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Aburaage

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

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

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House

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 3

“Taboo”

Part one: A Traditional Japanese Breakfast.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

To make your marinade:

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

Prepare the tofu:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

A further note in this episode:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make vegan Caramel Bread Pudding:

Preheat your oven to 165 dregrees C

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

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

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

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

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

More recipes to come in my next The Makanai blog.

If you haven’t already watched it yet

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

Blog, Spring Food

Hatsu-uma 初午 & Making Inari Sushi

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to make Inari sushi (稲荷寿司)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put your rice on cook.

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

Prepare your sushi seasoning. sushizu 寿司酢

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

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

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

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


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

Blog

Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂) Vegan Tonjiru


ビーガン豚汁

Vegan Tonjiru Soup

Inspired by Midnight Diner

Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)

Tonjiru is a classic winter dish which is popular all over Japan when the weather is cold. Some people call it Butajiru (豚汁)

As you know I am in love with the Japanese series  ‘Midnight Diner.’ And “Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories”. I have already made lots of the recipes on my website inspired by the episodes making them more suitable for a VEGAN diet and talk more in-depth about the characters and meals.

The owner (known as Master) only has 4 things on his menu: Pork and Vegetable Miso Soup (Tonjiru), Beer, Sake and Shochu. However  Master will cook anything on request so long as he has the ingredients.

As Tonjiru is the only food actually on the menu on the opening sequence of the start of each episode you will see “Master” prepare this meal.

Tonjiru translates to “pork” (ton) “soup” (jiru)

The soup is full of seasonal root vegetables and to replace the meat I added torn konnyaku and sliced aburaage. It’s a perfect miso soup on a cold day. Why not cosy on down at home with a  nourishing bowl of root vegetable miso soup and watch episodes of Midnight diner to warm the soul while the soup warms your body.

If you would like to read more about this check out the rest of my midnight diner series here on the website.

Here is what went into my soup.

You will need to make a kombu shiitake dashi by soaking them in water over night. Discard the kombu and take out the shiitake and slice them ( I used three shiitake).

Then prepare all your veggies this is what takes the time but after this it’s quick to make. I used carrot, daikon, Gobo, satoimo, lotus root, komatsuna, satsumaimo, aburaage, konnyaku.

I bought Gobo ( burdock root with the soil still on it so I gave it a wash and scrub, sliced it and put it in water so it didn’t go brown.
Slice lotus root into chunks and again leave to soak in water.

Peel satoimo ( taro potato and soak in water ) you can leave the skin on the satsumaimo ( Japanese sweet potato ) if you wish just slice and soak in water. This helps to remove the starch.

Cut your carrot and daikon into wedges and set aside.

Drain the konnyaku and rinse under running water then rub a little salt into it, tear into pieces and simmer in boiling water for ten minutes.

When it’s done drain and add to a pan this  is your pork substitute. Sauté the konnyaku in a little toasted sesame oil for a few minutes then add sliced shiitake, carrot, daikon, drained lotus root and Gobo.

Sauté and then add your kombu dashi. I normally make around 500ml of dashi to top up with 500ml of water. Take a piece of aburaage and pour boiling water over it to remove excess oil. Slice it into strips and add this also to your pan. Add a dash of mirin and tamari or soy sauce, gently mix and then simmer with the lid on.
In another pan I add the drained potatoes and cook those in water at the same time. I find potatoes easily get damaged as they knock about with other veggies so I cook them separately and add them at the end.

Just keep an eye on the water level as they simmer and top up the liquid with either dashi or water as needed. When the potatoes are not quite done add them to the pan to finish with the rest of the veggies.
When the veggies are tender, turn off the heat and with a ladle add one tablespoon of miso to a ladle ( I used an organic red miso ) brown rice miso or barley miso would be nice also. Lower the ladle half way into your soup and with another spoon start to mix liquid with miso. This helps break down the miso so it’s not all in one clump.

Add some chopped greens of choice like komatsuna which are Japanese mustard greens or you could use something like choysum. These will wilt in the hot broth.
Serve up into your bowls. Can be eaten like temple food with simply rice and pickles.


When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. 
My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect……

Autumn Food, Blog

菊の節句 Chrysanthemum Day


Chrysanthemum Day 
菊の節句 Kiku no Sekku also known as Chōyō no sekku (重陽の節句is the last of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan (Gosekku 五節句).

