Tag

Udon

Winter Food

Kagami Biraki 鏡開き & “Chikara Udon”

Kagami Biraki  鏡開き
Breaking the new year mochi rice cake
鏡餅
Celebrated on January the 11th as odd numbers are considered auspicious in Japan. There maybe slight differences according to region’s in japan.
Kagami mochi is placed in the home as an offering to the deity of the New Year to bring good luck. It is said the mochi contains Toshigami 年神 (Great-Year God”) which is a Kami of the Shinto religion in Japan, a spirit that visits during this time to bring good blessings.
This is a ceramic one I brought back from Japan and the mochi is placed inside.
Traditionally the Kirimochi  which is rectangular can be grilled and eaten with a red bean soup called zenzai ぜんざい 善哉 or Oshiruko お汁粉 which is more of a watery version. You can use my recipe for Nabekko Dango from season 1 episode 1 of my The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House for the red bean soup, then just add grilled mochi rice cake instead of dango.
You could also eat your mochi Ozoni style.

You must never cut your mochi only break it as this is considered bad luck.


It is also tradition to eat Chikara Udon (力うどん) for Kagami Biraki. I decided to make this using up the remaining mochi which I didn’t use making zenzai. Using up the Kirimochi rectangular mochi which was put inside my Kagami for Toshigami 年神 (Great-Year God”) to bless it over the New Year. Kirimochi (切り餅) is a type of mochi (rice cake) made from pounded glutinous rice. It is molded into a rectangular or square shape and can be sold dried and individually wrapped if you do not buy it inside a Kagami for New Year.
This seasonal udon noodle soup has chewy udon noodles in a flavourful dashi broth with toasted Kirimochi (rice cakes), resting right on top with some simple other toppings of choice.
“Chikara Udon” means Power Udon, it is believed in Japan that mochi brings power and that the eater can get energy from the food.
Chikara Udon is often enjoyed in restaurants throughout Japan, to provide a warm hearty comforting meal on cold winter days.
Chikara Udon needs just a few other simple ingredients other than the kirimochi rice cake.
You will also need some udon noodles of choice, I decided to try some gluten free rice flour udon this time.
You will also need some Usukuchi soy sauce, which is lighter and paler in colour. Both of which I bought from the wasabi company. See the side or bottom of the page for link depending on your browser.
As well as these you will need some kombu kelp for making a simple overnight dashi stock, mirin and some toppings like chopped negi (green onion) and some other wilted greens like komatsuna. Other toppings could be  red pickled ginger, tenkasu (crispy bits of deep-fried tempura batter) and nori (seaweed).
With just a few simple steps you can put this meal together in minutes.
You will of needed to of made a kombu dashi the night before by soaking a piece of kombu kelp in water over night. The next morning take out the kombu and use the water for your stock. Around one litre of cold water with a piece of kombu around 3 inches.
Per person you will need 3 cups of dashi add this to a pan with :
1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

x1 teaspoon sugar

Bring the dashi to a simmer while you cook your udon in boiling water in a separate pan as instructed on the packet of udon you are using.
Chop some green onion and blanch any greens.
Place your mochi under a preheated grill and toast on both sides until puffed up.
When your udon is cooked drain and rinse off the starch with cold water and add to your chosen bowl. Pour over your hot dashi add toppings and rice cake and eat while nice and hot.

Eating the mochi signifies a prayer for health and good fortune for the year ahead.
Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Kitsune Udon

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 7

“Illness”

When Sumire falls sick Kiyo decides to make her rice porridge. However when mother Azusa asks what she is doing she explains that in Kyoto they serve udon when someone isn’t feeling well. Udon is a soul food in Japan. It is easily digested and simple to make. The perfect comfort food when someone is sick. Mother Azusa goes on to say that Kyoto’s udon is not dark like the ones served in Kanto. Kiyo looks puzzled.
Udon noodles are served with a broth which has soy sauce (shoyu) as one of the ingredients. You are probably familiar by now with soy sauce as a cooking ingredient adding umami, with its salty, sour flavour to soups, stir fries and nimono (simmered dishes). Soy sauce is made by fermenting soaked and steamed soybeans then mixing with roasted ground wheat and aspergillus oryzae a culturing mold. Then salt brine is added and is left for several months until it is then pasteurised and filtered. Usukuchi Shoyu (薄口醤油is a lighter coloured soy sauce which has additional salt which is used in the Kansai region. The lighter colour does not darken the final dish quite as much, so when Kiyo is told the Udon are not dark, this is what they are referring to.

