Hatcho Miso has no grain added and thus takes longer to ferment, usually a minimum of two years. Known as the "emperor's miso" and highly prized in Japan, it is an excellent medicinal, hardy, deep robust miso. The miso is placed in giant cedar casks. then covered with a wooden pressing lid and 6,000 pounds of stones placed as a pyramid on top. This tremendous pressure, along with the relatively small amount of water, enables Hatcho Miso to be made with considerably less salt than other long-aged misos. This famous miso is the most revered in all of Japan. Made by the Kakukyu family for 17 generations (425 years)! In 1892, Hatcho Miso Company received the even more prestigious honor of becoming the purveyor to the emperor of Japan. Today, busloads of tourists visit the 8th Street shop to see where the emperor's and shogun's miso is made. However, you don't have to be a samurai, or even live in Japan, to enjoy Hatcho miso. Since 1971, Mitoku Company has been exporting this same miso to natural food distributors around the world. Unpasteurized. Aged 24-30 Months.
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Cooking with Miso
The key to fine miso cookery is not to overpower dishes with a strong miso taste, but to integrate the more subtle aspects of miso color and flavor in a gentle balance with other ingredients. For example, when making miso soup, the use of a kombu, shiitake, kombu-bonito, or vegetable stock helps achieve a full, rich flavor with considerably less miso than you would need if you boil vegetables in plain water and rely on miso to supply all the flavor. The latter method usually results in either an overly salty soup or one that is watery, bland and unappetizing. With respect to color, bright summer vegetables such as sweet corn or yellow squash and lightly cooked greens floating in the beautiful yellow to beige colored broth of light, sweet miso soup is appealing in warm weather, whereas the earthy tones and hearty flavor of dark miso soup with chunky root vegetables and wakame or kale is pleasing during the colder months.
Certain general rules can be applied when cooking with light, sweet misos, such as opposed to dark, salty ones. The light color, sweet taste, and creamy texture of sweet miso is suggestive of its application in American-style cooking: it is an excellent dairy substitute. For example, try a little sweet miso instead of milk, butter, and salt in creamed soups, and with tofu and lemon or rice vinegar in place of sour cream for dips and spreads.
To realize the full potential of sweet miso, explore its uses in salad dressings and sauces. Sweet miso and naturally brewed rice vinegar create a delicious tartness that is both refreshing and cooling. Known as su miso, this combination has a long history in Japanese cuisine. Blended with your choice of other ingredients such as oil, onion, dill or other herbs, rice syrup, tofu and tahini, sweet miso and rice vinegar complement each other perfectly in American style dressings, dips and sauces.
In contrast, dark, saltier misos combine nicely with beans, gravies, baked dishes, and vegetable stews and soups. For a simple and delicious fall or winter vegetable dish, try adding sweet chunky vegetables such as winter squash, carrots, or parsnips to sautéed onions, steaming them in 1/4 inch of water until just tender, then seasoning with dark, long-aged rice or barley miso thinned in a little water or stock just before the end of cooking. Try dark miso in thick soups using root vegetables such as burdock, carrots, and daikon. A lentil casserole seasoned with dark miso warms the body and supplies plenty of high quality protein. Although dark misos are not as versatile as light varieties, traditionally made, unpasteurized dark miso makes nutritious, flavorful and satisfying miso soups that you can enjoy every day in fall, winter and spring without ever becoming tired of them. Once the weather becomes warm, we prefer to combine a dark and a light miso when making miso soup.
Mixed with sweet, tangy, or pungent ingredients such as mirin, rice syrup, rice vinegar or fresh ginger, dark miso can be used in refreshing sauces. Remember that dark miso is stronger in taste than sweet miso, so use it sparingly.
Both dark and light misos are suitable for certain special uses. In general, miso is a good choice when you are looking for a salting agent, digestive aid, or tenderizer.
As a salting agent, miso supplies much more in terms of flavor and nutrition than plain salt without salt's harshness. When substituting miso for salt, add approximately one level tablespoon of any sweet, light miso or two level teaspoons of dark, salty miso for one-quarter teaspoon salt.
The powerful enzymatic action of unpasteurized miso is a natural digestive aid and tenderizing agent. In the digestive system rniso enzymes aid the body's own resources in breaking down complex food molecules. Foods such as beans, tomato products, and raw tofu may cause digestive discomfort. Miso helps balance and digest these foods.
For the same reason that miso aids digestion, it is also a great natural tenderizer. When used in marinades its enzymes break down the complex molecules of vegetable fiber and animal protein into more readily digestible forms. At the same time its flavor penetrates the marinating foods.
For many people making the transition to natural foods, there is a problem of interesting other family members. For families with a commitment to healthful eating, cooking for guests who are not accustomed to this way of eating can be a challenge. Miso helps bridge this gap. It brings a depth of savory flavor and a satisfying complexity to simple fare.
Udon in Sesame-Miso Broth
For a satisfying winter meal, serve this hearty and flavorful entrée piping hot, accompanied by a side dish of greens. In warmer weather, try omitting the sautéed vegetables, substitute 3 tablespoons white miso for the red miso, and top the noodles and broth with a colorful assortment of lightly steamed or simmered vegetables.
