Fresh Soy Milk Sheets (Nama Yuba)

2 cups soy milk, preferably rich (with a high soy-solid content) and freshly extracted
½ teaspoon wasabi paste
Soy sauce or Vegan Seasoned Soy Concentrate

Ideally, your stove top provides a low but steady source of cooking heat. Place a 7- or 8-inch shallow skillet or pan, preferably nonstick, over low heat for about 1 minute. Slowly pour the soy milk into the warm pan. It should be about ¼ inch deep. Adjust the heat to the lowest possible setting and allow the soy milk to heat undisturbed.

After several minutes, you will notice the surface of the soy milk beginning to thicken. At this point, the temperature of the soy milk will probably be 140°F. Using an uchiwa (Japanese fan) or a flat piece of cardboard (about 8 by 11 inches), gently fan the air above the pan to cause a drop in air temperature; this, in turn, will cool the surface of the warm soy milk. When the surface of the soy milk cools but the liquid beneath is still warm, wrinkles will form and the surface will thicken, making sheets of nama yuba.

Using a thick chopstick (or wooden knitting needle), scoop under and lift up the sheet and drape it across a small serving plate. Choose a dark or brightly colored plate for a dramatic presentation. Continue to fan, scoop, and lift sheets, arranging 2 or 3 of them slightly overlapping each other on each plate. You should be able to pull at least 8 sheets, and possibly 12 or more, from 2 cups soy milk. The sheets will be wrinkled, not smooth.

Set a small mound of the wasabi on, or near, the fresh yuba. Pour a small amount of soy sauce into individual dipping bowls. Each diner dissolves wasabi to taste in his or her soy sauce before grasping a yuba sheet, dipping it in the sauce, and enjoying.

Sources: Kansha

Green Tea (Matcha) Ice Cream

⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup cold water
½ teaspoon mirin
2 teaspoons matcha
½ cup whole milk
½ cup half-and-half

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Stir the mixture over low heat to melt the sugar and then continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until a bit syrupy. Add the mirin, stir, and remove the pan from the heat.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the warm syrup and the matcha and stir until dissolved. Return this sweet tea concentrate to the saucepan and stir until completely blended. To retain optimal aroma and ensure an intense jade color, do not reheat the mixture. Stir in the milk and half-and-half and mix thoroughly.

If you are using an ice-cream maker:

Pour the tea-and-milk mixture into the machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making a soft-set ice cream. For most models, about 10 minutes of chilling and churning should suffice. Pour the semifrozen mixture into a 3-cup freezer-safe container with a snug-fitting lid. Tap the container gently on a countertop to force out any air bubbles that might be trapped below the surface. Cover and freeze for at least 2 hours, or until firm throughout.

If you are using a blender, electric mixer, or whisk and freezer trays:

Pour the tea-and-milk mixture into a flat, shallow freezer-safe container, filling it no more than two-thirds full (the mixture will expand). Tap the container gently on a countertop to force out any air bubbles that might be trapped below the surface. Cover and freeze for 1½ hours, or until nearly firm. Transfer the semifrozen mixture to a blender and pulse in a few short spurts. Or, with a handheld electric mixer or a whisk, whip the mixture vigorously in a deep bowl. Return the mixture to the same container, re-cover, and freeze again for another 45 minutes, or until firm (but not rock-hard) throughout. Repeat the blend or whip step one more time to achieve a silkier texture.

The final ice cream should be smooth but not too hard. When ready to serve, transfer one or two scoops to pre-chilled bowls. The jade color of the ice cream makes for a dramatic presentation against black tableware.

Sources: Washoku

Japanese Teas After Matcha

The vast majority of tea consumed in Japan is, and historically has been, green tea. But there are many different options that fall under the “green” category, varying based on qualities like the time of harvest, how much sun the leaves have seen, how the tea is processed, and what parts of the plant are used in the final product.

SENCHA: The most commonly consumed tea in Japan, sencha consists of green tea leaves that have been grown in full sunlight. Meaning simmered tea, sencha is delicate, mild, and slightly floral. It should be brewed for 2 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

GYOKURO: This high-end tea is made from first-flush green tea leaves grown partially in the shade. Sweet and mild, it should be brewed for about 3 minutes in relatively cool water (120 to 140° F).

