What Is Shiro?
Shiro is either an Ethiopian stew made from seasoned split peas or a Japanese flavoring agent that is also known as white miso. Ethiopian shiro stew, also called shiro wot, contains roasted split peas that have been ground into a flour called shiro flour. The flour softens into a paste in simmering water that is flavored with spices and served with a traditional African bread. Miso is a Japanese staple used in food in many ways, but is most commonly seen in soup known as miso soup.
Though the roasted split pea flour used in the Ethiopian stew can be made at home, most cooks buy the flour at the store. Those fortunate enough to be located near a market that caters to Ethiopian consumers might be able to find shiro flour. In other grocery stores, this type of flour is often called split pea flour, pea meal, or peasemeal, and it is most likely to be found at grocery stores that carry specialty and artisan grains. Sometimes, chickpea flour is substituted for split pea flour.
Shiro stew is commonly served atop a fermented flatbread called injera. This bread is traditionally made with a grain called teff, which comes from an East African grass, but can be made from other grains when teff is not available. Injera is similar in shape to a pancake, but it is not flipped when it is cooked and is generally cooked on a clay plate over a fire.
Making this type of stew starts with cooking shallots in a pan with a small amount of water. Once the shallots have softened, a spice mix called berebere is added with some oil and fresh garlic and the mixture is lightly browned. Berebere, also called berbere, is a common spice blend that contains a number of spices including cardamom, cumin, and basil. The mixture is then simmered in water briefly before the flour goes into the hot liquid, where shiro flour thickens in the simmering water until it reaches the desired texture.
Japanese miso is a flavoring that is made from fermented soybeans, though it is often mixed with another ingredient. One of the most popular varieties of miso is shiro miso, or shiromiso, which is commonly found alongside a plate of sushi at a Japanese restaurant. Aside from the kome miso class that contains shiromiso, other types of miso are many, but include mugi miso, which contains barley, and mame miso, which is made from soy beans only.
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