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SEASONAL DELIGHTS (Winter 2019) - Community Favorites of 2019

5 Grain Beauty Udon
5 Grain Beauty Udon
美人うどん (五種の雑穀うどん)

(KOYAMA SEIMEN)

Udon, which is typically made from one single type of wheat flour, is one of the most popular types of Japanese noodles. What makes ours unique (and healthier!) is that it combines wheat flour with five different types of grains: black rice flour, glutinous barley flour, rice bran, red rice flour, and brown rice flour. This mixture of grains gives this udon a more dynamic flavor and richer texture. This was a favorite from our "Kokoro Twist" box, where we sourced creative twists on Japanese classics.

Black rice, known as kurogome (黒米), is an ancient Japanese grain that gets its black color from a polyphenol known as anthocyanin. The rice is said to have more health benefits compared to white rice. Japanese traditionally ate black rice believing that it would make your hair appear darker and younger.

Glutinous barley flour, known as mochimugi (もち麦), contains 25 times as much dietary fiber as white rice and a large amount of water insoluble β-glucan, which can be beneficial to gut health.

Rice bran, known as kibi (きび), is said to have the lowest calories among grains and is characterized by containing a large amount of iron, zinc and magnesium among other minerals. It also contains protein.

Red rice, known as akamai (赤米), is another ancient Japanese grain that gets its red color from tannins, which are also found in wine. Tannins are said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties as well as being anti-oxidative.

Brown rice, known as genmai (玄米), contains high levels of vitamins B and E, especially when unpolished using the hulls. It is also rich in phytic acid.

The producer behind these health-conscious udon nooodles, Koyama Seimen, has been making udon since 1920 using their grandfather's original recipe. This udon was also voted the Best New Product at the 19th Gourmet and Dining Style Show in the spring of 2016. The shop is located in the "Bichu" region in Kasaoka city in the southwestern part of Okayama prefecture. The "Bichu" region is known in Japan for producing hand-rolled noodles.

Suggested use: Udon can be served hot or cold. Simply put it in a pot of boiling water for 8 minutes, drain, then transfer it to a bowl of cold water to prevent it from over cooking. We recommend recommend you enjoy the taste of the noodles as is, or with a bit of salt. For a simple udon sauce, combine 15 parts dashi (use our recipe) with 1 part soy sauce and 1 part mirin. Also tastes great in any broth or soup, in a stir fry or as a substitute for pasta.
Ingredients: Wheat flour, black rice flour (from Okayama prefecture), Rice bran (domestic production), red rice flour (from Okayama prefecture), glutinous barley flour (from Kasaoka city, Okayama prefecture), brown rice flour (from Okayama prefecture), salt
Nutritional information: Per: 100g, Calories: 346kcal, Total Fat: 1.5g, Sodium: 5.8g, Total Carbohydrate: 72.1g, Protein: 10.9g

Ishigaki gourmet chili oil

Ishigaki Gourmet Chilli Oil
石垣島らー油

(PENGIN SHOKUDO)

A favorite from our Okinawa box, this sweet and spicy chili oil is said to be the original catalyst for the gourmet oil phenomenon in Japan. It was created on Ishigaki Island with the Okinawan philosophy of "Nuchigusui" which means "life’s medicine" - a concept that describes how food, relationships and meaningful connections can create a happy, long lived life.

An international couple - Gyoho and Airi - are behind this chili oil. Gyoho came from Xi'an in China, where chili oil is such an essential ingredient that each family makes their own at home. When Gyoho arrived to Ishigaki Island, his Tokyo-born wife Airi challenged him to make chili oil using ingredients from Ishigaki Island. And that is how this chili oil was born.

The chili oil combines a variety of unique local island spices and seasonings. The couple uses local chili varieties with a mix of sweetness and heat, including one pepper (known as "island pepper") which grows naturally on the stone fence around their house. Additional speciality ingredients include local sea salt from the sea of Ishigaki, Okinawa black sugar, garlic, sesame seeds, black beans and a dash of "chimuguru" - the heart and soul of the Okinawan spirit.

