NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (February 2024) - Hokkaido (北海道): Gifts from Northern Japan

Shio Konbu (Salted Kelp)
Shio Konbu (Salted Kelp) (塩昆布)
Producer: Ohashi Suisan
Prefecture:Hokkaido

Ingredients:
Mitsuishi kelp from Hidaka, soy sauce, sugar, salt, brewed vinegar (includes wheat and soy)
Suggested uses: Extremely versatile, use in onigiri (rice balls), on rice, in stir fries, pastas, salads, or omelets/scrambled eggs. Can also be chopped into sauces or dressings, used as a seasoning instead of salt, or added to any of your favorite dishes for an extra layer of umami.
Storage:Room temperature or refrigerate after opening.

Shio konbu (salted kelp) is an essential part of Japanese cuisine and is found in almost every home in Japan. Thick dense edible kelp known as konbu is tough and difficult to digest on its own, and therefore must be cooked for a long time, drawing out its umami characteristics. To make shio konbu, strips of konbu are boiled in traditional Japanese flavors to soften them, then cut into bite sized pieces. It can then be used to add balanced salty yet sweet flavors to any dish.

90% of Japan’s konbu is harvested in Hokkaido, where mineral-rich, ice cold water flowing down from Siberia provides a nutrient-dense environment for some of the world’s best konbu to grow. Each specific cultivation area produces a different tasting konbu based on the unique characteristics of the waters.

Mitsuishi konbu (also known as Hidaka konbu) can grown up to 7-23 ft tall and is thinner than other konbu. It has a blackish dark green color and is softer than other konbu, making it easier to boil. It has a clean, crisp umami-flavor that is excellent as a base for shio konbu.

Ohashi Suisan recently celebrated their 70th anniversary and continues to make products with the motto of “Delicious for today and tomorrow”.

Single Origin Shosaku Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)
Single Origin Shosaku Soba (Buckwheat Noodles) (庄作そば)
Producer:Kutsuma Seifun
Prefecture:Kanagawa

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 Rishiri Konbu Concentrated Soba Dipping Sauce included in this Care Package to make a dipping/hot broth to serve with your noodles.
Storage: Room temperature.

To make this 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.

Kutsuma Seifun has been specializing in soba 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. It takes years of practice and experience to properly craft these noodles given how notoriously difficult they are to make. 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.

Rishiri Konbu Concentrated Soba Dipping Sauce (国産無添加濃縮つゆ)
Rishiri Konbu Concentrated Soba Dipping Sauce (国産無添加濃縮つゆ)
Producer:Ichikara Farms
Prefecture:Niigata

Ingredients:Soy sauce (domestic, non-GMO soybeans), mirin, sugar, sodabushi (bonito flakes), salt, kelp
Suggested uses:These are concentrated, single serving packages. To use as a dipping sauce for zaru soba (cold soba) dilute 1:4 with water. As a hot noodle soup for kake soba (warm soba), dilute 1:6-7 with hot water. Can also be used in simmered dishes and stir fries.

As important as the noodles themselves is the umami-rich noodle soup it comes in. This additive-free concentrated soup includes only domestic ingredients which have been carefully selected to provide a deep, umami flavor with balanced hints of sweetness and saltiness. The raw soy sauce is made using whole domestic soybeans, the mirin is a special type of mirin known as mikawa mirin from Aichi Prefecture, the sugar is a medium soft, coarse crystal, the katsuobushi is from a specific tuna called sodabushi from Kochi Prefecture, the salt is from Goto Island in Nagasaki and the kelp is a luxurious rishiri konbu from Hokkaido Prefecture. Rishiri konbu is cultivated in the extreme north of Hokkaido and has a slightly harder texture than other konbu with a strong deep flavor.

And remember,when enjoying noodles in Japan, you are encouraged to make a loud slurping sound, known as “zuru zuru”, as it helps to enhance the aroma and flavor of the noodles and sauce, while paying compliments to the chef!

Ichikara Farms is located in Uonuma in the snowy region 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.

Hokkaido Seaweed Salad
Hokkaido Seaweed Salad (5種類の海藻サラダミックス)
Producer:Noto Foods/Konbumura
Prefecture:Hokkaido

Ingredients: Funori, dulse, wakame, gagome kelp, ma-konbu ("true" kelp)
Suggested uses: To rehydrate, put in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Let sit for 10mins then drain in a colander. Serve with a splash of ponzu*. Can also be added directly to soup or miso soup (wash first). Please note that seaweed expands quite a bit when rehydrated.
Storage:Room temperature once opened. In the fridge once made..

Seaweed salad (known as kaiso salad) is a mixture of nutritious and delicious seaweed that can be enjoyed on its own or added to salads, soups or other dishes for a boost of umami. This seaweed salad includes five different types of seaweed - funori, dulse, wakame, gagome kelp and ma-konbu ("true" kelp) - all sourced from the fishing village of Osatube located on the eastern coast of Hokkaido. Surrounded by mineral rich waters, Hokkaido produces some of Japan's best seaweed and here they're combined in a specific ratio that allows you to enjoy each seaweed's unique characteristics.

