Part 8: Osaka’s Auntie Educates the Dragon About Miso
Chapter 34: Let’s Make Miso Cutlets!
Translated by Zzonkedd
Edited by Gumihou & Onionpi
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They flew quite high up in the air. As Natalia clung to the Dragon’s back for dear life, Haruna sat straight up and spent most of the ride muttering to herself.
“Miso, na… I wonder…”
Anyway, she did not look scared by the height or speed of the flying dragon.
“Hey you, you looked a bit concerned about this request. Have you somehow promised something you couldn’t deliver? Are you not confident in the flavours of your miso thing?”
Since Natalia knew how good Haruna’s cooking was, she found her hesitant attitude very out of character.
“To be honest, that’s also part of the reason. The miso is completely homemade, ya. So obviously it can’t be compared to the ones made by actual masters. There is no way a hardworking amateur could ever catch up to a real professional. There are even workshops with a hundred or two hundred years of traditional miso making skills under their belt. How could I ever be compared to them?”
“If I’m not mistaken, you are in the middle of researching how to mass-produce miso, right?”
“However, there’s an even bigger problem.” Interestingly, Haruna would always take cooking challenges more seriously than actual physical combats. “I have no idea what kind of miso the dragon is looking for. There is no real way to find out just what kind of miso he truly wants.”
“There are different kinds of miso?”
“Not only in terms of taste but the colour and base ingredients as well. The miso we use in Osaka is brown miso. However, the people of Kyoto prefer white miso which has a much sweeter and milder taste. The miso used in Nagoya is very dark and rich, and kind of similar to soybean miso.”
However, the regional differences were not the only issue.
“Miso used to be made at home not too long ago before the age of supermarkets, so there will be people in salty miso region making sweet miso and vice versa to suit their own tastes. I used to make both types at home, but there are endless variations between light and dark, sweet and savoury, ya…”
“In other words, you have no way of knowing which kind of miso he wants…”
“That said,” Haruna touched the slightly sticky back of the dragon, “there are still some hints we can use, ne…”
By the way, old aunties of Osaka has a habit of touching things and people. It’s rather unique since the Japanese tended to have a rather hands-off way of dealing with the people they encountered in life, be it strangers or loved ones.
“The fact that he wants miso so badly must reflect some kind of longing he had from his past life. It’s highly likely we came from the same country as well. As for the fact that he is now a dragon in this life…”
Just then, they began to drop altitude. “Hey, you little fellas, we’re about to land.” The voice of the Dragon Boss echoed around them.
“Don’t land too close to the town or you will send the people into a panic. It’s similar to the secret of sightseeing in Kyoto, the moment you drive into the city centre, you’ll get stuck in traffic, nen.”
“You sure mention ki-you-toh a lot…”
“That’s because it’s pretty easy to make a quick trip to Kyoto from Awaji Station on the Hankyu Line .”
Awaji Station is where the subway that ran by the Hankyu Line before it splits off to Senri Line and Kyoto Line. Guess which one you need to take to get to Kyoto? Also, the Awaji station is only four stations away from the major Umeda Station, which makes it very easy to get to Kyoto from Osaka.
By the way, Awaji station is completely different from Awaji Island . Kind of like how Yamato City  is not situated within the Nara Prefecture but the Kanagawa prefecture. The Yamato region in Nara actually has more to do with the Yamato Period , the time when power converged at Nara instead of Kyoto or Tokyo. The Yamato Period is conventionally assigned to 250-710 AD.
Haruna’s group landed at a distance and the girls slid off the dragon to walk towards the town. The Dragon insisted on following them, possibly propelled by his desperate quest for miso. When the townsfolk saw A Very Large Dragon lumbering behind Haruna, they ended up panicking anyway.
“Hey everyone, it’s fine, yade! He won’t bite. You there, sit and be good.”
“Great Me is not a pet…”
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A short time later, everyone soon acclimatized with the situation and the townsfolk concluded that ‘Of course, Haruna-chan would hang out with dragons…’ and ‘Yup, totally agree’ were being thrown about and everyone ended up just going along with the situation.
Haruna immediately brought her precious miso from the office. She didn’t bring everything out, however, since she would need at least some miso as a starter to make more miso later.
Instead, she scraped a portion of the miso onto a plate and brought it to the town square where the Dragon Boss was waiting since he was too large to enter the building. There was already a crowd of curious onlookers hanging around to see what was happening.
“Hou, so this brown goop is miso? It certainly doesn’t look like much.”
“This is the thing you’ve been demanding all this while. I can tell you that I didn’t poison it or anything, ya. Here, stick out your tongue.”
The Dragon Boss’ large tongue rolled out and Haruna scraped up a bit of the miso on a spoon and painted as large a surface as she could on the tongue.
It was probably the most awkward food sampling scenario in the history of food sampling. Once Haruna stepped back, the dragon slurped his tongue back and rolled it around his mouth, carefully tasting the miso.
“Fumu, it’s salty, but a refreshing kind of saltiness. It seems to respond quite well to my body, I feel a bit more energetic after eating this.”
“It has some fatigue relieving effect. It should be very good for you after flying us all the way here.”
“I see. It does feel like my wings are gradually recovering Not bad.”
“So, are you satisfied with it?”
However, she could already tell from the Dragon Boss’ expression that the miso had not even reached the passing score.
