NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (August 2021) - Japanese Herbs & Spices: Gifts from Nature (和ハーブ)



Producer:Tokyo Food

True wasabi is a rare gem to find outside Japan. Most wasabi, even most sold in Japan, is actually grated horseradish that has been flavored and dyed. Real wasabi is made by grating the wasabi root, which resembles a green-tinged ginger root. It’s not overwhelmingly spicy but instead has a quick flush of heat followed by a lingering nuanced aroma of spiciness with a herbaceous flavor and subtle natural sweetness.

Wasabi is considered one of the rarest and most difficult crops in the world. The plants require a continuous supply of clean, high quality water. It grows in shallow, quick flowing rivers, and is carefully shaded with semi-transparent tarps to provide the ideal conditions for growing. Roots take up to three years to reach maturity. Due to cultivation challenges, wasabi is expensive, even in Japan, and real wasabi is considered a rare treat. 

We want you to experience the true taste of wasabi so you can contrast it with other versions you may have tried. By preserving genuine raw shredded wasabi in rice vinegar and spices, Tokyo Food is able to provide a wasabi that naturally maintains its delicate flavors for nine months.

Ingredients:Genuine wasabi (from Japan), glucose syrup, pure rice vinegar, vegetable oil (organic safflower oil), dietary fiber (soybeans), salt (natural salt), spices (mustard seeds)
Suggested uses:Combine with soy sauce and use as a dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi or steak, or with avocado. Add a dollop to ceviche or oysters, on a hamburger, in salad dressings or in soups including noodle soups. Can also be mixed with mayonnaise to make a wasabi aioli dip for french fries. 



Producer:Enchu Shokuhin

There is a Japanese proverb that says “Sansho wa kotsubu demo piriri to karai” (“Sansho is small and round but peppery”), alluding to sansho’s small yet powerful taste. Known as “Japanese pepper”, these seeds from the Japanese prickly ash tree, belonging to the same family as mandarin oranges and Japan’s beloved citrus fruit, yuzu, are similar to Szechuan peppercorns but with a noticeable citrus flavor. 

In early May, sansho flowers bloom bright yellow-green in Japan for a short-lived season, and although both the flowers and leaves can be eaten, it’s the seed of the berries that may be most recognizable. Typically found in Japan’s iconic seven spice blend known as shichimi togarashi (available in ourCreative Beginnings: Redefining “Wa” Care Package of essential Japanese cooking ingredients), here the vibrant green seeds have been simmered in soy sauce and sugar to maketsukudani. It has a sharp but refreshing peppery flavor, with citrus undertones and a slight tongue-numbing sensation. The taste is a full spectrum of sweet, salty, spicy and umami.

Ingredients:Sansho (domestic), soy sauce (includes soybeans and wheat), starch syrup, sugar, fermented seasonings, agar
Suggested uses:Enjoy on a bowl of rice, donburi (rice bowl) or stir fries. Add to cooked vegetables with soy sauce, ground sesame seeds and a dash of sweet vinegar. Can also be added to marinades. 



Producer:Kojima Foods

Yomogi is an aromatic herb from the Japanese mugwort plant that grows in the southern area of Japan, including Kyushu and Okinawa. It’s part of the sunflower family and has a fresh, spring-like fragrance, vivid green color and slightly bitter yet floral taste. It’s commonly used inwagashi (delicate Japanese desserts) as a natural food coloring by grinding the leaves and adding it tomochi (sticky rice). You may have tried it in specialties such ashanami dango (cherry blossom festival skewer of tri-colored sweetened rice balls) orkusa mochi (lit. grass mochi). The pickled leaves can also be found whole wrapped around mochi cakes. 

Here, domestic Japanese yomogi is combined with smooth yet sticky brown rice mochi to create a chewy treat that showcases yomogi’s unique flavor. Kojima Foods uses organic brown rice grown without pesticides and a focus on traceability, from the raw materials they use through every step from production to processing, shipping, and consumption - all to ensure the highest quality and taste of their products. Their factory is also Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS)-certified organic, a difficult process and certification to achieve in Japan. 

Take your time to chew each bite and experience the distinguished earthy flavors - a true gift from Japan’s soil!

Ingredients:Brown rice mochi (domestic), yomogi (domestic)
Suggested uses:Enjoy warm by heating in a toaster oven for 7 mins or in a pan on medium heat for 2 mins on each side, until slightly toasted and crispy on the outside. For soft mochi, microwave for less than 1 minute at 500-600W or boil in water/soup until soft. Serve as a side instead of rice/bread. Note: Be sure to chew thoroughly before swallowing.




