Category

Spring Food

Blog, Spring Food

Sanshoku 三色団子 Tofu Three Colour Dango For Hinamatsuri


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, celebrated in May. 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 past 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 many traditional foods that are eaten on this day for instance, hina-arare bite sized crackers, a fermented sake drink called shirozake, strawberry daifuku, sakura mochi, temari sushi, kompeito small candy sweets, inari sushi and chirashi sushi to name a few.

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 coloured rice dumpling”.

Hanami 花見 means flower viewing which is something that Japanese people love to do to mark the changing of the seasons.? From the Ume blossom in early spring to the Sakura then wisteria and Ajisai in June. Japanese people often have picnics to admire the cherry blossom in spring and one such food that is enjoyed is hanami dango. It is also popular to eat this confectionery at Hinamatsuri celebrations as it is a spring celebration.

It is said that hanami dango was first served to guests at a hanami party Daigo no hanami which refers to the blossom-viewing party held in grand style at Daigoji Temple in Kyoto on April 20, 1598 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi attended by about 1,300 people . After this time it became popular to serve this confectionery when viewing cherry blossoms.

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.

Traditionally the pink dumplings were coloured using purple shiso (赤紫蘇) . However be careful if you are vegan in Japan as often any food that contains pink food colouring is not suitable for a vegan diet as it may contain carmine (made from cochineal insects) other names for this pink food colouring are E120 Cochineal, Crimson Lake or Natural Red 5. If you would like to make these simple traditional Japanese sweets for yourself you can with natural food colouring, like strawberry powder or beetroot juice.

Dango is often described with an onomatopoeia in Japanese called “mochimochi”! ‘Mochi-mochi’ (meaning chewy, elastic, soft, plump). So what is the secret ingredient to make these Sanshoku dango so soft with that mochi mochi texture for yourself ? In my recipe I’m using the soft “Shizenno Megumi”Organic Tofu by “Hikari Miso”. The authentic soft textured tofu called “Kinughosi Tofu” in Japan achieves a softer but chewy dango and adds sweetness without adding sugar.

To make these three colour dango which signify purification, health and luck you will need a pack of “ Shizenno Megumi Organic tofu, you will also need equal proportion: 50% rice flour and 50% glutinous rice flour. Known as Shiratamako (白玉粉) – Japanese short-grain glutinous rice flour, also known as sweet rice flour and Joshinko (上新粉) – Japanese short-grain rice. For this recipe I used two and a half tablespoons of each in each bowl. Shiratamako can come in quite large chunks so it is advisable to grind them down into more of a powder.

You will also need bamboo skewers, matcha powder and pink natural food colouring, I used beetroot juice.

First drain you tofu from the packet and section into three equal pieces and divide into three bowls, then mash the tofu. Add one tablespoon of shiratamako and one tablespoon of Joshinko to each bowl. Next add colouring to two bowls I used one teaspoon of matcha for green and one teaspoon of natural beetroot juice for pink.

Cream the tofu in each bowl then add another tablespoon each of shiratamako and joshinko to each bowl .

It needs to form into a stiff dough (people say to think of what an ear lope feels like and this is what dango should feel like when you press it). You may need to add one more half tablespoons of each flour to each bowl to get this texture. I like to add it in stages like this so you get the correct consistency and you can use your judgment as you go rather than weighing it out and tipping it all in at once.

Make your dough into three separate log shapes and section so you can make equal sized balls of each colour.

Heat up a large pan of boiling water and drop your white and pink dango balls into the boiling water, when they float to the top give them a one extra minute and they are done.


Scoop them out using a strainer and drop them into iced water for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate lined with parchment so they don’t stick and do the same again to the final matcha dumplings so no colour runs. 


Take each ball and begin to slide them onto skewers. Remember to start with sliding on the green first then white and finally pink. If you would like to store your Dango you can pack them in an airtight container and keep at room temperature for 24 hours. You can also freeze the dango for about a month, so it’s nice to make plenty and freeze them in advance. When you want to eat them thaw them naturally at room temperature. 


I’ve displayed the dango here 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.

Tofu dango is sometimes served with kinako powder to dip them in or with anko sweet bean paste. I recently saw a wagashi store in Kanazawa called “Cafe Murakami” one I visited on my recent trip to Japan that serve up warm dipping chocolate with their Dango. I thought this was such a lovely idea. All you need is an oil burner with a night light candle. The store In Kanazawa used strawberry white chocolate in keeping with spring colours. 

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

One of the best memories I have in my life is visiting Japan at Sakura season.

If  you have never been lucky enough to witness it, seeing the blossom and the way people in Japan celebrate Hanami is just breathtaking.

I think I miss Japan the most at this time of year.  I always like to celebrate Japanese customs and traditions it helps me feel close to Japan  when I cannot be there.

How about making some tofu dango and sit with these and a bento under the blossoms and if like me you cannot be there just dream you are.

Blog, Spring Food

猫の日 Neko no Hi (Nyan Nyan Nyan Day)

Japans National Cat Day (猫の日 Neko no Hi)

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”.

Let’s talk about Japan’s favourite cat the “calico cat”. In Japanese culture, calico cats are symbols of good fortune and are believed to bring prosperity. According to Japanese folklore, a calico cat is a symbol of the goddess of mercy, who is said to bring good fortune to those who take care of her. Calico cats have a unique tri-color pattern, thought of as being typically 25% to 75% white with large orange and black patches. Calico refers to a colour or pattern of a cat’s fur it is not a breed. They are almost exclusively female except under rare genetic conditions. A cat needs two X chromosomes to present with the tri-color calico pattern. If a cat has an XX pair of chromosomes, it will be female. Male cats have an XY chromosome pair, so they can rarely be calicos. There’s less than a 0.1% chance of a calico cat being born male which mean’s approximately only one in 3,000 calicos are male. Did you know calico cats were first documented in the early 1700s in England, where they were considered a symbol of good luck.

You will probably know the Maneki Neko 招き猫 a traditional Japanese cat talisman based on a calico Japanese bobtail thought to bring good fortune and wealth. It originated in the Gotokuji temple in Tokyo. There, a priest named Hojo Tokiyor adopted a friendly stray cat. One day she raised her paw to beckon him to come over to her. As he moved a lightening bolt struck where he was standing saving his life. Grateful for the cat’s warning, the priest became convinced that it was a lucky and divine animal. When the cat eventually died, the priest created a statue with one paw raised in honor of her. He placed the figurine in front of the temple and it soon became a symbol of good fortune and protection from misfortune. If you now visit Gotokuji temple in Setagaya ward  you will see hundreds of Maneki Neko.

Cats are also viewed by Buddhist monks as mindful and spiritual beings having calm, observant, and restful zen like qualities.

The Maneki Neko is almost always calico. This lucky talisman is common in businesses and homes throughout Japan. Maneki Neko, also known as the “beckoning cat” Maneki” means “beckoning” or “inviting” in Japanese, while “neko” means “cat.” If the Maneki Neko has a raised right paw she bestows good luck and wealth to who owns her, If the left paw is up, the cat brings in customers and good fortune.

In Japanese culture the welcoming gesture represent the importance of hospitality, kindness, and happiness. Nowadays, people all over the world love having the Maneki Neko as a decoration, often placed somewhere prominent. Place near the entrance or facing a doorway it is believed to attract good fortune into a home, shop, or other business to bring good luck and attract good things.

