NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (December 2021) - Washoku: Traditions and Celebrations (和食)


Producer: Matsuoka Shiitake
Prefecture: Oita

At its core,washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) is about finding balance and harmony within a meal. The name itself comes from the kanji和食 (和 meaning “Japan” or “harmony” and’ 食 meaning “food”’ or “to eat”). The simplest type of meal in Japan isichiju-issai (lit. “one bowl, one dish”). Consisting of a bowl of miso soup and a side dish (with which rice is always served and typically sometsukemono or pickled items), this is said to be the basic balanced meal and shows the importance of a bowl of miso soup. 

Miso soup is made by adding a fermented miso paste to dashi* - an essential broth in Japanese cuisine that when combined with salt draws out umami and flavor from other ingredients. For the base of this miso soup, Matsuoka Shiitake uses a local blend of soybean, rice and barley miso from Oita Prefecture and umami rich bonito and kelp dashi. To this they addnegi (green onions),wakame (a salty, mildly sweet seaweed) and their special shiitake mushrooms. 

Deep in the quiet mountains of Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, Matsuoka Shiitake has been cultivating umami-rich shiitake mushrooms, using a natural and very time-consuming method, for over 100 years. Mushroom seed fungus is first planted into the cut logs ofkunugi(Japanese sawtooth oak trees), and left to grow for two years in the cold, dark mountain forests away from sunlight, before finally being harvested one by one in late November to February. The lengthy growing period allows for the shiitake to become succulent and juicy with a distinct earthy, sweet flavor. They are then dried for 24 hours which further concentrates their umami flavors and rich aroma.

This miso soup was created totaste like a family's homemade miso from the days when everyone would gather around a table to enjoy a meal together.

*You can sample a variety of Japanese dashi in our Dashi: “Umami” Care Package

Ingredients:Mixed miso (soybeans, rice, barley from Oita Prefecture), shiitake mushrooms (from Oita Prefecture), green onions,bonito konbu dashi (skipjack tuna and kelp stock), dried wakame seaweed, starch
Suggested uses:Place the contents of the packet in a bowl, add 160ml of hot water, stir, and enjoy.

Producer: Yamashiroya

Goma (sesame seeds) find their way into many Japanese dishes, adding a subtle nutty, buttery flavor. They’re so integral in Japanese cuisine that Japan has become the largest importer of sesame seeds in the world. There are three main types of sesame seeds in Japan: white, black and golden, with golden being the most rare. This Gomaae Seasoning allows you to easily make a popular Japanese side dish consisting of blanched greens in a sesame dressing, which is full of umami flavor given the carefully selected additional seasonings.

Yamashiroya was established by its founding mother, Sada Sanada, in 1904. The Sanada family had been rice merchants for 300 years in Kagawa Prefecture before starting Yamashiroya as a wholesaler of dried sardines gathered by local fishermen. The business grew and prospered for decades until it was completely destroyed in World War II. Driven by the desire to continue the family business, Yamashiroya was reestablished in 1946 as a trading company of dried foods in Osaka and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004. The company was then moved to Kyoto, where they’re located today. Their produce is grown by hand and relies on the wisdom and experience of their farmers who cultivate the rich soil, resulting in high-quality crops. After being run by four generations of women, the company is now in its fifth generation and is run by the family’s young son. 

Ingredients:Ground golden sesame seeds, sugar, glucose, soy sauce powder (including wheat and soybeans), salt, bonito and mackerel powder, yeast extract, kelp powder
Suggested uses:Add 3 tbsp (about 20g) to about 100g of boiled and squeezed greens (such as spinach, broccoli, mustard spinach, green beans, etc.) and mix.Can also be mixed with mayonnaise to create a dressing for vegetables. Try it in the Sesame Tamagoyaki and Sesame Green Beans with Mayorecipes provided.


