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Summer Solstice (Geshi 夏至)

Around June 21 is Geshi 夏至 (the Summer Solstice). The day when the daytime is the longest and night is  shortest.

In japan unlike  other solar events very little happens by way of celebration. The Spring/autumnal equinox are called Ohigan or Higan and along with the Winter solstice these are more important than the summer solstice especially the winter solstice because it means revival of the Sun.

There is one significant Shinto ritual that takes place involving the Meoto Iwa rocks at dawn on Summer Solstice. The Meoto Iwa (“Married Couple Rocks”) are two giant rocks on the sea shore of Futami, Ise. Meoto-iwa is close to Grand shrine of ISE. (Head of Japan’s all nature worship)

They  have deep spiritual significance as Shinto is known as nature worship. The rocks are linked by a huge shimenawa straw rope and the largest rock has a tori gate. Both of these things represent that the Meoto Iwa rocks belong to the world of kami.

The best English translation of kami is ‘spirits’, but this is an over-simplification of a complex concept – kami can be elements of the landscape or forces of nature.

On the summer solstice the sun appears to rise right between the rocks. At daybreak, hundreds of Shintoists will also greet the Sun before the great rocks and enter the ocean as the sun rises between the rocks in a ceremony called Geshisai – literally, “Summer Solstice Rite.” Participants of this ceremony  purify their body in the sea  and watch the sunrise while singing Japan’s national anthem called Kimigayo.

Religious purification with water is called Misogi in Shinto. You may have done this yourself when entering a Shinto shrine washing your hands and mouth.

The end of June is very much a time for purification rituals in japan.

Minazuki is the name of the white  triangle shaped wagashi (Japanese sweet) that is eaten on the 30th of June.
It is taken from a Shinto ritual called Ooharae on the 30th of June and the 30th of December for the purification of sins and bad luck from the first or second half of the year.
The triangle shape is meant to resemble a block of ice ( chasing away the summer heat) and the azuki beans signify the exorcism of devils.

You may also see at Shinto shrines rings of straw called  Chinowa (the ring of purification)

People walk through a ring of straw for purification.

Around this time is the peak of the rice-planting season. In old lore, the long, straggly roots of the rice plant were thought to resemble octopus legs. Thus, in the Kansai region in particular, people eat octopus at this time of year as a good omen. One meal that is popular Is octopus and ginger rice as well as fried octopus.

With this in mind I decided to make a vegan version of this summer solstice meal.

Ginger rice made with fresh ginger juice and Vegan calamari with a squeeze of lemon and wasabi vegan mayonnaise .

I made the vegan version of calamari with hearts of palm. If you’re concerned about the sustainability of heart of palms, rest assured that, unlike some palm oils, most canned varieties of this veggie comes from farmed peach palms.

Just slice the canned hearts of palm and push out the centre to form a ring. Coat in potato starch and shallow fry. The ginger rice was made by adding ginger juice, mirin and tamari into the cooking water of the rice.

Also served with a Japanese potato salad and a cucumber and Myoga Tsukemono.

As a sunny dessert I chose a delicious mango jelly wagashi from minamoto  kitchoan you can also freeze this jelly for a refreshing sherbet.

The traditional Japanese micro seasonal calendar breaks down as follows:

Four seasons 四季 / shiki break down into 24 sub seasons 二十四節気 / nijyushisekki and further into 72 micro seasons 七十二候 / shichijyunikou.

If you would like to read more about The 10th sub season of the year 夏至 Geshi (Summer solstice) breaking down into further micro seasons:

June 21–26 乃東枯 Natsukarekusa karuru Self-heal withers

June 27–July 1 菖蒲華 Ayame hana saku Irises bloom

July 2–6 半夏生 Hange shōzu Crow-dipper sprouts

Read the micro seasonal post relating to this which you can find on the drop down menu.

Blog, Summer Food

Wagashi no hi

Wagashi no hi (the Day of Japanese Confectionery)

(和菓子の日)

Starting in the Heian period, the Emperor Ninmyo prayed to the gods with an offering of 16 wagashi on June 16th to pray for his people to live healthy and happy lives when a plague spread throughout Japan.

With the popularity of tea and sugar during the Edo period ( 1603-1867) due to sugar being more widely available the development of stores selling sweets to be eaten with tea flourished. Before this tea was introduced in the Kamakura period ( 1185-1333) and zen monks partook in drinking tea with a small snack.

With demand, different wagashi stores introduced their own styles of sweets. Kyoto style wagashi were beautiful edible pieces of art to be eaten with a tea ceremony where as Tokyo style wagashi were more simple in design.

