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Snacks and snacks packed in fun and colorful packages, snacks on-the-go, candies, sauces for snacks….. Are we heading to a completely no-cooking wonderland?
At the 2018 Summer Fancy Show I was amazed at how much the products scene has changed. Cooking sauces or basic cooking ingredients have shrunk to 10% of total products introduced at the Show.
I enjoy cooking to nurture my body, health and soul as my 91 years old mother still does in Tokyo (well she cooks 3-4 days a week and my sister covers the rest of the week). I don’t often buy packaged goods, so this show was an eye-opening experience, even though I know full well that this has been the trend in the past years. I read about the trend in Specialty Food News.
Among few cooking ingredients that remained at the Show and stood out this year was one of my favorites. It is Miso Master Miso products, including chick pea miso, from Great Eastern Sun Company. The company has been producing the quality miso every day for more than 30 years. Their delicious miso is the base for my creation of so many delicious sauces for savory and dessert dishes.
I found another favorite product this year. It is maple syrup from Rocky Ridge Maple Farm. You already know that I use maple syrup from time to time to replace fake mirin. This delicious, quality, artisan maple syrup comes from Canandaigua, New York. The owner, Joshua, was born and raised as a dairy farm boy. He became a pharmacist but his passion for nature and quality food products pushed him to become a maple syrup producer.
Rocky Ridge Maple Farm produces three products – lighter colored, dark colored and barrel aged maple syrups. The sap that is collected in the early spring consists mainly of fructose (sucrose is converted by microbes and enzymes to fructose and glucose) that has more sweetness. So, the lighter golden color early spring maple syrup tastes very sweet. In general, Joshua’s maple syrup has sweetness of around of 67 to 68 on the Brix scale. For contrast raisins are at around 70. I tasted each of his syrups and loved them all. The darker colored one was robust both in maple flavor and character; the bourbon barrel aged maple syrup had the most rounded flavor with elegant fragrance. Their products are sold at Whole Food, I was told. So, I went to Whole Food at Union Square, NYC, but couldn’t find it. Please let me know if anyone is buying this maple syrup in the City…where?.
With these two wonderful products – miso and maple syrup – here is what I am going to make: Miso-Maple Syrup Sauce for my rice-cream made that is from koji rice. I make the rice-cream to enjoy during this hot summer time. For this sauce we need Sweet Miso and light color maple syrup. That’s it. This sauce also goes well with sandwich with hams and prosciutto. In America I think we often add too many flavors to many products. This kills the true nuances of flavor and disguises the character of ingredients. If we begin with very high-quality materials we should limit the number of flavors added to say, the sauce, in a single preparation so that these wonderful ingredients can each speak with its own voice.
Quality and simplicity go hand-in-hand. At Rocky Ridge Maple Farm 40 gallons of maple sap is processed to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. And I will lick the last drop of maple syrup in the bottle.
Eating along with the season is my motto.
I purchased the first-of-the-year wild dandelion at the Union Square Market here in NYC! It is one the first local greens to show up at the farmers’market in spring. Wild dandelion has noticeable bitterness and astringency that is ubiquitous in many early spring wild, mountain and field plants and vegetables. Dandelion is rich in Vitamin A, iron, calcium, Vitamin K and potassium. My winterized body that had been fueled by many root vegetables for more than months than I expected, is finally treated to fresh dandelion greens .
I prepared dandelion in traditional Japanese goma-yogoshi preparation. Goma-yogoshi literally means ‘vegetables, smudged with ground sesame seeds’. Well, this may not sound appealing to our ears, but believe me, it is a tasty and delicious preparation that works very well with many early spring greens.
Here is how to prepare and enjoy goma-yogoshi. Toast whole black sesame seeds in a little skillet until the seeds are all warmed up and puffed up; transfer the sesame seeds to the suribachi mortar or food processor and process until the seeds began to produce a bit of oil; by this time the toasty and fragrant aroma will permeate your kitchen especially if you are doing the grinding manually in a suribachi mortar; add small amount of good quality shoyu and some maple syrup to the ground sesame seeds to taste, and the dressing is ready. The dressing has a rather dry appearance, but this is how it should look. Blanch the dandelion or other greens in boiling salt water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain them; cool them in ice cold water; squeeze out the excess water and cut the vegetable into 2-inch lengths crosswise. Toss the greens with the sesame dressing.
Coconut Water, Kombucha, Aloe Drink, Ann Migo, Kovita in bottles…. the new super drink list goes on and on. I have something new for you. It is amazake. And it is home-made amazake that you can easily prepare. Amazake literally means ‘sweet sake’, but it has nothing to do with sake (rice wine). Amazake does not contain alcohol. Amazake is a naturally sweet rice drink. Amazake is a power house packed with nutrients.
