Japanese food culture, Food event in Tokyo, Japanese unique ingredients and classes
Cherry blossom season has coming. It is 9 days earlier than average year. Full bloom is expecting March 25th to 31st, according to the latest weather report. Hope you have chance to appreciate beautiful cherry blossom in this spring.
Many people visit from the world in this season, the end of March to early April and looking forward to see the blooms. I would like many people have chance to appreciate the blooms. We call hanami which means seeing and appreciate cherry blossom blooms. Hanami has been a traditional season event from 1300 years ago. There are many historical stories related to cherry blossoms in this country.
It is beautiful to see the blooms under soft sunlight during the day, but it is also fabulous to see them in the evening. Most of the trees are lit up in the park and makes the blooms show beautiful. It is dream like atmosphere.
People enjoy picnic under the trees which is annual event for us. We bring food, sweets and drinks with picnic mats and enjoy eating and drinking there. People do the picnic during the day and also in the evenings. Grown ups enjoy drinking and eventually some young people are drunken. Japanese people are not really make a fuss, but you may encounter in this season.
I recommend you, Japan visitors to join the local hanami-picnic. You can get disposable picnic mats, paper plates and cutleries in 100 yen shops, and there are many options for food and drinks in food stores. Grab those staffs and lay the mat down under tree. Then, enjoy your hanami-party, like we do. Hope you have memorable day!
Foreign tourists who love cooking to Japan are interested in Japanese cooking knife. Students in my cooking class often ask me what to buy and where to buy. I recommend to buy in Tsukiji fish market and kappa-bashi kitchen-dining whole sale street. Because there are cooking knife specialty shops in the area. The shop staffs will give you advises in English and you will understand deeper about Japanese cooking knife. Also some shops offer the services which engrave your name on the steel in several minutes.
I have French chef knife and used at culinary school and work in restaurant. The knife worked well when I handle whole chicken, but it is heavy for me to cut vegetables. Also the knife need to sharp almost every week to cut clearly. When I came back and started to use Japanese knife, I was really impressed that the knife is right and sharpness last longer.
I use four Damascus steel knife for daily cooking and for cooking class. I would love the students experience using high quality Japanese products at my kitchen.
Damascus steel Vegetable knife, Jikko about 13000 yen
Square shaped knife on the left is a vegetable knife, it is called Usuba-houcho. This type of knife suites for cutting and peeling vegetables. When I used the knife for slicing, I can slice very thin and that makes me feel very good at cooking. The knife commonly had used among the house holds before Japanese began to eat meat and poultry after world II, that time house holds prepare western dishes at home. Currently the knife hasn't seen at kitchen at home, however, traditional Japanese cooking chefs has been used in the professional kitchen preparing vegetables. The knife is produced in Sakai city in Osaka, used to produced Japanese knives in the age of Civil Wars to Edo period.
Damascus steel small Santoku-knife, Sekimagoroku, Kaihause about 9000 yen
Middle two Japanese knife, we call it santoku-hochou, slimier shape to chefs knife. This shape of Japanese knife is most common one in domestic kitchens. Santoku is literally means three profits in English and means one knife can use for cutting vegetables, meat and seafood. It means like " all in one" . I regularly use this knife for daily meal preps. As seen in the picture, the steel is shorter than the vegetable knife and handle is also shorter. The size fits my hand comfortably and that not make me tired. the products are made in Seki city in Gifu pref. well known for traditional steel products. I sharp the the knife which the stone every 2 month or when I struggle to cut chicken and tomatoes. The sharpening brought back to original sharpness. It is said that as long as you sharp right way, the knife last more than 10 years.
Damascus steel small Santoku Miyabi Zwilling J.A. Henckels 20000 yen
The producer is located in Solingen in German, but the Japanese knife is designed and manufactured in Seki city Gifu pref. in Japan. The small santoku is same usage as Seki-magoroku-one. The sharpness lasts long as long as treated proper way.
People annually celebrate Girl's day on March 3rd for wishing the health and happiness of girls. Each family who has girls display special layers of dolls for the day. We call them Hina-dolls, so the girls day is also called as Hina-matsuri. It is sayd that Hina ningyo-dolls take the girls' bad luck away. The Hina dolls wears traditional costumes which is worn in Heian period, late 700 -1120. The set of the dolls represents the emperor, empress, their servants with many staffs that the empress brought with her when she got marry.
