SEASONAL DELIGHTS (Spring 2021) - Bento (お弁当): More Than a Just Lunch Box
MARUNAKA “BLACK” LABEL SOY SAUCE
Marunaka Shoyu is one of the few remaining traditional soy sauce breweries in Japan, with their 200 year old brewery having been recognized by the Japanese government as a National Tangible Cultural Property.
The production of Marunaka’s soy sauce is a methodical three year process, with every step being done exactly as it has been for centuries. Theirkoji (fermenting microorganisms) have lived in the same wooden barrels for generations, in an environment so delicate that only master brewers are allowed into the brewery. Theirshiotsuri (“salt hanging" method) is unique to Marunaka Shoyu and not used elsewhere in Japan. The result is an exceptional, umami-rich soy sauce.
This black label soy sauce is darker in color and richer in taste compared to their brewing soy sauce. Due to the longer fermentation period, it has a deeper, more intense flavor - a hallmark of dark soy sauce orkoikuchi (lit. “dark mouth”) - and tends to be less salty tasting with a touch of sweetness when compared to lighter soy sauces known asusukuchi (lit. “thin mouth”).Ingredients:Soybeans (non-GMO), wheat, salt (incl. soybeans and wheat)
Suggested uses:Use with boiled, grilled or raw fish (sashimi) or for everyday use. A little goes a long way and we recommend you enjoy it sparingly so as not to overpower the other flavors in your dish.
Storage: Store in a cool and dark place, not the refrigerator.
SHIITAKE MIXED UMAMI RICE
(丼ご飯 椎茸 いろいろ米)
Producer:Katagiri Rice Company
Katagiri Rice Company opened over 140 years ago in Niigata Prefecture, an area of Japan famous for its rice. Located near Mt. Gozu, their rice has a chewy texture and natural sweetness. In its 9th generation, the store is now run by the three energetic daughters of the current president: Chie, Saki and Yuki.All three are very knowledgeable when it comes to rice – both Chie and Yuki have acquired their “3 Star Rice Meister” qualification, which is also known as the “PhD of Rice.”
Together the sisters came up with their popular “Kauemon Series”, which includes this Shiitake Mixed Umami Rice. The rice is easy to make, requires no washing and includes nutritious local vegetables.
Ingredients:Polished rice (from Niigata Prefecture), soybeans, brown rice (from Japan), dried carrots (carrots, glucose), dried burdock root (burdock root, glucose), shiitake mushrooms
Suggested uses:If using a rice cooker, combine with 240-260ml of water or follow the instructions of your rice cooker. Can also be cooked in a pot on a stove with 260-300ml of water. Enjoy as a base forchirashizushi (lit. “scattered sushi”) by adding your favorite sushi toppings, sprinkle with soy sauce and makeonigiri (rice balls), or use as a base for your bento or rice bowl.
Producer: Yoshida Furusato Village
Yoshida Furusato Village is rooted in Yoshida Town in Shimane Prefecture, a mountainous, sparsely populated coastal area located on Japan's Honshu Island. Yoshida Town once flourished as the center of Japanese steel production, but lost most of its population with the introduction of modern steelmaking technology. Governments, enterprises and local citizens (the youngest being 24 years old to the eldest who was 85 years old), funded Yoshida Furusato Village to help reinvigorate the largely abandoned town through their production of organic, locally grown produce.
SANSHO-FLAVORED ONIGIRI MISO
Sansho (Japanese peppercorns) have a mild heat with a noticeable citrus tart flavor. Here it’s combined withmoromi, the main fermentation mash used to make soy sauce. Like sourdough starter, moromi is a living food which is nurtured and tended over years, giving soy sauce its unique flavor and qualities. This moromi miso retains the shape of its soybeans with a sweet flavor and subtle spicy aftertaste.
Ingredients:Moromi (naked barley, soybeans, rice, sugar, salt), sugar, fermented seasonings (rice, rice koji, salt),sansho (Japanese peppercorn)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is, or spread thinly on the outside ofonigiri (rice balls) then lightly toast. Can also be used as a dip for sliced cucumbers and other fresh vegetables in your bento.
