Organic Tea First Harvest with Marufuku Tea Factory!

Bunji and Asami Itoh! 伊藤文治さん,麻実さん!

This year’s green tea in Shizuoka, although of high quality, grew very slowly due to an unusually cold winter and spring, but I finally had the pleasure to experience my first ichiban (first of the year) green tea picking!

We drove all the way along off the beaten tracks thoroughfares just wide enough for a mini car up to an altitude of 8oo meters in Hirano along the Abe River and not far from the famous wasabi fields of Utogi.

Some tea fields can be found on steeper slopes, but this was already pretty steep!

Mr. Bunji Itoh has been growing exclusively organic green tea on these particular slopes for some time and plans to expand these fields. You know that no chemicals are used when you discover the luxuriant moss on the path!

The first leaves were just long enough to be picked!

These are the most valuable tea leaves of the year!

When you pick them by hand you twist off the stems just under the second leaf. If it does not snap between your thumb and index, cut the stem just under the first leaves!

This was my personal harvest in my hip tea basket with some wild mountain vegetables found around the rows!

These leaves are exceptionally delicious as tempura (Pissenlit Restaurant in Shizuoka City!)!

While I was picking some of the best leaves by hand Mr. Itoh’s employees were “shaving” the rows with curved cutting machines like this one. That is the reason behind the peculiar shape of Japanese tea tree rows!

You have to work in teams of three as one has to hold the bag for the leaves being cut by the other two holding the cutter walking between the rows!

Tea trees rows have to be “shaved” in two steps, along the left and then back along the right!

They let me help with (only) one row. Not easy work as you have to walk backwards. I didn’t too badly as they let me do it until the end of the (long) row!

On the way back Mr. Itoh showed me the house of Oomura Family which has been growing tea there since the Edo Era!

They have grown green tea in this same spot for hundreds of years!

Finding ourselves brought back in time!

Very valuable carps up in the mountains!

The whole (privately-owned) property has been registered as Cultural Asset!

Mr. Itoh finally took me to a local tea-processing factory he is contracted with to show me how these organic leaves are treated, not so much as for tea, but as edible organic tea leaves.
The fresh leaves are first steamed.

They are then dried.

And next they will be frozen to be sold to restaurants!

Mr. Itoh also has a field of organic of Japanese plum trees. I will go there soon to pick ume/plums to make umeshu!

Marufuku Seishya Co. Ltd. (Mr. Bunji Itoh)
Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu Cho, 25
Tel.: 054-271-2011
Fax: 054-271-2010

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Japanese Soy Sauce Varieties (updated)

SOY-2-KINDS
Japanese meal served with two kinds of soy sauce

To answer a query by my friend Sissi at With a Glass on tamari soy sauce, I thought that the best way to answer was to republish this old article of mine!

Almost everyone knows or has heard about soy sauce (or soya sauce in Europe).
It is even used in all kinds of cuisines in the world, be they vegetarian or not.

SOY-VATS
Ancient soy vats.

Authentic soy sauces are made by mixing the grain and/or soybeans with yeast or kōji (麹, the mold Aspergillus oryzae or A. sojae) and other related microorganisms. Traditionally soy sauces were fermented under natural conditions, such as in giant urns and under the sun, which was believed to contribute to additional flavours. Today, most of the commercially-produced counterparts are instead fermented under machine-controlled environments.

Although there are many types of soy sauce, all are salty and “earthy”-tasting brownish liquids used to season food while cooking or at the table. Soy sauce has a distinct basic taste called umami by the Japanese (旨味, literally “delicious taste”). Umami was first identified as a basic taste in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University. The free glutamates which naturally occur in soy sauce are what give it this taste quality.

