SEASONAL DELIGHTS (Winter 2022) - Oshōgatsu: Japanese New Year Celebration (お正月)
Ichikara Farms is located in Uonuma in the snowy region of Niigata Prefecture. The area was devastated by a large earthquake in 2004, yet the founder was able to transform an abandoned pasture into 30 hectares of organic buckwheat farmland while also supporting the local farmers and producers throughout his supply chain.
Toshikoshi soba (lit. “year-crossing soba”) is enjoyed on New Year’s Eve in Japan as the noodles are easily cut, representing a letting go of the past year. The noodles are made from soba, the Japanese name for buckwheat, which despite its name is not actually a type of wheat, but a highly nutritious seed with a nutty, buttery flavor.
This soba is additive-free and made from 100% domestic ingredients including whole buckwheat seeds organically grown in the snowy Uonuma region of Niigata Prefecture. The area receives so much snow that the soba is stored in natural fridges made of snow, known as yukimuro. Yukimuro can be used to store vegetables, meat, coffee and even alcohol, and is only possible in places such as Uonuma.
Unique to these soba is the addition of funori, a healthy local Japanese seaweed rich in soluble dietary fiber. It was traditionally used in Niigata as a glue for textiles but can also be used as a natural binding agent to create firm, yet smooth soba. You may have seen these special noodles served on wooden trays (known as hegi soba).
Ingredients:Buckwheat flour, flour, seaweed, salt (includes wheat)
Suggested uses:Boil the noodles in a pot of water for 5 mins. Drain then wash the noodles with running water until they are no longer slimy. Put the noodles in a bowl of iced water for about 10 secs to stop them from cooking further. Enjoy with the Concentrated Soba Soup in this package.
As important as the noodles themselves is the umami-rich noodle soup it comes in. This additive-free concentrated soup includes only domestic ingredients which have been carefully selected to provide a rich, flavorful taste. The soy sauce is raw and made usingwhole domestic soybeans, the mirin is a special type of mirin known as mikawa mirin from Aichi Prefecture, the sugar is a medium soft, coarse crystal, the katsuobushi is from a specific tuna called sodabushi from Kochi Prefecture, the salt is from Goto Island in Nagasaki and the kelp is a luxurious rishiri konbu from Hokkaido Prefecture.
When enjoying noodles in Japan, you are encouraged to make a loud slurping sound, known as “zuru zuru”, as it helps to enhance the aroma and flavor of the noodles and sauce, while paying compliments to the chef!
Ingredients:Soy sauce (domestic, non-GMO soybeans), mirin, sugar, sodabushi (bonito flakes), salt, kelp
Suggested uses:These are concentrated, single serving packages. To use as a dipping sauce for zaru soba (cold soba): 4x dilution, as a hot noodle soup for kake soba (warm soba): 6-7x dilution. Can also be used in simmered dishes and stir fries.
BIG ROUND SOY SAUCE & KELP OKAKI (RICE CRACKER)
Rice crackers can be found in every shape, size and flavor in Japan. From savory to sweet, there’s a rice cracker to fit every occasion. In the winter and around New Years, many families in Japan gather around their kotatsu (low tables covered in a blanket with a heater below) to enjoy mikan (similar to mandarin oranges) and rice crackers.
This large, round rice cracker is characterized by its thick yet soft texture and is made by kneading Japanese glutinous rice with naturally brewed tamari soy sauce, hidaka konbu (kelp) and a special umami seasoning. Hidaka konbu is often used to make JapaneseOshōgatsu dishes as it’s easy to cook with and helps to create umami.
Osamado was founded in 1924 and makes all their rice crackers in-house using only high-quality, natural ingredients and no chemical seasonings. Each of their crackers is made in the spirit of people from the Edo Era.
Ingredients:Glutinous rice (domestic), vegetable oil, soy sauce (including wheat and soybeans), sugar, seasoning extract (kelp extract, dried bonito extract, shiitake mushroom extract, salt, oligosaccharide), kelp, chili seasoning liquid
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
DRIED KAKI (PERSIMMON)
Producer: K’s Farm
Japan has an endearing love for persimmons (known as kaki) - so much so that some call it Japan's national fruit! As fall progresses, persimmon trees take on the red-orange color of these fruits - from the rounder, squat fuyu persimmon to the longer, pointier hachiya persimmon. When ripe, you can eat the fruit raw or make them into jams and candies. As fall transitions into winter, it's time to hang peeled persimmons from a string, concentrating the flavors and creating a naturally sweet dried treat called hoshigaki.
K’s Farm grows their persimmons in Hashimoto City, in the northeast corner of Wakayama Prefecture, Japan’s largest persimmon producing region. The city is surrounded by mountains and rich nature with a combination of mild rainfall from the Setouchi climate and characteristics of an inland climate with large temperature differences, resulting in noticeably sweeter persimmons. K's Farm prunes their persimmon trees by considering the angle of the branches for each individual fruit to avoid hardening and cracking in the sun. This meticulous attention to detail results in large, soft and delicious persimmons. Each of their persimmons have their own unique characteristics and tastes with the seedless, mild tasting tanenashi variety being used for these dried persimmons.
