Tag

Sakura

Blog, Spring Food

Shinshun “New Spring” The Season Of New Beginnings & Sakura Tofu Taiyaki


There is a saying in Japan, April is finally here, a new life begins. (
Iyoiyo shigatsu de, atarashii seikatsu ga sutāto shimasu.)

いよいよ4月で、新しい生活がスタートします

April 1st marks a fresh start and new beginnings in Japan. Just as the Sakura start to bloom It marks the beginning of 学年 (gakunen, 学年 the new academic year). Students start their new classes wearing their new seifuku, 制服 school uniform and maybe using their randoseru,ランドセル school backpack for the first time. I’m sure you have seen many school children carrying these very recognisable backpacks. The academic year is different to schools and colleges in the U.K. that start in September. In Japan, the first day of school is known as “Nyugakushiki”, 入学式 which means “entrance ceremony”. This day marks a new chapter in the lives of both the students and their families as they will attend a formal ceremony along with their teachers, and classmates.

Apart from the academic year, April also marks the beginning of the fiscal year 年度 in Japan. This is a time of new beginnings in the corporate world . Companies and businesses in set their budgets and make plans for the upcoming year. Employees may receive a promotion or change jobs and businesses may recruit new graduates at this time. This is a crucial event for graduates to attend job fairs and interviews bringing a fresh start for the future.

April is now truly a season of new beginnings and even if you are not starting a new job or school it maybe a good time to start a new journey and set goals for the future. How about learning a new language “Japanese maybe”, or  starting an evening class or new hobby. Maybe the birth of new life might inspire you to try something new or set a goal for the rest of the year.

Even the smallest changes can have an effect, many years ago I decided to take up studying Japanese cuisine and culture as a way to give myself motivation and purpose. Little did I know that this would lead me to work with and meet some wonderful people.

One of these people is Shunzo who had his own new beginning arriving in the U.K. in April 2022 from the parent company Hikari Miso. 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 traditionally made tofu in Devon in 2017. You can choose to buy from their range firm, extra firm and soft tofu. The first two are perfect for making any tofu meal the soft is better for desserts smoothies miso soup etc.

 

I have been using such tofu named “Shizenno Megumi” meaning natures best for many of my recipes and I wanted to use tofu again for a very special recipe to mark Shinshun “new spring”.

I decided to create a recipe for Sakura Taiyaki, with a sakura flavour bean paste filling and pink colour to celebrate the blooming of the Sakura and blossoms not only in Japan but where ever you may live.

But why Taiyaki? Well let’s talk about this popular fish-shaped snack that is eaten warm and freshly baked from street food vendors, taiyaki shops and cafes.

I ate my first vegan Taiyaki on a trip to Japan one sakura season back in 2013. I visited a Taiyaki shop in Ebisu Tokyo called Taiyaki Hiiragi たいやきひいらぎ who opened their shop in 2006 selling taiyaki, a traditional Japanese baked sweet in the shape of a fish filled with red bean paste.

There regular bean paste one being vegan. I was hooked by the perfectly crisp waffle / pancake outside and sweet warm bean filling! Sadly not all Taiyaki is vegan.Taiyaki たい焼き(鯛焼き) translates literally as “baked sea bream”, Tai (sea bream) is a type of fish often considered king among fish in Japan, and yaki can mean fried, baked, or grilled. Don’t worry there is no fish contained in this snack the name actually comes from the fish-shaped mould that the snack is baked into.

The origins of Taiyaki can be traced back hundreds of years to the Edo  period to imagawayaki (今川焼) (called oobanyaki (大判焼き) in the Kansai region of Japan.) Imagawayaki was first sold  near the Kanda Imagawabashi bridge (神田今川橋) in the Kanda district of Tokyo, which is where it got its name.

The shape was first a round-shaped cake similarly served warm and filled with azuki sweet red bean paste. During the Meiji era, seabream was an expensive dish that had long been considered a symbol of good fortune in Japan. In fact, even the name tai is considered auspicious because it rhymes with the word medetai, which means joyous or prosperous. Thus taiyaki could be seen as an inexpensive way for ordinary people to enjoy this lucky fish.

As the name tai forms part of the word medetai, which means lucky, Taiyaki became a popular snack for new students and employees in April to eat to bring them luck in their new future. So I decided creating a Taiyaki for April would be the perfect snack.

I have never come across a recipe that uses tofu in the batter but I thought the soft Shizenno Megumi tofu would be the perfect replacement for the milk and eggs often used in the batter mix.

You may come across many different fillings for Taiyaki in Japan like sweet potato or custard, some might be seasonal like chestnut in the autumn. With that in mind I wanted to make a sakura flavour sweet white bean paste.