SOY-3-KINDS
3 kinds of soy sauce as served in a Japanese izakaya: だし醤油/Dashi Soy Sauce, 刺身醤油/soy Sauce for sashimi, 減塩醤油/salt-reduced soy sauce

Artificially hydrolyzed Soy sauce
Many cheaper brands of soy sauces are made from hydrolyzed soy protein instead of brewed from natural bacterial and fungal cultures. These soy sauces do not have the natural color of authentic soy sauces and are typically colored with caramel coloring, and are popular in Southeast Asia and China, and are exported to Asian markets around the globe. They are derogatorily called Chemical Soy Sauce (“化學醬油” in Chinese), but despite this name are the most widely used type because they are cheap. Similar products are also sold as “liquid aminos” in the US and Canada.

Some artificial soy sauces pose potential health risks due to their content of the chloropropanols carcinogens 3-MCPD (3-chloro-1,2-propanediol) and all artificial soy sauces came under scrutiny for possible health risks due to the unregulated 1,3-DCP (1,3-dichloro-2-propanol) which are minor byproducts of the hydrochloric acid hydrolysis.

SOY-2-KINDSa
Difference in colour between 薄口醤油/light soy sauce and 濃口醤油/strong soy sauce

Japanese soy sauce varieties

Buddhist monks introduced soy sauce into Japan in the 7th century, where it is known as “shōyu”. The Japanese word “tamari” is derived from the verb “tamaru” that signifies “to accumulate”, referring to the fact that tamari was traditionally from the liquid byproduct produced during the fermentation of miso. Japan is the leading producer of tamari.

Japanese soy sauce or shō-yu (しょうゆ, or 醤油), is traditionally divided into 5 main categories depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Most but not all Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient, which tends to give them a slightly sweeter taste than their Chinese counterparts. They also tend towards an alcoholic sherry-like flavor, due to the addition of alcohol in the product. Not all soy sauces are interchangeable.

Koikuchi (濃口, “strong flavor”)
Originating in the Kantō region, its usage eventually spread all over Japan. Over 80% of the Japanese domestic soy sauce production is of koikuchi, and can be considered the typical Japanese soy sauce. It is produced from roughly equal quantities of soybean and wheat. This variety is also called kijōyu (生醤油) or namashōyu (生しょうゆ) when it is not pasteurized.
Usukuchi (淡口, “light flavor”)
Particularly popular in the Kansai region of Japan, it is both saltier and lighter in color than koikuchi. The lighter color arises from the usage of amazake, a sweet liquid made from fermented rice, that is used in its production.
Tamari (たまり)
Produced mainly in the Chūbu region of Japan, tamari is darker in appearance and richer in flavour than koikuchi. It contains little or no wheat; wheat-free tamari is popular among people eating a wheat free diet. It is the “original” Japanese soy sauce, as its recipe is closest to the soy sauce originally introduced to Japan from China. Technically, this variety is known as miso-damari (味噌溜り), as this is the liquid that runs off miso as it matures.
Shiro (白, “white”)
A very light colored soy sauce. In contrast to “tamari” soy sauce, “shiro” soy sauce uses mostly wheat and very little soybean, lending it a light appearance and sweet taste. It is more commonly used in the Kansai region to highlight the appearances of food, for example sashimi.
Saishikomi (再仕込, “twice-brewed”)
This variety substitutes previously-made koikuchi for the brine normally used in the process. Consequently, it is much darker and more strongly flavored. This type is also known as kanro shoyu (甘露醤油) or “sweet shoyu”.

Newer varieties of Japanese soy sauce include:

Gen’en (減塩, “reduced salt”)
Low-salt soy sauces also exist, but are not considered to be a separate variety of soy sauce, since the reduction in salt content is a process performed outside of the standard manufacture of soy sauce.
Amakuchi (甘口, “sweet flavor”)
Called “Hawaiian soy sauce” in those few parts of the US familiar with it, this is a variant of “koikuchi” soy sauce.

All of these varieties are sold in the marketplace in three different grades according to how they were produced:

Honjōzō hōshiki (本醸造 方式)
Contains 100% naturally fermented product.
Shinshiki hōshiki (新式 方式)
Contains 30-50% naturally fermented product.
Tennen jōzō (天然 醸造)
Means no added ingredients except alcohol.

All the varieties and grades may be sold according to three official levels of quality:

Hyōjun (標準)
Standard pasteurized.
Tokkyū (特級)
Special quality, not pasteurized.
Tokusen (特選)
Premium quality, usually implies limited quantity.