The 9th of the 9th is said to be very auspicious in Japanese culture . It coincides with the blooming of the chrysanthemum and is a time when festivals took place at the Japanese imperial court.

The chrysanthemum is the symbol of the emperor of Japan and is the official flower of Japan.. You will see it on the imperial seal, you will find it on the Japanese passport, the 50 yen coin, and you may see the emblem at shrines like the one on the gates at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo.

Chrysanthemum growing is a much practiced hobby with people entering contests for the best blooms. It takes lots of love and care to grow the perfect flower.

Chrysanthemum Day is observed by drinking chrysanthemum sake sprinkled with chrysanthemum petals. This is known as Kikuzake. These flowers were said to bring longevity, so drinking the sake was a symbol of a long and happy life. I have served the sake here with some chestnut wagashi ( recipe for this can be found on my autumn recipe pages.

Other things  for this day we’re bathing with chrysanthemum flowers much like the bathing with Yuzu for the winter solstice  A practice of covering the flowers over with a cloth over night outside and wiping your face with the dewy cloth in the morning for young looking skin was also observed.

On this day it is tradition for people to eat chestnut rice “Kurigohan”. In order to celebrate the harvest, people will cook the kuri (chestnut) and Japanese rice with dashi, and then enjoy such kurigohan as a traditional food, other foods eaten today could be eggplant and In some regions, soba and amazake are also enjoyed.

I thought it would be nice to make Gomoku Gohan a five ingredient rice which included chestnuts to celebrate the last of the five seasonal festivals. There are also recipes for this and takikomi Gohan (mixed rice ) on my recipe pages. For this I added chestnuts, aburaage,carrots, kiriboshi daikon and shimeji mushrooms. I soaked the rice in a kombu shiitake dashi including some of the water from reconstituting the dried daikon adding tamari and mirin to the soaking water. Just add the ingredients on top of the rice but do not mix. Cook the rice and when done gently fold in the ingredients then put the lid on to steam for a further ten minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Another food to eat on the auspicious day is eggplant so to go with the rice I simply steamed a whole peeled eggplant and made a delicious sesame miso dressing for it. Served as a Teishoku set meal on a tray with chilled tofu and a simple broth with vegetables, pickles, chilled tofu and for dessert the September seasonal  star figs with a sweet miso glaze.



As they are such auspicious flowers, chrysanthemums often appear as a motif on pottery So why not use this pottery today to serve your food. 

I have spoken before in previous posts about the Japanese word Fu-bu-tsu-shi the little things that signal the changing seasons. The key part of focusing on the here and now and celebrating the passing of time. I think this micro season is one of my favourites, already there is a mist across the fields in the early morning the name of this micro season (Hakuro meaning white dew breaks).  The sky is dappled with altocumulus clouds ( also known as mackerel sky) they are a sign of changing weather.

With the arrival of the autumn equinox and the moon viewing festival Tsukimi, it will be time to make Ohagi and Dango once again. So much to enjoy this month. Celebrating the abundance of nature’s harvest with late summer early autumn vegetables and fruit. In Japan the rice fields will begin to turn gold and the spider lilies will bloom once more.

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

Kabocha Aburaage Crispy Fried Pockets

I started making these after using aburaage pockets to make my Tofish recipe. These Kabocha stuffed pockets are dipped in a Yuzu batter then rolled in a senbei crumb. Senbei are Japanese rice crackers, you don’t have to use senbei you can use Panko or just normal bread crumbs if you can’t get Japanese senbei.

First you will need your stuffing. You can use Kabocha Japanese pumpkin or butternut squash or similar. Cut your pumpkin in half I normally just use half a pumpkin to make two portions. Scoop out the seeds then steam your pumpkin and when it’s tender scoop out the flesh from the skin. Let it cool and mash it.
You will need one large  slice of deep fried tofu (aburaage) Cut in half.

Stuff the pockets with the pumpkin then seal the ends by just pinching together, the pumpkin will help it stick but the batter and senbei will also help to seal it.
If your using senbei for your crispy crumb coating put around three in a airtight sealed bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are crumbs then tip them out onto a shallow bowl or plate.
Next make a batter with two heaped tablespoons of plain all purpose flour. Add a tablespoon of Yuzu juice ( lemon as an alternative) then keep adding a small amount of water until you get a thick batter smooth batter.

