Tag

Tofu

Blog, Spring Food

Mothers Day in Japan Haha no Hi 母の日


How do Japanese people celebrate Mother’s Day ?

Mother’s Day was once combined with the celebration of the Empress’ Kojun birthday who was the mother of Akihito (Japan’s emperor at the time). Her birthday was celebrated on the 6th March 1931. It wasn’t until 1949 that the Japanese decided to align the holiday to be on the same date as other countries being on the second Sunday of May, which means this year, it will fall on Sunday 11th of May. Unlike the U.K. which has their Mother’s Day back in March.

In Japan, mother’s day is called ‘Haha no hi’ 母の日 the word ‘haha’ is the informal term for your own mother – much like we use the word ‘mum’! The formal term for mother in Japanese is ‘Okaasan’.

Japanese children use this day to show their love and appreciation, and to give presents to their mothers. It has now become one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants and shops.

The most common gift on Japanese Mother’s Day are carnations especially the red or pink variety. In Japan it is a symbol of a mother’s purity, sweetness and endurance.

Throughout Japan, businesses and well-known department stores decorate their window displays with carnations although the carnation is not native to Japan, their symbolism has become a popular choice for Mother’s Day.

Other gifts given on Mother’s Day could be carefully drawn kanji calligraphy, personalised arts and crafts, clothing or Lacquerware jewellery boxes.

On Mother’s Day children often rise early to greet their mothers with flowers and breakfast. Mother’s Day in Japan is symbolically associated with eggs, so whipping up an egg-based Japanese dish is a way  to celebrate! Some egg dishes include Oyakodon A chicken and egg rice dish which literally translates as ‘parent-and-child-donburi’. Chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard) Tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelette or Omurice ( omelette over rice). You can use the recipe for the omelette further down in this blog to make your own Omurice.

However if your vegan you could easily make something similar by substituting the eggs for tofu. There are now quite a few egg replacements on the market but I still like to use tofu and I think  it also makes it a little more authentic for a Japanese meal. My favourite brand is “Shizenno Megumi” tofu by dragonfly foods.

How about making a tofu scramble to surprise your mother for a special breakfast.

Or a special afternoon tea with vegan egg shokupan sandwiches.
Another meal could be something like chirashi sushi a scattered vegetable sushi that you could make pretty by using flower shaped vegetable cutters and adding vegan scrambled eggs.

Mothers are celebrated for their home cooking in Japan. The memory and uniqueness of one’s own mother’s food is encapsulated in the term ‘ofukuro-no-aji’ or ‘that unforgettable taste of one’s own mother’s cooking.’ Linked to family relationships these are Japanese home cooked meals that your mother used to make. Eating them later in life can bring back memories and comforts from home.


I asked the Managing Director of  Dragonfly Foods Ltd Shunzo Horikawa about what food brought back memories of his mothers cooking for him he answered “Sanshoku Gohan”.
I also asked what meals his wife cooked that his children might say the same of her. He answered “Hiroshima yaki”. With this in mind I decided to make easy recipes inspired by his answers that anyone can make at home.

Sanshoku Gohan 三色ご飯, three colour rice 

This japanese comfort meal is popular with children and adults. Sanshoku (三色) means “three colours”, gohan (ご飯) is cooked rice. Normally the toppings are ground meat, beef, pork or chicken and a scrambled egg in Japan known as iritamago” (炒り卵), both are cooked through with out leaving moisture and have a crumbled consistency. The other topping is normally some kind of green vegetable peas, green beans or spinach. In my recipe I’m using the super firm Shizenno Megumi Tofu to create the crumbled beef and eggs that sit on top of the rice.


First make your vegan crumbled vegan meat topping.

You will need to drain and press the liquid out of one block of firm tofu, cut in half and place the other half aside for later. You will also need one or two large shiitake mushrooms, one small onion, x1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, x1 cup of walnuts, x1 teaspoon of tamari or soy sauce, x1 teaspoon of mirin, x1 teaspoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, x1 tablespoon of white miso, x1 teaspoon of tomato purée and sesame oil for sautéing.

Method: First pulse the onions and walnuts in a blender then add the tofu and rest of the ingredients except for the sesame oil. It will be like a chunky paste. Add a little sesame oil to a pan and sauté until slightly browned and coated in oil.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and tip the mixture out spreading it out in a layer. Place this in a moderate oven to brown for 15-20 minutes. Take this out the oven and give it a mix then spread it out in a layer again and put it back in the oven. You are aiming for a dry crumbly mixture. You may have to do this a few times to get the desired consistency.When done take it out of the oven and put to one side.

Vegan Scrambled Egg.

Add to a bowl x1 teaspoon each of ground turmeric, onion granules and ground Kala namak (this is Indian black salt which will give you your eggy, umami rich flavour). You will also need 1/2 a teaspoon of ground paprika, x1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, Himalayan pink salt and pepper to taste. 1/3 cup of soya milk and x1 teaspoon of sesame paste or tahini. Whisk all these ingredients together.


You will also need the other half of the tofu you put aside. Add a little oil to a pan and crumble the tofu into the pan and start to sauté the tofu then add your whisked liquid ingredients. Keep sautéing until all the liquid has gone. You now have your vegan meat and eggs.


You can now add this as a topping for rice adding any green vegetables of your choosing. Some times it is popular to add a little pickled ginger or gari  known as beni shoga as a refreshing palate cleanser.



The next recipe I decided to make was another egg dish called Niratama donburi ニラ玉丼ぶり. Niratama means garlic chive eggs and is a staple comforting Japanese home cooked meal . As it’s been the  season for wild garlic I decide to adapt the recipe using this as a replacement for the chives and using tofu for the egg replacement. You could also use regular chives or green onion or spinach or a mixture of all of these if you wish. Garlic chives may be hard to find but you could check your local Asian supermarket.

First make your egg mixture.
Add to a blender, 1 block of drained firm crumbled  “Shizenno Megumi” tofu, to this add 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground Kala Namak black salt, 1 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, x1 teaspoon of soy sauce or tamari, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons spoons of dashi mixed with 1/2 a tablespoon of potato starch.

Chop and sauté your wild garlic in a little oil to wilt.

