Blog, Spring Food

Micro Season Part 13 雨水 Usui Rainwater

雨水 Usui ( Rainwater )

The micro seasons for this part are as follows:

February 19–23 土脉潤起 Tsuchi no shō uruoi okoru. Rain moistens the soil.

February 24–28 霞始靆 Kasumi hajimete tanabiku. Mist starts to linger.

March 1–5 草木萌動 Sōmoku mebae izuru. Grass sprouts, trees bud.

At the start of spring in Japan before the cherry blossoms bloom another tree has its moment. For people in Japan this is just as imported. When the stunning  plum blossoms arrive it begins the arrival of spring by symbolising renewal and hope. One of the best places to view over 2000 ume trees is the Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto. They have a plum blossom festival which is held on February 25th the grounds are full with plum blossom and a special outdoor tea ceremony called Baikasai is held. Maiko serve hot matcha tea with wagashi ( Japanese sweets ) they also have a flea market at the same time.
This micro season couldn’t be passed by without talking about Hina matsuri on the 3rd of March. This is also known as dolls day or girls day. On this day parents celebrate their daughters happiness and good health. Traditionally when a girl is born parents or grand parents will buy a special set of Hina dolls, sometimes they are passed down from generations. These dolls are displayed in the house from the end of February until March 3rd. The dolls are a representation of the emperor and empress .

These are my friends Hina dolls that she has displayed in her house. Instagram (@dokodemotokyo)

Sometime girls will invite friends for a party and have traditional foods.
There are lots of foods associated with this time.
Temari sushi, decorated sushi balls take their name from the Temari balls children played with. Temari means hand balls and they are beautiful embroidered balls that are now normally used for decoration. These bit sized sushi balls are easy to make just search Temari sushi for instructions.

Sakura Mochi a traditional spring wagashi for Hinamatsuri and the coming Sakura seasons. Sakura Mochi is a Mochi rice cake with a sweet red bean paste filling and then wrapped in a salted pickled Sakura leaf. It’s a nice combination of sweet and salty. Just search Sakura Mochi for the recipe.


There are three colours associated with Hinamatsuri white for purification, green for health and pink for luck. Often you will see dango in these three colours which are popular at this time. These are also called hanami dango or Sanshoku dango. Just search dango for recipes.

Cherry blossom cookies are also a nice one to make. Recipe on this website.


Others are strawberry daifuku,cherry blossom rice balls,inari sushi and chirashi sushi (scattered sushi

This year I will be making a chirashi sushi which resembles a cake in the three spring colours known as Chakin sushi.
Seasoned sushi rice which you can either layer using the colours in-between or colour the rice. I like to use natural colours so I used beetroot juice for pink mixed into cooked sushi rice and matcha tea.  You can then add the toppings to the top of the rice cake.
I think this would be a lovely one for a party or gathering.


You could even make mini ones cup cake style or make three layer onigiri.


I also decided to make onigiri in the shape of Hina dolls.

If you would like to see things I have made in previous years just search Hina matsuri, I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own celebration.

As I have no children it has also been suggested to me that girls day is a nice day to spend with girl friends or sisters. Maybe if you have no girl children you could plan a day out or go for a meal or celebrate women in general.

 

 

 

Blog, Winter Food

Kuzu-yu 葛湯

Kuzu or Kudzu starch is a Japanese powdered root and I often use to thicken my curry sauces. It is highly valued in the macrobiotic diet for having many health benefits from helping stomach illnesses, regulating blood sugar and high blood pressure to comforting cold and flu symptoms. This is why it makes a wonderful drink to have in the winter months, especially if you are sick. I chose to make this as it is also believed to help with migraine and ease neck and shoulder pain, which I had been suffering from, also it is helpful in regulating estrogen levels.
The kuzu tea  or as it’s known kuzu-yu is a hot sweet syrupy drink so would be helpful in easing tired muscles and aiding with sore throats.
(yu) means hot water in Japanese .