Ingredients:Tanenashi (seedless) persimmons (from Wakayama Prefecture)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
KOBUMAKI (KELP ROLL)
Producer:Otani Masakichi Shoten
The tradition of serving Osechi Ryōri (the special New Year’s meal) started in Japan over one thousand years ago. Each individual dish represents a wish for health, happiness, and prosperity and are all carefully packed into colorful, lacquered bento-like boxes called jubako). One of these items is a special roll of konbu (kelp) known as kobumaki. It’s made by wrapping a piece of fish in thick kelp, tying it with a bow of dried gourd, and then simmering it gently in soy sauce with a touch of sugar. The result is a savory yet slightly sweet bite-sized morsel that combines the firmness of kelp with the rich taste of fresh fish.
Our producer, Otani Masakichi Shoten, carefully crafts their kobumaki using fresh Pacific herring. Since their founding, Otani Masakichi Shoten has focused on creating foods that allow their customers to experience and enjoy the blessings of nature. They believe that “food is life” and operate with heartfelt social responsibility.
Ingredients:Kelp, Pacific herring, fermented seasoning, soy sauce, starch syrup, kanpyo (dried gourd), sugar, fish and shellfish extract, yeast extract
Suggested uses:Cut into 3-4 pieces and enjoy as is.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.
YUZU PICKLED RAKKYO (JAPANESE SCALLION)
Producer: Kai Foods
No meal in Japan is complete without a side of tsukemono (lit “pickled things”). These pickles are made from sweet pickled rakkyo, which looks similar to garlic but is actually a Japanese scallion. It has a crisp texture and bite, with subtle garlic undertones. Pickling the rakkyo helps to mellow its naturally strong flavors resulting in a sweeter taste. Unique to these pickled rakkyo is the addition of the tart yet sweet, citrus yuzu. The result is a sweet and sour pickle that will whet your appetite and pairs perfectly with foods such as Japanese curry.
Kai Foods harvests their seasonal produce from the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. They create products which appeal to modern tastes yet preserve traditional Japanese flavors. They rely on natural methods developed generations ago when chemical additives, preservatives, and colorings did not exist, and focus on classic Japanese ingredients such as miso, soy sauce, mirin, bonito and kelp.
Ingredients:Rakkyo (Japanese scallion) (domestic), chrysanthemum flower, pickle liquid (sugar, vinegar, yuzu juice (domestic), salt)
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is as a side dish but be sure to keep the liquid to pickle vegetables (known as namasu). To makeNew Year’s Kohaku Namasu,cover 25g eachjulienned daikon and carrot and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.You can also create your own Japanese styleYuzu Pickled Rakkyo Tartar Sauce by combining 50g of chopped Yuzu Pickled Rakkyo with two chopped boiled eggs, 2 Tbsp of mayonnaise and 2 tsp of theliquid in this package.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.
YUBA OSUIMONO (CLEAR SOUP WITH TOFU SKIN)
Producer: Asuzac Foods
Osuimono (lit. “things to sip”) is a clear soup that appears simple at a glance, but can be hard to master given the delicate and subtle flavors of its fresh high-quality ingredients. It’s typically served at the end of a meal, before the main course, or as the base for the Japanese New Year’s soup called ozōni.
This luxurious osuimono includes three unique Japanese ingredients: yuba (sweet and buttery tofu skins that are made by warming a bowl of soybean milk and skimming off the top film), mitsuba (also known as Japanese parsley or honeywort with a fresh bitterness reminiscent of celery leaves) and yuzu (Japan’s beloved tart yet sweet citrus fruit). These ingredients are combined with a bonito dashi (soup stock), soy sauce and a pinch of salt to draw out the flavors.
Asuzac Food’s slogan is “Farm to Fork” which is rooted in their philosophy of bringing responsibly sourced vegetables to your table. In order to reliably trace their ingredients, Asuzac Foods owns its own farms in Nagano Prefecture and Vietnam, allowing for them to produce a wide variety of crops based on the local climate, which are freeze-dried to maintain freshness and flavor. They analyze and inspect their pesticides for safety, make their own compost and inspect their soil and fertilizer for the highest quality, all while constantly examining, monitoring and improving their cultivation techniques.
Ingredients:Yuba (domestic), fermented seasoning, seafood extract, sugar, mitsuba (honeywort), salt, starch, dextrin, yeast extract, bonito dashi, soy sauce, yuzu juice, dried yuzu peel, wheat gluten hydrolysate, vegetable extract, vegetable oil, antioxidant (Vitamin E) (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses:Add the contents to a bowl, pour in 160ml of boiling water and stir.
SAKE LEES HOT POT SOUP
Producer: Takahashi Shoten
There is no better way to stay warm over the holidays than a communal nabe (hot pot) using fresh seasonal ingredients. Essential to any great tasting nabe is the quality and flavor of the soup stock. The umami-rich flavors of this hot pot soup come from the addition of sake lees (sakekasu), which is the fine paste that remains after the liquid has been removed to make sake. Sake lees has a complex flavor with a slightly fruity taste, providing a touch of sweetness to the savory rice miso and umami-rich bonito, sardines and shiitake. This sake lees comes from two of Japan’s top sake producing regions: Nada in Kobe and Fushimi in Kyoto.
