Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Vegan Dorayaki

Vegan Dorayaki



Before I became vegan I did try a dorayaki in Kyoto but after becoming vegan over 12 years ago now I’ve been trying to replicate it. I’ve been trying for many years but getting the pancake to have that golden honey flavour and castella cake consistency was pretty tricky to make vegan using no eggs.

So what is a dorayaki and what’s the origin behind this iconic treat loved by children and adults alike ? Dora (どら) means “gong” and yaki (焼き) means fry.

Dorayaki is a Japanese cake usually made with two slightly raised round pancake like castella patties with azuki bean paste filling in the middle. Other fillings such as fresh cream, custard cream or chocolate cream can be used as an alternative.

The original dorayaki consisted of only one layer with the edges folded over so they were square and the bean paste could be seen on one side.

Legend has it that the first dorayaki were made when Mushashibo Benkei (a Japanese warrior monk) became injured, and received treatment at a farmers house. Benkei forgot his gong (dora) upon leaving the farmer’s home where he was hiding, and the farmer subsequently used the gong to fry pancakes. Others stories say that Benkei after receiving treatment by the farmer showed his gratitude by making dorayaki on his gong.

It is said that the current method of using two pieces of castella to sandwich the bean paste was the idea of the Japanese cake shop in Ueno  Tokyo called ‘Usagi-ya’ which was founded in 1914, and this method became popular around Japan.

Like I mentioned I have not before managed to recreate the likeness of a dorayaki because of the use of eggs and honey.

However when I saw a vegan scrambled egg alternative and a liquid egg alternative new on the market I set about experimenting.

You may not have where you are what I finally used but maybe you could find something similar.

I settled for using the vegan egg alternative by OGGS. Even though it says for scrambled eggs it makes the pancake nice and fluffy and more like a cake.

I also used vegan honea by plant based artisan.

If you use the vegan egg alternative you will have enough left to make my pan pudding recipe inspired by “The Makanai”.

For the sweet red bean paste known as anko there are two types. Tsubuan (chunky paste) and Koshian (fine paste). You can use which ever you like.

Recipe for Vegan Dorayaki

All you need to make x4 dorayaki is:

150ml of OGGS scrambled egg alternative

100ml of water

100gm of caster sugar

1 tablespoons of vegan honey (or alternative like maple syrup or agave)

Add the above ingredients to a bowl and give it all a good whisk.

Add to a separate bowl:

160gm of sifted plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Give it a mix.

You will also need some neutral oil (I like to use Tiana coconut butter), kitchen towel, a nonstick frying pan and something to pour your batter into the pan with (I used a 1/3 measuring cup). You will also need some anko for your filling.


Add the vegan egg mixture to the flour and give it all a good mix. Your batter should be thick but runny enough to fall off a spoon with ease for a nice batter consistency.

Heat up your frying pan and add a little oil then wipe it off with kitchen towel ( you do not want an oily pan)

Then give your mixture another whisk then scoop up your batter with the measuring cup and pour the batter a few inches up from the pan. I found each time I used just under 1/3 of a cup of batter for each dorayaki. Pour until you get a nice round shape with the batter. Leave a few minutes until little bubbles start to appear then flip over the pancake and cook for a further  minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Repeat the process again adding a little oil and wiping it off before you pour each batter.

Continue until all your batter has been used.

Then add bean paste to one pancake adding more filling to the middle so you get the domed shape. Then place another on top.

Press round the edges to seal. I find they taste better left until they are completely cold. You can wrap them when they are cool in clingfilm and eat them the next day or they are good to freeze and then defrost.

Hope you can try making them and enjoy with a Japanese tea. Or why not take them for a treat during hanami season.

Do you know the Japanese anime and manga character Doraemon a character from the 1970s, created by Fujiko F. Fujio ? A robotic cat that travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a preteen boy named Nobita.

Dorayaki are also known as the favourite food of the cat robot. Doraemon is addicted to dorayaki and falls for any trap involving them. You may of even grown up watching it on tv and dorayaki may give you a feeling of nostalgia eating them.

I also recommend a 2015 film “Sweet Bean” by director Naomi Kawase’s. This exquisite film is based on a novel by Durian Sukegawa.

The film is about Sentari who runs a shop where he makes and sells dorayaki pancakes filled with sweet bean paste. He advertises for an assistant, Tokue, a 76-year-old woman responds. After tasting the sweet bean paste that Tokue makes, Sentari is astonished. A lovely heartwarming film.

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House A Japanese Style Breakfast & Caramel Bread Pudding

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House


A series on Netflix about Food & Friendship set in a Maiko house in Kyoto.

Photo Credit: The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, 2023. Netflix

From acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda

Adapted from the manga series “Kiyo in Kyoto”by Aiko Koyama,

season 1 episode 3


Part one: A Traditional Japanese Breakfast.

Have you ever visited Japan and been served a Japanese breakfast maybe in a “traditional Japanese inn with tatami floors and an onsen communal bath”?

A Japanese traditional breakfast normally consist of rice, miso soup, tsukemono (pickles), a main meal like grilled salmon and some side dishes like tamagoyaki ( Japanese rolled omelette) and gomaae.

Waking up early before anyone else, Kiyo sets to work on making one such meal for the girls breakfast in the Maiko house. She puts on her apron and ties back her hair in preparation. She greets the dashi stock that she made the night before as she opens the lid on the pot “ Hello there and good morning”. 

First she starts to slice okra to make a simple side dish with sesame “Okra Gomaae”.

This side can also be made with green beans or spinach. Kiyo doesn’t cook the okra where as if I was using green beans or spinach I would blanch them first.

Goma 胡麻 means sesame and Ae 和え means to dress. To make this you can toast and grind your sesame seeds but for ease in the morning I like to use Surigoma which are already toasted and ground . Slice your okra with diagonal cuts like Kiyo did and place to one side. Add to a bowl two tablespoons of surigoma and to that add one tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari and one tablespoon of sugar, mix well into a paste, then add your okra to combine and your done. You might wonder about the raw okra but believe me this side dish is lovely and crunchy with out the slime of cooked okra.

Next Kiyo makes a simple miso soup with silken tofu and cherry tomatoes using a special sieve to dilute the miso with out clumps called a Misokoshi. I love mine and they are available to buy from 

Kiyo opens her rice cooker and fluffs up the rice, then starts on grilling the salmon.

Obviously we want to make a vegan version of this so this takes a little preparation starting the night before with marinating some tofu.

To make your marinade:

Add to a jug or bowl, x1 tablespoon of shredded nori (kizami nori), x2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, x2 tablespoons of tamari, x2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoons of liquid smoke, x1 tablespoon of beetroot juice, x1 tablespoon of coconut palm sugar, a one inch piece of peeled and grated fresh ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes. Leave this to soak for a few hours and then pour the liquid out through a sieve. Pour the liquid into a dish for your tofu to sit in.

Prepare the tofu:

You need to get the water first out of a block of firm tofu. You can do this by pressing it or you can steam it for five minutes or microwave for one minute wrapped in a paper towel. Let the tofu cool, then cut the piece of tofu in half and slice the top of each piece at an angle making a wedge shape. Make diagonal slices in the tofu be careful not to cut all the way down.

Place into the marinade turning it over a few times and then leave over night cut side down.