Wagashi comes in so many shapes and is a wide term for many varieties of Japanese desserts and confectionery as well as sweets  eaten with green tea. Wagashi plays an important role in representing the seasons and you may find  motifs used in the confectionery each month  bringing a celebration of nature from the cherry blossoms of early spring with the wagashi known as Sakura Mochi to traditional sweets eaten at the equinoxes and offered to ancestors known an Ohagi .


In the autumn you may see wagashi shaped like maple leaves, chestnuts or persimmon. Summer wagashi maybe in the form of a cooling jelly or kuzu kiri, where as winter wagashi could be a zenzai

( warm red beans with Dango or Mochi )

Wagashi are normally consumed with green tea, the bitter taste of matcha is complimented by eating a sweet before hand never together.

The word wagashi is made up of two characters wa ( Japanese) and kashi/gashi (菓子 sweets). There are different forms of wagashi : Namagashi or fresh which are normally kept refrigerated and eaten on the same day, Mushi which  are steamed like manju or uirou ,  Mochi the ones we all know so well like Dango, Nagagashi which contain a coagulation ingredient like kanten or agar agar which we normally see in the form of summer jellies or yokan.

Yaki gashi are confections that are cooked think something like dorayaki or Taiyaki.

Nerikiri are the wagashi you normally find at Japanese tea ceremonies they consist of bean paste normally in a variety of colours that has been mixed with a binder like rice flour and come in a variety of shapes ( normally depicting a flower or something of the season). Higashi is a dry confection and can come in the form of a hard candy or wasanbon made from fine grained sugar. The most common being rakugan which come in a variety of shapes. Beika refer to snacks made from rice like senbei.

Agegashi refer to deep fried snacks like karinto.
Have you tried any of these types of wagashi yourself? You may have visited a Japanese tea shop or visited a family run wagashi store or maybe been bought them as a gift which is a very popular thing to do in Japan.

If you would like to purchase some beautiful wagashi yourself and your not in Japan the online store Minamoto Kichoan have a wonderful selection. They also have their own stores around the world and their flagship store in Ginza Tokyo selling their tradition confectionery made in Japan, many are seasonal with summer confections of jelly like this Kingyo jelly or ones containing fruits.

Autumn ones may contain things like nuts like their Gozenguri

or my favourite one the Suikanshuku which has a whole dried persimmon filled with white bean paste.


Just check the ingredients if you are wanting vegan ones as some contain egg.

I have some recipes for you to try making your own at home from Dango to yokan, Sakura Mochi and daifuku why not give it a try. You could make them for a special occasion or to honour an event. Why not try making Ohagi at the equinox or minazuki at the end of June.

A pyramid stack of Dango are offered to the moon for the moon viewing festival Tsukimi around September-October. 

or maybe you could make hanami Dango (three colour Dango balls for Hinamatsuri).

I hope you can try making some wagashi for yourself they also make nice gifts or enjoy them with friends for tea time.

In the summer when the weather heats up you could try making a refreshing jelly wagashi. I recently purchased some 100% Mikan juice made in Wakayama from the wasabi company.

Mikan is one of the most popular citrus fruits in Japan it’s sweet and refreshing and can be used to make salad dressings, or cocktails. It’s nice as a thirst quenching drink mixed with sparkling water or frozen for an ice lolly.

For wagashi day I decided to make a simple , very easy to make jelly.  To make it more appealing I served it as orange segments.

All you need is one orange cut in half and scoop out the fruit.
Add to a pan one cup of Mikan juice and sprinkle over one teaspoon of powdered agar agar. Gently heat up the Mikan juice and take off the heat before it boils. Allow to cool slightly and put it in the fridge for 5 mins to slightly thicken. Remove from the fridge and pour the Mikan juice into your orange halves. Allowing it to thicken will stop any leaks.

Place your orange halves in the fridge to set. When ready to serve slice a half into a further half to serve as an orange segment. Delicious on a hot day with an ice cold matcha.


Wagashi no hi’  was established by ‘Zenkoku Wagashi Kyokai’ (Japan Wagashi Association) in 1979. It is now observed every year on June 16. I’m not sure I want to eat 16 wagashi but it’s nice to have one with a green tea and wish for health and happiness.

Seasonal shop window  wagashi displays in Kyoto

Blog, Spring Food

Mother’s Day in Japan Haha no Hi 母の日


How do Japanese people celebrate Mother’s Day ?

