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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.

Spring Food, Summer Food

Tekkadon 鉄火丼


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shinnenkai 新年会 Japanese New Year Gatherings & Vegan Yakitori


You may have heard of bonenkai 忘年会 literally meaning a “forget the year party” a time of  letting loose a little after a year of hard work, but have you heard of Shinnenkai 新年会 (New Year gathering?)
Like bonenkai the majority of Shinnenkai are held by companies and businesses generally held among co-workers or friends in January.
Japanese culture and business culture is renowned for its emphasis on working together. The year end and New Year gatherings are a time to get together in a social setting to eat, drink, exchange New Year’s greetings and share their aspirations. it is an opportunity for a new and fresh start into a successful new year.
This tradition started in the 15th century for a time to express one’s thanks for each other. At that time, the party was known as nōkai (great achievement gathering).
The atmosphere is a little more official in comparison to the drunken affair of  bonenkai.
These gatherings are usually a more formal event, with senior members of the company maybe making speeches and setting out goals to focus on for the year ahead.
However that’s not to say people do not have fun as this helps see the year off to a good start. It is a time to make promises to each other to do their best for the year while wishing each other good luck and fortune. Some times there may be an event called mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi, or kagami- wari which is the breaking open of sake barrels to drink together which are both said to bring good fortune in the year ahead.
Shinnenkai are usually held in an izakaya a type of informal Japanese bar that serves alcohol and snacks Izakaya are casual places for after-work drinking, similar to a pub.
As well as drinking sake and eating mochi other traditional izakaya foods might be eaten like yakitori (焼き鳥) (literally meaning ‘grilled bird). Its preparation involves skewering the meat with a type of skewer typically made of steel or bamboo. Afterwards, it is grilled over a charcoal fire. During or after cooking, the meat is typically seasoned with something called a tare sauce. The sauce is best described as a sweetened, thickened soy sauce.
As it’s the New Year and a lot of people are choosing a vegan diet for January and hopefully carrying that forward for the rest of the year I wanted to see if I could come up with a Shinnenkai Yakitori using frozen tofu like I had previously done before with my vegan Christmas Karaage recipe. I decided to use firm Shizenno Megumi Tofu.  “Shizenno Megumi” means natures best, the brand was started to follow the traditional style of tofu making in Japan. You can read all about their story in a previous blog post . Because of how this tofu is produced it is always my tofu of choice when making my recipes.

I’m going to be using  shimi-dofu to make the mock chicken. Shimi-dofu 凍み豆腐 is tofu that has been frozen then thawed and pressed. The result is a completely different tofu which becomes more meaty in texture.

To make Shimi-dofu place a pack of tofu still in its original water in the freezer and freeze until completely hard.

Then remove from the freezer and leave to defrost (I normally do this over night). When the tofu is completely defrosted take it out of its container I then like to wrap the tofu in a cloth and press out as much liquid as i can. Wrap again in a clean dry cloth and leave to dry out for a few hours.

Soak some bamboo skewers in water the empty container from the tofu is perfect to use (this will stop them burning when you place them under the grill)

Then make your tare sauce, this will be used to marinade the tofu.

For the tare sauce add to a pan:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or gluten free tamari 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of vegan honey or similar sweetener 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon tablespoon brown rice vinegar
Whisk over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat to high and bring to a simmer.
Add one tablespoon of potato starch to two tablespoons of cold water stir to dissolve then add this to the soy sauce mixture. Quickly stir to thicken it will turn fast then take off the heat. If the mixture is too thick add a little hot water.
Tear chunks off the tofu block and push onto the skewers. Do this until all the tofu has been used. Brush each tofu loaded skewers with an odourless oil.
Turn on your grill. (You can also make this on a bbq)
Place a wire rack with a tray underneath and brush with oil then add your skewers and season with salt and pepper.
Put the tofu skewers under the grill turning a few minutes on each side. I often just cover the ends of the bamboo skewers with little pieces of silver foil to stop further burning, which can be removed later.
Then brush or spoon over  the tofu with the tare sauce, grill for a few minutes then turn and cover  again with tare sauce and grill that side.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and maybe some chopped green onion to serve.
The yakitori are delicious to serve on rice with pickles or another favourite izakaya snack edamame beans.
Don’t forget a sprinkle of Shichi-mi tōgarashi, also known as nana-iro tōgarashi or simply shichimi, it is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients.
Why not have it Japanese style with a sake or ice cold beer to celebrate the New Year.
Let’s all focus on the year ahead and ganbarou 頑張ろう!
Let’s do our best!
Blog, Summer Food

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tofu Taco Crumble introducing “Shizenno Megumi Tofu”

Meet Shunzo Horikawa managing director of Shizenno Megumi Tofu.

