Ingredient Spotlight: The History of Miso

For those seeking the highlights of the menu here at Sapporo, then a visit to our restaurants in our three locations cannot be complete without a taste of miso soup.

You may have heard about this traditional Japanese ingredient, as it is a staple in both Japanese homes and restaurants. But, what exactly is it and how did it rise as such a key ingredient of the Japanese diet?

What is Miso?

If you are wondering what actually goes into this ancient food, then you may be surprised by how few ingredients there actually are in the paste. Typically, miso is made from fermented soybeans, rice koji, salt and barley (or sometimes simply rice). Together this is fermented for a period that can be anything between three weeks or three years. The length of the process depends on the desired depth of flavour, colour and even consistency.

Miso is made in a handmade barrel, often cedar, which houses the fermenting mixture under a layer of expertly placed rocks. The construction of these rocks is designed to withstand even an earthquake.

Though a seemingly simple process, it can take a lifetime to become a master miso maker.

Miso paste Japanese Food
Brief History

As an ancient staple of the Japanese diet, the origins of miso is not entirely clear. High in protein and vitamins, it has been an important nutritional component of the country’s diet for thousands of years. The earliest form of miso was created in Japan as early as 1000 BC – though this was a much more rudimentary fish or grain variation – which actually originated in China. The soybean aspect of miso was only introduced to Japan during the sixth century.

Typically, before it was used in the paste form we know today, miso was an accompaniment to a dish made up of rice, dried fish and fresh vegetables. It was only in the period between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries that the paste variation of miso was created. It was a creation which sparked a culinary revolution as the paste was introduced to several dishes. It’s relative simplicity and nutrition made it a staple in diets during financial hardship.

Different colour miso pastes and Miso Soup Japanese Food
Typical Miso Soup          

The ‘typical’ aspect of Miso Soup is very dependent on the chef, as the soup is extremely adaptable and as such this leads to variation from one cook to the next. However, as a staple, the ingredients include dashi (Japanese stock), white and dark miso, mirin, spring onions, silken tofu and wakame seaweed. It is a nutritional dish which is typically low in calories and so became a staple of diet during the Japanese Feudal period.

Raw ingredients of miso soup Japanese Food
Sapporo Miso

As a staple ingredient in the Japanese kitchen, our menu pays homage to this ancient Japanese ingredient in a traditional Miso Soup with a twist.  At Sapporo, we have a testament to the classic miso soup alongside some modern variants which is as hearty and filling as it has been for hundreds of years. However, we also offer a shrimp and a chicken version of the soup to create a miso unique to our own chefs.

For those wishing to explore the deep traditions of Japanese cuisines, then miso soup is a perfect place to start. Contact us to book a table today and begin your exploration!

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