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Summer Food

Blog, Summer Food

Tsuyu (梅雨) Japanese rainy season & recipe for Tofu Ice cream


From the beginning of June to mid July is 
(tsuyu) 梅雨 (つゆ ) rainy season in Japan. The rain falls differently depending on the region. Western Japan sees many strong sudden showers while the rain in eastern Japan often goes back and forth between raining and not raining.

The rainy season might not be a time considered by tourists to visit Japan compared to other times of the year, but with a little bit of preparation the rainy season can actually be one of the best times to visit Japan. (Tsuyu 梅雨, also pronounced baiu), literally meaning “plum rain”, because it coincides with the season of ripening plums making it the perfect time to sample some umeshu or plum wine.


After the spike in domestic tourism from Golden Week is over and few Japanese will be traveling the cost of travel becomes considerably cheaper, It can also be a quieter time to travel overall. For those people who may of already experienced Japanese cherry blossom, momiji (autumn foliage) and maybe even summer festivals this may be a unique time to visit to experience the ambiance of something a little different.

Visiting temples and shrines in the rain with woodland and mountain mist can make these places very spiritual  and atmospheric.

Especially places like the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, you might even be able to take a photo of the endless torii gates without anyone in the picture.

You might even consider visiting a traditional old tea house or kissaten coffee shop. There is something quite nostalgic and relaxing about sipping tea or coffee whilst listening to the sound of the rain.

Other things you could do if your visiting Japan during this season could be visiting an out door onsen.There is nothing more relaxing than sitting  in an onsen while listening to the the sound of the rain falling while you bathe, therapeutic to the mind as well as the body.

During the rainy season it doesn’t rain every day but when it does and you want an indoor activity why not check out the many museums japan has to offer or go shopping in one of japans numerous departments stores or shotengai shopping streets maybe picking out some cute rain gear or a nice umbrella.

When I think of Japanese rainy season I think of Teruteru-bozu (てるてる坊主) a very unique piece of Japanese culture. A small ghost like doll lucky charm that that is traditionally used by Japanese people to prevent rain. Teru teru bōzu, written as 照る照る坊主 (てるてるぼうず), means “shine shine monk.” They are handmade dolls made with white cloth, tissue, or paper that are hung with string near a window. They date from the Edo period (1603-1868), when they first appeared in urban areas. They are still a fairly common sight in Japan today, often made by children.

Another common rainy season tradition, especially for children is watching fireflies. Fireflies or hotaru enjoy humidity and moisture, so they come out during June and July. Everything seems to be celebrated in Japan and there are even festivals dedicated to them. It is popular to view the fireflies’ glow during hot summer nights (hotaru-gari). These festivals include the Tsukiyono Firefly Village in Gunma and the Kugayama Firefly Festival in Tokyo. Sadly because of pollution, the fireflies are  decreasing as they only live in clean streams.

Other creatures that are symbols connected to the Japanese rainy season are snails and frogs, again a delight for children during this time to see what creatures they can find. When out shopping you might also see items in stores with these motifs to celebrate the season.

Did you know that going for a walk in the rain can actually be good for our mental health? Many of us avoid going out when it is raining, but there could be some good scientific reasons why we should change the way we think about a rainy day. When it rains, molecules are released into the air and some become negatively charged ions. When we inhale them, it is thought they can help to relieve stress and even boost our energy levels. One very good reason to not always stay inside.

The rainy season is also a very important time for rice farmers as it is rice planting season known as (taue). This is a time you can see the flooded rice paddies and the growing seedlings. On a sunny day they look especially beautiful with the reflection of the blue sky and clouds this is often referred to as a water mirror. The warmer temperatures and rain boost the rice growth and as they grow rapidly up to 25cm in just two weeks it takes only ten days before the water mirror has completely gone. If you are lucky enough why not visit one of the must see rice terraces, also known as tiered rice fields. This idyllic scenery can be seen in places like Hoshitogne no Tnanada Niigata Prefecture, a rice terrace nestled along the mountains of the Matsudai region, Maruyama Senmaida Mie Prefecture a terrace constructed over 400 years ago, Hachiune no Tanada, Kochi prefecture, a unique terrace with a Shinto shrine. The closest rice terrace to Tokyo is Oyama Senmaida in Chiba Prefecture in a beautiful mountainous area of Kamogawa City attracting many tourists over the seasons. There are many more so check out your nearest where you are at time of travel.