It is easy to make with just a few ingredients

x1 tablespoon of kuzu root powder, x1 cup of COLD water, x1 teaspoon of  grated ginger, x1 teaspoon of Yuzu juice or lemon and sweetener of choice to taste.

Add the kuzu to a pan and crush into a fine powder , at this point if you would like to make the drink with matcha powder rather than ginger you can add this here and mix into the root. Take your cup of cold water and add a little to the root and mix to a paste then add the rest. Heat on a gentle heat stirring all the time until it thickens.
Pour into your favourite mug or tea cup and sip to enjoy.

If you are making the matcha version it is sometimes served as a hot dessert in Japan with small rice cracker toppings called arare.

Another popular alternative is to use apple juice instead of water and make a syrupy apple drink, maybe adding ginger and cinnamon and a few cubes of fresh apple to finish.

I think this is a perfect winter beverage to warm your body.

Blog, Spring Food

Micro Season Part 12 立春 Risshun (Beginning of spring)

I actually started writing about micro seasons half way through the 24 seasonal divisions back at the beginning of autumn Risshu. Now we are entering Risshun the beginning of Spring. Did you celebrate Setsubun yesterday? I talked about this in my last micro season post.
This micro season is broken down into three subdivisions.

February 4–8 東風解凍 Harukaze kōri o toku East wind melts the ice
February 9–13 黄鶯睍睆 Kōō kenkan su Bush warblers start singing in the mountains
February 14–18 魚上氷 Uo kōri o izuru Fish emerge from the ice

This is an important time for farmers in Japan especially tea farmers, because it is the first of the 24 divisions in the solar calendar it is considered the start of life and from this day 88 days are counted until the first tea picking, so Risshun is used as a reference point.
With the term Risshun comes Haru Matsuri or spring festival, and it’s definitely a positive sign. Bulbs and flowers are starting to push through the frosty earth and the birds are getting busy looking for potential nest sites.
You can feel a glimpse of spring now.
In Japan you might start to see plum blossoms blooming or hear the call of the male (uguisu) bush warbler (Japanese nightingale).

The bush warbler or Uguisu is a little green bird and at this time wagashi shops start to sell Uguisu Mochi . A chubby cake similar to the shape of the bird. It is a Mochi rice cake filled with red bean paste and dusted in green kinako made from the freshest soy beans.
I decided to make this as I had some Uguisu kinako which is the name given to the green soy bean flour.


I made it with Shiratama rice flour and inside was home made bean paste.


I feel like a little bit of Japanese springtime has arrived in my home.

Blog, Spring Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 11 大寒 Daikan Greater cold

January 20–24  冬華   Fuki no hana saku  Butterburs bud

January 25-29 水沢腹堅  Kiwamizu kōri tsumeru Ice thickens on streams

January 30- February 3 鶏始乳 Niwatori hajimete toya ni tusku hens start laying eggs

I actually want to talk a bit about what happens right at the end of this micro season on February 3rd. This day is regarded as particularly important as it is the transition from winter to spring. The day before the first day of spring on February 3rd is called Setsubun. On this day there are a few customs in Japan one of them is to eat an uncut makizushi called (eho-maki ) while you sit in silence facing the years lucky direction, 2020 being west south west and make a wish for the rest of the coming year. The eho-maki must have seven ingredients, these relate to the seven lucky gods Shichifukujin.

Another Setsubun custom is for the male person of the house to wear a demon mask called ( oni ) and then throw roasted soy beans at other family members and out of the door while shouting “ Oniwa soto Futuwa uchi ! ” meaning demons out luck in. This ritual is called Mamemaki or bean scattering and as well as doing it at home shrines and temples hold this ritual also and many people go to partake in the Oni oi-Shiki ceremony. Women may sometimes wear the otafuku mask which is Lady Luck.