Mother’s Day was once combined with the celebration of the Empress’ Kojun birthday who was the mother of Akihito (Japan’s emperor at the time). Her birthday was celebrated on the 6th March 1931. It wasn’t until 1949 that the Japanese decided to align the holiday to be on the same date as other countries being on the second Sunday of May, which means this year, it will fall on Sunday 8th May. Unlike the U.K. which has their Mother’s Day back in March.

In Japan, mother’s day is called ‘Haha no hi’; the word ‘haha’ is the informal term for your own mother – much like we use the word ‘mum’! The formal term for mother in Japanese is ‘Okaasan’.

Japanese children use this day to show their love and appreciation, and to give presents to their mothers. It has now become one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants and shops.

The most common gift on Japanese Mother’s Day are carnations especially the red or pink variety. In Japan it is a symbol of a mother’s purity, sweetness and endurance.

Throughout Japan, businesses and well-known department stores decorate their window displays with carnations although the carnations is not native to Japan, their symbolism has become a popular choice for Mother’s Day.

Other gifts given on Mother’s Day could be carefully drawn kanji calligraphy, personalised arts and crafts, clothing or Lacquerware jewellery boxes.

This Fukunishi Sobe Chrysanthemum Aizu Lacquer Two Tiers Jubako Bento Box from musubikiln, could easily be used to store treasured items .

Mothers are celebrated for their home cooking in Japan. The memory and uniqueness of one’s own mother’s food is encapsulated in the term ‘ofukuro-no-aji’ or ‘that unforgettable taste of one’s own mother’s cooking.’ I have talked about this in another of my blog posts, “Natsukashii & Ofukuro no aji” A taste of home. 

On Mother’s Day children often rise early to greet their mothers with flowers and breakfast. Mother’s Day in Japan is symbolically associated with eggs, so whipping up an egg-based Japanese dish is a way  to celebrate! Some egg dishes include Oyakodon A chicken and egg rice dish which literally translates as ‘parent-and-child-donburi’. Chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard) Tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelet or Omurice ( omelette over rice)

However if your vegan you could easily make something similar by substituting the eggs for tofu. There are now quite a few egg replacements on the market but I still like to use tofu and I think  it also makes it a little more authentic for a Japanese meal. 

How about making a tofu scramble to surprise your mother for a special breakfast. 

or my omurice recipe for a delicious lunch you could even make a special afternoon tea with vegan egg shokupan sandwiches. 

A special meal could be something like chirashi sushi a scattered vegetable sushi that you could make pretty by using flower shaped vegetable cutters and adding vegan scrambled eggs. 

If you are in the U.K. you could surprise your mother with a Japanese Mother’s Day for an extra special gift. If you are celebrating this day on the same day as japan why not include some carnations in your gift or make a Japanese themed meal.

Greet her in the morning with

Ohayōgozaimasu Happī haha no hi

Good morning happy Mother’s Day.

Haha itsumo arigatou – Mum, thank you for everything.

How to make tofu vegan omurice オムライス

A classic Japanese comforting home cooked dish, popular among children and adults-alike.

Add to cooked rice some sautéed chopped vegetables of choice like bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, sweetcorn etc then place back in your rice cooker on warm.

Then make your omelette batter.

Half a block of silken tofu, 2/3 cup of plant based milk,2 table spoons of nutritional yeast,1/2 teaspoon of turmeric,1 tablespoon of potato starch, salt and pepper and a teaspoon of ground Kala namak also known as Himalayan black salt this will give your omelette a slightly eggy flavour. Blend all this together in a food processor .

Spoon the mixture on to some parchment paper that’s been cut to fit your frying pan ( skillet) and spread it out. This is my non stick no oil tried and tested way to make my tofu omelette.  I find it easier to cook on one side, adding a lid over it while it cooks, then to turn it top the mixture with another sheet of parchment paper slide it from the skillet and on to a plate and then flip it over back onto your skillet.

Spoon your vegetable rice onto a plate and top with your omelette .

In Japan you often see this dish topped with tomato ketchup.

Alternatively you can leave the omelette in the pan and spoon the rice onto half the omelette then fold over the rice with the other half and slide off the parchment paper onto a plate .

 

Blog, Spring Food

okoshi おこし


At Easter time as a child I would often make simple treats made from either puffed rice or cornflakes coated in chocolate and allowed to set.

There is a tradional  puffed rice confectionery  in Japanese cuisine  known as okoshi and this simple wagashi reminded me of these crispy Easter treats I used to make.

The main ingredient in okoshi is expanded rice, created by roasting rice grains until they pop. A mix of sugar and butter or  syrup is used to hold the rice together, and after the additional ingredients have been added, the mixture is formed or pressed in trays, left to dry, then cut into squares.