Kiyo sets off over the Sanjo-Ohashi bridge to find the perfect ingredients to make the udon extra special for Sumire. She goes first to a shop keeper on Demachi-Masugata shopping street.

The shop keeper asks if Kiyo would like Kitsuneきつね or Tanukiたぬき for her udon. Kitsune you may have already come across. The name Kitsune means fox, it is believed that the favourite food of the Shinto messenger fox god is deep fried tofu, another theory is that the aburaage 油揚げ fried tofu is the same colour as a fox . The exact origin of kitsune udon is unknown but it is thought it may have originated in Osaka in the Edo period. Tanuki is the name for a raccoon dog. Tanuki udon is udon noodles with a topping of tenkasu 天かす also called agedama (揚げ玉) tempura batter crumbs). The Japanese word for without main toppings is Tanenuki タネ抜き so as the udon has no other toppings other than tempura crumbs the word was changed to Tanuki for this topping this has nothing really to do with the raccoon dog. It is widely thought that Tanuki udon originated in the Kanto region again in the Edo period (1603-1868)

“I’d like some Oage-san please”. Oage-san is a term of endearment used for aburaage, thin deep fried tofu that has already been seasoned with a sweet savoury flavour using sugar soy sauce and mirin. You can do this yourself by pouring boiling water over the fried aburaage blotting it with kitchen towel and then simmering in 1/2 cup of water 1 tablespoon of soy sauce 1 tablespoon of mirin and 1/2 a tablespoon of sugar. Simmer for 15-20 minutes with a drop lid on top called a otoshibuta, if you don’t have one place a cut piece of parchment paper on top, then remove and squeeze out the liquid. Put to one side. However for my recipe later on you can do this included in the recipe.

“You had better make it delicious” said the shop keeper “ I’ll do my best” said Kiyo.
Kiyo then sets off to buy items to make her dashi, first she goes to Tanaka dried bonito shop. As bonito is made from dried smoked fermented fish fillets, being vegan we will not be using this for our dashi.

She then finds her way under the recommendation of the bonito shop owner to the Okada-ya Konbu seaweed shop. Kiyo says to the shop owner that it was her first time buying natural kelp and had planned to use powdered dashi from the supermarket. The shop keeps comments “that’s like eating a luxury kaiseki feast with broken disposable chopsticks”. Kiyo goes for the recommendation of the shop keeper and picks up some rausu kelp the shop keeper says this is natural and very flavourful. Rausu is known as the “queen of kombu” a high quality kelp rich in minerals and other nutrients, it has outstanding umami and will enhance the flavour of a dish. Even though Kiyo is making a humble meal she is still making it extra special with the ingredients she is choosing to use.
We are then back in the kitchen of the maiko house. We see Kiyo simmering her kombu to make her dashi, she chops diagonal slices of naga negi long green onion and slices up strips of the aburaage and adds the strips to the dashi she has made. Kiyo boils up some udon and adds them to a bowl adds the broth green onion and aburaage, finishing off with some grated ginger.

Kiyo serves the udon to Sumire “This udon I could eat forever”

Again there is a cross over of meals from The Makanai to Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories and you can see this in season 2 episode 7. The show has a nostalgic feel and for anyone who loves food in Japan it’s a must to watch. You can find lots more information and vegan  recipes I have created to go with the series on my midnight diner pages.

I wanted to make this kitsune udon as near to the way that Kiyo made it minus the bonito flakes. I picked out the best ingredients I could find at the time or I already had. As I didn’t have any of the usukuchi lighter coloured soy sauce I decided to purchase an organic one made at the Shichifuku brewery in Aichi prefecture.

They are masters of brewing this particular soy sauce and rely on traditional principles of giving the soy sauce time to mature in wooden barrels under strict temperature controls. Thus producing a lighter soy sauce that is sweeter in flavour. I bought Udon noodles by Clearspring which are organic and are vegan and made by an artisan family producer in Japan. The kombu I had was also from Clearspring  and is a sustainable harvested kombu from Hokkaido. I managed to get some naga negi from natural natural an amazing Japanese super market in London and also picked up some frozen aburaage.

