Miso is widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking.
Because miso is so nutritional and can be used for so many things, the Fujiwara family is always making their own. Also, Savo often hosts miso making workshops during his art exhibitions.
"Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley, and/or soybeans with salt and the fungus kōjikin, the most typical miso being made with soy. 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 called misoshiru, 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 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." (Descriptions by Wikipedia.)
In the process of making miso, a certain type of mold, typically Aspergillus oryzae, is first grown on rice to make Koji. This alkaline mold produces a large amount of enzymes that we then use to digest proteins in soybean paste. This enzymatic digestion increases amino acids availability for human body. Aging process of unpasteurized miso gives it many functional features highly beneficial for human health, including the following:
helps prevent certain types of cancer, namely breast cancer, prostate cancer and certain types of leukemia;
alleviates the symptoms of menopause;
promotes the elimination of toxins (radiation, heavy metals, free radicals);
helps control cholesterol;
reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease;
helps prevent as well as reduce hypertension;
reduces the incidence of digestive problems (flatulence, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, acidity, ulcer, Crohn's disease, candidiasis, etc.)
protects the organism against pathogens (salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, C. difficile and staphylococcus aureus, among others).
Fun fact about miso: the live enzymes of kouji are thus kept alive in the fermentation process. They help protect the body from radioactive materials and from its free radicals because they bind and discharge them. This has been found to be very effective in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster and can become increasingly helpful in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns. Of course, it is known that these foods cannot completely discharge all radioactive amterials from the body but in addition to discharging them to a certain amount, they strengthen the digestive and immune system to help the body resist the development of cancers.
Interested in how miso is made? Here is some basics!
To make miso you need only three ingredients: Koji, daizu (soy beans) and salt. Following the proportion of those ingrédients and the aging time, you can get as much as hundreds of different types of miso! Here is two different examples:
1) White Miso
Koji : 2kg
Daizu (Soy bean) : 1kg
Salt : 270g (9% of total weight)
2) Red Miso
Koji : 1kg
Daizu (Soy bean) : 1kg
Salt : 540g (8~20% of total weight)
First, soybeans are weighted and soaked in cool water for one night.
The next day, soybeans are drained, put into a pot and new water is added. Beans are cooked for 4 to 6 hours, until a bean easily crush between two fingers.
After cooking, soybeans are cooled.
During that time, the Koji and salt are weighted and mixed together.
Then soybeans must be crushed into a paste, using mortar and pestle or a meat grinder.
The soybean paste is then mixed to the salted Koji and a small quantity of fresh spring water is added. This mixture is finally put into a fermentation crock, being careful to avoid air pockets. On top of the miso paste, a plastic bag is put to prevent contact with air which could cause contamination on the surface of miso.
The crock is put to a dark and cool place for aging. The aging time depends on the proportion of Koji and the amount of salt, usually between few months and few years!
You can then enjoy you miso through myriad of recipes, from traditional Japanese ones to more eccentric and modern cooking!