Takahashi Shoten began as a sake brewery but turned their attention to creating pickles using sake lees in 1946, guided by the twelfth generation of the founding family. Since then, Takahashi Shoten has continued to create new local products while preserving the techniques handed down through their family.
Ingredients:Soy sauce (domestic), sugar, sake lees, fermented seasoning, rice miso (rice, soybeans, salt), potato starch, salt, sake, dried bonito shavings, grilled sardines, dried shiitake mushrooms (includes soybeans and wheat)
Suggested uses:Can be used in hot pots or forsimmering, grilling, baking and cooking.To make a hot pot or nimono (simmered food) base, combine in a 1:4 Sake Lees Hot Pot Soup:water ratio with a pinch of salt if desired. Use as is to marinate fish/meat/vegetables before grilling or stir frying. To make a traditional nimono, boil chopped and peeled taro (satoimo), bamboo shoots, gobo (burdock root) and carrots for about 10 mins. Drain the water and put the vegetables back in the pot with enough Sake Lees Hot Pot soup diluted 1:4 in water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for about 15 mins on medium heat. Serve with blanched snow peas and cooked chicken, mushrooms and konnyaku if desired.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening.
MIRIN (SWEET SAKE) LEES
Mirin is a type of Japanese rice wine with a sweet, umami flavor that acts as a complement to saltier ingredients such as soy sauce and miso. It’s an essential seasoning in any Japanese pantry and is used both daily and for special occasions such asOshōgatsu. The quality can range from hon-mirin (lit. “true” mirin) to mirin-like seasonings. One reason for this range is that hon-mirin is brewed from shochu resulting in a product that has about 14% alcohol content and is often drunk as the celebratory New Year’s drink known as otoso.
Mirinlees (or mirin kasu) has a shape that resembles a plum blossom and is made from the paste that remains after the liquid has been removed to make mirin. Mirin lees has a complex flavor with an addictive mild sweetness (with no added sugar) and was traditionally served at temples and shrines as a seasonal treat.
This mirin lees is the by-product of making mirin usingKankyo Shuzo’s own kasutori shochu (a rare, traditional type of shochu). Kankyo Shuzu’s history dates back to 1862 with some of their buildings now being recognized as tangible cultural properties in Japan. Using old-fashioned techniques, they produce a variety of fermented foods such as mirin, sake and amazake. The company’s name originates from “Make mirin with a strong sweetness and taste!”.
Ingredients:Japanese glutinous rice (domestic), brewed alcohol, koji (rice malt) (Contains 10-12% alcohol so be careful when offering to children)
Suggested uses:Extremely versatile. Enjoy as is as a sweet snack. It can also be drunk as amazake (sweet low-alcohol sake) by diluting in 4-6x water and sweetening with a little sugar, mirin or honey if desired, or in a shake (Eg. blend 50g of mirin lees with one banana and 200ml of milk). Can also be used to pickle vegetables (Eg. Combine 2 Tbsp of Mirin Lees with 1 Tbsp soy sauce* and 1 tsp salt* and use as an overnight pickling paste for chopped carrots, daikon, cucumbers, etc.) or in the Mirin Lees Marinated Chicken and Miso Mirin Japanese Stew recipes provided.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening
NANAKUSA GAYU (SEVEN DRIED HERBS MIX)
Producer:Kodama Ikiiki Farm
After indulging over New Years, many Japanese enjoy a simple bowl of nanakusa 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 Japanese mountainside herbs 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 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 omelets and scrambled eggs, or in the Nanakusa Gayu (Seven Herb Rice Porridge) recipe provided.
HECHIMA SPONGE (へちまたわし)
Producer: Hechima Sangyo
Hechima, the Japanese name for luffa or loofah, comes from a dried gourd that is said to have been introduced to Japan in the Muromachi period (around 1520) via China, which then spread throughout the country in the early Edo period. Although the young fruit is eaten in the southern parts of Japan, it’s most commonly used as a sponge for the body and dishes but can also be used as a lining for thonged, Japanese zori sandals. The fibers have a rough yet gentle texture, dry quickly, are bacteria resistant and are very hygienic.
For 40 years, Hechima Sangyo has been growing pesticide-free hechima on their own farm near the Northern Tateyama Alps in Imizu City in Toyama Prefecture using the clear meltwater from the surrounding mountains. The company started as a way to revitalize the village town with volunteers in the area gathering to create a special product that would represent the natural environment. Efforts to produce hechima as a local product began and it’s with this same focus on sustainability that Hechima Sangyo continues to make their products.
Made from:Hechima fiber
Suggested uses:Can be used for body and dish washing (only a small amount of soap or detergent is needed). It can be used for up to 3 to 6 months and can then be returned to the earth by cutting it into small pieces and mixing it into garden or plant soil.