You may see Maneki Neko figures in other colours as well as the calico, white cats are generally believed to bring happiness, purity, and positive things to come, while gold cats promise wealth and prosperity. There are also regional ones in Kyoto it is said people favour black cats for their shops while those in Tokyo feel that black is unlucky.

You may see figures with a large gold coin. This can be traced back to one specific cat at Eko-In Temple in Tokyo. A tombstone was erected to a cat believed to have delivered gold coins to a fishmonger left unable to work due to illness.

One things for certain Japan sure do love cats! Japanese people don’t have much extra space for pets. So having a cat is the perfect choice. You will see cats all over Japan from Hello Kitty, Cat Bus & Pokémon.

I have spoken about Yanaka in previous blogs a Shitamachi old quaint neighbourhood known for its cats. There are also many stores selling cat themed items and seven lucky cat statues hidden in the area for you to search for.

There is even a street named Cat Street in Tokyo. A pedestrianised street running between Harajuku and Shibuya. The street is full of fashion boutiques and was actually named an alley for cool cats who aspire to strut the catwalk. Even though cat street has nothing to do with cats the sign has a cat on it.

Cats are popular even in fashion in Japan, fitting in with the whole kawaii culture perfectly.

Just recently a new cat appeared on a giant curved LED shinjuku 3D billboard which gained popularity. billboard opposite Shinjuku Station’s east exit is where you’ll find the larger-than-life calico cat who sleeps, wakes up and stares at passing pedestrians. This was Tokyo’s first 3D billboard and features a curved LED screen that can display 4K images and play sounds. So when  the cat meows, swats at passersby, jumps, plays or naps, it feels like she’s really a giant cat living on top of a building.

I wanted to introduce to you an artist by the name of Toshinori Mori whose art I have in my own home and was so happy to finally meet him on my last trip to Japan.

He was born in Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture and now lives in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture. Inspired by beautiful Japanese landscape and his love tofor cats, he created a series of illustrations named ”Tabineko” (たびねこ), which means cat goes on a trip, or traveling cat. The series features a calico and black cat who travel through various places, like city streets or country lanes.

Toshinori is also fascinated by the seasons, which are constantly changing in the Japanese landscape and you can notice this on each illustration. Tabineko” illustration series, which is modeled on his 10-year-old  cat and an outside cat coming to the garden.


I can really feel Japan in his art. The travelling cats are drawn with gentle colours and simple touches against the background of the four seasons of Japan. Needless to say nearly every room has one of his prints in my house.

You can follow Toshinori Mori on Instagram and some of his beautiful works are available for purchase as postcards and prints on Etsy.

This year I decided to make calico cat faced onigiri to celebrate  Japans National Cat Day (猫の日 Neko no Hi.) I coloured the rice with tamari and used nori for the face features.

It was so easy to make the bento by using the Neko Kao Onigiri Set from Bento & Co.



Bento & Co have a gorgeous store in Kyoto which opened in March 2012.


They sell not only an extensive range of bento boxes but everything you need to create all things bento. From kitchen tools to cookware and bento accessories like furoshiki and lunch bags.


If you’re not going to be visiting Kyoto any time soon fear not because Bento & Co have a website and deliver world wide with fast shipping. And if you would like to order from www.enbento&co.com you can use this exclusive code TOKYOPONY 
to receive $10 off your first order. Let’s get planning all those hanami picnics we will be having come spring.

If you love cats why not celebrate with something cat themed today.

Blog, Spring Food

Valentines Day Japan バレンタインデー & Recipe For Chocolate Tofu Donuts

Valentine’s Day バレンタインデー is a relatively new custom in Japan. Celebrated on February the 14th, while its origins are in Christianity the custom was taken on in a unique way by Japan a bit like Halloween or Christmas with a Japanese twist.

Although the tradition of giving chocolate started in the 1930’s it wasn’t until the 1970’s when Japan had an economic boom and more women started to enter the work place that giving chocolates by women to men started to become a custom. These chocolates are known as honmei-choco 本命チョコ, “true feeling chocolate”. This was a way for women to express their emotions and wasn’t something that was done before. The practice of giving chocolate occurred because women expressing their love to men was considered disgraceful, and confectioneries capitalized on chocolate as a way for them to profess their love. This custom then over time changed to not only giving chocolates to love interests but to work colleagues and teachers to show appreciation these chocolates are called giri choco. There are chocolates to friends (tomo choco 友チョコ) where no romantic feelings are involved in gifting the chocolate. Tomo choco is meant to celebrate platonic love between friends male or female so as to not alienate those who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day or have no romantic partner. 

Tomo choco comes from the word tomodachi, meaning ‘friend’ in Japanese. Tomo choco is the exception to the rule when it comes to male-only gift-giving. These are basically chocolates or baked goods that women give to their female friends as an expression of their friendship.

Fami Choco (ファミチョコ): Family Chocolate. This is a chocolate gift for male family members: father, husband, son. Mothers and daughters tend to make baked goods or chocolate or buy sweets that can be enjoyed together at home.

It is also now popular to even just make yourself a gift as an act of self love this is called jibun-choco 自分チョコ“my chocolate”.

It is also popular to hand make or bake gifts showing that you have put even more thought and care into a gift.

Why not trying making a treat for a friend or loved ones or even just yourself.

I decided to share with you my recipe for these delicious tofu baked donuts dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with freeze dried strawberries using Shizenno Megumi Organic Soft Tofu. True authentic soft textured Tofu called “Kinughosi Tofu” in Japan. This soft tofu warrants itself well to making desserts and is often used in Japan as an egg replacement. I got the idea of using tofu in a donut recipe after seeing some unusual yuba donuts for sale when visiting Arashiyama Kyoto.

Let’s make fudgy chocolate brownie tofu donuts for Valentines Day.

You will need:

x1 pack of “Soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu”

x2 cups of plain flour

1/3 cup of cacao powder

x1 Bar of vegan chocolate of choice

x1 tablespoon of melted odourless oil (I always use Tiana coconut cooking butter)

x2 teaspoons of baking powder & x1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar

x2 teaspoons of brown rice vinegar

1/3 cup of soy milk

Something to decorate the donuts like sprinkles, freeze dried strawberries, coconut etc.

Method:

In one bowl sift the flour, cacao powder baking powder and baking soda then mix to combine.

( preheat your oven to a moderate temperature around 150 degrees centigrade.)

Drain the “Soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu” and add to a blender or food processor. To the tofu add the coconut butter, brown rice vinegar and coconut palm sugar. Blend until smooth.


Add the tofu mixture to the flour mixture and fold in gently to combine. Add the soy milk to make a thick batter, adding extra soy milk if needed.

Brush your donut pan with some melted coconut butter and spoon the mixture into the donut moulds, I find it easy to use two small spoons to do this one to scoop up the batter and one to push it off the spoon into the moulds. Smooth the top as best you can.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from the Oven and with a tooth pick make the hole for your donut, as they will likely cover over in the baking process.

Leave to cool and then remove carefully by using a knife gently on the edges to ease them out of the mould. Turn them over to reveal a smooth side.


Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water.

Take each donut and turn it to dip the donut on the smooth side.

Do this to all the donuts. Placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.


Decorate each donut with whatever you wish, I used a sprinkle of coconut and freeze dried strawberries.

Now pop them in the fridge for an hour to set the chocolate and you’re done.