Other terms unrelated to the three official levels of quality:

Hatsuakane (初茜)
Refers to industrial grade used for flavoring, powder.
Chōtokusen (超特選)
Used by marketers to imply the best.

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
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Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Comestiblog, Chronicles Of A Curious Cook, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Palate To Pen, Yellin Yakimono Gallery, Tokyo Terrace, Hilah Cooking, More than a Mount Full, Arkonite Bento, Happy Little Bento; 5 Star Foodie; Jefferson’s Table; Oyster Culture; Gourmet Fury; Island Vittles; Good Beer & Country Boys; Rubber Slippers In Italy; Color Food daidokoro/Osaka;/a; The Witchy Kitchen; Citron Et Vanille, Lunsj Med Buffet/Estonian Gastronomy (English), Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Chrisoscope, Agrigraph, The Agriculture Portal to shizuoka!

2nd Great Shizuoka Local Food Meet by Nagashima Liquor Shop!

Shizen No Chikara Organic Farm was participating!

A great consciousness of the merits, both gastronomic and healthy, of locally produced foods, drinks and processed foods has developed into a veritable revolution in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Uncountable events are organized and eagerly participated to all over the Prefecture, and one such event of note is the “Chisan Chishou.Shindofuji-Umai Mon Kai
./地産地消.身土不二・旨いもん会/ Locally produced and Consumed. Good Food Slogan and Association organized on May 29th by Nagashima Liquor Shop (Shizuoka City) at Fugetsuro/浮月楼, the former last residence of the Tokugawa Shogun Family.
Shindofuji/身土不二 was a slogan created in 1907 to exhort citizens to produce and eat local food!

Nagashima Liquor Shop was also contributing part of the fees paid by guests to help the victims of the recent terrible earthquake and tsunami in the north east of Japan!

As usual I came a bit early to check the preparations and take pictures of all participants before the guests would be in the way!

Amano Shoyu/a producer of great soy sauce made with the water of Mount Fuji in Gotenba City!

Local processed foods by Suzuyo Stores from Hamamatsu City!

Naturally the sake from Shizuoka Prefecture were well represented:
Shidaizumi Brewery in Fujieda City!

Fuji Takasago Brewery in Fujinomiya City!

Eikun Brewery from Yui, Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City!

Sanwa Brewery from Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City!

Kanzawagawa Brewery from Yui, Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City!

Suruga Brewery from Suruga Ku, Shizuoka City!

Isojiman Brewery in Yaizu City!

Hatsukame Brewery from Okabe, Fujieda City!

Oumuraya Brewery in Shimada City!

Morimoto Brewery from Kikugawa City!

Hana No Mai Brewery from Nishi Ku, Hamamatsu City!

Aoshima Brewery from Fujieda Citry!

Sugii Brewery from Fujieda City!

Sorry, but I did not have the time to take a picture of Takashima Brewery, Numazu City!

Shizuoka wine was also represented by Naka Izu Winery all the way from the Izu Peninsula!

Wines from Yamanashi Prefecture were represented by three guest wineries!

Superlative organic vegetables from Shizuoka Prefecture were introduced by Shizen No Chikara farm!

All the food, cold and hot, was prepared by Fugetsurou!

Roast beef salad!

Japanese appetizers!

More Japanese appetizers!

And more Japanese appetizers!

Chirashi Sushi!

I finished my round of pictures just in time before the guests made their entrance!

The place was soon crowded with more than 120 guests!

Some well-known faces!

Well, after that I was very busy for the next two hours tasting, eating, chatting and introducing many friends to each other.

At the end of the party Nagashima Liquor Shop and Kasai Izakaya expressed their sincere thanks to all the guests for a very successful party again!
More of the same is planned in the very near future, I can tell you!
Anyway this will lead to many interviews in the near future!

