Hijiki Inari Pockets

This is a dish from Buddhist priest and shojin-ryori chef, Genbo Nishikawa, who is the abbot of Torin-in temple in Kyoto. This recipe is a seasonal dish that is enjoyed during late spring when fresh hijiki is available, but it works just fine if you use dried hijiki.

Hijiki no Inarizume

Ingredients (for full descriptions see “Ingredients“):
Momen tofu 120g
Yamato-imo (mountain potato) 30g
Hijiki seaweed 50g (reconstituted with water if dried hijiki is used)
Abura-age (tofu pockets) 4 pieces
Kanpyo 16 pieces 15cms long (calabash gourd shavings reconstituted with water)
Cooking liquid:
Water 2 cups
Dashi stock 1/2 cup (made with konbu and shiitake)
Usukuchi shoyu 2+1/2 Tbsp
Sugar 3 Tbsp

1) Wrap the tofu in a cloth and squeeze firmly, then place the tofu in a suribachi (earthenware mortar for grinding).
2) Peel the yamato-imo, grate it and add it to the tofu. Mix well.
3) Chop up the hijiki and add it to the bowl with the yamato-imo and tofu. Mix lightly.
4) Using a wooden pestle or some such, roll over the abura-age several times, then cut the pieces in half lengthwise.
5) Divide the mixture in the bowl into 8 portions and stuff each of the tofu pockets. Secure by tying the kanpyo in two places. The yamato-imo tends to swell up, so don’t overstuff the pockets.
6) Place the cooking liquid ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Carefully arrange the rolls in the pot and simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes
7) Turn off the heat and place the rolls in individual serving dishes. Cut the rolls in half to serve.

Source: Kyounoryouri

Soy Bean Meditation

Here is an extract from Kakuho Aoe‘s book “Food for the Buddha” about how to use soy beans to make dashi soup stock and practice meditation at the same time

2015.01.30_daizu02Roasting soy beans with your ears and nose!

The kind of dashi that is most common to household cooking is the one made with konbu seaweed and bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi). Small dried sardines, called niboshi, and shiitake mushrooms are also used. In the temple, we don’t use any ingredients that come from animals, so katsuo-bushi and sardines are not used; however, we do use a variety of other ingredients and so never lack variation. One particularly useful ingredients for dashi is soy beans. Dashi made from soy beans has a full-bodied fragrant sweetness.

2015.01.30_setsubunFresh soy beans come into season in autumn, but because of the festival of Setsubun, you’ll find dried soy beans in the shops early in February. But once the festival is over, don’t waste those beans! Try and make dashi with them instead.

It’s easy to prepare. First of all, simply roast the beans in a frypan. Then put the roasted beans in boiling water and just leave them there for 24 hours. Then the soy bean dashi is ready to use – just sieve the beans and use the soaking liquid. Although that’s all there is to making this dashi, in fact if you pay careful attention with your eyes, with your ears, and with your nose, this can become quite a profound experience.

When you are roasting the soy beans, first you’ll hear a light dry sound. After a little while, this changes to a more substantial somewhat weightier sound as you hear the beans rolling around; then, before long, it changes back to a rather pleasing parching sound.

However, it’s not quite as simple as just “frying up a few soy beans”, so to speak: it depends on the room temperature, as well as the temperature of the pan; also, the age and quality of the beans will affect the result. But most of all, you need to use your ears! Looking at the clock won’t help: it’s crucial to listen for that subtle change in sound. It’s difficult to explain, but when you try it for yourself, you’ll understand what I mean. But if you pause too long to think about whether or not there was that slight shift in sound, before you know it the beans are burnt!

2015.01.30_daizu01Also, between the start and finish of roasting, the smell of beans changes. The beans have a characteristic subtle scent that becomes very fragrant as they are roasted; however, if you relax your attention, the smell can become harsh and bitter instead, which is another sign that the beans are getting burnt. So, to create a rich and sweet dashi, it’s essential to concentrate on roasting the beans.

In order to listen fully with your ears and utilise your nose to track the smell of the beans, you need to pay close and constant attention to that frypan for about 30 minutes. To make soybean dashi, you’re literally going to use the whole of your body in an ongoing dialogue with the beans.

However, regardless of how much you pay attention and commit yourself heart and soul to the task, you won’t always end up with the same flavour. But that’s what makes the challenge of making this dashi is so interesting!

