Tag

Sansho

Blog

Father’s Day in Japan Chichi no Hi (父の日)


Father’s Day in Japan is called Chichi no Hi 
(父の日) and is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. In Japan there are two words for “father”. One is “otosan”, which is used for father in general and the other is “chichi”, which is used only for your own father.

Father’s Day arrived in Japan well after the 1980’s, even though it was first celebrated in 1910 in America.

With Japanese fathers working long hours and often not at home that much, It is an occasion to gather the family and to enjoy a particular day for a father and his children although still rather more of a low-key celebration in relation to Mothers Day.

One thing that is common to give a father on Father’s Day is a handmade greeting card or thank you notes. The most popular way to celebrate Father’s Day in Japan is to give presents so what kind of gifts are given to Father’s on this day in Japan ? The most popular is what Japanese call shiko-hin (what you don’t need, but can’t live without). These can be in the form of luxury goods or things like alcohol or sugar that are consumed purely for enjoyment. These are things that provide small comforts and happiness in everyday lives.

Obviously alcohol plays a large roll In Japanese culture with craft beer and nihonshu (Japanese sake) brands going all out to produce that extra special gift for Father’s Day especially limited edition in a nice presentation box. Shochu liqueur and Whiskey are also favoured with personalised drinks tumblers and beer glasses being popular as an accompaniment.

Other popular gifts are given for the father’s personal leisure activities like golf, cycling or other interests. Jinbei 甚平 is sometimes given as a gift, this is a traditional set of Japanese loungewear clothing worn in the house. Consisting of a side-tying, tube-sleeved kimono-style top and a pair of trousers.

Of course food plays an important role with unagi (eel) うなぎ being the most popular Father’s Day gift according to Takashimaya, one of Japan’s major department stores. Unagi is usually considered a luxury item of food and reserved for special occasions.

Today I’m going to show you my easy recipe for vegan Unagi using tofu as the main ingredient.

First make your homemade Eel sauce, or unagi no tare a thick and sweetened soy sauce.

Add to a pan two tablespoons of mirin, one tablespoon of sugar and one table of sake and heat gently to dissolve the sugar then add two tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce. Simmer on a low heat to reduce and set aside.

You will need to use firm tofu for this. I used the firm variety from the Shizenno Megumi range. The tofu is made using traditional Japanese techniques by a small group of passionate members bringing traditionally made tofu to the U.K. If you  want to know more about this tofu why not check out my previous recipes using “Shizenno Megumi” tofu.

Drain the tofu from its liquid wrap in a paper towel or muslin cloth and microwave for one minute, this will help to dry out the tofu without pressing. Mash the tofu then tip it into the middle of a cotton cloth so you can use to it to squeeze out the liquid, a nut milking bag is especially good for this.

Squeeze out as much liquid as possible then tip the tofu into a bowl and set aside.

I used around a 2”piece of Yamaimo which is super sticky when grated as a binder you could also use taro ( Satoimo) if you cannot get hold of yamaimo.


I used a Japanese Kyocera ceramic grater to grate it fine, they are also perfect for grating ginger and daikon so definitely well worth adding to your Japanese kitchen utensils. Peel the outer skin off the yamaimo and grate it. Add this to your tofu along with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of aonori (
aromatic dried green seaweed powder). Mix to combine. Finally add a tablespoon of Japanese potato starch and mix together.

Then cut a large piece of toasted nori into six individual pieces and place shiny side down. Spread the tofu yamaimo mixture over the nori, I pushed a chopstick into the middle and across to make eel like markings to make it look more authentic.


Add a shallow layer of oil to a frying pan and cook tofu side down until golden.

Then flip over to make it extra crispy.

Place the pieces under a hot grill and cover with your special sweet glaze. Cook until hot.

Unaju 鰻重 is one of the most traditional popular ways to eat it. Grilled eel served with a sweet sticky soy sauce glaze and sansho pepper placed on top of steamed rice  and served in a lacquerware box called a Jubako 重箱. Una” is the abbreviation of “unagi” and “ju” is the abbreviation of “jubako”. 


Also called Unadon
鰻丼 when placed in a bowl of rice short for unagi donburi.

On Father’s Day it is also custom to serve up Unagi with soba noodles on the side.


How ever you decide to make it I’m sure you will feel better no eels were harmed in the making of this meal.

Summer Food

Vegan Unadon (Eel Rice) 鰻丼

Doyo-no-Ushi-no-Hi 土用の丑の日 falls this year in Japan on the 28th of July. This is a day when it is tradition to eat unagi (freshwater eel) starting in the Edo period. Apparently this is said to help give relief from the fatigue of intense summer heat and humidity  during the Japanese summer. Unaju is one of the most traditional popular ways to eat it. Grilled eel served with a sweet sticky soy sauce glaze and sansho pepper placed on top of steamed rice  and served in a lacquerware box called Jubako.

Also called Unadon when placed in a bowl of rice short for unagi donburi.

The over consumption of eel has made it endangered but illegal fishing still goes on. So why not make a vegan version instead. Over the years I’ve made vegan versions using eggplant and tempeh, this year I made a vegan eel using tofu and taro potato.

