Jan 31

How Miso is Made – A Visit to a Local Factory

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

MisoBeans Ever wonder what miso is?  If you’ve been to Japan or eaten at a Japanese restaurant, you’ve likely had or at least seen miso.  I remember my first time having miso soup.  I was in college trying out a little Japanese restaurant that had popped up just outside the UofA.  I was pretty green as far as Japanese food went so I ordered teriyaki chicken (I’m sure the chef was thinking all kinds of bad things about me).  Before the meal, a bowl of soup appeared.  It was a clear broth with some kind of brown particles floating in it.  I tried the soup, but the flavor was so different from anything I had eaten before.  I didn’t really enjoy it, but then it quickly grew on me.  Now, I look forward to miso, be it in my soup, as a glaze for fish, or in the middle of a rice ball.

I’ve studied Japan for a long time, and I’ve always translated miso as ‘fermented soy bean paste.’  Just like soy sauce, miso is made from soy, but it is only part of the story.  A few weeks ago, my island had its sangyo matsuri where I was able to meet one of the people who make miso here (Kumejima‘s miso is quite popular).  I was interested in the process so I wrangled a visit to the factory.

One of the first things I found out is that they don’t make miso all the time.  Traditionally, miso was something made at home.  Each family would make their own miso for their own use.  As with so many things, the miso making skills are fading with the convenience of store-bought foods.  Still, there are a few places that still do local miso.  Since it is a fermented product, the temperature is an important factor, thus miso can only be made in moderate seasons.  If it gets too cold, or too hot, the fermentation wont go on as well.

The process also takes more than three months.  At the small local factories, they make large batches two or three times a year as needed.  The rest of the time, they focus on other projects or on creating new items.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-2DSpd7FkU&w=450&h=253]

For more about how miso is made, including pictures, a walk-through of the process, and great miso based recipes, visit MoreThingsJapanese.com

Comments are closed.

Page Rank