Kitchn Love Letters

The $7 Pantry Staple I Buy at World Market Whenever It’s in Stock (I’ve Already Gone Through 4 Jars!)

published May 22, 2024
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Cost Plus World Market is a chain of specialty import retail stores, it opened it's first store in1958 in San Francisco’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf.
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I’ve been a Japanese food enthusiast for 20 years. Over that time, I have learned the magic of miso and incorporated the staple Japanese ingredient into my entire cooking repertoire, not just the Japanese recipes. The condiment is made by inoculating steamed soybeans (or other beans) with mold and fermenting it for three to six months, sometimes longer. 

There are thousands of types of miso, the flavor varying by age and add-ins like wheat, barley, and variations in the beans used. The resulting thick spread is savory, funky, salty, or earthy depending on the ingredients and age of the miso. The most familiar to Westerners is shiro miso, a light yellow, slightly sweet miso that is the key ingredient in miso soup

Miso is a valuable ingredient for much more than soup. It’s a savory powerhouse for salad dressings, stir-fry sauces, marinades, and even desserts, like my sorta-famous apple cobbler. I have eight misos in my collection right now (yes, I have a collection of misos) and my hands-down favorite is Kuze Fuku and Sons Garlic Miso Topping, which happens to be on sale right now at World Market at a fraction of the price that it lists for on Amazon (or even the brand’s website, for that matter). 

While other misos are used as an ingredient in recipes, this thick, brown miso blended with roasted garlic is so good, I use it right out of the jar on everything. I’m on my fifth jar of the stuff and I only discovered it about a year ago. 

Credit: Ivy Manning

What’s So Great About Kuze Fuku and Sons Garlic Miso Topping?

The thick, fudgy texture of this miso comes with a strong roasted garlic aroma that lets you know it means business as soon as you open the jar. Not to worry, though — the garlic flavor is actually mellow (more of the squidgy roasted garlic variety than the bitey raw garlic, so it doesn’t overwhelm the savory funk of the miso itself). Unlike other misos, this is a blend of ingredients so it tastes more complex, meaty, and garlicky, but balanced with a sweetness that makes you reach for more. It’s spreadable (and dollop-able), too, so you don’t have to thin it.

According to the Kuze Fuku and Sons website, the garlic miso topping is made in small batches in the tiny town of Iizuna in the mountainous Nagano prefecture. It’s considered an okazu-miso, a category of miso-and-vegetable condiments that is traditionally served as a topping for rice. But to call this a rice topping would be like calling cultured French butter a bread spread. There’s so much more to this miso than that!

Credit: Ivy Manning

What’s the Best Way to Use Kuze Fuku and Sons Garlic Miso Topping?

Kuze Fuku and Sons aren’t wrong — you definitely can put a generous dab of their garlic miso topping on a bowl of fresh steamed rice. You’ll be glad you did, but it would be missing the point of this little jar of flavor fireworks. It can do lots of things; in fact, it reminds me of my other favorite umami-booster, Vegemite

For instance, I brush it on steak or chicken skewers 10 minutes before grilling — the sugars in the miso char nicely and amplify the flavor of the meat and charcoal. Then I serve dabs on the side of each plate so my family can add more to each bite. It’s also lovely brushed directly on air-fried salmon; the edges get brilliantly crisped and the savoriness plays nicely with salmon and other strong-flavored fish like mackerel, blue fish, black cod, and tuna. Unlike other miso-broiled fish recipes, I just scoop this out of the jar; no other ingredients are needed.

Credit: Ivy Manning

Beyond being a glaze/marinade for meat and seafood, this stuff dissolves seamlessly into sauces and soups. Since discovering this, I reach for garlic miso when I need to add a little oomph to an already finished meaty sauce like Bolognese or French onion soup. (In Japan, cooks add miso to a soup or sauce at the end of cooking to preserve its full flavor and retain the microbial benefits of what is ultimately a fermented product that would be killed if you boiled it.) 

These successes led me to trying it in my favorite meatloaf recipe (OMG YUM) and then I stirred it into Kewpie mayo for topping this epic fried chicken sandwich. Speaking of mayo, a teaspoon of this garlic miso topping mixed into tuna salad is a game changer. 

I’ve also thinned it with a little warm water and used it as an impromptu stir-fry sauce for asparagus, mixed it with butter and made Japanese-inspired garlic bread, and eaten it off my finger in front of my open fridge while I’m trying to decide what to make for dinner. It always inspires me to make something delicious. 

Buy: Kuze Fuku Garlic Miso Topping and Spread, $6.99 for 9.5 ounces at World Market

What World Market grocery finds have you spotted recently? Tell us about it in the comments below.