Kitsune Udon きつねうどん

You will need:

x1 piece of dried kombu kelp

x1 piece per person of aburaage fried tofu defrosted if frozen

naga negi or similar green onion

per serving:

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

x1 teaspoon sugar

grated ginger (using a Japanese grater  like an oroshigane or kyocera if possible)

Udon noodles of choice

Method:

First make your dashi using a piece of kombu kelp. Soak the kombu in a pan with a litre of fresh cold water for at least three hours. Then turn on the heat to a simmer as soon, as the water starts to produce bubbles around the kelp remove the kelp and put your dashi to one side. Do not boil the kelp in the water as this will make the kelp slimy.

Prepare your aburaage from defrosted. Place your aburaage in a colander and pour over boiling water to remove the excess oil then blot with kitchen towel. Slice your aburaage into strips like Kiyo did with hers.

Slice your green onion diagonally.

Per person you will need 3 cups of dashi add this to a pan with soy sauce, mirin and sugar. ( This is why I decided not to pre season my aburaage as it will be cooking in this liquid). Bring your dashi to a gentle simmer and drop in your sliced aburaage.
Cook your udon as the package instructions direct. Drain and divide into your bowls. Pour over your hot dashi broth with aburaage and add your green onions and grated ginger.

A perfect hearty noodle dish full of rich flavour you can serve at any time but especially when you’re in need of some series comfort food.

Blog, Winter Food

Himokawa Udon ひもかわうどん

You may have heard of Udon but do you know Himokawa udon ひもかわうどん? A over 100 year old traditional wide noodle made in Kiryu, Gunma  Prefecture, simply from local water salt and flour. So what makes this udon so different  from the udon you might know ? Well it’s the width, the size varies by shop but some can be up to 10cm wide ! They have a pleasantly chewy texture and are a perfect filling meal. There is a established restaurant of over 120 years in Kiryu called Fujiya Honten and himokawa is their specialty. The 6th generation Tokyo trained chef Mr Masayaki Fujikake serves up their noodles made from local flour. Apparently they have been doing this for over 70 years. The noodles made here are around 4cm wide but very long at around 60cm. In the restaurant you can choose how you would like your noodles either in a hot broth (kakeudon) as a tsukemen type dipping noodle, perfect for cold winter days or with a tsuyu dipping sauce and various condiments. They also sell them packaged to go and enjoy at home and I was so lucky to be sent some to try by my friend in Japan.


My friend showed me a kitsune style udon dish she had at the restaurant so I decided to make that. As there is enough noodles in the pack for two people I split the noodles into two meals.

To make the kitsune style I made a cold water kombu shiitake dashi by leaving kombu and shiitake in water over night, I also like to add a few pieces of Yuzu rind.
Then I made a simple broth using the dashi and just added mirin and tamari. I sliced up some aburaage ( the reason this is called kitsune udon, you can read more about this by just searching kitsune udon) and simmered this in the broth to soak up the flavour. I also decided to steam some Japanese negi. I cooked half the himokawa udon in hot water for around 6 mins and then drained them and placed them in cold water so as the noodles wouldn’t get too soggy.

To serve I just simply added the noodles to the broth and dropped in some steamed negi and to garnish I added some really tasty shungiku (Japanese chrysanthemum greens) and Kintsai ( celery leaf stems similar to mitsuba) I didn’t cook these as they would easily steam in the hot dashi broth.
The noodles were slightly chewy and were really flavourful. I felt like I was transported straight back to Japan with this meal and felt so grateful to have been sent these special noodles.




One of the other meals Fujiya Honton have on their menu is a tsukemen style curry soup himokawa. Tsukemen is where you have a soup on the side and you dip the noodles into the soup rather than having them in the soup already. As I still had the other half of the noodles left I decided to make this as well.

A piping hot curry soup that I added a few extra vegetables to like daikon, negi and carrot. I also added some side condiments of oroshi daikon (grated daikon), toasted golden sesame seeds and chopped green onion.

Thank you to my friend Masami for sending me this delicious  taste of Japan .

