NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (November 2022) - B-Grade Gourmet: Japanese Comfort Foods (B級グルメ)



Producer: Otoufu Koubou Ishikawa

Kirazu, an olden dialect name for okara, is also referred to as soybean pulp and is made from soaked and ground soybeans that have been strained in a cloth bag to make soy milk and tofu. The leftover pulp is beige in color and has almost no taste so it can easily absorb the flavors of the other ingredients it’s mixed with. In a country where little goes to waste, okara is often used in Japan as a popular gluten-free substitute for wheat flour with less sugar and high amounts of fiber, protein, and other nutrients.

These unique kirazu crackers were created in a tofu shop in 1995 at a time when soft sweets were the mainstream. It took trial and error to create a manufacturing method that would harden the soft soybean pulp into a crunchy cracker. The crackers are homemade from 100% domestic soybeans (90% of soybeans in Japan are currently imported) and local flour from Aichi Prefecture. The crackers have a slight sweetness from the raw sugar from Kagoshima Prefecture, which is balanced with salt from Nagasaki Prefecture. They are gently fried in non-GMO rapeseed oil creating a crispy cracker with a fragrant flavor.

Otoufu Koubou Ishikawa’s first shop was established during the Meiji Period. Now in its fourth generation, they are looking to support the Japanese soybean industry through their soy-based sweets, bread and desserts and their personal relationships with local, non-GMO soybean farmers. They hope to make tofu the center of every table!

Ingredients:Flour [wheat (domestic)], raw sugar, rapeseed oil, okara powder [soybeans (domestic)], salt, leavening agent (baking soda) (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
Storage:Room temperature.




Producer: Okoshi Beika

Gyoza are among the most ubiquitous comfort foods in Japan. An adaptation of Chinese dumplings, Japanese gyoza are characterized by a thin outer wrapper and a finely minced filling, and can be found everywhere including grocery stores, ramen restaurants, specialty shops, izakaya (Japanese pubs), and street vendor markets. 

These hand-grilled rice crackers are individually made using domestic and organic everyday short grain rice known as uruchi which is seasoned with a honjozo soy sauce (soy sauce made using a traditional brewing method stipulated by Japanese law) using a family secret recipe. To this, a unique blend of spices and seasonings is added to mimic the taste of authentic gyoza. 

Okoshi Beika has been making their hand-grilled crackers the same way since 1951. Their gyoza crackers are a popular souvenir from Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture and have been recommended by the Tochigi Prefecture Tourism and Local Products Association. 

Ingredients:Non-glutinous uruchi rice (domestic), soy sauce, garlic, chili pepper, green onion, aji (horse mackerel), mackerel, kelp (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is. 




Producer: Furuya Sangyo

Gohei mochi is a unique type of grilled or baked mochi (Japanese rice cake) that is served on a stick and covered in a sweet and spicy sauce. Despite its name, gohei mochi is not made from glutinous mochi rice but from regular short grain rice that is half cooked to provide a firmer, lumpy texture. It’s coated in a sauce made from soy sauce, miso, mirin and sugar, with peanuts, walnuts and sesame seeds sometimes also being added. It’s a traditional snack from Gifu Prefecture in the Chubu region of Japan where it originated when people working in the mountains stuck rice on sticks, grilled them, and ate them covered in miso when drinking sake. 

This gohei mochi carries the nostalgic taste of Nakasendo local cuisine. Nakasendo was one of the five major routes of the Edo period and one of only two that connected Edo to Kyoto. The dough is made from 100% Gifu uruchi rice (staple Japanese short grain rice) and vacuum-packed with "special sauce" made from walnuts, sesame and peanuts. 

Ingredients:[Dough] Non-glutinous Uruchi rice [Sauce] Sugar (domestic), soy sauce, sesame, peanut, koji seasoning, rice miso, walnut, soybean miso, salt, vinegar (includes wheat, peanut, walnut, sesame, and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Cook on a barbeque or in a frying pan. Once the Gohei mochi becomes soft, cover in the sauce provided then cook again slightly. The more you grill it, the more savory the taste and aroma. Microwave: Cover one side of the Gohei mochi with half the sauce and microwave for 1 min. Flip and cover the other side with the remaining sauce and heat for another minute. 



(信州タルタルソース 野沢菜とわさび)

Producer: Shinshu Shizen Okoku

You may be familiar with Japan’s version of fried chicken known as karaage. But have you tried chicken nanban? This fried chicken dish is coated in flour, egg and a tangy sweet and sour sauce then served with a homemade tartar sauce. Inspired by a similar Portuguese dish, chicken nanban is famous in Miyazaki Prefecture.