Learn more about Pengin Shokudo and their Ishigaki Gourmet Chili Oil in our Producer Spotlight

Suggested use: Adds a sweet and spicy flavor to any of your favorite dishes and is a versatile hot sauce substitute that can be used on top of tofu, stir fries, or vegetables, or to add extra spice to noodles. Mix well before using to blend all the ingredients and to experience the true combined flavors of the Island!
Ingredients: Canola oil (from Japan), red pepper, sesame oil, garic, black beans(soy beans), salt, sesame, sansho pepper, olive oil, island red pepper, black sugar (Okinawan brown sugar), Turmeric, pepper
Nutritional information: Per: 100g, Calories: 802kcal, Total Fat: 84.9g, Sodium: 1.3g, Total Carbohydrate: 9.0g, Protein: 2.9g

 Milky Oyster Sauce

Milky Oyster Sauce
オイスターソース

(ISHIWATA SHOTEN)

You've never tasted an oyster sauce like this before! We featured this unique oyster sauce in our "Kokoro Twist" box, which featured creative takes on Japanese classics, and once you taste the oyster flavors you'll understand why.

Due to its complex ocean currents and proximity to lush forests, Kesennuma Bay in Miyagi prefecture produces some of the highest quality oysters in Japan. The oysters for this Premium Milky Oyster Sauce are harvested between March and late May just before spawning season (instead of the typical winter season), as this is when the oysters are at the plumpest. Only the highest quality oysters are chosen, which means once they are sold out, you have to wait an entire season for the next batch.

The twist? Unlike most oyster sauces that use just the boiled oyster broth, Ishiwata Shoten uses the whole oyster which gives this oyster sauce a distinct oyster flavor and savory umami taste.

The oysters are harvested one by one by skilled workers and frozen immediately to preserve their freshness, before being extracted whole. Natural seasonings are then added. The company does not use any any chemical seasonings or preservatives. The sauce is immediately bottled to fully capture the flavor and freshness of the sauce.

Ishiwata Shoten is focused on supporting local producers, as well as contributing to local employment. In fact, the area around Kesennuma Bay was damaged during the Great East Japan Earthquake but fortunately has recovered and oysters are flourishing in this area again. The company is devoted to supporting the local economy by sharing local delicous food with people around Japan - and around the world!

Learn more about Ishiwata Shoten and their Milky Oyster Sauce in our Producer Spotlight.

Suggested use: Cook with it (great in a stir fry) or use it as a sauce for meats, seafood or vegetables. 
Ingredients: Oyster extract, sugar, syrup reduction, soy sauce, yeast extract, wheat (ingredients include wheat and soy)
Nutritional information: Per: 100g, Calories: 145kcal, Total Fat: 0.6g, Sodium: 6.6g, Total Carbohydrate: 28.6g, Protein: 6.4g

Mountain Vegetable Tsukudani Yamaudo

Mountain Vegetable Tsukudani - Mountain Asparagus
山うど

(SOUKENNOSATO)

Experience the natural taste of the Japanese mountain vegetables!

In Japan, the roots as well as the stalks of mountain udo (asparagus) are eaten. It is a perennial edible in the vast and varied sansai (mountain vegetable) family. Mountain udo tends to grow along mountain stream banks, where it thrives in the dappled sunlight and moist soil. The plant can reach up to 9 feet high. Eaten raw, it has a sweet-spicy flavor with a texture similar to a good crisp apple. Powder from the dried roots of mountain udo are used as an herbal remedy for fevers, as well as muscle and joint pains. The Ainu in Hokkaido make a mixture of this herb to help heal bruises.

This mountain udo is cultivated at the foot of the Hachigatake Mountain. The area is irrigated by abundant underground water springs and has clean, fresh air. After cultivation, the mountain udo is gently simmered in soy sauce and other traditional Japanese seasonings. All the ingredients used by Soukennosato are produced in Japan and contain no additives or no artificial colors. It was a favorite from our Bento themed Care Packages and is a delicious healthy addition to any lunch box.

You can use the mountain udo as a seasoning, or you can simply slice it and enjoy as is. It pairs well with a cup of tea for a healthy afternoon snack.

