NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (February 2023) - The Japan Alps (日本アルプス)
Nozawana is a type of leafy mustard green from the same turnip family as daikon (Japanese radish). It’s a staple in Nagano Prefecture where its mild tasting leaves are often finely chopped and pickled.This special nozawana is flavored with traditional Shinshu (the olden name for Nagano) flavors including sesame oil and spicy chili peppers.
There are broadly two types ofnozawana pickles: asazuke, which are pickled for a short time, and kozuke, which are fermented for a long time. Takeuchi Nosan’s nozawana pickles are a type of asazuke as the short pickling time allows for the flavor of the ingredients to be tasted as naturally and fresh as possible - straight from the field to your table. The nozawana is harvested before dawn and only the best leaves are selected to be pickled that same day. The leaves are first cooled in ice water to preserve the bright green color, crispy texture and freshly picked flavor. They are then expertly pickled with careful attention to the amount of salt (sun-dried salt is used for its mild saltiness), the weight placed on top to drain the water and the temperature - all of which affect the thickness, hardness and moisture content. Once pickled, they are washed using underground water in both a special washing machine and by hand, with only the highest quality product being selected for packaging. This is all done with traceability from the quality of the soil during cultivation through to production and packaging.
Surrounded by beautiful nature, Takeuchi Nosan is located deep in the mountains of Nagawa-machi Chiisagata-gun, in the center of Nagano Prefecture. During the Edo period (1603-1867), the area flourished as "Wada-juku," the 28th post station located on the Nakasendo trail which connected Kyoto with Edo (now Tokyo). The entire Nakasendo route in Wada has been designated as a national historic site.
Ingredients:Nozawana, soy sauce, dashi (katsuobushi (bonito flakes), sababushi (mackerel flakes), shiitake mushrooms, konbu (kelp)), sugar, refined sake, hon “true” mirin, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, ginger, sesame, chili pepper, antioxidant (vitamin C, vitamin E) (includes wheat, soybeans, sesame and mackerel)
Suggested uses:Extremely versatile, enjoy as is as a side dish, as a snack with alcohol, in fried rice, stir fries, pastas, omelets, ochazuke (rice with tea), on pizza, as a topping for ramen or rice, or as a filling for onigiri (rice balls). Try adding them to theNozawana Oyaki recipe provided.
Storage:Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.
With a texture similar to dumplings, hōtō udon are thick, rustic noodles that are wider and doughier than regular udon noodles. They’re traditionally made by kneading dough in wooden bowls which is then stretched out to dry before being folded and cut into hearty, homestyle noodles. Unique to Yamanashi Prefecture and the Kanto region of Japan, these noodles are best enjoyed by boiling them in a miso or dashi based soup along with pumpkin and mushrooms, known as nikomi udon (try them in the Hōtō Udon Hot Pot recipe provided).
Arikawa Shouji, founded in 1973, spent over a decade developing these special noodles, using proprietary techniques that help to maintain their freshness and old-fashioned taste. In fact, the president himself tries every batch to ensure they pass his high standards!
Ingredients:Wheat flour, salt, potato starch
Suggested uses:Unique to these noodles, they don’t need to be pre-cooked and can be added directly into a hot noodle soup as you cook the other ingredients. Follow the recipe provided to make a Hōtō Udon Hot Pot and feel free to use any vegetables or protein you have on hand. Can also be enjoyed cold by boiling in water for about 1mins before draining under cold water and serving with a dipping sauce (Make a simple dipping sauce by boiling 100ml of mirin until the alcohol has evaporated (or boil lightly for 30 secs if using non-alcohol mirin). Add 100ml of soy sauce* and boil for another 20-30 secs. Then dissolve in 1 Tbsp dashi powder*. Store in the fridge until cool and dilute 3-5x with water).
ORGANIC WALNUT AND MISO & WALNUT SAUCE
Walnuts may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about Japanese food, but Nagano Prefecture, with its minimal rainfall and plenty of sunshine, is Japan’s leading walnut producing region. This leads to some unique local specialties such as kurumi soba (soba noodles dipped in a walnut sauce).
These organic walnut sauces allow you to try local Nagano walnuts in a variety of dishes. Made from organic walnuts grown using agricultural methods which do not rely on chemical pesticides or fertilizers, the walnut sauce showcases natural walnut flavor while the miso and walnut sauce includes another local specialty, Shinshu miso (also included in the Care Package and available for purchase as a single item in our Market: Michi no Eki). Shinshu is the olden feudal name of Nagano and produces its own all-purpose miso made from rice koji, soybeans and salt. Its mild flavor perfectly complements the nutty flavor of walnuts (in fact, it took Bioca two years to create the right balance of flavors!). Another addition, creating a sweet undertone, is kokuto (black sugar from Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost tropical islands). Kokuto is made from pure, local sugarcane juice that is boiled down to create a natural, licorice-tasting sugar.