My creation was a sakura bean paste and tofu taiyaki to bring you good luck and prosperity this spring.

Sakura Shiroan 白餡 Filling

Ingredients & Method

First you will need to make your white sakura sweet bean filling. For the sakura flavour I used a mixture of a few salted sakura blossoms that had been rinsed with water to get rid of the salt and dried for a few days between kitchen towel and a finely chopped preserved salted Sakura leaf. The flowers are easier to get than the leaves. I do have a recipe to make both yourself on this website but obviously that takes forward planning a year previous. You can find both however already pre-made on line.

You can if you wish omit this and just fill your Taiyaki with traditional red bean paste.

You will need 200g of already cooked and drained butter beans (also known as Lima beans). A 380g carton with a drained weight of 230g yielded the correct amount.

Blend your beans into a smooth paste adding a little water to get them moving then add them to a pan with 150g of sugar and your chopped sakura and leaf. (If you would like to colour your bean paste you can add a 1/4 teaspoon of beetroot powder. Because I used organic unrefined granulated sugar which isn’t white I added more beetroot powder. If you are using white sugar you will get a pretty pink.


Turn on the heat to medium low and let the sugar dissolve. Keep stirring for about 15 minutes until the beans become a smooth paste.

When it’s thick and you can scrape a line in the bottom of your pan it’s done. To stop the sakuraan being too sweet I added one tablespoon of ume su plum vinegar for extra tang and two fresh sakura flowers with the salt rinsed off for extra flavour.

Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight. This will keep in the fridge for at least a week.

Tofu Batter Mixture

Ingredients & Method

You will need x1 pack of Shizenno Megumi soft tofu drained of liquid and added to a blender or food processor with 1/3 cup of soya milk. Blend this until smooth.

In a bowl sift 1 cup of plain all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of potato starch, then add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and give it a mix to combine. Pour in your tofu mixture and give it a good whisk to combine, then leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.


Just a note:
(I added 1/4 teaspoon of beetroot powder with the idea of making them pink but the colour got lost in the baking process. I would be reluctant to add more beetroot powder incase it either went red or the colour just didn’t look nice in the baking process. I decided you will probably not need to add beetroot powder as the pink from the bean paste is a nice contrast.


To make authentic Taiyaki waffles at home you will need a special Taiyaki pan. You can buy these quite easily on line. The one I have is a cast iron pan made by Iwachu keeping the 400 year old tradition of making Nambu iron ware alive. You can buy these from one of my favourite companies on line to ship authentic kitchen ware from Japan called Global Kitchen.

When you are ready to make your taiyaki, heat up the pan (this can only be done on a gas burner) then brush the insides of the taiyaki pan with oil. Pour in your batter to 60% full and add your pink sakura bean paste filling to the middle.

Then cover over the bean paste with more batter. Close your pan and immediately turn it over and cook for 2 minutes, then flip the pan over and cook for a further two minutes. Check to see if it needs any further cooking.

You may find that the batter has run over the sides when you open the pan. Wait a minutes for the batter to cool slightly and ease the taiyaki out of the pan. You can then cut round the taiyaki into a better shape. For this I like to use my Japanese red super chef kitchen scissors made of high quality 420 stainless steel which are great for snipping herbs and doing things like this.

You can change the recipe by adding a different filling . Popular fillings include sweet potato, custard, sweet bean paste and chocolate spread (like Nutella). Some shops even sell taiyaki with okonomiyaki, gyoza, cheese or a sausage inside so maybe you could create your own.

The taiyaki are at their best eaten straight away but be careful of that lava hot filling. Alternatively you can reheat them back to crispness under the grill or in the oven.

Spring Food, Summer Food

Sakura No Ha Shiozuke (Salted Preserved Cherry Leaves)

Some times we need to plan ahead to reap the rewards later. You may be familiar with the Japanese spring time wagashi called Sakura mochi. A chewy pink glutinous rice ball filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in an edible cherry blossom leaf.

The leaves are hard to obtain outside of Japan, but with a little planning ahead you to could be making these next spring. These pickled leaves capture the full unique fragrance of the Japanese Sakura. And now after the blossoms have gone and the new green leaves emerge is the perfect time to pick them.
I chose to use the leaves from Yaezakura the double blooms that come out later than all the other cherries. I also use this variety to make Sakura shiozuke pickled preserved cherry blossom for which I already have a recipe for on this site.
You will need to find a tree preferably away from a main road and free from pollution. I am lucky to have a row of these trees near where I live.