Tsuyu: The Season of Hydrangeas

For when the days are a little dryer go hunting out the stunning mop head flowers known as Ajisai.

The hydrangea or Ajisai 紫陽花, アジサイas they are known in Japan heralds the arrival of the rainy season. The representative flower blooming at this time with their giant vibrant flowers in colourful shades of blues, purples, and pinks are a very elegant sight. The kanji that make up the word ajisai are 紫陽花 meaning “purple, violet”, meaning “sunset, positivity” and flower. Depending on the acidity of the soil in which the plants are grown the flowers can take on different hues thriving in the acidic volcanic soils of Japan where the blue-violet hydrangeas are commonly found.


There are over 100 varieties of hydrangeas of various colours in Japan today, Japanese hydrangeas can be admired in city parks and along the banks of rivers, but also in the gardens of temples and shrines, with many places having hydrangea festivals that are known for having the blooms. Like the Bunkyo Ajisai Matsuri, an annual hydrangea festival which is held at Hakusan Shrine Tokyo and the
Takahata Fudo hydrangea festival Hino city Tokyo. As well as places to visit like Ueno Park,Odaiba and Sumida Park or catch 3,000 colourful hydrangea shrubs at Tamagawadai Park, all in Tokyo.

Just under and hours train journey from Tokyo is Kamakura. Kamakura is often referred to as the best place to see hydrangeas, it boasts numerous famous hydrangea spots like Hasedera Buddhist temple, with 40 different kinds and 2,500 hydrangea flowers that welcome visitors in the grounds. Meigetsuin, another famous temple in the kamakura area has the nickname as Hydrangea temple where thousands of hydrangea flowers bloom. If you’re thinking of travelling to Kyoto at the mimurotoji temple you can view 10,000 Ajisai! Or Yoshiminedera Temple where 10,000 flowers fill the mountainside at the Hydrangea Garden

Travelling further south you could encounter Oshidorino Pond Nagasaki Hydrangeas on the shore of an emerald green lake or view 20,000 hydrangeas at Cape Togenkyo Miyazaki a breathtaking scenery of 2 million flowers which cover an expansive area equivalent to about 4 Tokyo Domes.

Travelling north there is Michinoku Hydrangea Garden Iwate one of the largest hydrangea gardens in eastern Japan, with approximately 400 species and 40,000 hydrangeas blooming in a 150,000 square meter cedar mountain or the stunning Unshoji Temple in Akita a magnificent view of over 1,500 deep blue hydrangeas filling the temple grounds.

Where ever you plan to visit there are many more temples shrines and hydrangea festivals to to check out at this time just do a little research on your nearest places you are travelling to.

Much like the cherry blossom is celebrated for the changing of the seasons Ajisai is the same and as well as being celebrated with festivals you will find its motif adorned on anything from umbrellas to fabrics to even food. With that in mind I saw that a favourite ice cream flavour in Japan at this time is chocomint with its blue colour. You will find many varieties of this at convenience stores like Choco Mint Gari Gari Kun at Lawson, Pino Choco Mint ice cream In 7-Eleven and Baskin Robbins mint chocolate at FamilyMart.

I decided to try making my own with two ajisai colours of blue and purple using “Shizenno Megumi”soft tofu. The delicate hand crafted soft tofu is perfect for making desserts like this, which is made using traditional Japanese techniques by a small group of passionate members bringing traditionally made tofu to the U.K. If you want to know more about this tofu why not check out my previous recipes using “Shizenno Megumi” tofu.

