about 160g raw weight, chopped into bite-size cubes (see note)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame or coconut oil
For the seaweed salad:
- 2 strips each dried kombu and kelp
- 2-3 tbsp dried arame
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
For the rest:
- 1 cup steamed or boiled thin green beans
- 1 cup shredded bok choy
- 8 shiitake mushrooms
- 4-5 thin slices of watermelon radish
- 2-3 tbsp kimchi
- sprouts, cilantro, mint, avocado and limes, to garnish
- Whisk together the miso ginger marinade for the fish (first 4 ingredients) in a small bowl, then pour it into a resealable bag or container along with the fish cubes. Let the fish marinate for at least 1 hour.
- While the fish marinates, make the seaweed salad by soaking the kombu, kelp and arame in warm water for about 5 minutes. Once soft, drain off the warm water and toss in sesame oil, rice vinegar and sesame seeds. Set aside.
- Prepare the vegetables as indicated above.
- When ready to cook the fish, heat the oil in a wok for 1 minute. Pour the entire contents of the bag into the wok and stir fry the cubes until opaque, about 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
- Without cleaning the wok, stir fry the boy choy and mushrooms until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Arrange all of the vegetables in a bowl, followed by the seaweed salad, cod and kimchi.
- Garnish as desired and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over top before eating.
This recipe works really well with previously-frozen cod fillets as they can be easily sliced and cubed. Just be sure that the cod is completely thawed before cooking.