BANCHA: This lower grade of sencha is harvested later in the year, and can include some stems in with the leaves. Its flavor is more robust and astringent than delicate sencha. It should be brewed for 1 to 3 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

HOJICHA: A reddish-brown tea made by roasting bancha in a clay pot over charcoal (most Japanese teas are steamed), hojicha is a roasty, nutty, mellow tea, low in caffeine, typically served during or after an evening meal. It should be brewed for about 1 minute in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

GENMAICHA: Genmaicha refers to any combination of dried green tea and toasted genmai rice grains, the latter of which provides the beverage with a nutty depth to offset the tea’s natural astringency. It can be made with sencha, bancha, or gyokuro tea and sold premixed or created on your own at home. Brew it for 1 minute in water at a steep simmer (185° F).

KUKICHA: Also known as twig tea, this blend of tea leaves, stems, and twigs is available as both a green tea and in roasted, oxidized form. Creamy and mild, it should be brewed for 3 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

MUGICHA: Not technically a tea at all, mugicha is made from roasted barley. This caffeine-free beverage is traditionally served cold as a summer drink in Japan; outside of Japan, it’s popular as a coffee substitute. Brewing conditions needn’t be as fussy for mugicha as for green teas, but plan to steep it for about 2 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

Sources: Kyotofu

Masaharu Morimoto Inspired Shrimp, Chicken and Fish Chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し)

3 cups Dashi (dried fish and kelp stock)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon usukuchi (Japanese light-colored soy sauce), plus 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
8 thin, bite-size slices boneless skinless chicken thigh (from 1 small thigh)
One 3-ounce fillet delicate white-fleshed fish, such as fluke or flounder, cut into 8 thin bite-size slices
4 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 drained canned gingko nuts or 4 jarred or vacuum-packed roasted chestnuts, halved
¼ cup loosely packed very roughly chopped mitsuba, thinly sliced scallions or thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms

Combine the dashi, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the usukuchi, the mirin, and salt in a small pot, bring to a boil, then let cool completely.
Gently mix the eggs in a medium bowl so they’re well mixed but don’t develop bubbles. Pour in the dashi mixture, stir well, then strain into a measuring cup, discarding any solids.

Briefly toss the chicken, fish, and shrimp in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, shake to let any excess drip off, and divide them among the 4 small bowls or ramekins. Divide the gingko nuts among the bowls or ramekins, then divide the egg mixture evenly among them and cover with foil.

Line a wide, shallow-lidded pot or a Dutch oven with a paper towel. Add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully add the bowls to the pot and cover with the lid. Cook until the custard turns pale, 3 to 4 minutes, then carefully remove the bowls from the pot. Add the mitsuba, scallion or shiitake mushroom to the surface of the custard and re-cover with the foil.

Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, return the bowls to the water, and cover the pot with the lid so it’s slightly ajar. Cook until the custard is just set but still jiggles when you shake the bowls (or a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean), 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Doyo no Ushi no Hi

Japanese Cultural Spotlight:

【Doyo no Ushi no Hi – The Ox day in midsummer】

In the traditional calendar, Doyo no Ushi no Hi occurs around the hottest period of the year. The humidity is also high at this time in mid-July. This is a time to take special care of one’s health by eating nourishing food, and folklore has it that grilled eel flavored with a sweet and salty teriyaki sauce will fit the bill.

When the fragrance of this delicacy wafts from small kaba-yaki outlets, you may see people lined up to buy. The custom of eating eel in mid-summer began in the 18th century, promoted by merchants eager to sell the day’s catch.

Oishinbo

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Oishinbo (美味しんぼ, “The Gourmet”) is a long-running cooking manga written by Tetsu Kariya and drawn by Akira Hanasaki. The manga’s title is a portmanteau of the Japanese word for delicious, oishii, and the word for someone who loves to eat, kuishinbo. The series depicts the adventures of culinary journalist Shirō Yamaoka and his partner (and later wife), Yūko Kurita. It was published by Shogakukan between 1983 and 2008 in Big Comic Spirits, and resumed again on February 23, 2009, only to be put on an indefinite hiatus after the May 12, 2014 edition in the weekly Big Comic Spirits as a response by the publisher to harsh criticism of Oishinbo’s treatment of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Oishinbo is a drama featuring journalist Shiro Yamaoka who works for Touzai Shimbun. He is a cynical food critic who is tasked by the newspaper’s owner, along with the young Yuko Kurita, to provide recipes for the “ultimate menu”. During their search, the encounter Yamaoka’s fastidious and demanding father, Kaibara Yuzan, a famous gourmand who tries to sabotage Yamaoka’s project.