2015.01.30_buddhaThere is a sutra that has come down to us, written in Pali, called the Bhaddekaratta Sutra. In this sutra, Shakamuni Buddha explains some fundamental teachings to his disciples:

“You shouldn’t chase after the past or place expectations on the future… do what needs to be done today with your full attention.”

If you think about how good something was yesterday, then that is nothing more than fixating on the past, and likewise, if today you hold onto the idea that it’s going to get better in the future, then you’re deluding yourself by being fixated on a future that hasn’t yet arrived.

And so it is when you first encounter the soy beans: be fully aware and with a clear mind simply observe carefull and work in silence. In doing this you will draw out the best flavour.

Now then, after you’ve made dashi with the soy beans, there are ways to further use them because there is still plenty of flavour left in the beans. I recommend “sweet and salty beans”. If you simmer the beans with sugar, soy sauce and mirin it makes a nice snack for the kids or to have with a drink or as an appetizer.

2015.01.30_daizu04If you haven’t soaked or roasted the beans long enough, then they will remain hard in the middle and when you boil them like this they won’t soften. On the other hand, if you roasted them too much, then the burnt taste will permeate the dish and make it smell unpleasant as well, so that’s no good either. But if you have been fully attentive to the roasting the beans, then not only will the dashi be delicious but anything else you make will be delicious as well.

Source: 『ほとけごはん』青江覚峰

Introducing Kakuho Aoe


Kuroyami-gohan: eating dinner at Ryokusenji blindfolded in the dark

Kuroyami-gohan: eating dinner at Ryokusenji blindfolded in the dark

Kakuho Aoe is a Jodo Shin-shu Buddhist priest, who is revitalising Buddhism with his techno-savvy and his passion for food, both of which he is using as tools for awakening. Aoe has helped to create a virtual Buddhist temple that utilises social media techniques to bring Buddhism into the digital age. But it is his interesting approach to food as meditation that interests us here: once a month he holds a special meal event at his temple in Asakusa (Tokyo), Ryokusenji, in which the guests eat a beautifully prepared shojin-ryori meal, but which they cannot see because they are wearing blindfolds (sleep masks). This event is called “kurayami-gohan” 暗闇ごはん, “meal in the dark.”

Rev Kakuho Aoe

Rev Kakuho Aoe

Taking away your sense of sight, says Aoe, forces you pay more attention to your other senses of taste, smell, hearing and touch, and so you experience eating a meal in a completely different way. While sitting in the unusual setting of a temple room surrounded by people you don’t know, your level of awareness of everything involved in the act of eating a meal is significantly raised. Rather than just eating in perfunctory way, you become completely focussed on every moment of eating: the feel of the different textures of the ingredients, the different sounds of the food as you bite into it, trying to imagine what it is you are eating, etc, all contribute to experiencing the meal on a completely new level of appreciation. Eating becomes a meditation.

Rev Aoe has also published several cookbooks about shojin-ryori.



Before the Meiji era, at which time Japan adopted the Western calendar, the old calendar was based on the phases of the moon. The full moon always fell on the 15th day of the lunar month, and the full moon of the first month of the year was celebrated as Koshogatsu 小正月. Today in Japan, this festival is often celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month, i.e. January 15th, although this now has no connection to the full moon (what a pity!). Since the Heian era, on the morning of Koshogatsu, a special rice porridge made with red azuki beans and mochi is eaten: In Japanese, this special dish is called azuki-kayu 小豆粥, but in Kyoto it is called azuki-no-okaisan.

Azuki-no-okaisan at Torin-in

Azuki-no-okaisan at Torin-in

At Torin-in, a sub-temple within the Myoshinji temple complex in Kyoto, from the 15th Jan to 31st Jan, you can enjoy visit Torin-in and receive the azuki rice porridge with a beautiful tray of shojin cuisine, as well as an amulet to take home that is for protection from illness and for the prosperity of the family. (Torin-in is the home of Genbo Nishikawa, about whom I have written before. Details about how to participate in this even are given at the bottom of this post.)

At Torin-in there is a special Buddhist ritual performed on the morning of January 15th, which the public are welcome to join, where a little bit of the azuki-kayu is offered to all the trees in the garden of Torin-in, while sutras are being chanted.

