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Home Made Miso – the best ever Miso I have ever had!

The wait was finally over. The soy bean mixture that my own hands made turned into gorgeous Miso after patiently sitting in the cool dark cupboard for nearly 13 months. When I tentatively put a bit of it in my mouth, I thought it was one of the best, if not the best, Miso I have ever tasted. I am so convinced that home made Miso is so much better than commercially made mass production supermarket Miso that I am now seriously thinking that I should be making my own.

Home Made Miso with KiyokoMy curiosity into Miso making started when I actually tasted the one that my foodie cousin had made herself and thought “Wow, it’s good!”. How was it good? Well, it was less salty and had so much more flavour than vacuum packed usual suspects from shops. So when I was back in Japan in winter 2013, I spent an afternoon with her making it together so she could show me how to do it.

The soy bean mixture then prepared, weighing a little more than a Kilo was carefully packed into my suitcase, brought to the UK, and sat in the cupboard until just a few days ago, when I decided it was about time that it revealed itself and prove that the wait was worthwhile.

Here it is. This is MY miso!

Home made miso

Miso is simply fermented soy beans. It is one essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, with one dish that is so well known in the west being Miso soup, I think. (These days, I see some chefs on TV making Miso marinated black cod, which is my favourite.) Depending on the regions, you can get Miso made of rice or wheat. To give more characters to their produces, some regions also use the combination of these three. But the majority of Miso is made with soy beans.

But can you see the whitish bits in my Miso? They are the remains of rice. So is this Rice Miso?

Well, yes and no..

To explain, let me show you the ingredients that I used for this Miso.

On the left, in a bag with blue writings is unrefined sea salt. In the middle is “Kome (rice) Koji” or Koji mould cultured on rice. You can see the white fluff and this is the live Koji mould. On the right is the bag of dried soy beans. That’s all.

Miso ingredients

It’s Koji mould that ferments soy beans,so you have to have this to make Miso. And here is the trick. Koji mould is usually cultured on steam cooked rice, and sold in this way for miso making.

(This is exactly what you also need for Sake brewing and Soy sauce making but hardly anyone does these things at home as the processes involved are just so long winded and highly technical. This is another topic for another day.)

Soy Bean MisoSo here are some terminologies clarified. The word “Miso” usually refers to Miso made of soy beans with Kome Koji. Because you have rice included in the form of Kome Koji, it is categorised as “Rice Miso”. But because this is the most common type that appears in just about every household and restaurant, no one calls it that way but just simply “Miso!”.

Miso made of rye or barley uses Koji mould cultured on barley. Hence, it’s called barley Miso, or “Mugi Miso”.

You can also have Miso made 100% from soy beans. What is it called? “Soy bean Miso”, of course!

Just like blend whiskey, different types of Miso can be mixed to create more unique flavour. These are called “Awase (mixed) Miso”.

Miso Explained

Gluten free?

If you are coeliac, you just have to a bit selective of what type of Miso but there are definitely variations you can enjoy! Unless the miso contains barley (麦、mugi) or wheat (小麦、komugu) it is gluten-free, unless it has some not-traditional additives.

Different regions have their own characteristic Miso with its own names, but they are basically all variations of the above three. Obviously, Japan is a volcanic country with complex water tables which supply different parts of the country with different type of water. This gives unique flavours in the Miso made in particular regions.

Different Miso

Also, you can get more variations by extending the fermentation period. The longer the Miso is fermented, the darker and the deeper the flavour would be, thanks to the Maillard reaction that happens in the ingredients.

Traditionally, people made Miso at home, and well-made Miso was the pride of the mistress of the household. As far as I can taste, any home-made miso is well made and tastes so much better than commercial mass produced Miso. Am I a proud mistress? I certainly am. But to be honest, anyone can make good Miso as the process is pretty straight forward.

Best Regards and happy Miso making!