First make your sauce add to a pan two tablespoons of mirin, one tablespoon of sugar and one table of sake and heat gently to dissolve the sugar then add two tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce. Simmer on a low heat to reduce and set aside.

You will need to use firm tofu for this. Drain a pack of tofu from its liquid wrap in a paper towel or muslin cloth and microwave for one minute, this will help to dry out the tofu without pressing. Mash the tofu then tip it into the middle of a cotton cloth so you can use to it to squeeze out the liquid, a nut milking bag is especially good for this.

Squeeze out as much liquid as possible then tip the tofu into a bowl and set aside.

I used three peeled and grated taro potato as a binder. It has a sticky texture when grated. I used a Japanese Kyocera ceramic grater to grate it fine, they are also perfect for grating ginger and daikon so definitely well worth adding to your Japanese kitchen utensils.


Add this to your tofu along with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of kombu dashi powder or grated kombu. I used a Japanese Oroshigane wasabi stainless steel grater to do this. If you do not have either grater try to use a fine grater setting. Mix to combine. Finally add a tablespoon of Japanese potato starch and mix together.


Then cut two pieces of nori and place shiny side down. Spread the tofu taro mixture over the nori, I pushed a chopstick into the middle to make it look more authentic but you don’t have to do this. Add a shallow layer of oil to a frying pan and cook tofu side down until golden.

If you like make your nori crispy by flipping it over.
Place your warm cooked vegan eel on to steamed rice and drizzle over your sweet soy sauce glaze . Finally finish with a sprinkle of sansho pepper.  Serve if you like with miso soup and simple pickles.

 

Blog

Yakumi not just a condiment

Yakumi are small amounts of condiments that are seasoning to to bring out the umami of a particular dish. They are said to bring out the five tastes, amai (sweet), nigai (bitter), suppai (sour), karai (spicy) and shio (salty). Think of the paring together of wasabi and sushi. Some dishes have yakumi on the side where as others are incorporated into the meal it’s self, like sauces and dashi.

Some common yakumi are green onion,ginger,wasabi, shiso, oroshi daikon, Myoga, and sesame seeds. There are also citrus like sudachi and Yuzu. Spices can be also yakumi like sansho and schichimi seven spice pepper. Getting the idea?
Noodle dishes eaten cold often have yakumi on the side with a dipping sauce oroshi (grated daikon), chopped green onion and sesame seeds.

One of my favourites that incorporates this is Hiyayakko or chilled silken tofu, often with a citrus soy sauce called ponzu that your pour over. Yuzu juice which is added to make ponzu is said to be good for the immunity.


Yakumi is written in Japanese like this 薬味 which translates to medicine flavour, this is where it gets interesting, the condiments used are not just to add colour or enhance flavour but they carry medicinal properties as well. Wasabi helps with digestion, and is also antibacterial so this is why it is added to raw fish like sashimi and sushi. Ginger is also good for the digestion and so is shiso. Shiso has natural antiseptic qualities and you will often see it used as dividers for food in bento boxes to help keep the food fresh.When you grate daikon it has the same effect with digestive enzymes Oroshi daikon is high in vitamins, fibre,calcium and iron it is also an anti inflammatory. Another one good for inflammation is green onion, often seen in miso soup or served with a dipping sauce.
Why not make some of the recipes on this website incorporating yakumi . Today I decided to make Yudofu basically translates to hot water tofu.


Often a meal served in Buddhist temples. You would think something so simple as just tofu in hot water would have no flavour but this is where the yakumi really come into their own. Tofu is cooked with simply water and kombu kelp in a pot. When you serve the tofu just pour over some ponzu and eat with some of the condiments. Itadakimasu!

Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Yoshoku Caponata

A few years ago I had Caponata in a vegan cafe in Tokyo. Caponata is actually a Sicilian dish and is basically an eggplant hotpot stew. I decided to to make this recipe with a Japanese fusion. When you do this it is called a Yoshoku meaning western Japanese food. I set out to make this sweet and sour Sicilian classic using some Japanese ingredients.

The first thing is salted eggplant, I sliced 1/2 an eggplant in to thick rounds and then divided them into quarters. I then rubbed in Shio koji which is a fermented condiment in Japan made from salted rice malt.


I left the eggplant for ten minutes then added it to a pan with some olive oil and started to sauté. Then I added a stick of celery chopped finely and half a chopped onion. Then I added a tablespoon of mirin, Japanese brown rice vinegar and sugar along with a tablespoon of Yuzu juice. The Yuzu juice will give the sauce a nice citrus taste, I then added one tin of chopped tomatoes. Capers are normally added to this recipe so instead I added a teaspoon of sansho berries. Sansho is a Japanese pepper the green berries come precooked in a jar. They have a citrus fragrance the green berries are a quintessential spring Kyoto being used in the autumn ground into powdered spice.

I then added a tablespoon each of pitted black and green olives and turned down the heat of the pan put on the lid and let in gently simmer for 30 mins.

This dish is very versatile can be eaten over rice Caponata donburi, or cold on a crusty sourdough. How about using it as a topping for jacket potato or pasta, even as an inari filling.

Here I have served it with rice and a salad. Finishing off with a sprinkle of pine nuts some lemon rind and basil.