This unique Wasabi & Nozawana Tartar Sauce from Nagano Prefecture offers a spicy and crunchy twist to regular tartar sauce. Its green color comes from two main ingredients: wasabi (Japan’s highly prized version of horseradish) and nazawana (a Japanese variety of mustard leaf from the same species as turnips). For the base, Shinshu Shizen Okoku creates their own style of mayonnaise by blending rapeseed oil with smooth apple cider vinegar, naturally sweet honey, and a blend of salt and spices. 

In an effort to protect the natural environment and to go beyond just being “earth-friendly”, Shinshu Shizen Okoku coined the term “Environmental Cultivation”. This approach removes any burden on the environment throughout the entire process, from organic farming, to production and processing, and even to how products are shipped.

Ingredients:Mayonnaise (rapeseed oil, egg, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt, mustard, white pepper), salted mustard leaf, wine vinegar, grape juice concentrate, wasabi, salt, white pepper, black pepper
Suggested uses:Serve as you would tartar sauce with crudité, cooked vegetables, in sandwiches or as a sauce for fried dishes. A larger amount provides more spice, while adding chopped onions or boiled eggs makes it heartier. You can also try making your own Chicken Nanban using the recipe provided.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening.




Producer: Choko Shoyu

Yosenabe is a basic Japanese hot pot that is the ultimate comfort food to keep you warm in winter. Its name comes from the combination of yose “to put together” and nabe “pot”, and is a reflection of how easy this dish is to make. Just add your favorite protein and seasonal vegetables to the hot broth, boil and enjoy!

A flavorful broth is the secret to any delicious yosenabe. This classic hot pot soup, made without chemical seasonings, includes four special dashi (broth) ingredients from Kyushu: grilled flying fish from Nagasaki, shiitake mushrooms from Tsushima, dried bonito flakes from Kagoshima, and dried shrimps from Oita. The combination results in a luxurious and deep flavor. It also includes honjozo (traditionally brewed) soy sauce made from whole soybeans which adds extra umami. 

Choko was established in 1941 by 29 local soy sauce producers as the first soy sauce cooperative in the industry. The group has carefully preserved traditional brewing techniques of soy sauce and miso with a commitment to safety, quality and taste, as well as the United Nations’ SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). They are also a member of the Good Food Making Association - an organization that is reexamining food in pursuit of health and deliciousness in daily life. They believe that those who produce and sell food have a responsibility to preserve traditional, seasonal flavors while protecting the environment. 

Ingredients:Soy sauce (domestic), mirin, sugar, grilled flying fish, dried bonito flakes, seafood extract, salt, dried shrimp, dried shiitake mushrooms, alcohol (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:To make a hot pot,add two packages of the hot pot soup to 400ml of water. Add your favorite ingredients such as meat, fish, vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu, and boil until they’re cooked. You can then also add noodles such as udon* or cooked rice (serves 2). You can also use it as a soup base, for ochazuke (by pouring it on a bowl of cooked rice) or by using it in theDashi-Style Omurice (Rice Omelet) andOyakodon (Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl) recipes provided.




Producer: Sokensha

Yakisoba is a stir fried noodle dish with vegetables, meat, and sometimes egg, and can be found everywhere in Japan from street side stalls to restaurants or made at home. This special vegan variety includes noodles made from 100% domestic wheat flour which are made without eggs using a proprietary process that gives them a firm texture and only vegetable ingredients for the sauce. The sauce gets its delicious flavor from a combination of apples, tomatoes, onions, garlic, Mediterranean sun-dried salt made from Italian seawater which is sun-dried for about six months, sugar made from raw sugarcane, and a special furikake (seasoning) made from a blend of ao (green) seaweed and red ginger pickled in ume (Japanese plum) vinegar. The sauce brings out the full flavor of the ingredients with no chemical seasonings nor coloring agents.

Since its founding over 50 years ago, Sokensha has used the "inherent power of food" to improve people’s health while protecting the global environment. Through love, food, peace and the belief that "What you eat and how you eat it is always connected to how you live”, they create their products using the spirit of traditional craftsmanship without unnecessary food additives. Each of their products maintains the taste of its original, natural ingredients.

Ingredients:Noodles [wheat flour (wheat (domestic), vegetable oil (palm oil), starch, vegetable protein, salt], apple cider vinegar, sugar, apple, tomato, onion, garlic, salt, yeast extract, soy sauce, spices, seaweed, beni shoga (ginger pickled in ume (Japanese plum) vinegar), antioxidant (Vitamin E) (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:To make yakisoba, bring about 200ml (1 cup) of water to a boil in a frying pan. Add the noodles from the package and cook until the noodles have loosened and the water has evaporated. Pour your preferred amount of the special liquid sauce in the package over the noodles and stir-fry lightly.  Add stir-fried cabbage and other vegetables such assliced yellow onion, green onion, julienned carrots, sliced shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, julienned bell peppers, etc. and protein such as pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu and top with the furikake (seasoning) in the package (small green flakes package). Enjoy as is or use it as a filling to make a yakisoba sandwich.

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