Shunzo arrived in the U.K. in April 2022 from the parent company Hikari Miso (you may been using this lovely organic miso already) which they had been making since 1936. Born in Kawasaki his first job out of university was working for House Foods America one of the largest Tofu manufacturers in the world and in 2019 joined Hikari Miso Co Ltd. Dragonfly Foods Tofu original brand since 1984 was bought by Hikari Miso in 2015 and decided to upscale production capacity by shipping massive equipment made in Japan and set up a new purpose built facility for making tofu in Devon in 2017.

Shunzo started to travel back and forth from Japan to Devon to help with supporting the production of tofu. In 2022 Shunzo moved to Devon with his family to start a new challenge with the Dragonfly team. “Shizenno Megumi” means natures best, the brand was started to follow the traditional style of tofu making in Japan. Working as a parent company with Dragonfly Foods in Devon they are BRC A+ soil association approved. Using Nigari as a coagulant the tofu requires intensive control to coagulate the rich soymilk. Nigari naturally promotes umami and sweetness, Nigari derived from the Japanese word for “bitter” is a product created through harvesting sea salt and letting the water evaporate. Nigari contains a high concentration of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium and chlorines. The delicate soft tofu is hand crafted in Devon using Japanese techniques by a small group of passionate members bringing traditionally made Japanese style tofu to the U.K.

I was so humbled when I was approached by Shunzo who asked me to try out their range of Shizenno Megumi tofu. The range is firm, super firm and soft tofu. So what can we use each tofu for you might wonder. The soft tofu is wonderful cut into cubes and used in miso soup, Shunzo even recommends using it in smoothies and desserts. The super firm is good for dishes like a grilled sandwich or anything that might require the tofu to keep its shape in frying or sautéing.
I have decided to use the firm tofu to bring you a versatile recipe for a kind of taco style vegan mince that can be used in so many ways.
Let’s get started using Shizenno Megumi tofu !

Tofu Taco Mince

You will need:

x1 pack of Shizenno Megumi firm tofu (open the pack drain the water and wrap in a cloth or kitchen towel top with a weight and leave for an hour to drain) I use my heavy cast iron Japanese teapot lol.

You will also need:
1 cup of walnuts pulsed in a food processor to fine crumbs.

Spices: x1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, x1 teaspoon of mixed herbs, x1 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast

x1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil

x2 tablespoons of tamari or soysauce

x2 tablespoons of tomato purée

x1 tablespoon of miso paste

A dash of chilli oil and vegan Worcestershire sauce

Method:

Unwrap the tofu, place into a bowl and mash it with a fork.
Add the pulsed walnuts and the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good mix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the mixture.
Place in a preheated moderate oven and bake for 30 minutes, then take the baking sheet out of the oven and give the tofu mixture a good mix round and spread it back out again. Place the tray back in the oven for 10 minutes and repeat again until all the mixture is dried out. Now your tofu taco mixture is ready to use.

How to use:

The tofu mixture can be used in a multitude of ways but keeping things Japanese here are three ways you can use it.

The first is soboro don そぼろ丼.
This meal is classed as Japanese comfort food. Normally beef Mince and scrambled eggs on top of fluffy rice. This is another perfect way to use the soft tofu, as you can use this to make the scrambled eggs part, to make it a vegan meal. Like before drain and wrap the soft tofu but do not weight it. Leave it to stand for 30 minutes to drain then add to a bowl and mash it with a fork, add x1 teaspoon of turmeric, x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and x1 teaspoon of ground kala namak black salt (this will give it a slight egg flavour). Give it all a mix and lightly scramble it in a frying pan. Just add a flavourless oil like coconut oil to the pan then wipe clean so the egg mixture is not sitting in oil. Cook some Japanese rice. You will have made enough tofu taco mince for many meals, I like to section mine out into sealable containers and freeze it as needed. Spoon some rice into a bowl and top one half of the rice with warmed through tofu taco mince and the other  half scrambled tofu. It is customary to add green vegetables like peas or beans in the middle.