So on a rainy day in May I went and picked some of the new green leaves after the blossom had fallen to make pickled Sakura leaves for my wagashi next spring.

After returning with the leaves I picked out the biggest ones and carefully washed them.


You will need about 40g of leaves

For every 10g you will need 2g of fine salt this one is a Japanese salt I bought from sous chef

You will also need some umesu to pickle the leaves. Umesu is a traditional seasoning made by pickling umeboshi plums and red shiso leaves. I like to buy the one from Clearspring which is made in Japan.

After you have weighed your leaves put them in a bowl and blanch them with boiling water.

When you smell the steam you can smell the distinct aroma of Japanese Sakura.

Then lay them out on some kitchen towel, I did this in layers on top of each other and then gently pressed to dry them.

Then fold over each leaf and lay them in a plastic container with a lid.

Sprinkle over the salt and finally add around x4-5 tablespoons of umesu around and over the leaves.



Cover with some plastic wrap put on the lid and leave in a cool place for about a week. After this time wrap the leaves in plastic wrap and put them in a ziplock bag and keep them in the fridge until next year. The leaves will turn brown over time.

When you want to use them soak the leaves to remove the salt in warm water for 15-20 minutes.

I hope you will be able to enjoy the taste of spring time in Japan. When you are ready to make sakura mochi I also have a recipe on this site for how to make those as well.
If you haven’t made pickled Sakura blossom do not worry those are a little easier to obtain from asian supermarkets.

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura no Hi & Chomeiji Sakura Mochi 

Day of Cherry Blossom 

March 27 is sakura no hi (さくらの日), Day of Cherry Blossom. This was decided by the Nihon Sakura no kai (日本さくらの会), Japan Cherry Blossom Association in 1992. They made it that date  because the pun of sakura 3 (sa) x 9 (ku) = 27. Saku (咲く) in Japanese means “to bloom”.
The name “Sakura” comes from Japan’s most famous flower the cherry blossoms. Some say that cherry blossom is the national flower of the country although some dispute this and say the chrysanthemum is the correct national flower of Japan.

Nevertheless there is  something to be said about the beauty and wonder the cherry blossom season brings.

The general flower language of cherry blossoms is “spiritual beauty” and seeing the cherry blossom definitely gives you a feeling like no other, touching the soul in an almost spiritual way.

There are 9 original species of cherry blossoms in Japan, and there are about 100 varieties, each coming into flower at different times depending on where in japan they are. The earlier blooms tend to appear in tropical Okinawa in January, with the last on the northernmost island of Hokkaido in early May.

The arrival of the cherry blossoms in Japan is a big deal, people eagerly wait for the forecasts of when the blossoms will bloom making the national news when the first blossom opens.

Cherry blossom viewing or “hanami” 花見 as  it’s known started in the Edo period. Throughout Japan many people will be celebrating the cherry blossoms with viewing parties and picnics, taking place in gardens and parks.

Often you will see blue sheeting laying on the ground for people to sit on while they have special food and drink sake under the blossom while generally enjoying the arrival of spring.

This can go on well into the evening when viewing the blossom under lanterns that light up the branches is known as yozakura.

Many sakura themed and flavoured foods are eaten at this time, one of which is a popular confectionery called sakura mochi 桜餅 a traditional Japanese wagashi confection with over 300 years of history when Tokyo was still called Edo. This wagashi heralds the arrival of spring.

It is a soft, chewy, sticky rice cake filled with sweet azuki red bean paste. Did you know there are two types ? You may be familiar with the sakura mochi with roots in the Kansai region around Osaka called Domyoji made from domyojiko (道明寺粉), which is glutinous rice steamed, dried, and coarsely groundThe main characteristic of Domyoji Sakura Mochi is the distinctive  stickiness of rice grain. As domyojiko is difficult to find outside of japan I always use mochigome a Japanese short-grain glutinous rice. The recipe for this is basically the same as my Ohagi recipe but you just colour the rice pink with a natural dye like a few drops of beetroot juice and wrap the mochi in a salted preserved sakura leaf. Cherry leaves are what gives the mochi that distinctive flavour.

The salted preserved sakura leaves are also hard to find but you can buy them from Nihon Ichiban on line from Japan.

They are often also decorated with preserved sakura flowers again you can buy these on line or why not use my recipe to make your own. This year I also intend to try preserving my own leaves.

The next sakura mochi is called Chomeiji Mochi which originated in the Kanto region, and was created around 1717 in an old Buddhist temple in Mukojima, Tokyo, named Chomeiji 長命寺. Unlike Domyoji mochi, the Kanto version has an outer pink thin crepe made by baking a mixture of wheat flour, glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water. The pale pink crepe is rolled and wrapped in mashed red bean paste and are then neatly wrapped inside salted cherry leaves.