Have you ever had in your life experienced an intravenous liquid drip that is administered to hospital patients? This so called IV drip can keep a patient’s life going for several days without any additional nutrition. Amazake has nutritional value similar to an IV drip. Therefore, when energy and stamina were necessary during the excruciating hot and humid summer amazake became a popular beverage enjoyed by commoners in the crowded city of Edo (present-day Tokyo) in the 18th and 19th century.
Amazake is made from koji rice; rice malted with koji spores. In my previous blog – ‘Koji is Aspergillus oryzae’ – you can learn about koji. Just as are shoyu, miso and sake, the sweet-tasting rice drink, amazake, is made from koji rice.
Factory-made and bottled amazake products are available at Japanese food stores, but I urge you to make it yourself. If you make it yourself, it is the real amazake with no added chemicals. Preparation of amazake is very easy and simple, and here is the recipe for you. All you need koji rice (rice with koji spores attached) and a rice cooker or yogurt maker.
Koji rice: I use Cold Mountain Dry Koji Rice. You can purchase this product on line or use other similar dry koji rice available at Japanese and Asian food stores or on line.
Rice cooker: I use Zojirushi IH that I have owned for more than over 10 years. This is a “Tesla” of rice cookers. It cooks rice properly and deliciously every time. Making amazake in this quality rice cooker is also super easy job. But you may instead use any rice cooker or your yogurt maker. For extra nutrition, I use brown rice in my amazake preparation.
Brown Rice Amazake
1 cup (Japanese rice cooker cup) medium- or short-grain brown rice
5 cups (Japanese rice cooker cup) water
7 ounces Dry Koji Rice, rubbed between your hands for a minute or so
Cook the brown rice in the rice cooker using the “porridge” function or setting. After cooking the rice reset the rice cooker to the start position. Cool the cooked rice porridge in the rice cooker bowl to 140F. Transfer the cooked rice porridge to a juicer of food processor; add the Dry Koji Rice and quickly process until pureed. If you are using polished white rice, omit this process. Transfer the rice and koji mixture quickly back to the cleaned rice cooker bowl. Set the rice cooker to KEEP WARM function. Cover the rice cooker bowl with a clean kitchen towel and lower the rice cooker lid until it is 80 percent shut. This will keep the temperature of the inside rice mixture at around 130F. Leave it as is for 10 hours. Adjust the rice cooker lid inclination to control the inside temperature
Choose a day when you will be at home during the 10 hours that the mold spores do their magic work. This does not mean that you must be at the rice cooker continuously. After mixing the koji rice and warm water together, and transferring it to the rice cooker, the rice cooker and koji do almost the entire job, including keeping the temperature of the koji rice and water mixture at proper temperature. You, however, need to babysit it. Every hour or so please check the temperature of the rice koji and water mixture in the rice cooker bowl and make sure that the temperature is always at around 130F. If the temperature goes too high it could kill the mold. As time goes by you will notice more of the carbohydrate in the rice turning into sugar than at the beginning, making the mixture sweeter and more fragrant. Please also stir the rice koji and water mixture. And do not forget to taste it at each stirring time. This is the most fun part of amazake making!
After you have made amazake store it in a clean glass jar or freezable container with a tight-fitting lid. I store one quarter of each batch amazake for immediate consumption – that one is kept in the refrigerator and is good for a week. When you consume amazake you may dilute it with cold water or sparkling water in 1:2 to 1:3 ratio. Squeeze some lemon juice or ginger juice before enjoying it as a cold drink.
I freeze the rest of the just-made amazake for later consumption. Frozen amazake does not get icy hard. It stays in an easy-to-scoop texture that can be removed with a large spoon. I call the frozen amazake ‘Rice Cream’. I often puree the amazake with banana, mango or other seasonal fruit before freezing, making it ‘Fruit Rice Cream’. Enjoy. I know you will.
Shojin Ryori: Five Section
Thank you for completing the Shojin Ryori reading. I am writing another Japanese cookbook. The new book explains the philosophy and wisdom of Japanese cuisine, which is the backbone of Japanese preparation techniques, ingredients selection and presentation of the prepared dishes. Shojin Ryori has a profound impact on the development of Japanese cuisine. Of course, the book is full of new recipes. No matter if you are serious or non-serious cook the book nourishes your physical and mental hunger. Stay tuned!