As well as the roasted soybean scattering it is custom to eat as many soybeans as your age plus one for the year to come to insure a year of good health.
Why not try making a long sushi roll for yourself this year. Fillings can be anything you like . Try asparagus, cucumber, tofu, kanpyo, shiitake, carrot or a vegan style cutlet.
I always like to celebrate Setsubun to welcome in the new spring season, although spring still feels a very long way off at the moment but the small signs are there if care to take a look.

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Winter Food

Miso Curry Soy Milk Ramen

Miso Curry Soy Milk Ramen 味噌カレー豆乳ラーメン

I have made this meal once before and shared it on my Instagram feed. If you think this combination sounds strange bare with me it’s well worth making it for yourself.

The distinctive soup which has become Aomori city’s local dish is a blend of miso based soup and milk with curry powder and it always has a butter topping along with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots and wakame seaweed. Normally made with cows milk but I made it vegan by using soy milk and vegan ramen noodles .

The taste is sweet and spicy and has a creamy texture. The ramen is a hot comforting meal on a cold day, I guess that’s why it’s so popular in the colder regions of Japan in winter time.

Even though this dish is a speciality of Aomori it is originally from Sapporo. Mr. Kiyoshi Satoh, who moved from Sapporo to Aomori wanted to promote Sapporo-style ramen outside Hokkaido and made this curry miso ramen as his signature dish.

Why not try a steamy hot yellow bowl of this miso curry milk ramen for yourself and be surprised with how delicious it is. Don’t omit that butter topping, you can buy vegan butter, my favourite in the UK is the organic vegan butter block by Naturli. I also recommend a good quality soy milk like Bonsoy. As for the curry powder you can buy vegan curry powder in Japan or you can use S&B curry spice powder but this will not thicken your soup so you may need to use a little kuzu powder. There is a new vegan store just opened in Tokyo in Asakusa and they sell a good range of vegan curry powders. As for vegan ramen I used Samurai ramen or you could use ramen by Ohsawa  which I always buy in Japan, also available on Amazon.

When I’m in Tokyo my favourite vegan ramen place to eat is Ts Tan Tan well worth a visit to either their ramen shops in Tokyo station and Ueno  or restaurant at Jiyugaoka, they even have a noodle bar at Narita airport at T2. They do not have curry ramen maybe they should, but non the less they have really good vegan ramen to try when your in Tokyo.

To make this miso curry milk ramen gather your ingredients serves 2 people.

White miso paste x1 heaped tablespoon

Soy milk 500-800ml

Curry powder x3 tablespoons

Ramen noodles x1 pack of samurai ramen this has two servings ( do not use the sauce inside the packet )

Vegan butter a small square each when serving

Bamboo shoots I bought the vacuumed sealed type which has x1 whole bamboo shoot, slice this into quarters. The remaining will keep in water in an air tight container for a few days in the fridge ( why not search bamboo shoots for ideas on how to use the rest of it up ) take the 1/4 piece and slice it. If you cannot get a whole piece of bamboo shoot you can use tinned. I got mine from the Japan centre in London, they also sell them through out Japan.

Wakame seaweed I used dried seaweed and just added it to hot water in a bowl to rehydrate you will only need a small piece. Slice into pieces

Bean sprouts x1 1/2 bag

You can also add sweetcorn which goes well with the butter.

If using S&B curry powder

Kuzu powder if your using just curry spice powder like S&B, use x1 tablespoon of curry powder and x1-2 teaspoons of crushed kuzu root in a little water around x1 teaspoon to make a slurry before adding to your warm milk.

You will need two pans one with boiling water for your ramen to cook and to lightly steam your bamboo shoot and bean sprouts and one to make your soup.

