One of the most fun-and occasionally challenging-things about living in Japan has been food. I wasn’t a terribly picky eater before coming to Japan, but now I am definitely not a picky eater at all. (Though there are a few foods I keep my distance from: natto, snails, raw horse meat…you know-the weird stuff. Click on the link, if you dare!)
One of the foods I discovered as soon as I arrived in Japan was miso: fermented soybean paste. It is way more delicious than it sounds-I promise. (And healthy, too!)
I had wondered about the process of making miso, so when a friend of ours set up a tour of a miso factory this past August, I was ready to get my learning on.
The factory we toured is called Hatcho Miso, in Okazaki, Aichi Ken. (The same city in which we were studying Japanese.) This particular factory has been around for centuries. The most interesting thing I learned was that today, the miso at this particular factory is made in exactly the same way it has always been made.
The process begins with cooking and then mashing the soybeans. They place the ingredients-the soybeans, koji fungus, and salt- in the large wooden tubs and place the lid on top. Pressure is created by stacking an exact amount of rocks on the top of the lid. The tub is numbered and dated and set upon a metal stand to keep it off of the ground.
And then it sits. For a long time.
After the appropriate amount of time has passed, the miso is taken out, packaged, and shipped to stores and restaurants. This post has more information on Hatcho Miso as well as others types of miso.
There was also a surprise treat at the end of the tour: miso ice cream. Which was surprisingly good.
Who would have ever thought that vanilla ice cream with fermented soybean paste would be delicious? (Though I would hesitate to try any of these ice cream flavors!)
The more you know!