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NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (April 2020) - Sakura: Japan’s Beloved Blossom

Sakura soba noodle
SAKURA SOBA WITH TSUYU DIPPING SAUCE (桜そば つゆ付き)
Producer: Honda shoten
Prefecture: Shimane

This limited-edition soba combines the subtle floral taste of sakura with the nutty buttery flavor of one of Japan’s most beloved noodle: soba! Available only in the spring, these noodles are made the old fashioned way, starting with domestically produced ingredients and by kneading sakura leaves with pure soba from Okuizumo, a region famous for its soba. 

Honda Shoten uses 100 years of traditional raw soba making methods to create their homemade soba made from freshly ground domestic buckwheat flour which is made within three days of milling to preserve its flavor. The quality is noticeable in the taste and texture, as well as the lack of odor when boiled (common with other soba). By leveraging the expertise of generations of soba makers, Honda Shoten has created this natural soba that does not require refrigeration and maintains its freshness even when stored at room temperature.

Ingredients: Noodles: Flour, buckwheat, cherry leaves, salt, vegetable pigment (all ingredients from Japan); Dipping sauce: Soy sauce, sugar, katsuobushi, sodabushi, salt, mirin, kelp, shiitake mushroom, and sake
Suggested uses: Add noodles to 1 liter of boiling water. Cook for 3 mins. Drain but save the water! (Soba water is full of flavor and nutrients and can be enjoyed on its own as a hot drink.) Rinse noodles under running cold water. Serve cold with the dipping sauce. You can add additional seasonings into the dipping sauce, including thinly sliced green onions or grated ginger.
Nutritional information: (
Noodle: Per: 80g) Calories: 224.3kcal, Total Fat: 1.3g, Sodium: 1.5g, Total Carbohydrate: 43.2g, Protein: 7.6g
(Soup: Per: 60g) Calories: 24.6kcal, Total Fat: 0.0g, Sodium: 2.4g, Total Carbohydrate: 5.0g, Protein: 1.1g

 

Sakura rice
SAKURA QUICK-COOKING RICE (さくらごはん)
Producer: Seescore
Prefecture: Tokyo

Takikomi gohan (seasoned rice cooked with vegetables and flavored with dashi and soy sauce) is a staple of Japanese cuisine. Here the dish has been reimagined with pickled cherry blossoms and daikon leaves. The salt-pickled cherry blossoms provide a beautiful contrast of colors and give the rice a delicate salty yet floral flavor. It can be enjoyed as a hot bowl of rice, packed in a bento for lunch or shaped into rice balls (onigiri) to be enjoyed in a picnic under the cherry blossom trees! 

Ingredients: Rice (from Japan), dried daikon leaf (daikon leaf, glucose), and dried sakura flower (sakura flower, salt, plum vinegar)
Suggested uses: Mix entire contents of package with 250ml of water and a dash of salt. Microwave: Cook for 10 minutes at 500W or 8 minutes at 650W in an uncovered bowl. Cover bowl and let steam for 2 minutes. Stovetop: Cover and cook in a pan over medium heat for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let steam for 2 minutes. The rice may brown at the edges. Enjoy the crispy texture.

 

sakura art nori seaweed
SAKURA ART NORI (SEAWEED) (のりあーと さくら)
Producer: Kozen
Prefecture:  Tokyo

How kawaii (cute)! These adorable Sakura Art Nori (Seaweed) sheets will turn any food into a beautiful cherry blossom treat. Each sheet comes with four detachable pieces of seaweed that have been cut to resemble scattered cherry blossoms. Fun for children and adults alike, you can use your creativity to add the spirit of cherry blossom season to any food.

These fun nori sheets are made by Kozen, which started as a seaweed wholesaler in 1894. For over 100 years, the company has focused solely on high quality seaweed, from sourcing and supplying to finding creative ways of enjoying it. 

Ingredients: Nori (seaweed) (from Japan)
Suggested uses: Tear the sheets in four and use each piece to decorate almost any type of food (use your creativity!). You can try wrapping them around a rice ball (onigiri) or placing them on top of a bowl of rice. How about placing them on top of an omelette or piece of cooked fish? The nori sheet can also be wrapped around the outside of a spring roll or on the inside when using rice paper to see the colors of the spring roll filling shine through. 
Nutritional information: (Per 2.5g) Calories: 4.7kcal, Total Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 0.03g, Total Carbohydrate:1.1g, Protein: 1.0g

 

Sakura fish frikake
SAKURA SHIRASU FURIKAKE (桜しらすふりかけ)

Producer: Tamakiya
Prefecture: Tokyo

Furikake is a common Japanese seasoning that can be found in an infinite array of flavors, from the traditional to the experimental. It can be sprinkled on top of rice, pasta, vegetables, tofu, or fish to add a unique depth of flavor to any dish. 