In the morning remove the tofu and place a piece of cut nori to fit  the uncut side of the tofu then lightly dust in starch and fry on all sides in a pan with hot oil. Remove and put to one side.

You will notice kiyos breakfast consist of two other sides as well as quick pickles.

Another popular side dish is hijiki no nimono simmered hijiki seaweed salad.

First soak two tablespoons of dried hijiki seaweed in hot water for 30 minutes.

You will also need to remove the oil residue from a piece of aburaage, to do this put your aburaage in a sieve and pour hot water over it then blot with kitchen towel, after that slice into thin strips and put in a pan. Drain a can of precooked soy beans or if you can’t get soy beans something similar (I used cannellini). Put half the beans in the pan with the aburaage. Julienne or grate one carrot and add this to the pan. Drain the hijiki and add this to the pan. Give everything a quick stir fry in a little sesame oil, then add to the pan, x1 teaspoon of dashi powder, x2 tablespoons of mirin, x2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce and 100ml of water. Simmer for about five minutes until all the water has gone. Place to one side.

I also made a vegan tamagoyaki using a vegan omelette mix called “Nomelette” which you can purchase from I made up the desired amount instructed to make one omelette and added a piece of nori before rolling it then cut it into slices.

Finally no Japanese meal can be without tsukemono or quick pickles called asazuke made with salt or vinegar and they are super easy to make. Just add chunks of carrot, cucumber and daikon to a zip lock bag. Then if you want to make salt pickles known as shiozuke just add a few teaspoons of salt and rub the salt into the vegetables. I like to use Japanese salt from Okinawa but I understand this is not easily come by. Do this at the start of making you meal in the morning and then they will be ready to serve when everything else is done.

Kiyo served her Japanese breakfast with onigiri rice balls so I decided to do the same with my breakfast.

I had just recently received this beautiful solid ash wooden serving box containing mino ware plates and dishes that fit inside. It is called a Hibino Modern Shokado Bento Box. I love how this can be used from using the dishes and plates that come with the box or adding your own. The lid can be also used as a tray. If your interested in this it is from

I thought this would be the perfect way to serve this very special breakfast.

A further note in this episode:

Kiyo goes grocery shopping at the local market, she buys silken tofu and is delighted to find daikon radish grown in Aomori. The store owner points out that the leaves attached are edible. If your lucky enough to ever find this you can lightly blanch the leaves or stir fry them  or why not try my furikake recipe found in my “Live by the Shun” blog for summer.

Part 2 Caramel Bread Pudding also known as  (Pan Pudding)

パンプディング, pan means bread in Japanese. 

Tsurukoma one of the girls in the Maiko house is upset to find her caramel pudding missing from the fridge. It was just an ordinary caramel pudding from the convenience store, but Maiko are not allowed to enter when their hair is done so she would have to wait all week for another.

It’s early morning and Kiyo is washing rice, Tsurukoma comes down before anyone else is awake requesting bread for breakfast, but there is only one slice. What can be done with it ? As Tsurukoma was so upset over her missing caramel pudding, Kiyo sets out to make her a caramel bread pudding.

The bread pudding is made with shokupan パン Japanese milk bread. Even if it is available for you to purchase it is very rarely vegan as it’s made with milk and butter.

If you follow my shokupan bread recipe you can make your own.

The next problem with  making the bread pudding are the eggs used. So I decided to give the new liquid egg vegan substitute a try called “scrambled oggs”

To make vegan Caramel Bread Pudding:

Preheat your oven to 165 dregrees C

You will need a gratin dish greased on all sides with vegan butter.

You will need one slice of shokupan around 3/4 inch thick cut into six  pieces. Add this to your gratin dish leaving space in between.

In a bowl add  100ml of vegan egg mixture to that add two tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 of a cup of soymilk, 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Whisk up the mixture and pour half over the bread and let it soak in then add the rest. I actually sprinkled a little nutmeg on the top of mine but that was just personal taste. Put your gratin dish in the oven and bake until golden brown around 30-40 minutes ( keep and eye on it.)  

During the episode Kiyo receives a parcel from her grandmother it’s a heavy cast iron pan called Tetsuko. Tetsu meaning iron in Japanese. She uses this to make the caramel sauce. I had recently bought some oat syrup by Clearspring when I tried it I thought how much it tasted like caramel so I decided instead of making a caramel sauce to warm up a tablespoon of the oat syrup and swirl that onto of the bread pudding when I removed it from the oven.

This pudding is just as delicious as one made with diary and eggs, it melts in the mouth and feels luxurious and comforting at the same time. Crispy on the outside and soft inside. Like Tsurukoma did in this episode just take a spoon and dive straight in.

More recipes to come in my next The Makanai blog.

If you haven’t already watched it yet

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House is available for streaming on Netflix.

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1 Episode 2 Vegan Oyakadon

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House

舞妓さんちのまかないさん A series on Netflix about Food & Friendship set in a Maiko house in Kyoto.

Photo Credit: The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, 2023. Netflix

From acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda

Adapted from the manga series “Kiyo in Kyoto”by Aiko Koyama,

Season 1 Episode 2

“Guardian Spirit”

Ms Sachiko the house Makanai had to take leave and the girls of the Maiko house are getting sick of ordering take out, so when one of them nearly sets the kitchen on fire Kiyo steps in and offers to be the Makanai. This was the first time Kiyo had expressed the will to do something herself. The girls wonder what will the meal be. One thinks it will be Omurice another raw egg with rice. Sumire points out Kiyo is making Yakodon. They all watch eagerly as Kiyo cooks the onions, meat and egg, she spoons rice into a bowl and tops it with the yakadon egg mixture. “Enjoy everyone” says Kiyo “Ookini” say the girls as they dive into their ordinary but delicious rice bowl, “It’s so tasty it’s comforting”.
You will notice this word is said a lot throughout the series “Ookini” is a regional Kansai dialect meaning thank you and is most often used in Kyoto.

Vegan Oyakodon 親子丼

Vegan chicken & egg rice bowl

Oyakodon (親子丼) translates to parent-and-child (oya-ko) rice bowl (don) being as the dish is made of chicken and egg. It is one of the meals classed as “Japanese home cooked comfort food” This meal is also traditionally served on Mother’s Day in japan. So again has that connection to home.

As this was the first meal kiyo served the house I wanted to make a vegan version. 

Recipe for Oyakadon inspired by The Makanai:

Makes one donburi.
Prepare your rice and set to cook.

For this recipe we are using one carton of silken tofu to replace the egg mixture.

To replace the meat I decided to use soy protein pieces depending on the size I used around six pieces rehydrated in water cut into strips and then marinated in a tablespoon each of tamari and mirin with water.
You will also need 1/2 an onion cut into thin strips. I also decided to add some tender stem broccoli for colour, and some sliced shiitake mushrooms.


Drain your tofu and add to a food processor to this add a heaped teaspoon of turmeric and two teaspoons of potato starch. To make an egg flavour you will need to add a teaspoon of powdered kala namak (Himalayan black salt)

The one I have is in its rock form, if you have this you need to grind it into a powder. Add this to your tofu mixture with some black pepper to taste. Process until nice and smooth.

Squeeze the marinade from the soy protein and add to a pan with a little oil, along with the onion and shiitake. Sauté until cooked then pour in your egg mixture. Make sure you keep moving it around so it doesn’t stick. The egg mixture will thicken. Add finally your broccoli if you wish.

