NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (July 2021) - Zen and the Art of Mindful Eating (精進料理)


Producer:Kono Vinegar and Miso

Even the act of fermentation, the slow process through which microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria break down carbs, cannot be rushed. It relies on the patience of giving nature the space and time to work on its creation. 

Hishio, a dark brown, savory, semi-solid fermented mash (ormoromi), is made primarily from soybeans and salt, and is the predecessor of two cornerstone ingredients in Japanese cuisine: a paste (miso) and a liquid (shoyuor soy sauce).

Kono Vinegar and Miso produces this traditional hishio moromi in the Okayama region of Japan, which has its own regional variety made with eggplant and radish. To make this hishio moromi, Kono Vinegar and Miso uses natural soy sauce which has been aged in a cedar tub for two years. From start to finish, this hishio moromi is handmade following methods which have not changed for centuries. Hishio moromi is delicious when enjoyed as is and has a natural sweetness from the fermentation process. This savory, umami-filled paste will transform any of your dishes by enhancing the natural flavors of the ingredients and will become your new favorite paste.

Ingredients:Wheat, soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt), eggplant, radish
Suggested uses:Use to makeaemono (dressed foods) by mixing it as is with raw or cooked vegetables (including the Wood Ear Mushrooms). Create a simple dressing by mixing 1 tbsp of Hishio Moromi with 1 tbsp of mayonnaise or plain yogurt.Or mix 1tbsp of Hishio Moromi with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp vinegar and a pinch of sugar for sweetness if desired.Spread on pizza or bread, as a filling foronigiri (rice balls) or to season stir fries by mixing in at the very end.


Producer:Yamagataya Shōten

Fu (wheat gluten) is a chewy substance similar to dried bread and is what remains after the starch has been removed from wheat.Aburafu (deep fried fu) is made by shaping the wheat gluten into a long, baguette-like loaf, then deep frying it until crispy.

Buddhist monks created aburafu in the 12th century as a meatless source of protein which suited their vegan diet. With little taste of its own, aburafu absorbs the flavors of the sauces and seasonings it's paired with and has long been an important ingredient in many Shōjin Ryōri dishes including soups, stir fries, or stewed with vegetables. 

YamagatayaShōten produces their fu in Miyagi Prefecture, an area in Japan which produces wheat in addition to rice. It has been certified as both vegan and halal, for the many Muslims who live in Miyagi.

Ingredients:Wheat flour, gluten, vegetable oil (soybean oil)
Suggested uses:Use as an alternative to meat or fish in miso soup, curry, stir fries, rice porridge, or noodle dishes. For soup dishes, such as the Sendai-Fu Zosui (Japanese Rice Soup) recipe provided, you can add the fu as is. For stir-fried and simmered foods with less liquid, soak in warm water to rehydrate then squeeze to remove excess water. You can also eat the fu as is by sprinkling it with salt and enjoying it as a crunchy snack.


Producer:Niyodogawa Kikurage

Shōjin Ryōri focuses on the seasonal flavors of its natural ingredients, such as wood ear mushrooms, which can be found growing wild in the woods around temples and monasteries. With their distinctive texture and appearance, the mushrooms are easy to spot and forage. The mushrooms are best harvested in mid fall to early winter, and again in the early spring. Compared to other mushrooms, wood ears are high in protein and iron, as well as packed with vitamins and fiber. When cooked, they have a mild, earthy fragrance and firm, crunchy texture. Buddhist chefs treasure wood ear mushrooms for adding rich, savory umami notes to their dishes.

These wood ear mushrooms from Niyodogawa Kikurage are harvested in the mountains of Shikoku Island. Among the main islands of Japan, Shikoku is the smallest. It is scarcely populated and known for its pristine and largely unexplored nature. The mountains of Shikoku have gentle slopes and small peaks with farms nestled amongst the hills and clean rivers flowing through them. Our producer gets its name from Niyodogawa (the Niyodo River) which is famously known for the clarity of its waters. When enjoying the earthy flavors, try imagining the crisp flowing river.

