Tofu and Let­tuce Miso Soup

SAVEUR - - Contents -

AMER­I­CAN FOOD MAG­A­ZINES

were a life­line dur­ing my early years in Ja­pan. In the 1990s, English-lan­guage books weren’t avail­able where I lived, in the outer Saitama pre­fec­ture, so when Is­sue 27 of Saveur ar­rived in my mail­box dur­ing the sum­mer of 1998, I ea­gerly flipped through the pages. About a third of the way in, the words “Mag­i­cal Miso” jumped off the page. The pho­tos in the piece looked fa­mil­iar, and the cap­tions re­vealed that the story’s au­thor, Hiroko Shimbo-beitch­man, had vis­ited my lo­cal miso-maker, Ya­maki Jozo, to re­port her piece.

Jozo is the Ja­panese word for “brew­ing,” and the term is typ­i­cally used to re­fer to shoyu-brew­ing com­pa­nies. In ad­di­tion to shoyu, Ya­maki Jozo pro­duces both or­ganic and nonor­ganic miso us­ing ex­clu­sively Ja­panese-grown beans, rice, bar­ley, and salt. The Ki­tani fam­ily, who owns the com­pany, en­cour­ages their farm­ers to adopt 100 per­cent or­ganic meth­ods as they work to­ward ramp­ing up in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion.

Twenty-one years af­ter Shim­bobeitch­man wrote about the brand for Saveur, Ya­maki Jozo miso is even more ex­cep­tional than it was then. Prod­ucts like miso and shoyu rely on 100-plusyear-old cedar bar­rels and ex­per­tise in cul­tur­ing the koji that drives their fer­men­ta­tion process. This longevity of craft is worth seek­ing out for mak­ing the best and most au­then­tic bowl of miso soup you have ever tasted. —Nancy Sin­gle­ton Hachisu, au­thor of Food Ar­ti­sans of Ja­pan (See p. 42 for more of Sin­gle­ton Hachisu’s pre­ferred Ja­panese sta­ples.)

Build­ing a Bowl of Miso Soup Four ba­sic com­po­nents make up the per­fect bowl of miso soup: dashi, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, miso, and a gar­nish (yakumi). Pre-cook sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents to honor their in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties and cut them into bite-size pieces that can be eas­ily eaten with chop­sticks. Miso is stirred in at the end, off the heat, so as not to de­stroy its aroma and nat­u­ral pro­bi­otic prop­er­ties, while yakumi are sprin­kled over the sur­face of the soup just be­fore serv­ing.

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