United States Release:

Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine, Vol. 1 (January 20, 2009)

Japanese Cuisine introduces us to the fundamental ingredients–rice, sashimi, green tea, and dashi (cooking stock)–that constitute the soul of the Japanese kitchen. In each story we learn about the proper preparation and presentation of different dishes, as well as their history and cultural significance. The result is a moveable feast of a book, as informative as it is engaging.

Oishinbo: Sake, Vol. 2 (March 17, 2009)

In this volume, the focus shifts from food to drink: specifically, to sake. For centuries different types of sake have played the same roles in Japan as wine and beer have in the West, from inexpensive everyday drink to refined single-batch rarities. Above all, sake has been enjoyed as an accompaniment to a meal, and after a revelatory moment one night, Yamaoka decides that drink pairings must be an integral part of the Ultimate Menu. So which foods go best with which drinks? Sit down, pour yourself a glass, and read on!

Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza, Vol. 3 (May 19, 2009)

Few foods inspire as much passion and partisanship as the dish of noodles in broth known as “ramen.” Hot or cold, plain or miso, from fancy fusion creations to humble roadside takeout, ramen is truly a beloved food, one that can give rise to fierce loyalty or fiercer criticism (not to mention the occasional fistfight). In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company inquire into the “soul of ramen,” from the flour used in the noodles to the chickens used in the broth. And where there’s ramen, there’s gyôza: little dumplings made with a variety of fillings and served as a side dish. Will Yamaoka be able to create an “ultimate” gyôza before Kaibara creates a “supreme” one?

Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi, Vol. 4 (July 21, 2009)

Yamaoka and his father, Kaibara Yūzan, have never enjoyed an ideal father-son relationship. In fact, it’s about as far from ideal as possible, and when they start arguing about food–which they inevitably do–the sparks really fly. In this volume of Oishinbo the subject of dispute is fish, starting with the question of whether mackerel can ever be truly good sashimi. Later, things come to a head during the “Salmon Match,” which pits father against son in an epic contest to develop the best dish before a panel of judges. Will Yamaoka finally defeat Kaibara? Or will he once again be left in his father’s shadow?

Oishinbo: Vegetables, Vol. 5 (September 15, 2009)

Weekly Time magazine sets up a series of culinary battles between the Tōzai News’s “Ultimate Menu,” represented by Yamaoka, and the Teito Times’s “Supreme Menu,” represented by Kaibara Yūzan, Yamaoka’s father and nemesis. The ingredient this time is vegetables, specifically cabbages and turnips. Who will win the Vegetable Showdown? Later, Yamaoka and Kurita help Tomii’s son get over his hatred of eggplant, and patch a rift between lovers using the power of asparagus.

Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice, Vol. 6 (November 17, 2009)

In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company look into the single most essential food in Japanese cuisine: rice. Cultivated for millennia, a staple meal in itself and the basis of countless other dishes, rice is an important component not only of the Japanese kitchen but also of Japanese culture. When Yamaoka is asked by Tōzai’s head chef for help in coming up with a new rice dish, what starts out as a simple culinary request rapidly grows into a disquisition into the past, present and future of Japan’s food culture.

Oishinbo: Izakaya: Pub Food, Vol. 7 (January 19, 2010)

Izakaya occupy the same vital space in the Japanese culinary landscape as tapas bars in Spain or tavernas in Greece. Unpretentious, frequently boisterous, they’re places to meet with friends or business partners to unwind over drinks and small dishes that range from hearty standards to refined innovations. In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and Kurita investigate classic izakaya foods such as edamame and yakitori, devise new dishes to add to the menu of an old shop, and discover how the concept of “play” is essential to the enjoyment of food.

Sources: Oishinbo manga, Wikipedia

Sushi Definitions for Foreigners

Definitions:

Neta –> The commonly used term for sushi toppings, such as seafood ingredients. The salmon that sits on top of your nigiri? Yep, that’s neta! 

Shari –> Sushi rice is called “shari”. It’s commonly flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Shari plays a very crucial role in the flavors of sushi and shouldn’t be overlooked!