Suggested use: Use as a pizza topping or seasoning in pasta sauce. Delicious with eggs! Try in an omelette or scrambled eggs. Also try chopping it finely and adding to salad dressing.
Ingredients: Mountain asparagus, soy sauce, sugar, mirin (contains alcohol), brewed vinegar, yeast extract, bonito extract, kelp extract
Nutritional information: N/A

Organic shiso pickled Umeboshi

Organic Shiso Pickled Umeboshi
有機しそ漬け梅干し

(YASHASHI UMEYA)

Umeboshi (or pickled plums) have a special tart yet subtly sweet flavor that can be enjoyed on their own or to ad depth to just about any food. With these organic umeboshi from Yasashi Umeya, all that flavor comes from just three simple ingredients - organic plums, organic shiso (or perilla leaves), and natural sea salt. No chemical additives, preservatives, or artificial sweeteners are used. We featured these umeboshi in our Kickstarter box that started it all!

In Japan, umeboshi are a mainstay of Japanese cuisine. Traditionally eaten atop a bowl of rice or tucked inside a rice ball, umeboshi have a beautiful pink color and a distinctive salty-sour flavor combination. Though traditionally paired with rice, umeboshi are surprisingly versatile. Chop finely and add anywhere you might use anchovies, fish sauce, or Parmesan cheese for a rich umami oomph. Try stirring into risotto, pasta dishes, or blending with pesto as your secret ingredient adding a slightly astringent note.

Established in 1940, Yasashi Umeya carefully crafts these umeboshi to bring out the very best flavor from the plums. The plums are organically grown in Wakayama Prefecture, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and carry the Japan Agricultural Standards organic certification. The organic requirements in Japan are so strict that even in Wakayama (an area known for growing ume), only 1% of ume are certified as organic. Also the shiso leave are grown according to exacting organic standards. After harvesting, the plums are covered with salt, weighted, and left to ferment. Shiso leaves are added to dye the umeboshi to their beautiful shade of pink. The plums are then dried in the sun and put back in their fermenting liquid.

Learn more about Yasashi Umeya and their Organic Shiso Pickled Umeboshi in our Producer Spotlight

Suggested use: Serve traditionally on top of a bowl of rice or tucked into a rice ball. To add a pleasant tartness, chop finely and use in pasta sauces, salad dressings, dips, spreads, marinades and soups.
Ingredients: Organic plum (from Wakayama), organic shiso (from Wakayama), pickling ingredients (salt from Hyogo Prefecture)
Nutritional information: N/A

Daships Salt

Salt Daships
だしっぷす 塩

(MICA CORPORATION)

A favorite snack from the past year, these Daships are a type of Japanese chips known as wa (和). They're made from okara (soybean pulp), wheat, mackerel powder produced in Numadu, Shizuoka and are lightly fried in non-GMO rapeseed oil.

Okara is the leftover pulp from soybeans, which have been filtered to make soy milk and tofu. It contains potassium, calcium, and niacin. In Japan, okara is traditionally used to make a side dish called unohana, which is made from okara simmered with soy sauce, mirin, carrot, mushrooms, and burdock root. These chips combine the nutritionally goodness of okara with wheat and fish broth produced in Japan to create a novel and delightful snack!

They have a delightful crunchy texture both you and your children will love.

Suggested use: Enjoy as is.
Ingredients: Wheat, raw sugar, vegetable oil, soy pulp powder, dried mackerel shavings, dried bonito shavings, salt, baking soda
Nutritional information: (Per package 50g) Calories: 243kcal, Total Fat: 9.8g, Sodium: 0.4g, Total Carbohydrate: 34.5g, Protein: 4.4g

Shell ginger tea

Shell Ginger Tea
月桃茶

(GREEN PLAN SHINJO)

Could this be the secret to longevity?

Home to many of the world's centenarians, Okinawa has been labeled a "Blue Zone" and has been carefully studied to uncover the longevity secrets of its residents. The Okinawan diet is thought to be a main factor, with one food in particular - shell ginger - being a key component.

Shell ginger, which is part of the ginger family, is a plant commonly used in Okinawan cuisine and as a traditional herbal medicine. The plant is part of a group of plants known for having numerous positive benefits, including being antimicrobial, antiinflmmatory, and neuroprotective. Shell ginger grows widely in subtropical regions, like the Okinawa Islands. The roots of the plant are aromatic when cut, with a typical ginger smell; the leaves are decorative; and the plant produces beautiful pink flowers, resembling seashells (hence the name - shell ginger).