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Toji 冬至 ( How to celebrate the winter solstice )

If you have been following my Japanese micro seasonal blog posts you will know by now that Japanese people like to mark the changing of the seasons. The winter solstice or Toji as it’s known in Japan is another one of those celebrations. I love the winter solstice in the fact that we know after the darkest day of the year the light and warmth will start to return.
People in Japan love to visit onsen and it is a winter solstice custom to either visit an onsen or take a hot bath with Yuzu citrus fruit on this day.


This bath is called Yuzu-yu, Yuzu grow on small thorny trees and have the taste between a grapefruit and mandarin, the smell of the fruit relaxes the mind and relieves stress. It is also said to ward of cold and viruses and as the Yuzu signifies good luck it is said to protect you from evil spirits. The juice also has a softening effect on the skin.
Yuzu juice is also really tasty and I like to slice the rind and freeze it to drop in a dashi broth or use in refreshing drinks in the summer. I often buy the juice in bottles already done to use in desserts. You can find many recipes on my pages that include Yuzu.
Why not try recreating an onsen at home for a real act of Japanese self care.

There are foods in Japan that are said to be auspicious Kabocha and red azuki beans are some of the Japanese good luck foods. Why not have a winter zenzai breakfast on the day of the solstice. A sweet azuki bean soup with simmered pieces of Kabocha and a toasted Mochi.


There is also something in Japan called “unmori” this is something that has an auspicious nasel sound of “n” which means fortune so it’s considered lucky to eat udon, daikon, ninjin (carrot) and renkon (lotus root). I made a lucky miso hot pot with these seasonal vegetables. Eating seasonal foods nourishes the body and gives us the vitamins we need.

I hope you can celebrate the solstice and welcome back the light returning.

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Japanese Micro Season 8 小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening)

小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening)
May 21–25 蚕起食桑 Kaiko okite kuwa o hamu Silkworms start feasting on mulberry leaves

May 26–30 紅花栄 Benibana sakau Safflowers bloom

May 31–June 5 麦秋至 Mugi no toki itaru Wheat ripens and is harvested

The summer heat is starting to be felt now as temperatures rise in Japan. There is a vibrant spurt of growth in the fields.
Safflowers blooms are picked to make natural  textile dyes ranging from yellow to red in colour.

Towards the end of this micro season the wheat is harvested. People often forget that wheat is important in Japanese cooking because rice takes the forefront. However we must remember that noodles are made from wheat so we would have no ramen, somen, or udon without it. Also we have the barley to make barley miso or barley tea known as mugi cha, I particularly like this one by Sabo it is an organic roasted  barley that is loose instead of in a teabag form.


Of course beer is very popular in the hot summers of Japan with Asahi, Ebisu, Kirin, and Sapporo beer springing to mind. Do you have a favourite Japanese beer brand ?
As the temperatures start to rise cold noodles are enjoyed why not make Hiyashi Chuka a dish of cold ramen with various toppings and a dressing. It’s nice to choose refreshing vegetables for your ramen like cucumber and tomato, bell peppers and sweetcorn maybe. Then a dressing made with soy sauce and vinegar. I have a recipe on my pages with a lovely refreshing dressing. You could also make Tsukemen or dipping ramen. Ramen is dipped into a hot soup. Somen noodles are very much a favourite of summer in Japan

The noodles are very fine and are normally served chilled with ice and condiments for dipping and serving. Again I have a recipe on my pages for somen dishes.
I hope that over the summer you can try making a chilled noodle dish for yourself.

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Udon Hot Pot

A lovely udon hot pot to night in a miso broth with vegetables and tofu . Also a few onigiri with hijiki.

うどんと野菜と豆腐と味噌汁鍋物.
おにぎりとひじき

Blog, Summer Food

Cold summer noodles With miso

A bed of cold noodles is a perfect meal to beat the hot humid heat in Japan’s summer . Weather you living in Japan or not if it’s a hot summers day this might be a good dish to try and make .

First make a sauce from simple miso and water just add a a heaped teaspoon of miso ( you can use any miso you like )
to a half a cup of not quite boiled water in a jug stir well making sure the miso is dissolved and put this in the fridge to chill . I like to make this in the morning and leave all  day.

Then make your noodles as instructions I used udon but you could use any noodles you like.  When cooked run them under cold water . Add them to a bowl and pour over some of your miso broth ( if you like add a few ice cubes to make it extra cold) .  Then add your topping I like to use cooling vegetables like cucumber and tomato maybe some sweetcorn and top with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.