After this time you can store them in an airtight container out of the fridge in a cool place.
Serve to a loved one for Valentines Day or box them individually as gifts.

I used 85% dark chocolate for my donut coating but you could use what ever chocolate you like to your preference. For an extra decadent donut why not slice in half an add a layer of strawberry jam.


Don’t forget White Day on March 14th when the women will get returned gifts.

Blog, Spring Food

Tsubaki-mochi (椿餅) camellia leaf mochi

 


Risshun is the first micro season in the cycle of 24 sekki, this season translates to “Spring Rises”. This is the coldest season, but emotionally we are gradually beginning to feel the end of winter and the arrival of Spring. The first blooms of camellias and ume blossom bring positive energies, the days start to get slightly longer and life is starting to emerge from the earth.
Tsubaki-mochi is an oval shaped domyoji mochi, a freshly made rice cake with azuki bean paste wrapped in tsubaki (camellia leaves). This confectionery has been eaten in Japan since the Heian period and is now often served at tea ceremonies as a Kyoto confectionery during the month of February in Japan.

The leaves are not edible but are the same family as tea and traditionally used as a non-stick wrapper for some sticky sweets.

This confectionery has been eaten in Japan for about 1100 years and is believed to be the oldest mochi sweet, often being referred to as the origin of wagashi. This Japanese confectionery was written about in The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) 源氏物語 in the 11th century. Genji tale is the oldest long novel in the world written by a woman writer, Murasaki Shikibu about 1008 in Japan. You can see her statue placed at one end of the Uji Bridge in Uji Kyoto where the tale of Genji was a prime setting.


In Genji tale, young men were eating tsubaki rice cake, citrus fruits and pears in the lids of bamboo baskets after playing kemari; the ancient football game of the imperial court.

When I read that mochi powder (present-day Domyoji powder) was made by drying glutinous rice and grinding it in a mortar and was used to make tsubaki-mochi I decided to try making my own as I have never been able to obtain domyoji powder.

Recipe for x5 tsubaki-mochi:

First grind 1 rice cooker cup of glutinous mochi (you can use a suribachi Japanese mortar & pestle grinding bowl). However this can take a while to grind so I used an electric blender, you could also use a clean coffee grinder. This is going to be your Domyoji substitute. You do not want a powder you just need to break up the rice grains so giving it a few blitz in your blender will be enough.

Note: The plastic rice cooker cup that comes with the rice cooker is 3/4 cup (180ml). In Japan, this amount is called ichi go (一合).

You will also need 25grams of granulated sugar.

Add the ground rice to a bowl with the sugar and add one rice cooker cup of hot water stir and leave over night to soak.

After your rice has been soaking over night.

You will need 100grams of red sweet bean paste smooth koshian or chunky tsubuan and x10 camellia leaves wiped clean.

You will also need to make a sugar syrup 25ml of hot water and 25grams of granulated sugar. (or you can use the syrup that comes with the kuri kanroni candied chestnuts from making Osechi for new year.

I have read that tsubaki-mochi can also sometimes be flavoured with a hint of cinnamon or clove. If you would like to do this that is your own preference.

First make a syrup by adding the 25 grams of sugar to 25ml of hot water and stir to combine heat in a pan or in a microwave until boiling and then cool to room temperature if not using kanroni syrup.

Then make your mochi:

Take the rice that has been soaking in sugar over night and add this to your rice cooker and add one rice cooker cup of water. Set your timer to cook short grain rice.

Roll your sweet bean paste into 20 gram balls makes x5 balls and put to one side and wipe clean your camellia leaves.

When the rice is cooked let it steam for a further fifteen minutes. Take your mochi and mash it to a sticky consistency, I usually use the end of a rolling pin, you could use the pestle from the suribachi known as a Surikogi. Turn the mochi out onto a surface and cut into five equal pieces.

Wet your hands with the syrup and roll each piece into a ball. Place each ball into the palm of your hand and flatten adding one ball of bean paste in the middle, work the mochi over the bean paste making an oval shaped ball.

Keep wetting your hands with sugar syrup or kanroni syrup as you go. Sandwich each mochi ball in between two camellia leaves (not edible) use the leaves to hold the mochi when eating.

These delicious sweets are perfect with a sencha green tea or hojicha please enjoy and savour the coming of Spring.

Blog, Spring Food

How to celebrate Setsubun 節分の日


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

Demons out, Good Fortune in!” For today is Setsubun no Hi (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”. A traditional event marking the official beginning of spring, according to the Japanese lunar calendar.

Setsubun is the day before we start again through the journey of the “Nijushisekki (24 solar terms)” 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 in Japan. Why not look for signs of spring where you are.

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 2024 is east-north-east (東北東).
This changes every year depending on the current zodiac. There is actually a chart to work out each year which is the lucky direction. So as 2024 ends with 4 the lucky direction is east -northeast.

Years ending with

Lucky Direction

0 or 5

West – Southwest

1, 3, 6 or 8

South – Southeast

2 or 7

North – Northwest

4 or 9

East – Northeast

The word “Eho” means the auspicious direction where the god of good fortune for the year exists and is also called “Kippou” or “Akinokata/Akihou”.

Originally from Kansai 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 inside it can be anything you like, but it’s good to have a variety of ingredients. Just eat the whole roll without cutting it with a knife and eat in silence, if you speak, the good fortune will escape.

In 1989, convenience store 7-Eleven started selling futomakizushi especially for Setsubun. Since then, the popularity of ehomaki quickly spread across Japan and supermarket and deparments also began to sell ehomaki.

Even if you’re not in Japan you can still follow Japanese customs.

Let’s make an Ehō-maki

As one of my seven ingredients I decided this year I wanted to add the new Organic Marinated Tofu from dragonfly foods. Their latest tofu is marinated in a blend of tamari, garlic, and ginger. Just remove from the packet drain the liquid, I recommend to oven bake then allow to cool for this recipe. When cool slice ready to add some flavour and texture to your sushi roll.

Other ingredients that you can add could be:

Vegan omelette, cucumber, avocado, Kampyo (cooked and flavoured gourd strips), Shiso/Ooba (perilla leaves), Lettuce, carrot strips, cooked shiitake mushrooms.

For x3 Ehō-maki wash two sushi cup of sushi rice, soak the rice for at least half an hour and cook your sushi rice in your rice cooker. While it’s cooking prepare your filling.

You will also need x3 pieces of toasted nori, place the nori with the rough side facing up on a rolling mat.

When your rice is done tip the rice into a bowl add some sushi seasoning and cool down with a fan in one hand while you gently cut and mix the rice in the other. When the rice is cool start to spread the rice on your nori leaving a gap at the top. Start to add your filling at the bottom then roll the nori over the filling. Remember to not cut your sushi roll but eat it whole in silence facing the lucky direction of this year east-north-east.

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 ofmountains with 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, 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. The tradition of Setsubun dates back centuries, but the bean throwing tradition first emerged in the Muromachi period (1337 – 1573). 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 the prepared beans which should be displayed on the altar and offered to the gods until the day of the bean-throwing ceremony.

On the day preferably midnight the beans are thrown 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.

You may also see another mask worn often by female members of the house hold, the kami of luck, good fortune, and kindness, which is the deity Okame portrayed with a white friendly face, chubby cheeks, and a warm smile. She acts as the defender against misfortune.

