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The gloves are coming off for this one.

To my right, a jar of Vegemite

Humble, brown, and squat

To my left, a jar of Miso

“Who shall win?” I sat in thought…

Miso is the product of hundreds of years of experimentation and tinkering by Japanese food artisans. Creating great Miso is difficult, and requires patience, intuition, and surrender.

  • Patience, because the most potent varieties of Miso take at least one and preferably more than three years to mature.
  • Intuition, because subtle changes in even the slightest details can determine the success or failure of your entire batch.
  • Surrender, because the forces at work are beyond human control, from the fermentation of native yeasts to the turning of the seasons.

The result, if you have the persistence and foresight to learn, is a food unlike any other, as complex as the finest wine and as rich as chocolate or boeuf bourguignon.

Vegemite is the answer to the question, “What would happen if we attempted to imitate the predominant flavor of Miso in one word, and then adopted a command-and-control attitude to produce it on a massive scale?”

With Vegemite, patience is unnecessary since each batch takes only two weeks from start to finish. Intuition is distilled to cold calculation, all steps having been refined to the nth degree. And there is no surrender, since all the forces of nature have been subdued.

Creating great Miso is an art, while making Vegemite is an application of engineering and chemical expertise. So which one is our winner?

When it comes to flavor as the essence of craftsmanship, Miso comes out on top. This is especially clear when you consider a company like South River Miso. Taste and see in the recipe below.

When it comes to running a business… well… that’s where we need to reconsider the definition of ‘art.’ There are approximately 22 million jars of Vegemite produced every year. Any business that can successfully orchestrate the production, marketing, and distribution of such a vast number of units deserves some type of praise, even if the product has been variously described as “it’s horrible,” and “EWWWW!” This global ballet may qualify as art in some circles, though before we commence with praise we also need to define “success.”

In your business, are you trying to create Miso or Vegemite? Choose wisely, then show us what it means to be a champion.

Red Garlic Salmon

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Comfort food ranks high on my list of favorite foods, and now you can add Japanese cuisine as well. With only minor embellishments, this recipe is inspired by South River Miso.

Ingredients:

2 fresh salmon fillets, about 2 lbs

Marinade:

  • 5 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 5 Tbs. Soy Sauce or Tamari
  • 1 Tbs. finely minced garlic

Topping (Dengaku miso):

Instructions:

  1. Place salmon in an oiled baking dish.
  2. Mix ingredients of marinade and pour over salmon.
  3. Cover and marinate for 1 – 3 hours in fridge.
  4. Preheat oven to 375. Mix ingredients of topping and lightly coat salmon.
  5. Bake for 18 minutes, and serve on a bed of steamed broccoli and potatoes.

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in 17th Century Japan. Now open your eyes and create a business worth emulating in the 21st Century.

salmon fillet with vegetables and basil

Fun facts about Vegemite from the Brisbane Times and Australian Retail.

For an in-depth look into the history and culinary uses of Miso, I highly recommend (surprise) The Book of Miso by Shurtleff and Aoyagi.