First add your milk to a pan and heat slowly do not boil, when it’s warm add miso and dissolve, then add your curry powder and mix in well. The curry powder will thicken the milk, however if your using S&B then add the powder mix and then add your kuzu slurry and mix well to thicken. You may need to turn the heat up slightly with the kuzu but as soon as it thickens turn it all on to a low simmer. Then steam your bamboo and bean sprouts for a few minutes, take the steamer off if using the same pan you can can just use the boiling water to now cook your noodles. Keep the lid on your steamed veg to keep warm. When the noodles are done, they only take a few minutes add some miso curry soy milk to your bowls then drain your noodles and add these to your soup. Top with bean sprouts, sweetcorn if you like and bamboo shoots. Don’t forget that butter.

You can also add some sautéed sliced king mushrooms. This ramen normally has slices of pork on top so I think the mushrooms make a good substitute for this. You can sprinkle with an extra dash of curry powder and a drizzle of chilli oil to finish if you wish. 

I hope you will be pleasantly surprised like I was with how well all the flavours blend together and make a delicious ramen.

Blog, Winter Food

Kuromame Daifuku Mochi

I went to a new year mochi pounding this January which was then made into Mochi with sweet red bean paste and was served to the spectators.


Mochi is often eaten as a symbol of long life in Japan and the breaking and eating of the Kagami Mochi ( known as Kagami Biraki ) see other posts for more information on this, is a ritual celebrating the transition to a new stage in life.
The 13th of January this year in Japan is coming of age day Seijin Shiki 成人式. It is held on the second Monday in January and is the day when people in Japan that turned 20 the previous year are now welcomed into society as an adult. It may be common to see people in elaborate costumes visiting shrines to pray for health and success.

Inspired by seeing the Mochi pounding I decided to try making my own Mochi which is the symbol of longevity as it’s so stretchy  and make kuromame Daifuku. Daifuku translates to great luck and the sweet black soy beans are a symbol of good health and are eaten as part of new year food (osechi).

Daifuku is a Japanese wagashi ( sweet ) consisting of a small round glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans.

These are the ingredients I used which I bought easily from the Japan centre Asian food super market in London, they also sell on line.

 

Top row: Tokyo Potato starch powder 150g, Hashimoto Tsubuan chunky red bean paste 350g ( both originating from Hokkaidō ).
Bottom row : Hakubai sweet Mochi rice 2.27 Kg  ( this is a big bag but is perfect for making ohagi / Botamochi for spring / autumn equinox for which I have recipes. Finally Shiga Shoten Tambaguro kuromame simmered black soy beans 150g

First wash and soak over night one rice cooker cup of sweet Mochi rice. In the morning cook the rice in your rice cooker or pan with two rice cooker cups of water. A rice cooker cup is what comes with a rice cooker if you do not have one 1 rice cooker cup equates to 3/4 of a normal measuring cup or 180ml .
After your rice is cooked keep the lid on and steam for a further ten minutes. Transfer the cooked rice into a bowl or Suribachi ( grinding bowl) and start pounding your rice with something like a rolling pin or something like a surikogi which is the mortar part of a pestle and mortar. Keep wetting the end as it will start to get very sticky indeed !
When its all smooth and stretchy dust a work surface or board with potato starch and tip the Mochi out. Dust your hand with potato starch as this will stop your hands sticking to the mochi  then knead the mochi in the potato starch and pull off pieces about the size of a heaped tablespoon. Flatten it out and add your sweet black soy beans and a ball of anko in the middle.

Fold the mochi with the circle of soy beans over the anko to make a ball. Shape and it’s done.


This was the first time I have ever made these and the more you do the better at it you become. I was really pleased how they turned out. Serve with a matcha tea to celebrate a long and healthy life

( no matter if your celebrating coming of age day, life is a celebration  ! )

Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 10 (Lesser cold) 小寒 Shōkan

(Lesser cold) 小寒 Shōkan

January 5–9  芹乃栄 Seri sunawachi sakau  ( Parsley flourishes )

January 10–14  水泉動 Shimizu atataka o fukumu  ( Springs thaw )

January 15–19 雉始 Kiji hajimete naku ( Pheasants start to call )

Nanakusa-Gayu

nana (): seven

kusa (): lit. grass (herb)

(o)kayu (): rice porridge

On the 7th of January in japan (jinjitsu) marks the end of the Oshougatsu (Japanese New Years) . This day is known as nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句), or the Festival of the Seven Weeds . It is custom to make a seven herb rice porridge Nanakusa Gayu 七草粥 to help heal the stomach after the New Year festivities. It is quite common in japan if you have an unwell stomach to eat Okayu rice porridge. The 7th of January is one of the 5 seasonal festivals the porridge is said to prevent illness for the coming year.