Heat up some neutral oil in a non stick pan ( I use Tiana coconut butter) you could use Sunflower oil or rapeseed oil maybe. Add enough to make a shallow layer in the pan, you don’t need to deep fry them only shallow fry. By all means if you do have a deep fat fryer you can drop them in that.
Dip the aburaage in the batter then coat the whole pocket in senbei crumbs.


Drop gently into your oil and cook on both sides until golden.

Remove from the oil and place on a piece of paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

I like to slice mine crossways into triangles.

These are delicious served hot or cold with a dip like vegan mayonnaise, and are perfect for bento.
They go really well with a nice salad for a main meal.


 

 

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

Tofu Fish & Chips

I have been making my version of tofu fish and chips or (tofish) as some people call it for a while now, so it’s been very tried and tested.

What makes my recipe so different? Well I will let you in on a secret but before I do if you see the little Ko-fi icon at the top of the page I would really appreciate your support if you like reading my blog and using my recipes. I have been sharing my recipes for free for years but now it’s becoming increasingly hard to fund myself buying new ingredients to recipe test. If you would like to support me it would mean so much. All it takes is to buy me a virtual coffee. You can choose how many ?. Thank you.
Anyway now that’s out of the way this ingredient that makes my tofu fish so different is…… Aburaage! Yes those fluffy fried tofu sheets that make inari sushi.

Let’s make them

You will need a pack of aburaage like this

Cut the end off to make one long pocket.

Drain a pack of tofu, wrap it in kitchen towel and microwave for one minute, this helps get rid of the excess moisture quickly. Cut two pieces big enough to slot inside your aburaage pocket.


( you can skip this part but I brush the tofu with the liquid from a jar of capers ) it gives the tofu a nice flavour. Then cut four pieces of nori seed weed so that you have a piece on the two flat sides of your tofu.


Then push them into your pocket. I find the easiest way is to get it in a little and then pick up the aburaage and shake the tofu in ( much like putting a pillow into a pillowcase).



Once they are inside make up some batter with three tablespoons of plain white flour and add a pinch of salt. I like to add a tablespoon of Yuzu juice, you could also add lemon juice. Then add a little water to make a thick batter. Coat the tofu in the batter then you can also tuck in the open end as the batter will help it stick down.

Roll your battered tofu in bread crumbs and shallow fry in a neutral oil ( I used coconut butter) but you could also use sunflower oil. Fry on both sides until golden, then remove and drain on some kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil.


You can serve these Tofish in the traditional way with some chunky chips ( fries ) and mushy peas.

I actually used mashed edamame beans here mixed with guacamole and grated wasabi.  All you need is a squeeze of lemon and some condiments like tartar sauce, mayonnaise or tomato ketchup. As a finishing touch I sprinkled over some ao-nori seaweed.

Hope you will enjoy these as much as I do.

 

Blog, Spring Food

Live by the (Shun) 旬 The philosophy of Seasonal eating part 2 Spring Equinox

When you see Sansai 山菜 on a menu in Japan it is a sign that Spring has arrived! When people think of Spring in Japan of course the beautiful Sakura is the first thing that comes to mind, but delve a little deeper and there is something emerging from the soil towards the warm spring sunshine up in the mountainous regions. A variety of edible wild green shoots start to push through the soil these are nature’s bounty known as “Sansai”. People can forage for these edible treasures to use in Japanese cuisine. Often seen in Shojin Ryori Buddhist temple food. Nowadays you can see cultivated varieties  also in the supermarkets of Japan. Although thought to be many varieties these are the most commonly used ones.

(thank you to my friend Masami Instagram (veggylife_m  in  Japan for the images) udo, nanohana  and warabi 

Kokomo (こごみ 屈) Ostrich Fern can also be (Kogomi or zenmai ) known as fiddleheads 

Fuki no tō (ふきのとう 蕗の薹)

Yomogi (よもぎ 蓬)

Nanohana (なのはな 菜の花)

Wasabina (わさびな 山葵菜)

Take no ko (bamboo shoots)  (たけのこ 竹の子

Yama udo (やまうど 山うど)

Shungiku (しゅんぎく 春菊)

Field Horsetail 土筆 

Warabi (bracken shoots ) (蕨)

Below are some lovely young wasabi leaves and flowers in season at the moment, you can buy them from the Wasabi Company the link is either down the side or at the bottom of the page depending on your browser. They are delicious in salads or pickled in vinegar.