1 tablespoon Mitoku Virgin Sesame Oil
2 slices fresh ginger root
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
2/3 cup sliced carrots
4 cups stock or spring water
1/3 cup Mitoku Golden Sesame Seeds, toasted
2 level tablespoons Mitoku Hatcho miso
2 level tablespoons Mitoku Tateshina Red (rice) Miso
1 tablespoon Mitoku Mikawa Mirin
1 pound uncooked Mitoku Udon Noodles
slivered green onions for garnish
Heat oil in medium-sized pot. Sauté ginger until golden brown, then discard. Sauté onion until translucent. Add celery and carrots, and sauté briefly. Add stock or water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender. While vegetables are cooking, thoroughly grind toasted seeds in a suribachi or mortar. Add the misos, mirin, and 1/2 cup of broth. Purée with seeds, then add to soup.
Cook udon in 4-5 quarts of rapidly boiling water until just al dente (firm). Drain, rinse briefly in a cold water bath, and drain again. Divide noodles in 4 or 5 bowls. Ladle hot miso broth over top of noodles to almost cover. Garnish with green onions and serve.
Miso Rice Pilaf
Fluffy, flavorful, and highly nutritious, Miso Rice Pilaf is an excellent way to introduce brown rice to those who are unfamiliar with natural foods. The basic method (below) is for pressure cooking this dish. For pot-boiling the pilaf, see variation.
2-3 Mitoku Dried Donko Shiitake
4 cups spring water
4-inch piece Mitoku Hidaka Wild Kombu
3 cups uncooked Brown Rice
4 level tablespoons Mitoku Hatcho Miso
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup minced celery
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
In a pressure cooker, soak shiitake in water for 20-30 minutes. Next, add kombu and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. As soon as water begins to simmer, remove kombu and reserve for another use. Mince shiitake and return to stock. While kombu is coming to a simmer, wash the rice and drain well. Roast the rice in an unoiled skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden and fragrant. Dissolve miso in some of the broth, then return it to the pot along with onion, celery, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and slowly add roasted rice. Allow to boil 1 minute then cover, bring to pressure, and cook 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow pressure to return to normal before uncovering. Add parsley, toss well, and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.
o Try adding sautéed onion or shallots and some chopped walnuts to the cooked rice. Then use this delicious variation in stuffed peppers or squash.
o If pot-boiling, use a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid for best results. Use 6 cups water and add an extra tablespoon of miso. Boil over low heat 40 minutes, then reduce to very low and cook 20 minutes more. Do not remove cover while cooking.
Japanese Lunch Noodles
Yield: 4 Servings
8 Mitoku Donko Dried Mushrooms caps
6 cps hot water or stock
1 Sweet potato (12oz), peeled, cut in 1/2" dice
1 Leek, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced
1 Zucchini, cut widthwise into 1/4" slices
4 cps stemmed kale leaves, cut crosswise into 1/2" strips
6 tb Mitoku Hatcho Miso or to taste
6 tb Mitoku Mikawa Mirin or a little less cream sherry
8 oz Mitoku dried udon or other pasta
10oz tofu (pref extra-firm or firm silken)
1 bunch scallions, trimmed thinly sliced
Soak the mushrooms in 1 cup hot water or stock in a bowl until soft, about 20 min. Stem the mushrooms and cut each cap in quarters, reserving the soaking liquid. Bring 4 qts of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Place the mushroom soaking liquid and remaining stock in another large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potato and leek and simmer for 3 min. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and kale and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 2 min. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the miso, mirin, and honey or sugar. Stir until all the miso is dissolved. Correct the seasoning, adding miso or honey or sugar to taste; the broth should be highly seasoned. The recipe can be prepared ahead to this stage. If preparing ahead, don't boil the water for the noodles. Just before serving, cook the noodles in the boiling water until tender but not soft, about 3 min for fresh noodles, 8 min for dried. Drain the noodles in a colander. Stir them into the broth with the beef or chicken and sliced scallions. Cook the noodles until thoroughly heated, but do not let the broth boil; you'll destroy some of the nutrients in the miso. Serve at once.
High-Flavor, Low-Fat Pasta by Stephen Raichlen ISBN 0-670-86581-8
Spicy Eggplant and Snowpea Stirfry
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
4 tablespoons Mitoku Hatcho miso
3 tablespoons spring water
1 tablespoon mild-flavored honey
1 teaspoon Mitoku Virgin Sesame Oil
1 medium-sized eggplant, peeled and diced small
2 tablespoons Safflower Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated fresh ginger
8 green onions, both white part and green, sliced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or 1 small dried red pepper, crumbled, seeds removed
Steam the peas for 5 to 10 minutes, to taste. Refresh under cold water and set aside.
In a small bowl mix together the miso, water, honey, and sesame oil. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan and add the eggplant. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and ginger and saute another 10 minutes, stirring. Add the miso mixture and continue to stir-fry for another 3 to 5 minutes, then add the onions and papper flakes or crumbled pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions and eggplant are tender. If necessasry, add a little more oil or 2 to 3 tablespoons water. Add the snow peas, toss together well, head through, and serve over hot, cooked grains.
Adapted from: The Spice of Vegetarian Cooking, by Martha Rose Shulman