Since it is believed that ogres come at midnight, this 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!” It is then also custom to eat as many of the beans as your age plus one extra for luck.

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. I was watching an NHK programme about a group of  nuns and they displayed holly with fabric fish as a representation as they didn’t eat meat or fish either, which I thought was a nice idea. I definitely recommend the series Nun’s cookbook on NHK. I noticed in the episode that the nuns do not chant the phrase “Oni wa “ it is believed that oni do not appear before the temples enshrined deity and as such, the chant is unnecessary.
Instead, the phrase “Senshu banzai fuku wa uchi!” is recited, meaning “Long life and good fortune, come in!”

In the Kanto region, kenchinjiru けんちん汁 is considered as an auspicious food and is eaten on Setsubun. Originally created as Buddhist temple cuisine by a Buddhist priest of Kenchoji temple in Kamakura city, Kanagawa prefecture. Jiru means soup and Kenchin is derived from the temple name. Packed with lots of nutritious root vegetables miso and tofu it is the perfect soup to warm you on a cold day. Maybe this is why it is considered lucky as eating this can help you stay healthy and ward off illness.

Let’s make kenchinjiru to bring health for the year.

This soup is full of umami flavour using kombu,shiitake mushroom,toasted sesame oil and tamari (or soy sauce). The soup consists of root vegetables in a shiitake kombu stock (you can also add miso if you wish).

This soup also has tofu, it is said that you tear the tofu into the soup instead of cutting the tofu as it is supposed to be divided equally between the residents of the temple regardless of status.  This dish contains no onion, devout Buddhists believe that onion is not good for your peace of mind so not good for meditation.

First make you stock:

I normally leave a piece of konbu to soak over night in cold water, the konbu comes with a white powder on its surface do not wash this off as this adds to the flavour just simply wipe with a cloth.  (for this recipe I used 3 cups of  konbu stock and 1 cup of shiitake stock).

After you have soaked your konbu place the water and konbu in a pan and turn on the heat remove the konbu just before the water starts to boil.  Make shiitake stock by soaking a few dried shiitake in one cup of warm water for around 20 mins (place a small bowl over to submerge the shittake to stop them from floating.  After 20 minutes take out the shiitake and slice them place a sieve over the konbu stock and pour the shiitake stock through the seive into the konbu stock to catch any gritty bits.

Now you need to prepare your vegetables.

You can use a variety of vegetables burdock root, daikon radish, carrot, lotus root, taro komatsuna or any leafy green vegetable. You can also add konnyaku (konjac) Konnyaku

Konnyaku is rich in dietary fiber,and a food that cleanses the body. For this reason, it is considered good luck to eat it on Setsubun. In some regions, konjac is eaten to drive out demons that live in the house, and at the same time, to expel the bad things in the body. However in my recipe I just used tofu.

The tofu I recommend is the Shizenno Megumi Organic Firm tofu. (Follow the link at the side or bottom of the page depending on your browser) Following a traditional Japanese recipe for “Momen Tofu” this lightly firm Tofu is full of juiciness with the richness of soya and a sweet aftertaste. All of the Shizenno Megumi are made using an authentic Japanese process practiced for thousands of years. The tofu is pressed carefully and delicately to ensure the proteins do not go tough. The result? A premium textured tofu that retains a good structure and absorbs flavours well. Certified Organic by the Soil Association since 1991, with their products you can be sure you are eating natural, nutritious food with no nasties. You will need to drain the liquid and press the tofu before using it in the recipe.

Chop your vegetables and if using burdock root scrub off any dirt chop and place in a bowl of water. If using taro root remove the skin slice in half and soak in water to remove the starch. Add about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil to a deep pan sauté your root vegetables for a few minutes.
Then add your stock  but do not add your leafy greens until the soup is nearly ready to serve.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender then add 1 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce and one tablespoon of mirin . If you would like to add more depth in the flavour of the stock why not add a little miso. I decided to use Hikari miso it is always my miso of choice.

Finally take your already drained and pressed tofu and crumble it into the soup in large pieces adding your chopped leafy greens just to wilt in the hot broth at the end before serving.

Other foods that are custom to eat at Setsubun are Setsubun Soba similar to Toshikoshi soba the meal on New Years Eve.

As well as soba, zenzai or anything with red beans are said to ward off evil.

Drinking Fukucha tea with lucky beans in it is considered to be a drink of good luck. Fukucha is a cup of hot water poured over kelp, pickled plums, and three lucky beans.

I hope you will have fun welcoming Spring this year and celebrating with unique Japanese customs.

 

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

Kamado-san Donabe Rice Cooker by Nagatani-en & Onigiri

Kama do-san Donabe Rice Cooker by Nagatani-en

長谷園のかまどさん
 
Nagatani-en is in Iga city of Mie prefecture. It opened its kiln in 1832. Iga-yaki pottery came to fame due to its use of clay that is said to have originated from Lake Biwa.
The  bottom of the donabe rice cooker Kamado-san is especially thick keeping the heat inside. Its glaze enables the pot to heat every grain of rice so it becomes sweet, fluffy, and sticky. Kamado-san has a double lid, an inner lid and outer lid. This double lid plays a role of a pressure cooker. Two lids prevent boiling over and gives adequate pressure. With a double lid, the Kamado-san achieves just that. When the rice starts to boil, the rate of steam leaving the inner lid is faster than the amount of steam leaving the outer lid and the inner lid has 2 holes, whilst the outer lid only has 1. This causes steam to accumulate in the compartment between the inner and outer lid, pushing the inner lid down and exerting pressure on the cooking rice.
In their busy lives it is typical for Japanese households to cook rice in an electric rice cooker. However I wanted to cook rice the original way and have wanted to have my own Kamado-san Donabe Rice Cooker for many years. I always thought there was something quite nostalgic about cooking rice in a donabe pot, but not only this it makes the rice taste even better! The first thing when buying any new donabe pot is to season the pot, this process is called “medome” you do this before your first use. I have a whole separate blog post about this.
Then you’re ready to cook delicious rice!
But first I wanted to make furikake for the onigiri I was going to make the first time I cooked rice in my brand new donabe pot.
Furikake ふりかけ is a dry japanese condiment sprinkled on top of cooked rice. I had just received my organic vegetable box with a bunch of carrots with their leaves still attached. Instead of throwing the leaves away I decided to make furikake with them.
にんじんの葉っぱのふり Furikake of carrot leaves:
First chop the stalks away from the leaf part and discard the stalks. Wash the leaves and pat dry with kitchen towel. Chop the leaves up finely and spread them out on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Set your oven to low 50 degrees C and leave for one hour. Make sure they cook on a low heat you do not want them to burn only dry out. When they are dry, leave the leaves to cool then rub them between your fingers to create a finer powder. Add a few teaspoons of salt and some toasted sesame seeds and your furikake is ready to add to rice. Store in an air tight container.

Now back to my rice. 
It is important when cooking rice to wash it thoroughly in clean water until the water becomes clear.
After this put the rice in a sieve and leave to air for ten minutes before adding your rice to your donabe pot.
Add 2 rice cooker cups of Japanese rice and around  4 rice cooker cups of cold water into your donabe pot. The plastic rice cooker cup that comes with the rice cooker is 3/4 cup (180ml). In Japan, this amount is called ichi go (一合).
Leave the rice to soak in the water for at least 30 minutes. After this time place your inner lid onto your donabe and then place the outer lid ontop making sure the holes do not match up.
Put your burner on a medium heat and cook for around 10-15 minutes until steam starts to come through the hole on the outer lid. Then turn off your heat and leave to steam for 20 minutes.
After this time you can remove the lid and fluff up the rice.
I made Onigiri rice balls rolled in carrot leaf furikake and umeboshi paste in the centre.

