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The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. Matcha Pancakes & Nasu no Nimono

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 4 “Wish” 

Part 1:

Apprentice Maiko get two days off every month, it’s Kiyo and Sumire’s day off together. They first decide to visit a monument in a sports shrine. This Shinto shrine is called Shiramine Jingu, and the monument is known as the monument of Kemari, which is said to bring luck in sports by spinning the ball which is inside the monument. The shrine is home to to the god Seidai Myojin who is known to be the god of sports. Kemari is an athletic game which was popular in Japan during the Heian and Kamakura period and resembles a cross between a game of food ball and hacky sack. Nowadays Kemari is played as a seasonal event and the players play in a traditional costume called Kariginu which was worn as everyday clothing by nobles during the Heian period. Kiyo and Sumire frantically spin the wheel and wish for their friend Kento to win in his sports tournament.
What is your perfect afternoon out? For Kiyo and Sumire it was visiting a local cafe for a stack of fluffy matcha soufflé pancakes and a latte which had cute latte art.

Every time I visit Tokyo the first thing I do is visit one of the Ain Soph  cafes for such a pancake. Their menu is 100% vegan and all their food is made from scratch. Each cafe has their own unique menu, Ain soph Ginza has a ground floor vegan patisserie, on the second to fourth floor is their restaurant. Access 1 min walk from Tokyo Metro Higashi-Ginza Station exit 3 by the Kabukiza theatre.

Ain Soph Journey in Shinjuku Tokyo Metro Shinjuku Sanchome station exit C5 is the birthplace of their so called “Heavenly Pancake” and indeed they are.
There is also another location in Ikebukuro 10 minutes from the station.
Ain Soph in Kyoto have been open a few years now serving up again their “Heavenly Pancakes” in the best Kyoto style using organic matcha.

Which ever one you visit along with their delicious menu I recommend you try their pancakes.
Also in Kyoto I visit for breakfast another cafe serving up fluffy pancakes, called “Choice” in Northern Higashiyama at Sanjo Keihan station.

Serving up vegan and with the exception of their pasta dishes gluten free food, Choice was opened by a doctor who is keenly aware of the impact of healthy food on health and happiness. Why not start your day with some delicious healthy pancakes if you’re visiting Kyoto.

I decided to give making these fluffy pancakes a try and after lots of trials this was my favourite.

I like to call them matcha muffin pancakes as the texture is quite like a soft muffin. Perfect for a breakfast treat.

Mix into a bowl 175gram of sifted self raising flour, 1 teaspoon of chia seeds, sift matcha to make one tablespoon and add this to the flour. Then add 200ml of plant based milk, 1 tablespoon of melted coconut butter/oil and one tablespoon of maple syrup. Mix until combined but do not over mix a lumpy mixture is perfect.

Leave for the chia seeds to swell and make the batter thicker for about 5 mins. While that’s happening heat a nonstick frying pan on high heat and wipe over with coconut oil using a paper towel. Wipe the inside of two pancake rings with coconut oil and leave them to warm on the frying pan. If you do not have pancake rings you can make the matcha muffin pancakes without. Now turn the heat down to very low and spoon your mixture into the pancake rings if using.

If you are not using pancake ring the batter should be thick enough to add layers on top of each other. Just add a spoonful of pancake mixture to the pan and keep adding on top to get that thick pancake look.
Cook the pancakes on a very low heat for ten minutes, then flip over.

Cook on the other side for a further ten minutes, then if using a pancake ring ease the edges with a knife and lift the pancake ring off.

Transfer to a plate adding vegan cream, fruit and extra maple syrup to pour over. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

Part 2:

In the same episode we see Kiyo returning to the market looking for seasonal vegetables. She is drawn to the plump eggplants known as nasu in Japan. When I visit Japan I also take great pleasure in visiting markets and farmers markets. Tokyo has a wonderful one held over Saturday and Sunday every week in front of the United Nations University in Aoyama. Selling a wide variety of local and organic products from 10am-4pm.

If you’re visiting Kyoto no visit would be complete without a visit to the so called “Kyoto’s Kitchen” which is Nishiki Market. A narrow five blocks long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops, which is 400 years old.

There is so much to see and taste, the lively market has all things food related from fresh pickles, to knives, cookware to yuba and is a treasure trove of culinary delights.

Kiyo decides to take the nasu back to the Maiko House, we see her scoring thin cut into the nasu before she sautés them and then simmers them in a dashi broth. This method is called “Kakushibocho” and is a technique used so that the eggplant will absorb the flavours of the broth better.

Placing a few in a bowl she hands them over to “Mother” to try. Both Mother and Sumire’s father who comes to visit and try’s them find them nostalgic. Often the case with home cooked meals.
This simple dish has a few variations from Agebitashi which is eggplant which is deep fried then soaked in dashi to the dish more like the one Kiyo makes in the episode “Nasu no Nimono” (Simmered eggplant).

You will need: serves 4

Make a dashi stock by soaking a piece of kombu in 2 cups of water over night.
Discard the kombu, add to this four tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce and four tablespoons of mirin.

x4 eggplants ( trim off the stems and slice in half lengthwise, make fine diagonal slices into the eggplant being careful not to cut all the way through.

Add the eggplant to a frying pan and sauté both sides in a little vegetable oil until the skins wilt.

While you’re doing that bring your broth to a simmer then add your eggplant. Simmer gently for around 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the broth in the fridge preferably over night. To serve cut your eggplant into bit sized pieces and add to a serving bowl with a little of the broth topping with some slices of peeled ginger or grated daikon radish to garnish.