By Shiori Kajiwara
Whenever I say “I conduct a workshop on miso,” numerous people ask in surprise, “Really? Is it possible to make your own miso in Toronto?” Apart from making it in Japan, is it possible to make miso in foreign countries?
As implied by the word “Temae Miso,” meaning that there is nothing like your own miso, it is a tradition that individual families make their own miso at home in Japan. This is how a wide variety of miso was created in different parts of Japan by people in different environments and was used in numerous ways in various localities. We used to make Misoin a kitchen under a straw roof in much less ideal environments than we have now. That being the case, I thought, “Would it be possible to make my own here?” Exactly as I thought, it was not so hard to make. I think it is good to be concerned with food and even more particularly about it being homemade. It is important to keep the traditional recipe and taste by passing it down through the generations, especially in this modern era in which there is such a variety of food to be found.
After my grandmother passed away I remember I often heard my maternal relatives saying, “Not one of us inherited the recipe of her miso.” It was in the fall of that year when they made up their minds to learn how to make her miso. However, in the spring she died in a car accident and their opportunity to learn was lost. When a tradition is not continued on by the next generation a little piece of history is lost.
It is great for families to pass on their traditional cuisine from generation to generation. I also realized that Japanese people like me who live overseas and far from home can take up the task of preserving the recipes we are proud of. This task does not need to be limited to families. It might provide a precious opportunity for communities living in the modern world of convenience.
This was my motivation to conduct a workshop about homemade miso. I did not inherit my grandmother’s recipe but have I been passing down her distinct miso recipe. I make miso my own way and I would be happy if somebody were to take it over from me.
People assume that making miso at home is difficult. I ask those people to try making it and they soon lose their preconceived notions saying in the end that it is actually very easy. As just described, I would love to share the fact that it is not so difficult to make fermented food at home.
It might be easier for those who think it is a hassle to prepare miso if they were to start with malted rice (in salt or in soy sauce). There must be an easier way to create food with what the Japanese refer to as the “savory taste” umami, sweetness, and koji (fungus used in fermenting) into the body.
Koji adds to umami which people generically taste. It is common to use granular dashi(Japanese instant stock) but I would love people to taste the real umami from koji. Once you get the taste you would stop using granular dashi because it gives an unpleasant taste and a strange sensation on the tongue. This is the nature of umami from artificial ingredients. In a very real sense it is far from a real umami.
If you do not taste umami from store bought miso, my suggestion is to add Shio Koji into yourmiso soup. But you have to make an adjustment of salt by reducing the amount of miso. (Add only Shio Koji first before you add any miso to see how it is and then add miso as much as you need.)
It turns into the “making of congeries of umami” as making homemade fermented food. You can’t afford not to make it. It has the advantage of your being able to make a large amount and store it and use it when you need to.
To taste real umami you must make the decision to use real koji products. → You get vitamins and minerals as well. → Other people see you enjoying the umami. → They become interested in the umami.
This is how the fascination spreads and people become connected by eating really tasty as well as healthy food. As it turns out, people should adhere to the Japanese diet and culture from generation to generation and not forget, even if they live overseas.
To begin with, why don’t you start eating a lot of “really tasty food”? Let’s take great pleasure in eating…with emphasis on “great pleasure”.
<Note from the editorial staff>
If you are interested in workshops, please contact JSS at firstname.lastname@example.org.