Another favorite from our Okinawa box, this shell ginger tea is made from leaves grown on a local Okinawan farm. It contains no caffeine and has 34 times more polyphenols than red wine. It's been thought to have antibacterial and antioxidative effects while potentially helping to manage blood pressure, combat obesity, and supporting liver and kidney function. Its aroma can also help relax your nerves and has been shown to improve sleep quality. Shell ginger tea has a beautiful golden brown color when fully steeped and a subtle flavor with floral notes and clove undertones, followed by a spicy ginger aftertaste. Enjoy hot or iced.

Drink to your health!

Suggested use: Add hot water and enjoy.
Ingredients: Shell ginger leaf
Nutritional information: N/A

Gyokuro green tea powder

Organic Gyokuro Green Tea Powder
特撰 粉末緑茶

(TOMONI) 

This powdered green tea is made by grinding the whole leaf. That means that when you drink this tea, you are getting all the antioxidant and nutrition benefits of the green tea! Plus you can rest assured that that the tea is naturally safe for consumption. The Tomomi Company selects only the best organic green tea leaves grown in the mountains of Japan for their products. Their organic green tea is grown without pesticides using only the natural nutrients from the soil.

In Japan, organic tea production accounts for less than 3% of green tea production. Organic gyokuro is extremely rare. In fact, only a handful of growders in Japan produce organically certified gyokuro. Unlike sencha, gyokuro is grown in the shade for about 3 weeks with straw mats before being harvested. The sudden decrease in sunlight causes the leaves to produce more theanine and caffeine, resulting in a sweeter, lighter flavor as well as a distinct aroma almost like seaweed. Gyokuro is one of the most expensive types of green tea available in Japan. It's name means "jade dew" referring to the pale green color of the tea.

This tea is best enjoyed in small sips to savor its mellow, full-bodied taste and distinctive aroma. In fact, gyokuro is often served in smaller cups to encourage one to savor the flavor. The natural caffeine in gyokuro improves circulation and acts as a natural energy boost after a long day. Enjoy a luxurious break with frriends or guests by brewing a pot of gyokuro.

Suggested use: Add hot water and enjoy!
Ingredients: Green tea
Nutritional information: N/A

GIFT

AWAGAMI WASHI Hand-dyed Indigo Accordion BookAwagami Washi Hand-Dyed Indigo Accordion Notebook
(阿波和紙 藍染め和紙の折り本ノート)

Since antiquity, Japanese "washi" paper has been made from renewable plant resources that grow to maturity in 1-2 years. When compared to wood-based papers (that take dozens of years to mature and require many chemicals), washi is created with significantly less harm to the environment in a clean and eco-friendly manner. In the traditional spirit of Japan, Awagami papermaking maintains a caring and nurturing focus on the environment while maintaining the 1300 years history of Awagami washi.

“Tamezuki“ and “Nagashizuki” are the two methods often used to make washi by hand, with the nagashizuki method resulting in a strong and translucent thin paper that has become synonymous with washi and is the technique that is used to make this Hand-Dyed Indigo Accordion Notebook.

6th generation, Minoru Fujimori took over the family business in 1945 determined to continue washi papermaking despite post-WWII difficulties. In 1970, Minoru-san was designated as an ‘Intangible Cultural Property of Tokushima’ in recognition of his skills. In 1976, Awagami washi was designated as a ‘Traditional Craft Industry’ and in 1986, Minoru Fujimori was further honored as Master Craftsman and awarded the ‘Sixth Class Order of Merit, Sacred Treasure’ by the Emperor. Currently his son, Yoichi and family continue the papermaking tradition as their ancestors did before them. In an effort to preserve the craft and pass washi papermaking onto the next generation, the family has established a network of international partners and art institutions that offer Awagami papers to worldwide artists.

Awagami’s home of Tokushima is also the birthplace of Japanese indigo where farmers have been cultivating it for centuries. The humble beauty of indigo was revived during the Japanese folk-crafts or ‘Mingei’ movement (1965) and their mill proudly carries on their forefathers' indigo tradition.

This handmade accordion-fold book features a textured indigo paper cover that has been dip-dyed multiple times in indigo pigment to create its pattern. Inside you will find fairly smooth heavyweight washi pages suitable for writing, drawing, collage, stamping and scrapbooking.

Visit the company website for an English detailed description of the "Nagashizuki" paper making method: https://awagami.com/pages/washi-paper-basics