Bioca, whose name combines “Bio” meaning organic and “ca” meaning gorgeous, valuable, home, and capable, was established in 1996 and later relocated to the nature-rich town ofShinshūshinmachi inNagano.They believe “Choosing organic food is a way to create one’s future self”.
Ingredients:[Walnut] Organic soy sauce (includes wheat), organic walnuts, organic sugar, organic kokuto (Okinawa black sugar), organic cornstarch, salt [Miso & Walnut] Organic red miso (Shinshu miso), organic sugar, organic walnuts, organic kokuto (Okinawa black sugar), salt
Suggested uses:Use in hot pots (such as theHōtō Udon Hot Pot recipe provided), as a dipping sauce for noodles (combine one packet with 1.5 Tbsp water), in tofu dishes, as a sauce for cooked vegetables, meat, fish or deep fried foods such as tonkatsu (pork cutlets), to marinate meat or fish to make a teriyaki dish, as a side dish dressing for boiled thinly sliced pork and onions, on rice cakes, or even on vanilla ice cream!
SHINSHU MISO (AGED 2 YEARS)
Although it may be best known for making soup, miso is a savory, umami-rich fermented paste that has a place in anything from stews to salad dressings.
For 120 years, Marusho Jozo has been using traditional manufacturing methods to hand make their products. They select high-quality local soybeans, rice, and natural spring water, then by using the brewery's unique old-fashioned manufacturing method and natural microorganisms, they carefully age their miso for two years. This all-purpose Shinshu miso is characterized by a faint acidity, a fully-aged, rich umami, and a balanced timeless taste.
Ingredients:Soybeans (domestic), rice, salt, alcohol
Suggested uses: Extremely versatile, use it to make miso soup, hot pot soups as in the Hōtō Udon Hot Pot recipe provided, sauces to stir fry vegetables such as eggplants in miso, marinades for vegetables, meat or fish, simmered dish such as mackerel simmered in miso, or create a salad dressing by combining it with oil, honey (or mirin or sugar) and a bit of citrus juice.
Storage:Refrigerate after opening.
BLACK SESAME KOKUSEN (CRACKER)
Kokusen is a sweet Japanese cracker made by kneading together roasted sesame seeds, starch syrup and soybean flour. A local specialty from the mountainous Hida region of Gifu, kokusen has been loved since the Edo period. Utsuboya's nostalgic and heartwarming kokusen is handmade in Takayama city by skilled craftsmen using the same methods since ancient times. It has a particularly fragrant roasted sesame flavor and aroma, and a delightful crispy texture. Takayama is called the "Little Kyoto of Hida" for its scenery and old-fashion castles and streets that have been preserved since the Edo period.
Utsuboya is a long-established “dagashi'' candy store that was founded in 1890. Akin to penny candy, dagashi are bite-sized, brightly colored candies and snacks that became popular after World War II. Dagashi culture took root in three regions in Japan - Hida, Banshu (now Hyogo) and Sendai - using ingredients unique to each area. Hida is a land rich in nuts and grains so the main ingredients for Hida dagashi are soybeans, sesame seeds, and peanuts. Utsuboya’s 30 different kinds of Hida dagashi are made by following the same process that has been handed down since the company's founding and is loved by all generations.
Ingredients:Roasted black sesame seeds (domestic), starch syrup, sugar, kinako (roasted soybean flour), soybeans
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is. Pairs well with a cup of tea from our Japanese Green & Specialty Teas: “Ryu” Care Package.
SOBACHA (BUCKWHEAT TEA)
Soba, the Japanese name for buckwheat, is most commonly used as a key ingredient in one of Japan’s most popular noodles. Not actually a type of wheat, soba is a highly nutritious seed that can also be roasted to create a traditional Japanese tea known as sobacha. This sobacha has an amber color when brewed with a mellow, nutty flavor and aroma, without astringency or bitterness.
Nikkoku Seifun contributes to regional development while cooperating with the local people of Shinshu. Nagano is known for its food quality and longevity and Nikkoku Seifun continues to share the wisdom of their predecessors to create foods that are made with a focus on environmental conservation for the future.
Ingredients:Soba (buckwheat seeds) (domestic)
Suggested uses:Put one tea bag in a cup and pour over 180ml of boiling water. Steep for about 1 minute. Shake the tea bag until the tea reaches your desired strength. Remove the tea bag and enjoy.