Remove from the pan and mix into your blended egg mixture.
Cut two circles of parchment paper and have a plate to hand. Place one sheet in a frying pan and pour in the wild garlic egg mixture and spread it out.

Doing it this way is my tried and tested method to never have a stuck tofu egg mixture. When the underside is cooked place the other piece of parchment paper on top and add a plate on top of this.

Turn your pan over so the omelette is now on the plate. Then slide the omelette with the uncooked side back onto the pan to cook the other side. When it is done on both side fold over and add to a bowl of cooked rice. You can make variations on this by scrambling the tofu mixture instead of making an omelette.

Shunzo Horikawa also mentioned his wife likes to cook Hiroshima yaki for their children. This is a style of Okonomiyaki savoury pancake that contains a variety of ingredients. “Okonomi” in Japanese means “as you like it”. You can use this same method to make your very own style of Okonomiyaki. I used chopped cabbage, bean sprouts, carrot ribbons, green onion and shungiku (chrysanthemum greens), chop all the vegetables and then put everything in a bowl, pour in your batter and mix everything together.

Make the Okonomiyaki the same way as the Niratama.

The Okonomiyaki has a special sauce that goes on top. There is a vegan one you can buy already made for ease just spread this over the top, then use vegan kewpie mayonnaise to make stripes along the top over the sauce.

Run a chop stick over the mayonnaise the opposite way to the lines to make that distinctive Okonomiyaki pattern.

Finish with a sprinkle of aonori dried seaweed powder. If you want to make your own Okonomiyaki sauce it is a blend of a tablespoon each of vegan Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tamari, mirin and maple syrup. You can finish off with some pickled ginger again if you have some.

 

If you are in the U.K. you could surprise your mother with a Japanese Mother’s Day for an extra special gift. If you are celebrating this day on the same day as japan why not include some carnations in your gift or make a Japanese themed meal.

Greet her in the morning with

Ohayōgozaimasu Happī haha no hi

Good morning happy Mother’s Day.

Haha itsumo arigatou – Mum, thank you for everything.

 

Blog, Spring Food

“Mono no aware” The fleeting beauty of Japanese sakura & recipe for tofu sakura cheesecake .

 

The term mono no aware (物の哀れ) was brought about by Motoori Norinaga, the eighteenth century literary scholar, by combining aware, which means sensitivity or sadness, and mono, which means “things.” It literally translates to “the pathos of things.” But more loosely, it could also mean “the beauty of things passing.”

In traditional Zen Buddhism Japanese aesthetics mono no aware is study of beauty and the impermanence of such beauty. Impermanence is all around us and the sadness connected to it, knowing that everything doesn’t last forever.  The changing of seasons are not to be mourned, but cherished and appreciated in their impermanence.

The cherry blossom is a common symbol of mono no aware it’s meaning symbolizes both life and death, as the coming of spring promises new life, at the same time, their short lifespan is a reminder that life is fleeting.

Would we be in such awe of the cherry blossom if we could see them every day ?

This is why the season is celebrated so much in Japan. Every spring, cherry blossoms, or sakura as they are known, bloom across Japan at different times, depending on their variety and location. People from all over the world visit Japan to partake in Hanami 花見 the spring tradition of admiring the sakura and celebrating its beauty. (hana) means “flower,” and (mi), means “to view.” together, hanami literally means “to view flowers.”

The sakura flowers are symbolic for the people of Japan, representing hope and new life. During this season in Japan, people like to have cherry blossom parties with colleagues, friends, and family basking under the splendor of the cherry blossoms while enjoying eating and drinking. There is also something quite romantic about viewing the cherry blossoms in the dark. Many blossoms are illuminated and it is a time that couples especially can enjoy yozakura “viewing cherry blossoms at night”

Taking a moment to stop and admire the flowers is one of the most beautiful parts of spring.

Japan has over 200 types of sakura trees, Somei Yoshino makes up almost 80% of them with their light pink flowers with five tiny petals.

Other varieties are Kawazu-zakura an early blooming cherry blossom, Shidare Zakura, weeping cherry trees, Yaezakura. Yaezakura with their double pink blooms and Yamazakura which typically grow in mountainous areas in Honshu.



This is the Japanese character for sakura
The (ki) on the left side means tree/wood and developed from a pictogram of a tree, with the horizontal line as branches and diagonal lines as roots. Sakura is derived from saku , which means to bloom, or alternately to smile/laugh. The in 咲 indicates an open mouth.

Are you a Sakura-bito 桜人(Cherry blossom lover?). Such is the flower’s significance that in Japanese there are a multitude of words to describe them. Here are a few of my favourites.

Sakura-fubuki (桜吹雪) – this means “cherry blossom snowstorm”. Often cherry blossom petals fall in the spring wind, which from a distance can look like a snow storm of pink petals.

(Hana gasumi)花霞

Literal translation: “flower mist”

This describes the way that the huge number of sakura grouped together look like a big pastel cloud, or a pinkish haze when seen from a distance.

Hazakura (葉桜) – cherry tree leaves. Once the flower blossom has fallen, small leaves start to appear on the trees.

Sakuragari 桜狩り means ‘Sakura Hunting’. Will you be hunting out the best places to view cherry blossoms this year?

Sakura signals the beginning of spring, a time of renewal and optimism. Like the blooms bursting with possibilities it is the start of the Japanese new financial and academic year, which, in Japan occurs on April 1st. This is a time when there are new hope and dreams starting studies at school or in a new career. Sakura, is a symbol of good luck and hope for the future.

In ancient Japan the arrival of cherry blossom was celebrated as a signal of the start of the rice-planting season and to cast good luck over the year’s harvest. Originally, sa referred to a rice paddy god, and kura meant “a seat for a god.” Japanese people believed cherry blossoms were dwelling places for mountain deities who transformed into the gods of rice paddies.

This relationship between specific plant flowering events and agricultural practices is known as phenological indicators. Because the arrival of the sakura was a seasonal indicator for the planting of rice, sake is often drunk to ask the gods for a fruitful year ahead. You will often find people drinking hanami-zake 花見酒 under the cherry blossoms the term is used for sake drunk while viewing cherry blossom this is normally enjoyed with specially prepared food or bento. Do you have any plans this year to enjoy the spring weather under a beautiful blossom tree?

