SEASONAL DELIGHTS (Fall 2023) - Umami: The Fifth Taste (旨味)

Rice Koji

Rice Koji (白雪印 米こうじ)
Producer:Kurashige Jozo
Prefecture:Hokkaido
Ingredients: Polished rice (domestic), koji mold
Suggested uses: Let the power of koji add deliciousness to your dishes! Try making the Shio Koji (Salted Rice Malt) and Soy Sauce Koji and Onion Koji Japanese Consomme recipes provided.
Storage: Store in a well-ventilated place away from moisture and use as soon as possible. If not using right way, store in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Koji (the fermenting microorganism known as Aspergillus oryzae) is the key fermenting ingredient behind many Japanese pantry staples including soy sauce, miso, mirin, sake, rice vinegar and shio koji (salted rice malt). When combined with grains, koji breaks down starches and proteins into sugars and amino acids and is used as a starter in the fermentation process, helping to create umami-rich flavors. Rice koji in particular is made by inoculating cooked short-grain rice with koji spores and leaving it to ferment.

Finding rice koji outside of Japan can be extremely difficult! This special rice koji is made at the foot of Mt. Shari in Hokkaido by Kuashige Jozo. Considered Japan’s northernmost brewery, Kuashige Jozo was established over a century ago and continues to use natural brewing methods.

Vegan All-Purpose Shiitake Instant Dashi Powder
Vegan All-Purpose Shiitake Instant Dashi Powder (
万能椎茸だし)
Producer: Mori Shouten
Prefecture:Oita
Ingredients:Sugar (domestic), salt, shiitake mushroom powder, yeast extract powder, burdock powder
How to make dashi:Combine one packet with 150ml of boiled water.
Suggested uses:This everyday dashi is flavorful, convenient and versatile. You can simply sprinkle it directly in dishes (such as stir fries, fried potatoes, egg rolls, takikomi gohan (mixed rice), fried rice, vegetable aemono (dressed dishes), cold tofu, pasta, risotto, soup, etc.) or use it to create a dashi by mixing it with 150-180ml of hot water that can then be enjoyed on its own as a sipping broth or in miso soup, soup, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), as a dipping sauce for udon/soba, etc. or in any recipe that calls for dashi. Use it to transform tofu in the Tofu “Mochi” with Shiitake Dashi recipe provided.
Storage:Room temperature.Once made, the dashi can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days or for longer in the freezer.

Dashi, a simple broth made by boiling ingredients, helps to create umami by enhancing and harmonizing the flavors of the other ingredients it’s paired with. Dashi is found in many Japanese dishes and is an essential part of Japanese cooking, from home cooked meals to high end restaurants. In many ways, dashi defines the essence of Japanese cuisine.

These dashi packets allow you to instantly create umami at home by either sprinkling the powder directly on dishes or using the powder to make dashi. The base is made from subtly earthy dried shiitake mushrooms grown in Oita Prefecture combined with mildly nutty, slightly sweet gobo (burdock root) also from Oita, and a hint of salt and sugar. The resulting dashi has a complete and complex flavor profile.

Our producer, Mori Shouten, is based in Bungo-Ono City in Oita Prefecture: Japan’s largest producing area of dried shiitake. They work with roughly 1,200 local farmers to deliver premium dried shiitake throughout Japan. The company was founded in 1950 and continues to naturally grow their shiitake on logs in the forest where it can take two years for the shiitake to mature. The resulting shiitake are considered to be a higher grade with a noticeably deeper color and aroma and rich umami flavor.

In order to protect the quality and taste of Oita's shiitake mushrooms, Mori Shouten, together with the industry, established the "Oita Dried Shiitake Traceability Council". Their commitment is to cultivate “aromatic and flavorful shiitake mushrooms made from logs with a strong taste”.


Dried Hokkaido Scallops

Dried Hokkaido Scallops (帆立貝柱)
Producer: Ohashi Suisan
Prefecture:Hokkaido
Ingredients:Scallops (Hokkaido), salt
Suggested uses:To rehydrate, simply cover with room temperature water and let sit in the fridge overnight (keep the leftover stock to use as dashi). Enjoy as is or add to cooked rice, simmered dishes, salads, pastas, fried rice, omelets or soups. Try them in the Dashi Scallops Takikomi Gohan recipe provided.
Storage:Room temperature.Enjoy the scallops as soon as possible once rehydrated. The dashi can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days or for longer in the freezer.