People in the Kanto region (greater Tokyo areas) use shiratamako (白玉粉) a type of glutinous rice flour as the main ingredient for the mochi. They are super easy to make if you manage to gather all the ingredients it just takes a bit of planning a head if you want to make your own Sakura flowers and leaves but you can buy them if you wish.

This is how I made Chomeiji mochi 長命寺餅

Makes around x5

Ingredients & method sakura flowers and leaves rinsed in water and dried between kitchen towel. One of each for each mochi

Anko Tsubuan (粒あん) The paste has a chunky texture or Koshian (こしあん) The paste has a fine, smooth texture. Rolled into log shapes.

20 grams of Shiratama flour

Mixed with 40ml of water (mix and wait ten mins)

Then add 5 grams of sugar, 40 grams of plain flour and another 60ml of water.

Mix well until smooth and strain through a sieve.

Add a few drops of pink food colouring I like to use a natural dye so I use beetroot juice.

Heat up a non stick frying pan til hot then wipe neutral oil without flavour I use Tiana coconut butter over the pan with kitchen towel and then wipe it off (you do not want an oily pan)

Take a tablespoon of your mixture an add it to the pan add another and spread the batter out thinly into an oval shape.

This takes only second to cook once it’s solid flip it over for a few seconds to solidify on the other side. Remove and add to a plate and repeat the process until all your batter is used.

Lay a sakura leaf with the veins visible then place on top one of the crepes then add one of the anko logs and roll the leaf from the base and you are done. Continue with the rest and finish with a salted sakura flower. You can store these in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge.

Why not make yourself a bento this spring. One of my favourite places to buy bento boxes is Bento & Co in Kyoto. They have a wonderful on line store and ship really quickly from japan.
One memorable day last year I sat under a cherry blossom in my local park with my bento box and sake on a warm day.

The cherry blossom petals were falling like snow around me. Did you know there is a word for this ? 桜吹雪 Sakura-fubuki. It’s the little memories like this that stay with you. Another memory of Sakura-fubuki is when I visited Japan over cherry blossom season, I was walking in the Yasukuni Shrine and all the blossoms were falling.
The Japan Meteorological Agency determines the state of Tokyo’s sakura season by the flowers on a particular tree in the Yasukuni Shrine called the Index Tree. When only five or six blossoms have opened, Tokyo’s cherry blossoms are considered “in bloom.” When 80 percent of the buds on the tree have opened, Tokyo is considered to be in “full bloom.”  Forty seven other prefectures have their own index tree.

I hope you are able to enjoy hanami even if you are not in Japan just by doing those little things that make you feel closer.

Happy Hanami

 

Blog, Spring Food

okoshi おこし


At Easter time as a child I would often make simple treats made from either puffed rice or cornflakes coated in chocolate and allowed to set.

There is a tradional  puffed rice confectionery  in Japanese cuisine  known as okoshi and this simple wagashi reminded me of these crispy Easter treats I used to make.

The main ingredient in okoshi is expanded rice, created by roasting rice grains until they pop. A mix of sugar and butter or  syrup is used to hold the rice together, and after the additional ingredients have been added, the mixture is formed or pressed in trays, left to dry, then cut into squares.

This crispy Japanese treat first appeared during the mid-Edo period in Japan and was primarily sold by street vendors in the vicinity of Buddhist temples in Asakusa, one of the districts in Tokyo. This was because around 1800, the thunder gate was burned down by  fire. When reconstructing the gate, street vendors of Asakusa began selling rice crackers as a lucky charm for avoiding the strike of a thunderbolt, and the confection was named “Kaminari Okoshi (雷おこし)”. In its name, “Okoshi (おこし)” has a meaning of “rebuilding” in Japanese, while the former word “Kaminari ()” stands for Kaminarimon, so Kaminari Okoshi literally meant rebuilding the gate. Okoshi is still the most famous souvenir of the Asakusa area today. In the Asakusa area, there are still traditional street vendors who prepare this brittle snack and demonstrate the entire procedure. Okoshi is often given as a popular gift as people think it can bring good fortune so is often bought as omiyage (Japanese souvenirs given to friends or coworkers after returning home from a trip).

The traditional wagashi can sometimes be made with puffed rice and millet and contain peanuts or sesame seeds. They can also come in flavours like green tea, so it’s a great way of experimenting with different flavours to see which you like best. This however is the  difference between those and the rice crispy treats you may know of that contain marshmallow and chocolate.