This crispy Japanese treat first appeared during the mid-Edo period in Japan and was primarily sold by street vendors in the vicinity of Buddhist temples in Asakusa, one of the districts in Tokyo. This was because around 1800, the thunder gate was burned down by  fire. When reconstructing the gate, street vendors of Asakusa began selling rice crackers as a lucky charm for avoiding the strike of a thunderbolt, and the confection was named “Kaminari Okoshi (雷おこし)”. In its name, “Okoshi (おこし)” has a meaning of “rebuilding” in Japanese, while the former word “Kaminari ()” stands for Kaminarimon, so Kaminari Okoshi literally meant rebuilding the gate. Okoshi is still the most famous souvenir of the Asakusa area today. In the Asakusa area, there are still traditional street vendors who prepare this brittle snack and demonstrate the entire procedure. Okoshi is often given as a popular gift as people think it can bring good fortune so is often bought as omiyage (Japanese souvenirs given to friends or coworkers after returning home from a trip).

The traditional wagashi can sometimes be made with puffed rice and millet and contain peanuts or sesame seeds. They can also come in flavours like green tea, so it’s a great way of experimenting with different flavours to see which you like best. This however is the  difference between those and the rice crispy treats you may know of that contain marshmallow and chocolate.

I made mine with organic puffed rice, mixed into melted vegan butter with organic caster sugar. I decided to use cherry syrup as a flavour and decorated them with salted preserved Sakura flowers.
You need to be able to press them into a tin which you can line with parchment paper and when they are set you can cut them into square’s, ( do not put in the fridge but leave in an airtight container ).

I actually decided to use my Nagashikan, stainless steel jelly mould with a removable inner container. It also cuts into sections. I’ve found this so useful and can definitely recommend getting one for making yokan or jelly in the summer. You can purchase them from Global Kitchen on line in Japan.

These treats are super sweet so need to be paired with something like a green tea. As I added a preserved Sakura flower it added a little saltiness which I liked.

Happy Easter.

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Vegan Sakura Daifuku Butter Mochi


To celebrate the coming Sakura season and the launch of my spring recipe card. I have taken a wagashi which is a speciality of Akita prefecture called Butter Mochi and made it vegan.

The Mochi uses glutinous rice flour, vegan butter and soy milk to make a wagashi that it not only soft and chewy with a delicious creamy taste, but will last covered in the fridge for a few days.
I made these seasonal using Sakura flowers but you can just as easily omit them and add maybe matcha or Yomogi powder instead. They are perfect to make for hanami season. You could try making these and enjoy eating them under a cherry blossom tree for that Japanese feeling that we all are missing right now.
First you need (if using ) to prepare one tablespoon of Sakura flowers in advance around (five flowers). Wash off the salt and blot them between paper towel and dry them out. When they are dry grind them into a powder using a suribachi (pestle and mortar) or a coffee grinder if you have one. (Don’t worry you can omit this part if you wish and just use Sakura flowers for decoration for which you will need to wash and blot dry on kitchen towel nine Sakura flowers)

Line a small container around 4-5 inch square with parchment paper. I used a sandwich box.

You will then need :

100grms of glutinous rice flour ( the kind for making Dango like Shiratamako or Mochiko )

90grms of unrefined caster sugar

1 cup of soy milk

45grms of room temperature vegan butter cut into squares (I used Naturli Vegan Block)

1 teaspoon of natural pink food colouring . I used beetroot juice. Plus an optional dash of flavouring of umesu plum vinegar.

Red bean paste of choice tsubuan or koshian

Potato starch for dusting

Method:

Add your glutinous rice flour to a microwaveable bowl, add to this your sugar and mix, then add your soy milk mixing until smooth.  Add your colouring and Sakura powder if using and mix. Place in a microwave for 2 minutes. My microwave is 800watts so if yours is less add more time. Take the bowl out of the microwave and add your butter, stirring  until it has all melted. Place your bowl back in the microwave and cook again for 3 minutes. Remove and beat the Mochi with a wooden spoon or spatula until it becomes sticky and translucent. Wait for it to cool a little and tip it into your parchment prepared container. Add your Sakura flowers if using pressed into the mochi, then place in the fridge for an hour to firm up a little. Take the container out the fridge and lift the Mochi out of the container using the parchment paper.

Dust a knife with potato starch and cut into equal squares.

Roll nine small balls of bean paste then take each square with potato starch dusted hands and tip upside down placing a ball in the middle.

Fold the edges round over the bean paste and place on a plate.