Spoon your rice into a bowl and top with the egg mixture, maybe garnishing with some chopped green onion or a few mizuna leaves.

Amulet in the House “Beware of Fire” & Umeboshi Onigiri

Kiyo has a conversation with Ms Sachiko on the phone as she was worried about taking the responsibility of Makanai away from her. However Ms Sachiko is relieved as the commute was becoming too much for her. She points out over the phone about an amulet. It is a paper talisman from Atago Shrine which lasts for one thousand days. It is said if you make the pilgrimage to obtain the amulet from the shrine on a set day each year your fortune will triple and the gods will protect the house from fire for a thousand days. Kiyo decides to be a fully fledged Makanai she needs to make the journey up the mountain to collect the talisman.
Kiyo makes onigiri rice balls with salted pickled plums called umeboshi that are wrapped in crispy nori to take with her. There is a recipe on my Midnight Diner series of recipes for this. Some recipes do cross over, probably because both series have those Japanese home style cooked meals.

Kiyo stops to rest and ends up sharing her onigiri with a family with a young child. Finally Kiyo gets the amulet and on her return Sumire is waiting for her and hands her a gift from the mother of the house, an apron ! Kiyo calls her grandmother to tell her the news.
“From here on out I am the makanai”

More recipes to come in my next The Makanai blog.

If you haven’t already watched it yet

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House is available for streaming on Netflix.




Blog, Spring Food

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1 Episode 1 Nabekko Dango & Tomato Curry

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House

舞妓さんちのまかないさん A series on Netflix about Food & Friendship set in a Maiko house in Kyoto.

Photo Credit: The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, 2023. Netflix

From acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda

Adapted from the manga series “Kiyo in Kyoto”by Aiko Koyama,

Season 1 episode 1


Two 16-year-old inseparable friends Kiyo and Sumire leave their town in their home city of Aomori after seeing maiko, (apprentice geishas or geiko, as it is called in Kyoto) in the street on a school trip.

Leaving behind Kiyo’s supportive grandmother and their baseball player buddy Kenta, the two girls head to Kyoto on a bus warm baked sweet potatoes in hand to chase their dreams of training as maiko.

We join them as they adjust to life in the maiko house. A communal all female Saku House living quarters where this story takes place. They call each other mothers and sisters despite having no blood relations to each other.

Sumire is a natural and embraces life as a trainee, Kiyo however is clumsy and finds she is not suited to life as a trainee maiko.

Ms Sachiko, who is the house makanai when they first arrive sees Kiyo’s enthusiasm and interest in food and takes her under her wing. Makanai means both the cook and the meal served in the boarding house or other place of work.

Ms Sachiko is forced to leave to rest a back injury, Kiyo then finds her passion as she steps in to be the in house’s Makanai. The two girls decide to pursue different passions while living under the same roof. Sumire in the pursuit of being a “one-in-a-million” maiko and Kiyo starts to prepare the meals for all the women who reside there. She seams effortlessly happy and engaged with her work enjoying grocery shopping and deciding what meals to cook that will appeal to everyone from different regions of japan with their own distinct food cultures and various levels of seasoning. What I like the most is the sense of nostalgia in the series with humble, home cooked freshly prepared nourishing food. Kiyo even says “nice to meet you” to her ingredients as she begins each day.

It also relates to something I’ve spoken about in my blog post “Natsukashii & Ofukuro no aji” A taste of home.

Ofukuro no aji which translates “Mothers Taste Meal “. Linked to family relationships these are Japanese home cooked meals that your mother used to make. Eating them later in life can bring back memories and comforts from home. Natsukashii (an adjective) derived from the Japanese verb Natsuku which means to become familiar with. The word is used to express emotion, fondness and gratitude for the past in a kind of nostalgic way.
I think when we are talking about food we can relate to Natsukashii, like sounds and smell can bring back memories so can taste.

You may know I have adapted quite a few recipes from the “Midnight Diner” series and thought this a wonderful opportunity to make not only these humble Japanese home style cooked meals but to make them vegan. (Some are already vegan)

At the beginning of the first episode it starts on snowy Aomori and Kiyos grandmother is making nabekko dumplings in red bean soup a local traditional dish in the southern area of Aomori Prefecture. So what makes this dish different to zenzai ? Well it’s mainly down to the dango the dango balls are pressed in the middle to look like a nabe (pot). They are also made from kneaded non glutinous rice flour.

(Joshinko (上新粉). It is made from milled short grain rice which has been washed, dried, and ground down into flour, whereas mochiko and shiratamako are both made from glutinous rice.

Kiyos grandmother makes the dish as a good luck meal before Kiyo and Sumire leave on their journey, however this meal is often made as an offering to Agricultural Gods during celebrations, such as “Tenorie,” a festival praying for a good harvest after the completion of the rice-planting.  It’s a comforting sweet dish perfect on a cold day.

Let’s make nabekko dumplings in red bean soup

You will need :

For red bean soup

200g of azuki

1/4 teaspoon of salt

200g of granulated sugar

200ml of water for cooking

For nabekko dango dumplings:

100g of Joshinko non glutinous rice flour

Around 100ml of just boiled hot water


  1. Wash the azuki beans and place them in a pot with just enough water to cover, and bring it to a boil. When the water turns red, drain and discard the water. Replace water and repeat this process a second time.
  2. Place the parboiled beans and the measured 200ml of water over heat. When the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45-60 minutes until beans become tender.

Make your nabekko dango

Add Joshinko flour to a bowl and gradually start to add the hot water until everything comes together into a dough a little firmer than and earlobe. Form into a log shape and cut into sections to roll into balls.

When you have rolled them into balls push your thumb in the middle to make your nabe shape.

Continue simmering your azuki beans adding more water if needed when they are tender mix in the salt and sugar and simmer further for five minutes. Then drop in your dango. Let the dango cook adding more water if needed to make a nice soup consistency. The dango May take at least 15 minutes to cook though properly.

Serve in your favourite bowl.

Later, on the bus to Kyoto, Kiyo shares with Sumire the baked sweet potato their close friend Kenta gave them as a snack for the journey, the girls fall into grateful giggles. You can find the recipe for these on my recipe pages (Yaki Imo).

Finally from episode one I decided to make the tomato curry that was kiyos grandmothers recipe. She makes the curry while visiting Ms Sachiko the former Makanai. You see her using a method of removing the skin from tomatoes that I’ve shown before in my poached tomato recipe. Scoring a cross in the skin and dropping the tomatoes into boiling water boil for a few minutes until the skin starts to come away . Drop the tomatoes into ice cold water you will find then the skin is easily removed.

Adding tomato to the curry adds a sweetness to the curry instead of adding something like honey or apple which is common in Japanese style curry.

As the curry normally has some kind of meat as an ingredient you could use something like soy protein as a meat substitute, you could also use seitan or in my case this time I used Maitake mushrooms.

This is how I made Vegan tomato curry inspired by The Makanai.

x2 tomatoes

First skin your tomatoes as explained above. Then cut into quarters.

Then you will need:

x1-2 carrots chopped in to wedges

x1 medium white onion sliced finely

x2 potatoes peeled and cut into chunks

Some maitake mushrooms . ( if using soy protein reconstitute this in water and squeeze out liquid before adding to the curry. You can also use seitan.