I made mine with organic puffed rice, mixed into melted vegan butter with organic caster sugar. I decided to use cherry syrup as a flavour and decorated them with salted preserved Sakura flowers.
You need to be able to press them into a tin which you can line with parchment paper and when they are set you can cut them into square’s, ( do not put in the fridge but leave in an airtight container ).

I actually decided to use my Nagashikan, stainless steel jelly mould with a removable inner container. It also cuts into sections. I’ve found this so useful and can definitely recommend getting one for making yokan or jelly in the summer. You can purchase them from Global Kitchen on line in Japan.

These treats are super sweet so need to be paired with something like a green tea. As I added a preserved Sakura flower it added a little saltiness which I liked.

Happy Easter.

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Vegan Sakura Daifuku Butter Mochi


To celebrate the coming Sakura season and the launch of my spring recipe card. I have taken a wagashi which is a speciality of Akita prefecture called Butter Mochi and made it vegan.

The Mochi uses glutinous rice flour, vegan butter and soy milk to make a wagashi that it not only soft and chewy with a delicious creamy taste, but will last covered in the fridge for a few days.
I made these seasonal using Sakura flowers but you can just as easily omit them and add maybe matcha or Yomogi powder instead. They are perfect to make for hanami season. You could try making these and enjoy eating them under a cherry blossom tree for that Japanese feeling that we all are missing right now.
First you need (if using ) to prepare one tablespoon of Sakura flowers in advance around (five flowers). Wash off the salt and blot them between paper towel and dry them out. When they are dry grind them into a powder using a suribachi (pestle and mortar) or a coffee grinder if you have one. (Don’t worry you can omit this part if you wish and just use Sakura flowers for decoration for which you will need to wash and blot dry on kitchen towel nine Sakura flowers)

Line a small container around 4-5 inch square with parchment paper. I used a sandwich box.

You will then need :

100grms of glutinous rice flour ( the kind for making Dango like Shiratamako or Mochiko )

90grms of unrefined caster sugar

1 cup of soy milk

45grms of room temperature vegan butter cut into squares (I used Naturli Vegan Block)

1 teaspoon of natural pink food colouring . I used beetroot juice. Plus an optional dash of flavouring of umesu plum vinegar.

Red bean paste of choice tsubuan or koshian

Potato starch for dusting

Method:

Add your glutinous rice flour to a microwaveable bowl, add to this your sugar and mix, then add your soy milk mixing until smooth.  Add your colouring and Sakura powder if using and mix. Place in a microwave for 2 minutes. My microwave is 800watts so if yours is less add more time. Take the bowl out of the microwave and add your butter, stirring  until it has all melted. Place your bowl back in the microwave and cook again for 3 minutes. Remove and beat the Mochi with a wooden spoon or spatula until it becomes sticky and translucent. Wait for it to cool a little and tip it into your parchment prepared container. Add your Sakura flowers if using pressed into the mochi, then place in the fridge for an hour to firm up a little. Take the container out the fridge and lift the Mochi out of the container using the parchment paper.

Dust a knife with potato starch and cut into equal squares.

Roll nine small balls of bean paste then take each square with potato starch dusted hands and tip upside down placing a ball in the middle.

Fold the edges round over the bean paste and place on a plate.

Carry on doing this with the rest of the cut mochi.
If you want to make Matcha or Yomogi Daifuku instead add a tablespoon of this to your flour at the beginning.
Keep in the fridge in a container they will be good for a few days, if they last that long.
If you would like to purchase salted pickled Sakura flowers I have limited quantities with my Hanami recipe card this month.
Let’s enjoy the taste of Japanese spring time.

Happy Springtime Happy Hanami !

 

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Shiozuke (pickled preserved Sakura cherry blossoms)

The unique flavour and aroma of salted pickled cherry blossom is very distinct and if you are a Japan lover you will know this smell automatically. In Japan the Sakura bloom for a very short time the fleeting essence of nature is celebrated by all things Sakura themed in Spring. You may have seen me in the past use shop bought salted pickled cherry blossoms in some of my recipes. They are used around Sakura season in Japan to decorate cakes, cookies and desserts and can also be used chopped in onigiri. One of the most popular is a wagashi called Sakura Mochi .

I decided to make my own Sakura shiozuke as they are preserved you can use them any time to make my Sakura cookie recipe or other recipes that call for salted Sakura.

Why not give making salted pickled Sakura blossoms a try. You will need to pick the pink Pom Pom looking double flowers known as Yaezakura.

Pick the blossom and put them in a bowl I used around 100g of blossom . Gently wash them.


Then add salt make sure it’s well mixed in . I added quite a bit about 20g. Then cover with cling film  and put a plate on top and weigh it down further with smaller plates then  leave them over night .