Recipe for Sakura Tofu Cheesecake

This year I wanted to create a very special recipe that you could share with friends during this time. My creation is my no bake decadent silky smooth tofu vegan cheese cake with a hint of Sakura.

Full list of ingredients needed:

Preserved Sakura flowers, beetroot powder, digestive biscuits, vegan butter, raw cacao butter, x2 Shizenno Megumi soft tofu, cashew nuts, vegan honey or agave, Ume Su vinegar.

You will need a 7 inch base spring form cake tin and parchment paper to line it.

Step 1 make your flavouring

(do this a week before you make your cake you can omit this part if just colouring your cake pink or you can use sakura syrup instead to add flavour. 

Ingredient quantities & Method:

As I wanted to flavour the cheese cake with the unmistakable flavour of Sakura I looked at buying some Sakura powder. However on researching it didn’t appear to be vegan, and I also wasn’t sure how natural Sakura syrup was either so I set about making my own. The cheese cake takes a little forward planning because of this. You can however just colour the cheese cake pink omitting the flavour if you wish, or add sakura syrup.

To make the sakura powder I first used the pickled preserved salted sakura you can buy already pre done. It is sometimes sold as Sakura tea but has no tea leaves with it.

These come with a lot of salt and the last thing you want is a salty cheesecake so first wash the flowers and pat them as dry as possible with kitchen towel. Lay the flowers out on a clean dry sheet of kitchen towel and place another on top, press down and leave to dry in a warm place for a few days.

After this time pick the flowers off the kitchen towel and place them on a dish. At this point they still might not be completely dry, you can test this by trying to crumble them between your fingers. If they do not crumble leave them somewhere warm for a few more days. I placed the dish on top of a radiator to completely dry out.

When the blossom are dry snip off the stems and add the flowers to a grinding bowl called a suribachi and begin to grind the flowers into a powder.

If you do not have one it will take you a little longer to do this. You could also try using a clean coffee grinder.

When the blossoms are powder add a few teaspoons of beetroot powder, this will be what adds the colour to your cheese cake.

Step 2 Preparation for filling.

Add 2 cups of cashew nuts to bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave while you make your base.
Add 90g of raw cacao butter to a bowl under a pan of simmering water to melt while you make your base. When melted leave over the hot water so they do not solidify until you need to use them.

Step 3 Make your biscuit base
Ingredients & Method:

You will need 20 vegan digestive biscuits which is around 250g and 100g of melted vegan butter.

Method:

Add the butter to a bowl under simmering water in a pan and gently melt the butter.

Add the biscuits to a food processor and process into fine crumbs.

Line the bottom and sides of your cake tin. (To line the bottom release the spring and take out bottom, place some parchment paper underneath the ring, then put the base back on underneath and tighten the spring then cut around the edges. Brush the sides with a little oil and cut two strips to go round the edges ,the oil will help it stick to the sides.

Remove the biscuits from the food processor and add this to a bowl, then pour in your melted butter.

Mix well, it will be the consistency of wet sand.

Tip out the base mixture into your prepared lined pan and press it down well and a little up the sides. I used a jam jar to press it down. Place the base in the fridge while you make your filling.

Step 3 Make your filling.

Ingredients & Method:

Drain your soaked cashews and add these to a food processor or blender. I was using my nutri bullet so ended up making the filling in two batches. Add to this 1/3 cup of vegan honey, agave or light coloured sweetener. You will need one and a half blocks of Shizenno Megumi soft tofu. Drain the liquid well from the tofu and add this to the cashews.

The delicate hand crafted soft tofu is perfect for making desserts like this, which 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.

Add to the tofu a tablespoon of Ume Su plum seasoning which is used in the preserved sakura process so this will add to the sakura flavour of your cheesecake. You can instead also use sakura syrup but again I am not sure how vegan friendly and natural this is. It really depends on your preferences.

Blend everything until smooth then add your melted cacao butter. Finally add two teaspoons of your sakura flavour beetroot powder. Give it all a final process until smooth and silky.


Remove your base from the fridge and pour your filling into the cake tin. Put this back into the fridge and leave over night to completely set.

To remove release the spring and push the bottom up from the pan. You can slide the parchment paper to put your finished cheese cake onto a serving plate.

Why not decorate your cheese cake with fruit and maybe add some delicate sakura blooms.

Unlike other cheesecakes which do not stay firm unless they are frozen this one is perfect just kept chilled until you need to slice it.

After that time it can be transported in a container to your hanami party to be enjoyed with friends and family.

How about trying a variety of different flavours just use the basic cheese cake ingredients and add Japanese ingredients like Yuzu juice, matcha or  black sesame.


You could also make lemon, strawberry or blueberry cheese cakes in a similar way. Which ever flavour you try I just know you are going to love this indulgent special cheese cake recipe that all your friends and family will enjoy.

 

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.

Blog, Spring Food

White Day Tofu Pudding Dessert Pots


It’s time for Gyaku chocolate 
逆チョコwhich  means “reverse chocolate”.  If you read my Valentine Post you would know all about the different kinds of chocolate given by women on Valentines Day. One month later on March 14th is what’s known in Japan as “White Day”.

White Day is a specific Japanese concept, claimed to be invented by a Fukuoka based candy company Ishimura Manseido in 1976 for men to give something white back to the women who gifted them chocolate on Valentines Day. The owner got the idea when he read a letter in a women’s magazine where a reader pointed out the fact Japan has a custom of something called “okaeshi” or returned gift. At first the day was called “Marshmallow Day” as they created a new sweet with marshmallow paste stuffed chocolate for the occasion. Eventually the name was changed to White Day to be less restrictive but still referencing the fluffy marshmallows. By the 1980’s White Day had taken popularity all over Japan. Much like on Valentines Day the gifts are categorised depending on the romantic partner or returning gifter. Traditionally the gifts should be white maybe a gift of cookies or candy  or other white items.

Lately pudding has appeared to be the next must get item so with this in mind I decided to make these tofu vanilla and chocolate dessert pots with a popular Valentine fruit of the season strawberries. These I think would make the perfect finish to a romantic meal as they are light and not too filling.