“It’s not bad… but not good either… Also, it’s hard to be satisfied with just a little taste. It would probably be better to eat it with other food like a condiment.”
It was clear that the Dragon Boss was not happy with the miso, but his complaint was also rather weak.
“I expected as much. Just give me a minute, I’ll make you something, wa.” Haruna said cheerfully. “Oh, and please play with the children in the meantime.”
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Before returning to the test kitchen at the office, Haruna made a stop at the market place.
“I’ll have the good quality pork for cutlets. Also, give me some bread crumbs, please.”
Even in this otherworld, fried meat cutlets existed since any old meat would taste good after it had been battered and fried over high temperature. It was a rather popular way to cook meat.
“Oh? Are you just going to make a normal cutlet?”
Natalia was with Haruna, and was in charge of carrying the luggage.
“That’s right, but to be honest, I don’t know if what I’m doing is right. I’m just going with my feminine instinct.”
“I don’t know what instinct you have, but it certainly is not a feminine…”
“Oh, I forgot to buy some cabbage. I’ll go back first and make the preparations for the cutlets. Get some fresh cabbage for me.”
“Yes, yes, I’m going now.”
Natalia was pretty used to buying cabbage since it was one of the essential ingredients for their okonomiyaki.
“Choose the ones with tightly packed leaves.”
“I know, I know. Even I have become a cabbage connoisseur after following you for so long.”
As Natalia headed for the market, Haruna made her way towards the test kitchen.
Meat Cutlets were quite easy to make. It’s all about choosing a good cut of meat and using good oil for frying.
The main problem was the miso.
“From what I know, miso from Nagoya has a rather strong taste and the colour is quite dark, the trick is probably in the ingredients and preservation technique. The most famous miso there would be the Hacho Miso , but it’s not like I can just make the miso from scratch right now.”
She had no choice but to use the miso at hand to try and reach a flavour profile closer to the red miso of Nagoya.
“It was quite a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure that I remember the taste of the Miso Cutlet Ekiben I had at the World Expo hosted in Aichi . Now, I just have to try and reproduce the flavour, I’m pretty sure that it’s rather sweet.”
Supposing that she could not faithfully reproduce the flavour of the Miso Katsu –
“That dragon said that he wanted to eat the miso with something else. The only thing I can think of miso sauce or a miso glaze, either way, the miso would be sweet. It would be rather difficult to make spicy miso with the ingredients I have anyway.”
When it comes to sweetness, she has more than a few options available to her.
Decision made, she opened her special space bag and shook out a whole bunch of mixed candies. Among them was the amber-coloured Ougontou or The Golden Drop that looked like little amber gold bars. She intended to melt these candies and use them to add colour and sweetness to the miso.
“I dare say the sweetness level is about right. It’s the closest thing to pure sugar that I have for now. There might be some hidden flavours in the candy, but there’s nothing I can do about it, na. Anyway, let’s bet on this for the win.”
On top of that, she added some toasted sesame seeds for its aromatic flavour and a bit of olive oil for extra shine.
Miso on its own has a rather muddy and salty flavour. When mixed with other ingredients, the flavour of miso was accented and tasted more balanced.
“Let’s heat it through a little and see what happens.”
She placed the sauce into a pan and heated it gently. When the mixture started to bubble, she stirred a wooden spoon through it, breaking up lumps and reducing the water content. When it became thicker and more aromatic, Haruna judged it ready to be poured onto the fried cutlets.
She gave the wooden spoon a little lick and was pleasantly surprised, “This is closer than I expected. Alright, let’s go with this!”
All that was left was making the cutlet.
There was no need to be too fancy about it. First, the loin meat was pounded with the back of a knife to tenderize it a little. Haruna then dredged it through flour, followed by egg wash before coating it in coarse breadcrumbs for that extra crunchy feel.
Cutlets should be fried at a high temperature to prevent oiliness. Since the cuts were not too thick, there was no need to double fry it. When the breadcrumbs had turned a wonderful golden colour, she set it aside and began to finely slice the cabbage that Natalia had brought in.
On a large plate, she arranged the raw cabbage on one side. She chopped the cutlets into uniformed strips and leaned it against the cabbage mountain to achieve a visually appealing look. Finally, the brown miso sauce was poured generously over the cutlets.
Fresh brilliant green, golden yellow and dark brown looked very attractive together on a white plate.
“And it’s done!”
Click on the picture for the recipe from JustOneCookbook!
[Gumihou: … I want some now…]
 Osaka – Kyoto via the Hankyu Line
 Awaji Island – Completely different from Awaji Station. Fun fact, they have Naruto whirlpools there. It’s called the Naruto whirlpool because the island is separated from Shikoku by the Naruto Straits!
 Yamato City of Kanagawa – NOT in Nara Prefecture
 Yamato Region – Actually IN Nara, a birthplace of traditional Japan in modern day Nara. Has rich historical significance
 Yamato Period – 250 – 710 AD (Kofun Period and Asuka Period)
 Hacho Miso – The company that first produce this miso was Maruya, established in 1337. It still exists today! The second oldest shop was Kakuyu, established in 1645!
 Aichi – 4th largest prefecture in Japan. Capital of Aichi is Nagoya, by the way, an ekiben is an eki bento or train station bento
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