Konbumura works with local fishermen who are familiar with the local sea and know the best times to harvest the different varieties of seaweed. They hand make each of their seaweed salads with five unique types of seaweed that represent the sea of Hokkaido.

Konbumura’s seaweed salad is not only packed with health-benefits, it is delicious and easy to use. The CEO, Tamae Noto, is a busy working mother who hopes that everyone can easily cook and enjoy Konbumura’s seaweed. They offer a range of high-quality products, which can be easily incorporated into everyday cooking. 
Baked Scallop Mantle (Frill) Snack
Baked Scallop Mantle (Frill) Snack (ほたて焼き貝ひも)

Producer:Hokkaido Hinode Shokuhin
Prefecture:Hokkaido

Ingredients: Boiled scallop mantle (frill) (from Hokkaido), sugar, salt, konbu dashi, bonito dashi, shiitake dashi, sardine fish sauce
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is. Pairs great with alcohol including sake!
Storage:Room temperature.

In this otsumami (food that pairs with alcohol), the mantle or frill (known as “himo” in Japanese) of fresh scallops caught off the coast of Hokkaido are boiled in a seasoning made from a sardine fish sauce and a special, umami-rich stock made from konbu, bonito and shiitake that enhances the seafood flavors.

Hokkaido Hinode Shokuhin is known for their additive-free snacks and is located in Nemuro City in Hokkaido, the easternmost city in Japan. Tourists trek to Nemuro City to capture the first glimpse of sunrise as the sun peaks over the eastern horizon and to enjoy the city’s fresh local seafood.

Handmade Green Tea and Kinako (Roasted Soybean Powder) Neijiri (Soft Twisted Sweets) (緑茶きなこねじり)
Handmade Green Tea and Kinako (Roasted Soybean Powder) Neijiri (Soft Twisted Sweets) (緑茶きなこねじり)
Producer:Sapporo Daiichi Seika
Prefecture:Hokkaido

Ingredients: Kinako (roasted soybean powder) (includes soybeans), starch syrup, sugar, matcha (green tea), rice oil
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is.
Storage:Room temperature.

Kinako nejiri are a traditional Japanese sweet with a twisted shape that resembles the woven shimenawa ropes found at shrines in Japan and is said to bring good luck. They’re a nostalgic candy made from kinako, a roasted soybean powder with a slightly sweet, yet nutty flavor, that is commonly used as a topping for Japanese desserts. To make kinako nejiri, kinako is mixed with sugar to produce a thick dough which is stretched into thin sheets and sliced into bite-sized pieces. Unlike other producers that use machines to then twist their kinako nejiri, Sapporo Daiichi Seika’s skilled craftsmen twist these pieces by hand, creating its soft handmade charm. They have also added green tea which adds a traditional bittersweet, vegetal taste.

Sapporo Daiichi Seika is a small confectionery that was established in 1942 in Hokkaido’s capital city of Sapporo. They use simple ingredients and processes to create their sweets which, although not fancy, are full of flavor. Each ingredient is thoughtfully sourced to complement one another with craftsmen taking into account each day’s temperature and humidity to ensure that every sweet is of the highest quality.

Certified Organic Dattan Sobacha (Buckwheat Tea) (韃靼そば茶) (No caffeine)
Certified Organic Dattan Sobacha (Buckwheat Tea) (韃靼そば茶) (No caffeine)
Producer:Jinmon
Prefecture:Hokkaido

Ingredients: 100% organic Dattan soba (buckwheat)
Suggested uses: Add 1 Tbsp (~5g) (adjust to your liking) to 1L of boiling water. Can also be served chilled, enjoyed as is as a healthy snack or as a topping on salads, yogurt, ochazuke (rice with tea), when making rice, etc. You can also use the leftover soba from making the tea as a porridge or with yogurt.

Soba, the Japanese name for buckwheat, is 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 and aromatic nutty Japanese tea known as sobacha.

Awarded the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prize in 2008, this sobacha includes a new variety of whole roasted “Manten Kirari” Dattan (or Tartary) buckwheat which is organically grown in the town of Oma in Hokkaido. Dattan soba has more rutin and polyphenols compared to regular soba and is more aromatic with less bitterness. It is also certified organic, having met the rigorous process of the Japan Agricultural Standards (JAS). The resulting tea is full-bodied and buttery with a toasted nut-like flavor.

Jinmon is located in the Kamihoronai Village in Oma Town, which was once a rich agricultural producing region in Hokkaido. However, by 2006, most people had left the village and abandoned its fertile farmland. Jinmon began restoring the area in 2013, and by the end of 2015 had replenished ~150 hectares of farmland while helping to transform the village into Japan's northernmost Dattan soba producing region. 

 

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