One of the most important aspects of making Japanese curry is to sauté the onions until they are caramelized, which can take up to 20 minutes. Most of the curries from Asian countries are prepared by sautéing the onion until translucent only. The onions should be cut into thin slices so that they can caramelise quickly.

When you onions are nice and browned add potatoes meat substitute and carrots then add water to cover and simmer for around 15 minutes.

While they are cooking make your curry roux.

Curry Roux

You can use curry roux cubes but I wanted to make this how I thought was more in keeping with how Kiyo might of made. This recipe uses S&B Japanese curry spice powder.

A traditional blend of natural herbs and spices for Japanese curry. This curry powder is fantastic for making Japanese style curry from scratch. Ingredients Turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, orange peel, pepper, chill pepper, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, star anise, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, sage, cardamon.

Heat 60g of butter over low heat in a pan.

Add the equal amount of sifted flour and stir constantly. Let the butter combine with the flour, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes until it turns to medium brown. Keep stirring so that the roux will not stick to the pan. Keep the heat low so that the butter does not burn.

Add two heaped teaspoons or one tablespoon of the S&B Japanese curry spice powder and mix well until it forms a thick paste.

Add the paste to your vegetables and stir to thicken adding  extra water if needed to get your desired thickness of sauce.

Finally add your tomatoes. I like to add those last so they don’t turn into mush, it’s nice to keep some of the form of the tomatoes.

Cook until the tomatoes are soft and then serve with Japanese rice and vegetables if you like. Serving like this will feed at least x4 people.

More recipes to come in my next The Makanai blog.

If you haven’t already watched it yet The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House is available for streaming on Netflix. 

Blog, Spring Food

Valentines Day Ichigo Daifuku いちご大福

Will you be giving a valentine treat to someone this year?

In Japan it’s just the men that get the gifts off the women on February 14th, and it’s not just loved ones that are given gifts, it’s co-workers, school and college friends teachers you name it ! It can be quite a big task giving gifts to all your male friends . That’s a lot of chocolate! and some people make their own.

This year I decided to make a firm favourite at this time of year seeing as it’s peek strawberry season in Japan,chocolate ichigo daifuku! In Japanese ichigo いちご means strawberry.

I was inspired by seeing rows of these soft sweet  mochi in wagashi stores in japan.

I remember buying one in Kyoto from a lovely old wagashi store when I was on my way to one of my favourite sakura spots Hirano shrine. You can follow my walking tour 2 in Kyoto under my travel section to visit some more favourite spots.

Recipe for choco ichigo daifuku makes x5

You will need:

100g of Joshinko flour .

(Joshinko (上新粉) is a Japanese non-glutinous rice flour. As Joshinko consists of non-glutinous rice, the cake/dumpling using it is not so sticky. Instead, they have a pleasant, chewy bite. Even though it’s common to use Shiratamako flour I like the smooth texture of the Joshinko and find it’s easy to work with.

x1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

130ml of water

x2 teaspoons of raw cacao powder

Potato starch to dust the surface

For the filling :

x5 strawberries with the core removed

Bean paste Anko (餡子) (you can use smooth Koshian (こしあん) or chunky Tsubuan (粒あん) what ever you prefer.)

You will also need some powdered icing sugar for dusting if you wish, a microwaveable bowl and compostable cling film.


Make x5 small balls of bean paste and put aside

Core your strawberries and put aside.

Add Joshinko flour to a bowl add sugar and cacao powder and mix then add your water and whisk well to combine add a little extra water if you think it’s too thick it should have a batter consistency.

Cover the bowl with cling film and microwave for 4 mins. Remove from the microwave and pound your mochi with a pestle. When it’s smooth and elastic tip the mochi out onto a slightly damp surface dampen your hands a little as well and knead the mochi.

Dust a different surface lightly with potato starch.

When your mochi is nice and stretchy place on your dusted surface and form into a log shape and cut five equal pieces.

Take each piece and roll into a ball then flatten in your hands. Put a bean paste ball in the middle of your flattened mochi and fold the mochi over the bean paste rolling it back into a ball. Dust each one with a little potato starch and do the same to the rest of the mochi.

Then make a cut across the top of the mochi balls so you can push a strawberry inside on the top. Dust with icing sugar and your done.

They are best eaten fresh on the day.

I have a few recipes to inspire you for Valentine’s Day on my recipe pages. Even if you do not make these to give away you can always make them for yourself as a treat.

Most of my inspiration for my recipes has always come from experiences on my travels to japan. I can’t wait to finally get back this year. It’s been a long wait.

Happy Valentine’s Day




Blog, Spring Food

Hatsu-uma 初午 & Making Inari Sushi


So what is Hatsu-uma ? (初午) this is the first ”horse” () day of February this year it fell on February 5th 2023.

The twelve signs of the animal zodiac in japan refer to animals, using the numbers 1 to 12  instead of numbers. 1=(mouse), 2=  (ox), 3= (tiger), 4=(rabbit), 5= (dragon), 6= (snake), 7=(horse), 8= (sheep),  9= (monkey), 10= (rooster), 11= (dog),12=(boar). The date is represented  by repeating the cycle of these. Although the festival used to be held on the first day of the horse after the beginning of spring (according to the lunar calendar) in ancient times, it is now generally accepted that the festival is held on the first day of the horse in February.

The festival is based on the legend that the deity of Fushimi Inari-jinja Shrine in Kyoto, Inari who is the protector of grains,descended from heaven to the top of Mount Inari on this day in the Nara Period (710-794). Because of this people worship the deity at inari shrines across the country on this day. Of which there are about 3,000 throughout Japan.

If you love japan and its culture you may know or have even visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. It’s very popular with tourists. Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates which lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari.

On Hatsu-uma day, Inari shrines all over the country hold “Hatsu-uma Festival” to pray for the harvest before starting the spring farming season.

Have you noticed when ever you visit an Inari shrine you see statues of foxes? Well this is because in Japan, people thought that foxes were guardian gods an invisible spirit animal that was the messenger of Inari, the god of good crops. It is believed they descended to the villages from early spring until autumn for the farming season, then they would return to the mountains at the end of the harvest. You will see statues of the foxes holding a bundle of rice that symbolizes a good harvest, a scroll that represents learning and art, and a jewel that represents wealth. This shows that the Inari Shrine is believed to bring fertility, academic and artistic progress, and business prosperity.

One of the favorite foods of foxes is supposed to be deep-fried tofu and because the fox is the protector of the rice fields people started to stuff rice in to fried tofu pockets known as aburaage (油揚げ) to give as offerings. This was to show gratitude for good crops towards the Inari god. These rice tofu pockets are known as “Inari Sushi” or “Oinari-san,” いなり寿司.

It is custom to eat three pieces of inarizushi on Hatsu-uma Day since each of the characters in the word “inari” (いなり) represents a good omen: “I” means long life, “Na” means that you will make a name for yourself, and “Ri” means that you will make a profit.

Why not try making Inari sushi (稲荷寿司, いなり寿司), or Inarizushi yourself they are delicious for bento and can easily be eaten at work or a picnic. Made from tofu pockets that are cooked in a dashi-based broth, then stuffed with seasoned sushi rice.

