Japan’s foundational ferment takes pride of place at Sano Miso

japans foundational ferment takes pride of place at sano miso

Let’s hear it for miso. The umami-rich, soy-based ferment that powers Japan’s daily misoshiru soup comes in numerous guises: reddish, full-bodied and sharply saline; near-white, smooth, sweet-salty; dark, intense, compelling. Made throughout the country, each variety has its own history and provenance.

Miso cappuccino: Warm up with a cup of miso soup topped with tofu foam and additional sprinkled garnishes. | ROBBIE SWINNERTON

To find out more, head down to the Ginza branch of Sano Miso, the city’s preeminent purveyor of this iconic savory seasoning. It stocks 45 different varieties, not sealed in supermarket plastic but instead mounded inside large tubs that the in-house “misommelier” will be happy to open up for you to sniff and sample.

Better yet, it has a misoshiru counter offering a contemporary take on this classic soup, as well as omusubi rice balls. There are two soups to choose from, either for takeout or to warm and revivify you on the spot while you plan your purchases. Ladled into cardboard cups, the soup is then topped with creamy tofu froth dispensed from an espuma foam siphon, as if it were a miso cappuccino.

Sprinkle on some toppings, such as shichimi (seven spice), parsley, dried shrimp, tiny crunchy arare rice crackers, even a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. When temperatures drop and the city shivers, there’s no better way to keep the winter chill at bay.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Ginza 1F, Ginza 1-13-15, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061; 03-5579-5959; bit.ly/sanomiso-ginza; open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (miso soup takeout until 4 p.m.); closed Wed.; miso soup ¥350, omusubi rice balls ¥350; takeout available; nearest station Ginza-Itchome; nonsmoking; major cards accepted; Japanese menu; little English spoken

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