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Maruya Hatcho Miso Office

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Taking you to a factory that has stood for 700 years with David Zilber

4 minutes

Miso is a probiotic seasoning that has been enjoyed in Japan for centuries and is produced nationwide across the country. You may have already incorporated this Japanese staple seasoning into your cooking in order to enjoy its rich umami and substantial health benefits. But have you tried the most intense one?

No one would deny that, in the spectrum of taste, ranging from mild to full-bodied, “hatcho miso” is at the extreme end that represents the most powerful flavor. It’s been produced in the small district of Hatcho town in Aichi Prefecture since 17th Century. Organic Hatcho Nama Miso - Gluten Free is the pinnacle among hatcho misos.

First of all, hatcho miso is made entirely from soybeans, salt, and water. It exhibits a robust flavor, powerful umami with a touch of acidity and astringency, as well as boasting a dense texture and dark color. Unlike other types of miso that are made using rice or barley koji as fermenting agents, it utilizes soybean koji, and this is what brings about its characteristic body. Maruya Hatcho Miso’s Organic Hatcho Nama Miso - Gluten Free is crafted with traditional methods handed down in the century-old miso brewery. They use organically grown soybeans to culture soybean koji and make soybean mash. Then they brew and age the mash for two years in wooden barrels weighed down with stones.

David Zilber, a professional chef, fermenter, photographer, and NYT bestselling author of the Noma Guide to Fermentation, shared his experience visiting Maruya Hatcho Miso's factory. Let's take a look at he said.

David Zilber's Visit to Maruya Hatcho Miso

Maruya Hatcho Miso Kura

"If you listen close, even as mutes, microbes have so much to teach you. On my recent trip to Japan, they’ve been so kind as to answer a long burning philosophical question of mine. “Why are recipes for fermentation so robust and immune to change over time?” To quote the late Sakaguchi Kinichiro aka Dr. Sake, “Ask microbes and they will never betray you.”

At 18, when I first started cooking at Rain, miso was all over the menu. From our standard okasan vinaigrette to shiro miso cod glaze, it was the restaurant’s crutch for sweetness, umami and caramelization. But my favourite recipe was the marinade for our grilled striploin made simply of 2 parts Hatcho miso and 1 part roast garlic oil. It was the deepest, most umami filled and delicious thing to me. I opened so many tubs of that miso…. 20 years later, I finally got to see the very kegs where it all began. 

Maruya Hatcho Miso was established in 1337 in Hachijo-machi on the Yahagi River. Its traditional production uses no rice, but like tamari, grows koji directly on soy. The ground beans are placed into 7000L wooden kioke, whereafter 3.5 tons of stones are stacked atop by hand in an earthquake resistant pyramidal puzzle to press the paste as it ferments for 3 years. There are faster ways to make umami, but 22 generations on, President Nobutaro Asai still stubbornly upholds the ancient practice.

The factory is packed with 100 massive kioke that are never cleaned, with the oldest in use for 177 years straight, home to the microbial communities that imbue the miso with its telltale complexity. If not used, they deteriorate. They harvest 4 kioke at a time, blending the miso like master vintners do wine. With only 2 Hatcho miso makers left, Maruya feels a responsibility to hold onto one of Japan’s most iconic and delicious tastes.

And that’s exactly the point. When you see a factory that has stood for 700 years, surviving fires and earthquakes and floods, you realize that deliciousness ITSELF, borne through the relationship between microbes and man, is both a cultural and biological evolutionary adaptation. It’s why Maruya still feeds millions every year and will for generations to come. Stay curious."

Maruya Hatcho Miso in a barrel

Organic Hatcho Nama Miso

It has a rich, deep, and multi-layered flavor. It's organic, vegan, gluten and additive free, and unpasteurized. Because of its intense and multi-layered flavor, Organic Hatcho Nama Miso - Gluten Free is great for simmered or soup dishes. Also, the powerful flavor can add an umami kick to light flavored ingredients such as tofu and vegetables. Some of the classic hatcho miso dishes include miso soup with nameko mushrooms, mackerel simmered in miso sauce, chicken and leeks sautéed with miso sauce, oyster nabe hot pot in miso-based soup, and udon noodles simmered in miso-based soup. Another simple and exquisite dish is onigiri rice balls glazed with this miso! This umami-packed miso also complements dairy, meat, tomatoes, and any robust flavored dishes, so you can easily add it to gratin, creamy pasta dishes, meat sauces, tomato sauces, and pizza.