Did you know there are different ways to fill the tofu pockets according to different regions of japan. In the Kansai region (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe areas) inarizushi is triangular to look like the shape of fox ears. while in the Kanto region (Tokyo and surrounding areas) it’s made to look like a bale of rice.

Prepare your sushi rice.
Use one and a half rice cooker cups of sushi rice and wash well until the water runs clear. Then leave in a sieve for ten minutes this will help the air get to the rice and make it fluffy. Then add your rice to your rice cooker or pan and add two and a half rice cooker cups of water and let it soak while you prepare your aburaage.

How to make Inari sushi (稲荷寿司)

I used two packets of Inari which contains two rectangular pieces which you then cut in half.

First you will need some aburaage, you can normally find this frozen in Asian grocery stores. In the U.K. you can find it at the japan centre and natural natural in London along with some supermarkets. Check out your nearest Asian grocery store.

As they come frozen first defrost them. Roll a chop stick over the surface then cut each fried tofu into half. Gently part the tofu to make pockets.

As the tofu has been fried you need to remove the oil. First boil your pockets in water for five minutes then drain and wash with cold water. Gently squeeze out the water, I then like to dab mine with kitchen towel to remove any remaining oil.

Now you need to season the tofu pockets with a sweet and savory dashi-based broth.

In a pan add one cup of dashi stock (I left a piece of kombu and a dried shiitake mushroom in 500ml of water over night then removed them. You can use the remaining dashi for something else it will keep for a few days in the fridge.

To the dashi add one cup of water three tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce one tablespoon of mirin and and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Add your pouches and simmer for fifteen minutes adding a dropped lid called a otoshibuta (落し蓋) if you have one. The otoshibuta ensures that the broth/sauce is evenly distributed, making sure all the ingredients absorb all the delicious flavors. If you don’t you can use a lid that’s slightly smaller than your pan to go inside.

Put your rice on cook.

When your aburaage are cooked leave in the broth to soak up all those lovely flavours until your rice is done.

Prepare your sushi seasoning. sushizu 寿司酢

To make sushi vinegar mix 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon of mirin, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix well to dissolve.

When your rice is cooked let it steam for a further ten minutes. Remove the tofu pockets from the broth and gently squeeze out the liquid.

Tip out your rice into a bowl or if you have one a a Hangiri Wooden Sushi Rice Mixing Bowl made from cypress wood. Drizzle sushi vinegar evenly on top of cooked rice and gently fold the rice repeatedly with a rice spatula without smashing grains. Add toasted white sesame seeds to the sushi rice. You can then fan the rice to cool it down. Wet your hand and make barrel shaped rice balls to fill your tofu pockets.

Take each pocket and put a rice ball inside be very careful as the aburaage is delicate. Push the rice to the bottom. You can then fold over the tofu to seal the pocket and turn it over or roll the edges round so you keep the pocket upright.

Eat at room temperature and enjoy on the day of making, serve with pickles and sushi ginger. 

Blog, Spring Food

Setsubun 節分 2023

Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外、福は内).

Demons out, Good Fortune in!” For today is Setsubun no Hi held on (節分の日) February 3rd.

Setsubun 節分, is a seasonal indicator that marks the day before the beginning of Spring and is now celebrated as a spring festival “Haru Matsuri”.

Setsubun is the day before we start again through the journey of the 24 micro season or sekki of Japan when we welcome in Risshun 立春 the beginning of Spring.

This is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Even though we are in the coldest days, in Japan you will start to see those signs that spring is near by. The days are just getting slightly longer and you can see the start of life emerging from the earth. Ume blossom is starting to bloom, giving those well needed splashes of colour to the brown landscape and maybe you might see  flashes of a little green bird known as Uguisu (bush warbler or the Japanese nightingale) another symbol of spring.

Let’s enjoy Setsubun with Ehou Maki 恵方巻き, Ehō-maki

On this day there are a few customs in Japan one of them is to eat an uncut makizushi called Ehō-maki 恵方巻, “lucky direction sushi roll” while you sit in silence facing the years lucky direction. The “lucky direction” (恵方) of this year 2023 is south-south-east (南南東).
This changes every year depending on the current zodiac. The word “Eho” means the auspicious direction,this is where the god of good fortune for the year exists and is also called “Kippou” or “Akinokata/Akihou”.

The Ehō-maki must have seven ingredients,these relate to the Seven Lucky Gods (七福神, Shichi Fukujin) from local folklore who are in charge of bringing prosperity in business and good health. It doesn’t matter what you put in your sushi roll it can be anything you like but it’s good to have a variety of ingredients. Just eat the whole roll without cutting it into slices with a knife and eat in silence,if you speak, the good fortune will escape.

Setsubun is all about the Oni (おに) 👹

Oni are a kind of yōkai, demon, orc, ogre, or troll in Japanese folklore. They are known as the god of mountains and have a fearful appearance. It is believed that the Oni come to punish humans when they misbehave. They come in many varieties, but are most commonly depicted with two or more horns, and fang-like tusks, red or blue skin, wild hair, large in size and possess superhuman strength. They are terrifying in appearance and are associated with disease and misfortune. They are often shown carrying their choice weapon: a large, heavy iron hexagonal club, called a tetsubō, covered in spikes,which is used for torturing victims. They are typically depicted wearing little-to-no clothing, but when clothed they are usually shown wearing a loincloth made of tiger skin.

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. During the cold winter months it is easier to get sick and it was believed that this was caused by oni. At this time it is custom to repel these demons from our homes. One such way to do this is Mamemaki (豆まき), the throwing of roasted soybeans. So why use soybeans ? They are believed to have sacred power along with rice, which could get rid of evil spirits. The Japanese word for beans is pronounced as mame () and sounds similar to the word for demon eyes (mame, 魔目) and because of that throwing beans has a similar sound to destroying demons (mametsu, 魔滅).

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.

Since it is believed that ogres come at midnight, nighttime is the best time to start the bean-throwing ceremony. Open the front door or window of your house and scatter beans, saying “Oni wa soto!” After closing the doors and windows immediately to prevent the ogres from returning, scatter the beans inside the room, saying “Fuku wa uchi!”

Another tradition to ward off 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 hang holly at my door being vegan.

This year I decided to have a little fun and combine my Ehō-maki with an Oni tiger pants pattern .

I first made my sushi roll making the rice on the outside with my seven fillings on the inside.

I them decided to use a vegan omelette on the outside using a new vegan omelette brand called Nomelette by Sun & Seed.

Making the omelette and then rolling it around the sushi roll. Finally I added a few tiger stripes made from nori.

You may now not only see the traditional sushi rolls sold in stores in japan but variations from roll cakes to burritos so why not have some fun making your own version of Ehō-maki and celebrate the beginning of Spring like they do in japan .

Blog, Winter Food

The Year Of The Rabbit ウサギ

New year in Japan is one of the most important and biggest celebration’s. After the big house clean known as O-Souji has been done in preparation for the New year and the Bonenkai (forget the year parties) are a blurred memory, it’s time to welcome in the New Year.

My new year preparations always start a few days before New Years Eve with packing away all the Christmas decorations and putting out my display of New Year good luck items. Always avoid putting out decorations on the 29th as the word is reminiscent of the word suffering. Also the 31st is said to be too last minute and disrespectful to the kami.
It’s popular to display Kadomatsu, a traditional decoration made from bamboo and pine. It is usually a set of two put in front of the home to welcome ancestral spirits or kami.