The herbs used in japan are waterdrop wort,shepherds purse,cudweed,chickweed,nipplewort,turnip and daikon radish.

As I live in the UK I have had to substitute the Japanese herbs for ones I could find.

I used watercress,rocket,mizuna,chive,basil and parsley a mixture of these with daikon radish.

You can a make this with  kombu dashi ( just soak kombu in water over night ) and Japanese rice with a 1-5 ratio one Japanese rice cooker cup rice to five water. Simmer for around 30 mins adding more dashi if needed, then mix in your herbs and steam for 10 minutes. You could finish by garnishing with some sautéed daikon radish chopped green onion and sesame seeds.

You can cook your rice in dashi or vegetable broth and make  a pesto with the herbs. Just blend a mix of the herbs with olive oil and sesame paste. Then add a spoon of pesto on top with maybe some sautéed daikon and some extra blanched herbs.

It is also nice to add a toasted Mochi rice cake if you like.

If you have left over porridge how about stirring in some creamy white miso for a delicious lunch.

However you cook it it’s a lovely filling meal.

Here’s to good health in 2020 !

Blog, Winter Food

My Osechi Ryori for 2020

Happy New Year Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu 明けましておめでとうございます!

Did you make toshikoshi soba last night to bring in the new year and cut ties with the old ?  2020 is not only the start of a new decade but its the year that Japan will be hosting the summer Olympics and I will be visiting Japan again myself at the end of April ! I’m so excited to be back.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu 元日). Even though I am not in Japan I can bring Japan closer with my food.

New year is a very important time and food has a lot of special meaning. I have made a few posts on Osechi over the years  and this year also my last blog post is on other new year symbolism in Japan.

Osechi Ryori are traditional foods normally packed in a tiered bento box known as ojubuko 重箱 enjoyed at New Year’s Day in Japan. I have made a vegan selection of these dishes. There are other popular dishes but they are not vegan.

Ozoni 関西風お雑煮( Kansai – style ) new year soup This style of soup from Kyoto region is made with miso and toasted Mochi. I added daikon,carrot, komatsuna and Yuzu peel.

Candied chestnut and sweet potato ( Kuri Kinton )  栗きんとん .This golden mash symbolises wealth and fortune.

Kinpira Renkon (Japanese Lotus Root Stir Fry) きんぴら蓮根

Sweet black soy beans (Kuro-mame) 黒豆 Symbolises good health.

Daikon & carrot salad (Namasu ) 紅白なます.These are colours of celebration. I served it inside a Yuzu skin.

Nishime 煮しめ simmered vegetables is a must for a New Years meal and the lotus root is a symbol of an unobstructed view to the future. I used carrot, taro potato, Kouya dofu, lotus root, kabocha,shiitake,konnyaku and snow peas all simmered in a kombu shiitake stock with tamari, mirin and Yuzu. 

I also made some inari sushi いなり寿司 ( because I like them ) and Furofuki daikon 風呂吹き大根  simmered daikon with miso and a tofu, kabocha and Yuzu mousse topped with sweet red beans.

Mitarashi dango みたらし団子 chewy soft warm dumplings with a with a sweet soy sauce glaze.

Amazake 甘酒 is also popular at new year along with sake. Many Shinto shrines sell or provide amazake on New Year’s Eve. There is also a herb sake called O-toso drunk at new year. Drinking O-toso is said to ward off infectious diseases like colds for the year.