Carry on doing this with the rest of the cut mochi.
If you want to make Matcha or Yomogi Daifuku instead add a tablespoon of this to your flour at the beginning.
Keep in the fridge in a container they will be good for a few days, if they last that long.
If you would like to purchase salted pickled Sakura flowers I have limited quantities with my Hanami recipe card this month.
Let’s enjoy the taste of Japanese spring time.

Happy Springtime Happy Hanami !

 

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Shiozuke (pickled preserved Sakura cherry blossoms)

The unique flavour and aroma of salted pickled cherry blossom is very distinct and if you are a Japan lover you will know this smell automatically. In Japan the Sakura bloom for a very short time the fleeting essence of nature is celebrated by all things Sakura themed in Spring. You may have seen me in the past use shop bought salted pickled cherry blossoms in some of my recipes. They are used around Sakura season in Japan to decorate cakes, cookies and desserts and can also be used chopped in onigiri. One of the most popular is a wagashi called Sakura Mochi .

I decided to make my own Sakura shiozuke as they are preserved you can use them any time to make my Sakura cookie recipe or other recipes that call for salted Sakura.

Why not give making salted pickled Sakura blossoms a try. You will need to pick the pink Pom Pom looking double flowers known as Yaezakura.

Pick the blossom and put them in a bowl I used around 100g of blossom . Gently wash them.


Then add salt make sure it’s well mixed in . I added quite a bit about 20g. Then cover with cling film  and put a plate on top and weigh it down further with smaller plates then  leave them over night .



The next day take off your plates. I bought  ume su ( by clear spring ) and added to the blossom about 1/4 of the bottle.



Put the plastic wrap over and put the plates back on . Then leave that for three days . After this time pick out the blossom and put them on a wire rack with kitchen town in a warm place for 2 days .



Then peel them off the kitchen towel ( they are nearly dried but not quite at this point) put them on a bamboo tray you could use a few rolling matts or something like that and leave again to dry for a few more days .


At this point they should be dry and you can store them in a jar adding a bit more salt and save them til next year or use them straight away!

Happy Sakura Season !

Blog

Hinamatsuri 雛祭り 2022 五目ちらし寿司 Chirashi Sushi


Joshi no Sekku 上巳の節句 on March 3rd is the second in the five main seasonal festivals of Japan. Sometimes called Momo no Sekku (Peach festival ) or (dolls festival) but more commonly known as Hinamatsuri 雛祭. This festival originally celebrated both boys and girls  but over time the celebration ended up being just for girls when Tango no Sekku became popular known as boys day. Dolls are still displayed and are now said to represent the emperor and empress. The dolls are displayed to ward of evil spirits and are often bought with the birth of a new child or pasted down from grandparents. The day now celebrates the growth and good health for parents with girl children. Hinamatsuri is a symbolic date for spring signalling the blooming of blossoms and the start of a new season.

There are three specific colours associated with Hinamatsuri green for health, white for purification, and pink for luck. Some times the colours are referred to as : Green colour of  spring. White the last snow that is melting away. Pink spring  flowers, such as cherry blossoms and peach blossom.

Often you will see dango in these three colours which are popular at this time. These are also called hanami dango 花見団子 or Sanshoku 三色団子 dango, which literally translates to “three colored rice dumpling”. I’ve displayed the dango in a dish shaped like a hagoita (羽子板) which is a paddle used in a game with a shuttlecock a bit like badminton. The game is called Hanetsuki (羽根突き) and was often a game played by girls. It was believed that playing the game would drive away evil spirits because the movement of the hagoita is similar to harau action a Japanese expression meaning to drive away. Thus playing hanetsuki with hagoita is often used as a charm against evil.

There are many special foods eaten on this day to celebrate which I have spoken about in previous posts. I decided again this year to make Chirashizushi五目ちらし寿司. Chirashizushi translates to scattered sushi. In Osaka it is known as Barazushi or Gomoku sushi. In Tokyo it is known as Edomae and features an assortment of sashimi. I think it’s one of the easiest to make vegan. Made with sushi rice I added Umesu as a seasoning. You can top your sushi rice with what ever you like, popular ingredients might be bamboo shoots for spring, lotus root, scrambled egg or sliced omelette, shrimp, snow peas and vegetables. So I used a new vegan egg to add a scrambled egg to my chirashi sushi along with pink pickled lotus root, edamame, grated carrot and other vegetables.