Although konbu (kelp) and katsuobushi (skipjack tuna flakes) may be the first two ingredients that come to mind for creating umami, other seafoods, such as scallops, can also be used to enhance the flavor of dishes. These high-quality scallops have a clean and refreshing aromatic flavor that is buttery and sweet and reminiscent of the seas surrounding Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island. Hokkaido’s mineral rich waters produce some of Japan's best seafood including these scallops, which are dried while still fresh to preserve their full, natural flavors.

Ohashi Suisan recently celebrated their 70th anniversary and continues to make products with the motto of “Delicious for today and tomorrow”.

Smoked Mentaiko (Cod Roe)
Smoked Mentaiko (Cod Roe) (おつまみスモーク明太子)
Producer: Minato Suisan
Prefecture:Miyagi
Ingredients:Cod roe, salt, sugar, fish sauce, mirin, shredded bonito shaving, kelp, chili peppers
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is, with rice, as a filling for onigiri (rice ball), as a topping for ochazuke (rice bowl steeped in tea), or on bread or crackers.
Storage:Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.

Mentaiko consists of whole Alaskan pollock/cod roe sacs covered in a thin membrane which is cured with salt and marinated in various seasonings and spices. With a taste reminiscent of the sea, mentaiko is not overly fishy in flavor yet is rich in umami. This unique mentaiko is lightly smoked using sakura (cherry blossom) chips to add an extra depth of flavor.

To create this special product, Minato Suisan begins with carefully selected ingredients and instead of using machinery, they take the time and effort to pickle their cod roe by hand which results in a rich and uniform flavor.

Vegan Smoked Habanero Tofu BarVegan Smoked Habanero Tofu Bar

Producer: Tanakashoku
Prefecture:Kochi

Since their founding almost 50 years ago,Tanakashoku has been producing their unique tofu products with a love for people and the environment.The process of making tofu produces wastewater, which seeps into the earth and flows into rivers. In order to protect thebeautiful mountains, forests and rivers of Kochi Prefecture, Tanakashoku treats their wastewater in septic tanks and sells their okara (soybean pulp leftover from making tofu) to dairy farmers as feedstock to prevent it from becoming industrial waste.

Vegan Smoked Habanero Tofu Bar (豆腐の燻製スティック (ハバネロ))
Ingredients:Soybeans (domestic), soy sauce, sugar, mirin, habanero, coagulant (bittern)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is (pairs great with alcohol) or cut up and use as you would a firm cheese such as in salads.

Using domestically grown soybeans andTanakashoku’s accumulated know-how and patented deep seawater tofu producing technique, these vegan protein bars are made from momen (firm) tofu that is smoked using cherry wood chips and Shimanto chestnut tree bark, creating a delectable smokey flavor and aroma, and thick texture. The tofu is then marinated in a secret soy sauce that enhances the umami and flavored with the mildly spicy, slightly sweet taste of habanero peppers.

Vegan Sansho Tofu Jerky (豆腐ジャーキー 山椒味)
Ingredients:Soybeans (domestic), soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sansho (Japanese peppercorn), coagulant (bittern)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.

Grand prize winner in the new product food category at the 24th Gourmet & Dining Style Show in Autumn 2018, these bite-sized tofu jerky treats are made usingTanakashoku’spatented producing and smoking technique and are then dried to mimic the texture of meat jerky. Rich in protein, each bite has a natural smokey flavor that is followed by the mellow heat of sansho. Also known as “Japanese peppercorn”, sansho are similar to Szechuan peppercorns but with a noticeable citrus flavor and strong spice. This product was also selected as the grand prize winner in the innovative food category at the SIAL in France in 2018.

Kiriboshi Daikon (Dried Japanese Radish Strips)
Kiriboshi Daikon (Dried Japanese Radish Strips) (水戻し不要の切干大根)
Producer: Yamachan Farm
Prefecture:Shizuoka
Ingredients: Daikon (Japanese radish) (Haruno Town, Shizuoka)
Suggested uses:Unique to this kiriboshi daikon, it doesn’t need to be rehydrated before using. Enjoy as is or add directly to stews, miso soup, mixed with kimchi or topped with a simple sauce such asponzu*. Try it in the Kiriboshi Daikon and Cucumber with Sesame Dressing or the Kiriboshi Daikon Coleslaw recipes provided.
Storage:Room temperature but can also be stored in the fridge to keep the flavors fresher for longer. Note: Given this product is natural, the daikon may turn brown over time. This does not affect the quality.

