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Aug 17, 2011 07:25 PM

Miso Market - Porter?

Saw a new japan-focused market opening outbound from Porter Sq. in Cambridge - think it was called Miso Market. Anybody been inside, and if so, how does it compare to Ebisuya in terms of take out food and general japan-focused inventory?

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  1. It's a nice space (used to be a kids' bookstore) that's a bit sparse at the moment but with lots of room for growth. Decent selection of Japanese seasonings, ramen, snack foods, nori, and other packaged foods; a freezer with various frozen foods, several fridges with canned and bottled beverages and packages of mochi. A few tables in the front hold a small amount of produce, pastries & bread from Japonaise Bakery, and a few flavors of onigiri.

    They're very much in the starting stages and are actively asking customers what they'd like to see. Right now they don't have any takeout food (except for onigiri balls) -- no sushi or lunch items.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Boston_Otter

      plse help decribe where this is- in the shopping center? below the fitnes center?or near what other stores?thanks much.

      1. re: opinionatedchef

        It's about a block outbound from Porter Square on Mass Ave, next to what used to be Bob Slate and the current Stellabella Toys. 1963 Massachusetts Ave.

      2. re: Boston_Otter

        Miso Market has added some take-out foods recently. Calamari salad, seaweed salad, hijiki (seasoned black seaweed), daikon salad and burdock (gobo) salad. These are in stock most days,
        located in the front of the store in the vegetable fridge. Ask for chopsticks if you need them.

      3. i stopped by miso market last night to pick up a few things. on the list:

        1) potstickers-nope, no vegetarian ones.

        2) pickled ginger-nope, they had it (but did you know some of this stuff contains
        aspartame? ugh!)

        3) udon noodles-nope, in the freezer that had packs of 5 (but i only needed
        one). the shelf stable udon they had contained msg!

        so........i left empty-handed-boo! i guess i had this "misperception" that japanese food was healthy, but after reading the ingredients of many products, i realize that japanese packaged food is just like american packaged food (filled with bad things for me). sigh.........

        p.s. my hubby and i have been buying this AMAZING tofu from whole foods that is made in somerville. it would be cool if miso market decided to stock as many local products as possible.

        11 Replies
        1. re: granolagurl

          To be fair to Miso Market, you'll find that Japanese-imported udon noodles and pickled ginger will nearly always contain MSG, aspartame, artificial flavors and colors, etc, no matter where you buy them. They're looking for suggestions from customers as to what to carry; did you recommend that they sell vegetarian potstickers?

          1. re: Boston_Otter

            yes, i did recommend that they sell veggie pot stickers (and they seemed agreeable to looking into it).

          2. re: granolagurl

            Aspartame is often, although not always, found in pickled ginger to add a touch of sweetness with a touch of a bitter finish. The strong taste of aspartame that many people find unpleasant by itself is totally imperceptible in pickled ginger since ginger has a very strong taste and the spicy kick of the ginger covers it.

            MSG is naturally occurring in high concentration in seaweed and in parmesan cheese, which is why both of those foods are not only delicious, but used as near universal toppings in the cultures in which they originate. MSG in your udon noodles is a good thing, not a bad thing!

            That said, I've definitely had the experience of going to a specialty market specifically to get just a couple items and walking out empty handed. It takes willpower to abstain from trying all the other deliciousness!

            1. re: granolagurl

              I think they are seeking inventory suggestions at this point. It will take time for them to build up to the level of Kotobukiya (gone) or Ebisuya.

              That said, Japanese don't really make "potstickers". Frozen gyoza perhaps, made with pork and if you are lucky ebi, or shrimp gyoza. Vegetarian? No. The picked ginger, covered by lipoff and Otter. Fresh unpreservativified pickled ginger is probably to hard to source and would go bad before it sold. Udon, I've never seen single packs. 5 is standard. Just keep it in the freezer, it'll last for a while.

              I wish Miso Market well, but I think it's difficult to make a living selling condiments, frozen goods, and rice. It's too small to be a full market (so far) with fresh produce, fish, meats, etc, so it's more of a occasional destination for expats and Americans alike. Putting together a real Japanese meal is likely to warrant stops at Reliable Market, or H-Mart, then New Deal or Sakanaya, and then Miso Market or Ebisuya, maybe even WF's, Russo's or a Farmer's Market. It's a lot of effort, and frankly expats are more apt to try other international cuisines than eat Japanese everyday. In the end, it's a small niche market. Very small.

              I'm not criticizing anyone, but I feel you have to temper your expectations, and realize that any shelf-stable food has preservatives, whatever the country of origin. Of course "healthy" Japanese food exists, but it's more expensive to stock, especially if you are just initially building market share. It's rather an easily tolerated myth that Japanese food is the "healthiest" I suppose, on the other hand. For instance Japanese have a rather high incidence of stomach cancer, probably from all the pickled vegetables. Japanese rice is not particularly nutritious compared to brown rice. Hell, even the highly manipulated art Japanese landscape and gardened is quite removed from "nature". It's actually the polar opposite, molding nature to man's liking. They are just kind of good at stuffing round trees in square holes. :)

              Anyway, if you ever visited on of the few Mitsuwa markets in this country, you'd get a more representative picture of what Japanese food is like. There is more to it than what we get here in Boston.

              3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

              75 Linden St, Boston, MA 02134

              1. re: tatsu

                I would LOVE if a Mitsuwa opened around here. Ebisuya does a good job covering the Japanese cuisine bases, though. They definitely satisfy my hankering for onigiri...

