NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (September 2021) - Kansai: A Cuisine as Diverse as its Culture (関西)
OKONOMIYAKI MIX MADE WITH RICE FLOUR
Okonomiyaki, sometimes called “Japanese pizza,” is a savory pancake and is one of Osaka’s most iconic dishes. A variety of ingredients, usually vegetables such as cabbage and protein such as pork or seafood, are mixed in a batter and cooked on a griddle like a pancake before being topped with okonomiyaki sauce (similar to a thick Worcestershire sauce), Japanese mayonnaise,katsuobushi (bonito/skipjack tuna) flakes,aonori (seaweed flakes), and pickled red ginger.
The name literally means “what you like” (okonomi)“grilled” (yaki), so the ingredients and toppings can vary depending on the region and local ingredients. In Hiroshima, noodles are added. In Kobe, ingredients are added in layers instead of being mixed together. Many locals take great pride in their hometown version, playfully competing with others on who makes the “best” okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is a communal comfort food in Japan, eaten with friends at a restaurant or with family at home. In many restaurants, the batter and ingredients are brought to the table with a griddle in the middle and the guests cook the pancake themselves as part of the fun, or you can sit at a counter and watch it being cooked in front of you. A single okonokiyaki pancake is often shared among many people, with a fresh one being cooked when the group is ready for more.
Sakurai Foods got their start as a noodle company in 1910, producing udon noodles by hand using a hand-cranked noodle machine. Since then, the company has continued its commitment of “delivering health to the table.” Sakurai Foods sells organic foods, along with gluten-free and vegan versions of many classic Japanese dishes.
Ingredients:Rice flour (from Gifu Prefecture), organic chickpea powder, potato starch, kelp powder, salt, shiitake mushroom powder, baking soda (gluten-free and vegan)
Suggested uses:Use to make Osaka-style Okonomiyaki using the recipe provided. Be sure to enjoy with family and friends.
KOYA TOFU MEAL KIT
Koya tofu, or freeze-dried tofu, is a staple in any Japanese pantry. Like most tofu, koya tofu has a mild flavor but with a unique spongy texture. When cooked in a broth, the tofu soaks up the liquid, making it almost burst in your mouth when you eat it. It’s delicious served warm after being freshly prepared, but it can also be enjoyed cold or at room temperature. The natural mild flavor also pairs well with stronger flavors, like meat or fish.
The origins of koya tofu are a bit of a mystery. Legend has it that in the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), a monk living high on Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture accidentally left his tofu outside in the bitter cold. When he thawed the frozen tofu in the sun and ate it, he discovered it was surprisingly delicious and thus koya tofu was born.
Koya tofu is a traditional part ofobanzai cuisine in Kyoto and refers to small, everyday side dishes, often eaten alongside rice and miso soup. This style of eating developed in Kyoto at a time when it was difficult to transport fresh ingredients into the city given its location in a basin surrounded by mountains. As a result, people living in Kyoto developed many side dishes, like koya tofu, that were dried and preserved. Now koya tofu is popular around Japan for its ease of storage and distinct texture.
Yamashiroya, which specializes in dried foods, has been led by four generations of women, starting from 1904. The company began as a wholesale supplier of dried sardines gathered by local fishermen and prospered for decades until the entire business was destroyed in World War II. The next female descendant rebuilt and reestablished the company in 1946, and then passed it on to her talented daughter-in-law. The crops that form the basis of their dried foods are grown by hand, not by machine, and rely on the wisdom and experience of their farmers who put time and effort into cultivating rich soil and the resulting high-quality crops.
Ingredients: Tofu:soybeans (from the US, non-GMO), bittern, baking soda;Liquiddashi (broth):sugar, soy sauce (includes soybeans and wheat), salt, mirin,iriko (dried sardines), yeast extract, dried bonito flakes, kelp seasoning extract, dried bonito seasoning extract, kelp, alcohol
Suggested uses:Stovetop directions: In a small saucepan, bring 2¼ cups of water combined with the packet of liquid dashi to a boil. Add the tofu from the package and let it float to the surface. Cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 12 mins. To add an optional egg topping, pour a beaten egg over the top just before turning off the heat, and bring to a boil. Remove and serve once the egg is cooked.Microwave directions: Put 2⅙ cups of hot water and the liquid dashi into a heatproof container and mix gently. Place the tofu in the container, cover with a lid, and heat for 9 mins at 500W.
YUASA EGGPLANT CURRY
Curry may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Japanese food, but curry rice (pronouncedkarē raisu), is actually one of Japan’s most popular dishes. More sweet than spicy, Japanese curry is easy to make yet deliciously satisfying, with each region having its own unique flavors based on the local ingredients used.
Yuasa Shoyu’s curry from Wakayama Prefecture includes a unique local ingredient: yuasa eggplant. This heirloom variety of eggplant can grow up to 10cm and is quite heavy for its size given its low water content and higher amount of flesh. Unlike other eggplants, which can be bland and almost flavorless, yuasa eggplants have a natural sweetness and bright, fruity flavor. And instead of the usual spongy texture, yuasa eggplants are silky smooth with a texture as soft as butter.