Second meal idea is of course taco rice

(takoraisu) タコライス.

Taco rice is a Japanese fusion meal from Okinawa, normally consisting of taco ground beef on a bed of rice with lettuce, tomato and cheese. It owes its existence to the military presence in Okinawa in the 1960’s. Nowadays it’s a firm Japanese favourite. I have already got a few different recipes for taco rice on here so you could also check those recipes. This one was just lettuce rice and the taco mince on top. I made a delicious salsa for this one using roasted tomatillos, blistered pardon peppers and sliced myoga ginger.

Tomatillos, padron pepper and myoga salsa:

I had just recently acquired some tomatillos that come wrapped in a papery inedible husk which you must remove first.

Wash them and slice into halves or quarters depending on the size. Toss lightly in olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt and roast in the oven.

While that’s being done toss some padron peppers in a little olive oil and blister them on high heat in a pan.

When they are done leave to cool. Slice one small red onion and one bulb of myoga ginger and add to a bowl.  Myoga ginger can be found in some Asian super markets I have seen it in Ichiba in London and I buy mine from a Japanese store called Natural Natural in London. Myoga ginger doesn’t taste like ginger and is an edible flower bud. Add to this the juice of half a lime and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Give it a mix and let it rest. When your tomatillos are ready leave to cool and chop finely your padron peppers then add both into the bowl with the onion and myoga. Finally add some chopped coriander and give it all a final stir.

Assemble your taco rice and add your salsa on top.

The final way I recommend using your tofu taco mince is with a creamy and flavourful Tantanmen ramen 坦々麺.

You will need 1 cup of shiitake dashi (leave a a dried shiitake in water over night)

First you will need to make goma dare this is the base of your sauce.

Add to a bowl x1 tablespoon of Neri goma (white sesame paste) if you have not got this you can use tahini. To this x1 tablespoon of white miso paste. Then add x1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, x1 teaspoon of brown rice vinegar, x1 teaspoon of chilli oil and x1 teaspoon of mirin.
Give it all a good whisk and put aside.


You will also need a packet of vegan ramen and toppings.

My toppings were vegan tofu taco mince, steamed bean sprouts, chingensai (pakchoy), Hokusai (Chinese cabbage), sweet corn, pea shoots, sliced pickles, lotus root, padron peppers and chilli threads. Choose what toppings you like and prepare these in advance.
When you’re ready start to cook your ramen. Add to a pan 1 and a 1/2 cups of soy milk 1 cup of shiitake dashi and 1/2 a cup of water. Add your goma dare mixture and start to heat it gently stirring to combine.

When your ramen is ready drain and divide into two bowls and pour over your sesame soy milk. Drizzle with extra chilli oil for heat. Add your toppings and you’re done.

Just on a final note you can add extra things accordingly to your tofu taco mince depending on what you’re making. You could add extra tomato purée or tomato passata to make a bolognaise sauce for pasta or maybe  sautéed onions chopped mushrooms or peppers.

And now a treat for you Shunzo has very kindly given me an exclusive discount code for you to use on their website to purchase their delicious tofu. Just head over to www.dragonflyfoods.com click shop choose your items and put them in your cart, check out and input the promo code TOKYOPONY20 under coupon code on the delivery and payment section. This will take 20% off your bill. This offer will run until the 11th of August 2023.
Have fun in the kitchen.

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

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Vegan Tonjiru & Yudofu

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 8

“Carnival”

Part 1 “Yudofu” 湯豆腐

In this episode we see lots of different Japanese cuisine being eaten by the characters from deep fried oysters and spaghetti to udon.
In one of the scenes we see Yoshino and Koji eating Yudofu at Nanzenji Yachiyo. Many places in the series can be visited if you are travelling to Kyoto. Or if you have already been it’s fun to pick out places that you might recognise. I will go into this further in my final blog that goes with the series.
Yudofu is a speciality of Nanzenji serving up seasonal appetisers of hot water tofu, sesame tofu, soup, rice and pickles. Thanks to centuries of preparation by Buddhist monks in Kyoto, the dish is emblematic of Zen cuisine, which focuses on cooking natural foods with simple techniques. At Japanese restaurants, the hot simmered tofu is served in the centre of the table where diners can serve themselves.

