Japanese Cuisine: Miso

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Hello. My name is Marika, and I’m an international undergraduate student from Japan. Each week, I will write a column sharing aspects of my Japanese culture. For each column, I will focus on an example of either Japanese foods or celebrations in order to share a part of “real Japan.”

This week’s topic is focused on one of the most popular ingredients in Japanese cuisine, “Miso”.

Miso is a thick, salty paste produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōjikin— a fungus— and sometimes rice or barley. It is a representative Japanese condiment following soy sauce.

In Japan, we use the term “Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So,” which is an acronym for the five prominent Japanese condiments. These five condiments are sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and miso.

Miso is mainly used to make miso soup. Miso soup is a soup with tofu, and is made from soybeans and other ingredients such as onion, seaweed and so on.

On New Year’s Day, we eat a special type of miso soup called “Zouni,” which has rice cake in it.

The taste of miso varies from region to region. I think this variety of miso reflects the distinct cultures of Japan’s different regions and creates a sense of community for the members of each region—their recipe for miso makes them unique and that is a point of pride.