Shimekazari is an ornament that represents a new start can 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 called a daidai. This one is store bought and has mochi inside. It is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following year. It is normally placed in the household altar or in front of the entrance to the home. It is believed that when the New Year begins a god called Toshigami 年神 (Great-Year God”) will visit and offering them kagami Mochi will bring good luck. The Kirimochi Mochi which is rectangular is traditionally eaten in a ritual called Kagami biraki on the second Saturday or Sunday in January and can be grilled and eaten with a red bean soup called zenzai ぜんざい

A popular thing to do for New Year is to get a daruma doll. The doll comes with no eyes and you paint on one eye with your goal or intention for the year. My goal was to work in a career with something that had a connection to japan in some way. I hope I get to paint in the other eye some day. 

Decorations of the coming zodiac animal are often displayed in the home. There are twelve animal signs which are called  juni-shi . The cycle rotates every twelve years and this year 2023 is the year of the rabbit (Usagiウサギ) the fourth in the twelve-year cycle of animals.
You have the rabbit as your animal if you were born in 2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927

In Japan, the rabbit has long been said to be a very auspicious animal bringing good luck, and its long ears attracting good fortune.

Lucky thing for People Born in the Year of the Rabbit:-
Lucky colors: red, pink, purple, blue.
Lucky flowers: plantain lily, jasmine.
Lucky directions: east, south and northwest.
People born in the year of the Rabbit often lead a conservative lifestyle and the rabbit is also considered a symbol of peace and safety in the home because of its gentle, calm appearance. People born in the Year of the Rabbit usually have soft and tender personality traits. They keep a modest attitude and maintain a pleasant relationship to people around. They will not be irritated easily, and they also avoid quarrels as much as possible. People who are born in the year of the rabbit are calm and peaceful.
So what does having the year of the rabbit mean for 2023? The shift in energy will be significant as we move out of 2022, the year of the Tiger and into the more patient and gentle Rabbit Year.
The sign of the Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity, 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope and prosperity. Coming after the battle with a global pandemic, the year ahead will help us recover and reconnect with new opportunities. Like rabbits, when we tap into our personal power and confidence, we can achieve our goals despite the challenges along the way. Take advantage of your skills (and luck!) as you enter the Year of the Rabbit.

There is an importance of the firsts of things on New Year’s Day. The first shrine visit is called hatsumōde 初詣 where during the first three days of the year people wait patiently in long lines in order to ring the bell and offer a New Year’s prayer, to begin their New Year with good fortune.

There is a  tranquil shrine located at the foot of Mount Yoshida, tucked away behind the more touristy Heian-Jingu shrine in the Okazaki district east of Kyoto called Okazaki-jinja. It was one of the four main Shinto shrines built in 794 by Emperor Kanmu to protect Heian-kyo, the new imperial capital. The shrine is also nicknamed Usagi-jinja, which means “the rabbit’s shrine.” and there are cute rabbit statues everywhere you look.

The shrine is dedicated to the kami Susano-no-Mikoto and Kushinadahime-no-Mikoto from Japanese mythology. They had many children so the shrine is known for prosperity and childbirth, especially for those who are trying to conceive. The rabbits surrounding the shrine are also seen as a sign of fertility.

As you enter the shrine, as if hopping to greet you, there are two rabbits in front of the main hall of worship. One with her mouth open and the other has hers closed.

It is very rare to see them, because in other shrines they are usually not rabbits but lion dogs known as komainu, the statues that can be found guarding the entrances.

Especially popular is the black rabbit statue that stands at the chozuyu water purification font to the right of the main hall. A place to wash hands, the rabbit is looking up at the full moon. People make wishes here by pouring water on the rabbit, and rubbing its stomach and then praying to hope to have a baby with a safe delivery.

When you pray, you’ll see two rabbits standing in front of you, in a one-paw-up pose a bit like a beckoning cat Maneki-Neko. These beckoning rabbits bring you good luck in love and money.

A common custom during hatsumōde is to buy a written oracle called an omikuji. If your omikuji predicts bad luck you can tie it onto a tree in the shrine grounds, in the hope that its prediction will not come true.

The omikuji goes into detail, and tells you how you will do in various areas in your life, such as business and love for that year, in a similar way to horoscopes in the West. Often a good-luck charm comes with the omikuji when you buy it, that is believed to summon good luck and money your way. This is mine for 2023 which I carry with me for the rest of the year. I think it’s a lucky year .

On New Year’s Eve (oh-misoka ) some Japanese people like to eat Toshikoshi Soba 年越しそば. 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  previous year.  This simple meal of buckwheat soba noodles is served in a hot dashi broth which is full of umami flavour and garnished with chopped green onions. I like to add aburaage to mine instead of the traditional Kamaboko fish cake to make it vegan. For the dashi I use a kombu shiitake dashi then mirin,tamari and yuzu rind.

 I like to do this while watching the televised famous gigantic Buddhist temple bell at Chion-in Kyoto ringing the New Year .

It takes the combined force of seventeen monks to ring it. According to Buddhist teachings the number represents the 108 worldly desires that a person experience’s throughout the course of their life. When the bell is finally struck for the 108th time it is believed that you will be cleansed of your problems and worries from the last year. Joya-no-Kane refers to the annual ringing of bells on the night of New Year’s Eve at temples nationwide. The monks ring the temple bell 108 times 107 times on the 31st and once more when the clock strikes midnight to bridge the current year to the next. In fact, “joya” is one way of saying “New Year’s Eve” in Japanese while “kane” stands for “bell.”

Start New Year’s Day with a traditional Japanese breakfast. This breakfast soup said to be the most auspicious new year food and is part of Osechi Ryori. (Good luck food). Depending on the region in Japan the broth can either be clear or with miso .

Ozoni お雑煮 Enjoyed on the morning of New Year’s Day in Japan.

(Japanese New Year Mochi Soup – Kansai Style) . This style of soup from Kyoto region is made with Saikyo Miso (white miso from kyoto) and a round toasted Mochi. It is even more auspicious to add 5 ingredients I added daikon,carrot, komatsuna and Silken tofu with the mochi as the 5th ingredient.

Kanto style Ozoni (more popular in Tokyo and eastern Japan) which is a clear based soup known as Osumashi  made with kombu dashi, with mirin and tamari. I like to add a dried shiitake when soaking the kombu to add to the umami. The flavours are very delicate which is typical of Shojin Ryori . Ozoni お雑煮 means mixed boil which relates to the mixed ingredients you can use. This soup was believed to bring good luck to samurai warriors and was served on New Year’s Day. Mochi is served to represent long life because it stretches. Soak the kombu and shiitake over night. Simmer the dashi with carrot and daikon. Add some chopped komatsuna and a slice of Yuzu peel maybe . Toast your Mochi and put it all together. Serve on its own or with some simple rice and pickles, which makes a nice breakfast to start the day.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu 元日).It is considered the most important meal of the year. Osechi Ryori is usually packed in lacquer boxes (ojubako) which come in layers stacked on-top of each other. There are many dishes in each layer each symbolize things like happiness, wealth and health for the next year ahead.

Even though I am not in Japan I feel making it can bring Japan closer to me with my food. And hopefully closer for you also. New year is a very important time and food has a lot of special meaning. I like to make what significant food I can with vegan ingredients.