I have often been intrigued by these vegetables not only because of the shape of them but every spring there is an explosion of people in Japan cooking them and sharing their creations on Instagram.
I did manage to get some precooked packages of sansai vegetables and also some lovely other ones fresh from the Japanese vegetables growers I use Nama Yasai Farm.

Shungiku ( edible chrysanthemum leaves )

So using a mixture of fresh and packaged sansai I wanted to create three  meals you can make easily using what ever you can find. Even if you cannot get mountain vegetables you can use other vegetables for instance : Udo is also referred to as Japanese mountain asparagus so I will be using asparagus instead.
You may also be able to find the parboiled sealed packet variety of bamboo shoots ( I do not recommend the tinned variety as they have other ingredients added).

Nanohana is related to the broccoli family and is the young shoots of the rapeseed plant so I suggest using tender stem broccoli instead. The boiled packet of mountain vegetables I got from the Japan centre has bracken, bamboo shoots kikurage, enoki and nameko mushrooms and carrots.
The first meal is a simple rice bowl with these vegetables mixed in known as Sansai maze Gohan. If your using the packaged vegetables they are precooked and ready to use just drain and rinse under running water.


All you need to do is cook up some rice I recommend adding a little mirin and soy sauce to the liquid you cook your rice in . You could also use kombu dashi . Just soak a piece of  kombu in water over night. Rinse your rice as normal and put in your cooker or pot. Add kombu dashi and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and mirin to each cup of rice used. This will add a nice flavour to your rice. Once the rice is cooked mix in your vegetables Maze Gohan means mixed rice . If you are using other vegetables steam them before mixing in except leaf vegetables which can be just mixed straight into the hot rice. I added some extra shimeji mushrooms and strips of aburaage ( fried tofu ).

The rice also can be used to make onigiri. This is an omusubi (meaning gently pressed not squeezed).


The next is a country style meal originating from Tsugaru region Aomori prefecture. A nutrious soup with miso or just a soy sauce broth with mountain vegetables and other vegetables added like carrot, gobo and daikon. Also to give the soup extra sustenance deep fried tofu (aburaage ) or freeze dried tofu (Koya-dofu) is added.  This soup is called Kenoshiru. The vegetables are normally cut into chunks and as well as tofu sometimes beans like fava or lima are added. Just use a kombu dashi again for your broth. I sautéed in sesame oil then simmered  any uncooked vegetables in dashi  first then add tofu and any precooked veggies. Finally add your miso or soy sauce and any greens which ever you prefer.

Served up with some warm crusty homemade fresh bread spread with shio-koji tofu (see post for recipe) and some tsukemono, there are pickled wasabi flowers in there.

The final meal you could try is Ankake Mountain Vegetables. Ankake basically is a thick starchy sauce, this dish uses the mountain vegetables with dashi, soy sauce and potato starch from Hokkaido.

This is nice served either with rice or udon noodles a typical dish from Iwate prefecture or Kyoto style with some tofu. Cook up any uncooked veggies first maybe add daikon and carrot other mushrooms like shiitake or shimeji to a pan and sauté with a little sesame oil then add in dashi around 2 cups simmer until your uncooked vegetables are almost ready then add your precooked veggies, and  any leaves like shungiku or mustard greens and aburaage strips (fried tofu cut into strips ) finally to your dashi add tamari or soy sauce and mirin a tablespoon of each also a little ginger juice is nice too. Now turn off the heat.  Mix a few teaspoons of potato starch into a bowl with some water to form a slurry this is called katakuriko and gradually add this to your pan. Now turn the heat back on and carry on simmering and stirring until the sauce becomes thicker. Add a final dash of sesame oil for extra flavour.

I added a sprinkle of mizuna flowers for extra colour. Served with rice, tsukemono, Japanese potato salad and a Botamochi for dessert.

As we now look forward to longer days and the chill of winter turns into warmer weather with the Spring Equinox or Shunbun we could make a popular wagashi made at this time in Japan called Botamochi, in the Spring named after the tree peony Botan, in the autumn the same wagashi is called Ohagi named after the clover bush hagi.

The equinox is a Buddhist festival in Japan known as Higan or in the spring Haru no Higan, at this time the wagashi maybe taken along with flowers or incense to ancestral graves as offerings. The wagashi is eaten to call to the ancestors for protection of the rice fields. The confection is made from pounded sweet Mochi rice with a red bean filling. They are often rolled in kinako ( soy bean flour ) or ground black sesame, some are reversed so the red bean paste is on the outside. If you would like to make these for yourself please check out my previous posts for Ohagi and Botamochi.