Served with a simple meal of grilled seasonal vegetables and miso soup.

Itadakimasu 🙏🏻
( if you would like to know where I got my gorgeous Kamado-san Donabe Rice Cooker I got it from www.wagumi-j.com . I have spoken about this store in London’s OXO towers in a previous post. They sell a wide selection of Japanese crafts and design work by individual artists and regional craft producers in Japan.)
Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Shinnenkai 新年会 Japanese New Year Gatherings & Vegan Yakitori


You may have heard of bonenkai 忘年会 literally meaning a “forget the year party” a time of  letting loose a little after a year of hard work, but have you heard of Shinnenkai 新年会 (New Year gathering?)
Like bonenkai the majority of Shinnenkai are held by companies and businesses generally held among co-workers or friends in January.
Japanese culture and business culture is renowned for its emphasis on working together. The year end and New Year gatherings are a time to get together in a social setting to eat, drink, exchange New Year’s greetings and share their aspirations. it is an opportunity for a new and fresh start into a successful new year.
This tradition started in the 15th century for a time to express one’s thanks for each other. At that time, the party was known as nōkai (great achievement gathering).
The atmosphere is a little more official in comparison to the drunken affair of  bonenkai.
These gatherings are usually a more formal event, with senior members of the company maybe making speeches and setting out goals to focus on for the year ahead.
However that’s not to say people do not have fun as this helps see the year off to a good start. It is a time to make promises to each other to do their best for the year while wishing each other good luck and fortune. Some times there may be an event called mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi, or kagami- wari which is the breaking open of sake barrels to drink together which are both said to bring good fortune in the year ahead.
Shinnenkai are usually held in an izakaya a type of informal Japanese bar that serves alcohol and snacks Izakaya are casual places for after-work drinking, similar to a pub.
As well as drinking sake and eating mochi other traditional izakaya foods might be eaten like yakitori (焼き鳥) (literally meaning ‘grilled bird). Its preparation involves skewering the meat with a type of skewer typically made of steel or bamboo. Afterwards, it is grilled over a charcoal fire. During or after cooking, the meat is typically seasoned with something called a tare sauce. The sauce is best described as a sweetened, thickened soy sauce.
As it’s the New Year and a lot of people are choosing a vegan diet for January and hopefully carrying that forward for the rest of the year I wanted to see if I could come up with a Shinnenkai Yakitori using frozen tofu like I had previously done before with my vegan Christmas Karaage recipe. I decided to use firm Shizenno Megumi Tofu.  “Shizenno Megumi” means natures best, the brand was started to follow the traditional style of tofu making in Japan. You can read all about their story in a previous blog post . Because of how this tofu is produced it is always my tofu of choice when making my recipes.

I’m going to be using  shimi-dofu to make the mock chicken. Shimi-dofu 凍み豆腐 is tofu that has been frozen then thawed and pressed. The result is a completely different tofu which becomes more meaty in texture.

To make Shimi-dofu place a pack of tofu still in its original water in the freezer and freeze until completely hard.

Then remove from the freezer and leave to defrost (I normally do this over night). When the tofu is completely defrosted take it out of its container I then like to wrap the tofu in a cloth and press out as much liquid as i can. Wrap again in a clean dry cloth and leave to dry out for a few hours.

Soak some bamboo skewers in water the empty container from the tofu is perfect to use (this will stop them burning when you place them under the grill)

Then make your tare sauce, this will be used to marinade the tofu.

For the tare sauce add to a pan:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or gluten free tamari 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of vegan honey or similar sweetener 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon tablespoon brown rice vinegar
Whisk over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat to high and bring to a simmer.
Add one tablespoon of potato starch to two tablespoons of cold water stir to dissolve then add this to the soy sauce mixture. Quickly stir to thicken it will turn fast then take off the heat. If the mixture is too thick add a little hot water.
Tear chunks off the tofu block and push onto the skewers. Do this until all the tofu has been used. Brush each tofu loaded skewers with an odourless oil.
Turn on your grill. (You can also make this on a bbq)
Place a wire rack with a tray underneath and brush with oil then add your skewers and season with salt and pepper.
Put the tofu skewers under the grill turning a few minutes on each side. I often just cover the ends of the bamboo skewers with little pieces of silver foil to stop further burning, which can be removed later.
Then brush or spoon over  the tofu with the tare sauce, grill for a few minutes then turn and cover  again with tare sauce and grill that side.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and maybe some chopped green onion to serve.
The yakitori are delicious to serve on rice with pickles or another favourite izakaya snack edamame beans.
Don’t forget a sprinkle of Shichi-mi tōgarashi, also known as nana-iro tōgarashi or simply shichimi, it is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients.
Why not have it Japanese style with a sake or ice cold beer to celebrate the New Year.
Let’s all focus on the year ahead and ganbarou 頑張ろう!
Let’s do our best!
Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Kuwa Matcha Buckwheat Biscotti


Kuwacha is mulberry leaf tea. It has been traditionally drunk in Japan for many years for its health benefits being rich in calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. The most interesting compound in kuwacha is DNJ which has shown to inhibit intestinal glucose absorption and accelerate hepatic glucose metabolism, hence it maybe helpful for people with diabetes.

Kuwa (桑) is Japanese for mulberry and Matcha (抹茶) is Japanese for powdered tea. Clearspring Organic have a brand new tea added to their extensive range of products “Kuwa Matcha”. In fact their Kuwa matcha is the first naturally caffeine-free matcha in the U.K. Just like traditional Matcha, Kuwa Matcha is a vibrant green, finely ground powder which has been widely enjoyed in Japan for centuries. It is made using the finest organic and sustainably grown mulberry leaves from Kagoshima Japan. Kagoshima has volcanic soil and a humid climate making it ideal growing conditions for the mulberry plants. Once harvested the leaves are steamed, dried and ground into a fine powder which is just as versatile and delicious as traditional Matcha. The powder is not only delicious for a caffeine-free hot drink or lattes but is perfect for smoothies.


So with that in mind I decided to bake with it much like you would do if you were using regular matcha.
I decided to take my matcha biscotti recipe one step further and used buckwheat flour as a naturally gluten-free alternative. Buckwheat is not related to wheat despite its name and has been grown for centuries as a nutritious staple food. Originally from Central Asia it is actually related to rhubarb and sorrel, has high levels of fibre and is a good source of protein. You may be familiar with soba noodles a thin noodle enjoyed in Japan made from buckwheat. The seed of the plant has a triangular inner groat and a dark outer hull, after the hull is removed it gets processed into flour. This flour has a mildly sweet, nutty and earthy taste similar to wholewheat flour. I thought using the Kuwa matcha which has tasting notes smooth savoury sweet hay- with honeyed notes, would be great to use in baking as the Japanese suggestion of food pairing with drinking the kuwacha is cookies.