I feel I can’t pass by Hinamatsuri without making Sakura Mochi a Japanese spring time wagashi . For me the taste of Japanese spring. Made with Mochi rice and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf and topped with a preserved Sakura flower. The Mochi has red bean paste inside and is the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Perfect with a green tea or a traditional sake known as shisozake or a Nigorizake. This is why I made it my recipe card for the month of March. Look out for more seasonal recipe cards with ingredients every month which I add here on the blog and my Instagram page.
Happy Hinamatsuriハッピー雛祭り

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Neko no Hi (Japans National Cat Day) 猫の日


Japans National Cat Day (
猫の日 Neko no Hi)

The nation that loves cats so much has a special holiday dedicated to them dating back from 1987. If you love cats today is for you !

Cat Day in Japan is also known as “Nyan Nyan Nyan Day”. “Nyan” is the Japanese equivalent of “meow”, the noise made by cats, and “ni” is the Japanese word for number two. February 22 (written 22/2) is pronounced “ni ni ni”, which apparently resembles “nyan nyan nyan”.

The Maneki-neko beckoning cat is a common Japanese talisman said to bring luck. Take a trip along the Setagaya line that runs through suburban Tokyo and stop off at Miyanosaka station. Just a few minutes walk you will find Gotikuji Temple which is a temple full of these Maneki-neko. Have you visited here?

Another place famous for cats is Yanaka in Tokyo. No one really knows why the cats are attracted to here, some think it was because of the large amount of trees and temples in the area. The locals love the cats and they are even included in the local district flag. There are seven statues called the seven lucky cats hidden around the area, they were installed in 2008 and it’s a great game to try to find them all as you wonder around all the artisan shops.

Aoshima might be the most famous cat island in Japan. Its nickname “Cat Island” is no exaggeration because there are only 15-20 residents on the island but more than 120 cats, about 6 times the human population!

On the “Tetsugaku no Michi (Philosopher’s Path)” in Kyoto, you will often see  various cats around the bridge at the southern end. 

They live in a place where there used to be a coffee shop called “Nyakuoji”.
The cats are now thought of as guardians of the Philosopher’s Path.

Cat store in Yanaka

There seams to be so many cafes and shops selling cat related food and items in Japan. To celebrate japans national cat day I decided to make some special cat paw cookies. They are chocolate and vanilla. I used a special cutter to cut out the shape. Making two lots of dough and putting one on top of the other.

The cute Kutani ware bowl is called “cats in a sunny spot” a series by  Atelier Yu made in Japan. Atelier Yu is known for its delicate handiwork crafted on a potters wheel. You can feel the warmth and comfort in your hand. I bought this from Musubikiln.com. They also do other items in the series. 

Happy Cat Day !

 

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Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂) Vegan Tonjiru


ビーガン豚汁

Vegan Tonjiru Soup

Inspired by Midnight Diner

Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)

Tonjiru is a classic winter dish which is popular all over Japan when the weather is cold. Some people call it Butajiru (豚汁)

As you know I am in love with the Japanese series  ‘Midnight Diner.’ And “Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories”. I have already made lots of the recipes on my website inspired by the episodes making them more suitable for a VEGAN diet and talk more in-depth about the characters and meals.

The owner (known as Master) only has 4 things on his menu: Pork and Vegetable Miso Soup (Tonjiru), Beer, Sake and Shochu. However  Master will cook anything on request so long as he has the ingredients.

As Tonjiru is the only food actually on the menu on the opening sequence of the start of each episode you will see “Master” prepare this meal.

Tonjiru translates to “pork” (ton) “soup” (jiru)

The soup is full of seasonal root vegetables and to replace the meat I added torn konnyaku and sliced aburaage. It’s a perfect miso soup on a cold day. Why not cosy on down at home with a  nourishing bowl of root vegetable miso soup and watch episodes of Midnight diner to warm the soul while the soup warms your body.

If you would like to read more about this check out the rest of my midnight diner series here on the website.

Here is what went into my soup.

You will need to make a kombu shiitake dashi by soaking them in water over night. Discard the kombu and take out the shiitake and slice them ( I used three shiitake).

Then prepare all your veggies this is what takes the time but after this it’s quick to make. I used carrot, daikon, Gobo, satoimo, lotus root, komatsuna, satsumaimo, aburaage, konnyaku.

I bought Gobo ( burdock root with the soil still on it so I gave it a wash and scrub, sliced it and put it in water so it didn’t go brown.
Slice lotus root into chunks and again leave to soak in water.

Peel satoimo ( taro potato and soak in water ) you can leave the skin on the satsumaimo ( Japanese sweet potato ) if you wish just slice and soak in water. This helps to remove the starch.

Cut your carrot and daikon into wedges and set aside.

Drain the konnyaku and rinse under running water then rub a little salt into it, tear into pieces and simmer in boiling water for ten minutes.