Dried persimmon hoshigaki (干し柿).These ones are pretty special they are stuffed with sweet white bean paste and are a wagashi called Suikanshuku (粋甘粛) . It is traditional to eat dried persimmon over the new year as the wrinkled skin is said to be associated with longevity. The Japanese word for persimmon (not dried is kaki ) which means luck. 


What ever your plans for 2020 I hope it brings health, happiness and everything you could possibly wish for. The new year and new decade is full of possibilities.

Blog, Winter Food

Japanese New Year The year of the Mouse.

I have talked a few times each year about the special foods and their significance over New Year (Oshogatsu) in Japan, but their are other new year traditions other than food.
In the new year things are a little different in Japan, it is more of a family affair and most people spend it at home until maybe going to a shrine or temple to pray for the coming year.

After the work parties called Bonenkai or ( forget the year ) you may partake in other activities.

It starts with preparing the house a few days before with something called O-Souji. This is basically a big clean ritual so you start the New year fresh and clean. This is more about doing the things that may get neglected in the year. Those cupboards that need a clean out or things you have been putting off doing as well as cleaning through the house.

Then items might be displayed in the home like Kadomatsu, a traditional decoration made from bamboo and pine. It is usually a set of two set in front of the home to welcome ancestral spirits or kami.

Shimekazari an ornament that represents a new start may be hung on the house entrance. It is believed to bring luck and prevent bad spirits entering the house.

Something else you might display may be a Kagami Mochi consisting of two round mochi on top of each other and an orange on the top. It is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following year. It is normally placed in the household altar or like mine this year in my tokonoma as I’m now lucky enough to have a Japanese style room in my home.

The Mochi is traditionally eaten in a ritual called Kagami biraki on the second Saturday or Sunday in January.


At this time I normally make zenzai.


Decorations of the coming zodiac animal are displayed and this year 2020 it is the year of the mouse/rat.


There are twelve animal signs of each year, this is called juni-shi . The cycle rotates every twelve years and as we head into a new decade we also start again with the first of the 12 animal symbols. In China 2020 is the year of the rat but in japan it is the mouse . Is the mouse your birth animal ? If you were born 1960,1972,1984,1996,2008 you are a mouse .

It is said you are meticulous, charismatic, sensitive and intellectual you also can be manipulative, vindictive and over ambitious.
Walking the cherry blossom lined “Tetsugaku-no-michi” philosophers path in Kyoto you may be lucky enough to come across a beautiful little shrine tucked away off the path  Otoyo shrine . ( don’t walk past it it’s easy to miss ). Here you will be greeted by not stone foxes but stone carved mice figures who are the symbols of fertility, longevity and relationships.
People come here to ask for blessings in relationships and child rearing. This shrine attracts visitors
for hatsumode the first shrine visit of the year particularly when it’s the year of the mouse.

There is importance of the firsts of things on New Year’s Day. The first shrine visit ( hatsumode) if you go at midnight on the new year you will hear the temple bells rung 108 times a ritual known as Joya no Kane to ward off the 108 worldly sins. The  first sunrise ( hatsuhinode), the first dream (hatsuyume) if you dream of Mount Fuji or a hawk it is considered lucky. Even the first sound your hear all seam to have significance towards a sign of the year ahead.

On New Year’s Eve ( oh-misoka ) some Japanese people like to eat Toshikoshi Soba. Toshikoshi means end the old year and enter the new year. A hot bowl of buckwheat noodles eaten to symbolise good luck for the new year a head and it is also said to let go of hardships from the year. This maybe eaten while watching a singing contest that is popular on NHK while snuggled up under the kotatsu ( a heated table blanket).


I have spoken about the food in previous posts eaten at new year called osechi- ryori. Other things that might be done on New Year’s Day maybe they giving of  new year cards known as nengajo to friends or relatives. Children will receive little money envelopes known as otoshidama it is also customary to play games like badminton or go out and fly a kite. Board games like backgammon or snakes and ladders maybe played or children play with tradition spinning tops.

