Buckwheat with Miso

Buckwheat is cultivated in as different countries as Russia, Japan, France and Brazil. Japanese soba noodles and soba shochu, Russian blini гречневая каша, French “gallettes” or savoury pancakes, boûketes in Belgium, Polish “kasza gryczana” (hulled grains, usually roasted), Italian pizzoccheri,… All those are made from the same plant.

Belonging to the Fagopyrum genus, buckwheat is not a grass, nor a cereal, even though it looks like one. Its qualities are so numerous, it is surprising most of the Western countries never consume it. It is very rich in protein, minerals, antioxydants, iron and doesn’t contain any gluten, so can be consumed by people who don’t tolerate it.  Apart from all these healthy sides, buckwheat grows very quickly and easily. That is why it can be cultivated in cold climate and crops can be easily multiplied in hot regions.

The older I get, the more I like buckwheat – based products, and especially buckwheat groats, e.i. hulled grains. They are a bit crunchy and a bit soft at the same time. They have a very pleasant nutty aroma and a tiny hint of bitter taste. I don’t know if it is due to my temporary deficiency of one of its healthy components or if it’s a simple food craving, but sometimes I want it so much, I must have it in the following hours. In Switzerland (like in most Western European countries) the only easily obtained buckwheat groats are not roasted and lack the nutty flavour the roasted ones have. Luckily Russian and Polish shops carry roasted groats and luckily they exist in most European countries, USA or Canada, where the buckwheat groats’ name (“kasha”) has Polish/Russian origins.

I usually have buckwheat groats as a side dish (they are perfect with pork roast and the Polish pork stew with allspice), but they also make a good ravioli or vegetable stuffing. I don’t know why, but I have never tried to mix them with Asian ingredients. However, a couple of days ago, I thought about the Japanese soba noodles, remembered I had a miso (Japanese soybean paste) dressing in the fridge and decided to combine them. It is difficult to describe how excellent this Japanese-Polish fusion proved to be. Needless to say, since that day miso has become the buckwheat groats’ best friend. (UPDATE: It’s not really a fusion dish… I have just learnt that buckwheat groats do exist in Japan where they are called “soba gome”; they are however not very popular).

The White miso dressing recipe comes from my beloved Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji (read more here). It keeps about 2 weeks in the fridge and is a good way to use up an egg yolk. If you don’t want to prepare the miso dressing, the buckwheat will be also good with miso alone (if you can add some mirin, it will be even better). This time, instead of pork, I had it with grilled chicken.

Update: Janet’s comment and cooking kasha experience made me think how buckwheat groats/kasha may be tricky to cook, especially for the first time. After two or three times it’ll become very easy. I changed a bit the cooking process description, more helpful this time – I hope  – for a beginner.

Preparation: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

150 g roasted buckwheat groats

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons white miso

or White miso dressing:

1 egg yolk

4 tablespoons white miso

1 tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon mirin

(dashi, Japanese stock, 出し)

Put the buckwheat groats into a cup.

Measure the double of the buckwheat volume in water.

Pour the water into a pan. Bring it to boil, add the salt.

Throw the buckwheat into the pan and let it cook partially covered at medium heat for about ten minutes.

Lower the heat and let it simmer, covered, for about 5 more minutes.

The water should be completely absorbed by the grains. If it’s not absorbed yet, put the pan aside, leave the cover on and it will get absorbed without cooking too.

Prepare the miso dressing.

Combine the yolk with the miso in a small pan.

Add the remaining ingredients one by one.

Put the small pan into a bigger one, with boiling water and let the sauce thicken (and the egg yolk cook), delicately stirring for about 5-10 minutes.

(The miso dressing can be diluted with dashi stock. It keeps two weeks in the fridge.)

Taste the buckwheat groats. They should be still crunchy, but cooked. If they are not soft enough for your taste, add a bit more water and cook them longer.

Drain the groats. Combine them with one tablespoon miso or miso dressing.

Serve the groats with a big dollop of miso/ miso dressing on top.

14 Replies to “Buckwheat with Miso”

    1. I always buy it at the Russian food part of a grocer who sells “exotic” food from as different countries as Brazil, India and Russia 🙂 If you have a Russian shop somewher you’ll find it! I have never used in sweet version.

  1. Hi Sissi! Thank you for leaving a message on my blog. I’m really happy to know you. Seems like you cook some Japanese food too! And you love shochu. 🙂 I’m not a big alcohol drinker, but I always like shochu + some sweet flavor (we call it “sawa- (pronounce it like sour)”). I’m looking forward to getting to know you! Impressive that you make dashi from scratch. You are a serious cook. 😉 Nice to meet you!

