SEASONAL DELIGHTS (Winter 2021) - Washoku: Traditions and Celebrations (和食)
HOT POT PRODUCTS
MA-KONBU (TRUE KELP) HOT POT SOUP
There is no better way to stay warm over the holidays than a communal hot pot ornabe. Japan is famous for itsnabe which includes fresh seasonal ingredients boiled in a hot soup. Essential to any great tasting nabe is the quality and flavor of the soup stock. This convenient Ma-konbu Hot Pot Soup allows you to create an umami-richdashi (broth) of Japanese flavors to enjoy local fresh ingredients in.
In addition to the seasoned soup package, which contains bonito (a source of umami), Nagaike Konbu also includesma-konbu (lit. “true kelp”), a high quality, thick edible kelp sourced from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. Hokkaido’s mineral-rich water provides a nutrient-dense environment for some of the world’s best konbu to grow. Tough and difficult to digest on its own, konbu must be cooked for a long time, which draws out its high amount of glutamic acid, an amino acid responsible forumami. It has a subtle, refined flavor, deep aroma and produces a clean, clear dashi that will enhance the flavor of any ingredients added to it. The result is a hot pot soup full of Japanese flavor and umami.
Run by Motoki Amano, Nagaike Konbu was established in 1864 and is currently in its fifth generation. Amano-san grew up in the konbu store but originally didn’t want to work in the family business. He spent 10 years working as a salaryman before returning to run his parents' shop. Since then, he has maintained the personal spirit and pride of retailers who sell their own products, with an aversion to mass production. His company uses high-quality, natural kelp sourced from southern Hokkaido and produces handmade, traditional products made by skilled craftsmen.
Ingredients:Ma-konbu (true kelp), soy sauce, mirin, sake, dried bonito extract, kelp extract, sugar, vinegar, yeast extract (including wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:To make a hot pot soup, dilute the contents of both packets (the seasoned liquid and ma-konbu) in a pot with 1L of water. Bring to a boil and add your favorite seasonal ingredients (fresh vegetables, uncooked protein such as fish, chicken or tofu, and/or udon noodles available in our Zuru Zuru Noodles: “Yui” Care Package) or try our suggestions in the Yosenabe (Hot Pot) with Kuzukiri recipe provided. When the ingredients have cooked, enjoy hot from the pot. To draw out more flavor and umami from the ma-konbu, you can leave the contents from the packets in the water for about 2 hours before cooking. The leftover soup stock can be used as all-purpose stock.
Ponzuis a quintessential citrus sauce made by fermenting soy sauce, citrus juice,konbu (kelp), andkatsuobushi (bonito flakes). It is often served as a condiment for sashimi and in hot pot dishes during the cold winter months. This particular ponzu includes yuzu, Japan’s beloved citrus fruit. From the outside, yuzu resembles a lemon with its bright yellow peel. However, the fruit is larger and squatter with a flavor best described as a cross between a tart lemon, a sweet mandarin orange, and a fragrant grapefruit.
To create this Yuzu Ponzu, Goto Shoyu sought the perfect balance of aroma, acidity and savory flavor. They start with a base that includes plenty of natural yuzu juice and soy sauce using “Fukuyutaka” soybeans from Fukuoka Prefecture. To this they add a fishdashi (stock) for umami. The dashi is made with care overnight, bringing out the full, natural flavors of thekonbu (kelp),katsuobushi (dried bonito), dried and smokedsaba (mackerel), sardines and shiitake mushrooms. This combination of these natural ingredients brings about so much umami and flavor and is made without the use of additives such as chemical seasonings, preservatives, or artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors.
Goto Shoyu was founded in 1913 by the great-grandfather of the current owner, in Kitakyushu city in Fukuoka Prefecture - an area surrounded by the sea and mountains. They have a factory on a small hill, which is a five-minute walk from the shopping district local people use every day. For over 100 years, they have been making high-quality products enjoyed by these locals.
Ingredients:Soy sauce (produced in Japan, includes soybeans and wheat), yuzu juice, vinegar, molasses,hon (true) mirin, salt,konbu(kelp), dried bonito flakes, dried mackerel flakes, dried sardine flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms
Suggested uses:Use to season vegetables such as thinly sliced cucumbers or as a dipping sauce for noodles or grilled fish, chicken or meat. Can also be used in dressings and sauces. Try using a dash in the Yosenabe (Hot Pot) with Kuzukiri recipe provided.
