NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (June 2020) - Tōhoku (東北地方): Harvests from Northern Honshu
Producer: Shibukawa Seika
You might have eaten takuan before without even knowing it! These thin slices of crunchy, yellow daikon radish are pickled in rice bran and salt are often found in sushi rolls or served as a side dish. They have a delicate vinegar flavor, which balances the sweet, salty, and umami tastes of many Japanese dishes.
Pickled foods are an integral part of Japanese cuisine, with many families having their own homemade recipes using local ingredients. Smoked takuan, also known as iburigakko, used to be a common winter tradition in Akita Prefecture. Large central hearths, which were used to warm homes during the harsh snowy winters, also served as a place to cook. Fresh daikon was hung over the fire, letting them slowly dry - the first step in making smoked takuan. These days, hearths have been replaced by gas stoves and the winter tradition of making takuan has almost disappeared.
Along the Sanriku coast, a beautiful rocky shoreline with steep bays and cliffs that extend from southern Aomori Prefecture, through Iwate Prefecture, up to northern Miyagi Prefecture, you’ll find the small fishing town of Onagawa and some of Japan’s freshest Pacific saury or mackerel pike, known as sanma. The kanji used for the fish translates to “autumn knife fish” based on its peak season and knife-like shape. It’s commonly salted and grilled whole, topped with grated daikon and served alongside a bowl of rice and miso soup.
Thanks to Senrei’s Sanriku Saury, you can now enjoy the tastes of Japan’s Pacific Ocean year round. Fresh saury brought into the port at Sanriku Onagawa, one of the world’s three largest fishing grounds, are processed the same day to preserve their quality and freshness. The fish are then gently simmered with traditional Japanese seasonings and fresh ginger to create a balanced yet distinct flavor. The whole fish is used, including the bones, which are soft, highly nutritious and packed with calcium.
Learn more about this innovating company and how they’re helping to transform the global fishing industry in our Producer Spotlight.
Producer: Yagisawa Shoten
Across Japan, as well as the world, wagyu beef has become famous for its fine marbling and melt in your mouth flavor. Over 200 brands of wagyu are available in Japan, with certain areas boasting their own regional specialities. Iwate Prefecture, the home of Yagisawa Shoten, prides itself on its Tankaku wagyu, a rare type of wagyu produced only in this area. It’s leaner than common wagyu with less fat and a robust umami flavor and is best enjoyed grilled as Japanese BBQ (or yakiniku).
Tankaku wagyu was the inspiration for this Spicy Yakiniku Sauce which carries savory, sweet and spicy flavors with bold sesame notes to create a Japanese take on BBQ sauce. Made without any oil, it combines the natural sweetness from sauteed onions, fresh apples, and honey with the salty, umami flavor of the pure brewed soy sauce.
This Spicy Yakiniku Sauce also has remarkable roots. In 2011, a large tsunami destroyed the facilities of Yagisawa Shoten. Miraculously the moromi, a fermenting blend of barley, koji, yeast, and water which acts as a starter for soy sauce fermentation, safely survived and remained untouched. That moromi helped create the soy sauce - dubbed “miracle soy sauce” - which forms the base of this Spicy Yakiniku Sauce.
Learn more about the "miracle" soy sauce used to make this products in our Producer Spotlight.
Shio koji is a natural seasoning used in Japanese cuisine to marinate, tenderize, and draw out the umami in foods. It’s typically made from just three ingredients: salt, water, and rice koji (also known as aspergillus oryzae - the live mold behind miso, soy sauce, and sake). It can also be used as a salt substitute, sharpening the flavors in food while adding a subtle underlying sweetness.
Ingredients: Rice koji (domestic), rice (domestic), salt, mirin, ginger, lemon juice, basil, pepper, bay leaf, alcohol
Nutritional information: N/A
This Brown Rice Tea has a soothing, nutty flavor and is a unique blend of two classic Japanese flavors: brown rice and green tea. Miyagi Prefecture produces over 40,000 tons of rice a year and is recognized around Japan for its high quality rice. Over 80 rivers and streams bring abundant clean water and nutrients to the 100 year old rice fields that locals have been farming for over 10 generations. The brown rice used in this tea is made from a special late-ripening rice called Kaguyahime rice.