Traditionally, clam clear soup has been prepared for the day. A twin of clams would not match any shell other than their counterpart. So parents or grown ups wishes the girl will meet a partner and live together in happy union till parted by the end.
I actually didn't celebrate the day at home because I am the only woman in family member. However, I had good time with mom's friends to have lunch.
Do you know what miso is made from? The ingredients for miso are mainly three: Rice miso is made from malted rice, soybean and salt. Barley miso is made from malted barley, soybean and salt, while soybean miso made from malted soybean added with salt. Actually, I saw chick pea miso in Tsukiji fish market. Miso is a representative fermented seasoning as important as soy sauce in Japan.
Miso is also categorized depending upon the kind of malt used, the flavors such as salty or sweet, the color such as white, red, or light colored. Rice miso makde up about 80% of the miso produced throughout the nation, while barley miso is also called country-miso since it is generally a farmer's home cooking. However, nowadays barley miso is regarded as local miso in Kyusyu ( south part of Japan) area.
Miso is rich in nutrients and said eating miso keeps the doctors away. There are various quotes that relate miso and health. I'm impressed how miso has nutrients and has been keep people healthy by taking miso frequently. That is the wisdom of ancestors to today.
These are nutrients in miso paste.
Miso soup is now well known in universal, people eager to learn how to make miso soup at my class. Japanese eat miso as miso soup and there are various menus using miso.
Dengaku-miso is sweet seasoned miso, which is often served with juicy cooked daikon radish during winter and fried or pan fried eggplants in summer. My cooking teacher told that commonly serve white miso for winter and red miso for summer time.
This is Deep fried eggpant with sweetened miso sauce.
I often cook this side dish for my cooking class. People like the combination of saltiness, sweetness and umami.
Since miso contains Umami, it goes with variety of seasonings and ingredients.
Mixing same amount of miso and mayonnaise is miso dipping sauce. You may enjoy miso flavor to your table easily.
It is now in season of cherry blossom blooming in Japan. The forecast says blooming this year is almost 9 days earlier than the average year. According to the latest weather report, the blooming starts on March 19th and full bloom is expected in Friday 23rd to Monday 26th.
We Japanese have been looking forward to appreciate the beauty of spring bloom. The season of full bloom is almost same as new employees start to work at the company. It is said that traditionally, the new workers first duty is organizing Hanami-party, which means a party with appreciating cherry blossom. The employees have a welcome party for new employees after working time.
You can enjoy seeing the bloom not only the daytime, but also in the evening. You may encounter people who enjoy a party under the tree, they are not only company's gathering. This is an annual event that people bring their own picnic sheet, food and drink and having great time in the beautiful scene. Students who are visitors from other country in my cooking class say they can't imagine that Japanese drink outdoor and drunken.
I used to attend the Hanami party and it was so much fun. My colleagues and I prepared nice decorated bento box, sweets, wine and sake then enjoy drinking there. Now there are choices to order pizza and meal catering from closest branch so people enjoy hot pizza and food for the party. Moreover, some groups enjoy nabe ( hot pot), oden ( simmered daikon radish, eggs and fish cakes) and barbeque. I'm very interested in what people eat in outside more than cherry blossom because I am foodie.....
I hope you enjoy local experience. You can get a disposable picnic mat, cutlery and plates in 100 yen shop. There are many stores and food shops offer nice varieties of bento box and drinks, so you can get nice food there. Then you bring all the staffs to under nice cherry blossom and enjoy the party!
Sushi rolled in seaweed, we call it Maki-zushi. This is well known as California rolls. Original Japanese rolled sushi doesn't contain raw ingredients. The fillings are mostly egg rolls, cooked shiitake mushrooms, cooked greens, such as spinach and cooked seafood. We make this kind of sushi for special event gathering and for picnic since it doesn't need any culturally when we eat.
Oshi-zushi is pressed sushi in a certain wooden box. Serve layered seasoned rice and ingredients then press and hold to make firm shaped sushi.
This is Inari-zushi. Vinegar seasoned sushi rice stuffed in fried bean curd. We eat this sushi in event and picnic the same occasions as rolled sushi. It doesn't contain any seafood, so vegetarian enjoy this sushi.
My family like sushi, so I often make sushi for dinner, maybe every 2 weeks. Sometime I make chirashi-zushi or buy in super market. My sons never get tired to eat sushi.