White Day Tofu Pudding Pots 

Mousse Ingredients:
x2 250g packs of “Soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu”

x2 tablespoons of lemon juice

x1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

x2 tablespoons of vegan honey or maple syrup

x2 tablespoons of melted flavourless coconut butter

1/3 cup of soy milk

pinch of salt

Other ingredients:

1/3 cup of sifted cacao powder

Fresh strawberries & grated vegan chocolate to serve.

You will also need some small glass cups or pots to display the mousse

Method:

Drain the tofu from the packaging and add to a blender. To that add all the mousse ingredients and blend until thick and creamy. Pour half the mousse into a bowl and set aside. To the remaining mousse add to the blender the cacao powder and blend again until combined.

Wash, pat dry and slice your strawberry relatively thinly and place them on the sides of your glass pots. Fill the pots with the vanilla tofu mousse and then top with the chocolate tofu mousse. Finish with some more strawberries and grated chocolate then put them in the fridge for at least a few hours to set.


These pudding pots are great any time of the day for a delicious treat or are perfect to serve at the end of a meal.

 

Blog, Spring Food

Sanshoku 三色団子 Tofu Three Colour Dango For Hinamatsuri


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, celebrated in May. 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 past 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 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, inari sushi and chirashi sushi to name a few.

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 coloured rice dumpling”.

Hanami 花見 means flower viewing which is something that Japanese people love to do to mark the changing of the seasons.? From the Ume blossom in early spring to the Sakura then wisteria and Ajisai in June. Japanese people often have picnics to admire the cherry blossom in spring and one such food that is enjoyed is hanami dango. It is also popular to eat this confectionery at Hinamatsuri celebrations as it is a spring celebration.

It is said that hanami dango was first served to guests at a hanami party Daigo no hanami which refers to the blossom-viewing party held in grand style at Daigoji Temple in Kyoto on April 20, 1598 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi attended by about 1,300 people . After this time it became popular to serve this confectionery when viewing cherry blossoms.

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.

Traditionally the pink dumplings were coloured using purple shiso (赤紫蘇) . However be careful if you are vegan in Japan as often any food that contains pink food colouring is not suitable for a vegan diet as it may contain carmine (made from cochineal insects) other names for this pink food colouring are E120 Cochineal, Crimson Lake or Natural Red 5. If you would like to make these simple traditional Japanese sweets for yourself you can with natural food colouring, like strawberry powder or beetroot juice.

Dango is often described with an onomatopoeia in Japanese called “mochimochi”! ‘Mochi-mochi’ (meaning chewy, elastic, soft, plump). So what is the secret ingredient to make these Sanshoku dango so soft with that mochi mochi texture for yourself ? In my recipe I’m using the soft “Shizenno Megumi”Organic Tofu by “Hikari Miso”. The authentic soft textured tofu called “Kinughosi Tofu” in Japan achieves a softer but chewy dango and adds sweetness without adding sugar.

To make these three colour dango which signify purification, health and luck you will need a pack of “ Shizenno Megumi Organic tofu, you will also need equal proportion: 50% rice flour and 50% glutinous rice flour. Known as Shiratamako (白玉粉) – Japanese short-grain glutinous rice flour, also known as sweet rice flour and Joshinko (上新粉) – Japanese short-grain rice. For this recipe I used two and a half tablespoons of each in each bowl. Shiratamako can come in quite large chunks so it is advisable to grind them down into more of a powder.

You will also need bamboo skewers, matcha powder and pink natural food colouring, I used beetroot juice.

First drain you tofu from the packet and section into three equal pieces and divide into three bowls, then mash the tofu. Add one tablespoon of shiratamako and one tablespoon of Joshinko to each bowl. Next add colouring to two bowls I used one teaspoon of matcha for green and one teaspoon of natural beetroot juice for pink.

Cream the tofu in each bowl then add another tablespoon each of shiratamako and joshinko to each bowl .

It needs to form into a stiff dough (people say to think of what an ear lope feels like and this is what dango should feel like when you press it). You may need to add one more half tablespoons of each flour to each bowl to get this texture. I like to add it in stages like this so you get the correct consistency and you can use your judgment as you go rather than weighing it out and tipping it all in at once.

Make your dough into three separate log shapes and section so you can make equal sized balls of each colour.

Heat up a large pan of boiling water and drop your white and pink dango balls into the boiling water, when they float to the top give them a one extra minute and they are done.


Scoop them out using a strainer and drop them into iced water for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate lined with parchment so they don’t stick and do the same again to the final matcha dumplings so no colour runs. 


Take each ball and begin to slide them onto skewers. Remember to start with sliding on the green first then white and finally pink. If you would like to store your Dango you can pack them in an airtight container and keep at room temperature for 24 hours. You can also freeze the dango for about a month, so it’s nice to make plenty and freeze them in advance. When you want to eat them thaw them naturally at room temperature. 


I’ve displayed the dango here 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.

Tofu dango is sometimes served with kinako powder to dip them in or with anko sweet bean paste. I recently saw a wagashi store in Kanazawa called “Cafe Murakami” one I visited on my recent trip to Japan that serve up warm dipping chocolate with their Dango. I thought this was such a lovely idea. All you need is an oil burner with a night light candle. The store In Kanazawa used strawberry white chocolate in keeping with spring colours. 

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.

One of the best memories I have in my life is visiting Japan at Sakura season.

If  you have never been lucky enough to witness it, seeing the blossom and the way people in Japan celebrate Hanami is just breathtaking.

I think I miss Japan the most at this time of year.  I always like to celebrate Japanese customs and traditions it helps me feel close to Japan  when I cannot be there.

How about making some tofu dango and sit with these and a bento under the blossoms and if like me you cannot be there just dream you are.

Blog, Spring Food

Valentines Day Japan バレンタインデー & Recipe For Chocolate Tofu Donuts

Valentine’s Day バレンタインデー is a relatively new custom in Japan. Celebrated on February the 14th, while its origins are in Christianity the custom was taken on in a unique way by Japan a bit like Halloween or Christmas with a Japanese twist.

