Hida-Takayama Hoba Miso
The city of Takayama, commonly called Hida-Takayama, is located in mountainous northern Gifu Prefecture. Conditions are harsh here during the winters, when temperatures may drop as low as -20ºC. Hoba miso is a local delicacy believed to have originated when stored tsukemono (pickles) that had frozen during the depths of winter were placed atop a large ho (Japanese magnolia) leaf, topped with miso and cooked over a fire. The miso-pickle mix was then eaten with rice.
Today, the savory miso is usually mixed with shiitake mushrooms and Japanese long onions, placed on the dried magnolia leaf, and baked over a charcoal grill. Moisture from the food prevents the ho-leaf from burning, and the fragrance of the leaf and aroma of baking miso blend perfectly. These days, hoba miso is not only eaten on rice, it is also enjoyed as a versatile sauce to accompany beef, fish or any favorite food.