Ingredients:Wood ear mushrooms
Suggested uses: To rehydrate, soak in lukewarm water for 40-60 mins. For a faster alternative, rehydrate by boiling in water for 20-25 mins. Note that when you rehydrate the mushrooms they will increase approximately 10 times in volume. To enjoy the natural taste and texture, simply dip in ponzu. Can also be thinly sliced and added to stir fries, soups or salads.Use to makeWood Ear Mushroom Tsukudani or in the Takikomi Gohan (Mixed Rice)using the recipes provided.


Producer:Suzuki Seika

Sansai (lit. “mountain vegetables”), which include a wide variety of plants, offer a range of diverse flavors, textures and nutrients for buddhist monks and are typically picked in the early spring just after the snow melts.

To create these Mixed Mountain Vegetables, our producer Suzuki Seika combines seven sansai varieties, includingwarabi (bracken), which are the young, long unopened heads of ferns,zenmai (fiddlehead ferns),nameko, a type of small, brown mushrooms with a slightly slimy coating,fuki (butterbur), whose stalks resemble celery and have an earthy, bitter flavor, bamboo shoots, and two rare sansai vegetables:mizu andsaku. Mizu grows in moist, deeply forested places in the mountains, and is a member of the nettle family. Saku stems are eaten and have a very bitter flavor so are salted to mellow the taste. All the vegetables in this mix are harvested in the early spring by Suzuki Seika’s team of more than 160 foragers. 

Ingredients:Warabi (bracken fern),nameko mushrooms,mizu (Japanese nettle), fuki (butterbur),saku(wild Japanese celery), fiddlehead fern, bamboo shoot, plum vinegar
Suggested uses:Boil for 1-2 mins before using. Enjoy as is with ponzu or miso. Use as a topping for warm noodle dishes, pasta or pizza, or in stir fries or the Takikomi Gohan (Mixed Rice) recipe provided.


Producer:Hijiri Foods

Among Shōjin Ryōri dishes,goma-dofu (sesame tofu) may be one of the best known. Making the dish from scratch is a very difficult process. The sesame must be ground for a long time to achieve the smooth texture of the final tofu. This task was often assigned to novice monks, as the hard work was considered good for building character. Compared to regular tofu, goma-dofu has a silky, almost custard-like texture with the toasted, nutty aroma of sesame seeds.

This Golden Sesame Tofu from Hijiri Foods is produced using the traditional Koyasan manufacturing method. Rather than using ground sesame paste, sesame milk is squeezed from sesame seeds. By using just the sesame milk, Hijiri Foods can achieve a remarkably smooth texture without the fibrous texture from sesame seeds. Twice as many sesame seeds are required, resulting in a richly nutty flavor. The sesame milk is then thickened using starch from high quality sweet potatoes andkuzu (the climbing vine often called kudzu in English).

Ingredients:Sesame tofu (roasted sesame, potato starch, washed sesame, kudzu starch), miso sauce [miso (including soybeans), sugar, mirin, sesame paste]
Suggested uses:Delicious when served chilled and topped with the miso sauce or soy sauce.


Producer:Inoue Tengyokudo

Kuzukiri is a refreshing traditional Japanese dessert made of transparent noodles with a soft, slippery texture that are drizzled or dipped intokuromitsu (lit. “black honey”), a dark thick sweet syrup made from unrefined Okinawan brown sugar known askokuto. Unlike typical syrups, kuromitsu has a deep, licorice flavor thanks to the multi-layered, complex flavor of Okinawa brown sugar.

The starch for kuzukiri comes from kudzu, a climbing vine which grows native in Japan. The entire plant is used: the leaves feed livestock, the stems are used for cloth, and the roots are dried and ground to make starch powder. The best quality starch is made by harvesting the roots in the cold of winter, which are then crushed, mixed with water, and squeezed to extract the starch. Kudzu starch has become a precious ingredient as the number of kudzu root foragers and areas where high quality kudzu can be harvested have decreased.

Ingredients:Kuzukiri (potato starch (produced in Japan), kudzu starch), kuromitsu sauce (brown sugar (produced in Okinawa), sugar, honey, glucose syrup)
Suggested uses:To make 2 servings as dessert, put ¼ of the package of kuzukiri in 1-2 L of boiling water and cook for 5 mins. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 mins. Once the noodles have softened, drain the noodles and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well and top with the kuromitsu sauce. Alternatively, you can add the noodles as is to soups and use the kuromitsu sauce separately on ice cream, cake, cookies, or other desserts.

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