When it’s done drain and add to a pan this  is your pork substitute. Sauté the konnyaku in a little toasted sesame oil for a few minutes then add sliced shiitake, carrot, daikon, drained lotus root and Gobo.

Sauté and then add your kombu dashi. I normally make around 500ml of dashi to top up with 500ml of water. Take a piece of aburaage and pour boiling water over it to remove excess oil. Slice it into strips and add this also to your pan. Add a dash of mirin and tamari or soy sauce, gently mix and then simmer with the lid on.
In another pan I add the drained potatoes and cook those in water at the same time. I find potatoes easily get damaged as they knock about with other veggies so I cook them separately and add them at the end.

Just keep an eye on the water level as they simmer and top up the liquid with either dashi or water as needed. When the potatoes are not quite done add them to the pan to finish with the rest of the veggies.
When the veggies are tender, turn off the heat and with a ladle add one tablespoon of miso to a ladle ( I used an organic red miso ) brown rice miso or barley miso would be nice also. Lower the ladle half way into your soup and with another spoon start to mix liquid with miso. This helps break down the miso so it’s not all in one clump.

Add some chopped greens of choice like komatsuna which are Japanese mustard greens or you could use something like choysum. These will wilt in the hot broth.
Serve up into your bowls. Can be eaten like temple food with simply rice and pickles.


When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. 
My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect……

Blog

Tokyo Pony Recipe Card 3 Hinamatsuri 雛祭り

 


RECIPE CARD NUMBER
3️⃣

🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

March “Hinamatsuri “

雛祭り桜餅

The third  in the series of Tokyo Pony monthly recipe cards following the seasons and traditions of Japanese vegan food.

My third recipe card marks the second in the five main seasonal festivals of japan “Hinamatsuri”. There are many traditional foods eaten on this day one of them being the spring seasonal wagashi ( Japanese sweet ) “Sakura Mochi “ 桜餅.

You can now experience the taste of cherry blossom season in Japan by making these sweet, chewy  Sakura Mochi at home with this months recipe card.

The sweets are made with an edible salted pickled Sakura leaf which are difficult to find outside of japan. Each recipe card comes with one pack of 10 salted pickled Sakura leaves to make the perfect combination of salty and sweet wagashi.

These sweets can be eaten for Hinamatsuri on March 3rd and also  enjoyed throughout the spring season.

Hurry there are limited quantity of these so get in quick !

Enjoy the recipe!

To purchase :

click the “SHOP” link in the menu

Thank you so much for your orders 🙏🏻

And all your continued support . I hope you will enjoy making Japanese seasonal food along with me.

Blog, Winter Food

Valentines Day Matcha Chocolate Hearts

 


Happy Valentine’s Day

ハッピーバレンタインデー ❤️

Did you know on Valentine’s Day in japan only the guys get the gifts?

Girls have to wait until March on the same day known as white day, when they can return any gifts given to them.

And it’s not only one person you buy a gift for it could be teachers work colleagues and male friends.

That’s a lot of chocolate! and some people make their own.

These easy chocolate hearts have a raw matcha and almond centre and are perfect for making for that special someone.

All you will need is:

100g of almond flour (ground almonds)

1 teaspoon of matcha ( sifted)

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1 tablespoon of melted coconut butter

1 tablespoon of cashew butter

1 and a half bars of vegan milk alternative chocolate ( and half a bar of dark chocolate for drizzling over if you wish)

Decoration ( I used freeze dried strawberries ) be careful using sprinkles as a lot of the red colour ones are not vegan so check first.

Method:

Mix the almond flour and sifted matcha in a food processor then add your maple syrup, cashew butter and melted coconut butter. Process until you get a dough. Tip the dough out of your food processor, roll into a ball and chill in the fridge for half an hour. This will make it easier to roll.
Meanwhile add your vegan milk chocolate alternative to a bowl and melt over a pan of hot water. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then get two further sheets to roll out your dough.

Take the dough from the fridge and roll out your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to what ever thickness you would like your chocolates to be. Cut out your dough into heart shapes and transfer to your baking tray. Keep cutting until all your dough has gone.
Dip each heart  fully in melted chocolate don’t worry about being perfect as we will be cutting the sides later.

Place your chocolate in the freezer to set the chocolate for 15 mins. While it’s setting melt your dark chocolate.
Take out your chocolates from the freezer and with each one press your heart cutter back over the chocolate to reveal the matcha sides. This also makes the edges more presentable.
Place your chocolates back on the tray and drizzle with dark chocolate and decorate as you wish. Place back in the freezer again to set and your done.

These chocolates can then be transferred to a box and kept in the fridge.