This is my recipe for Tofu ice cream inspired by Ajisai

Ingredients: For making x1 colour mint chocchip.

You will need 200gm of cashews 

x1 and a half blocks of drained soft Shizenno Megumi tofu

1/3 cup of a pale colour sweetener like agave

x2 tablespoons of flavourless coconut oil (I use Tiana)

A few drops of mint essence for flavour and vegan chocolate chips.

For your colour use x1 teaspoon of blue spirulina powder for the mint chocolate chip.

I made a further purple one using a few handfuls of fresh blueberries. You can also use blueberry powder.

Method: For mint chocolate chip

Drain your one and a half blocks  tofu and wrap in a muslin cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can and wrap in another dry cloth and put aside.

To make two colours you need three blocks of tofu but if your only making one colour or you don’t want to double up on ingredients you will have 1/2 a block of tofu left which you can use for something else like a tofu dessert (see some of my other tofu recipes for ideas)

Put your cashew nuts into a bowl and pour over boiling water and leave to soak for an hour then drain off the water and tip them into a high speed blender.


Blend the cashews and then add your tofu, sweetener, coconut oil,mint essence and finally your powder colour. Blend until smooth. Pour out into a container and swirl in your chocolate chips.

Place in a freezer to harden for two hours then remove and give it a mix to incorporate air. Then leave to set for around 6-7 hours total. I recommend making this in the morning to eat later in the day. If you leave the ice cream in the freezer to completely harden you will need to take it out an hour before serving.

When ready to serve remove from the freezer and leave to soften slightly, use an ice cream scoop to scoop into balls and add to an ice cream cone with maybe some sprinkles.

Or add to a chilled glass with a sprig of mint. I made some tiny cookies in butterfly shapes to add to the ice cream. If you make two colours of ice cream they look nice together.


You can also use this basic recipe with other powders like cranberry, blueberry or blackcurrant to add colour and flavour. The combinations are endless just use the relatively flavourless recipe and add your own. I think a blueberry or blackcurrant coulis or compote would also be nice added to the ice cream for extra flavour. 

Why not make matcha or hojicha ice cream for that authentic taste of Japan.

What ever flavour you choose I’m sure you will love this deliciously creamy tofu ice cream that has no nasty ingredients.

You could even make affogato with a vanilla flavour adding either espresso, thick matcha or hojicha tea to pour over. Here I used the ice cream I made and added butterfly pea tea to pour over.


However you enjoy the rain I hope you will now not look at it so negatively on a rainy day. Even if you’re not in Japan you could go for a walk in your local park and see what wildlife and flowers you can find in your area. Stop off at a local coffee shop and watch the world go by or visit a museum or gallery. You may even get the benefit of some of those negatively charged ions.

 

Spring Food, Summer Food

Tekkadon 鉄火丼


Tekkadon 鉄火丼 is a rice bowl dish topped with raw marinated tuna sashimi.

I wanted to make a refreshing but vegan friendly version of this dish and this is what I came up with.

To make it use the same method as if you were making Tomato no Ohitashiトマトお浸し. You will need three large firm tomatoes cut a small cross section on the bottom of each tomato and drop into a pan of boiling water. To cook the tomato doesn’t take long you will know they are done when the skin starts to peel. Plunge the tomato into cold water to cool and then peel off the skin from the cross section you cut into the tomato.

When the tomatoes are peeled cut them into quarters discarding the seed part.

Make a marinade of tamari, lime juice and mirin (around two tablespoons of each) you can add some shichimi spice pepper if you like. Coat the tomatoes in the marinade and chill in the fridge.

When you want to serve your Tekkadon wash and cook some sushi rice in your rice cooker and when your rice is done place into the bottom of a bowl.