                1. re: tatsu

                  My thoughts exactly. Looking at pre-packaged / instant food is hardly representative of an entire cuisine. I think Japanese cuisine is healthy if you look at how it's prepared in Japan - it's a reliance on fresh locally produced goods, where you can savor the food without relying on heavy spices or seasoning. I don't kid myself though that I can replicate that in the same way when I try to prepare Japanese food here.

                  That being said my favorite items to get in the stores have always been sauces and spices like quality shiro dashi, mirin, and other key cooking ingredients. H-Mart fills a little of this gap, but they don't have anywhere near the variety that a good Japanese market offers. I am still hunting for a place that will sell me some fresh yuzu, so if Miso Market ever decides to stock those, I'm there.

                  I've never been to a Mitsuwa, but I went to Uwajimaya in Seattle and just drooled at the selection. Now I would be in heaven if we could get one of those here.

                  3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

                  1. re: kobuta

                    I'm always excited by fresh yuzu. It's a winter citrus fruit, and so I wouldn't expect to see any until at least November, maybe later. Ebisuya has had fresh yuzu from time to time, and so has Whole Foods. Bottled yuzu juice is easier to find --- in addition to Japanese markets, the Boston Shaker carries yuzu juice. My favorite yuzu juice I've gotten at Kalustyan's in New York. All yuzu --- whether fresh or bottled juice --- is definitely not cheap.

                    The Boston Shaker
                    69 Holland Street, Somerville, MA

                    1. re: lipoff

                      Yeah, I've been relying on the bottled stuff for years. Of course there aren't a lot of Whole Foods near me, and even a bit out of the way after work in the nearest hoods. Working long and late hours, doesn't make a trip to WF that exciting when it isn't along the way home. I must only have access to the lame WFs because I have never seen yuzu in the winter in the ones I've visited.

                      Ebisuya is an option if I want to spend 1.5 to 2 hours commuting each way. *sigh* I do hitch a ride to get to HMart every so often but I have more to buy at HMart. Hitching a ride to pick up a bottle or two of sauces would (unfortunately) test the patience of my ride-givers. So at least Miso Market will be more accessible for those trips I need a few things for.

                      1. re: kobuta

                        Anyone who is interested in improving their Japanese cooking would benefit from the following: don't buy cheap mirin, powdered dashi, and low-quality soy sauce. Japanese cooking is obviously diverse and huge, but these three things are almost 70% of home cooking. You can basically simmer any vegetable and make a huge array of stocks for soups, noodles whatever. You can even make your own inari sushi pockets.

                        Powdered dashi is definitely the worst. It's barely even fish. What I do is get these bonito flakes in big tea bags, they are a bit hard to find, but H-Mart has them. You'll have to read the ingredients to make sure it's bonito and not anchovy. Just simmer one bag in a few cups of water and you've already improved your cooking by double. Sometimes I save an unused portion by dropping a few drops of (good) rice vinegar in there in a container and stick it in the fridge. It'll last a couple weeks.

                        Most mirin is basically corn syrup. You might as well use sugar and a few drops of vodka, it'd be better. Get real mirin, there is a huge difference. Here's a hint, it's the most expensive bottle on the shelf at 3 times the price of Kikkoman or UFC whatever.

                        Soy sauce, I'm not terribly picky, and quite honestly I can't appreciate the subtleties of organic expensive ones. Whatever you choose, always underestimate the amount when cooking. But storing it can be a problem. I stick saran wrap between the twist-off dispenser and the bottle. Someone bought a bottle of "Lee Kum Kim" soy sauce from Shaw's or something for me once and I was horrified but to my surprise it had a sealed metal top, like a glass ketchup bottle, hiding underneath the plastic dispenser! So I don't have to use saran wrap anymore and that's really nice, plus I can wash the dispenser too and still close the bottle. Fantastic.

                        Anyway, I don't expect Miso Market to stock the finest fish, mikan, yuzu, and manicured mini watermelons, but if they could just stock better grade everyday pantry items, that would be super, I'd shop there.

                        3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

                      2. re: lipoff

                        We found a source for fresh Yuzu and have carried it on our shelf recently. We will be getting more fresh yuzu on Oct 21. We do have some bottled yuzu, and yes it is expensive, but it's good quality.

                  2. re: granolagurl

                    We have asked all of our vendors to supply us with vegetarian options to their stock, but they have not delivered anything yet. We are looking for local makers to prepare some of these foods for us, and hope to have SOME options available in the near future. We are now stocking the Amazing locally made TOFU you talked about.

                  3. Does anyone know if Miso sells chikuwa? They are tube-shaped cakes made out of fish (you might not think that they were made of fish paste at first glance, but they generally look like this:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lieber78

                      Yes, we sell Chikuwa. It's not easy to find in the freezer, so you can ask for it when you come in. Thanks!

                    2. Just have to give a thumbs up for Miso Market. I was just in for the first time and got some items for lunch: their onigiri, which were yummy but the star for me was their stewed pumpkin....incredible!

                      Definitely going back to do some shopping here. The staff were very welcoming and helpful, they had a very good array of items, clearly marked and high quality.
                      They even sell koji!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: poptart

                        I agree--I have to give these guys credit. I still miss Kotobukiya, but Miso Market is clearly making an effort to improve their inventory, and they have some otherwise hard-to-find items, such as good quality mirin.

                        And I also agree with Tatsu above--decent dashi is easy to make with bonito flakes and kelp, why bother with powder?

                        1. re: poptart

                          i agree. very nice people; actually take you to the product on the shelf. I shop there pretty regularly now.