Nishime 煮しめ (圧力鍋)

one-pot colorful stew of root vegetables, shiitake and koyadofu, simmered in dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. These simmered dishes are called nimono (煮物).

  • Carrot – Welcome spring by shaping carrot into plum or cherry blossom shapes.
  • Lotus root – The holes of lotus root presents a clear and unobstructed future
  • Taro – Taro symbolizes fertility or descendants’ cut into hexagon that resembles a turtle shape represents longevity.

Namasu (なます) or also known as Kohaku Namasu (red and white)

(紅白なます) Red and white are considered celebratory colors in Japan. Julienned daikon and carrot pickled in a sweet vinegar with a hint of citrus.

Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans) 黒豆 served on New Year’s Day as a part of Osechi Ryori (traditional New Year’s meal) Eating kuromame is considered good for your health for the new year.

Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん Lotus root has been considered an auspicious food for the Japanese New Year because lotus root with its many holes is a symbol of an unobstructed view of the future.

Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes) 栗きんとんchestnut gold mash. This dish symbolises fortune and wealth for a prosperous year ahead.

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.

You may see the wooden chopsticks I am using wrapped in red and white paper. They are called Iwai-bashi. These are chopsticks used for festive occasions. Both ends of the chopsticks are thinner, which means that one end is used by the Gods, and the other one by people. This represents the Gods and people eating together.

Other things that might be done on New Year’s Day, maybe the 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 no matter if your 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 spend it I wish you all a healthy happy 2023 .


Happy New Year to you all !

Blog, Winter Food

Candied Yuzu peel for the Winter Solstice

This is the time of the  shortest day the Winter Solstice known in the Japanese micro season as Touji ( Toji ) (冬至). If you have been following my Japanese micro seasonal blog posts you will know by now that Japanese people like to mark the changing of the seasons. Japanese people celebrate the solstice as they welcome the return of longer days, they pray for good health and eat auspicious food.

Yuzu is a sunny winter citrus fruit and is known for its cleansing properties, it is said the strong smell of Yuzu will drive away evil spirits. It has a rich source of vitamin C which is good for the immunity. The fruit is known for its cleansing properties and its fragrance lowers tension and helps fatigue. This is why it is also popular to visit an onsen and bathe with Yuzu fruit. This bath is called Yuzuyu and the essential oils from the fruit help soothe the skin and mind. It is also said the strong smell of Yuzu will drive away evil spirits. I always like to use Yuzu in a recipe for the solstice it reminds me of the sun and the citrus flavour gives hints of summer days.

I had just recently been gifted quite a few fresh Yuzu fruit and I decided I would make candied Yuzu peel for the winter season, as using yuzu is quite popular at this time of year 

Candied Yuzu can be eaten like a wagashi with green tea. Fresh yuzu peel has a floral aroma and tart flavour of grapefruit and mandarin. A delcious treat on it’s own or how about taking it one step further and dip it in chocolate. Mix into pastries, creams, ice cream and sorbet or use as topping on desserts or canapes. Not only does making candied Yuzu peel make this delicious Japanese treat but the by product is something called Yuzu cha 柚子茶 . Basically a Yuzu marmalade you mix with hot water.

The tea has a distinctive citrusy aroma and is delicious and comforting. A perfect drink for winter, or why not try this tangy marmalade spread over toast for breakfast. 

This is how I made candied Yuzu peel

Slice your Yuzu in half and juice them ( you will find Yuzu contain more seeds than juice ) strain out as much juice as you can, put this in the fridge for later.

Then scrape out as much of the flesh and white skin inside the fruit so you are left with just the skin.

Slice the skin into thin strips, then put in to a pan and cover with cold water.

Bring the pan to a simmer and pour out the water. Do this again another two times. Then leave the skin to soak in cold water over night.

In the morning drain your skin and add it back to the pan with the Yuzu juice along with x2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup water. This ratio was used using 9 Yuzu fruit so if you have less you may have to divide this and use your own judgment.
Start to simmer the Yuzu fruit stirring occasionally until it becomes a thick sticky mixture ( this is your Yuzu cha ).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully pick out using chopsticks the  Yuzu peel and lay it on the baking sheet, leaving a few to add to your Yuzu cha.

When you have filled the baking sheet bake the Yuzu peel for 1 hour in a cool 100 degree oven.

For the Yuzu cha pour the sticky mixture into a sterilised jar adding a few Yuzu peel stripes. I then put mine in the fridge to set. When you want to make your comforting drink just add a teaspoon to a cup and add hot water.

When your candied peel has been baked for an hour take it out and roll the pieces in sugar.

Add your peel to little bags for gifts or into a jar to use later.

You can buy fresh Yuzu when in season from You can also check out my other recipes and more posts on the winter solstice just search Yuzu or Touji ( Toji ) for more.

A popular wagashi eaten in winter is Yōkan (羊羹) typically made with red bean paste and in the autumn/winter filled with fruits such as persimmon or figs, chestnuts or Japanese sweet potato. I decided to use the candied Yuzu for a citrus yokan wagashi for the solstice. The wagashi is very simple to make using just sweet bean paste, water, yuzu juice and agar agar powder. Just use the recipe for mizu yokan on this website but take out a tablespoon of the water and add Yuzu juice instead. For a thicker yokan you can double the recipe. Pour the mixture into your chosen mould and leave to slightly set then top your yokan with some of the candied Yuzu peel, you can even add festive nuts to the top if you wish. Leave in the fridge for a few hours or over night to set completely.

Enjoy as part of your winter solstice celebrations and look forward to the sun returning once more. Happy Winter Solstice.

Autumn Food, Blog

Niiname-sai 新嘗 Japanese Thanksgiving

Niiname-sai 新嘗 Japanese Thanksgiving

Held on the of 23rd November.

Now also celebrated as a non-religious public holiday known as ‘Labor Thanksgiving Day.’

The day was originally called Niiname-sai 新嘗祭 the “autumn festival.” and was the day of gratitude for the harvest season to deities and those involved in the hard work of farming food production. Niiname-sai is celebrated in the Shinto religion on this day with events held at shrines across the country.

The Shinto gods of harvest are believed to live in the mountains during the winter. At the end of the harvest season each year, the gods return to the mountains then are welcomed back the following spring for planting season.

The term itself often translates to “celebration of the first taste”, In the festival, various kinds of products including newly harvested rice known as Shinmai 新米 and vegetables produced by local farmers are offered on the altar to the kami, ( spirits) expressing gratitude for a rich harvest. Shinmai officially, is rice that is harvested, processed, and packaged for sale before 31st December of that year. Shinmai usually becomes available in early autumn and remains available only until the end of the year. On the day of Niiname-sai, many shrine worshippers attend the festival.

The sharing of food and drink with the gods is called “naorai”. Today, the term naorai can refer to sharing drinks or rice cakes with friends. Eating shinmai is a treasured and celebrated time.

I thought it would be nice to make a simple rice dish made and eaten by mountain workers in japan. The workers would stick rice on pieces of wood and grill them, eating them spread with miso paste while drinking sake, to pray for their safety when working in the mountains. This meal is known as “Gohei-mochi”

Gohei mochi is a centuries old local cuisine which may date back to the middle of the Edo period (about 1700 – 1750) originating in the Chubu mountainous regions specifically in Nagano, Gifu and Aichi prefectures around central Japan.