In a previous blog I used momen (firm) tofu but this time I decided to use silken tofu known as kinugoshi which seams more popular to be used in Kyoto for Yudofu.
Kinugoshi Tofu (絹ごし豆腐) has a smooth texture like silk so it’s named kinugoshi (in Japanese, kinu 絹 literally means silk).

Yudofu is  a simple nabe (鍋) hotpot, using a handful of classic Japanese ingredients. It’s healthy, light and packed with nutritious umami flavour. Japanese hot pot is usually cooked in a clay pot called donabe (土鍋), however if you do not have one at home, you can make it in a regular pot.
All you need to do is simmer tofu in water konbu (昆布, kelp) and then eat it with a tsuyu dipping sauce and various condiments known as yakumi 薬味. I talk about yakumi in another blog post, but basically they are used to bring out the umami of a particular dish, some of the most common are chopped green onion, schichimi pepper, shiso, oroshi daikon (grated daikon), sesame seeds and grated ginger. Yudofu is about one of the simplest forms of Japanese cuisine you can make, it is sometimes referred to as boiled tofu, although it is actually cooked at just below boiling to avoid the bubbles breaking apart the fragile silken tofu pieces.

To make Yudofu you will need a piece of dried konbu kelp left to soak in water for a few hours. One – two cartons of silken tofu drained and left on kitchen towel to absorb liquid. Also if you would like to add some greens like watercress or mizuna that’s nice also.
You will also need your Yakumi any of the ones listed above.
Also you will need a dipping sauce. I find the tsuyu already made up by Clearspring is so easy to use just dilute and you’re ready to go. Why not add a citrus variation by making a ponzu by adding some Yuzu juice or sudachi juice. If you want to make your own simply add 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoons of mirin to a bowl and dilute with some kombu dashi, adding a little citrus juice is definitely recommended.
Put your dashi with the kombu in a donabe or pot turn on the heat and when you see bubbles take out the kombu. Now gently add your silken tofu in one whole block. I find the silken tofu when heated firms up a little and is easier to cut. This is easier than cutting it into square and trying to pick it up and putting them individually in the pot. Let the silken tofu simmer gently with the lid on for the tofu to warm through. Don’t let it boil as this will break apart the tofu. Cut trough the tofu whilst still in the pot into squares. Add any greens to wilt in the hot water I think watercress works well or mizuna.  With a slotted spoon or ladle transfer to your serving dish. Serve with your sauce poured over and Experiment with flavours by adding condiments of choice.

Part 2 “Vegan Tonjiru”

We see Kiyo coming back from buying groceries walking over the Sanjo-Ohashi bridge (you can see Starbucks in the background).

This is one of my favourite Starbucks to visit for a morning coffee as it has views over the Kamo River.
Kiyo returns to the house to make tonjiru a classic comforting dish which translates to pork (ton) soup (jiru). The soup is full of seasonal root vegetables. She makes it while the characters are practicing for “Obake” a seasonal annual performing carnival event involving geiko and maiko houses.
Again we see a crossover of meals to the series Midnight Diner. Tonjiru is one of only four items actually on the menu there. You can find my step by step recipe for vegan tonjiru on the Midnight Diner recipe collection using other vegetables like burdock and lotus root and adding aburaage instead of pork. The tonjiru in the Makanai has simpler ingredients, so I have made it again using fu (wheat gluten) instead of the pork this time.

For the vegetables I wanted to make it as near to the original one Kiyo made so I used onion, carrot, daikon, green onion, taro ( satoimo), konnyaku and miso.

photo minus the daikon as I forgot to put it in the photo.

In the episode we see Kiyo using a spoon to cut the konnyaku, she then rubs in salt before simmering in hot water to remove the smell.
She says in the episode “you can’t have tonjiru without konnyaku, it has a very unique texture, it’s healthy and can change a lot depending on how you cook it”.



Vegan Tonjiru:

First you will need a kombu dashi by soaking a piece of kombu in water over night. Peel the satoimo (taro root) and soak in water to remove the starch. Cut the daikon and carrot into wedges, slice an onion and green onion and set aside. Soak some wheat gluten in warm water to reconstitute. Drain a pack of konnyaku and rinse in water I cut this in half to use the other half in something else. You can keep it in the fridge in a jar with water changing the water every day for up to a week. Cut pieces of konnyaku using a spoon and rub the pieces with salt, drop the pieces into boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes drain and rinse in cold water before adding to a pan. Squeeze out the liquid from the fu and add to the pan with drained satoimo  along with all the root vegetables except the green onion. Sauté in some toasted sesame oil.

