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The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House “Vegan White Stew”

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 6


Part one : Amazake

Sumire is now officially an apprentice Maiko for this she gets her hair done in the traditional maiko style. To keep this style from becoming messed up when they sleep maiko have to sleep on a special wooden pillow. Kiyo knowing that Sumire will not get much sleep on her first night makes her a comforting drink of amazake waiting for her in the kitchen. Even though Kiyo  has to get up early to prepare food the next day this was truly a selfless act of friendship and simple act of kindness.
Amazake or sweet sake is a fermented rice drink made from koji (kome koji). The koji mold or Aspergillus Oryzae is used in the making of miso, soy sauce, sake and mirin. The mold causes the rice enzymes to break down and ferment into unrefined sugars. The sugar makes a sweet drink or can be used in desserts, smoothies or dressing. Amazake was was actually consumed in the Edo Period in the summer to battle against the hot Japanese summers and reduce fatigue. You can find a recipe to make your own in my recipe pages. Also I recommend the amazake from Clearspring which you can just add to a pan with water or plant based milk and a little ginger to make a comforting drink.

Part two: White Stew ホワイトシチュー

Kiyo is in the kitchen preparing a meal and talking to Momoko. Momoko asks Kiyo if she gets board making meals for the girls in the maiko house. Kiyo explains that she doesn’t because every time she goes to collect ingredients according to what is in season she can decide what she is going to make. She also explains that every time she goes to the market there is always some different, even the same vegetables tastes can change depending if they are early or late in season. This is why she greets the vegetables with “ Hello there and thanks” “ nice to see you again”.

There are words used in Japan like Kisetsukan basically meaning attention to the seasons or Fubutsushi the little things that signal the changing seasons. This could be from the cherry blossoms in spring or seasonal foods appearing at the market. Hashiri is a word meaning that eagerly awaited produce that is coming soon into season, where shun refers to the produce in peak seasons. Why not read more about this on my four seasonal posts called “Live by the shun the philosophy of seasonal eating”.

Kiyo puts all her love, attention and enthusiasm into making her meals even though they might be thought of as mundane or ordinary dishes. In this episode we see her preparing a meal called “white stew” sometimes called “cream stew”. A family, home cooked (yōshoku) 洋食  dish meaning Japanese with a western influence. In Japan it is pronounced “Howaito Schichu” appearing in Japanese school lunch menus in 1947 when the government wanted to introduce nutritious meals to children. I even remember having something similar myself at my own primary school for lunch. The stew is made with carrot, potatoes, onions and chicken in a Béchamel sauce . Made using milk, Japanese families often use cream stew roux (a bit like curry cubes) to make this a quick and easy meal, but as neither are vegan I wanted to share my vegan recipe with you all omitting the chicken for tofu and using plant based milk and cream. This may not look like the most appetising dish, but I make this often as it’s so delicious, creamy and comforting. Cream stew has also appeared in another favourite Japanese drama of mine “Midnight Diner” season 2 episode 6 titled “Cream Stew” for which I have done a series of vegan recipes that go with the series.

White Stew

You will need:

A handful of small button mushrooms kept whole.

Three medium potatoes with skin on cut into chunks

One onion cut into slices

Two carrots peeled and cut into wedges

Broccoli florets

One block of medium firm Tofu cut into cubes

Two cups of vegetable stock keeping more for later if needed.


Add the onion to a large pan and sauté in a little melted vegan butter then add your carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and tofu.

Then add your vegetable stock, the stock should just cover the vegetables. Put a lid on the pan bring to a boil then simmer on a low heat for ten minutes.

While that’s simmering make your sauce mix.

Three tablespoons of vegan butter

One cup of soy milk

Three tablespoons of plain flour

One 250ml carton of vegan cream

1/4 teaspoon each of ground white pepper and nutmeg

Pinch of salt

Warm up one cup of soy milk either on the stove or in the microwave.
Add to a pan three tablespoons of vegan butter heat until melted and then turn down the heat to low. Sprinkle the flour into the butter stirring constantly. Start adding the warm soy milk gradually whisking as you do.

Check your vegetables at this point your potatoes should be nearly cooked but should not fall apart. Turn off the heat.
With a ladle spoon some of the vegetable stock into your flour roux and start to whisk.

Gradually keep doing this until your sauce can be poured into your vegetables. Add the sauce to your vegetables. Then add one carton of plant based cream to your pan with the vegetables and roux and gently stir it in. Add your white pepper nutmeg and salt. Do not omit these as it gives the stew its distinctive flavour. If you feel at this point your sauce is too thick add a little extra stock.

Turn back on the heat and simmer for a further five minutes. At this point just before serving blanch your broccoli in boiling water. When ready to serve drain the broccoli and add to the dishes after serving keeping the lovely bright green colour visible.

You can serve this on its own in a bowl like Kiyo did for Momoko with maybe some crusty bread. Or along side rice.

This meal can be enjoyed all year round, Kiyo suggests turning any left overs into something called “Doria” a Japanese take on a gratin, but made with rice. It is believed that Doria was invented by French chef Saly Weil at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama back in 1930. It is a rice gratin dish in again in the Yoshoku style. I also have another Doria recipe on my recipe pages for curry Doria.
Add to a gratin dish some butter and smooth it around all the sides. To this add a layer of already cooked rice. Then spoon over your white stew. Finally finish with a layer of vegan cheese and some panko bread crumbs sprinkled on top. Place in the oven until warmed through and your cheese has melted and breadcrumbs crispy and golden.

I suggest serving this with a nice salad.  I hope you will give this recipe a try it has definitely become one of my favourite meals perfect for a family or giving you left overs to use or freeze for later. Enjoy.