Recipe for Kuwa Matcha Buckwheat Biscotti

Preheat your oven to 180 fan assisted and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In one bowl add:

1 and 1/2 cup of organic buckwheat flour (I used Doves Farm)

2 tablespoons of already sifted Kuwa matcha

2 teaspoons of baking powder

A handful of sliced blanched almonds

In another bowl add:

2 tablespoons of apple purée (check out Clearspring fruit purées)

1/2 cup of unrefined sugar

1/4 cup of melted coconut butter

1 teaspoon of almond essence

1-2 tablespoons of water (added later if needed)

Add the wet mixture to the dry to form a dough use your hands to work the dough together adding a little water if needed but don’t make your dough wet.

Form into a log and flatten to an oval about one inch thick.

Bake in the oven until golden then take out and leave to cool completely  ( if you don’t it will crumble when you cut it)

Cut into slices using a sharp knife and turn onto their sides and bake again for a further ten mins in a cooler oven about 150. Take them out and flip them again for a further ten minutes.

Take out the oven and leave to cool completely before storing .

Enjoy with a delicious Kuwa matcha latte.

You can also make this recipe with regular matcha and Clearspring do a great Premium grade matcha green tea powder which is perfect for culinary use from baking and smoothies to ice cream it is made from organic tea leaves grown in the hills of Uji.

I also have a promo code you can use against anything on the Clearspring website to get a one time 15% off on your purchase use tokyopony15 at the check out. You can find the link to the Clearspring website at the bottom or side of the page depending on your browser. 

 

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

Tofu Taco Crumble introducing “Shizenno Megumi Tofu”

Meet Shunzo Horikawa managing director of Shizenno Megumi Tofu.

Shunzo arrived in the U.K. in April 2022 from the parent company Hikari Miso (you may been using this lovely organic miso already) which they had been making since 1936. Born in Kawasaki his first job out of university was working for House Foods America one of the largest Tofu manufacturers in the world and in 2019 joined Hikari Miso Co Ltd. Dragonfly Foods Tofu original brand since 1984 was bought by Hikari Miso in 2015 and decided to upscale production capacity by shipping massive equipment made in Japan and set up a new purpose built facility for making tofu in Devon in 2017.

Shunzo started to travel back and forth from Japan to Devon to help with supporting the production of tofu. In 2022 Shunzo moved to Devon with his family to start a new challenge with the Dragonfly team. “Shizenno Megumi” means natures best, the brand was started to follow the traditional style of tofu making in Japan. Working as a parent company with Dragonfly Foods in Devon they are BRC A+ soil association approved. Using Nigari as a coagulant the tofu requires intensive control to coagulate the rich soymilk. Nigari naturally promotes umami and sweetness, Nigari derived from the Japanese word for “bitter” is a product created through harvesting sea salt and letting the water evaporate. Nigari contains a high concentration of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium and chlorines. The delicate soft tofu is hand crafted in Devon using Japanese techniques by a small group of passionate members bringing traditionally made Japanese style tofu to the U.K.

I was so humbled when I was approached by Shunzo who asked me to try out their range of Shizenno Megumi tofu. The range is firm, super firm and soft tofu. So what can we use each tofu for you might wonder. The soft tofu is wonderful cut into cubes and used in miso soup, Shunzo even recommends using it in smoothies and desserts. The super firm is good for dishes like a grilled sandwich or anything that might require the tofu to keep its shape in frying or sautéing.
I have decided to use the firm tofu to bring you a versatile recipe for a kind of taco style vegan mince that can be used in so many ways.
Let’s get started using Shizenno Megumi tofu !

Tofu Taco Mince

You will need:

x1 pack of Shizenno Megumi firm tofu (open the pack drain the water and wrap in a cloth or kitchen towel top with a weight and leave for an hour to drain) I use my heavy cast iron Japanese teapot lol.

You will also need:
1 cup of walnuts pulsed in a food processor to fine crumbs.

Spices: x1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, x1 teaspoon of mixed herbs, x1 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast

x1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil

x2 tablespoons of tamari or soysauce

x2 tablespoons of tomato purée

x1 tablespoon of miso paste

A dash of chilli oil and vegan Worcestershire sauce

Method:

Unwrap the tofu, place into a bowl and mash it with a fork.
Add the pulsed walnuts and the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good mix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the mixture.
Place in a preheated moderate oven and bake for 30 minutes, then take the baking sheet out of the oven and give the tofu mixture a good mix round and spread it back out again. Place the tray back in the oven for 10 minutes and repeat again until all the mixture is dried out. Now your tofu taco mixture is ready to use.

How to use:

The tofu mixture can be used in a multitude of ways but keeping things Japanese here are three ways you can use it.

The first is soboro don そぼろ丼.
This meal is classed as Japanese comfort food. Normally beef Mince and scrambled eggs on top of fluffy rice. This is another perfect way to use the soft tofu, as you can use this to make the scrambled eggs part, to make it a vegan meal. Like before drain and wrap the soft tofu but do not weight it. Leave it to stand for 30 minutes to drain then add to a bowl and mash it with a fork, add x1 teaspoon of turmeric, x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and x1 teaspoon of ground kala namak black salt (this will give it a slight egg flavour). Give it all a mix and lightly scramble it in a frying pan. Just add a flavourless oil like coconut oil to the pan then wipe clean so the egg mixture is not sitting in oil. Cook some Japanese rice. You will have made enough tofu taco mince for many meals, I like to section mine out into sealable containers and freeze it as needed. Spoon some rice into a bowl and top one half of the rice with warmed through tofu taco mince and the other  half scrambled tofu. It is customary to add green vegetables like peas or beans in the middle.

Second meal idea is of course taco rice

(takoraisu) タコライス.

Taco rice is a Japanese fusion meal from Okinawa, normally consisting of taco ground beef on a bed of rice with lettuce, tomato and cheese. It owes its existence to the military presence in Okinawa in the 1960’s. Nowadays it’s a firm Japanese favourite. I have already got a few different recipes for taco rice on here so you could also check those recipes. This one was just lettuce rice and the taco mince on top. I made a delicious salsa for this one using roasted tomatillos, blistered pardon peppers and sliced myoga ginger.

Tomatillos, padron pepper and myoga salsa:

I had just recently acquired some tomatillos that come wrapped in a papery inedible husk which you must remove first.

Wash them and slice into halves or quarters depending on the size. Toss lightly in olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt and roast in the oven.

While that’s being done toss some padron peppers in a little olive oil and blister them on high heat in a pan.

When they are done leave to cool. Slice one small red onion and one bulb of myoga ginger and add to a bowl.  Myoga ginger can be found in some Asian super markets I have seen it in Ichiba in London and I buy mine from a Japanese store called Natural Natural in London. Myoga ginger doesn’t taste like ginger and is an edible flower bud. Add to this the juice of half a lime and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Give it a mix and let it rest. When your tomatillos are ready leave to cool and chop finely your padron peppers then add both into the bowl with the onion and myoga. Finally add some chopped coriander and give it all a final stir.

Assemble your taco rice and add your salsa on top.

The final way I recommend using your tofu taco mince is with a creamy and flavourful Tantanmen ramen 坦々麺.

You will need 1 cup of shiitake dashi (leave a a dried shiitake in water over night)

First you will need to make goma dare this is the base of your sauce.

Add to a bowl x1 tablespoon of Neri goma (white sesame paste) if you have not got this you can use tahini. To this x1 tablespoon of white miso paste. Then add x1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, x1 teaspoon of brown rice vinegar, x1 teaspoon of chilli oil and x1 teaspoon of mirin.
Give it all a good whisk and put aside.


