Japan has, for millennia, excelled at the pursuit of umami. This most basic taste profile comes from a variety of sources, from meat to mushrooms to tomatoes to seaweed. It delivers the recipient to places that the other four tastes cannot even begin to imagine. A higher plane of sensory existence. The pursuit was one well worth engaging and it resulted in many good things both discovered and created: kombu seaweed, bonita tuna flakes, shiitake mushrooms, fish sauce, nutritional yeast, soy sauce and miso paste, among many others.
Miso is itself a fermented product, the result of soybeans being overtaken by the filamentous fungus called koji or Aspergillus oryzae. So, it only seems natural that it should be used to ferment other edible items, imbuing those tertiary characters with the enviable umami profile. Of course, the Japanese have given us this gift as well. Called miso-zuke (literally miso pickle), the embedding of vegetables in a miso mixture is a common practice among traditional Japanese cooks. Continue reading