Nagashima Liquor Shop/長嶋酒店
420-0804, Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryuunan, 1-12-7
Tel.: 054-245-9260
Fax: 054-245-9252
BLOG (Japanese)

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
With a Glass,
Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Comestiblog, Chronicles Of A Curious Cook, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Palate To Pen, Yellin Yakimono Gallery, Tokyo Terrace, Hilah Cooking, More than a Mount Full, Arkonite Bento, Happy Little Bento; 5 Star Foodie; Jefferson’s Table; Oyster Culture; Gourmet Fury; Island Vittles; Good Beer & Country Boys; Rubber Slippers In Italy; Color Food daidokoro/Osaka;/a; The Witchy Kitchen; Citron Et Vanille, Lunsj Med Buffet/Estonian Gastronomy (English), Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Chrisoscope, Agrigraph, The Agriculture Portal to shizuoka!

Shizuoka Vegetables: Shizen No Chikara Garden Party at Aquavite!

Service: Excellent and very friendly
Facilities: great and very large washroom, great cleanliness overall
Prices: reasonable to expensive. Top-class Italian wines. Private room for~8 people.
no-smoking-logo1 Non-smoking at counter! Private room can be made non-smoking, too!

Yesterday a party for 23 happy guests was organized by Shizen no Chikara Garden (“The Power of Nature”) at Aquavite with the help of Chef Masaru Aoki/青木勝!

A printed menu had been prepared for everyone for easy comprehension (if you asked for the translation in Italian, anyone would have understood! LOL)

I usually make a point to come a bit early at such parties “to take the temperature”!
The place was used to full capacity on that day!

The preparations started as early as the day before!
Incidentally I was sitting at the middle of the counter away from the crowd!

Real battle in the kitchen!

The Focaccia before being baked!

Out of the oven!

On the plate!

Organic vegetable directly from Shizen No Chikara Garden!

The first appetizer!
Can you guess what these green leaves are?
Green tea!

Second appetizer. Remember that all the vegetables are organic from the same Garden!

Cute little Spring onion!

Aquavite-style Barniacauda!

From another angle!
Such fun and pleasure dipping first-class vegetables into sophisticated dip!

Aiko pearl tomato spaghetti!

Unlike the other guests, I had the pleasure to witness their creation in front of my very eyes!

Involtini: broad beans and ricotta paste-filled Asahi Chicken roll!

.

From another angle!

Baked risotto!

The Involtini!

It was such a pleasure to break it up!

Making desserts from vegetables for such a big party is just unpractical, so Chef Aoki came with his own!

Sherbet created with musk melon from Fukuroi City!

Chef Aoki’s (very) special Tiramisu!

A big thanks to chef Aoki for a true pro’s work!

AQUAVITE
Address: 420-0034 Shizuoka Shi, Tokiwa-cho, 1-2-7, Tomii Bldg. 3F
Tel. & fax: 054-2740777
Opening hours: 11:30~14:00 18:00~22:00
Closed on Sundays
Homepage (Japanese)
Credit Cards OK

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Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Comestiblog, Chronicles Of A Curious Cook, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Palate To Pen, Yellin Yakimono Gallery, Tokyo Terrace, Hilah Cooking, More than a Mount Full, Arkonite Bento, Happy Little Bento; 5 Star Foodie; Jefferson’s Table; Oyster Culture; Gourmet Fury; Island Vittles; Good Beer & Country Boys; Rubber Slippers In Italy; Color Food daidokoro/Osaka;/a; The Witchy Kitchen; Citron Et Vanille, Lunsj Med Buffet/Estonian Gastronomy (English), Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Chrisoscope, Agrigraph, The Agriculture Portal to shizuoka!

Japanese Vegetables: Potatoes (updated)

potatoes

Potatoes were first introduced to Japan in 1910 by Baron Kawata from Great Britain/Ireland giving the name of “Danshaku/Baron” to the most commonly used potato in Japan, especially in croquettes and salads.
The biggest potato exporters to Japan are China and India, although more and more are grown locally.
Over the years Japanese famers have greatly expanded the number of varieties, and it has became an embarrassment of choices.

FACTS:

Potatoes are available all year round, but are at their peak from May to July in Japan when new potatoes can be eaten whole!
New potatoes can be found from Februray to June.

