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NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (November 2020) - Kanagawa (神奈川): Seaside Gateway to Japan

KAMAKURA DAIBUTSU CANDY
KAMAKURA DAIBUTSU CANDY 

(鎌倉大仏あめ)
Producer: Dagashiya Kamakura Hase
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Daibutsu (large Buddha sculptures) can be spotted throughout Japan, but these Kamakura Daibutsu candies are modeled after the Great Buddha of Kamakura. At a height of 11.4 meters, the Kamakura Daibutsu is the one of the tallest bronze Buddha sculptures in Japan. Cast over 800 years ago, the sculpture has survived multiple typhoons and tsunamis which destroyed the surrounding temple buildings. It now stands as one of Kamakura’s most popular and awe-inspiring sights. 

To make these special candies, a modeler from Takaoka City in Toyama Prefecture was asked to create a miniature representation of the Kamakura Daibutsu to capture its likeness and to spread the Buddha’s wishes for strong relationships and good fortune. 

Ingredients: Sugar, starch syrup, oligosaccharide (dietary fiber) 
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is. Let the candies dissolve slowly in your mouth to savor the well wishes of the Great Buddha.
Nutritional information: N/A 

NATTO KOJI PASTE

NATTO KOJI PASTE
(納豆麹)
Producer: Toyokuniya
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Fermentation, a centuries old technique originally used in Japan to preserve food, is renowned worldwide as a way to naturally enhance the flavors of ingredients and to increase nutrient availability. One classic fermented food in Japan is natto: gooey, sticky fermented soybeans. On its own, natto can be an acquired taste, yet Toyokuniya has transformed this traditional food into a delicious and savory rich paste which is a true local specialty.

Though most soybeans eaten in Japan were once produced domestically, almost 90% are now imported, as local Japanese farmers struggle to compete with cheaper, foreign-produced soybeans. Toyokuniya grows an heirloom variety of domestic soybeans called “Tsukui soybean” which have become so rare they are known as “phantom soybeans.” Larger than regular soybeans, they have a rich flavor and high natural sweetness, lending to a nutty taste similar to chestnuts. Masahiro and Kayoko Okamoto, the owners of Toyokuniya, have three small children and this natto koji paste is the result of looking for creative and healthy ways to feed them. They hope their foods will inspire the next generation of farmers to continue producing this rare bean.

Ingredients: Natto (from Kanagawa), soy sauce, rice, rice malt
Suggested uses: Use as a topping on rice or in onigiri (rice balls), as a spread on toast or crackers with cream cheese, mixed with mayo or greek yogurt as a dip for vegetables, or added to marinades for chicken or fish.
Nutritional information: N/A

IWAI’S SESAME CHILI OIL

IWAI’S SESAME CHILI OIL
(純正ごま辣油)
Producer: Iwai
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Sesame oil is one of the hidden treasures of the Japanese pantry. It’s distinguished, nutty flavor is used in everything from stir frying earthy vegetables such as gobo to delicately dressing blanched spinach. 

For over 150 years, Iwai has been using traditional techniques to produce their sesame oil. Their sesame seeds are carefully roasted before being pressed twice. The first press produces the finest oil called ichiban shibori, followed by a second press which extracts the remaining oil. The oil is then filtered to remove any impurities. The result is a richly colored yet transparent sesame oil with a nutty, caramel taste. For this special blend, Iwai combines their sesame oil with chili peppers which add a subtle spiciness and gentle heat. 

Ingredients: Sesame oil, chili pepper
Suggested uses: Use in stir fries, drizzle on cooked eggs or tofu, add a dash to dressings, soups, tomato sauces or dipping sauces such as the one for the wind somen, or mix with vinegar to make a dipping sauce for gyoza.
Nutritional information: N/A

WIND SOMEN

WIND SOMEN
(風のそうめん)
Producer: Kaneko Seimen
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Like the angel hair of Japan, somen are very thin white noodles usually only 1mm in diameter. The slender shape makes them light yet satisfying and allows for them to soak up the flavors of their dipping sauce. 

Our producer, Kaneko Seimen, has been hand crafting their noodles in the rural town of Nakai since 1877. While other companies have moved towards mass-production using refined, foreign white wheat, Kaneko Seimen continues to make their noodles using a whole grain domestic wheat called “norin 61”, which has a robust flavor and soft texture. The wheat is milled using a small flour mill rotating at a low speed with minimal force, to maintain its rich taste and nutrients. Since each plant has its own distinct flavor, the flour is blended immediately after being milled, when it’s at its freshest, then made into noodles which are hung to dry, aided by the wind of blowing fans. Unlike dry, brittle noodles, this natural drying technique helps the noodles to maintain a soft, fresh texture similar to raw noodles.

Ingredients: “Norin 61” wheat flour (from Kanagawa), salt
Suggested uses: Somen are traditionally enjoyed cold with a dipping sauce. Boil the noodles for 2-3 mins, then rinse in cold water. For the dipping sauce, try the mentsuyu from the Chili Oil Tofu Donburi recipe included. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions, grated ginger, or nori cut into small pieces. The noodles can also be used in stir-fries or soups. 
Nutritional information: N/A

Brown Rice and Miso Energy Bar  Flavored with Umeboshi and Dried Bonito

Brown Rice and Miso Energy Bar
Flavored with Umeboshi and Dried Bonito
(玄米 × 味噌 シリアルバー さっぱり梅かつお)
Producer: Japan Energy Food
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Japan Energy Food created this unique energy bar inspired by the hikyaku, couriers who ran the mountain trails of Japan delivering letters and packages, and rickshaw runners who pulled two-wheeled carts for 10km every day. The ingredients are based on the traditional Japanese diet which once sustained the long, strenuous activity of hikyaku and rickshaw drivers: domestic brown rice and miso. Compared to white rice, brown rice has more minerals, vitamins and fiber while miso contains all nine essential amino acids.

The bars are flavored with classic Japanese seasonings including umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes and yukari (dried and powdered pickled shiso (perilla leaves) mixed with salt). The result is a sweet yet umami-rich energy bar that combines the traditional flavors of a complete Japanese meal. 

Ingredients: Glucose syrup (manufactured in Japan), brown rice, miso (includes soybeans), beet sugar, umeboshi (Japanese ume plums, shiso, salt), yukari (shiso, plum vinegar, salt), canola oil, dried bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes 
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is.
Nutritional information: N/A

TOCHU TEA

TOCHU TEA
(杜仲茶)
Producer: Hekizanen
Prefecture: Kanagawa

Although most tea produced in Japan is green tea, there are other unique whole leaf teas such as this tochu tea made from 100% eucommia tree leaves. Eucommia has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries and comes from the Chinese rubber tree, eucommia ulmoides, which is believed to have been propagated for over 6,000 years. While the bark is usually used in China, this tochu tea is made from the leaves of the plant. 

Hekizanen follows the philosophy of “supporting nature and health.” They cultivate their plants on fallow land, which would otherwise lie dormant, using only organic pesticides to help revive and support the local ecosystem. Rather than drying the leaves in the sun after harvest, Hekizanen does not allow the leaves to ferment. Instead, they grind the entire nutritious leaf into a fine powder. The tea has a uniquely crisp flavor and is slightly bitter with a sweet, mild aftertaste.

Ingredients: Eucommia tree leaves (caffeine-free)
Suggested uses: Mix one packet with 400-500ml of boiling or cold water. 
Nutritional information: N/A