NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (December 2022) - Oshōgatsu: Japanese New Year Celebration (お正月)
BIG ROUND SOY SAUCE & KELP OKAKI (RICE CRACKER)
Rice crackers can be found in every shape, size and flavor in Japan. From savory to sweet, there’s a rice cracker to fit every occasion. In the winter and around New Years, many families in Japan gather around their kotatsu (low tables covered in a blanket with a heater below) to enjoy mikan (similar to mandarin oranges) and rice crackers.
This large, round rice cracker is characterized by its thick yet soft texture and is made by kneading Japanese glutinous rice with naturally brewed tamari soy sauce, hidaka konbu (kelp) and a special umami seasoning. Hidaka konbu is often used to make JapaneseOshōgatsu dishes as it’s easy to cook with and helps to create umami.
Osamado was founded in 1924 and makes all their rice crackers in-house using only high-quality, natural ingredients and no chemical seasonings. Each of their crackers is made in the spirit of people from the Edo Era.
Ingredients:Glutinous rice (domestic), vegetable oil, soy sauce (including wheat and soybeans), sugar, seasoning extract (kelp extract, dried bonito extract, shiitake mushroom extract, salt, oligosaccharide), kelp, chili seasoning liquid
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
SIMMERED “UMAMI” SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
Producer: Takahashi Shokuhin
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, is blessed with spacious land, abundant nature and a cooler climate that distinguishes it from the rest of Japan. Akin to Japan's “northern Europe”, Hokkaido’s thriving agriculture accounts for one-fourth of Japan's cultivated land and fisheries production.
One of Hokkaido’s local harvest is succulent juicy mushrooms. Japan is home to a wide variety of mushrooms, known as kinoko, which play an essential role in Japanese cuisine - from daily meals to special occasions such asOshōgatsu. Revered for their distinct meaty and smoky flavor, shiitake are likely the most well known Japanese mushroom and add umami to dishes when used as a dashi (broth) or whole.
Here shiitake are artfully simmered in traditional Japanese seasonings to make a type of tsukudani (simmered foods). Unlike other manufacturers that use additives and huge steam kettles to make their tsukudani, Takahashi Shokuhin’s small batches are made by hand using traditional methods and only the finest ingredients. Without using chemical seasonings, ingredients are cooked in pots over an open fire which evenly distributes the heat and helps to intensify the flavors. Impurities are also skimmed off to remove any odor. It’s a time consuming process, yet results in a rich, pure umami taste. By using these methods passed down through generations, Takahashi Shokuhin is helping to preserve Hakodate's food culture, a city known as the “city of gourmet food”.
Ingredients:Cooked shiitake (domestic) (shiitake mushroom (domestic), mixed dashi), white soy sauce, sugar, hon “true” mirin, (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses: Can be enjoyed as is but we recommend warming them slightly in a pan or microwave first.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.
NIKIRI MIRIN (NO ALCOHOL)
Mirin is a type of Japanese rice wine with a sweet, umami flavor that acts as a complement to saltier ingredients such as soy sauce and miso. It’s an essential seasoning in any Japanese pantry and is used both daily and for special occasions such asOshōgatsu which tends to have sweeter tasting dishes. The quality can range from hon-mirin (lit. “true” mirin) to mirin-like seasonings. One reason for this range is that hon-mirin is brewed from shochu resulting in a product that has about 14% alcohol content.
This mirin, however, has been boiled down to evaporate the alcohol. Known as nikiri mirin, it contains no alcohol yet preserves its complex, deep flavors. It’s made from domestic glutinous rice which is steamed for almost an hour before being cooled and mixed with rice koji and Kankyo Shuzo’s own kasutori shochu (a rare, traditional type of shochu). It’s then naturally fermented for about 2 months before being boiled and filtered. The resulting mirin is sweet with a strong flavor and clean aftertaste (in fact, the company’s name originates from “Make mirin with a strong sweetness and taste!”).
Kankyo Shuzu’s history dates back to 1862 with some of their buildings now being recognized as tangible cultural properties. Using old-fashioned techniques, they produce a variety of fermented foods such as mirin, sake and amazake.