Here is the recipe for azuki-no-okaisan from Kyokarashi, a website dedicated to Kyoto obanzai (home-style cooking)


Some azuki beans*
Water as needed
Rice ~ 1/5 cup per person
Round mochi ~ 1 per person

1. Soak the azuki beans overnight and then rinse.
2. Fill a pot with plenty of water and simmer the beans
3. While the mixture is still hot, transfer it to a thermos flask and leave it overnight
4. Make okayu with the rice.
5. Add boiled mochi to the okayu, then add a suitable quantity of the now-softened azuki beans from the thermos.
6. Add salt to taste
With the leftover beans and water remaining in the flask you can make ozenzai by adding sugar, salt, and grilled mochi

*Not giving clear measurements is very typical of Japanese recipes: there is always leeway given for you to experiment and decide how much of an ingredient is to your own taste. Also, where you live affects the ingredients, especially the quality of your water, so the quantity of ingredients will vary according to where it is grown, how old it is, where you live, etc. It is up to you to refine your own sense of taste. However, that’s all well and good if you are an experienced cook! But if you would like a recipe with more concrete details, you can read about how to make red bean okayu (in English) at Just Bento

Photo: Oagaritei


Shōgoin Daikon 聖護院大根

Shōgoin Daikon 聖護院大根

Shōgoin daikon 聖護院大根 is one of the traditional vegetables of Kyoto and is sometimes referred to as Kyo-daikon. It is said that during the early 19th century, a farmer moved to Kyoto from Owari province (present-day Aichi-ken) and started cultivating ordinary long daikon radishes in the vicinity of the temple Shōgoin. It seems that some of the daikon seeds produced a mutant round daikon, but the farmer was so intrigued with this new vegetable that he continued to cultivate the variation instead of the regular-shaped daikon. Since then it has become one of Kyoto’s unique vegetables, valued for its shape and its very fine white flesh with a mild flavour, much suited to the delicacy of Kyoto cuisine. When boiled it keeps its firm texture and doesn’t break apart like regular daikon.

The shōgoin daikon is mostly now grown in the northern part of Kyoto prefecture in the Tango area, where the heavy snowfalls in winter produce the best flavour. It is also dried and shipped all over Japan. It is sometimes called vegetarian dried squid because of its resemblance to the squid which are cut and dried on racks in a similar way.

Shōgoin daikon can be prepared in much the same ways as standard daikon, but the flavour is milder and slightly sweeter, with a firmer texture; however, it is rarely used as “oroshi” (finely grated).

Kunio Tokuoka, owner-chef of the famous Kitcho restaurant, has this to say about daikon:

“Even though daikon is most well known as an accompaniment to other foods, such as finely grated and served with whitebait or grated with a dash of shoyu (soy sauce) served with mackerel and so on, at Kitcho we like to serve our customers something with a little element of surprise, so daikon is prepared in a more unpredictable way such as grilled or as tempura. Unlike turnips, in which all parts can be used, only the very middle part of the daikon is used, where the flavour is at its best.”

Here is Chef Tokuoka’s recipe for Furofuki Daikon – Simmered Daikon with Miso



Konbu dashi
First lot of rinse water that was used to clean the rice for dinner (this water contains rice starch that keeps the daikon from discolouring and maintains a bright whiteness)
Awase-miso (miso sauce):
100 gms hatcho-miso: the most highly regarded miso, a rich dark brown, made only from soybeans
135 mls sake
100 gms sugar
Yoke of one small egg

How to make the awase-miso:
Firstly, mix the egg yolk and sugar well, then blend in the sake. Warm the hatcho miso in bain marie. When it’s cooled, add it to the egg and sake. Keep aside.

1. Under the skin of the daikon is rather tough layer that should be removed. If you don’t peel it enough then the daikon won’t have soft texture and will be too hard. So peel the skin quite thickly – up to 2 cms deep (alternatively, cut the daikon into slices and then cut around each slice). Using the water that has been left after first rinsing the rice for dinner, parboil the daikon. Parboiling in this way takes away the bitterness of the daikon and helps bring out its sweetness.

2. Using a good amount of konbu dashi, lightly simmer the daikon until tender; in this way, the umami of the konbu gradually penetrates the daikon. The key point here is that in order for the heat to draw out the daikon’s natural sweetness, the deciding factor is the quality of the konbu dashi that you use. And in order to make the most effective dashi, please use the best quality konbu that is marketed for use in dashi.

3. Place the daikon in a bowl, spoon a little of the awase-miso over the daikon, and garnish with grated yuzu zest (or other citrus zest) and pinch of togarashi or shichimi (or similar types of chilli powder).

JA Kyoto