BROWN RICE GOLDEN MOCHI
Mochi has also been eaten for New Year’s since at least the Heian period (794-1185) and is said to bring good fortune for the year to come. Many people will participate in the annual tradition ofmochitsukiwhere sticky glutinous mochi rice is placed in a largeusu (mortar) which is then pounded by a largekine (wooden mallet) that is swung by someone as another person folds the rice in between swings. The resulting rice is perfectly smooth and chewy.
This brown rice golden mochi is made in a similar way, being carefully pounded with a mallet until it is firm and sticky, with an aroma of brown rice and a smooth texture. Kojima Foods uses organic brown rice grown without pesticides and a focus on traceability, from the raw materials they use through every step from production to processing, shipping, and consumption - all to ensure the highest quality and taste of their products. Their factory also meets the rigorous and strict requirements set forth by JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standards) in order to achieve the organic certification - a difficult process in Japan.
Ingredients:100% dometic glutinous brown rice
Suggested uses:Enjoy warm by heating in a toaster oven for 7 mins or in a pan on medium heat for 2 mins on each side, until slightly toasted and crispy on the outside. For soft mochi, microwave for less than 1 minute at 500-600W or boil in water/soup until soft. Serve as a side instead of rice/bread, or by dipping it in soy sauce, sesame oil or brown sugar. Can also be added to the Yosenabe (Hot Pot) with Kuzukiri recipe provided. Note: Be sure to chew thoroughly before swallowing.
KUZUKIRI (KUDZU NOODLES)
Kudzu starch, also known askuzu, is made from kudzu, a climbing vine which grows native in Japan. The entire plant is used: the leaves feed livestock, the stems are used for cloth, and the roots are used to make kudzu starch powder. The roots are repeatedly crushed and soaked to remove the fibrous bark and any impurities, and then squeezed to extract the pure snow-white starch. The best quality starch is made by harvesting the roots in the cold of winter and has become a precious ingredient as the number of kudzu root foragers and areas where high quality kudzu can be harvested have decreased.
Here, kudzu starch is combined with potato starch from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, to makekuzukiri - versatile transparent noodles with a soft, slippery texture. Kuzukiri is sometimes referred to as the “Sashimi of the Mountains” given its texture and appearance.
Suggested uses:To make 2 servings, put 20-30g of kuzukiri in 1L of boiling water and cook for 10 mins. Once the noodles have softened, drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well and enjoy with a simple sauce of ponzu or soy sauce with a dash of sesame oil. To use in soups, noodle broths or hot pots, add as is and cook until soft. Try it as a dessert in the Kuzukiri with Kuromitsu Sauce recipe provided or in a hot pot dish such as the Yosenabe (Hot Pot) with Kuzukiri recipe provided.
GOLDEN GOMA DOFU (SESAME TOFU) WITH MISO SAUCE
When you think of tofu, you may only think of the common tofu made from soybeans. Japan, however, boasts a wide variety of other tofu includingkurumi dofu(made from walnuts),ji-mami dofu(made from peanuts) and thisgoma-dofu - a unique type of tofu made fromgoma (sesame seeds). The goma is ground for a long time to achieve a smooth, silky texture that is almost custard-like, with a toasted, nutty aroma of sesame seeds.Found inthe multi-course cuisine ofkaiseki ryōri and the Buddhist temple cuisine ofshōjin ryōri, each region has its own specialty based on the ingredients used and how it is made.
This Golden Sesame Tofu from Hijiri Foods is produced using the traditional Koyasan manufacturing method. Rather than using ground sesame paste, sesame milk that has been squeezed from sesame seeds is used. Although twice as many sesame seeds are required, by using just the sesame milk, Hijiri Foods can achieve a remarkably smooth texture without the fibrous texture from sesame seeds. The sesame milk is then thickened using starch from high quality sweet potatoes andkuzu (the climbing vine also known as kudzu).
Ingredients:Sesame tofu (roasted sesame, potato starch, washed sesame, kudzu starch), miso sauce [miso (including soybeans), sugar, mirin, sesame paste]
Suggested uses:Delicious when served chilled and topped with the miso sauce included or soy sauce (available in our Creative Beginnings: Redefining “Wa” Care Package).
KOBUMAKI (KELP ROLL) WITH COD ROE
The tradition of servingosechi ryōri started in Japan over one thousand years ago. Each individual dish represents a wish for good health, happiness, and prosperity and are all carefully packed into colorful, lacquered boxes calledjubako. One of these seasonal foods is a delicatekonbu (kelp) roll known askobumaki.
