Trader Profile-Sumikichi Miso
What better way to overcome hump day than with a bowl of steaming, delicious miso? Team Frome Independent always have a jar of Sumikichi Miso on the go in the fridge – it makes a perfect speedy snack or lunch with added tofu, noodles and veggies. We chatted to Aya, Sumikichi’s founder about the origins of her business:
Tell us a bit about you and your business…
Hi, my name’s Aya. I am based in Bruton but I was a Frome resident for 8 years before moving here. I grew up in Tokyo and came to London to study English and fell in love with the organic lifestyle on this side of the world. I’ve been working in the film industry bringing Japanese artist’s work to the UK but fermentation has always been the core of my cuisine and passion. So, I decided to dedicate my time to making miso and launched Sumikichi Miso in 2020.
My miso is made with 4 simple yet beautiful locally sourced organic ingredients: beans, Welsh sea salt, Scottish spring water, and Koji (rice live culture). Koji is a vital component of every traditional Japanese condiment and defines the flavour of miso. I make this from scratch by sprouting organic brown rice and fermenting it with the Koji culture for three days.
Where do you get your inspiration – what motivates you to do what you do?
Sumikichi is an old trading name that I inherited from my ancestors, merchants in the 18 century, in the South West of Japan. They weren’t miso producers though, but I’m inspired by their indigenous lifestyle attuned with the seasonal cycle.
I initially started making homemade miso because it was hard to find organic and naturally fermented products here, through commercial importers, and it’s not practical to bring all my favourite food back from Japan every time I visit, so it was a natural step to be self-sufficient. I used to have a group of Japanese friends who gathered at home and made miso together while having our children play around us.
I’d like to ferment my miso in a beautiful forest setting. It naturally regulates the temperature through the seasons and is closer to how people used to ferment pre-technology. So, I am looking for a forest location for this winter’s miso-making season.
Why did you choose to come and trade at The Frome Independent?
The Frome Independent has been my family’s favourite entertainment right on our doorstep since we used to live on the high street of Frome. Also, I love the way the market brings various visitors from near and far. I made many friends through visiting and trading on the market, so I couldn’t think of a better way to begin my miso journey.
What do you like most about market trading?
It’s the best way to hear people’s thoughts and get direct feedback. Also it gives me an opportunity to meet so many ferment-enthusiasts and enjoy conversations on our mutual interest.
Tell us about your own favourite or best-selling product. How much work goes into creating it, why do you think this is your strongest product?
I am focusing on brown rice miso as my eating style is centred around brown rice and I love that this whole grain gives many more nutritious benefits than processed food. Along with traditional miso with soya beans, I am exploring with soya alternatives such as chickpeas, broad (fava) beans and Adzuki beans which are harvested widely in the European climate.
What is your favourite Frome shop, or stall to visit at The Frome Independent?
I like the vibe of The Station, which is a hub of independent eateries including Rye Bakery and Lungi Baba. At The Frome Independent, I love browsing the vintage market early in the morning before my trading begins. I also adore the carrot leaves pesto by Get Pickled.
And finally, some quick fire questions….
My fermentation teacher recently published a book, Koji for Life, which is a step by step guide of Koji making. This is available both in Japanese and English. Also, I researched about the benefits of forest bathing before and found this book interesting, Walking in the Woods: Go back to nature with the Japanese way of shinrin-yoku.
Describe your dream day off.
Going on the 21 day Panchakarma (cleanse) retreat in India. I need a month off for this so not for a while.
What are you listening to right now?
I love Cateen’s youtube channel. He is a genius Japanese pianist and can dynamically arrange many of popular anime songs.
What are you cooking/ eating / drinking at the moment?
I am preparing for a week ahead of Bento (packed lunch) for my children for school. I usually batch-cook Nekase-Genmai (rested brown rice) which is a unique cooking method that I learnt in Japan. All I need to do is to soak brown rice (I usually sprout it), cook it in a pressure cooker and rest it for a couple of days in a rice warmer. And we eat from the pot throughout the week. It helps for the brown rice to get more dense and soft, which helps to digest it.
You can find Sumikichi Miso at the top of Market Place, near Cork Street, at The Frome Independent on Sunday 2nd October – but get in quick, as Aya’s small batch miso often sells out!