Miso Umami Bowls

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Getting deep, rich flavor into these Japanese-inspired rice bowls is easy when you use ingredients with umami. These Miso Umami Bowls get sweetness from sweet potatoes and agave, saltiness from tamari, richness from avocado, bitterness from the slight char that results from oven roasting and umami from soy, miso, and tofu.

Be creative with the toppings and the base. For the base, rice, lettuce, or quinoa all work equally as well. For toppings, you can add herbs, salt, sesame seeds, red pepper, Sriracha, scallions, pickled ginger or any other Japanese flavor.

What is umami?

Commonly called the 5th taste, umami gives depth and mouthwatering flavors to foods through interaction with the glutamate receptor.

A Japanese professor discovered umami in 1908. Determined to find out what gave his seaweed soup its intense, savory flavor, he isolated the flavor from kelp in his dish. He named the taste ‘deliciousness’ or umami. In a plan to commercialize this taste, he found a way to combine the glutamates with sodium, to form Monosodium Glutamate, also known as MSG.

What common plant-based ingredients that have umami?

Monosodium glutamate

Yes, it has a bad rap, but MSG is the quintessential umami bomb. MSG in food activates glutamate receptors in the taste buds. These transmit signals to distinct regions of the brain, causing the characteristic taste. Not everyone can eat MSG, though. Some people have severe sensitivities to MSG, such as headache, flushing, sweating, or nausea, while others have eaten MSG for centuries without any issue.

Miso

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and other ingredients. The result is a probiotic-rich thick paste that also triggers the umami sense. Miso can add flavor to a variety of sauces and soups, as well as vegetables and dressings.

Mushrooms

Because drying mushrooms concentrates their guanylate content, they are a good source of glutamate. The best mushrooms for providing umami include shiitake, shimeji, and enoki.

Seaweed

Seaweeds, and in particular kombu, provide an excellent source of glutamates. Therefore, adding dried seaweed flakes into dishes —such as broths, soups and stews— is a great way to add a bit of umami flavor to your dishes.


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Miso-Umami Bowls

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield:2 servings

Ingredients

Pickled Garnish

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 small carrot diced

2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup of white wine vinegar

1/2 cup of water

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons coconut sugar

Tofu and Umami Sauce

1/4 cup tamari

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 – 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained, dried in a towel and cubed

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Miso Glazed Sweet Potatoes

1 tablespoon white miso

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1.5 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon warm water

medium sweet potato, cleaned, scrubbed and medium diced

Umami Tofu Bowls

24 cups cooked white rice, quinoa, or brown rice

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, halved and sliced

Black sesame seeds, red chili flakes, cilantro and scallion, for garnish

Instructions

Pickled Garnish
  1. Combine vinegars, water, salt and coconut sugar in a small saucepan. Add onions and carrots.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then turn burner off.
  3. Allow vegetables to marinate while preparing the rest of the dish.
Tofu and Umami Sauce
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave, garlic, Sriracha and red chili flakes. Reserve half of the sauce for topping the bowls.
  3. To the remaining half of the sauce, and add cubed tofu and allow to marinate while you prepare the sweet potatoes. Once marinated, add half of the grapeseed oil to a sheet pan, and then transfer tofu to the pan in an even layer. Top with remaining grapeseed oil.
Miso Glazed Sweet Potatoes
  1. Next, whisk together miso, maple syrup, sesame oil and warm water in a medium sized bowl. Add cubed sweet potatoes and toss well to coat.
  2. Transfer the sweet potatoes to the parchment-lined sheet pan in an even layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender and crispy in spots, flipping halfway through.
Umami Tofu Bowls
  1. Evenly distribute cooked rice and/or quinoa in the bottom of each bowl.
  2. Layer tofu, sweet potatoes and avocado halves atop each bowl. Top with pickled garnish, black sesame seeds, red chili flakes, cilantro, and scallion. Finally, pour remaining sauce over the bowl.

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