The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House
A series on Netflix about Food & Friendship set in a Maiko house in Kyoto.
Photo Credit: The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, 2023. Netflix
From acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda
Adapted from the manga series “Kiyo in Kyoto”by Aiko Koyama,
season 1 episode 3
Part one: A Traditional Japanese Breakfast.
Have you ever visited Japan and been served a Japanese breakfast maybe in a “traditional Japanese inn with tatami floors and an onsen communal bath”?
A Japanese traditional breakfast normally consist of rice, miso soup, tsukemono (pickles), a main meal like grilled salmon and some side dishes like tamagoyaki ( Japanese rolled omelette) and gomaae.
Waking up early before anyone else, Kiyo sets to work on making one such meal for the girls breakfast in the Maiko house. She puts on her apron and ties back her hair in preparation. She greets the dashi stock that she made the night before as she opens the lid on the pot “ Hello there and good morning”.
First she starts to slice okra to make a simple side dish with sesame “Okra Gomaae”.
This side can also be made with green beans or spinach. Kiyo doesn’t cook the okra where as if I was using green beans or spinach I would blanch them first.
Goma 胡麻 means sesame and Ae 和え means to dress. To make this you can toast and grind your sesame seeds but for ease in the morning I like to use Surigoma which are already toasted and ground . Slice your okra with diagonal cuts like Kiyo did and place to one side. Add to a bowl two tablespoons of surigoma and to that add one tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari and one tablespoon of sugar, mix well into a paste, then add your okra to combine and your done. You might wonder about the raw okra but believe me this side dish is lovely and crunchy with out the slime of cooked okra.
Next Kiyo makes a simple miso soup with silken tofu and cherry tomatoes using a special sieve to dilute the miso with out clumps called a Misokoshi. I love mine and they are available to buy from www.hatsukoi.co.uk
Kiyo opens her rice cooker and fluffs up the rice, then starts on grilling the salmon.
Obviously we want to make a vegan version of this so this takes a little preparation starting the night before with marinating some tofu.
To make your marinade:
Add to a jug or bowl, x1 tablespoon of shredded nori (kizami nori), x2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, x2 tablespoons of tamari, x2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoons of liquid smoke, x1 tablespoon of beetroot juice, x1 tablespoon of coconut palm sugar, a one inch piece of peeled and grated fresh ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes. Leave this to soak for a few hours and then pour the liquid out through a sieve. Pour the liquid into a dish for your tofu to sit in.
Prepare the tofu:
You need to get the water first out of a block of firm tofu. You can do this by pressing it or you can steam it for five minutes or microwave for one minute wrapped in a paper towel. Let the tofu cool, then cut the piece of tofu in half and slice the top of each piece at an angle making a wedge shape. Make diagonal slices in the tofu be careful not to cut all the way down.
Place into the marinade turning it over a few times and then leave over night cut side down.
In the morning remove the tofu and place a piece of cut nori to fit the uncut side of the tofu then lightly dust in starch and fry on all sides in a pan with hot oil. Remove and put to one side.
You will notice kiyos breakfast consist of two other sides as well as quick pickles.
Another popular side dish is hijiki no nimono simmered hijiki seaweed salad.
First soak two tablespoons of dried hijiki seaweed in hot water for 30 minutes.
You will also need to remove the oil residue from a piece of aburaage, to do this put your aburaage in a sieve and pour hot water over it then blot with kitchen towel, after that slice into thin strips and put in a pan. Drain a can of precooked soy beans or if you can’t get soy beans something similar (I used cannellini). Put half the beans in the pan with the aburaage. Julienne or grate one carrot and add this to the pan. Drain the hijiki and add this to the pan. Give everything a quick stir fry in a little sesame oil, then add to the pan, x1 teaspoon of dashi powder, x2 tablespoons of mirin, x2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce and 100ml of water. Simmer for about five minutes until all the water has gone. Place to one side.
I also made a vegan tamagoyaki using a vegan omelette mix called “Nomelette” which you can purchase from www.sunandseed.com. I made up the desired amount instructed to make one omelette and added a piece of nori before rolling it then cut it into slices.
Finally no Japanese meal can be without tsukemono or quick pickles called asazuke made with salt or vinegar and they are super easy to make. Just add chunks of carrot, cucumber and daikon to a zip lock bag. Then if you want to make salt pickles known as shiozuke just add a few teaspoons of salt and rub the salt into the vegetables. I like to use Japanese salt from Okinawa but I understand this is not easily come by. Do this at the start of making you meal in the morning and then they will be ready to serve when everything else is done.
Kiyo served her Japanese breakfast with onigiri rice balls so I decided to do the same with my breakfast.
I had just recently received this beautiful solid ash wooden serving box containing mino ware plates and dishes that fit inside. It is called a Hibino Modern Shokado Bento Box. I love how this can be used from using the dishes and plates that come with the box or adding your own. The lid can be also used as a tray. If your interested in this it is from www.musubikiln.com
I thought this would be the perfect way to serve this very special breakfast.
A further note in this episode:
Kiyo goes grocery shopping at the local market, she buys silken tofu and is delighted to find daikon radish grown in Aomori. The store owner points out that the leaves attached are edible. If your lucky enough to ever find this you can lightly blanch the leaves or stir fry them or why not try my furikake recipe found in my “Live by the Shun” blog for summer.
Part 2 Caramel Bread Pudding also known as (Pan Pudding)
パンプディング, pan means bread in Japanese.
Tsurukoma one of the girls in the Maiko house is upset to find her caramel pudding missing from the fridge. It was just an ordinary caramel pudding from the convenience store, but Maiko are not allowed to enter when their hair is done so she would have to wait all week for another.
It’s early morning and Kiyo is washing rice, Tsurukoma comes down before anyone else is awake requesting bread for breakfast, but there is only one slice. What can be done with it ? As Tsurukoma was so upset over her missing caramel pudding, Kiyo sets out to make her a caramel bread pudding.
The bread pudding is made with shokupan 食パン Japanese milk bread. Even if it is available for you to purchase it is very rarely vegan as it’s made with milk and butter.
If you follow my shokupan bread recipe you can make your own.
The next problem with making the bread pudding are the eggs used. So I decided to give the new liquid egg vegan substitute a try called “scrambled oggs”
To make vegan Caramel Bread Pudding:
Preheat your oven to 165 dregrees C
You will need a gratin dish greased on all sides with vegan butter.
You will need one slice of shokupan around 3/4 inch thick cut into six pieces. Add this to your gratin dish leaving space in between.
In a bowl add 100ml of vegan egg mixture to that add two tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 of a cup of soymilk, 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Whisk up the mixture and pour half over the bread and let it soak in then add the rest. I actually sprinkled a little nutmeg on the top of mine but that was just personal taste. Put your gratin dish in the oven and bake until golden brown around 30-40 minutes ( keep and eye on it.)
During the episode Kiyo receives a parcel from her grandmother it’s a heavy cast iron pan called Tetsuko. Tetsu meaning iron in Japanese. She uses this to make the caramel sauce. I had recently bought some oat syrup by Clearspring when I tried it I thought how much it tasted like caramel so I decided instead of making a caramel sauce to warm up a tablespoon of the oat syrup and swirl that onto of the bread pudding when I removed it from the oven.
This pudding is just as delicious as one made with diary and eggs, it melts in the mouth and feels luxurious and comforting at the same time. Crispy on the outside and soft inside. Like Tsurukoma did in this episode just take a spoon and dive straight in.
More recipes to come in my next The Makanai blog.
If you haven’t already watched it yet
The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House is available for streaming on Netflix.