Ingredients:Hon-mirin (glutinous rice, rice koji, shochu) (Aichi Prefecture)
Suggested uses:Extremely versatile, mirin adds sweetness and shine to Japanese dishes. Use as an alternative to sugar or honey in sauces or when cooking (it has half the sweetness of regular sugar). Pour on apples, ice cream, yogurt or pancakes, simmer with 1 apple with 150g of Nikiri Mirin to make apple compote, or use it in salad dressings or to make a pickling juice with the recipe provided.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening. If you notice some white lees in the mirin, please place the package in a bowl of boiled water until the white lees disappears.
TOSHIKOSHI YEAR-END SOBA (BUCKWHEAT NOODLES)
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. The noodles are made from soba, the Japanese name for buckwheat, which despite its name is not actually a type of wheat, but is a highly nutritious seed with a nutty, buttery flavor.
This soba is made from whole buckwheat seeds organically grown on Ichikara Farms’ land and includes a delicious soup made without preservatives. You are encouraged to make a loud slurping sound, known as “zuru zuru”, as you enjoy these noodles as it helps to enhance the aroma and flavor of the noodles and soup, while paying compliments to the chef!
Ichikara Farms is located in Uonuma in the snow country of Niigata Prefecture. The area was devastated by a large earthquake in 2004, yet the founder was able to transform an abandoned pasture into 30 hectares of organic buckwheat farmland while also supporting the local farmers and producers throughout his supply chain.
Ingredients:[Noodle] Wheat flour (domestic), buckwheat flour (100% organic buckwheat from Niigata Prefecture), vegetable oil (palm oil), potato starch (domestic, non-GMO), vegetable protein (non-GMO soybean, salt (Kagawa Prefecture) [Soup] Sugar (non-GMO Hokkaido beets), salt (Kanagawa Prefecture), powdered soy sauce (domestic, non-GMO soybeans), yeast extract, bonito flakes, kelp powder, malt extract, green onion, mackerel, antioxidant (vitamin E from soybeans) (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Boil 450ml of water, add the noodles and boil for 2½ mins. Prepare the soup by mixing the soup powder and 350ml of boiled water in a bowl. When the noodles are cooked, drain the hot water and add the noodles to the soup. Alternatively, put the noodles and soup powder in a bowl, pour in 400ml of boiled water and wait 4½ mins or boil the noodles in 450ml of boiling water for 2½ mins, turn off the heat, add the soup powder, mix and serve.
OOBUKUCHA (JAPANESE NEW YEAR’S GOOD LUCK TEA)
The tradition of oobukucha (Japanese New Year’s Good Luck Tea) began in the Heian period when an epidemic hit Kyoto. A priest from the Rokuharamitsuji Temple held a memorial service and drank tea as a blessing for good health and protection.
This variety of oobukucha combines green tea with two other traditional flavors from Japan: umeboshi (pickled plums) and sour pickled konbu (kelp). Based in Kyoto, a region famous for its green tea,Kyoto-Chanokura has been producing high-quality tea for over 200 years and only offers this special New Year’s celebration tea during the winter months.
Ingredients:Green tea, umeboshi (plum, shiso, salt), pickled konbu (kelp, salt)
Suggested uses:Steep in boiled water to your preferred strength.
NANAKUSA GAYU (SEVEN DRIED HERBS MIX)
Producer:Kodama Ikiiki Farm
After indulging over New Years, many Japanese enjoy a simple bowl of nanakusa gayu (seven herb rice porridge) on January 7th to cleanse their bodies and give their stomachs a chance to reset. However, finding these seven traditional herbs fresh outside Japan is nearly impossible. This dried mixture from Kodama Ikiiki Farm allows you to taste these special Japanese mountainside herbs in your home.
Kodama Ikiiki Farm grows entirely organic products in the countryside of Fukuyama city in Hiroshima Prefecture, an area known for its fresh agriculture. In addition to their commitment to producing high quality products, Kodama Ikiiki Farm works to create new and inventive ways for people to enjoy their local harvests. Notice the unique flavors of each herb as you enjoy this simple yet wholesome dish.
Ingredients:Daikon (radish) leaves (from Japan), salt, suzuna (turnip) leaves (from Hokkaido), hakobera (chickweed) (domestic), seri (water dropwort) (domestic), nazuna (shepherd’s purse) (from Hokkaido), hotokenoza (nipplewort) (from Hokkaido), gokyo (cudweed) (from Hokkaido)
Suggested uses:Add to miso soup, as a topping on egg dishes like omelets and scrambled eggs, or in the Nanakusa Gayu (Seven Herb Rice Porridge) recipe provided.