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NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (June 2020) - Tōhoku (東北地方): Harvests from Northern Honshu

Tsugaru Sesame Senbei (Cracker)
Tsugaru Sesame Senbei (Cracker)
(津軽煎餅 ごま)
Producer: Shibukawa Seika
Prefecture: Aomori

Located on the west coast of Aomori, facing the Sea of Japan, Tsugaru is a picturesque village and agricultural center with only 30,000 residents. It’s here that our producer, Shibukawa Seika, has been producing their traditional senbei since 1912, delivering the warmth and taste of old-fashioned handmade crackers. Each Tsugaru senbei is made using the manufacturers’ own distinct mold and pattern. This Tsugaru Sesame Senbei is baked to provide a nostalgic hometown taste that is reminiscent of Tsugaru’s small community and is a mainstay at any local family gathering.

Suggested uses: Enjoy as is.
Ingredients: Wheat flour (from Japan), sesame, salt, baking soda
Nutritional information: N/A

 
IBURIGAKKO/SMOKED TAKUAN (PICKLED DAIKON RADISH)
(いぶりがっこ)
Producer: Yumekikaku
Prefecture: Akita

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 These days, hearths have been replaced by gas stoves and the winter tradition of making takuan has almost disappeared.

Our local producer, Yumekikaku, was founded by Sudo Kentaro when he was 60 years old with the dream of recapturing the original taste of hearth-smoked takuan. Made the traditional way, harvested daikon is smoked for up to two days over wooden fires and then soaked with rice bran for over 100 days. The pickles are lovingly called “golden storehouse” and the distinct flavor is immediately recognizable to anyone who grew up in Akita.

Suggested uses: Eat as is or slice and tuck inside a sandwich or hamburger instead of pickles. Also pairs well dipped in cream cheese.
Ingredients: Dried daikon radish, sugar, rice bran, salt
Nutritional information: (Per 100g) Calories: 117kcal, Total Fat: 0.2g, Sodium: 5.8g, Total Carbohydrate: 26.8g, Protein: 2.0g

SANRIKU SANMA (SAURY)
SANRIKU SANMA (SAURY)
(三陸さんま)
Producer: Senrei
Prefecture: Miyagi

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.

Suggested uses: Enjoy as is or can be warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds (500W) by peeling the lid back to the dotted line. Can also be added to pasta, in salads or on a bowl of rice. 
Ingredients: Saury fish (from Miyagi Prefecture), sugar, soy sauce (includes soy and wheat), salt, mirin, ginger, vinegar
Nutritional information: (Per 100g) Calories: 307kcal, Total Fat: 21.4g, Sodium: 1.7g, Total Carbohydrate: 8.8g, Protein: 19.9g

SPICY YAKINIKU (GRILLED MEAT) SAUCE
SPICY YAKINIKU (GRILLED MEAT) SAUCE
(焼肉のたれ(辛口))
Producer: Yagisawa Shoten
Prefecture: Iwate

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.

Suggested uses: Grill thinly sliced pieces of beef and use as a dipping sauce (this is known as yakiniku) or use it to season fried rice or stir fried vegetables.
Ingredients: Soy sauce (pure brewed), onion, apple, sugar, hon (true) mirin, tobanjan (fermented bean paste), honey, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame, lemon juice, black pepper (some ingredients may include wheat and soy)
Nutritional information: (Per 100g) Calories: 132kcal, Total Fat: 2.7g, Sodium: 5.3g, Total Carbohydrate: 23.1g, Protein: 3.9g

Seasoned Shio (Salt) Koji for Fish
Seasoned Shio (Salt) Koji for Fish
(塩こうじ 魚専用)
Producer: Kojiwadaya
Prefecture: Fukushima

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. 

This Seasoned Shio Koji from Kojiwadaya blends Japanese flavors (mirin) with non-traditional spices (lemon, basil and bay leaf). Despite other producers making their koji using machines, Kojiwadaya remains committed to making theirs by hand even though it is more time-consuming and requires more effort. They use the traditional koji lid manufacturing method, which relies on the skilled judgement of experienced makers and a great deal of care to manage the product. The koji is aged in wooden containers, resulting in better rice koji mold growth, more active enzymes, and a deeper aroma and flavor. 

Suggested uses: Use as a marinade to create a simple yet classic Japanese grilled fish dish following our recipe for Grilled Mackerel included (or use your favorite fish). You can also add it as seasoning for broth when simmering fish or as a marinade for sashimi such as octopus, squid, salmon and scallops using either equal parts shio koji and vinegar, or as much vinegar as you like and then topped with lemon juice.
Ingredients: Rice koji (domestic), rice (domestic), salt, mirin, ginger, lemon juice, basil, pepper, bay leaf, alcohol
Nutritional information: N/A

BROWN RICE TEA “DATECHA”
BROWN RICE TEA “DATECHA”
(玄米茶 伊達茶)
Producer: Yabeen
Prefecture: Miyagi

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. 

The green tea, or “Date tea”, is named after Date Masamune, a legendary Japanese warrior and leader from the early Edo period who also planted Japan’s northernmost tea and rice fields. The tea used in this brown rice tea blend is supported by 18th generation descendants of the Date family. 
The result is a multilayer of flavors and textures with grassy, herbaceous vigor from the green tea and creamy walnut and popcorn undertones from the roasted and puffed brown rice.

Suggested uses: Pour a cup of hot water (95°C/203°F) over one package of the brown rice tea. Wait for 30 seconds or more depending on your taste. Can also be poured over ice to make an iced tea.
Ingredients: Green tea, roasted brown rice, uguisu rice cracker (includes matcha)
Nutritional information: N/A