Now I want to share with you a delightful, delicious and nourishing dessert recipe, mineoka-dofu. Mineoka dofu is derived from one of the most popular and ancient Shojin Ryori preparations called goma-dofu. Goma-dofu is prepared by cooking kelp stock and ground sesame paste along with kuzu, arrowroot starch. Monks at Zen temples spend hours grinding sesame into paste, then cooking it to make goma-dofu. During the lengthy and labor intensive preparation time monks performed additional meditation. The recipe given here is a modern piece. This recipe uses milk (but not kelp stock), so the flavor will be very appealing to us. This recipe is from my book, The Sushi Experience.
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup white sesame paste
2 tablespoons kuzu (arrowroot starch)
2 cups mixed berries
Make the molasses syrup first with the sugars and 1 ¼ cups water. Or, use already prepared molasses instead.
Mix together in a bowl the kuzu, milk, cream and sesame paste and stir with a whisk. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a medium pot. Place the pot over medium heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes. At this point the mixture becomes sticky. Turn the heat to low and cook additional 20 minutes.
Transfer the mixture into a mold and cool. Cover the mold with a plastic wrap and refrigerate. Before serving divide the mineoka-dofu from the mold into dessert bowls. Garnish the top with the berries. Pour the molasses syrup over the mineoka-dofu.
Shojin Ryori: Third Section
Thank you for continuing to the third section.
Last couple or pair who occupies the last double occupancy spot in my November Kyushu tour, 2018, will experience this very special cuisine and philosophy!
When I was brought up – not at all in a monastery – these five teachings were a part of my family’s life, and the lives of everyone we knew. We had no choice as to what we were served at our table. Our mothers prepared meals using ingredients that were given to us by nature, each in its own season. We were taught to offer thanks to everyone, who brought the meals to our table, including the forces of nature, the farmers, the truck drivers, the fishermen and the workers at food stores. Our mothers utilized every part of the ingredients and instructed us not to waste food. Our foods were not necessarily cheap, but were always the highest quality that the household could afford. And the food was always safe to consume. Mothers repeated these five teachings at each meal time to make sure that we were properly satisfied and nourished. Unfortunately, today in Japan highly processed, chemically laden foods are as ubiquitous as in the US. The teachings of the monks and the food practices of my youth should be brought back again to the Japanese as well.
By introducing and practicing in our lives the spirit of Shojin Ryhori that I have described, we can change our attitude towards why we eat, how we eat, what we eat and how to prepare. Here are a few more valuable concepts to add to our practice to complete and complement the spirit of Shojin Ryori.
Shojin Ryori: Second Section
Thank you for coming back to the Second Section of the Shojin Ryori.
Dogen, the 13th century Buddhist monk, banned the slaughter of animals for human consumption in belief that killing is an inhumane act that interferes with the training of the monks who meditate in order to attain enlightenment. Shojin means a process of continuous meditation. For Zen Buddhist at the temple throughout the day the time for preparing and consuming meals is one of the important periods of meditation. To the monks meals are not for enjoyment or satisfying hunger, but for sustaining their health, so they can continue to meditate. At each meal monks recite five teachings. This is the essence of that recitation.
- We offer great thanks to nature that has brought us food to this table. We offer great thanks to the people who made our meal possible at this table, especially thanks to the monk-cooks who devoted their labor and time to prepare the dishes and to the farmers who produced this bounty.
- We reflect to ourselves before consuming a meal, “Do we deserve to receive this meal?”
- We do not bring human desires, including greed, anger or other emotions, to the table.
- Our meal is medicine for us. Our humble, but balanced meal nourishes both our mental and physical health.
- Meal time is the extension of meditation time. As we eat we continue to train ourselves in order to become a better person.
A Great Chance to Learn Japanese Cuisine in Six Months! Please read to the bottom. You will find the peak to 2017 program result.
Any chefs who are seriously thinking of learning Japanese cuisine in Japan can apply for a very special program. It is Cuisine and Food Culture Human Resource Development Program 2018, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan. Application will be accepted from mid-April, 2018 and the program starts in June. Hurry up and do not miss this chance!
Contact Hiroko at firstname.lastname@example.org for filing application! Dead line is May 15 (Japan time).
Qualification: non-Japanese chef; over age 18 upon arrival to Japan; graduate of culinary schools and/or having experience in working in Japanese cuisine kitchen; having financial ability to support own living in Japan during the program (air fare to/from Japan and accomodations are supplied by the organization during your stay in Japan); be disciplined and respectful; be physically and mentally healthy; having plans to engage in profession that contributes to promoting Japanese cuisine, food culture and Japanese ingredients after completing the program
Program: Consists of Japanese language training, basic Japanese cuisine training and apprenticeship at restaurant at high-end Japanese restaurants in Kyoto or Tokyo
Goal: Chefs who acquired rightful knowledge and skills of Japanese cuisine in the program will promote Japanese cuisine, Japanese food culture and Japan-produced ingredients throughout the world
Financial aid: round ticket airfare; tuitions for the Japanese language school and the cooking school; accommodations; national health insurance expense during your stay in Japan
NOTE: Those who did not complete the program are asked to return all of the expenses paid to the applicant back to the organization.