The next day take off your plates. I bought  ume su ( by clear spring ) and added to the blossom about 1/4 of the bottle.



Put the plastic wrap over and put the plates back on . Then leave that for three days . After this time pick out the blossom and put them on a wire rack with kitchen town in a warm place for 2 days .



Then peel them off the kitchen towel ( they are nearly dried but not quite at this point) put them on a bamboo tray you could use a few rolling matts or something like that and leave again to dry for a few more days .


At this point they should be dry and you can store them in a jar adding a bit more salt and save them til next year or use them straight away!

Happy Sakura Season !

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Hinamatsuri 雛祭り 2022 五目ちらし寿司 Chirashi Sushi


Joshi no Sekku 上巳の節句 on March 3rd is the second in the five main seasonal festivals of Japan. Sometimes called Momo no Sekku (Peach festival ) or (dolls festival) but more commonly known as Hinamatsuri 雛祭. This festival originally celebrated both boys and girls  but over time the celebration ended up being just for girls when Tango no Sekku became popular known as boys day. Dolls are still displayed and are now said to represent the emperor and empress. The dolls are displayed to ward of evil spirits and are often bought with the birth of a new child or pasted down from grandparents. The day now celebrates the growth and good health for parents with girl children. Hinamatsuri is a symbolic date for spring signalling the blooming of blossoms and the start of a new season.

There are three specific colours associated with Hinamatsuri green for health, white for purification, and pink for luck. Some times the colours are referred to as : Green colour of  spring. White the last snow that is melting away. Pink spring  flowers, such as cherry blossoms and peach blossom.

Often you will see dango in these three colours which are popular at this time. These are also called hanami dango 花見団子 or Sanshoku 三色団子 dango, which literally translates to “three colored rice dumpling”. I’ve displayed the dango in a dish shaped like a hagoita (羽子板) which is a paddle used in a game with a shuttlecock a bit like badminton. The game is called Hanetsuki (羽根突き) and was often a game played by girls. It was believed that playing the game would drive away evil spirits because the movement of the hagoita is similar to harau action a Japanese expression meaning to drive away. Thus playing hanetsuki with hagoita is often used as a charm against evil.

There are many special foods eaten on this day to celebrate which I have spoken about in previous posts. I decided again this year to make Chirashizushi五目ちらし寿司. Chirashizushi translates to scattered sushi. In Osaka it is known as Barazushi or Gomoku sushi. In Tokyo it is known as Edomae and features an assortment of sashimi. I think it’s one of the easiest to make vegan. Made with sushi rice I added Umesu as a seasoning. You can top your sushi rice with what ever you like, popular ingredients might be bamboo shoots for spring, lotus root, scrambled egg or sliced omelette, shrimp, snow peas and vegetables. So I used a new vegan egg to add a scrambled egg to my chirashi sushi along with pink pickled lotus root, edamame, grated carrot and other vegetables.

I feel I can’t pass by Hinamatsuri without making Sakura Mochi a Japanese spring time wagashi . For me the taste of Japanese spring. Made with Mochi rice and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf and topped with a preserved Sakura flower. The Mochi has red bean paste inside and is the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Perfect with a green tea or a traditional sake known as shisozake or a Nigorizake. This is why I made it my recipe card for the month of March. Look out for more seasonal recipe cards with ingredients every month which I add here on the blog and my Instagram page.
Happy Hinamatsuriハッピー雛祭り

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Tokyo Pony Recipe Card 3 Hinamatsuri 雛祭り

 


RECIPE CARD NUMBER
3️⃣

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March “Hinamatsuri “

雛祭り桜餅

The third  in the series of Tokyo Pony monthly recipe cards following the seasons and traditions of Japanese vegan food.

My third recipe card marks the second in the five main seasonal festivals of japan “Hinamatsuri”. There are many traditional foods eaten on this day one of them being the spring seasonal wagashi ( Japanese sweet ) “Sakura Mochi “ 桜餅.

You can now experience the taste of cherry blossom season in Japan by making these sweet, chewy  Sakura Mochi at home with this months recipe card.

The sweets are made with an edible salted pickled Sakura leaf which are difficult to find outside of japan. Each recipe card comes with one pack of 10 salted pickled Sakura leaves to make the perfect combination of salty and sweet wagashi.

These sweets can be eaten for Hinamatsuri on March 3rd and also  enjoyed throughout the spring season.

Hurry there are limited quantity of these so get in quick !

Enjoy the recipe!

To purchase :

click the “SHOP” link in the menu

Thank you so much for your orders ??