Add 500ml of water to the vegetables and the same in kombu dashi. Gently mix and simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are tender adding more dashi if needed.
Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon of miso. You can use what ever miso you like but earthy ones like brown rice or barley work well. To add the miso either ladle some of the broth and mix in to the ladle before adding it to the vegetables or use a misokoshi . I have recommended this before for adding miso to broth which you can buy from www.hatsukoi.co.uk.

Finally add your chopped green onion and spoon in to a bowl to serve.

 

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

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. Vegan Tempura

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 5

“Choice”

Do you believe in destiny? Many of our choices in life take us on different paths. For me, when I started following a vegan lifestyle over twelve years ago now, I became interested in cooking. This then lead me to start to try and create vegan (plant based) recipes for Japanese food which wouldn’t normally be vegan. This incorporated my love for Japan, animals and food.
Even though Kiyo was told she would never be a maiko she found that rather than it being a set back, it lead her into a new life’s path. She discovers new pleasures in every day life, from shopping for seasonal produce at the markets to deciding what she will make for food for the maiko house.
In episode five which it titled “Choice”, we see lots of characters reflecting on the choices they need to make or have made. A lot of them are over love interests.

At the beginning of the episode we see Kiyo making tempura, all the girls are discussing love interests while they eat. Tsuru asks Kiyo if she has any love interests and for a moment Kiyo shocks everyone with her reply , “You know what? I’m actually in love…. with my frying pan Tetsuko”. Kiyo is also asked how she makes her tempura batter so crispy she explains she keeps the batter in the fridge. Keeping the batter extra cold is indeed key to making the perfect tempura batter.

The perfect tempura vegan batter:

You will need a selection of vegetables for your Tempura you could choose sliced kabocha, sliced Japanese sweet potato, lotus root, shiitake, bamboo shoots, shiso leaves, and maybe asparagus.  Prepare your vegetables and put them to one side, keeping potatoes in water to remove the starch, lotus root is also best kept in water once sliced.

I like to slightly steam or microwave root vegetables so they do not take as long to cook, just 1-2 minutes in the microwave. So just before you’re about to cook your tempura drain the sweet potatoes and lotus root pat them dry with kitchen towel and slightly cook them with kabocha squash if using.

Make your batter:

Add to a bowl 1 1/4 cup of plain flour, 1 tablespoon of potato starch, 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 1/8 teaspoons of baking powder and mix.

You will then need to add to your dry ingredients 200ml of ice cold carbonated spring water. Stir in the water to make a lumpy batter but do not over mix. Chill in the fridge while you heat up your oil.
You will need to heat four cups of cooking oil suitable for a high heat like rapeseed, vegetable or sunflower oil, in a deep pan. Heat the oil and test it by putting a chopstick in the oil if you see little bubbles gather around the chop stick it’s ready.

Put a wire rack to one side of the pan and your vegetables and batter to the other side. Remove your batter from the fridge give it one final mix and then start to dip the vegetables into the batter and then drop them into the oil. Do not over crowd your pan just cook a few at a time for 1 minute until golden and crispy and transfer to your wire rack.

Finish with the shiso leaves if you have them. Dip the underside of the leaves in potato startch before  dipping one side only in the batter. Drop them for a few seconds in the oil until the batter is crispy then remove.


Now your Tempura is ready to serve. You can serve them just simply with a dipping sauce known as Tsuyu .

You can make this with 1/2 cup of dashi (kombu and a dried shiitake left over night in 1 litre of water then discarded.) Add to 1/2 cup of dashi, 3 tablespoons of tamari and 2 tablespoons of mirin. I also love the concentrated noodle broth by clear spring just use four parts water to one tsuyu which makes it super easy and quick to use.
You can also add your tempura on top of rice this is known as “Tendon” Tempura rice bowl.
I definitely recommend making more tempura than you need and freezing the rest. Just defrost on a wire rack when needed and place in the oven to crisp and warm back up (do not microwave as it will go soggy).