There are many theories as to the origin of the name “Gohei mochi “; some say it was created in the shape of a “gohei” (ritual wand with pleated paper), an offering to the gods.

Rice is mashed into a mochi like consistency but keeping some of the grains visible then either formed into the shape of waraji a traditional sandal or rolled into dango . It is then skewered and coated with soy sauce and sugar popular in the Kiso valley and Hilda region. Or covered in miso which is considered the Aichi Prefecture region’s specialty. You may of seen the anime  film Your Name which is set in the Hida region and characters are seen eating goheimochi in various scenes, which increased its popularity.

Other examples of goheimochi sauce include honey and walnut so with this in mind I decided to make a combination of a sweet walnut and miso paste to coat the mochi rice balls.

This is how I made Gohei Mochi

For the mochi

1 cup (the cup you get with your rice cooker) of uncooked Japanese rice which is short-grain, sticky rice. Then rinse the rice thoroughly in water.

( I added a little amaranth grain to mine ) cook with 1 and a half rice cooker cups of water in your rice cooker.

While it’s cooking make you sweet walnut miso paste topping.

Sweet walnut miso paste topping

Toast 20g of walnuts in a pan til fragrant then add this to a suribachi ( mortar and pestle ) then add 20g of toasted white sesame seeds to the walnuts and grind into a grainy powder. Or like I did you can use already toasted and ground sesame seeds called Suri Goma すりごま

Add to a pan

1tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp of mirin

And 40g sugar

Gently heat and mix well until the sugar has dissolved

Turn off the heat and then mix in 1 tbsp of miso paste stirring to combine without lumps.

Mix your walnuts and sesame into the miso mixture.

Spoon into a bowl and set aside.

When your rice is cooked let it steam further for ten minutes then tip into a bowl . Using your surikogi pestle pound the fresh steamed rice until the grains are half-crushed.

Using damp hands take potions of rice and form into equal balls .
( I used wooden chop sticks the type you get with takeaway food as a skewer as they are thicker and the rice sticks better) push the rice balls  through the wooden skewer adding three to a skewer you can then mould the rice balls around the skewer.

Wipe a pan with oil ( I used toasted sesame ) you don’t want the rice sitting in oil and  cook both sides of the Gohei mochi lightly in a pan to make them less prone to falling apart.

Now spread your sweet walnut miso paste on the top of Gohei mochi . Wrap the visible wooden skewer with silver foil so it doesn’t burn . Sprinkle a few sesame seeds on-top and toast under the grill.

Enjoy straight away, for a delicious snack that’s warm chewy, sweet nutty and toasty.  If you have some of walnut miso mixture left it is delicious to use on tofu or nasu dengaku you add a little extra warm water to make into a dressing to drizzle over vegetables or mix into green beans. 

Other meals you could make to celebrate Japanese thanksgiving could be chirashi sushi ( sushi rice with lots of seasonal toppings or mixed rice ( Takikomi Gohan ) .

Autumn Food, Blog

Inoko Mochi 亥の子餅 (Baby Boar Cake A Seasonal Delight)

From late October to November you may see this confectionery in wagashi stores throughout Japan. It is custom to eat this Japanese sesame delight on “inoko no hi” 亥の子の日 Baby Boar Day . The wagashi is normally eaten on the day of the boar ( this year 2022 being Sunday the 6th of November) for a prayer for good health. These wagashi are served at this time as part of a Japanese tea ceremony known as “Robiraki” 炉開き which is when the brazier set in the tatami mat is opened for the winter season. This is because the wild boar is believed to be a messenger of the Buddhist god of war and fire. It is also custom at this time to start using heating devices like the kotatsu 炬燵. The winter hearth is opened on the first wild boar day and tea is served with inoko mochi.

I decided to make inoko mochi wagashi 亥の子餅 baby boar cake. After the Halloween festivities it’s something that little bit different and still keeping in with the Japanese seasons. Black sesame is used to look like the spots on a wild boar piglet. The mochi is also seared with markings on the surface.

This is how I made Baby Boar Piglet Mochi ( Inoko Mochi )

Mix 30grm Shiratama flour with 4 and 1/2 tablespoons of water add 30grms of Joshinko flour and 50grms of sugar and mix again. Then mix in 30grms of mashed bean paste and 8grms of black sesame seeds.

Place a metal pancake ring inside a steamer and cover with a muslin cloth. Spoon the mixture inside the ring and steam for 15mins.

Meanwhile make x8 balls of bean paste ( 160grms = 20grms each ball)

Tip the steamed Mochi out into a bowl and mash, then tip out onto a surface with potato starch.  Divide the Mochi into 8 pieces. Flatten each piece and place a ball of bean paste inside and fold the mochi over. Roll and shape into a piglet.

Heat a metal rod and sear each Mochi with three stripes. Enjoy with matcha or your favourite Japanese tea to celebrate the changing seasons. The searing of the mochi gives it a lovely toasted sesame flavour.

I served mine with a hojicha latte and sprinkled  it with powdered ginger to make it extra warming.



The Power of Five

Shojin Ryori the heart of seasonal Buddhist cuisine.
The word Sho in Shojin means to focus on and I find that preparing a Japanese meal in my own tiny kitchen helps me be more mindful. Despite the meals being of humble ingredients the vegetables used relate to the seasons helping us focus on the hear and now. In summer we may use cooling watery cucumber and tomatoes, in the winter pumpkins and root vegetables like daikon and potatoes warm and fuel our bodies.

Locally grown vegetables for sale outside a restaurant in Kyoto 

When cooking Japanese temple food, a temple chef known as “Tenzo”makes sure the menu has 5 colours of ingredients:  Green such as leafy vegetables, red could be azuki beans, yellow such as root vegetables, white, as rice and tofu, and black (purple) such as mushrooms and kelps. By including 5 colours, the menu is considered tastefully balanced.

This can be taken further still, temple chefs should prepare every meal consisting of five tastes. Five tastes are: bitter, sour, sweet, salty and umami. To produce this five essential seasonings are used: sugar,salt, vinegar, soy sauce and miso. These flavourings draw out the flavours in the vegetables used and are used sparingly so as not to mask them.

In Shojin Ryori cuisine ingredients with a strong pungent flavour such as garlic and onions are not used.

Five cooking techniques should be used to prepare the food : raw, stewed, boiled, roasted and steamed. This can vary and other techniques like marinate, fried, simmered or grilled could also be used.

These tastes and textures are composed to harmonise the five senses. With the presentation of each dish being equally important. The blending and balance of colours and flavours.

Another way you could combine colours and flavours could be:

Sweet: corn, sweet potato,turnip,carrot, Kabocha, fruit, sugar, mirin. Salty: miso, soy sauce, salt.
Sour : vinegar, umeboshi, tomatoes, lime, lemon.
Bitter: Goya, kale, chard, asparagus, eggplant.
Umami: seaweed, mushrooms

When the carefully prepared meal is ready to be served in a monastery the Tenzo will sound a gong known as an “Umpan” this translates to cloud plate. Typically you will find these gongs outside the kitchen or dining hall area. Look out for one next time you visit a temple in Japan.

Instead of eating a lot of food piled up on one plate Oryoki bowls are used. A set of nested bowls that sit inside each other. The meal is served up in these bowls Continue reading…


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.