And all your continued support . I hope you will enjoy making Japanese seasonal food along with me.

Blog, Spring Food

Chirashi sushi Scattered Sushi for Hinamatsuri

On March 3rd in Japan it is Hinamatsuri a special girls day festival held every year for parents to celebrate their daughters if they have them and pray for their health and happiness. It is the second in the five seasonal festivals this one also known as peach blossom festival or dolls day. The peach blossom are blooming at their peak now and ceremonial dolls are displayed in households.

There are many traditional foods that are eaten on this day for instance, hina-arare bite sized crackers, a fermented sake drink called shirozake, strawberry daifuku, Sakura Mochi, Temari sushi, kompeito small candy sweets, Dango and inari sushi to name a few. You can find out more about these in previous years posts. This year I have decided to make a special sushi known as Chirashi Sushi or Chirashizushi. This starts with sushi rice, lovingly preparing the sushi rice as normal washing it thoroughly  until the water runs clear and then cooking it in my rice cooker. When it was done I added ume plum vinegar to keep in with the theme of the blossoms at this time carefully mixing it in and fanning it cool. Then scattering over  some organic toasted sesame seeds to set the base for the rest of the toppings. Some of the ingredients were prepared in advance like sliced lotus root, cut into flower shapes and pickled in shiso vinegar for a week before hand. Chirashi Sushi  translates to scattered sushi. You will often find the one made for Hinamatsuri decorated with lotus root and slices of omelette, known as kinshitamago, I made a vegan omelette and this was my first topping. Then I scattered some kiriboshi (dried daikon) that had been soaking in warm water to reconstitute. It is tradition to add fish like salmon roe, crab meat and maybe shrimp but as I am making a vegan sushi I added, peas, sliced shiitake, snap peas, pickled daikon flowers and carrot flowers, preserved salted Sakura and shredded nori known as kizami nori.

This is the perfect meal to make and share at a party or gathering.
In Osaka Chirashi Sushi is known as Barazushi or Gomoku Sushi sometimes topped with unagi eel. In Tokyo it is known as Edomae taken from Edo and features an assortment of sashimi.

It is also traditional to make a clear clam soup known as ushio-jiru to go with a Hinamatsuri meal. As I wanted a vegan soup I made a similar clear soup known as Suimono. Starting with a cold water dashi the day before with kombu kelp, dried shiitake and Yuzu peel then the next day discarding  the kombu and slicing the shiitake adding  just mirin, tamari and a little salt to the broth. Pouring it over silken tofu (kinugoshi) and adding pretty fu flowers,with a few other ingredients bamboo shoot, shiitake, broccoli stem and mitsuba. The flavour is very delicate but full of umami.

To make the meal extra special some seasonal desserts, pink tofu dango topped with a rhubarb sauce, Sakura Mochi and a white peach sherbet jelly from the Japanese wagashi shop Minamoto Kitchoan.

Happy Hinamatsuri  I hope you can make a special meal or something to celebrate the beginning of spring even if you do not have a daughter.

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Matcha Sakura Cookies

Today we had the most beautiful warm spring weather, as I look out into my garden at the blooming Sakura the bees are loving it. Time is very much slowing down at the moment but the bees are very much hard at work . I just don’t want the beautiful flowers to end, but I know soon the petals will be falling as we move on into summer.
As I had some salted preserved Sakura flowers I thought I would take today as an opportunity to make my Sakura cookies.

This time I made them with matcha.

The cookie recipe is the same but I used maple syrup and x1 tablespoon of matcha in the recipe. I didn’t need to add any water and added a little more oat flour just to make the dough better. Sometimes it’s a little trial and error with dough sometimes it may need more liquid sometimes a little more dry ingredients, in cooking it’s going with the flow and adjusting things as necessary.
These cookies came out so well it was hard not to eat them all in one go. I will save some for later although as we all know from baked goods they are always best on the day.
If you don’t have Sakura flowers you can just make these without. That little touch of saltiness with the bitter matcha and sweet cookie makes for a delightful flavour reminiscent of days in Japan.
Making these Sakura cookies is a way for me to be close to Japan’s spring time when I can’t be there.

I’m going to enjoy them with a Sakura tea  which you can buy from nugoo Japan.

How about making a cookie sandwich this one has sweet red bean paste in between two cookies

Blog, Spring Food

Micro Season Part 2 雨水 Usui Rainwater

雨水 Usui ( Rainwater )

The micro seasons for this part are as follows:

February 19–23 土脉潤起 Tsuchi no shō uruoi okoru. Rain moistens the soil.

February 24–28 霞始靆 Kasumi hajimete tanabiku. Mist starts to linger.