Top the warm rice with the marinated tomato chopped green onion a sprinkle of sesame seeds sliced lettuce  kizaminori (shredded nori) and angel hair chilli threads if you can get them. They are called Ito togarashi if you live in the U.K. You can get them from www.souschef.co.uk

Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

International Tea Day May 21st

 


In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate May 21st as International Tea Day. International tea day falls on the same date every year to honour the cultural significance of tea and its role in promoting health, wellness, and community. It also raises awareness about the importance of sustainable tea production.

Of course in Japan tea (, cha) plays an important and significant role. With its first introduction from China in the Nara period 710–794. With real development later, from the end of the 12th century and in the 16th century, the art of the “tea ceremony” was formalised (the practice of making and serving tea.) Which is closely linked to the country’s deep-rooted culture of omotenashi (hospitality/serving guests).
There are many varieties of tea grown in Japan and also specific methods of production from
煎茶 sencha tea leaves to Matcha 抹茶 made from ground green tea leaves, ほうじ茶  hōjicha, roasted as well as steamed tea leaves as well as 玄米茶 genmaicha a mixture of green tea and roasted genmai (brown rice) and more. 

Japanese tea is prized for its health benefits being packed with antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which help combat free radicals in the body. These antioxidants have been linked to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.

One place that is famous for tea cultivation is Uji (宇治) a small city situated between Kyoto and Nara, which has an unbelievable track record of producing quality Japanese tea. I can remember visiting Uji a few years ago, as you strole through the town you could smell the strong tea smell from the grinding of the tea leaves into Matcha powder.

Everything was flavoured with tea from ice cream to sweets.


There were also many shops selling tea and many places  you could take a rest and partake in tea and sweets.


To celebrate International tea day as well as enjoying a delicious healthy cup of matcha I wanted to also serve it with a matcha sweet.

I decided I would make matcha ichigo daifuku. Ichigo means strawberry in Japanese.

If you would like to make these wagashi for yourself this is what you will need to do.

Ingredient’s:

4-5 small strawberries washed and leaves removed (pat dry with kitchen towel)

100gm Joshinko flour

x1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

130ml of cold water

Koshian smooth bean paste

Matcha

Potato starch

You will need a round cutter (I used one 78mm diameter), a rolling pin, plastic wrap and microwaveable bowl.

Method:

Prepare your strawberries then take a ball of bean paste, flatten it out and put a strawberry inside then fold the bean paste around the strawberry. Do this to each one and put aside.

Add to a bowl the joshinko flour and sugar then add a teaspoon of sifted matcha powder and mix to combine. Add the water and whisk to a smooth paste.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes then remove the wrap. Wet the end of a rolling pin or pestle and begin to pound the mochi until it’s nice and elastic.

Turn it out onto a damp surface and dampen your rolling pin. Roll out and start to cut rounds.


With each round cut out, stretch the edges and place the round over the top of one of your bean paste covered strawberries.

Turn it upside down and gather the edges to seal, so that the gathered edges are at the bottom, that way you know where the top of the strawberry is when you want to cut it in half to serve.

Place each one on a baking sheet with a dusting of potato starch and give each one a dusting of potato starch before finally finishing with some sifted matcha powder.


They look really pretty when you cut them in half to serve.


What’s your favourite Japanese tea?

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!
Blog, Summer Food

Obon & How you can celebrate even if you are not in Japan.

The 13th-15th of August marks a period in japan known as Obon お盆. A Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of ones ancestors. The Buddhist festival has been celebrated for more than 500 years. It is a time of celebration as people feel they are reunited once more with loved ones who have passed away. It is a time for sato-gaeri, or “returning home” not only for departed friends and family but for living people in rural areas that may have moved to cities for work or education that return home to visit family.

Obon starts with welcoming fires (mukaebi 迎え火) lanterns known as chochin may also be lit outside people’s houses to guide the spirits home.

