Houba are the leaves from the Japanese big-leaf magnolia tree (Magnolia obovate). Houba miso is made by mixing miso with ingredients such as green onions, shiitake, pickles, and the like. This miso mixture is placed on a dried houba leaf and cooked over a shichirin charcoal grill until it bubbles. The aroma of the dried leaf and miso grilling wafts through the air and stimulates the appetite. The tradition originated by thawing frozen pickles to over large dried houba leaves on the grill.
Japanese big-leaf magnolia trees grow wild in the forests of the Hida region. Aromatic houba leaves have antibacterial properties. Houba leaves are also used to wrap sushi for houba zushi and for mochi for houba mochi. The leaves play an integral part of the food culture of the Hida region. Hida cuisine is made at home as well as at ryokan traditional inns that travelers stay at while visiting the area. When frozen pickles are thawed over grilled houba leaves some moisture dissipates concentrating the umami and making it a delicious condiment for rice. The creative wisdom of the ancestors to be innovative with using houba leaves in Hida cuisine.RECIPE_HEADEND