You will also need a packet of vegan ramen and toppings.

My toppings were vegan tofu taco mince, steamed bean sprouts, chingensai (pakchoy), Hokusai (Chinese cabbage), sweet corn, pea shoots, sliced pickles, lotus root, padron peppers and chilli threads. Choose what toppings you like and prepare these in advance.
When you’re ready start to cook your ramen. Add to a pan 1 and a 1/2 cups of soy milk 1 cup of shiitake dashi and 1/2 a cup of water. Add your goma dare mixture and start to heat it gently stirring to combine.

When your ramen is ready drain and divide into two bowls and pour over your sesame soy milk. Drizzle with extra chilli oil for heat. Add your toppings and you’re done.

Just on a final note you can add extra things accordingly to your tofu taco mince depending on what you’re making. You could add extra tomato purée or tomato passata to make a bolognaise sauce for pasta or maybe  sautéed onions chopped mushrooms or peppers.

And now a treat for you Shunzo has very kindly given me an exclusive discount code for you to use on their website to purchase their delicious tofu. Just head over to www.dragonflyfoods.com click shop choose your items and put them in your cart, check out and input the promo code TOKYOPONY20 under coupon code on the delivery and payment section. This will take 20% off your bill. This offer will run until the 11th of August 2023.
Have fun in the kitchen.

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

Summer Citrus Scones


Scones are the quintessential British tea time treat. Known as a cream tea the scones are served with whipped cream, jam and tea. These All Vegan summery scones have a Japanese twist using Yuzu juice and Yuzu lemonade, to make them light and soft. Serve with Yuzu jam and green tea for an extra Japanese/ English fusion on a British favourite. With only five ingredients no Dairy or eggs are used, you will be surprised how amazing they taste and how easy they are to make.
You will need:

400g of self raising flour plus extra for dusting

A pinch of salt

25g of unrefined caster sugar plus extra to sprinkle on top of the scones.

Two tablespoons of yuzu juice

125ml of Yuzu lemonade

125ml of soy cream

Whipped cream and jam to serve

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Sift the self-raising flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.

Pour in the Yuzu lemonade, Yuzu juice and soy cream and give it a good mix to form into a sticky dough.

Dust the top with flour and turn out onto a work surface and dust again and give it a knead so it’s less sticky and comes together.
Make the dough approximately 1 inch in thickness and start to cut out your scones with a 2 1/4 inch cutter.

Place each scone on your baking sheet. Keep cutting and gathering the dough until it’s all used up.

Using a pastry brush lightly dust the tops with Yuzu juice and sprinkle on some extra sugar. Bake in the oven until risen and golden around 15 minutes.
Leave to cool and slice in half adding whipped cream and jam.

I used Oatly creamy oat fraiche as it’s nice and thick and you don’t have to whip it.

Why not try Yuzu jam from the Wasabi Company ( link at the side or bottom of the page depending on your browser.

 

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

Tangy Soy Milk Cheese & Dillon Organic Bread


I was interested in trying the range of breads by “Dillon Organic”, their range of breads focus on using seeds and husks like flax seeds, sunflower seeds and psyllium husks to make a delicious healthy vegan and gluten free bread that is also low carb, keto, high fibre and high in omega 3. They are also yeast free and and have no additives or thickeners. The breads are super filling and keep you full for longer and are perfect with a topping like avocado or nut butters. I decided to take my original soy cheese recipe and make it extra tangy for a delicious soft cheese topping for the bread.

You will need:
200ml of good quality soy milk

x4 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar ( I used the one by ClearSpring)


A tablespoon each of Shio Koji , White Miso, Nutritional Yeast, Melted coconut butter. And a teaspoon of onion powder.

You will also need a sieve and a piece of kitchen towel.
Method :

Pour your soy milk into a pan and add your brown rice vinegar, start to gently simmer the milk until it starts to separate and thicken. Do not let it boil but keep it gently simmering.
Lay a piece of kitchen towel in a sieve and pour the soy milk into it, you can do this over a bowl or into the sink. All the solids with stay in the kitchen towel.

Fold the corners over and add a weight ( I like to use my cast iron tea pot from Kyoto. Leave to drain for around 30 minutes.

Then tip the soy milk solids out into a bowl and add all of the other ingredients and give it a mix. Add to a bowl and leave over night in the fridge.



I’m happy to give you this exclusive opportunity to buy some of the Dillon Organic breads with a 20% discount off your purchase. You could choose from Beetroot Flax, Chia flax, Original, Olive or Gluten Free seeded. Just use my discount code Justine20 at the check out by visiting www.dillionorganic.co.uk why not buy all five and pick your favourite! Mine is the Chia flax what will yours be?

 

 

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

Making Edamame Tofu & Using Meditation While Cooking

You may of heard of the Shojin ryouri, Zen Buddhist temple cuisine and goma dofu. A classic side dish a little like pan a-cotta that looks like tofu, made with ground sesame and kuzu flour, served at the beginning or end of a meal.


The very act of preparing this dish exemplifies a virtue of  Zen Buddhist practices. Making the pudding from scratch requires, patience, time and attention to the task at hand. As with many forms of Zen practices like ikebana flower arranging, Shodo the art of calligraphy, Chado tea preparation and Kodo incense preparation, the aim is to rise above the self to be completely at one with what one is doing. Eating and preparing temple cuisine is a mental attitude maintaining a calm open mind, treasuring each ingredient and gratitude of the meal. The act of grinding the sesame in a suribachi into a paste to make goma dofu has a very meditative effect and I believe that making my recipe for edamame dofu has a similar focus. Instead of grinding sesame seeds you will be shelling edamame.
I first started making Japanese food as a way to focus my thoughts from anxiety and depression, while I’m cooking I try to focus on not things I cannot do, places I cannot go or things I cannot have but enjoy my time in the moment. Focusing my energy into my food to help me have a healthy, mind body and spirt.

Edamame Dofu えだまめ豆腐
You will need 120g of edamame out of their pods. If you have fresh edamame cook them first and pop them out of their pods dropping them into cold water to stop any extra cooking. In my recipe here I used 120g of frozen edamame boiled for around 4 minutes then dropped into a cold bowl of water. (Save a few whole ones for later).

Now here comes the part that takes a little time. Each edamame comes with a thin membrane you will need to slide this off.

Do this until you have finished all the edamame. Use this time to really focus on the task and try to clear your mind of all other thoughts.

Put your edamame into a blender something like the ones used for smoothies works best.
Add to this 2 cups of dashi, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar and blend well until as smooth as possible.

Then tip out the liquid through a strainer retaining both. Add your edamame pulp back to the blender and blend again as fine as possible, finishing off by adding back the liquid again to combine.

Add to a pan 40g of kuzu root (if it comes in chunks grind it into a fine powder first. Then add a little of your liquid to make a paste then add the rest of the liquid to the pan.

Give it all a good mix and turn on the heat. Heat the edamame and kuzu liquid stirring continuously until it thickens to the consistency of thick custard.

You will then need a container to pour your edamame dofu into and another dish for it to sit in filled with ice water. I like to use my Nagashikan, a stainless steel container made in Niigata with a removable inner tray. It’s one of my favourite kitchen gadgets that I often use to make jellies and yokan with.