Food offerings (osonae/ozen お供え/御膳)  are made maybe on a family alter or tokonoma. It could be the person favourite food or seasonal produce. As well as food offering mukaé bi (welcoming) rituals  are practiced and you may see cucumbers and eggplants made into animals by giving them legs made of tooth picks. These are called Shouryouma 精霊馬 and are said to depict horses and ox that spirits travel on two and from our world. The horse is said to ward off evil and serve as fast travel to earth where as the cow is slower to travel back when the spirits depart. On the last day of Obon the cow and horse will be left by the river bank. Why eggplants and cucumbers? I think it is because these vegetables reach their peak season  during the summer around the time of obon. This is known as shun ( peak seasonal produce).

As well as making cucumbers and eggplants in to spirit vehicles I thought it might be nice to share with you an easy recipe you maybe might like to make over obon to utilise these abundant veggies which can be used in a multitude of ways.
山形だし Yamagata Dashi
This is very different to the dashi you might be aware of that’s made as a soup stock from things like shiitake and kombu. This dish is an iconic specialty from Yamagata prefecture mainly eaten in the Murayama region, which is surrounded by mountains and has extremely hot and humid summers, and was initially a popular dish for farmers to make as they picked their crops fresh from the fields.
Nowadays you will find this enjoyed in restaurants even outside Yamagata prefecture. This healthy and refreshing vegetable dish is a bit like a Japanese equivalent of a salsa. With raw finely chopped eggplant, cucumber, Myoga ginger and Shiso leaves and sometimes other vegetables like green onion, okra, corn, chives, edamame and shishito peppers.
Yamagata Dashi is commonly seasoned with soy sauce but is also very light and refreshing with a citrus ponzu to pour over noodles and tofu.
Ingredients:
1/2 a small eggplant
1 small cucumber or 2 mini cucumbers
1 bulb myoga ginger
1-3 fresh Shiso leaves
Plus any other vegetables and herbs listed above .
Salt and soy sauce
Method :
First slice and chop up finely your eggplant add this to a jar or bowl with water and 1 teaspoon of salt . Keep the eggplant submerged to soften by putting a plate on top leave for an hour then tip out the water, squeeze the eggplant and add to a  bowl.
Slice your cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds. Dice the cucumber and place in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt gently rub in the salt and leave for half an hour then rinse the cucumber and add to the bowl with the eggplant.
Wash the leaves of the Shiso and trim off the stem, pat them try with kitchen towel, slice in half stack them on top of each other, then roll them up tightly and cut into thin slices. Add them to the bowl with the cucumber and eggplant and toss them gently.
Cut the Myoga ginger in half then slice into thin shreds and add to the bowl. 
Add any other ingredients you like. You could maybe substitute shiso leaves for fresh basil. I have found shiso and myoga in places like natural natural in London and ichiba so try your own local asian supermarket.
Add a few tablespoons of soy sauce and maybe a some fresh yuzu juice or a squeeze of sudachi or lime. And you’re done.
As temperatures and humidity rise on hot summer days it can be enjoyed on top of chilled somen noodles
or cold silken tofu
or enjoyed simply on fluffy rice.
It’s even delicious stuffed into vegetables why not hollow out a tomato or pepper and add your dashi inside.