To make these sweet and savory kobumaki, Takahashi Food uses young kelp which has a short growing period, and is softer and brighter in color. It is then simmered in essential Japanese seasonings such as sugar, soy sauce andhon (true) mirin before being filled with local cod roe from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island. The konbu is a symbol of joy and happiness while the roe is a symbol of fertility.
Located on the southern tip of Hokkaido, Hakodate (also known as the city of gourmet food) was one of the first port cities in Japan to open up to international trade and is most famous for its fresh seafood, quality agriculture and stunning nature. It’s here that Takahashi Foods follows in the footsteps of their forebears by continuing to carefully prepare their local products by hand using traditional methods and only the finest ingredients.
Unlike other manufacturers that use additives and huge steam kettles, Takahashi Food makes theirtsukudani (simmered foods) without chemical seasonings in small batches in pots cooked over an open, which evenly distributes the heat and helps to absorb the flavors of the sugar, soy sauce and mirin. They skim off all impurities while cooking so you’ll notice the lack of odor and pure natural taste. It’s a time consuming process, yet results in a rich flavorful, deep umami flavor. By using these methods passed down through generations, Takahashi Foods is helping to preserve Hakodate's food culture while sharing their local specialties with you.
Ingredients:Konbu (kelp) (from Hokkaido), sugar, soy sauce, cod roe (from Hokkaido),hon (true) mirin (includes wheat and soy)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
Nimame (simmered beans) are another common dish served during the traditional New Year’s day meal ofosechi ryōri. These beans are gently simmered in soy sauce and sugar, and become more flavorful as time passes. Traditionally, nimame is made withkuromame (black beans) but there are regional variations including simmered peanuts.
Nimame serves the important role ofhashi yasume (lit. “chopstick rest”). Typically cold vegetables or pickles, these foods have a clean and simple flavor meant to cleanse the palate. As these peanuts are only slightly sweet, they also provide a balanced contrast to the other salty and rich flavors traditionally found in Japanese meals. Eating each peanut one by one with chopsticks between bites slows down your eating and gives you a moment to savor the food.
Ingredients:Peanuts (from Chiba), sugar, honey, salt
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is with a cup of tea available in our Japanese Green & Specialty Teas: “Ryu” Care Package, as a side to flavorful fish dishes, or as a topping on a rice.
CHAWAN MUSHI WITH RED SNOW CRAB
Chawan mushi is a savory Japanese custard with a texture similar to flan. “Chawan” means bowl and “mushi” means steamed. The dish is made by steaming seasonal ingredients in an egg custard in a small bowl/tea cup. It’s served warm as an appetizer such as in the multi-course cuisine ofkaiseki ryōri or before the New Year’s meal ofosechi ryōri.
Asuzac Food, located in Suzuka City in Nagano Prefecture. specializes in creating freeze-dried foods. Their techniques help to preserve the freshness and flavor of their ingredients without using chemical preservatives. As you enjoy your chawan mushi, you’ll notice the silky texture of the egg and how it complements the crunchy enoki mushrooms, the earthymitsuba (Japanese parsley) and a seasonal delicacy: red snow crab, orzuwai-gani, from Tottori Prefecture. Zuwai-gani are slimmer than other crabs and have a succulent, sweet flavor. In order to protect the species, they are only harvested from around November to March, and are a highly prized winter specialty in Japan.
Ingredients:Enoki mushroom (Nagano Prefecture), red snow crab, seafood extract,mitsuba (Japanese parsley), starch, salt, fermented seasoning, bonito broth, shiitake extract, yeast extract/antioxidant (Vitamin.E) (includes shrimp, crab, wheat, and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Makes two servings. Rehydrate the block by soaking in 200ml of hot water. After it cools a bit, add one beaten egg and mix well. Pour into two deep heat-resistant containers. Place side by side and heat in a microwave for 3 mins at 500W. If not firm, reheat for another 10 seconds until cooked.
NANAKUSA GAYU (SEVEN DRIED HERBS MIX)
Producer:Kodama Ikiiki Farm
After indulging over New Year’s, many Japanese enjoy a simple bowl ofnanakusa gayu (seven herb rice porridge) on January 7th to cleanse their bodies and give their stomachs a chance to reset. However, finding these seven traditional herbs fresh outside Japan is nearly impossible. This dried mixture from Kodama Ikiiki Farm allows you to taste these special herbs from the Japanese mountainside in your home.