Blog, Spring Food

Setsubun 節分 2022 恵方巻 Eho-maki and other traditions

Setsubun 節分, is a seasonal indicator that marks the day before the beginning of Spring in the old calendar. Before 1873 the Japanese followed the lunar calendar marking the new year in February but when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji period the new year shifted to January. Typically held on February 3rd around the time of the lunar new year it is now celebrated as a spring festival “Haru Matsuri” the day before we start again through the journey of the 24 micro season or sekki of Japan the first called Risshun. I have a totally separate section in my menu to follow these if you would like to follow along each month.
Even though it still doesn’t feel much like spring in Japan the first of the seasonal flowers of great importance start to bloom. The plum blossom. This is the month when the snow starts to melt and people may go out to parks to view the first of the spring blooms. Look closely and you may see a little green bird amongst the blooms called Uguisu a Japanese nightingale.
Why not celebrate Setsubun this year. Even now it looks very unlikely that we will be visiting Japan again this year so I think we still need those traditions to keep Japan alive in our hearts. It was believed that this time of year the spirit world and our world combined making it easy for evil spirits  to bring illness into our homes. I guess during the cold winter months it is easier to get sick and it was believed that this was caused by such demons or “oni” as they are known. At this time it is custom to repel these demons from our homes. One such way to do this is mamemaki the throwing of roasted soy beans . It is custom to fill a Japanese wooden cup called a masu with such beans and throw them out the entrance to your home or maybe at a family member dressed as a demon. As you do this you shout “Oni wa soto ! Fuku wa uchi”鬼は外! 福は内! meaning Demons out good fortune in.

Traditionally another  thing to do with these beans is to eat as many of these beans as your age. This is done for good luck and good health.
Another tradition to ward of the evil spirit is to hang holly at your door with wait for it a smelly sardine head stuck on top. This talisman is called Hiragi iwashi. The evil spirits are apparently repelled by the strong smell and thorns of the holly leaves. Needless to say I just hung holly at my door.
The last custom you might already know as I made this the inspiration for my second recipe card, is to make a Eho-maki 恵方巻 lucky sushi roll.


The long fat sushi roll must contain seven ingredients, representing the seven lucky gods Shichifukujin. It doesn’t really matter what you put in your sushi roll it’s what ever you like. I used my delicious nori that came with this months recipe card and filled it with seasoned mixed grain sushi rice, on top of which I placed shiso leaves, umeboshi paste,red pickled cabbage,aburaage rolled Japanese  cucumber, kikurage also known as wood ear mushrooms and kiriboshi daikon which I soaked in Umesu.
You must eat this sushi roll holding it in both hands while  in silence thinking about what you might want to achieve this year while you face the years lucky direction. This year is NNW.
Many temples and shrines in Japan normally hold events on this day, sadly I think again most are cancelled. I’m definitely going to be holding my eho-maki this year and wishing  for things to get back to normal soon so we can all enjoy travelling once more.

What will you wish for ? A healthy new year ahead, a new job maybe ? It is custom to leave your worries behind and have a fresh start . So don’t worry if you haven’t put things into motion yet now is the time to start on those new year plans. What ever you wish for “Happy Lunar New Year and welcome in Spring !

Blog, Winter Food

Comforting Winter Stew Donburi With Tofu & Miso


Everything goes better with rice right ?
Well this Lima bean and tofu sausage Nabe definitely does, but equally comforting spooned on top of mashed potato or served with warm crusty bread. However you decide to have this delicious winter stew it’s sure to warm and nourish you.
Start with some tofu sausages I used some organic ones made by Taifun. I brushed them lightly with toasted sesame oil then rolled them in some sage, thyme and rosemary and set them under the grill to cook.

When they are done slice them into chunks and set aside.
In your donabe pot or other cooking pot, sauté  half a diced onion, one diced carrot and  one of each diced red and green bell pepper in a little sesame oil or olive oil. Add your sausages and then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato purée  one tin or carton of Lima beans (butter beans), two cups of vegetable stock and a dash of red wine if you have it and a dash of tamari or soy sauce. Then add a dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle of fennel, mustard and coriander seeds and some salt and pepper. Put the lid on your pot and let it simmer until every thing is tender.  While it’s cooking cook your rice if your having it with rice.
When your stew is done mix in a heaped teaspoon of brown rice miso  this will give it lots of depth of flavours, add some chopped fresh parsley and a squeeze of citrus.


I managed to get some fragrant bergamot lemons which just add a lovely freshness to the sauce.
Spoon over warm rice or dunk right in there with that crusty bread.

Perfect for a cold day to warm you up.