The art of Japanese Fermentation


There are a few core ingredients that became a part of my ingredient ‘tool box’ from early on. It was after attending a macrobiotic cooking class in Perth many years ago that I fell in love with high quality Japanese ingredients – not coincidentally – several of these are also fermented products, rich in the earthy-salty-umami flavours that many of us find deeply pleasing.

The main stars in my Japanese ingredient repertoire are tamari, mirin, brown rice vinegar and miso. Although I have to admit that the first three get much more of a work out than miso, but things are set to change.

Earlier this year I met Tomo Nishi at the Blue Knob Farmers Market Fermentation Festival. Tomo gave a talk on Japanese ferments and was also at the festival selling her gorgeous organically grown produce, and her delicious home-made miso. Tomo is a Japanese ex-pat that turned to making her own Japanese ferments (including Koji, Miso and Shoyu) after tiring of not finding the quality that she hoped for locally.

“I started to make all these things because I live in Australia.  The problem was; I couldn’t find the good quality condiments I needed to use for my cooking or they are simply too expensive to afford”… Tomo

To many Australians miso is a bit of a hard sell – and this is mainly because we don’t know what to do with it. Tomo explained to me that many Aussies stick to adding it to soups (Tomo has a special trick for this), or we simply see it as a slightly more textured and lighter coloured version of a vegemite – to be spread on toast. I have to say, if this is how you are using miso, then you have been missing out – it is gorgeous and quite versatile.

I ended up buying some of Tomo’s miso – a beautiful hand-made and slightly more textured miso than I was used to – it is unpasteurised, salty and slightly sweet. Tomo makes her Miso from locally grown biodynamic brown rice and soy beans, the all-important aspergillus oryzae culture, spring water and high quality mineral sea salt.

“As I enjoy my own creations, I came to appreciate my own food culture more than ever”… Tomo

I usually keep my eye out for unpasteurised miso – which is kept in the fridge section of the store (not sealed and at room temperature). Unpasteurised miso is rich with lactobacillus bacteria and enzymes – both of which are destroyed by heat. When added to soups and broths at the end of cooking – and not boiled – you can retain both the delicious flavour and gut health benefits.

I was so inspired by Tomo’s commitment to quality ingredients and flavour – that I asked if she would share her skills at the Artisan Wholefoods Cooking School.  After a few emails and discussions of days and dates I am delighted to say that Tomo will be bringing her skills to my cooking school to share with the public. (Lucky us!!!!)

“I believe in the benefits of Japanese ferments which supported our health for many hundreds of years.  I love the simplicity of Japanese home cooking, but yet so nutritious for the body and soul.   It would be a great pleasure if I could share my culture with more people” …Tomo

If you are keen to come and learn how to make Shoyu / Soy Sauce or Miso from scratch, Tomo will be teaching two classes this August and September – here are the links:

Shoyu Class – CLICK HERE

Miso Class – CLICK HERE

Oh – and if you are still wondering what that clever trick is for mixing your miso paste into your miso soup is… Tomo suggests to lift some up into a ladle and then, using chopsticks work it in. This way you won’t be chasing it around the pot – and it will mix in beautifully.



About Artisan Wholefoods

I think if you dig deep enough you will find the spark that put you on your path – the thing that became the reason for what you do. I love working with food, and have worked with it in some way or another for my whole working life (nearly 20 years). To begin with I did it because I liked it and it was easy. Along the way though as I muddled along working at vegetarian cafes and organic stores I came to a point in my early 20’s where I thought – Is this what I want to do?

>> view more