Producer:Takahashi Foods

Located on the southern tip of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hakodate (also known as the “city of gourmet food”) was one of the first port cities in Japan to open up to international trade and is famous for its fresh seafood, quality agriculture, and stunning nature. It’s here that Takahashi Foods follows in the footsteps of their forebears by continuing to carefully prepare their local products by hand using traditional methods and only the finest ingredients.

Unlike other manufacturers that use additives and huge steam kettles, Takahashi Food makes their small batchtsukudani (simmered foods) without chemical seasonings in pots cooked over an open fire, which evenly distributes the heat and helps to absorb the flavors of the sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. They skim off any impurities while cooking so you’ll notice the lack of odor and natural flavors. It’s a time consuming process, yet results in a richly deep umami taste. By using these methods passed down through generations, Takahashi Foods is helping to preserve Hakodate's food culture while sharing their local specialties with you.




The tradition of servingosechi ryōri (New Year’s meal) started in Japan over one thousand years ago. Each individual dish represents a wish for good health, happiness, and prosperity and are all carefully packed into colorful, lacquered boxes calledjubako. One of these seasonal foods is a delicatekonbu (kelp) roll known askobumaki.

90% of Japan’s konbu is harvested in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, where mineral-rich water provides a nutrient-dense environment for some of the world’s best konbu to grow. Each cultivation area produces a different tasting konbu based on the unique characteristics of the waters. Tough and difficult to digest on its own, konbu must be cooked for a long time to soften and draw out its refined sweetness and rich umami flavor. Takahashi Food uses young kelp which has a short growing period, and is softer and brighter in color. It is then simmered in essential Japanese seasonings such as sugar, soy sauce andhon (true) mirin before being filled with local cod roe from Hokkaido to create these sweet and savory rolls. The konbu is a symbol of joy and happiness while the roe is a symbol of fertility.

Ingredients:Konbu (kelp) (from Hokkaido), sugar, soy sauce, cod roe (from Hokkaido),hon (true) mirin (includes wheat and soy)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.



In addition to beingJapan’s largest source of high-quality seafood, Hokkaido also contains almost a quarter of Japan’s arable land, making it the country’s largest agricultural producer. These Soybean Scallops offer you a taste of both the land and the sea as Tamafukura soybeans (a regional variety of large, dense soybean) and juicy, locally harvested scallops (a popular gift from Hokkaido) are simmered in sugar, soy sauce, andhon (true) mirin. Beans are also traditionally eaten on New Year’s in Japan as a symbol of good health and strength.

Ingredients:Soybeans (from Hokkaido), scallops (from Hokkaido), sugar, soy sauce,hon (true) mirin (includes wheat and soy)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.


Producer:Kutsuma Seifun

Toshikoshi soba (lit. “year-crossing soba”) is enjoyed on New Year’s Eve in Japan as the noodles are easily cut, representing a letting go of the past year. To make these Shosaku Soba, unpolished brown buckwheat flour from Tadoshi, Hokkaido is carefully milled with a stone mortar, using a secret method that has been perfected over many years. Its name is a tribute to the producer of the buckwheat, Mr. Shosaku Takahashi, and his passion for buckwheat production. The noodles are very thin and light in color with a moderate amount of sweetness and nuttiness from the soba.

Kutsuma Seifun has been specializing insoba (buckwheat) flour milling since its establishment in 1903 and continues to produce soba noodles following the wisdom of their ancestors. These noodles are made from a single origin soba powder sourced from a local farm run by Shosaku Takahashi, in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island. Given that soba noodles are notoriously difficult to make, it takes years of practice and experience to properly craft these noodles. These noodles are the product of long partnerships with past generations and Mr Kutsuma's experience in making custom soba noodles and broths for the restaurants he consults. Kutsuma Seifun encourages you to make a loud slurpingsound, known aszuru zuru, as you enjoy these noodles. This is encouraged in Japan as it helps to enhance the aroma and flavor of the noodles and sauce, while paying compliments to the chef!

