With a culinary history as deep and established aswashoku(traditional Japanese cuisine), certain herbs and spices have been used in Japan for thousands of years. And although there might be a larger variety available today, their uses and applications have remained rather constant.
With Japan’s proximity to the sea and lush greenery, the concepts ofumi no sachi(bounty of the sea) andyama no sachi(bounty of the land or mountains)have had a great impact on the way Japanese people view food and cooking. Herbs and spices are often used as a complement to the main flavors of dishes, accentuating the characteristics of the other ingredients rather than changing their innate flavors.
Succulent and juicy shiitake mushrooms are the base for this earthy, savory dashi that is made from rehydrating dried shiitake mushrooms (which can then be used for cooking) in water. This thin, dark brown vegetarian/vegan dashi is rarely used on its own and is typically combined with konbu or katsuo dashi to produce a more robust flavor.
In its basic form, dashi (だし, 出汁) is a broth made by extracting flavors from ingredients by boiling them. Yet unlike typical soup stocks made from a variety of mixed ingredients, dashi relies on only one or two simple ingredients. The beauty of this simplicity, however, is in its ability to enhance and harmonize the flavors of the other ingredients it’s paired with, creating a dish that is more than the sum of its parts.
Awase dashi is the most commonly used dashi in Japan. In fact, when one says dashi this is usually what they’re referring to. Awase means “to combine'' and is typically a combination of konbu and katsuobushi. It includes both glutamic acid and inosinic acid, creating a single dashi that is more than the sum of its parts.
Tough and difficult to digest on its own, konbu must be cooked for a long time, which also draws out its high amount of glutamic acid, an amino acid responsible forumami. It has a subtle flavor and produces a clean, clear dashi that is typically used in the Kansai region of Japan and is a great choice for vegetarians and vegans.
For those who don’t consume fish or meat, finding Japanese vegetarian or vegan options can be challenging. Fortunately, the Buddhist plant-based cuisine known asShōjin Ryōrihas been around for more than seven centuries and is a healthy yet simple ritual that nourishes the body and soul through food.
Momoe Nishimura, founder of Zen Eating share her meditative eating practices through food inspired by Japanese Zen Buddhism. She helps us ease our tension and to make our lives more enjoyable through eating.
Japanese sauces tend to be a subtle blend of sweet and/or salty umami and are used as a way of enhancing flavors without overpowering the natural taste of the ingredients in the dish. These 3 versatile sauces are easy to make at home and are great to have on hand in your pantry.
Okinawa, a tropical island far away from mainland Japan, is often a go-to domestic travel destination to an exotic place. Surrounded by endless aqua blue water, Okinawa has 160 islands, of which only 40 are inhabited. Its year-round warm climate provides a home to indigenous subtropical plants and all living things from the sea to the forests. It is these surroundings that helped create Okinawa’s traditional food culture.
For anyone with allergies shopping for food (especially food with foreign packaging) can be difficult. We provide English translations for all the items we include in our Care Packages, but want to make sure that you are informed as possible as you continue to explore the vast world of Japanese cuisine.
MSG is an abbreviation for monosodium glutamine and is an ingredient that is frowned upon in the United States but widely used in Japanese food. At Kokoro Care Packages we ensure that our products are MSG-free, but you to know what MSG is and how to identify it on Japanese labels.
In Japan there are two types of dates commonly seen of food products: best before and expiration. Products often only have one of the two so it is best if you learn how to read the kanji for each type (賞味期限 = best before and 消費期限 = expiration).
The foundation of modern-day cuisine in Japan was heavily influenced by the customs developed during the Edo Era. A period of economic and social growth, people began eating three meals a day instead of two, while incorporating the holy trinity of Japanese flavor (soy sauce, mirin, and sake). Food stalls were also introduced to feed busy commoners on the go. While some practices diminished over time, many continue to thrive today.
Mushrooms are a well known part of many cuisines. In Japanese cuisine, mushrooms - known askinoko(キノコ) - play an essential role, adding umami and texture to many dishes. Many varieties of mushrooms can be found growing throughout Japan’s mountainous landscape. Here's a quick overview of some popular Japanese mushrooms:
In remembrance of the 10 year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, we sat down with Yagisawa Shoten, a ninth generation, over 200 year old family-owned producer in Iwate Prefecture. Yagisawa Shoten lost almost everything during the earthquake and tsunami and discussed how they have rebuilt and recovered, as well as their visions for the future.
In remembrance of the 10 year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, we sat down with Senrei, a local fishery and seafood company located in Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture, to see how they and their community have rebuilt and recovered, and to hear about their visions for the future.
The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道, lit. "the way of tea") is a deeply important cultural tradition in Japan.Matcha (抹茶) takes center stage, being prepared and presented in precise steps and movements to show hospitality to guests while complying with formal etiquette.
There are two approaches:chano-yu(茶の湯), an event to treasure a once-in-a-life-time gathering, andsadō(茶道), a disciplinary practice to reflect and improve oneself. In addition to matcha, it’s the host’s duty to select sweets, tea bowls and art pieces (Eg. a hanging scroll and a single flower displayed in the room) associated with the theme and as a reflection of either the season, cultural event or Zen teaching.
Since the tea room is perceived as a sacred space, guests are expected to wear formal attire, take off any jewelry, and change into traditionaltabi (足袋)socks for the ceremony. Throughout the ceremony, guests practice etiquette, meditate their minds, learn seasonal events and nourish their five senses.
As one can see, the image of tofu being a white block of gelatinous blandness is a result of a lack of exposure to what can be made from it and with it. Even the simplest tofu dish,hiyayakko,a dish consisting of fresh chilled tofu garnished with grated ginger, katsuobushi flakes, scallions, and soy sauce, can be incredible in its subtlety and depth of flavor.