-Analytic data (as per 100g):
Energy: 76 kcal
Water: 79.8 g
Carbohydrates: 17.6 g
Proteins: 1.6 g
Inorganic qualities:
Potassium: 410 mg
Magnesium: 20 mg
Phosphorus: 40 mg
Iron: 0.4 mg
Zinc: 0.2 mg
Manganese: 0.11 mg
Vitamins:
B1: 0.09mg
B2: 0.03 mg
B6: 0.18 mg
C: 35 mg
Dietary fibers: 1.3 g

TIPS:

-Preservation: Wrap potatoes inside newspaper and keep them in a dark, well-ventilated place away from the sunlight.

-Choose specimens well-rounded and with healthy skin. Avoid specimens with buds or of greenish colour (risks of diarrhea). Cut out all “dark spots”!
-Preserve them together with apples to prevent buds from coming out!
-To avoid a change of colour, wash potatoes in water after peeling or cutting.
-If you want to keep your potatoes for a while after boiling them, plunge them in (change it as many times as necessary) cold water until completely cooled down. They will not break or crumble when used later.
-After boiling cut potatoes, throw away water and keep heating them until they have lost a great part of their moisture. They will attain a crispy enough nature without resorting to deep-frying!

HEALTH FACTS:

-Combined with kiwi fruit or cucumber, or green tea, or mayonnaise, they help combat cancer, high blood pressure and ageing.
-Combined with Chinese cabbage, or peach, or banana, or honey, they help combat digestive disorders.
-Combined with lemon, or strawberries, or spinach, or broccoli, they help combat stress, constipation and cancer.
-Combined with vinegar, or chicken, or bonito (katsuo), or oysters, they provide extra body stamina.

VARIETIES

danshaku-potato

“Danshaku”

kitaakari-potato
“Kita Akari” used for mashed potatoes and croquettes,

mayqueen-potato
“May Queen” used in stews,

toyoshiro-potato
“Toyoshishiro” used for fried potatoes,

redandespotato
“Red Andes” used for croquettes and Pot au feu,

incanomezame-potato
“Inca No Mezame” used for stews.

“Inca No Hitomi”. Also called “Inca no Mezame”, they are popular for their nutty taste.

“Hokkai Kogane”. Grown mainly in Hokkaido Island, they have the particularity to oxydize and change colour a lot later than other potatoes.

“Tokachi Kogane”. Can be stocked and preserved a long time. Make for great fried potato chips!

“Mathilda”. Fine-grained and usually vey regular-shaped, theycan be presented whole for good effect.

“Touya”. Very good for long cooking as they don’t break away easily.

“Star Ruby”. A relatively new viety very apt for stews.

“Cynthia”. Recently imported vaiety from France. Very fine grain. Does break up even after being cooked long time.

“Kita Murasaki”. Very unusual potato with skin and flesh of the same colour. Better fried than boiled as wate will get couloured.

“Red Moon”. Also called “Red May Queen”, great for stews.

RECOMMENDED RELATED SITES:
With a Glass,
Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Comestiblog, Chronicles Of A Curious Cook, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Palate To Pen, Yellin Yakimono Gallery, Tokyo Terrace, Hilah Cooking, More than a Mount Full, Arkonite Bento, Happy Little Bento; 5 Star Foodie; Jefferson’s Table; Oyster Culture; Gourmet Fury; Island Vittles; Good Beer & Country Boys; Rubber Slippers In Italy; Color Food daidokoro/Osaka;/a; The Witchy Kitchen; Citron Et Vanille, Lunsj Med Buffet/Estonian Gastronomy (English), Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Chrisoscope, Agrigraph, The Agriculture Portal to shizuoka!

Shizuoka Sake Tasting: Doi Brewery-Hana no Ka Homare Fuji Rice Junmai Ginjyo Nama Genshu

Doi Brewery has been already been producing this Hana no Ka/華の香 for the past few years according to old traditional methods
This particular brew was concocted with Homare Fuji Sake Rice grown in Shizuoka Prefecture and is the untouched product as it is nama (no sterilizing) Junmai (no alcohol added) muroka/unfiltered, a true connoisseur’s delight!