As the wheel of the year is turning once more seasonal bounty ingredients in Japan include sansai ( list above), asparagus, spring cabbage, new potatoes, broads beans, broccoli, shiitake and wasabi.

I hope no matter where you are in the world you can think about your own Shun ingredients see also my first post on this (Live by the Shun the philosophy of seasonal eating part 1 Winter ) and make some seasonal foods for yourself.
Happy Spring Equinox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog, Winter Food

Himokawa Udon ひもかわうどん

You may have heard of Udon but do you know Himokawa udon ひもかわうどん? A over 100 year old traditional wide noodle made in Kiryu, Gunma  Prefecture, simply from local water salt and flour. So what makes this udon so different  from the udon you might know ? Well it’s the width, the size varies by shop but some can be up to 10cm wide ! They have a pleasantly chewy texture and are a perfect filling meal. There is a established restaurant of over 120 years in Kiryu called Fujiya Honten and himokawa is their specialty. The 6th generation Tokyo trained chef Mr Masayaki Fujikake serves up their noodles made from local flour. Apparently they have been doing this for over 70 years. The noodles made here are around 4cm wide but very long at around 60cm. In the restaurant you can choose how you would like your noodles either in a hot broth (kakeudon) as a tsukemen type dipping noodle, perfect for cold winter days or with a tsuyu dipping sauce and various condiments. They also sell them packaged to go and enjoy at home and I was so lucky to be sent some to try by my friend in Japan.


My friend showed me a kitsune style udon dish she had at the restaurant so I decided to make that. As there is enough noodles in the pack for two people I split the noodles into two meals.

To make the kitsune style I made a cold water kombu shiitake dashi by leaving kombu and shiitake in water over night, I also like to add a few pieces of Yuzu rind.
Then I made a simple broth using the dashi and just added mirin and tamari. I sliced up some aburaage ( the reason this is called kitsune udon, you can read more about this by just searching kitsune udon) and simmered this in the broth to soak up the flavour. I also decided to steam some Japanese negi. I cooked half the himokawa udon in hot water for around 6 mins and then drained them and placed them in cold water so as the noodles wouldn’t get too soggy.

To serve I just simply added the noodles to the broth and dropped in some steamed negi and to garnish I added some really tasty shungiku (Japanese chrysanthemum greens) and Kintsai ( celery leaf stems similar to mitsuba) I didn’t cook these as they would easily steam in the hot dashi broth.
The noodles were slightly chewy and were really flavourful. I felt like I was transported straight back to Japan with this meal and felt so grateful to have been sent these special noodles.




One of the other meals Fujiya Honton have on their menu is a tsukemen style curry soup himokawa. Tsukemen is where you have a soup on the side and you dip the noodles into the soup rather than having them in the soup already. As I still had the other half of the noodles left I decided to make this as well.

A piping hot curry soup that I added a few extra vegetables to like daikon, negi and carrot. I also added some side condiments of oroshi daikon (grated daikon), toasted golden sesame seeds and chopped green onion.

Thank you to my friend Masami for sending me this delicious  taste of Japan .

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

Crispy Aburaage Tofu Spring Rolls

These are my crispy aburaage fried tofu spring rolls, they are super delicious straight out of the oven but just as perfect for a bento . Why not try to make them for yourself.


First you will need to make your filling I used a mixture of julienned carrots finely sliced, finely sliced spring onion, red pepper,  hakusai ( Chinese cabbage ) and bean sprouts to that mix in some schichimi pepper and a dash of tamari or soy sauce and a little finely grated ginger. Sauté this in a pan in a little sesame oil until tender then  put aside.
Now prepare your aburaage, I used the kind you can find already made  frozen like these ones, defrost them and do not wash off the oil that they were fried in.

Take your aburaage and cut off three sides leaving one of the longer sides.
Then carefully pull apart to make a square sheet and tip sideways to make a diamond shape.

Get your Prepared filling and put a line of filling across your aburaage then fold in the sides and the bottom like an envelope and then roll.

After you have finished all three you can either put them in a pan with no oil ( there is enough oil already on the aburaage when it was fried this is why we didn’t wash it off )

Or what I like to do is put them in the oven until they are nice and crispy on the outside ( around 15-20 minutes)

Take out the oven and serve with something like a chilli dip or soy sauce.