Although the tradition of giving chocolate started in the 1930’s it wasn’t until the 1970’s when Japan had an economic boom and more women started to enter the work place that giving chocolates by women to men started to become a custom. These chocolates are known as honmei-choco 本命チョコ, “true feeling chocolate”. This was a way for women to express their emotions and wasn’t something that was done before. The practice of giving chocolate occurred because women expressing their love to men was considered disgraceful, and confectioneries capitalized on chocolate as a way for them to profess their love. This custom then over time changed to not only giving chocolates to love interests but to work colleagues and teachers to show appreciation these chocolates are called giri choco. There are chocolates to friends (tomo choco 友チョコ) where no romantic feelings are involved in gifting the chocolate. Tomo choco is meant to celebrate platonic love between friends male or female so as to not alienate those who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day or have no romantic partner. 

Tomo choco comes from the word tomodachi, meaning ‘friend’ in Japanese. Tomo choco is the exception to the rule when it comes to male-only gift-giving. These are basically chocolates or baked goods that women give to their female friends as an expression of their friendship.

Fami Choco (ファミチョコ): Family Chocolate. This is a chocolate gift for male family members: father, husband, son. Mothers and daughters tend to make baked goods or chocolate or buy sweets that can be enjoyed together at home.

It is also now popular to even just make yourself a gift as an act of self love this is called jibun-choco 自分チョコ“my chocolate”.

It is also popular to hand make or bake gifts showing that you have put even more thought and care into a gift.

Why not trying making a treat for a friend or loved ones or even just yourself.

I decided to share with you my recipe for these delicious tofu baked donuts dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with freeze dried strawberries using Shizenno Megumi Organic Soft Tofu. True authentic soft textured Tofu called “Kinughosi Tofu” in Japan. This soft tofu warrants itself well to making desserts and is often used in Japan as an egg replacement. I got the idea of using tofu in a donut recipe after seeing some unusual yuba donuts for sale when visiting Arashiyama Kyoto.

Let’s make fudgy chocolate brownie tofu donuts for Valentines Day.

You will need:

x1 pack of “Soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu”

x2 cups of plain flour

1/3 cup of cacao powder

x1 Bar of vegan chocolate of choice

x1 tablespoon of melted odourless oil (I always use Tiana coconut cooking butter)

x2 teaspoons of baking powder & x1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar

x2 teaspoons of brown rice vinegar

1/3 cup of soy milk

Something to decorate the donuts like sprinkles, freeze dried strawberries, coconut etc.

Method:

In one bowl sift the flour, cacao powder baking powder and baking soda then mix to combine.

( preheat your oven to a moderate temperature around 150 degrees centigrade.)

Drain the “Soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu” and add to a blender or food processor. To the tofu add the coconut butter, brown rice vinegar and coconut palm sugar. Blend until smooth.


Add the tofu mixture to the flour mixture and fold in gently to combine. Add the soy milk to make a thick batter, adding extra soy milk if needed.

Brush your donut pan with some melted coconut butter and spoon the mixture into the donut moulds, I find it easy to use two small spoons to do this one to scoop up the batter and one to push it off the spoon into the moulds. Smooth the top as best you can.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from the Oven and with a tooth pick make the hole for your donut, as they will likely cover over in the baking process.

Leave to cool and then remove carefully by using a knife gently on the edges to ease them out of the mould. Turn them over to reveal a smooth side.


Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water.

Take each donut and turn it to dip the donut on the smooth side.

Do this to all the donuts. Placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.


Decorate each donut with whatever you wish, I used a sprinkle of coconut and freeze dried strawberries.

Now pop them in the fridge for an hour to set the chocolate and you’re done.

After this time you can store them in an airtight container out of the fridge in a cool place.
Serve to a loved one for Valentines Day or box them individually as gifts.

I used 85% dark chocolate for my donut coating but you could use what ever chocolate you like to your preference. For an extra decadent donut why not slice in half an add a layer of strawberry jam.


Don’t forget White Day on March 14th when the women will get returned gifts.

Blog, Spring Food

How to celebrate Setsubun 節分の日


Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (
鬼は外、福は内).

Demons out, Good Fortune in!” For today is Setsubun no Hi (節分の日) February 3rd.

Setsubun 節分, is a seasonal indicator that marks the day before the beginning of Spring and is now celebrated as a spring festival “Haru Matsuri”. A traditional event marking the official beginning of spring, according to the Japanese lunar calendar.

Setsubun is the day before we start again through the journey of the “Nijushisekki (24 solar terms)” or sekki of Japan when we welcome in Risshun 立春 the beginning of Spring.

This is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Even though we are in the coldest days, in Japan you will start to see those signs that spring is near by. The days are just getting slightly longer and you can see the start of life emerging from the earth. Ume blossom is starting to bloom, giving those well needed splashes of colour to the brown landscape and maybe you might see  flashes of a little green bird known as Uguisu (bush warbler or the Japanese nightingale) another symbol of spring in Japan. Why not look for signs of spring where you are.

Let’s enjoy Setsubun with Ehou Maki 恵方巻き, Ehō-maki

On this day there are a few customs in Japan one of them is to eat an uncut makizushi called Ehō-maki 恵方巻, “lucky direction sushi roll” while you sit in silence facing the years lucky direction. The “lucky direction” (恵方) of this year 2024 is east-north-east (東北東).
This changes every year depending on the current zodiac. There is actually a chart to work out each year which is the lucky direction. So as 2024 ends with 4 the lucky direction is east -northeast.

Years ending with

Lucky Direction

0 or 5

West – Southwest

1, 3, 6 or 8

South – Southeast

2 or 7

North – Northwest

4 or 9

East – Northeast

The word “Eho” means the auspicious direction where the god of good fortune for the year exists and is also called “Kippou” or “Akinokata/Akihou”.

Originally from Kansai the Ehō-maki must have seven ingredients, these relate to the Seven Lucky Gods (七福神, Shichi Fukujin) from local folklore who are in charge of bringing prosperity in business and good health. It doesn’t matter what you put inside it can be anything you like, but it’s good to have a variety of ingredients. Just eat the whole roll without cutting it with a knife and eat in silence, if you speak, the good fortune will escape.

In 1989, convenience store 7-Eleven started selling futomakizushi especially for Setsubun. Since then, the popularity of ehomaki quickly spread across Japan and supermarket and deparments also began to sell ehomaki.

Even if you’re not in Japan you can still follow Japanese customs.

