Friday, 11 September 2009


For the third year in a row I spent part of the uggly muggy-ness that passes as Tokyo's summer on a museum internship in the lovely cool mountains of Nagano. Much to the delight of the older ladies in the local community, all our meals are prepared by my advisor - a Japanese man in his 60s. His menus are basic (who wants complicated when you're cooking on 2 burners for 15 people?) and delicious. The base of every meal is rice (brought by a student who's family grows rice) and miso soup, with a range of okazu (dishes - meat/veg/seafood). The soup is basic but infinite in its varieties - tofu and seaweed one day, nameko mushrooms the next, and daikon radish and bitter melon the next.

Since coming home I've been making miso soup myself, and realizing again how much I like it! I've decided I prefer an awase miso, a mixture of the Saikyo and Sendai misos that I got for the Washoku Warriors challenge this month, but I still haven't figured out the right balance of miso to gu (stuff in the soup) and often end up with a bowl full of tofu and leek with a very little bit of broth...

I've loved exploring the Washoku Warrior's theme ingredient of miso this month. And you know how it is when you are thinking about something you seem to see it EVERYWHERE? Well, that's how it has been for me with miso recently!

There was the miso cheese at the Nagato Dairy Farm in Nagano prefecture.

The miso and cheese flavours mixed really well, and paired with the farm's crusty and still warm from the oven bread, disappeared almost immediately despite the fact that we had already eaten a delicious lunch of cheese pizza and ice cream!

Then there wasy the miso jam and miso pudding at a specialty stall at the Dangozaka rest-stop on the highway between Matsumoto and Tokyo.

Creamy and sweet - yum! A little more solid than the average Japanese pudding. I enjoyed it but was a little disappointed that the miso flavour was all but undetectable.

Also at a rest stop I had a surprisingly good katsudon (breaded pork cutlet on rice) with miso sauce.

Then there was the miso-marinated beef on the menu at the yaki-niku (Korean BBQ) restaurant.

Yaki-niku is yummy in general, and the miso marinade/sauce only made it better! The subtle saltiness of the miso blended well with the meat and was especially good wrapped in leaves of sanchu.

Then I stumbled across an amazing miso store in my neighbourhood!

There are glass-covered bins with what I'm sure was at least 30 varieties of miso for sale by weight. There were also miso sauces, miso pickles, and even miso bread! (as well as non-miso items too)

Who knows what else is out there to be tried?


  1. Yummy! The yaki-niku looks especially delicious and makes me want to go out for Korean! I didn't know there were so many kinds of miso. What kind is usually used in miso soup here? I notice there are light, medium and dark brown/red versions of miso, but have no idea what is revealed by the different colours. Do you remember a miso shrimp stir fry I used to make (with red and green peppers)? I haven't made that in years, but your stories just reminded me of it... Happy cooking! love and hugs, Cath

  2. Of the two types of miso I have been experimenting with the lighter miso is sweeter, lighter in flavour, and smoother. The darker is saltier, much more stronger flavoured, and chunkier.

    In regards to types of miso, Andoh writes: "There are hundreds-possibly thousands-of different types of miso that the Japanese regularly enjoy. Sometimes kome koji, a cultured rice spore medium, is added to the soybean mash to enhance the fermentation process. Other miso pastes are made with cultured wheat or millet, or combinations of grains and beans. Still others are made just with soybeans. The varity of raw materials and the length of fermentation time produce a wide range of flavors, from mild to pungent, and textures, from smooth to chunky, in the final product. Generally miso is classified as either dark or light when listed in recipes, though there are medium shades (and flavors), too. When the choice is important to achieve a certain outcome, the recipe will specify what is needed."

  3. I LOVED seeing all of your miso finds!

  4. Fuji Mama - and I LOVED trying them all! It was a great excuse to try yummy new things!

  5. Oh! I'm jealous of your miso store! I would love to shop around in there... Who knew there were so many different types of Miso?!!

  6. Amber - I am looking forward to actually shopping at the miso store, I found it only after I had bought my miso for the challenge! I'll make sure to take my camera (this shot was taken with my cell phone) and see if they'll let me take a better shot.