Niru (simmering) is one of the five pillars of Japanese cuisine. Flavors are enhanced by the delicate umami-rich stock they’re simmered in. Thesegomoku (five ingredient) beans combine the Japanese quintessential flavors ofkonbu (kelp) stock and soy sauce with other Japanese ingredients including shiitake mushrooms, sardines andkonnyaku (or konjac) - a plant from the taro/yam family. Konnyaku has a texture similar to firm jello, yet is high in fiber and has essentially zero calories. With virtually no taste on its own, konnyaku absorbs the flavors it’s cooked in and adds a nice variety to these gomoku beans, which can be easily added to any bento.
Ingredients:Soybeans (from Japan),konbu (kelp),konnyaku (konjac), carrots, dried mushrooms, fermented seasonings (rice, rice koji, salt), sugar (sugar beets), konbu stock, soy sauce (incl. wheat and soybeans), sardines, shiitake mushrooms, salt, konbu coagulant
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is or transfer to a heat resistant container and warm in a microwave for 1½ -2 mins at 500W.
ORGANIC SHISO FURIKAKE
Based in Kumano in Wakayama Prefecture, Yasashi Umeyasan (“Kind Plum Shop”) has been cultivatingume(Japanese plums) and makingumeboshi (pickled plums) for over 70 years. The Kumano area is famous for its ume, yet less than 1% are certified organic. Yasashi Umeyasan is one of the rare ume producers that has proudly passed the rigorous requirements of the JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) to produce their organic ume products.
Shiso (perilla leaves) are a Japanese herb related to mint that have delicate leaves with ragged edges. It has a subtle citrus flavor with hints of mint, basil, and anise. The herb comes in two varieties: green (which is usually eaten fresh like parsley) or reddish-purple (which is typically used to season and color umeboshi). Here the latter combines its refreshing earthy flavor with the tart sour taste of ume to create a unique Japanesefurikake (seasoning).
Ingredients:Organic shiso (from Wakayama Prefecture), salt, organic plum vinegar (from Wakayama Prefecture)
Suggested uses:Sprinkle on rice or as a seasoning in your bento. Add to pasta, grilled fish or veggies with olive oil Add as an additional seasoning ingyoza (Japanese dumplings) filling or mix it with ponzu and use as a dipping sauce. Can also be mixed with hot water to make an ume shiso tea.
PORTABLE "CHUUNO" SAUCE
Sauces in Japan tend to have a distinct regional flavor, with more sour sauces found in the east and sweeter sauces in the west. Torii Sauce, which is located in Shizuoka Prefecture, falls in the middle, so their sauces tend to have the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
Inspired by the tangy flavors of Worcestershire sauce, this Chuuno Sauce combines that familiar savory spice with the fruity sweetness of apples from Nagano Prefecture. The apples are carefully selected each year based on the unique harvest of the season, and the slight sourness is the perfect balance for fried foods commonly found in bentos, such askaraage (fried chicken) ortonkatsu (fried pork cutlet).
Ingredients:Onions, apples, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, brewed vinegar, salt, soy sauce (incl. soybeans and wheat), starch, spices, yeast extract, kelp soup stock, katsuo dashi
Suggested uses:Use as a sauce for fried foods such askaraage (fried chicken) ortonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) or as a substitute for soy sauce and mirin. Can also be used as a marinade to make teriyaki chicken: combine 1 tbsp of Chuuno Sauce with 1 tsp of vinegar and 1 tsp of sugar. Marinade chicken breast for at least 30 mins then cook in a covered frying pan in oil on low heat for 5 mins. Turn over and cook the other side while covered for another 5 mins or until properly cooked.
JAPANESE BUTTERBUR SIMMERED IN SOY SAUCE
Japanese butterbur is harvested in Japan for its stalks and has a slightly bitter, yet succulent texture, similar to rhubarb or celery stalks. This Japanese butterbur is cultivated at the foot of the Hachigatake Mountain then gently simmered in soy sauce and other traditional Japanese seasonings such as mirin,bonito (skipjack tuna) andkonbu (kelp). It’s an easy yet traditional addition to any bento.