?Screening and Schedule (* Timeline in Japan standard time)
1) 1st Stage; document screening
Deadline of submission of application is at 23:59 on May 15, Tuesday, 2018. Submit the application to email@example.com
Submission items: Application form/face photo, Graduate certificate (diploma) of culinary school (if graduated from culinary school), Copy of passport, Recommendation letter from the present employer, Pledge form, Medical examination report
Applicants who passed the first document screening will be contacted by the organization by 23:59 on May 16, Wednesday, 2018.
2) 2nd Stage: Skype interview
30 minutes Skype interview. ?Daikon Katsuramuki skill will be judged in this interview.
Final Application results— Visa procedure
The result of 2nd Stage screening will be announced by mid of May, 2018.
Those who passed the 2nd Stage screening will plan to fly in Japan on July 1, Sunday, 2018.
?Main Schedule and Training (*subject to change)
July 2, 2018: Opening Ceremony
July 4-July 20: Japanese language lessons at a Japanese language school
July 23-August 31: Study basic Japanese cooking at a cooking school
September 3-February 22, 2019 Individual practical training as a high end Japanese restaurant
February 25: Final Exam Certification of Cooking Skills for Japanese Cuisine in Foreign Countries)
Required to participate in the exam for the Certification of Cooking Skills for Japanese Cuisine in Foreign Countries.
Check out the 2017 program result! https://www.tow.co.jp/program/pdf/program_en.pdf
SHOJIN RYORI, BUDDHIST VEGETARIAN CUISINE
It was 2014 when I wrote a piece called, “What We Can Learn from Shojin Ryori in Japan” for Zesterdaily.com. That site was unfortunately closed, and the article is no longer available. So, I am posting the article again on my blog because I want to keep this important message out and available to you. I have divided the article into five separate blog postings, adding some new content to each post, At the end of the fifth post is a recipe. Please make sure to make and enjoy this dish.
First Section: ‘Today we live in a world where many things have gone wrong with the diets of many people. These include inhumanely raised meat and poultry laden with antibiotics and hormones, and mass-made products laced with preservatives and artificial coloring and flavoring agents. Since these foods are cheap, convenient and readily available people may consume too much of them, contributing increasing problems with obesity in the population. These are complex problems with no quick and easy solution, but there is a path that we can take toward a better way of preparing and consuming our daily food.’
This was the lead 4 years ago to the Zesterdaily article. Today I will extend my warning to the emergence of plant and stem cell- based, synthetic protein products as a the latest in the development of artificial “Frankenfoods”. I also note, on the very positive side, that in the past several years the “clean food” movement has driven out many highly processed food products and artificial ingredients from food production. And reduced and managed use of antibiotics in animal farming has become more prevalent. The “clean food” movement continues to gather momentum and grow. That is good news for all of us!
‘Let us take a journey to search for the spirit of Shojin Ryori, the venerable Japanese vegetarian cuisine. The ideas behind this vegetarian cuisine were introduced by the Japanese Zen Buddhist monk Dogen in the 13th century after his studies of Zen Buddhism in China. Only monks at the temple followed the strictly vegetarian Shojin Ryori diet; the rest of the population depended on a diet of grains, seafood, legumes, vegetables and fruit. However, the spirit of Shojin Ryori deeply penetrated the lives and dining styles of ordinary people and became the backbone of Japanese food culture – why we eat, how we eat and what we eat.
Please come back to the post next week. You will find the Second section of this article.
Kyushu with Hiroko 2018 has a last double occupancy spot available. Watch this video from NY Times! and Join me!
We will be experiencing many of wonderful hot springs like this. Thank you New York Times.
Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, is known for its scenic view so the tourists from all over Japan flocks to the area. But, there is one more reason for the popularity. Check the CNN Travel story below!
Most importantly; Join me Kyushu in November, 2018. You will stay at very unique and 4 star hotels/inns and experience something which you never dreamed of. The first place where we visit is Kunisaki Peninsula, where the Buddhist culture blossomed at early time (7th Century). It is not Kyoto and is more important than Kyoto. This year Kunisaki Peninsula celebrates 1300th anniversary of Rokugo Manzan culture. We are lucky that we receive special memorial service at this very special year at one of the oldest temples, founded in the mid of 7th century. The service is …….priceless. You won’t know what it means until you join me.
Check out the Trip Overview on my website. You will be the last couple to fill the space. Very special group. Contact me. I will send you more detailed information, including tariff.
I cannot wait traveling Kyushu with you this November!