It also comes with plenty of comments: kasumi ka kumo ka nigori zake/霞か雲かにごり酒/A sake like a haze or a cloud? (referring to the presence of sakekasu/white lees!

Rice: Homare Fuji (100% Shizuoka-grown)
Rice milled down to 55%
Yeast: Shizuoka Yeast
Alcohol: 17 degrees
Bottled in March 2011

Clarity: very clear when at rest, slightly smoky when stirred
Color: Faint golden hue
Aroma: Pleasant. Alcohol. Fruity. Pineapple.
Body: fluid and siruppy
Taste: Strong alcohol and junmai petillant attack which quickly disappears.
Fruity: pineapple, custard, almonds.
Makes a complete turn from sweetish to dryish, a telltale mark of sakekasu/white lees
Lingers for a while with alcohol leaving a somewhat marked impression.
Marries and changes little with food.

Overall: A sake obviously devised for food in spite of its ginjyo status.
A sake for the connoisseurs as it is absolutely left untouched.
Great for a Japanese izakaya-style party!

Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Miso: The Basics (updated)

MISO-1
Three types of miso

Since Sissi and her many friends seem to be more than interested in miso I thought it was grand time i published again this old article of mine, hoping it will prove useful to many

Miso (みそ or 味噌) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and a yeast called kōjikin (麹菌) in Japanese, the most typical miso being made with soybeans. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup, Misoshiru (味噌汁), a Japanese culinary staple. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still very widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining world-wide interest. Miso is typically salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory, and there is an extremely wide variety of miso available.

MISO-8
Miso from Nagano Prefecture on sale in Kyoto

The predecessor of miso originated in China during the 3rd century BC or earlier, and it is probable that this, together with related fermented soy-based foods, was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism in the 6th century AD.This fermented food was called “Shi”.
Until the Muromachi era, miso was made without grinding the soybeans, somewhat like natto. In the Kamakura era, a common meal was made up of a bowl of rice, some dried fish, a serving of miso, and a fresh vegetable. In the Muromachi era, Buddhist monks discovered that soybeans could be ground into a paste, spawning new cooking methods where miso was used to flavor other foods.
In the Sengoku (Feudal) era, miso was useful as a military provision and precious nourishing food for soldiers.
During the Edo period miso was also called hishio and kuki.
In the modern era, the industrial method of producing miso in large quantities was established and it became rare to make miso at home, although miso made in farms has suddenly become fashinable as a health food.

MISO-2
Miso being fermented inside a large wood cask

VARIETIES (FLAVOUR)

The taste, aroma, texture, and appearance of any specific miso vary with the miso type as well as the region and season for which the miso was made. The ingredients used, temperature and duration of fermentation, salt content, variety of kōji/yeast, and fermenting vessel all contribute. The most common flavor categories of soy miso are:

Shiromiso, “white miso”
Akamiso, “red miso”

MISO-5
Kuromiso, “black miso”

Hatchomiso
White and red (shiromiso and akamiso) are the basic types of miso available in all of Japan as well as overseas. Different varieties are preferred in particular regions. For example, in the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo, the lighter shiromiso is popular, while in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, darker brownish hatchomiso is preferred, and akamiso is favored in the Tokai area.

MISO-4
Akamiso and shiromiso

VARIETIES (INGREDIENTS)

The raw materials used to produce miso may include any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and cycad, among others. Lately, producers in other countries have also begun selling miso made from chick peas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa. Fermentation time ranges from as little as five days to several years. The wide variety of Japanese miso is difficult to classify, but is commonly done by grain type, color, taste, and background.

