Far from its 2000-year-old Japanese origins, traditional miso is being crafted by a couple of self-taught fermenters at an industrial warehouse in St Leonards.
Chris and Meaghan de Bono moved Meru Foods to Launceston from Melbourne in 2015 to surround themselves in the premium food culture of Launceston.
"We could see some really interesting things happening with food and beverage down here and we thought, if we want to be a leading artisan food producer, why not surround ourselves with other leading artisan food producers," he said.
With backgrounds in the Australian Navy, he a ship navigator and she a logistician, the couple branched into the totally unrelated world of fermenting, where they now work full time.
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Their Sweet Red Miso was a winner in the state's 2018 delicious awards, and they won a gold medal in 2017 for their sweet white miso.
Last year they moved from their original workspace in Launceston, to a larger, industrial warehouse at St Leonards.
"We started fermenting kombucha and fermented vegetables and did that commercially for a short while, and then we got into miso. I was interested in miso particularly because it is just a bit different and no-one else was doing it," he said.
Miso is a thick paste that is used as a seasoning in Japanese cooking, most commonly as broth for soup but also used in sauces and spreads for its umami flavour. Miso gets its flavour from the fermentation process, which begins with the koji or the starter mould.
Meru Miso's koji is entirely made by Mr de Bono, which helps to create the unique flavours that miso is applauded for.
He said creating the correct environment and learning the individual expression of this particular fungus was challenging but very rewarding when it was done correctly.
He said the process for creating koji starts by growing it on a bed of grain, and in his case, on white rice (from New South Wales).
"The visible sign of the koji is an almost slightly fuzzy covering on the grain...the mycelium from the fungus creates a colony right thorugh the grain bed and you end up with a solid piece of fungus matte."Meru Miso head maker
"The koji provides the substrate or the starting culture for the rest of the miso. The visible sign of it is an almost slightly fuzzy covering on the grain," he said.
"The mycelium from the fungus creates a colony right through the grain bed and you end up with a solid piece of fungus matte."
Mr de Bono said the fungus is grown and incubated for 48 hours before it is mixed with soybeans from New South Wales and salt from South Australia, which is when the fermentation occurs. "Miso fermentation is a little bit different to sourkraut or kombucha in that it relies very heavily on the enzymes, which are doing a lot of chemical conversions, converting starches to sugars and breaking down proteins and fats in the soybeans," he said.
"That is where you get the delicious flavour."
Mr de Bono said fermentation is left for eight to 12 weeks to create "young miso", that is lighter in flavour, sweeter, and has less salt.
Regional Japanese miso specialities can differ in this regard, sometimes left maturing for up to three years, but other regions also create different flavours by using barley or beans to grow the koji on instead of rice.
"Our personal values were around quality and sustainability, and we wanted to respect the traditions of miso making," Mr de Bono said.
"We didn't set out to make the best quality miso in Australia but we have certainly focused on quality and that has paid off, and it is some of the best miso.
"We have even had Japanese chefs tell us that it is some of the best miso they have tried, and that is very humbling."