Ingredients:Japanese butterbur, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, brewed vinegar, yeast extract, bonito extract, kelp extract
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is as an addition to your bento, inochazuke (tea on rice) or paired with a cup of green tea available in our Japanese Green and Specialties Teas: “Ryu” Care Package. Can also be used as a pizza topping, or in pastas, salads, or omelettes/scrambled eggs (Japanese omelettes are a common food in bentos).
OBORO KELP BENTO CUP
Open a bento box and you will often find foods lovingly packed inside their own individual cups. The presentation makes each food look like a miniature present and also serves the practical purpose of separating flavors.
Kimura Alumi has re-imagined the classic non-edible bento cup using a special manufacturing method to create these edible kelp cups made fromtororo konbusourced from Hokkaido Prefecture. Tororo konbu is prized for its unique texture, which turns sticky once wet, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
Ingredients:Konbu (from Japan), brewed vinegar, gelatin
Suggested uses:A creative addition to your bento! Spoon potato salad, egg salad, or tuna salad into the cups, or fill them with rice topped with seafood to make sushi bites. To make caprese salad bites, fill them with ricotta cheese or fresh mozzarella cheese topped with freshly sliced tomatoes and basil.
SHIO KONBU (SALT KELP)
In many ways,shio konbu (salt kelp) defines Japanese cuisine. Strips of thickkonbu (Japanese kelp) are softened by boiling them in traditional Japanese flavors such as soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and bonito, then cut into bite sized pieces, providing salty sweet umami to any dish or bento.
Katsuobushi Kobo uses special salt from Banshu Ako to make their shio konbu. Banshu Ako is the largest salt production site in Japan, given the rich yet calm sea waters of the Irihama Salt Field (also known as “The Land of Salt”).
Ingredients:Soy sauce, kelp (from Japan), fermented seasonings, sugar, salt, yeast extract (incl. soybeans and wheat)
Suggested uses:Extremely versatile, use inonigiri (rice balls), on rice, in stir fries, pastas, salads, or omelettes/scrambled eggs. Can also be chopped into sauces or dressings, as a seasoning instead of salt, or to add a dash of Japanese umami to your dishes.
RED MISO SOUP WITH FRESHWATER CLAM DASHI
Producer:Shimane Organic Farms
Miso soup is one of the pillars of a traditional Japanese meal. No meal in Japan - breakfast, lunch, or dinner - is considered complete without a hot bowl of miso soup. To fully enjoy the flavors and properly digest one’s meal, children in Japan are encouraged to practicesankaku tabe (lit. “triangle eating”), taking one bite of rice, one sip of miso soup, and one bite of the main dish.
This Red Miso Soup from Shimane Organic Farms includes Shijimi clams, a specialty from Lake Shinji in thenortheast region of Shimane Prefecture.
Ingredients:Clams (from Lake Shinji), katsuobushi, kelp extract, rice miso, mixed miso, organic green onion, flavor seasoning (bonito), antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C) (incl. milk, wheat, chicken, and seafood)
Suggested uses:Combine in a bowl with 160ml of hot water. Gently stir and enjoy hot.
CAT-SHAPED NORI ART
As important as taste, Japanese bentos are also prized for their presentation.These special laser-cut nori allow you to easily add a whimsical and creative flair to your bento. Plus, nori boasts a remarkably diverse profile of minerals from the sea and is a rich source of antioxidants.
Suggested uses:Punch out the shapes and place them on the outside of onigiri (rice balls), on top of an open faced sandwich, or tuckedinside the wrapping of fresh spring rolls to make the shapes show from the outside.
Furoshiki are cotton squares of fabric that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Like many objects in Japan, furoshiki are beautiful yet extremely functional. The reusable cloths can be used to wrap presents, decorate tables, folded to make bags - the uses are endless! Bentos are often carried in furoshiki by placing the bento box diagonally on the cloth, then tying the opposing corners over the top. When it’s time to eat, you can unwrap your bento and use the furoshiki as a tablecloth and/or napkin. This furoshiki is part of a series of designs representing each of the four seasons in Japan. The maker, Maruya Gofukuten, was founded in 1775 and having experienced 19 different eras in Japan is now in its 8th generation.
Materials:100% cotton (made in Japan)