Producer:Asuzac foods

Chawan mushi is a savory Japanese custard with a texture similar to flan. “Chawan” means rice bowl and “mushi” means steamed. Served warm in a teacup as an appetizer before meals, the dish is made by steaming seasonal ingredients in an egg custard and is typically topped withmitsuba leaves (Japanese parsley). Mitsuba grows wild in Asia and is identified by its ruffled leaves grouped in bunches of three like cilantro. It has an aromatic flavor with a fresh bitterness reminiscent of celery leaves. The whole plant can be consumed including its leaves, stems, roots, and seeds. 

Asuzac Food is located in Suzuka City in Nagano Prefecture and specializes in creating freeze-dried foods. Their techniques help to preserve the freshness of their ingredients without using chemical preservatives, allowing the full flavors of their foods to shine. As you enjoy your chawan mushi, notice how the clean, crisp flavors of the mitsuba complement the earthy shiitake mushrooms and variety of local seafood.

Ingredients:Scallop, shiitake mushroom, seafood extract, fermented seasoning, starch, salt, mitsuba, bonito broth, sakura shrimp, yeast extract, sugar, antioxidant (vitamin E) (includes shrimp, wheat, soybeans)
Suggested uses:Makes two servings. Rehydrate the block by soaking in 200ml of hot water. After it cools a bit, add one beaten egg and mix well. Pour into two deep heat-resistant containers. Place side by side and heat in a microwave for 3 mins at 500W. If not firm, reheat for another 10 seconds until cooked.




Producer:Kumihiro Fukawa

Kuromoji is a deciduous, broad-leaved shrub that is native to cool or warm temperate areas of Japan and is considered a spicebush due to its aromatic twigs and leaves. At maturity it typically grows to about 5 meters, however the specific variety found in this "natural blessing kuromoji tea” grown in the Otari Village of ​​northern Shinshu in Nagano, reaches only about 3m due to the heavy snowfall in the area. 

Wild kuromoji is collected in the summer and unique to this tea, the leaves are dried at low temperatures without roasting to preserve its aroma. The branches are roasted with far infrared rays, both of which are then crushed together to make this tea. Before steeping, we recommend you enjoy its relaxing aroma, known as “Japanese aroma,” which is reminiscent of bathing in the deep forests of Japan. The color of the tea changes from yellow to pink over time and will immediately sweep you away to Japan with just one sip!

Ingredients:Lindera umbellata (stems and leaves) (no caffeine) 
Suggested uses:Before brewing the tea, enjoy the rich aroma of the Japanese forest as you open the package. To brew, bring 600-800 ml of water to boil in a tea kettle, add 1 tea bag, reduce heat to low, and steep for 5 mins, or place 1 tea bag in a cup and add boiling water. Repeat until the color fades. Can also be poured over ice and served chilled. Store in a cool and dark place avoiding high temperatures and humidity.




Producer:Vegetable Park

Considered one of Japan’s essential herbs, redshiso has been used in Japan for hundreds of years and has a flavor similar to mint and fennel. The leaves have a distinctive deep purple color with a delicately serrated edge. Traditionally, it can be found combined withume (Japanese plums) and preserved in salt, adding flavor and a bright pink color toumeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). 

Our producer, Vegetable Park, grows their own red shiso on their farm in Nose, just outside of Osaka. The farm is run by Ayumu and Emi Ueda and their adorable young children (visit them at @vegetablepark). The couple faced numerous challenges when they first began farming in the region's unpredictable climate, yet have learned to embrace Mother Nature and to see the beauty in her creations. They now share their love of agriculture with their community and encourage everyone to come and visit their farm to experience the harvest of the land. All their products are also sustainably grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals. Their red shiso syrup captures the warm summer feeling of sipping a refreshing drink served by one’sobaachan (grandmother).

Ingredients:Granulated beet sugar (Hokkaido), redshiso (perilla leaves from Vegetable Park’s farm), organic lemon juice
Suggested uses:Mix with flat or sparkling water and pour over ice for a refreshing chilled drink (ratio syrup:water = 1:3-5). Can also add your favorite alcohol to make a fun cocktail. Use as a topping on desserts like yogurt, ice cream, or cake.

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