Tempura is also delicious with soba noodles. A popular dish is “Tenzaru” cold soba noodles served in a sieve or basket  with tempura and a dipping sauce “Mentsyu” or for short “Tsuyu” served in something called a“Choko cup” with condiments like grated daikon and ginger and chopped green onions, maybe even a little wasabi. Just dip the soba and tempura into the dipping sauce.

Another variation could be Tempura soba in a hot broth. Just use the clear spring concentrate for ease or make tsuyu and add more dashi and tamari to taste. You can also add maybe some steamed greens and chopped green onion. Be sure to add your tempura at the last minute.

This whole episode seamed to be about fried food tempura then croquettes and finally karaage (fried chicken) please see my vegan recipe made from wheat gluten on another recipe page.

Kiyo makes karaage as a surprise for Sumire but it turned out to be a celebration meal as Sumire is told she will be officially a maiko earlier than expected. As they both sit in the kitchen it is then that Sumire asks Kiyo that when she is officially a maiko she would like the tiny sandwiches eaten by maiko that do not ruin their makeup. She explained she had always dreamed of having them. It was decided that Sumire will have a maiko name “ Momohana” taken from sister Momoko and combined with hana. Momo means peach in Japanese and hana means flowers so Sumire’s new name is peach blossom.

Photo taken in Kyoto

 

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, Winter Food

Comforting Winter Stew Donburi With Tofu & Miso


Everything goes better with rice right ?
Well this Lima bean and tofu sausage Nabe definitely does, but equally comforting spooned on top of mashed potato or served with warm crusty bread. However you decide to have this delicious winter stew it’s sure to warm and nourish you.
Start with some tofu sausages I used some organic ones made by Taifun. I brushed them lightly with toasted sesame oil then rolled them in some sage, thyme and rosemary and set them under the grill to cook.

When they are done slice them into chunks and set aside.
In your donabe pot or other cooking pot, sauté  half a diced onion, one diced carrot and  one of each diced red and green bell pepper in a little sesame oil or olive oil. Add your sausages and then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato purée  one tin or carton of Lima beans (butter beans), two cups of vegetable stock and a dash of red wine if you have it and a dash of tamari or soy sauce. Then add a dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle of fennel, mustard and coriander seeds and some salt and pepper. Put the lid on your pot and let it simmer until every thing is tender.  While it’s cooking cook your rice if your having it with rice.
When your stew is done mix in a heaped teaspoon of brown rice miso  this will give it lots of depth of flavours, add some chopped fresh parsley and a squeeze of citrus.


I managed to get some fragrant bergamot lemons which just add a lovely freshness to the sauce.
Spoon over warm rice or dunk right in there with that crusty bread.

Perfect for a cold day to warm you up.

Blog, Winter Food

Year of the Tiger Tora 虎 2022


明けましておめでとうございます!

Happy New Year to you all ! This year is the year of the Tiger. 

Years of the Tiger include 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938.….

The zodiac sign Tiger is a symbol of strength, exorcising evils, and braveness.

People born in a year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, and confident. They are very charming and well-liked.

Tigers usually enjoy good health. Colds coughs, and fever, are rarely experienced by Tigers. Let’s hope that’s a good omen for 2022

The Tiger ranks third among the animals of the 12 zodiac animals

in order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year-cycle.

Tigers in temples

I have talked about Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺), before In a previous post “Yama no Hi “.

On visiting the main hall you see some very unusual guardians . Tigers protecting the main temple .

Why unusual? Usually, two koma-inu, or sacred dogs, protect the entrance of temples. However Tigers are considered to be messengers of the Buddhist divinity Bishamonten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings and the protector of northern Kyoto. According to legend, Bishamonten came to Kurama with a tiger in the Hour of the Tiger, on the Day of the Tiger, within the Month of the Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Called “the tigers of A-Un”, the concept of A-Un is one that encapsulates all of life from its beginning to its end. 

The two tigers sit facing each other, one with an open mouth representing the beginning and the other with a closed mouth representing the end. These two tigers are a metaphor of the universe.

New year Osechi-ryōri (御節料理, お節料理 or おせち) are traditional Japanese New Year foods.

I make Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理 every year for New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu 元日). Even though I am not in Japan I feel making it can bring Japan closer to me with  with my food. And hopefully closer for you also.

New year is a very important time and food has a lot of special meaning. I have done a few posts on new year foods over the years on my website why not check them out.