As you taste this curry, you’ll notice how Yuasa Shoyu has balanced the sweetness of the eggplant with a blend of spices including ginger, coriander, cardamom, and cumin, giving the curry a rich, sweet, and savory flavor. Comforting served over a warm bowl of rice, Yuasa Shoyu claims that if you eat their curry just once, you will want to keep coming back to it again and again!
Ingredients:Vegetables (eggplant, onions), milk, tomato ketchup, chicken extract, chutney, soy sauce, vegetable oil (rapeseed), wheat flour, garlic, butter, curry powder, ginger, sugar, coriander, cardamom, cumin, yeast extract, black pepper, garam masala (includes soy)
Suggested uses:Stovetop directions: Put the still sealed pouch into a pot of boiling water and warm for 5-7 mins.Microwave directions: Pour the contents of the pouch into a microwave safe bowl, cover, and microwave at 500W for 2 mins. Serve hot over a bowl of rice.
HASSAKU ORANGE PEEL
Hassaku is a Japanese citrus fruit best described as a cross between a madarin orange and a grapefruit. Wakayama Prefecture produces the most hassaku oranges of any region in Japan and if you look around the mountains of Arida City, you will see hassaku orange fields stepping up the mountain sides with terraced fields supported by old stone walls. These stone walls were built hundreds of years earlier when hassaku orange production first took root in Wakayama over 400 years ago. Built by hand, the walls retain heat, protecting the soil and plant roots, while allowing excess water to drain out, resulting in richly fragrant and sweet hassaku.
Like many parts of Japan, however, the farming population in Arita City is declining. Ito Farm was founded with the mission of breathing life back into the hassaku industry in Arita City. Every year, Ito Farm takes on new fields which might otherwise have been abandoned or left to overgrow. In an effort to preserve the traditional methods of cultivating hassaku, they also preserve and repair the stone walls built by hand in the Edo period.
With each bite, you’ll notice that the peels are not overly sweet and retain the full flavor and aroma unique to this fruit.
Ingredients:Hassaku orange (from Wakayama), granulated sugar
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
HARARYOKAKU’S BLACK SHICHIMI ARARE CRACKERS
Shichimi togarashi, or simplyshichimi, translates to “seven-flavor chili pepper”. It's a citrus and spice blend most commonly used to add a dash of heat and flavor to a hot bowl of noodles. The base ingredients include red chili pepper,sansho (Japanese pepper), citrus peel, sesame seeds and seaweed, but many regional variations exist. In Kyoto, the spice is known asKyoshichimi with more prominence given to sansho, the green Japanese pepper that carries a distinct refreshing aroma, a tingling heat that is less spicy compared to red chili peppers, and a pronounced citrus flavor.
These bite-sizedarare (crackers made frommochi or glutinous rice) showcase the unique shichimi flavors from Kyoto. The shichimi used is from the infamous spice-maker Hararyokaku’s signature blend known akuroshichimi (black shichimi). Hararyokaku was founded in 1703 by the son of Hara Soemon, one of the ancient 47ronin (independent samurai), and is located in the Gion (famous geisha) district of Kyoto. Hararyokaku is the original creator of kuroshichimi and each bite will transport you to the ancient winding pathways of Kyoto.
Ingredients:Mochi (glutinous rice produced in Japan), soy sauce (incl. wheat and soybeans), beet sugar (produced in Japan), shichimi pepper (incl. sesame), powderedkonbu (kelp), bonito broth
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is paired with your favorite tea from ourJapanese Green & Specialty Teas: “Ryu” Care Package.
NATURALLY FARMED KAMAIRI TEA
Producer:Kenichi Natural Farm
All tea comes from the same plant,camellia sinensis. It is the processing of the plant that produces each tea’s distinct flavor and aroma. First introduced from China to Kyushu,kamairi tea has become rare in Japan with only a few remaining production areas left. These days, kamairi tea has been replaced by steamed teas such asgyokuro andsencha, which are made by steaming and rolling tea leaves, creating a needle-like shape. In contrast, kamairi tea is made by carefully stirring tea leaves in a large pot to dry them. The process gives the tea leaves a unique tear-drop shape - like the “yin” in a yin-yang symbol. This shape makes the tea leaves unfurl more slowly when steeped, producing a more mellow and fragrant tea with less bitterness. We recommend savoring each sip to notice the difference in taste between kamairi tea and other green teas you have tried in the past.
Kenichi Nature Farm got its start in 2001 when Kenichi Ikawa rented farmland that had been abandoned on a mountain on the east side of the Nara basin. He cleared the land singlehandedly and began cultivating tea without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. Insects and birds regularly visit the tea fields, with various native flowers and plants growing in the area. These days, Kenichi Nature Farm manages over 30 tea fields totalling over 11 hectares. Every part of the plant is treasured and put to use - the leaves to make tea, the flowers for flavoring, and even the roots and stems for natural skincare.
Ingredients:Green tea (from Nara)
Suggested uses:To serve warm, steep in 300ml of water, which is just under boiling (about 95°C / 203°F), for 2 mins. To serve cold, steep in cool water (about 5°C / 41°F) for 2 hrs.