MISO

A fermented soy based paste is the bedrock of Japanese cuisine, it is used in soups, simmered dishes and everywhere it is required. Long lasting and nutritious it is and was a valuable source of food for the Japanese.

Miso is a rich, nutritious food, it has proteins equal to beef, for a long time meat wasn’t consumed in Japan, and hence the protein from soya beans was very essential. Miso is made up of soy beans, salt and koji – a type of mold that gets fermentation started. The microbe –Koji is the essential ingredient for miso, and is very compatible with the Japanese climate of hot and humid, the humidity creates the perfect environment for it to thrive. This is also the reason for the enormous fermented dishes in the cuisine, like sake, mirin and, soy sauce.

 

There are varying colors and flavors to miso and this is based on the varying amounts of koji and weather conditions. There are about 900 producers each manufacturing different varieties of miso. The three main categories. The most common – rice miso, soya bean miso and barley miso. Each of the base ingredient i.e rice, barley and soy are mixed with

Rice is inoculated with koji, at a steady temperature 36 degrees Celsius, this temperature is ideal for the mold to react, in an uncontaminated room fermented for 2 days. Soy beans are steamed and mashed. The beans are left to rest overnight, the next day the rice koji and soy are mixed together. The miso is then compressed in barrels and matured for 1, 2 or 3 years. Each maturation period gives out a different color and different flavor.crushed soy beans and fermented. The process for the rice miso is as follows:

Nagano prefecture consumes and produces about 40 percent of miso, that’s a lot of miso. Now-a-days miso is made in factories but it wasn’t so, people would make it at home, that is why it was a staple and why it is associated with home cooking. The basic cuisine from miso is the miso soup, it is simple, healthy and refreshing. It starts with a fish or Kombu stock, vegetables, tofu or meat are added and miso is mixed into the stock. Very important kitchen skill to make miso is, you should never add miso when the soup is boiling, the boiling will kill the taste and essence if miso, make note to always switch off the stove and add miso.

Rice and miso are the soul food of the Japanese. It is very versatile, as a paste it can be eaten as a dip or used as a topping for cucumbers and daikon (radish), it is a corner stone for Japanese cuisine.

Miso’s history goes back to 8th century, fermentation technique was from china, but miso originated independent in Japan. In 16th century miso consumption became widely spread and it became a provision during wars. This was the era for miso based food. In 17 and 19th century when economy was booming, roadside stalls opened up and they too used miso. Miso  hasn't changed nor has it been forgotten. It continues to be an unique part of Japan.

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