You can purchase these from Global Kitchen a great place for all Japanese kitchen utensils and more. If you don’t have one you can use a plastic container.

Pour out your edamame dofu into your container and chill in an ice bath.

When cool it should already be set. Cover with some plastic wrap and chill further in the fridge for a few hours. When ready take your set edamame dofu and cut it into squares.

Serve with a sweet soy sauce.

Mix soy sauce with a little sugar and heat in a pan until the sauce has dissolved, leave to cool to pour over your edamame dofu. You could decorate it with a few edamame that you saved from earlier.

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

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Vegan Tamago Sando & Crust Rusks

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 9

“Passage”

Part 1 Tamago Sando たまごサンド

A year has passed since Kiyo & Sumire arrived to the Maiko House and Sumire prepares to be officiated as a Maiko which is is called MISEDASHI (見世出). The first time Sumire wears the black formal kimono and tortoiseshell hair ornament.

Kiyo prepares her most important meal yet, tiny bite sized sandwiches that Sumire had requested Kiyo to make for her when she became a Maiko. The tiny sandwiches can be eaten in one bite so as not to disturb the maiko makeup. As Sumire eats the sandwiches you can tell that she has been waiting for the time she could finally have them.

Maiko Vegan Tamago Sando たまごサンド:

A rich, creamy sandwich normally made with egg, kewpie mayonnaise and fluffy soft shokupan bread.
Both the bread and filling are not vegan. However I do have a recipe on my recipe pages for vegan shokupan if you would like to try it although you can just use regular white fluffy thick sliced bread if you prefer.


The filling is simple to make with just tofu, vegan kewpie mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, turmeric, nutritional yeast and kala namak (fine black salt).

You will need:

150g of medium firm tofu

150g of silken tofu

Drain the tofu and wrap in a paper towel to absorb moisture for about 1 hour. Be careful with the delicate silken tofu. Then add both to a bowl.
Add to the bowl
1/2 a teaspoon of kala namak salt, this is what will give you your egg flavour. If you buy the kind that comes in large crystals you will need to grind it down into a powder other than that you can buy it already in powder form.

Add also 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of vegan kewpie mayonnaise (this used to be difficult to get outside of Japan but now places like natural natural in London sell it. If you are somewhere else try requesting it from your local Asian grocery store or just use ordinary vegan mayonnaise adding 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of brown rice vinegar.

Mash up the ingredients with a fork leaving a few white chunks so it looks more like an egg texture.

Chill in the fridge for a few hours if possible.
You will notice the mixture has now turned a nice yellow.

Next take your bread slices. First you will need to cut off all the crusts, put these to one side in a zip lock bag or container to keep them fresh. (You will be using these for a tea time treat later)

Using vegan butter or margarine and spread the slices on one side.Then add your egg mixture closing the sandwich with another slice of buttered bread ( you know how to make a sandwich right ! )

Cut the sandwich into small bite sized squares. Perfect for an afternoon teatime.


Kiyo by now has obviously found her purpose in life, when speaking to Tsurukoma one of the characters she has a conversation with her about how she has found her passion in cooking. Tsurukoma realises that being a maiko is not her passion and tells Mother Azusa that she has decided to leave. Kiyo and the rest of the girls make her nabekko dumplings in red bean soup to say farewell. You may recall right back in episode 1 Kiyo’s grandmother makes this as a good luck meal before Kiyo and Sumire leave on their journey from Aomori to Kyoto. You can find my recipe for nabekko dumplings on my first The Makanai blog post.

Part 2: Crust Rusks パンの耳ラスク

We see Kiyo deep frying in hot oil the crusts that she had cut off from the bread to make the tamago sando and then rolling them in sugar.

That evening Sumire makes her official Maiko debut. On her return Kiyo is waiting with a treat of crispy hot sugar coated crust rusks.

Remember the crusts you put aside? Now is the time to use them. Normally the crust rusks are coated in butter and baked, so I decided to sauté them in some melted vegan butter until nice and coated

then lay them out on a baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven  until dry and crispy.

Then remove and roll them in sugar. Eat them while warm.

Until I made these I wondered what all the fuss was about making baked left over crusts as a treat for someone on such a special day but oh my goodness are they delicious! It wasn’t what I expected at all. Of course they are not the healthiest snack but a real treat indeed.

Some spots to look out for from the series when your next in Kyoto.

I briefly mentioned this in episode 8 talking about the Sanjo-Ohashi bridge  (三条大橋which we often see Kiyo walking merrily over to and from buying provisions. The bridge is famous for giboshi (擬宝珠) its onion shaped posts and rails made of wood spanning the Kamo river.
It is unclear when this bridge was first built, but there are records of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Chief Advisor to the Emperor) orders for it to be repaired in 1590. The current concrete bridge, which includes two lanes for driving and a walking path on either side, was built in 1950. As mentioned in my last post it has one of my favourite Starbucks at the end of the bridge with views over the river. Perfect for relaxing with a coffee.

The Kamo-Gawa river (鴨川) is a popular destination and is perfect for a leisurely stroll.

In episode 7 we see the girls on a day out crossing the Kojin Tobiishi  stepping stones ( 荒神飛石) this is where Kamo River begins.

The stones lie just north of the Kamo Ohashi bridge, near where the Kawaramachi and Imadegawa roads meet, close to Demachiyanagi train station. It is line of giant turtles which stretch across the waters. A fun place to hop along the river playing on the stones.


Tatsumi  Daimyojin Shrine (
辰巳大明神) is a quaint little shrine that sits in the Shirakawa District, on the corner of one of Kyoto’s backstreets., close to the river with the same name. It is said that in the past, the area was haunted by a tanuki who used to prank the passersby, making them fall in the river. To make him stop, the people decided to build this shrine, and the tanuki stopped behaving badly. This local shrine is often frequented by neighborhood geisha and is a perfect photo back drop.

In the same place is Tatsumi Bridge(祇園巽橋which stretches over the Shirakawa canal, that connects to the Kamo river, and runs through the Gion district.

You can also wonder down the Shirakawa-Sui 白川筋 which Kikuno, Tsurukoma, Kotono, and Sumire walked down.This is Kyoto at its most picturesque lined with willow and Sakura trees and dining establishments


In episode 2 Kiyo, Sumire and the Maiko left for Yasaka shrine (
八坂神社) also once known as the Gion Shrine. They went pray to improve their Maiko skills. The legacy of Yasaka Shrine goes back one of the most over 1350 years ago, the shrine is located between the popular Gion and Higashiyama districts. Yasaka Shrine is well known for its summer festival, the Gion Matsuri, which is celebrated every July.

In episode 6 Mother Azusa, Sumire, Tsurukoma, Kotono and Kikuno went to the Minami-za theatre  (南座) to watch the Kabuki annual beginning performance. The current Minami-za theatre was built in 1929.

Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last century, the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. Part of this district has been declared a national historical preservation district. The City of Kyoto has undertaken a number of restorative projects to enhance the beauty and historical authenticity of Kyoto’s Gion Hanamachi a district where geisha live and work.

 

I hope my Makanai series has given you some inspiration to make some Japanese style vegan home cooked food for yourself and encouraged you to watch the series if you haven’t already done so. I also have two Kyoto walking tours recommending vegan cafes to visit along the way on my travel pages.

If you would like to support me and the site you can do so my clicking the Ko-fi button. Arigatō.