This seasonal furikake combines the mild fish flavors of shirasu (miniature white fish) with double layered cherry blossom petals from Odawara and the sour tartness of ume (pickled plum) to create a delicate seasoning reminiscent of spring.

Ingredients: White baby fish (shirashu), cherry blossom, plum, shiso (Japanese basil), sweet sake, fermented seasoning, dried bonito flakes, starch resolvent, vinegar, and salt
Suggested uses: Sprinkle on top of rice, pasta, vegetables, tofu, or fish. Can also be used as a substitute for salt.
Nutritional information: (Per package) Calories: 14kcal, Total Fat: 0.2g, Sodium: 1.0g, Total Carbohydrate:0.5g, Protein: 2.5g

 

salt pickled sakura
SALT PICKLED SAKURA (桜塩漬け)

Producer: Nature
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Salt-pickled cherry blossoms are a springtime delicacy in Japan. Traditionally used to make cherry blossom tea, they can now be found in kaiseki (a traditional multi-course Japanese meal) as well as various other Japanese dishes and drinks, and most commonly in Japanese sweets and pastries.

These salt-pickled cherry blossoms were selected as one of Kanagawa's Top 100 Specialty Products and are made from double-flowered cherry blossoms which have multiple petals and a deep pink color. The buds are hand-picked while still young, washed, dried, and drained before being sprinkled with salt from Kanagawa Prefecture, one of the leading salt producing regions in Japan. The blossoms are left for one full day before being squeezed and soaked in ume (Japanese plum) vinegar, and dried in the shade. 

Pickled cherry blossoms are often steeped in hot water to make sakura tea for special occasions such as graduation ceremonies and weddings. The excess salt is shaken off and the flowers are placed into teacups. Once hot water is added, the flowers open up, like buds on a cherry blossom tree, producing a light reddish color and a subtle floral fragrance.

Ingredients: Sakura, salt, and ume (plum) vinegar
Suggested uses: Shake off extra salt and place in a teacup before pouring hot water to make cherry blossom tea. Can also be mixed in with rice or soups, in sparkling wine or in Japanese sweets and pastries. Try mincing and adding them atop your favorite pasta cooked with seasonal spring vegetables. Or you can try making the delectable Sakura Butter Cookies using the recipe provided.

sakura leaf kinako nejiri (Japanese sweets)
SAKURA LEAF KINAKO NEJIRI (JAPANESE SWEETS) (桜の葉きなこ)

Producer: Sapporo Daiichi Seika
Prefecture: Hokkaido

These traditional Japanese sweets known as kinako nejiri are made from kinako - a roasted and grounded soybean powder that is commonly used as a topping for Japanese sweets. It has a slightly sweet, yet nutty flavor and is mixed with sugar to produce a thick doughy paste. The dough is then stretched into thin sheets, sliced into bite-sized pieces and twisted by skilled craftsmen. All this is done by hand, leading to its soft handmade charm. 

Although the blossoms of cherry trees are visually stunning, the leaves that carry most of the aroma. These kinako nejiri are made from pickled cherry leaves that have been dried and ground into a powder. The slightly salty flavor of the cherry leaves blends with the nutty sweetness of the kinako to create a peanut butter tasting treat. 

Sapporo Daiichi Seika was established in 1942 in the city of Sapporo in Hokkaido Prefecture. The company follows the motto of “eating well and producing healthy, body-friendly sweets.” Each ingredient is thoughtfully sourced to complement one another with the craftsmen taking into account the temperature and humidity of each day to ensure that every sweet is of the highest quality and taste.

Ingredients: Kinako (roasted soy beans) from Hokkaido (includes non-GMO soybeans), sweet potato starch syrup, beet sugar, powdered sakura leaf (from Japan), salt, rand ice oil
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is.
Nutritional information: (Per: 90g) Calories: 326kcal, Total Fat: 6.0g, Sodium: 0.6g, Total Carbohydrate: 58.6g, Protein: 12.3g

Sakura green tea
SAKURA GREEN TEA (桜緑茶)

Producer: Natural Attorait
Prefecture: Kyoto

This sakura green tea combines the fragrant leaves of the cherry tree with some of Japan’s highest quality green tea. It’s the perfect blend of bitterness from the green tea and a hint of natural floral sweetness. The flavor is similar to sakura mochi, a traditional Japanese sweet made from pink sticky rice filled with a sweet azuki (red bean) paste and wrapped with a pickled cherry leaf.

Natural Attorait harvests pure organic green tea from Uji, a region famous for its green tea. In order to earn the organic designation, the tea has been raised on farmland where pesticides and chemical fertilizers have not been used for over three years. Earning the organic designation from JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) is a rigorous process, involving multiple checks and inspections from cultivation to packaging. It’s with this high distinction that Natural Attorait produces its premium-quality organic green tea.

Ingredients: Organic green tea (from Kyoto), sakura tea (from Japan)
Suggested uses: Add 100-120ml of hot water and let steep for 1–2 minutes. Remove the tea bag and enjoy!