Let’s make an Ehō-maki

As one of my seven ingredients I decided this year I wanted to add the new Organic Marinated Tofu from dragonfly foods. Their latest tofu is marinated in a blend of tamari, garlic, and ginger. Just remove from the packet drain the liquid, I recommend to oven bake then allow to cool for this recipe. When cool slice ready to add some flavour and texture to your sushi roll.

Other ingredients that you can add could be:

Vegan omelette, cucumber, avocado, Kampyo (cooked and flavoured gourd strips), Shiso/Ooba (perilla leaves), Lettuce, carrot strips, cooked shiitake mushrooms.

For x3 Ehō-maki wash two sushi cup of sushi rice, soak the rice for at least half an hour and cook your sushi rice in your rice cooker. While it’s cooking prepare your filling.

You will also need x3 pieces of toasted nori, place the nori with the rough side facing up on a rolling mat.

When your rice is done tip the rice into a bowl add some sushi seasoning and cool down with a fan in one hand while you gently cut and mix the rice in the other. When the rice is cool start to spread the rice on your nori leaving a gap at the top. Start to add your filling at the bottom then roll the nori over the filling. Remember to not cut your sushi roll but eat it whole in silence facing the lucky direction of this year east-north-east.

Setsubun is all about the Oni (おに)

Oni are a kind of yōkai, demon, orc, ogre, or troll in Japanese folklore. They are known as the god ofmountains with a fearful appearance. It is believed that the Oni come to punish humans when they misbehave. They come in many varieties, but are most commonly depicted with two or more horns, and fang-like tusks, red or blue skin, wild hair, large in size and possess superhuman strength. They are terrifying in appearance and are associated with disease and misfortune. They are often shown carrying their choice weapon: a large, heavy iron hexagonal club, called a tetsubō, which is used for torturing victims. They are typically depicted wearing little-to-no clothing, but when clothed they are usually shown wearing a loincloth made of tiger skin.

It was believed that this time of year the spirit world and our world combined making it easy for evil spirits  to bring illness into our homes. During the cold winter months it is easier to get sick and it was believed that this was caused by oni. At this time it is custom to repel these demons from our homes. One such way to do this is Mamemaki (豆まき), the throwing of roasted soybeans. The tradition of Setsubun dates back centuries, but the bean throwing tradition first emerged in the Muromachi period (1337 – 1573). So why use soybeans ? They are believed to have sacred power along with rice, which could get rid of evil spirits. The Japanese word for beans is pronounced as mame () and sounds similar to the word for demon eyes (mame, 魔目) and because of that throwing beans has a similar sound to destroying demons (mametsu, 魔滅).

It is custom to fill a Japanese wooden cup called a masu with the prepared beans which should be displayed on the altar and offered to the gods until the day of the bean-throwing ceremony.

On the day preferably midnight the beans are thrown out the entrance to your home or maybe at a family member dressed as a demon. As you do this you shout “Oni wa soto ! Fuku wa uchi”鬼は外! 福は内! meaning Demons out good fortune in.

You may also see another mask worn often by female members of the house hold, the kami of luck, good fortune, and kindness, which is the deity Okame portrayed with a white friendly face, chubby cheeks, and a warm smile. She acts as the defender against misfortune.

Since it is believed that ogres come at midnight, this is the best time to start the bean-throwing ceremony. Open the front door or window of your house and scatter beans, saying “Oni wa soto!” After closing the doors and windows immediately to prevent the ogres from returning, scatter the beans inside the room, saying “Fuku wa uchi!” It is then also custom to eat as many of the beans as your age plus one extra for luck.

Another tradition to ward off the evil spirit is to hang holly at your door with wait for it a smelly sardine head stuck on top. This talisman is called Hiragi iwashi. The evil spirits are apparently repelled by the strong smell and thorns of the holly leaves. Needless to say I just hang holly at my door being vegan. I was watching an NHK programme about a group of  nuns and they displayed holly with fabric fish as a representation as they didn’t eat meat or fish either, which I thought was a nice idea. I definitely recommend the series Nun’s cookbook on NHK. I noticed in the episode that the nuns do not chant the phrase “Oni wa “ it is believed that oni do not appear before the temples enshrined deity and as such, the chant is unnecessary.
Instead, the phrase “Senshu banzai fuku wa uchi!” is recited, meaning “Long life and good fortune, come in!”

In the Kanto region, kenchinjiru けんちん汁 is considered as an auspicious food and is eaten on Setsubun. Originally created as Buddhist temple cuisine by a Buddhist priest of Kenchoji temple in Kamakura city, Kanagawa prefecture. Jiru means soup and Kenchin is derived from the temple name. Packed with lots of nutritious root vegetables miso and tofu it is the perfect soup to warm you on a cold day. Maybe this is why it is considered lucky as eating this can help you stay healthy and ward off illness.

Let’s make kenchinjiru to bring health for the year.

This soup is full of umami flavour using kombu,shiitake mushroom,toasted sesame oil and tamari (or soy sauce). The soup consists of root vegetables in a shiitake kombu stock (you can also add miso if you wish).

This soup also has tofu, it is said that you tear the tofu into the soup instead of cutting the tofu as it is supposed to be divided equally between the residents of the temple regardless of status.  This dish contains no onion, devout Buddhists believe that onion is not good for your peace of mind so not good for meditation.

First make you stock:

I normally leave a piece of konbu to soak over night in cold water, the konbu comes with a white powder on its surface do not wash this off as this adds to the flavour just simply wipe with a cloth.  (for this recipe I used 3 cups of  konbu stock and 1 cup of shiitake stock).

After you have soaked your konbu place the water and konbu in a pan and turn on the heat remove the konbu just before the water starts to boil.  Make shiitake stock by soaking a few dried shiitake in one cup of warm water for around 20 mins (place a small bowl over to submerge the shittake to stop them from floating.  After 20 minutes take out the shiitake and slice them place a sieve over the konbu stock and pour the shiitake stock through the seive into the konbu stock to catch any gritty bits.

Now you need to prepare your vegetables.

You can use a variety of vegetables burdock root, daikon radish, carrot, lotus root, taro komatsuna or any leafy green vegetable. You can also add konnyaku (konjac) Konnyaku

Konnyaku is rich in dietary fiber,and a food that cleanses the body. For this reason, it is considered good luck to eat it on Setsubun. In some regions, konjac is eaten to drive out demons that live in the house, and at the same time, to expel the bad things in the body. However in my recipe I just used tofu.