    1. Hi Nami, welcome and thank you for visiting my blog! I was also very happy to discover your blog. You have posted so many yummy-looking recipes I don’t know what to choose first (shiso sauce will have to wait-my shiso is barely sprouting…), I only know I’ll learn a lot thanks to your blog! I love Japanese cuisine (although I don’t have it for every meal) and shochu is a recent, but very often practiced hobby 😉 Thank you for the kind compliments, I am not really a very disciplined or meticulous cook, and making dashi on my own is probably due to the fact I don’t use it every day in my dishes… Nice to meet you too 🙂 and see you soon on the web!

  2. Great idea. I will try this. Buckwheat is really delicious, the nutty flavour is very nice. In ancient times it was one of the main components of our local dishes to feed the poor. I live in an rural area with very poor soil: moores, sand, pine- and birchwoods, heather. Buckwheat was the only crop growing sufficiently before they got to know something about potatoes. So people had to eat it on daily base. From the olden days recipes I like buckwheat gruel with apple sauce the most, buckwheat pancakes with bacon and a great buckwheat/hazelnut cake with cream and lingonberries (local speciality because we had lots of wild lingon berries, hazels and buckwheat: very much enjoyed by tourists). I don’t know why people don’t eat buckwheat more often.

    1. Thank you Kiki! I didn’t know buckwheat was consumed in Japan in other form than noodles. The dishes you mention sound very interesting. I have heard of lingonberries (I think they grow in the UK too), but have never tasted them. Hazelnuts must go very well with buckwheat… My favourite has always been the above mentioned pork stew with allspice. The very aromatic sauce is wonderful with buckwheat. And now of course served with miso is my another favourite. Since it grows so quickly, is not demanding, and is so healthy, buckwheat should be promoted all around the world! (By the way, it reminds me of the Kuitan episode where a tv presenter gets really sick because he has a buckwheat allergy and has just had some buckwheat honey….)

  3. I made kasha once and I think I added too much water because it tasted kind of water logged… and then I tried one of those boil-in-bag kasha packets and I was floored! It tasted so good! Pairing it with miso sounds sublime and I can’t wait to try it. 🙂

    1. Hi Janet, welcome and thank you for this comment! It’s true, cooking kasha might be a bit tricky. What’s more, everyone has a bit different preferences, some prefer it a bit mushy, some more “al dente”, it also depends on if you want to cover it in a sauce or as here, mix with something thicker. That is why I have written about tasting and cooking longer if needed. Maybe I should have warned about this trickiness in my post!
      Miso tastes so good with it, I have impression my buckwheat groats have waited for years to meet miso 🙂

  4. Well done, Sissi!
    Did you know it is called sarrasin (saracens/arabs) in French as it was introduced by the invading Arab armies in the 8th Century in France.
    You definitely know that it is most consumed in Bretagne in France as wheat does not grow easily there.
    In Nepal they eat it in paste form with butter and chili pepper!
    I particularly love the ancient black bread made with buckwheat in the west of France with smoked salmon!
    Best regards,

    1. Thank you, Robert-Gilles! I didn’t know it was introduced so early in France. It’s surprising since, apart from the famous galettes bretonnes I have never see any buckwheat recipes in France. I know so many French who even don’t know that “blé noir” = “sarrasin”…
      Buckwheat bread in France???? Wow! Unfortunately I live rather next to the Eastern France and have never seen it 🙁 I love pumpernickel bread (do you know pumpernickel?) with smoked salmon and in general good black bread is the best with smoked fish.
      Do the Japanese use/know the buckwheat groats? (I have another, very wicked idea to use it in a Japanese recipe…)

      1. Actually Honore de Balzac mentions the buckwheat bread in his book “Les Chouans”!
        No, the Japanese do not seem to know buckwheat groats!
        Looing forward to your wicked recipe! LOL

        1. Thank you Robert-Gilles! I haven’t read Les Chouans, alas 🙁
          I will tell you when (or if) I post my new experiment!

  5. Today I just found the buckwheat flour in grocery shop becuse I didn’t know what’s called it in Finnish! so it took 2weeks.. anyway, I love buckwheat,too! I will try to make Koean buckwheat pancake someday! I will let you know when I done.. lovely!! thanks

    1. Hi, Bellacorea. Good luck! I am looking forward to see your Korean pancake (and probably copy it afterwards 😉 ).

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