How to say Happy New year, if you wish to say happy new year to someone in Japanese and it is not yet new year then say Yoi Otoshio, if it is already new year say akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

I hope that  weather you are in Japan or not that you might be able to like me bring a little of the Japanese traditions into your home. Why not make soba or make special food for the new year. Make a wish as you watch the sunrise or set new year goals with a daruma doll. However you celebrate I wish you all a happy New year and as we go into a brand new decade Japan will eagerly await the 2020 Olympics and I am excited to be visiting Japan again for the 6th time!

 

 

 

 

Blog

Matcha Marzipan Chocolates

If your short on time and ingredients why not try making these super quick and easy matcha marzipans with only a few ingredients.

Add to a bowl 200g bag of ground almonds and to that two tablespoons of sifted matcha. Mix the matcha in well and add four tablespoons of pure maple syrup and cream the almonds with the maple syrup. You can test that it’s mixed well if you take a little piece and it rolls into a ball and sticks together.

Take x1 and 1/2 bars of vegan chocolate I used the Moo free rice milk chocolate which equates to 150g

Melt in a bowl with hot water underneath.

While the chocolate is melting take heaped tablespoons of marzipan mixture and roll into balls . If you would like to add a filling you could add a hazelnut or like me I added some crystallised ginger. Just push in your filling and then roll again .

Line a tray with parchment paper

When your chocolate is melted roll each ball in the chocolate to coat and place on your tray.

When all the marzipan is coated you can add a topping like some chopped nuts or chopped candied Yuzu peel.

Chill in the fridge.
Serve with a nice Japanese tea of choice or maybe an Umeshu

 

Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Micro Season Part 9 Touji Winter Solstice

At this time of year everything is in hibernation waiting to emerge again in the spring. This is the time of the  shortest day the Winter Solstice known in the Japanese micro season as Touji ( Toji ) (冬至).

Touji has subdivisions

22nd December-26th self heal sprouts

乃東生 Natsukarekusa shōzu

27th December-31st Dears shed antlers

麋角解 Sawashika no tsuno otsuru

1st-4th January Wheat sprouts under snow

雪下出麦 Yuki watarite mugi nobiru

The 22nd of December is the winter solstice and in Japan it is custom to eat pumpkin and have a bath with Yuzu.

Japanese people celebrate the solstice as they welcome the return of longer days, they pray for good health and eat auspicious food. Japanese people like a hot bath or onsen and a bath with Yuzu at this time is called yuzu-yu and is perfect for relaxing and warming the body. I have some Yuzu bath salts from Japan that I will be using.

Yuzu is a winter citrus fruit and is known for its cleansing properties, it is said the strong smell of Yuzu will drive away evil spirits.
I also decided to make the perfect healthy and simple Japanese meal called  yudofu ( hot water tofu  ) with some lovely hot pot tofu from Hokkaidō.


The broth was kombu, tamari, mirin and Yuzu peel, and I served it with Yuzu ponzu, grated daikon radish and green onion. This meal is full of protein and minerals from the kombu.

I find that the peel freezes well and so can be dropped into a hot broth to give flavour at any time of year weather it’s in season or not. Yuzu is not a fruit that can be easily obtained in the UK and can be expensive but you can find Asian super markets selling Yuzu juice if you can’t get a fresh fruit. The Yuzu juice also makes nice tofu desserts and I have lots of Yuzu recipes on this website ( just do a search for Yuzu ).
Kabocha pumpkin is customarily eaten at the solstice, it is referred to as a good luck food which also fills the body with nourishment and vitamins. I have also lots of kabocha recipes on this website so just do a search if you would like to make something with kabocha pumpkin.


Itokoni  a Shojin ryori dish of simmered kabocha, konnyaku,root vegetables, fried tofu and azuki beans is a popular meal. It is a regional Buddhist cuisine from Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures.