The tofu I recommend is the Shizenno Megumi Organic Firm tofu. (Follow the link at the side or bottom of the page depending on your browser) Following a traditional Japanese recipe for “Momen Tofu” this lightly firm Tofu is full of juiciness with the richness of soya and a sweet aftertaste. All of the Shizenno Megumi are made using an authentic Japanese process practiced for thousands of years. The tofu is pressed carefully and delicately to ensure the proteins do not go tough. The result? A premium textured tofu that retains a good structure and absorbs flavours well. Certified Organic by the Soil Association since 1991, with their products you can be sure you are eating natural, nutritious food with no nasties. You will need to drain the liquid and press the tofu before using it in the recipe.

Chop your vegetables and if using burdock root scrub off any dirt chop and place in a bowl of water. If using taro root remove the skin slice in half and soak in water to remove the starch. Add about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil to a deep pan sauté your root vegetables for a few minutes.
Then add your stock  but do not add your leafy greens until the soup is nearly ready to serve.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender then add 1 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce and one tablespoon of mirin . If you would like to add more depth in the flavour of the stock why not add a little miso. I decided to use Hikari miso it is always my miso of choice.

Finally take your already drained and pressed tofu and crumble it into the soup in large pieces adding your chopped leafy greens just to wilt in the hot broth at the end before serving.

Other foods that are custom to eat at Setsubun are Setsubun Soba similar to Toshikoshi soba the meal on New Years Eve.

As well as soba, zenzai or anything with red beans are said to ward off evil.

Drinking Fukucha tea with lucky beans in it is considered to be a drink of good luck. Fukucha is a cup of hot water poured over kelp, pickled plums, and three lucky beans.

I hope you will have fun welcoming Spring this year and celebrating with unique Japanese customs.

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Winter Food

Vegan Ramen With A Creamy Tofu & Miso Sauce


Ramen written in Japanese: 拉麺, ラーメン or らーめん

Arriving  in Japan in the late 19th or early 20th Century
from China ramen has become one of the most popular dishes not only across Japan but the world.
The first Japanese restaurant to serve up a bowl of noodles similar to today’s ramen was Yowaken 養和軒 in 1884, but it wasn’t until 1910 that Japan had its first ramen shop called Rairaiken 来々軒 in Asakura, Tokyo.
There is something comforting about a bowl of ramen, even if it didn’t originate from Japan, Japan have made it their own and given ramen it’s on Japanese culture. Nearly every region in Japan seams to have their own version. Different areas, cities, and even shops have their own twist on ramen. From different broths like shio (salt ramen) shoyu (soy sauce), miso, milk or curry. Then there are straight or curly noodles of all different thickness.
Loved not only by salarymen who have no time to prepare their own meals but who are looking for something quick hot and filling, but also by students and those looking for a quick cheap, and delicious, meal on the go.
The appetite for ramen saw even a ramen museum open in Yokohama in 1994.
So when Hikari Miso and parent company Dragonfly Tofu asked if I could come up with a tofu ramen recipe just for them I wondered what I could do to make things different to the other tofu ramen recipes found across Japan and ones that come up on the internet when you search “tofu ramen”. I also wanted it to be easy, relatively cheap and quick to make. You may have some of the ingredients already in your store cupboard and apart from the tofu if you do have to buy the ingredients you will have lots left over to use over and over again.

I took my inspiration from ramen created in Hokkaido using miso paste as a seasoning. Hikari miso has been crafted over four generations in Nagano Japan, where the water air and cool climate make the perfect environment for making miso. The ramen I have created has a robust flavour as the miso paste is creamy and tangy, and instead of using tofu as a topping I decided to use it with the miso to make a sauce. The dish feels so decadent but is so quick and simple to make.

Using the true authentic gently coagulated soft Shizenno Megumi Organic Tofu known as “ kinughosi” in Japan, it lends itself well to making the perfect rich sauces as well as using it for desserts, smoothies or just simply cut up into cubes and added to miso soups.

How to make my Ramen with a creamy tofu & miso sauce.

You will need: (serves two)

x1 pack of Shizenno Megumi “natures best” organic soft tofu
x1 tablespoon of Shiro Nerigoma  (white sesame paste)
x1 tablespoon of Hikari miso organic white miso
x1 tablespoon of light soy sauce (known as Usukuchi)
x1 teaspoon of brown rice vinegar
x1 teaspoon of mirin
x1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
Add all the above ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth thick and creamy. Then pour into a saucepan.
You will also need a variety of toppings prepped in advance. This could be a combination of steamed vegetables bean sprouts, komatsuna or chingensai (bok choy), hakusai (Chinese cabbage), grilled lotus root and shiitake, sliced kabocha roasted or steamed, sliced red onion, sliced negi (green onion), tinned sweetcorn, watercress, maybe some roasted bell peppers, whatever you fancy.
Once you have prepped your toppings things come together quickly so you could do this in advance.
Put your ramen noodles of choice in a pan of boiling water (check to make sure they are vegan.)  I recommend samurai ramen. Some may come with a sauce you will not need to use this so save it for another time. I also like ohsawa ramen which I often bring back from Japan.
Get your serving bowls ready.
Many ramen broths in Hokkaido have milk so in true Hokkaido style add soy milk to your tofu sauce. Add as much as you like to make the sauce the consistency you want. Start to gently heat your sauce do not let it boil.
Drain your ramen noodles and add to your serving bowls. When your sauce is nice and hot pour over your sauce and quickly add your toppings so that it’s all still nice and hot when you serve it. I like to add a few drops of chilli oil, some chilli threads known as Ito togarishi and a scatter of sesame seeds.
Happy Slurping.
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!
Autumn Food, Blog

Halloween Tofu Dessert


This is how you can make a delicious pumpkin spiced dessert using Japanese authentically made soft Shizenno Megumi tofu by Dragonfly Foods, www.dragonflyfoods.com

If you haven’t already read the story behind this tofu why not check out my blog post Introducing Shizenno Megumi Tofu.

Have you ever used tofu to make desserts? The soft variety of the Shizenno Megumi tofu is perfect for whipping up desserts mousses and smoothies in no time and gives them a wonderful creamy texture.