There are a number of theories as to the origin of the word “Dashi” (soup stock), for example, because “Dashi” brings out the best in other ingredients; “Dashi” comes from the word “Kiridasu” (cut from) used when vegetables are chopped into small pieces and “Dashi” comes from the word “Dasu” (serve) used when vegetables are quickly served at the table after being chopped and seasoned.
As well as using this recipe to utilise eggplant or cucumber you could also try “Eggplant Agebitashi” a fried and soak summer dish or “Nasu no nimono” (simmered eggplant) or “Kyuri Itame” a cooked cucumber dish. All of which can be found on this website.
During this period people pay respects at family graves this is known as  (ohakamaeri お墓前り)
It is not a somber time but a time to reflect and celebrate some one’s life. The obon celebrations often involves a  special matsuri where people may dress up in their finest Yukata and dance a celebration dance known as ( bon odori 盆踊り). This matsuri is a time for families to get together and enjoy lots of street food like Okonomiyaki, yakisoba and takoyaki.
You could also think about cooking up one of your favourite Japanese street foods if you cannot visit a bon odori festival yourself at home and put on your favourite music and have a dance!
Lastly at the end of Obon are farewell fires & lantern processions known as okuri-bon (送り火、灯籠流し) to guide the spirits back for another year. In recent years floating lanterns (toro nagashi) have gained popularity. The lanterns are lit and placed in a river that runs to the sea to symbolically send their ancestors spirits home.
In the UK we do not have such a tradition but I thought it might be nice to make Shouryouma and light some incense to remember my father, cat and good friend who have passed away and place photos of them on my tokonoma, in my tearoom at home. A tokonoma is a recessed space it could be an alcove or a special corner in your home. It is normally a place that would have a hanging scroll and a ikebana display of seasonal flowers. 
I also have a lantern which I will be leaving on to guide their way.
You could do a similar thing yourself maybe by just having a photo of someone who has passed away whose life you wanted to honour. Why not light a candle or incense and add some flowers by the side. Maybe they had a favourite chocolate bar you could add that too. If you’re wanting to welcome home pets that have passed, do you still have something that belonged to them? A collar or a favourite toy. However you want to celebrate it is a wonderful way to remember loved ones that have passed don’t you agree?
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?

 

 

Summer Food

Brown Rice Amazake Ice Cream with Kinako

The weather is starting to heat up and what could be more enjoyable on a hot summers day than a delicious ice cream. Well this one is not only dairy free but is made with brown rice amazake. I’m using the one from Clearspring which you can find from health stores or on line.

The amazake is made in Japan by using time-honoured production processes and just three organic ingredients, water, whole grains and salt. A koji culture converts the carbohydrates from the whole grains into simple sugars to make it naturally sweet and creamy.
I was inspired by ohsawa Japan cooking school to make this ice cream it’s so simple and delicious and takes little effort.

You will need :

x1 jar of brown rice amazake

x2 tablespoons of kinako (soy bean flour) plus more for sprinkling on your final ice cream to serve.

x2 teaspoons of white sesame paste (or tahini)

x2 tablespoons of good quality soy milk (I like bonsoy)

a pinch of salt

x2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil

Method:

Push the amazake through a fine sieve to collect the grains ( I used my misokoshi ) I have talked about this a few times for making miso soup ( available to buy from www.hatsukoi.co.uk) Using this will ensure you have a nice smooth texture. Do not throw the grains they are nice to add to a morning porridge or over night oats.

Add your amazake to a bowl and add everything else except the toasted sesame oil. Give everything a mix then finally whisk in the oil until it’s well combined.

Add your mixture to a container and chill well in the fridge.

Take it out to soften slightly before serving. Dust with kinako powder.

Why not pour over some kuromitsu to make it extra special.
Kuromitsu is a Japanese sugar syrup similar in taste to molasses. It’s typically made from unrefined kokuto and is an ingredient you will find as an accompaniment to many Japanese summer desserts like Anmitsu, Warabi Mochi and Kuzukiri.

It is made by extracting the juice of fresh sugar cane and crystallising it. It contains minerals like potassium and iron that are removed normally during refining. This sugar is mostly made in Okinawa and the people there refer to it as “life medicine” which is food that makes you feel good. You can buy kokuto in sugar granules or cube form. Kokuto is easily bought on line.

To make Kuromitsu for this dessert:

25g or 2 tablespoons of kokuto

25g of unrefined sugar

25ml water

Method:

Boil up in a pan once boiling reduce the heat to a simmer until it thickens and dissolved (takes just a few minutes).


Pour into a small jug or bowl for pouring and set aside to cool. You may find it goes very thick just add a little hot water and stir to desired consistency. You can keep any left over in a jar in the fridge to use next time.

Let’s enjoy summer with Japanese vegan food

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.

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