Kiriboshi daikon is a traditional Japanese food that has been around since the Edo Era. Daikon (Japanese radish) was harvested in the cold winter months, cut into thin strips, then dried in the sun to preserve this seasonal vegetable. The drying process helps to concentrate the umami flavors and enhance the natural sweet and sour taste which increases the more you chew.

This special kiriboshi daikon is made from a local mountain daikon grown only in Haruno Town in Shizuoka. Haruno is blessed with fertile soil, mineral rich groundwater and a climate that is hot in summer and cold in winter. The resulting daikon, which is grown using recycling-oriented agriculture, is naturally sweeter than regular daikon, with no bitterness.

Yamachan Farm has been around for over 100 years and is run by the great-grandson of the founding farmer. Their mission is to revitalize Haruno Town through agriculture, to convey the importance of food as a farmer and to bring smiles to people's tables with vegetables from their farm.

Shiso (Japanese Basil) & Konbu (Kelp) Tsukudani
Shiso (Japanese Basil) & Konbu (Kelp) Tsukudani (日髙昆布佃煮 しそ昆布)
Producer: Kawahara Shokuhin
Prefecture:Hiroshima
Ingredients:Soy sauce (domestic), reduced starch syrup, konbu (kelp), sugar, shiso (Japanese basil) seed, vinegar, mirin, katsuobushi (dried bonito) extract, agar, yeast extract (contains wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is (pairs great with alcohol), add on top of rice, or mix with potato salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc
Storage:Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.

Konbu (kelp) is one of the most widely known ways of creating umami and deliciousness, as it was how the fifth taste was originally uncovered more than a century ago.Tough and difficult to digest on its own, konbu must be cooked for a long time, which further draws out its umami characteristics.Hidaka konbu in particular, isharvested in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido where mineral-rich waters provide a nutrient-dense environment for some of the world’s best konbu to grow.Simmering konbu in soy sauce and mirin, a method used to create a dish known as tsukudani, softens the konbu while infusing it in a flavorful sweet, umami-rich sauce. The addition of shiso (Japanese basil) seeds harmonizes these flavors with noticeable earthy, minty undertones.

Tsukudamatsu's story began in July 1946, just after the end of the war, when a young couple, aged 24 and 22, started making tsukudani in their four-and-a-half tatami mat kitchen, using a small pot and Japanese charcoal grill. They made the tsukudani in the middle of the night, and as soon as dawn broke, they loaded it onto a used bicycle and began selling it around the city. Gradually, the number of customers grew, and they tied a two-wheeled cart to the back of the bicycle and sold the food day after day, until the stars fell.

Over the past 75 years, thanks to the warm support of their customers, Tsukudamatsu has steadily grown, and although the founders have long since passed, they continue to make their foods with honesty, safety and security. Their experienced staff visit the producing areas to examine the ingredients with their own eyes and hands, and only purchase the freshest, highest-quality products. For this tsukudani, they select the finest, natural Hidaka konbu. Then, using a traditional mature cooking method, the konbu is cooked slowly over a long period which deepens the flavors over time. The konbu is first boiled in hot water, then thoroughly blanched before being simmered in a secret tsukudani sauce that has been used since the company’s founding 75 years ago.

Kaga Soybean Grain Miso
Kaga Soybean Grain Miso (
加賀みそ 豆粒味噌)
Producer: Kagamiso Shokuhin Kogyo Kyogyo Kumiai
Prefecture:Ishikawa
Ingredients: Soybeans (Canada), rice, salt, konbu (kelp) extract, alcohol
Suggested uses:Convenient and portable, simply combine 1 Tbsp of miso with 150ml of hot water to make a bowl of miso soup. You can also add chopped green onions, wakame seaweed, tofu, etc. for extra flavor. To make a miso mayonnaise, combine ½ - 1 Tbsp of miso with 1 Tbsp of mayo to use as a dip for vegetables or a spread in sandwiches. To make a marinade for meat, combine 1 Tbsp miso with 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp mirin/sake and a pinch of salt and marinate 200g of meat for at least half a day (you can also add grated ginger). Can also be added to stir fries.
Storage:Refrigerate after opening.

