UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL
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I've become addicted to miso.

You know, that Japanese brown and weird looking paste consisting of fermented rice, soybeans, salt and the fungus kōjikin. Or at least that is the most traditional recipe, but miso can be found across Asia in many different forms and flavours.

Outside Japan miso is mostly known as the main ingredient for the namesake soup--the healthy, steamy, warm and salty sweet soup you often get as a starter in nicer sushi places outside Japan, or as a side dish in a running sushi place (kaiten sushi) in Japan.

Many Japanese believe miso also has a curing effect from radiation sickness, which was discovered or at least believed by doctors in Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the bombings that ended World War II. I'm not so sure about the truth in this, but since miso is an essential part of the daily Japanese diet anyway, I guess it won't hurt in these dark times of Japan anno 2011.

You can find miso in most Asian supermarkets. No luck in Danish supermarkets though, but I'm sure it's all over the ones in the US. I mean, they have whole AISLES of ice cream so they must have a shelf with a least one bag of miso paste.

The thing I love about miso is its many ways you can use it and the many flavours you obtain through different recipes and treatments. I mix it into my morning miso soup of course and I also stir fry vegetables and pour over miso mixed with sake and mirin to obtain a highly special and unique flavour, both sweet sugary and salty.

When I have guests over I throw together a simple and tasty miso dip. It's great with sliced vegetables and perfect to snack on while you're sipping (cham)pussy and chatting with other guests before a dinner party. Fellow UM writer Washi would probably recommend beer with miso dip, I'm sure. Come to think of it, I'm actually pretty sure he'd recommend beer with anything, even cereal or strawberry shortcake.

Anyway, here's what you need:

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INGREDIENTS
Miso (I prefer red miso, as it has more umph and flavour)
Roasted sesame seeds
Tahini
Wasabi (forgot to include in picture)
A piece of fresh ginger (forgot to include in picture)
A squirt of sake & mirin (you can also use water if you're short of those)

METHOD

1. Get your miso out.

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Press out a good helping in a bowl.

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2. Grate the ginger well and mix it into the miso.

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You need lots of ginger as it gives a great kick in flavour and a bite which takes the dip into greatness.

3. Put one teaspoon of tahini into the bowl as well.

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4. Ground some roasted sesame seeds and pour in. Uhm, I love the smell of ground sesame!

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5. Wasabi! Gives it a bit of a kick. Just add like half a teaspoon or to your taste.

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6. Add a little bit of sake to avoid having a too dry miso dip.

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And sake too.

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7. Mix it up real good!

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And there you are: an interesting and intense dip for your next din-din galore.

For dipping, I chopped some carrots roughly into easy handy pieces that fit well between your fingers. You don't want to drop your shit onto the hostess' antique Persian rugs or you will be dining on McDonald's that night.

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Sugar peas are cute too. Kids, don't forget to shock boil your sugar peas. People water them with their bodily fluids in the home country.

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And your party will already be on a roll.

The great thing about serving miso dip is that a lot of people have never tried the pure flavour of miso before--so they find it interesting and fun to snack on.

And there we have it, a super easy and quick dip tray ready for guests. Serve in hand-thrown ceramic bowls if you're in the know. Fine porcelain dinnerware is a definite no-no--the Style Police will come knocking on your door, take you to Bad Taste Prison where you will accidently drop the soap and feel the full effect of not respecting the International Laws of Style.

That's how bad it is to serve Japanese food in plain tableware.

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Fellow UM writers of Japanese heritage: do you have any side comments or improvements for this recipe to make it even better?