I decided to use this tofu to make a seasonal Halloween themed pumpkin spice  Kabocha mousse with some Shiratama tofu dango ghosties.

Makes x2 large desserts or x4 small

For the Kabocha pumpkin spice mousse you will need:

x1  block of soft Shizenno Megumi Tofu

tofu drained and dried with kitchen towel then cut in half. Use one half for the dessert.

x1 half of a  Kabocha squash with seeds scooped out.

x1 tablespoon of maple syrup

x1 tablespoon of melted coconut butter

(I always use the odourless coconut butter by Tiana).

x1-2 teaspoons of Pumpkin spice or your own spice blend try nutmeg cinnamon ginger clove allspice etc

For the ghosties:

Shiratamsko

1/4 of the tofu

Also black sesame paste, soy yogurt and pomegranate seeds to decorate.

( Shiratamako 白玉粉 ) is glutinous rice flour made from mochigome, Japanese short-grain glutinous rice. The Shiratamako comes in coarse granules and I find it’s better to grind this into a finer powder using a motor and pestle or Japanese suribachi. It is the main ingredient in many Japanese wagashi (Japanese confectionery).

Method:

Steam the Kabocha and leave to cool

Drain the tofu and wrap in kitchen towel, cut in half then half the other half into 1/4

Scoop the flesh out the Kabocha leaving the flesh and add this to a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 the tofu and maple syrup coconut butter and spices. Blend until creamy and smooth and tip out into your chosen bowls and pop them into the fridge while you make your ghosties.

Add about 2-3 tablespoons of ground Shiratamako to a bowl and add a 1/4 piece of tofu. Cream the tofu and shiratamako together it needs to be the consistency of an ear lobe. Add more shiratamako and tofu if needed to get the desired dough.

Knead the dough and then form into a log shape

Cut into pieces and form each piece into a ball and then pinch to make a tail.

Boil a pan of water and drop the ghosties into the boiling water wait until they float then leave a further 1-2 mins. Scoop them out and drop them into ice water to cool.

Take the tofu pumpkin spice Kabocha mousse from the fridge and drop a few ghosties ontop.

Decorate with black sesame paste soy yogurt and pomegranate seeds if you wish.

Happy Halloween 👻 Continue reading…

Autumn Food, Blog

Mushroom & Shimi-dofu Dobin Mushi (steamed in a teapot)

Flavours of Fall

Fall /Autumn is the season of the rice harvest in Japan and of seasonal produce like sweet potatoes, chestnuts, persimmons and mushrooms.

In Japan Matsutake mushrooms which grow under pine trees are especially prized. Matsu= pine Take= mushroom. They have a pungent earthy aroma with a meaty texture, however they are extremely expensive with some going for ¥14,000.00 around £70-£80 just for one single mushroom making them one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.


One of the ways that Matsutake is enjoyed is by gently steaming in a Dobin teapot 土瓶. The idea is to appreciate the intensely flavourful broth in which the mushrooms are cooked by tipping out the cooking liquid first into a small sipping choko cup 猪口.

There are four parts to a Dobin teapot the pot itself where the food is placed which comes with a detachable handle, a saucer on which the teapot sits, and a choko cup.
As Matsutake are so expensive and also not available to me I decided to show you how to savour the flavours of fall by making this umami rich seasonal dish.
Dobin= teapot and Mushi= steamed so this is how we make Dobin Mushi (steamed in a teapot) 土瓶蒸し.

First I want to talk about ingredients I will be using with my mushrooms. You do not want to add anything that will take away from the aroma of the mushrooms you are using so do not use strong flavoured vegetables like onions, you can add if you like some ginkgo nuts to add extra colour and finish with some green vegetables like watercress or mitsuba. For the broth a good quality kombu kelp is needed along with salt and some sake.


To make the meal more filling I’m going to be adding shimi-dofu. Shimi-dofu 凍み豆腐 is tofu that has been frozen then thawed and pressed. The result is a completely different texture of the tofu which becomes more like a sponge and is perfect for soaking up the aromatic broth.

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, along with making a kombu dashi). When the tofu is completely defrosted take it out of its container and slice into pieces. 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. The tofu I used was the Shizenno Megumi tofu by dragonfly foods which I have spoken about in a previous post.

The kombu I used was rausu kombu from Hokkaido which creates a flavourful dashi that is rich in minerals and will enhance the umami of the meal. You will need to use one piece of kombu soaked in as pure water as you can over night like filtered water. Rausu normally comes in a roll so I cut off a piece about two-three inches.
You have your tofu and your dashi now you need your mushrooms. You can use what ever mushrooms you like but try to use ones that have a good earthy flavour like shiitake and maitake mushrooms. I’m lucky that I can visit a Japanese grocery store that imports Japanese grown mushrooms so I chose to use organic shiitake, maitake and shimeji mushrooms.

Place your mushrooms on a plate and sprinkle with salt and sake and gently rub it into the mushrooms. Cut a few small squares of kombu and place these in the bottom of your Dobin or teapot. To steam the teapot the Dobin has a removable handle so if you are using a normal teapot make sure it can fit in a steamer with the lid on. Add a splash of sake and a few slithers of citrus rind.

Place a piece of tofu in the Dobin and stuff as many mushrooms inside as you can. I added some ginkgo nuts as well.

Pour boiling water into a pan and place the steamer basket onto the top of the pan. Place your dobin into the steamer basket and pour the kombu dashi into the dobin until it’s full and place the lid on the dobin and then the lid on the steamer. Steam for ten minutes.


While it’s steaming cut a lime or citrus in half and gather a little greens to wilt in the dobin when it’s cooked. Just before serving lift the lid slightly and poke in your greens close the lid on the dobin to steam a few more minutes.
Put the detachable handle on the dobin and lift out of the steamer onto the dish.

Enjoy straight away, by first pouring some of the dashi into the choko cup and enjoying a few cups of broth.


Then open the lid smell the aroma of the steam from the fragrance of the mushrooms. Add a squeeze of citrus sudachi, yuzu or lime and using chop sticks pick up the morsels of mushrooms. To stop any drips from the food use the choko cup in your other hand.



I think this is a perfect way to welcome the changing seasons. No wonder the Japanese call autumn “Shokuyoku no Aki” Autumn the season of appetites.

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.