Rich and deeply-umami tasting, miso is an integral part of Japanese cooking, not only for its namesake soup but also as a way to create rich umami flavor in dishes. Each region across Japan has its own type of miso based on the ingredients used, color and length of fermentation. One difference comes from the type of koji (natural fermenting microorganism) used to ferment the soybeans (rice koji, barley koji, soybean koji or a combination of the three). This Kaga Miso uses rice koji combined with a higher ratio of soybeans which retains more of the soybean texture. The longer fermentation period results in a thicker, stronger umami flavor which is uniquely combined with konbu extract for a fuller, more dynamic flavor profile.

Sadly, the production volume of miso in Japan has been decreasing. Kaga miso is a special miso produced in the Kaga region of Ishikawa Prefecture, mainly in Kanazawa. Kagamiso Shokuhin Kogyo Kyogyo Kumiai (Kaga Miso Food Industry Cooperative Association) was established in 1971 by 10 miso manufacturers in Ishikawa, which have been in business since the Edo and Meiji periods, in order to protect the traditional production method of Kaga miso. Together they account for about two-thirds of the miso production in Ishikawa.

Seasoned Pickled Menma (Bamboo Shoots)

Seasoned Pickled Menma (Bamboo Shoots) (国産味付メンマ)
Producer: Maruai Foods
Prefecture:Tokyo
Ingredients:Bamboo shoots (domestic), raw sugar, fermented rice seasoning, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, yeast extract, salt, katsuo (bonito) extract, chili pepper (domestic) (contains wheat, soy beans, sesame seeds)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is, on top of ramen or chopped and added to stir fries, fried rice or dumplings.
Storage:Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.

Menma is a popular ramen topping consisting of bamboo shoots that have been boiled then fermented in a subtle sweet, nutty and slightly spicy soy based sauce. The resulting menma is softened with a slight crunch and adds salty and savory flavors and texture to dishes such as ramen, stir fries and fried rice, but can also be enjoyed as a delicious side to your meal.

Maruai Foods is committed to making products grown domestically in Japan without any additives. They believe in the importance of food as the starting point to nurture the body and mind, and hope their foods will be the centerpiece of “food memories” that make you smile!

GIFT

Dashi Soy Sauce Infuser

Dashi Soy Sauce Infuser (だしが良くでる宗田節)
Producer: John Mung Company
Prefecture:Kochi
Ingredients:Soda katsuo no bushi (frigate tuna) (Tosashimizu City, Kochi Prefecture)
How to use: Fill with soy sauce (any type from light to dark) upon receiving and store in the fridge (it takes about two weeks for the flavor to infuse). Use as you would regular soy sauce on all your favorite dishes. After using half the soy sauce, fill it up again. Can be used for up to one year. (Note: you can use the lid to keep track of the best before date. Translation: [Refrigerate after opening] The day the seasoning was added Year 年 Month 月Day 日 Seasonings other than soy sauce are also recommended  ⃞ Soy sauce  ⃞ Ponzu sauce  ⃞ Worcestershire sauce  ⃞ Mentsuyu (Noodle soup))

Tuna, with its high amount of inosinic amino acid, is a common way of creating umami in Japanese dishes. With its noticeable seafood flavor, soda bushi (frigate tuna) is a type of katsuobushi and is a specialty of Tosashimizu City, Kochi Prefecture, which produces about 80% of Japan’s soda bushi.

This ingenious soy sauce infuser transforms household soy sauce into fragrant, restaurant-style dashi soy sauce. You will notice how the soy sauce now has an enhanced umami taste and deeper flavor profile.

The John Mung Company is located in the southernmost port town of Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island, a hidden city with a small population and no highways or railways. The company is named after Nakahama “John” Manjirō, a local fisherman turned samurai who is famously known for being one of the first Japanese people to visit America and is credited for his role in Bakumatsu (Opening of Japan). It’s with this same sense of adventure and connecting people worlds apart that the John Mung Company creates their locally-made products.

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