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Miso Magic: Reviving Cultural Connections Through Creative Fermentation

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

“Salt, koji, and soybeans”. That’s the traditional recipe for the most common misos in the world. But as we learned from Misako Ozawa, miso sommelier and co-founder of Island Eko Pantry, misos can be made from a range of creative ingredients, including barley, roasted squash, and even mushrooms! Just like the creative diversity of miso flavours, we were thrilled to meet all of the workshop participants, who represented cultures from all over the world. A third or more of participants were of Japanese descent and had connections to miso throughout their lives, but most had never learned to make it.

Misako shared how she wasn’t taught this ancient fermentation technique by her mother or grandmother, as would have been customary for generations. Knowledge is at risk of being lost without an intergenerational knowledge transfer process that holds space

📷: Misako sharing her teachings.

for stories around the kitchen, a sacred place across cultures. She is on a mission to study and share with the world the wonders of miso, in a quest to rekindle her connection to this cultural food and to share it with people of all different cultures and backgrounds.

Misako and Jungyeon Han, the other co-founder of Island Eko Pantry, brought and made an

incredible variety of misos and other snacks to sample, including their infamous creamy-umami miso chocolate. Personally I enjoyed the sweet nuttiness of the barley miso, and the pungent heat of the ginger miso, which is one of the products that they sell.

Island Eko Pantry products include various flavours of miso, as well as three different flavours of Gochujang sauce, dashi powders (classic and vegan options), and their delicious miso chocolates. Their products can be found at the following locations and holiday markets coming up:

Retail locations:

  • Lifestyle Markets on Douglas

  • Market on Yates

  • Market on Millstream

  • Market Garden (Vic West)

  • For Good Measure (James Bay)

Holiday markets:

- Dec 2, The Dickens Fair, 10 am- 4 pm @ James Bay Community Centre

- Dec 9-10, Moss Holiday Market, 10 am - 4 pm @ Sir James Douglas Elementary

We’re always eager and humbled to learn about other cultural practices, to understand each other on a different level, and to uplift the amazing and diverse makers that we have here in Greater Victoria. Deep gratitude to Misako and Jungyeon for reigniting their connection to their Japanese and Korean roots and sharing it across Greater Victoria!

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