Ingredients:Soba (buckwheat) flour, wheat flour, yams, salt
Suggested uses:Boil a large pot of water over high heat. Once boiling, add the soba noodles and stir a couple of times. When the water boils again, turn down the heat to prevent the water from overflowing and boil the noodles for 4-5 mins. Strain the noodles under cold water until the water runs clear and serve. Use the Konbu Tsuyu included in this Care Package to make a dipping/hot broth to serve with your noodles.


Producer:Seiwa Shokuhin
Prefecture: Okinawa

Tsuyu is a commonly used soup base found in numerous Japanese dishes including noodles, rice bowls, hot pots and as a dipping sauce. Made from a collection of some of Japan’s most iconic ingredients, tsuyu is full of umami and increases the depth of flavor in dishes. The quality of each ingredient is important to achieve the perfect balance of taste without being overpowering. This particular tsuyu includeskonbu (kelp),bonito (skipjack tuna), and shiitake mushrooms which together provide all three amino acids responsible for creating umami. It also includes organic soy sauce, a touch of sugar for sweetness, and honjozo - a type of sake in which a small amount of alcohol, known as  "brewer's alcohol" or pure distilled alcohol, is added during the fermentation process, after the yeast has fermented the sugar in the sake. The addition of this alcohol produces a lighter, less potent, smoother tasting sake.

Seiwa Shokuhin is located in Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost tropical islands. The company has thrived for over 30 years, producing unique products made using local ingredients. The son of the founder dreams of the day that he can pass down the business to his child to continue making island specialties for generations to come.

Ingredients:Organic soy sauce, kelp extract, bonito dashi, dried shitake mushroom, sugar, sweet sake, salt, fermented wheat sauce, starch, fermented extract (includes wheat and soy)
How to prepare: To make a cold dipping sauce, mix the package 1:2 tsuyu:cold water. For a hot noodle soup, mix the packet 1:5-7 tsuyu:hot water. You can also add chopped green onions, wasabi or a dash ofHontaka Shichimi Togarashi(Seven Spice Blend) from our Creative Beginnings: Redefining “Wa” Care Package.


Producer:Natural Attorait

Wagashi are intricate Japanese confectionery made from seasonal ingredients. Often as beautiful as they are delicious, wagashi are not overly sweet and have a deep history in Japan, being served in the traditional tea ceremony as well as during holidays and celebrations.

One example iskanten -a firm, jelly-like treat made from seaweed, making it completely vegan-friendly and gluten-free. By itself, kanten has no flavor and is the perfect base to highlight the different ingredients it’s combined with.

To make this matcha kanten, Natural Attorait usesorganic matcha from Wazuka Town in Uji, Kyoto. Surrounded by mountains, clear air, quiet greenery and clean water from the Kizu River, Wazuka is located in the southern part of Kyoto in the city of Uji -the second oldest tea-growing region in Japan. Green teas from Uji, known simply asujicha (or Uji tea), became popular among Japanese nobility over 800 years ago during the Kamakura era and are considered the most refined teas in Japan. To make matcha, the fine vibrant green powder used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the leaves are shaded from sunlight three weeks prior to harvest which increases chlorophyll production and results in a brighter green color and a slightly sweeter taste. And instead of being rolled like other green teas, the leaves are laid flat so that the stems and veins can be removed before being ground into the fine powder known as matcha. 

Natural Attorait produces organicmatcha which meets the rigorous and strict organic requirements set forth byJAS (Japanese Agricultural Standards), covering everythingfrom cultivation to processing and bagging (such as having cultivated their tea leaves on a farm that has not used pesticides or chemical fertilizers for more than 3 years). This produces a higher quality matcha with a deep flavor profile you can savor in these bitter sweet treats.

Ingredients:Sugar, starch, organic matcha (from Kyoto), agar, konjac powder
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is. Best served cold. Pairs well with a cup of tea available in our Japanese Green & Specialty Teas: “Ryu” Care Package.

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