MISO-6
Kinzanji/Kinzan Temple (金山寺味噌) miso

mugi (麦): barley
tsubu (粒): whole wheat/barley
aka (赤): red, made with rice koji and soybeans, medium flavor, most widely used in Japan
Hatchō (八丁): aged, strongest flavor, used mostly in Central Japan
shiro (白): rice, sweet white, fresh
shinshu (信州): rice, brown color
genmai (玄米): brown rice
awase (合わせ): layered, typically in supermarket
moromi (醪): chunky, healthy (kōji/yeast is unblended)
nanban (南蛮): chunky, sweet, for dipping sauce
inaka (田舎): farmstyle
taima (大麻): hemp seed
sobamugi (蕎麦): buckwheat
hadakamugi (裸麦): rye
meri (蘇鉄): made from cycad pulp, Buddhist temple diet
gokoku (五穀): “5 grains”: soy, wheat, barley, proso millet, and foxtail millet
Many regions have their own specific variation on the miso standard. For example, the soybeans used in Sendai miso are much more coarsely mashed than in normal soy miso.

Miso made with rice (including shinshu and shiro miso) is called kome (rice) miso (米味噌).

MISO-3
Miso sold in plastic container.

STORAGE AND PREPARATION

Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container, and should be kept refrigerated after opening. It can be eaten raw, and cooking changes its flavor and nutritional value; when used in miso soup, most cooks do not allow the miso to come to a full boil. Some people, especially those outside of Japan, go so far as to only add miso to preparations after they have cooled, to preserve the biological activity of the kōjikin/fermented yeast. Since miso and soy foods play a large role in the Japanese diet, there are a variety of cooked miso dishes as well.

MISO-7
Grilled miso seasoned rice balls and miso soup

MISO AS FOOD

Miso is a part of many Japanese-style meals. It most commonly appears as the main ingredient of miso soup, which is eaten daily by much of the Japanese population. The pairing of plain rice and miso soup is considered a fundamental unit of Japanese cuisine. This pairing is the basis of a traditional Japanese breakfast, although more and more Japanese in big towns eat European style as opposed to people living in the country.

MISO-9
Cucmber pickled in “gold miso”

Miso is used in many other types of soup and souplike dishes, including some kinds of ramen, udon, nabe, and imoni. Generally, such dishes have the title miso prepended to their name (for example, miso-udon), and have a heavier, earthier flavor and aroma compared to other Japanese soups that are not miso-based.

MISO-10
Fresh cucumber served with miso and sesame seeds

Many traditional confections use a sweet, thick miso glaze, such as mochidango. Miso glazed treats are strongly associated with Japanese festivals, although they are available year-round at supermarkets. The consistency of miso glaze ranges from thick and taffy-like to thin and drippy.

Soy miso is used to make a type of pickle called “misozuke” (味噌漬け). These pickles are typically made from cucumber, daikon, hakusai/Chinese cabbage, or eggplant/aubergine, and are sweeter and less salty than the standard Japanese salt pickle. Barley miso, or nukamiso (糠味噌), is used to make another type of pickle. Nukamiso is a fermented product, and considered a type of miso in Japanese culture and linguistics, but does not contain soy, and so is functionally quite different. Like soy miso, nukamiso is fermented using kōji mold.

Other foods with miso as an ingredient include:

dengaku (charcoal-grilled miso covered tofu)
yakimochi (charcoal-grilled miso covered mochi)
miso braised vegetables or mushrooms
marinades: fish or chicken can be marinated in miso and sake overnight to be grilled.
corn on the cob in Japan is usually coated with shiro miso, wrapped in foil and grilled.
sauces: sauces like misoyaki (a variant on teriyaki) are common.

NUTRITION AND HEALTH

The nutritional benefits of miso have been widely touted by commercial enterprises and home cooks alike. However, claims that miso is high in vitamin B12 have been contradicted in some studies. Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that some soy products are high in B vitamins (though not necessarily B12), and some, such as soy milk, may be fortified with vitamin B12. Some, especially proponents of healthy eating, suggest that miso can help treat radiation sickness, citing cases in Japan and Russia where people have been fed miso after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also some experts suggest that miso is a source of Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lecithin which is a kind of phospholipid caused by fermentation is effective in the prevention of high blood pressure. Miso contains salt. A small amount is essential to animal life but most scientists believe an excess of it can cause a variety of health problems.

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