JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Aomori]
Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #21


Three Core Ingredients, Legendary Flavor


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Jun Kozai / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

“Our neighborhood, Hatcho, was named for its distance (eight cho, or about 870 meters) from the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu,” says Maruya head Nobutaro Asai. But with its six-century history, this miso brewer in Okazaki actually predates the first shogun by 200 years. Maruya and its neighbor Kakukyu are the only two companies left who make Aichi prefecture’s famous red Hatcho miso the traditional way.

Two summers, two winters. That’s how long the flavor-packed miso rests in giant wooden vats. Inside are just three core ingredients: soybeans, salt, and water. (Four if you count the all-important koji mold that drives the fermentation process.) Once filled, each vat is piled high with three tons of fieldstones for pressing. The rest is all magic—waiting for the natural soy proteins to break down into savory-rich amino acids.

Steamed soybeans are rolled into large lumps, inoculated with koji, and fermented for four days before transfer to the brewing vats.

(photo left)The lumps are treated with salt water and moved to each vat in batches. A worker stamps down each batch of ten or more with his feet, pressing out any pockets of air.
(photo right) Rocks are piled on top for pressing. The largest weigh as much as 60 kg! 

When fully fermented, the rich miso is dark red and firmly textured.

Kakukyu (right) sits directly across from Maruya on the old Tokaido highway. 

Nobutaro Asai is adamant that the old ways be preserved.

◎Maruya Hatcho Miso
52 Okan-dori, Hatcho-cho, Okazaki-shi, Aichi

(The Cuisine Magazine /August 2018)