Handmade Japanese Miso

Forget the one-note paste used in most restaurants. This couple's handmade Japanese miso is sweet-salty, nutty, and rich. By Ivy Manning

Migaki Handmade Japanese Miso

Earnest and Sumiko Migaki of Jorinji Miso.

Photo: Robbie McClaran

It's almost impossible to throw a block of tofu these days without hitting a small-scale producer of handmade chocolates or salumi (see The New Adventures of Generation F: Handmade Food). But Earnest and Sumiko Migaki are upping the artisanal ante with their Jorinji Miso—fermented soybean paste aged for up to three years. Foodies are beginning to catch on to the Japanese condiment's rich, funky, nutty, flavor-packed power in everything from risotto to hamburgers. As Sumiko says, "Miso has every taste to make your mouth happy—richness, bitterness, sweetness, and umami—in one food." Jorinji Miso is available at Portland, Oregon, markets and served at Biwa, The Ruby Dragon, and Saucebox restaurants. For information, contact soybeam1@yahoo.com.

Q&A

Miso is time-consuming. What made you devote your life to it?
E: Red and white items are considered lucky in Japanese culture, so Sumiko gave red and white miso to our wedding guests. We toured the tiny facility we bought it from and learned how it's done.
S: Growing up in Japan, miso was just always around—like ketchup here. Then I moved to the U.S., but miso is too heavy to ship, so I started making it.

What sets your miso apart?
E: We make our own koji (malted rice) and source special yeast from Japan and local non-GMO soybeans.
S: We don't stop the fermenting with alcohol—that's a big difference from vacuum-packed stuff.

What your biggest challenge?
E: It's a living thing with just 3 or 4 ingredients, so if you make a mistake, you have to start over.
S: It can take 3 years to make one batch—it's a lesson in patience.

What's it like working together?
E: We do get into arguments about some things, so I do the heavy work. Sumiko focuses on the creative side—making recipes, doing research.

Who usually wins the argument?
S: Flexes her bicep, laughing.
E: I don't have to answer that, do I?

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