March 1–5 草木萌動 Sōmoku mebae izuru. Grass sprouts, trees bud.

At the start of spring in Japan before the cherry blossoms bloom another tree has its moment. For people in Japan this is just as imported. When the stunning  plum blossoms arrive it begins the arrival of spring by symbolising renewal and hope. One of the best places to view over 2000 ume trees is the Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto. They have a plum blossom festival which is held on February 25th the grounds are full with plum blossom and a special outdoor tea ceremony called Baikasai is held. Maiko serve hot matcha tea with wagashi ( Japanese sweets ) they also have a flea market at the same time.
This micro season couldn’t be passed by without talking about Hina matsuri on the 3rd of March. This is also known as dolls day or girls day. On this day parents celebrate their daughters happiness and good health. Traditionally when a girl is born parents or grand parents will buy a special set of Hina dolls, sometimes they are passed down from generations. These dolls are displayed in the house from the end of February until March 3rd. The dolls are a representation of the emperor and empress .

These are my friends Hina dolls that she has displayed in her house. Instagram (@dokodemotokyo)

Sometime girls will invite friends for a party and have traditional foods.
There are lots of foods associated with this time.
Temari sushi, decorated sushi balls take their name from the Temari balls children played with. Temari means hand balls and they are beautiful embroidered balls that are now normally used for decoration. These bit sized sushi balls are easy to make just search Temari sushi for instructions.

Sakura Mochi a traditional spring wagashi for Hinamatsuri and the coming Sakura seasons. Sakura Mochi is a Mochi rice cake with a sweet red bean paste filling and then wrapped in a salted pickled Sakura leaf. It’s a nice combination of sweet and salty. Just search Sakura Mochi for the recipe.


There are three colours associated with Hinamatsuri white for purification, green for health and pink for luck. Often you will see dango in these three colours which are popular at this time. These are also called hanami dango or Sanshoku dango. Just search dango for recipes.

Cherry blossom cookies are also a nice one to make. Recipe on this website.


Others are strawberry daifuku,cherry blossom rice balls,inari sushi and chirashi sushi (scattered sushi

This year I will be making a chirashi sushi which resembles a cake in the three spring colours known as Chakin sushi.
Seasoned sushi rice which you can either layer using the colours in-between or colour the rice. I like to use natural colours so I used beetroot juice for pink mixed into cooked sushi rice and matcha tea.  You can then add the toppings to the top of the rice cake.
I think this would be a lovely one for a party or gathering.


You could even make mini ones cup cake style or make three layer onigiri.


I also decided to make onigiri in the shape of Hina dolls.

If you would like to see things I have made in previous years just search Hina matsuri, I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own celebration.

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

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi a traditional spring wagashi made  for Hinamatsuri and also to celebrate spring and the coming Sakura season.

There are three colours associated with the girls day festival .  White is for purification, green for health and pink for luck. I made Sakura Mochi in the three colours. Sakura Mochi is Mochi  rice cake with a sweet red bean paste filling and wrapped in a salted pickled Sakura leaf and topped with a salted Sakura flower. They are a nice combination of sweet and salty. Perfect with a green tea.

The recipe is basically the same as my ohagi recipe. If you live outside of japan you may not be able to get the leaves and blossom so easily although you maybe able to order them online from www.souschef.co.uk

I used matcha to colour the rice green and beetroot juice for the pink.

Why not try making Sakura Mochi to celebrate spring.

Blog, Spring Food

Pink Sakura Tea Latte

I think I miss Japan the most in Spring. Seeing all the gorgeous Sakura in full bloom on the media makes me wish I was there. At least I have been lucky to experience the season first hand. The Sakura is highly prized as the season only lasts but a week or so,proving that life is fleeting and ever changing. When we look at the cherry blossoms we realise that we must appreciate things and live mindful in the moment of each passing day.

The cherry blossom in Japan this year came over a week early and was the third earliest full bloom in Tokyo on record. As for my Sakura it’s still very much in tight bud it has been so cold in the UK this year. I’m still in Japan in spirit and I am loving making these Sakura tea pink lattes.

All you need is Japanese Sakura tea ( this might be a little difficult to find outside of Japan.)

Brew one Sakura teabag in half a cup of hot water. Heat up half a cup of non dairy milk then add one tablespoon of beetroot juice and froth your milk. As the beetroot is naturally sweet you don’t need to add sweetener. Then take out your teabag and add your milk topping with froth. I actually have some pink pitaya powder that looks pretty dusted on the top or you could add some pink tea powder which is made from 100% mangosteen.

Just waiting now for my Sakura to bloom and spring to finally arrive.