Kodama Ikiiki Farm grows entirely organic products in the countryside of Fukuyama city in Hiroshima prefecture, an area known for its fresh agriculture. In addition to their commitment to producing high quality products, Kodama Ikiiki Farm works to create new and inventive ways for people to enjoy their local harvests. Notice the unique flavors of each herb as you enjoy this simple yet wholesome and comforting dish.
Ingredients:Daikon (radish) leaves (from Japan), salt,suzuna (turnip) leaves (from Hokkaido),hakobera (chickweed) (domestic),seri (water dropwort) (domestic),nazuna (shepherd’s purse) (from Hokkaido),hotokenoza (nipplewort) (from Hokkaido),gokyo (cudweed) (from Hokkaido)
Suggested uses:Add to miso soup, as a topping on egg dishes like omelettes and scrambled eggs, or in the Nanakusa Gayu (Seven Herb Rice Porridge) recipe included.
KYOTO STYLE OSHIRUKO
Producer: Natural Attorait
There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter day than a bowl of sweet warm dessert soup. You may be familiar withzenzai(available in our Japanese Snacks & Sweets: “Raku” Care Package), a traditional Japanese dessert soup made withazuki (sweet beans) and plump hotmochi (glutinous rice). Oshiruko is a similar treat but where the azuki beans have been boiled and pressed into a smooth paste, making for a more liquidy soup. This handmade Kyoto-style oshiruko is made withsarashi-an (powdered sweet red beans) and beet sugar, both from Hokkaido, which is then wrapped in amochi (sticky glutinous rice) dough.
Red beans and mochi are both traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s in Japan. Red is a symbol of happiness and prosperity and therefore you’ll find red azuki beans served at special occasions and during holidays. Mochi is also eaten for New Year’s and is said to bring good fortune for the year to come.
Ingredients:Beet sugar (produced in Hokkaido),sarashi-an(red bean powder, produced in Hokkaido), mochi rice, potato starch, salt
Suggested uses:Open the package and unwrap the oshiruko (white mochi withsarashi-an (red bean powder) inside). Break open the white mochi over a bowl and pour the red bean powder into the bowl. Add the white mochi which you just broke apart. Pour 100-120ml of hot water into the bowl and combine until the red bean powder becomes soupy and the mochi is chewy. Serve hot and enjoy. Can also be split into two smaller servings.
Producer: Man Nen
This nutritional and energizing tea was developed based on the concepts of eastern medicine and medicinal herbs, with a focus on the five elements and five tastes. It includes umami-rich shiitake mushrooms, natural salt, ginseng, cordyceps, ginger and Szechuan pepper, which are said to warm and gently heal the body while boosting one’s immune system and increasing energy.
Using ingredients chosen for their compatibility and in their closest natural state, Man Nen skillfully blends this tea, without additives and chemical seasonings, to create a harmonized and balanced flavor, refreshing aroma and a taste that’s full of spice.
Ingredients:Shiitake mushroom extract powder, salt, shiitake mushroom, Szechuan pepper, ginseng extract powder, cordyceps extract powder, ginger
Suggested uses:Put one spoonful (2g) into a cup and pour boiling water over it.Can also be used to make ochazuke by sprinkling on a bowl of rice before pouring hot tea over top. Use as a seasoning by sprinkling on meat or vegetables before cooking, on chicken before breading and frying to make karaage (fried chicken), for tempura, or added to pasta, eggs, or soup. Mix with thinly sliced cucumbers and a dash of salt to maketsukemono (pickled vegetables).
HANDMADE WASHI GREETING CARD FROM ASAKUSA
Similar to the Western tradition of sending holiday greetings cards, in Japan people send New Year’s cards known asnengajo to family, friends and coworkers. It’s an opportunity to share important updates from the year, thank the recipient for their help and kindness, and to wish health and happiness for the year to come. Although traditional cards have been replaced with postcards provided by Japan Post, these washi greetings cards are a beautiful way to keep in touch with loved ones over the holidays.
The decorative yet durable paper used for these cards is calledKyoto yuzen washi, and is known for its style, quality and vibrant colors. Inspired by kimono patterns, each color is silk-screened by hand one layer at a time, after the previous color has completely dried. The final layer is usually a metallic gold or silver which adds glitter and shine.
These handmade greeting cards are made by a family of three in Asakusa, an area of Tokyo that maintains its olden day charm. Asakusa was the site of traditionalkabuki theatres and is home to the Senōji Buddhist temple which was built in the 7th century. (Note: exact design may vary)