Murasaki –> Murasaki” is the Japanese word for the color purple, but in the sushi world, it’s the term used for soy sauce. It’s said that during the Edo period (1603-1868), soy sauce was referred to as murasaki because of its purple color. It was also believed that, as soy sauce was regarded as a luxury ingredient in olden days, it was dubbed “murasaki” due to the view of purple as a symbol of wealth in Japan.

Sabi, Namida –> Other ways to say wasabi. “Namida” means “tears”, and it was named this because it can cause one’s eyes to start watering after eating a bit too much of it at one time or getting a huge whiff of its sharp, distinct smell.

Nigiri –> is what most people think of when it comes to sushi – sushi rice seasoned with sugar, vinegar, and salt, then topped with items like seafood or egg. 

Gunkan –> is a type of sushi in which a strip of seaweed is wrapped around the rice to form a “boat” shape then topped with a neta. The name “gunkan” (or “battleship”) comes from its boat-like appearance.

Zuke –> “Zuke” is derived from the words “tsukemono” (Japanese pickles) or “shoyuzuke” (soy sauce marinade), a preparation method that was born in olden times with the aim of preserving food for long periods of time.

Gyoku –> Gyoku is another way to read the first character of the kanji characters for tamago (egg). Sushi topped with tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelet) is one of the standard choices for sushi. It’s even said that you can determine the skills of a sushi restaurant’s chefs by the quality of their tamagoyaki.

Gari –> If you ever go to a sushi restaurant, you’ll almost certainly see these thin slices of pickled ginger, which are called “gari”. They have a slight sweetness with a little kick of spice, which has the effect of washing away any residual flavors from fatty fish so that you can taste your next bite of sushi with a clean slate.

Omakase –> You’ve probably experienced difficulties deciding what to order at a sushi restaurant. With the omakase, you’ll not only be rid of the burden of poring over the menu, but you’ll also be served all the sushi chef’s top neta recommendations! The sushi is served one at a time to ensure they are enjoyed at their peak state of deliciousness, and it often features seasonal ingredients and seafood stocked fresh daily.

Agari –> The hot green tea served at sushi restaurants at the end of the meal. The word “agari” includes the meaning of “the last item”. The type of tea served differs by sushi restaurant, but Japanese green tea and bancha (coarse green tea) are the most common. You’ll feel nice and relaxed after wrapping up your delicious meal of sushi with a cup of hot green tea.

Hanarenkon (Flower-Shaped Lotus Root)

  • 3¼ ounces lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons  rice vinegar

Vinegar Mixture

  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients for the vinegar mixture, except
lemon juice, in a saucepan. Place it over low heat to
dissolve all the sugar and salt. Allow to cool.

Peel and slice lotus root into 1/4 inch thick rings. Soak
immediately in water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to prevent
discolouration. Make flower cuts and drain before using.

Boil a pot of water and add the other tablespoon of vinegar.
Add sliced lotus root flowers and boil for 5 minutes.
Remove lotus root and allow to cool.

Add lotus root slices to vinegar mixture and lemon juice in
a resealable bag. Remove any air from the bag, seal and
refrigerate for a minimum of 2–3 hours.

They are better on day two after the sweetness and contrasting sourness become more prominent.

Akajiso No Shiomomi (Salted Red Shiso Leaves)

6 tablespoonsfine white sea salt
½ pound red shiso leaves

Spread a layer of salt in the bottom of a small crock. Stack the shiso leaves by 10s and lay the first stack of 10 leaves on top of the salt in the crock. Sprinkle more salt on top of the leaves, just enough so the leaves have a light salt coverage. Alternate leaves and salt until you have placed all of the leaves in the crock. Finish with a last layer of salt to cover the top leaves so none are exposed. Cover with a piece of muslin cloth and weight. Store in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks to a month.

Shichimi Tōgarashi (七味唐辛子): Seven Flavor Chili Pepper

2 tablespoons sanshō or finely ground Szechuan pepper
2 tablespoons dried yuzu peel or orange or lemon peel
4 tablespoons chili powder (the Korean variety if possible)
2 tablespoons aonoriko (nori seaweed flakes)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
2 tsp teaspoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container.  These amounts are just a guideline and adjust seasonings to your taste.