Christmas in Japan seams to arrive over night. No sooner has the last pumpkin lantern been put away than you wake up the next day and Christmas has arrived. In every store the Christmas music is playing and everywhere is decked in the most beautiful Christmas lights.
Christmas in Japan is not a religious holiday but more a time for couples to enjoy a romantic walk and take pictures together under twinkling lights.
Other things enjoyed are German style Christmas markets or having a romantic meal in a restaurant.
The gift giving is again more about couples than family which is saved in Japan for new year.
Think Christmas food and to many “vegan” it might be a nut roast with lots of veggies and Christmas pudding but in Japan there are two very prominent foods.
The first is Christmas Cake or “Kurisumasu Keki” They are not the rich fruit cake and marzipan style cakes we know in the U.K. but are made of a light sponge with a cream filling. They are round and topped with the fruit of the season in Japan Strawberries! The red and white symbolises the flag of Japan and this colour combination known as Kouhaku are the colours of good fortune in Japan where as in the U.K. those colours are not lucky. There is even an emoji for it on your smart phone. ?
The next is the biggest Christmas meal with 3.6 million families sharing a KFC Christmas Bucket. After World War II the Japanese economy started to take off and there was a huge interest in western style food. Over seas food chains started to open like Baskin Robins and Mister Donut with the first KFC opening in Nagoya in 1970, by 1981 there were over 300 stores . After a very successful launch of a marketing campaign in 1974 “Kentucky for Christmas” the popularity of having KFC for a Christmas meal began. It is now so popular you either have to order six weeks in advance or wait in long queues for hours to get it. You will often find a life sized Colonel Sanders waiting for you dressed up like Santa who has a striking resemblance to the man him self.
Maybe the reason KFC is so popular is because it is not unlike karaage another fried chicken meal coated in panko breadcrumbs which is also a favourite food of Japan and is also a meal you can share with family or friends. The meal pulls in 6.9 million yen in Japan but many chicken lives are lost. So being vegan I decided this year I was going to make my own KFT Christmas bucket “Kentucky Fried Tofu
You can easily find a seasoning recipe on the internet but i didn’t want the expense of buying lots of spices so I went for a Cajun spice in my local supermarket.
You will need to freeze two 300g blocks of firm tofu and then defrost it then freeze and defrost again. After this time take it out of its packaging and press out the liquid under a weight soaking up any remaining with a paper towel. Break up the tofu into large chunk pieces.
You will then need two cup of vegetable stock . Place your broken pieces of tofu in a dish and pour over the stock and let it marinade. While your tofu is marinading add to a bowl 1 1/2 cups of soy milk and 2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, this makes the soy milk thicker (set this aside). In another bowl add 1 1/2 cups of plain flour and three tablespoons of your Cajun spice. I also added a few teaspoons of mixed herbs and some ground black pepper. Now you will need a cup of some kind of corn flakes. I decided to use gluten free Mesa Sunrise which has a combination of corn and quinoa flakes along with buckwheat amaranth and flaxseed. However you can just use run of the mill cornflakes. Crush up the cornflakes and mix them into the Cajun flour.
Take your marinated tofu and squeeze out the liquid then take each piece and submerge it in the soy milk then roll it in the Cajun spice flour. Coat each piece then palace on a plate.
Heat up some cooking oil ( I used sunflower ) around two -three cups in a pan. Add some kitchen towel to a plate and fry your tofu in hot oil until golden brown for around 5 mins . Fry a few at a time and place on your plate.
I decided to equal out the fried food with a delicious healthy salad . I also recommend the vegan mayonnaise by the wasabi company which comes in three flavour Yuzu, wasabi and miso ( perfect for dipping).
As this year again draws to a close it is another year of uncertainty and we still don’t know if travelling to Japan will resume next year. With that in mind for many of us we are missing Japan more and more. I find making food connected to Japan helps me feel closer some how. Why not give making some Japanese food a try or start planning making an Osechi for new year. You can find lots of inspiration on my web pages. Just search “New Year” .
Merry Christmas “ メリークリスマス