Editor's note: While doing research for his book The Story of Sushi, author Trevor Corson discovered that soy sauce originated as a byproduct of miso. Who knew? Miso-obsessed, Corson wanted to learn more about the traditional fermentation process, so he visited a miso-making factory, then tracked down old-school miso ingredients to make his own at home. We asked him to document. Thanks, Trevor!
Words and Photographs by Trevor Corson | During the three years I lived in Japan, I ate a lot of miso soup, but I never knew what it was. I just figured it was extracted from, you know, a miso plant, or maybe the miso bird, a Japanese relative of the chicken. The Japanese people around me treated miso like a god, so I knew it was special, maybe even magical, and whenever I visited a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine, it seemed possible that lurking in the shadows among the statues of fox spirits and the bundles of sacred straw there might be a statue or likeness of a miso. Never saw one.
Not until I wrote an entire book related to Japanese cuisine did I learn the secrets of what the Japanese call misoshiru, or miso soup. Now the tables have turned. I've morphed into an obnoxious miso-soup purist. I won't touch those convenient packs of instant mix, nor will I buy standard miso at a standard store. When it's time to make the soup in my New York kitchen, I bow before the altar of authenticity, don the robes of a Zen master (metaphorically speaking) and practice the ancient art of the miso soup Nazi—hey, the Japanese had fascism, too. Watch me make it from scratch, after the jump.