Blog

Kitsune Soba

I’m really missing Japan . So much so that my heart aches for the place. I do not feel like I fit it to my life in the UK but I always feel I belong when I’m in Japan. It’s like feeling seriously home sick for a place that isn’t your home. I’m hoping this will help. Kitsune soba.

So simple but the secret behind the perfect kitsune soba starts with the  broth. Full of umami flavour,start with kombu kelp,and dried shiitake. Soak over night and then simmer for 10 mins and then discard the kombu . Take out the shiitake and squeeze the water out into the kombu water and put aside. When you heat your dashi add tamari and mirin. Kitsune soba or udon is named kitsune meaning fox after the deep fried fox fur colour of the tofu, others say that the foxes favourite food is aburaage . You may know the shrines inari and inari sushi comes to mind. Foxes are the spirt guardians or ( okami ) of these shrines and you may often see shops selling fried tofu near the shrines.

You can use soba noodles or udon just cook the soba noodles and rinse and put into the hot dashi broth when ready to serve. Also served with chopped green onions and the shiitake which has been sautéed in toasted sesame oil. Just add aburaage and some grated daikon if you like. For extra comfort food I made a yaki onigiri.

( as an extra umami flavour I like to add a slice of Yuzu peel when I’m heating up my broth ) I just sliced the peel off a Yuzu fruit and froze it and anytime I want to add Yuzu peel to a broth I just drop a slice  in. These kind of meals really take me back in spirit . 

Autumn Food, Blog

Tofu Baked With Kabocha & Miso And A Simple Oden

This was a perfect autumn Teishoku meal.

First cut a piece of firm tofu in half and wrap in a paper towel to soak up any moisture. In a bowl add two tablespoons of steamed and mashed kabocha then add a tablespoon of sweet white miso and mix together. Remove the towel from the tofu and place on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Coat all sides with the pumpkin mash except the bottom. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake until the coating is crispy. This will be crispy on the top but fluffy inside.

I served the tofu with sautéed purple sweet potato pieces and steamed kale in a sesame sauce. The sauce was white sesame paste,mirin and tamari.

With this I also made an oden style one pot soup. You can read more about this in one of my winter recipes just search Oden.

This one was made by soaking kombu and a shiitake to make a dashi,for a few hours. I then removed and discarded the kombu and sliced the shiitake. Added the shiitake back into the pot along with tamari,mirin,shimeji,aburaage,chunks of daikon and leaf shape carrots .I also added a few pieces of Yuzu rind I think this makes such a difference to the flavour. Yuzu is hard to come by in the UK. If we manage to ever get it it’s imported over from Japan and is very expensive. Normally sold at the Japan centre in London. If I’m lucky enough I buy one and take off the rind and slice the rind into pieces,I then freeze it to be dropped into stews when ever I choose. So because it’s frozen it’s well worth the investment. Everything is then simmered on a low heat until the daikon is tender,and everything and soaked up the lovely favours.

Serve with mixed grain rice and salad . There was also a warm amazake and roasted tiny satsuma orange. I had never thought of roasting an orange until I was watching a program about fire festivals in Japan at which they roast Mikan in the fires. I just popped mine in the oven with the skin still on and then peeled it after. The orange was small just enough for one mouthful but how sweet and warm the orange became . Give it a try.

Now the weather is getting colder why not make a Japanese oden to warm you up on an evening. Just simple ingredients but you will be surprised how flavoursome this dish is.

Blog

Toshikoshi Soba ( Year End Soba noodles )

On New Year’s Eve ( oh-misoka ) some Japanese people like to eat Toshikoshi Soba. Toshikoshi means end the old year and enter the new year.
A hot bowl of buckwheat noodles eaten to symbolise good luck for the new year a head and it is also said to let go of hardships from the year.
I made a simple kombu dashi with shiitake,mirin and tamari and had this with my buckwheat noodles and topped it with aburaage ( fried tofu ) chopped green onion and yuzu peel.
Minasama shin-nen akemashite ometetou gozaimasu ( happy new year to everyone)

皆様、新年あけましておめでとうございます!

Blog, Spring Food

Aburaage sushi rolls

How about using aburaage as an alternative to a sheet of nori when making sushi .

Use the large pieces of aburaage you get in the frozen section of the Asian super market.

Take one large aburaage pocket and cut down the un open sides and open out into one large square of aburaage,
Then use as you would nori buy spreading out seasoned sushi rice over the surface, Add your filling and roll with a sushi matt.

Slice with a sharp knife.