Osechi Ryori are traditional foods normally packed in a tiered bento box known as ojubuko 重箱 enjoyed at New Year’s Day in Japan.

These boxes can contain small appetizers to go with drinks,  grilled and vinegared dishes, and simmered dishes. All dishes are eaten  at room temperature,  like a bento box. If the dish contains countable food like Inari for instance then serve in auspicious numbers 3, 5, 7, or 9 pieces. To make your box look pleasing to the eye Coordinate your colours. I also like to use small bowls and dishes These small bowls are called Kobachi 小鉢 and it’s nice to use ones with bright colours and pretty patterns. Try looking at Musubikiln which have a lovely selection of such bowls to purchase on their website.

I have made a vegan selection of traditional dishes.

Nishime 煮しめ (圧力鍋)

one-pot colorful stew of root vegetables, shiitake and koyadofu, simmered in dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. These simmered dishes are called nimono (煮物).

Carrot – Welcome spring by shaping carrot into plum or cherry blossom shapes.

Lotus root – The holes of lotus root presents a clear and unobstructed future

Taro – Taro symbolizes fertility or descendants’ cut into hexagon that resembles a turtle shape represents longevity

Sekihan (Red Bean glutinous Rice) 赤飯 traditional rice dish served on happy occasions which I stuffed some into inari いなり寿司. The other  Inari was  komatsuna Yuzu citrus vinegared rice.

Namasu (なます) or also known as Kohaku Namasu (red and white)(紅白なます) Red and white are considered celebratory colours in Japan. Julienned daikon and carrot pickled in a sweet vinegar with a hint of citrus.

Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans) 黒豆 served on New Year’s Day as a part of Osechi Ryori (traditional New Year’s meal). Eating kuromame is considered good for your health for the new year.

This year I was lucky to be given by a friend in Japan some very special  Hanamame which are from Gunma .

Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん Lotus root has been considered an auspicious food for the Japanese New Year because lotus root with its many holes is a symbol of an unobstructed view of the future.

Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes) 栗きんとんchestnut gold mash. This dish symbolises fortune and wealth for a prosperous year ahead. Japanese sweet potatoes with chestnuts in syrup called kuri kanroni (栗甘露煮.)

aburaage rolls with daikon and carrot 油揚げロールズ tied with kanpyo. Black sesame Gomadofu, Ginnan, simmered Kabocha and Yuzu tofu mousse served in a Yuzu fruit.

ピーチビーガンゼリー Peach vegan jelly


Start  the New Year’s Day with a traditional Japanese breakfast.

This breakfast soup, said to be the most auspicious new year food is part of Osechi Ryori. (Good luck food) Depending on the region in Japan the broth can either be clear or with miso .

Ozoni お雑煮 Enjoyed on the morning of New Year’s Day in Japan.

(Japanese New Year Mochi Soup – Kansai Style) This style of soup from Kyoto region is made with Saikyo Miso (white miso from kyoto) and a round toasted Mochi. It is even more auspicious to add 5 ingredients I added daikon,carrot, komatsuna and Silken tofu with the mochi as the 5th ingredient.


関東風书雜煮 Kanto style Ozoni

(more popular in Tokyo and eastern Japan ). This is a clear kombu dashi, with mirin and tamari known as Osumashi.

I like to add a dried shiitake when soaking the kombu to add to the umami. The flavours are very delicate which is typical of Shojin Ryori . Ozoni means mixed boil which relates to the mixed ingredients you can use. This soup was believed to bring good luck to samurai warriors and was served on New Year’s Day. Mochi is served to represent long life because it stretches. This time it is traditional to use a rectangular or square mochi for Kansai style.

As we head into a new year I wish all of you a healthy and happy one. And for those of you who are missing Japan because you cannot travel let’s make Japanese food together to help us feel closer to the place we love and miss so much.

Autumn Food, Blog

Soy Yogurt Shiokoji Soft Cheese & Crispy Black Sesame Mushrooms


The momiji are really turning in my garden now,  autumn has truly arrived ! Aki Kinu !

I wanted to make a meal using the flavours of the harvest season. To me mushrooms are a key ingredient at this time of year. Being high in vitamin D they are also the perfect thing for the body once we start to get less sunlight.
I adapted this recipe after being inspired by Riverfords organic vegetable box. I wanted to make it more Japanese so this is what I came up with.