Others auspices foods are daikon radish, carrot, lotus root  and ginnan, enjoy these to bring good health.

Over the new year there are many foods that are eaten for this reason. Why not check out some of my new year blog posts to find out how to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Oh-misoka) and New Year’s Day (Oshogatsu) Japan style.
I will of course be making my usual foods Toshikoshi soba, Ozoni and Osechi Ryori and you can find ideas and recipes for any of these by just either searching New Year or the separate items.
I hope everyone has a healthy winter solstice and a prosperous New Year.

 

 

Winter Food

Christmas Pudding Sake Truffles

I have two truffle recipes for you this Christmas one is really simple with minimal ingredients and then I have this decadent truffle recipe. It may take longer and have more ingredients but I can tell you these are the best truffles I have ever made. I used Sorakami UK sake which I have a 20% discount code for if you go on their website just type in TOKYOPONY20 at the checkout. I like their sake as they use small family breweries in Japan. I hope you can try these delicious truffles for yourself, they are perfect to give as a gift, why not present them in a bento box like this gorgeous bamboo bento from bentoandco.


This is what you will need and how to prepare

1/2 cup approx of chopped fresh medjool dates

1/2 cup approx raisins and 1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup walnuts

3 tablespoon of sake ( if you have no sake you can always use rum or cognac.

25g of vegan butter I used ( Naturli they even mark 25g on the packet for you)

a teaspoon of allspice and 1/2 a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon.

a dash of salt

the rind of one orange ( optional )

100g of chocolate ( I used organic dark chocolate buttons by Cocoa Loco  which come in 100g grm bags)

cacao powder ( I use the raw chocolate company ) you will probably need a few tablespoons

First add your fruit to a bowl and add your sake and let it soak for an hour.
Add your walnuts to a food processor and process until fine then add your fruit and process, add orange rind and spices and process into a dough.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over hot water then add your salt. Mix the chocolate into your fruit/nut dough and chill for ten minutes in the fridge.

Take heaped tablespoons if you would like larger truffles and roll them into balls then roll them in a bowl of cacao powder. Chill again in the fridge and serve.

 

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Japanese Micro Season Part 8 Taisetsu (Greater Snow)

As winter is well underway we can expect colder days

Greater Snow is the name for this micro season in Japan starting on the 7th-11th of December with Sora samuku fuyu to naru, meaning cold sets in winter begins.

12th-16th December Kuma ana ni komoru meaning, bears start hibernating in their dens.
I think we hibernate a little also. Staying in more on cold dark days.

17th-21st December Sake no uo muragaru, meaning, salmons gather and swim upstream.

Christmas is celebrated in Japan but not in a religious way. It’s a time for romance. It’s a time when people go on dates with loved ones. The twinkling lights and cosy atmosphere make it the perfect time for love.

This was taken at Yebisu Garden Place


I was in Japan Christmas 2018 and it was so magical. Beautifully decorated trees at every turn.


Japan have special winter illuminations and one of them is the Luminarie in Kobe running from around the 6th – 15th of December 2019. It is an annual event held in memory of the victims of the great Hanshin earthquake of 1995. I can’t tell you how spectacular the lights are and with music piped all around it was quite over whelming.
If your ever in the area around this time please go and see it .


Another light show that is worth seeing if your in Tokyo is at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi. A magical show to music it runs for about 10 mins then starts again. I was quite impressed with the use of dry ice and bubble machines in the light show itself.


Caretta Shiodome winter illuminations run from 14th November-February 2020. In the middle of Caretta shopping mall. This years theme is Aladdin and last year it was Frozen.

Again very romantic for couples having their photos taken

Japan at Christmas is super cosy and it’s lovely to just relax in a cafe or bar in the evening after a day out.

Cafe Meu Nota in Koenji 100% vegan cafe

Another thing nice to do in the cold weather is relax at an onsen (Japanese hot spring). Continue reading…