First make your soft cheese. I have made soft cheese before with soy milk and there is a recipe on my pages for this but this is even easier. I used 1/2 a 400g pot of natural organic soy yogurt add to this a teaspoon of shiokoji. Shiokoji is a natural seasoning made with salt water and rice koji. If you want to make more cheese use the whole pot and double the Shiokoji.

Give it a mix and spoon your yogurt into a  piece of cheese cloth. Tie at the top and leave in a sieve over a bowl in the fridge to drain for around three days. You now have your cheese.

You can also use it with crackers and chutney it’s really delicious.

Next make a marinade for your mushrooms. I added one tablespoon of ground black sesame powder (surigoma kuro すりごま) to a bowl. To this add a tablespoon each of tamari, toasted sesame oil and  maple syrup give it a stir to combine and then add your mushrooms. I used a mix of shimeji, eryngii and maitake you can use what ever mushrooms you like. Give it all a good mix coating your mushrooms in the black sesame and leave for half an hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the paper over with a little sesame oil then spread out your mushrooms. Bake in a moderate oven until they are crispy. Remove and sprinkle with chipotle flakes.
Toast some ciabatta or any crusty bread then spread with your soft soy yogurt cheese, top with mushrooms and finish with a dollop of  wasabi mayonnaise and a squeeze of sudachi ( both optional ). You can purchase these from The Wasabi Company see the links on my pages.

I had mine with a fresh salad, Kabocha pottage and for dessert persimmon kuzu mousse.


To make the mousse just use persimmon purée and a kuzu slurry (a tablespoon of kuzu root mixed with a little water) heat in a pan until it thickens and then spoon into a pot and cool in the fridge. Finish with some slices of persimmon.

Persimmon or kaki as they are known in Japan remind me of autumn there. You will see them growing everywhere  and at the farmers markets. A real taste of Japan. No wonder the Japanese call this time of year Shokuyoku no Aki (autumn the season of appetite ).

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, Summer Food

Marine Day Poke Bowl

Marine Day (海の日) (Umi no Hi) also known as Ocean Day or Sea Day it is a Japanese national holiday normally celebrated on the third Monday in July. The purpose of this day is to give thanks to the ocean and consider its importance. Many people on this day may take advantage of it being a public holiday and go to the coast. I myself did just that and have spoken about my trip in previous posts to Enoshima island that I made on this day on one of my visits to Japan.

This year the date has been moved to Thursday 22nd July to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics which makes it a long holiday with Sports day normally in October being moved to Friday the 23rd for the opening of the games.
How about making one of my recipes that do not contain fish and leave the marine wildlife where it belongs in the ocean. You could make my tofu fish and chips for instance or my crab cakes, tuna mayo donburi or takoyaki.
This year I made a special poke bowl.

I started first with the rice, making a vegan Kani Gohan (crab rice ).


I often use jackfruit as a crab substitute you could also check out my vegan crab sushi salad.
For one person:
First wash one rice cooker cup of rice and add it to your rice cooker with one cup of kombu dashi, one tablespoon of sake and one tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari. Let this soak for half an hour. While the rice is soaking drain a can of jackfruit and shred the jackfruit pieces taking out the seeds and set aside. I also had some maitake mushrooms or you could use shimeji. After soaking the rice add the jackfruit and mushrooms and cook with the specified rice cooker setting for your cooker.
While that’s cooking prepare your poke bowl toppings. A poke bowl is normally raw sashimi with other vegetables. This time for the sashimi I steamed sliced red bell pepper until tender then poured  over some soy sauce to marinade with a squeeze of lime. You could also use one of my favourite marinades from the wasabi company ( sudachi ponzu ) in the past I’ve also used marinated tomato or even watermelon for my sashimi substitute.
Then prepare any other toppings, you can use anything you like from tomato, avocado, edamame, sliced green onions to cucumber, sweetcorn, carrot, even some fruit thrown in like melon or mango.
Spoon your finished vegan Kani  Gohan into a bowl and add your toppings. Finish with vegan mayonnaise a sprinkle of furikake and sesame seeds. Finally pour over the marinade from the peppers.

I hope that even if you cannot visit the seaside today that you will start to think about the impact we have on our marine life and oceans. Happy Marine Day.