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.

2013.05.16 hijikinoinari

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

Preparation:
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

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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


Azuki-kayu

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)

2015.01.15_azuki_okaisanIngredients:

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

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

Sources:
Photo: Oagaritei


Shogoin-daikon

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

2015.01.08_daikon

 

Daikon
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).

Sources:
JA Kyoto
「嵐山吉兆冬の食卓」徳岡邦夫


Wakame and Bamboo Shoot Soup

Wakame and fresh bamboo shoot soup
Wakatakejiru 若竹汁

Wakame and Bamboo Soup

Wakame and Bamboo Soup

This recipe highlights the delicate flavours of two seasonal ingredients: bamboo shoots which appear in the spring and wakame which is harvested fresh at this time. This is a very typical Japanese “recipe” because it doesn’t give any measurements! An important aspect of Japanese cuisine is to develop your sense of taste and be prepared to cook by taste alone. When I first learned about Japanese cooking this was something that frustrated me because I just wanted to be told “Do it like this.” But cooking is as much an art as it is a science and the challenge is to have “the courage of your convictions” – wise advice from the wonderful Julia Childs from back in the 1950s. It takes time to develop the confidence required to trust your own interpretation in using the ingredients as a kind of artist’s palette but it is so satisfying when you get it “right” – that is, when the artwork you create tastes and looks like you had imagined, or perhaps you get a nice surprise and it is better than you imagined!

Ingredients:
Takenoko (fresh bamboo shoots)
Wakame seaweed
Katsuo dashi (Japanese soup stock – this can be made vegan by using shiitake dashi instead of katsuo)
Kinome (fresh sansho leaf buds)
Soy sauce
Mirin

Method:
1) Cut the bamboo shoots into round slices about 5mm thick. The pieces that are bit too big, slice into half-moon shapes.
2) Rinse the wakame in water (if you are using salted wakame change the water 2 – 3 times) so that it just covers the seaweed in a bowl, then roughly chop the seaweed into 3cm lengths.
3) Place the wakame into the dashi stock and bring to a simmer – avoid boiling – then add the bamboo shoots
4) As soon as the wakame has softened, add a little soy sauce and mirin, tasting as you go.(Okay, for those of you who’d like a bit more guidance, try about a teaspoon of soy sauce and a half a teaspoon of mirin per 300mls of dashi)
5) When the soup has started to simmer again, remove from the heat and serve with a garnish of kinome sprinkled on the top.

Source: Kyo no Machiya Kurashi Isho Kaigi


Izusen’s “Iron Bowl” cuisine

2014.02.18_izusen02

IZUSEN restaurant, Daiji-in, Daitokuji, Kyoto

Leaving behind the frenetic busyness of the modern bustling metropolis of Kyoto, as you step over the threshold of the great gateway that marks the entrance to the vast grounds of Daitokuji, one of the five great Zen temple complexes of Kyoto, you enter into a sacred space that seems timeless and imbued with tranquility. Nestled within this great rambling temple complex, following one of the meandering stone pathways flanked by high earthen walls of secluded little temples and ancient twisting pine trees, you eventually arrive at a small sub-temple called Daiji-in. Within this temple is Izusen, a shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian) restaurant that specialises in teppachi-ryori.

Pathway to Izusen, with Daitokuji temple, Kyoto

Pathway to Izusen, with Daitokuji temple, Kyoto

Teppachi literally means “iron bowl” and it refers to the custom of Buddhist monks making daily alms rounds, carrying a bowl in which they received food offerings from people in the neighbourhood who supported the temple. Nowadays, the monks of Daitokuji temple no longer make these rounds, but the traditional bowls they once used are now a feature of this restaurant. The serving dishes are a set of lacquer bowls in which the courses of the meal are served and which fit neatly inside one another when finished.

2014.02.18_izusen04

The delicacies that are served in these special bowls vary according to the season, but what follows is typical spring menu.

This meal begins with light matcha (whisked powdered green tea) and warabi-mochi, a glutinous sweet made not from rice flour (mochi) but from bracken starch (warabi-ko), covered with kinako (toasted soy bean flour).

Macha & warabi-mochi

Macha & warabi-mochi

Next, shirazu-ae: vegetables coated in a light vinegar and sesame paste, served here with fava beans (soramame).

Shirazu-ae

Shirazu-ae

Next, broccolini with yuba (soy milk skins). Yuba is an essential ingredient in shojin cuisine because it is very high in protein.

Nanohana & yuba

Nanohana & yuba

Next, hassun, which is the main plate and has a selection of delicacies. Here, there is fried gluten, fuki (giant butterbur) wrapped in yuba, and Daitokuji-fu (a special gluten prepared with soy and mirin and deep-fried)

Hassun

Hassun

Next, goma-tofu with sliced cucumber and wasabi: goma-tofu is not the usual soy bean tofu, but instead is made from ground sesame seeds mixed with kudzu flour. It is a signature dish in shojin-ryori of Mt Koya.

Gomatofu

Gomatofu

Next, ganmodoki and fried baby eggplant: ganmodoki, which literally means “mock goose,” is made from tofu mixed with vegetables, made into a ball, boiled first and then fried. It is used as an offering on the altars of temples in Mt Koya.

Ganmodoki & eggplant

Ganmodoki & eggplant

Next, tempura vegetables, including shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, mitsuba trefoil leaves.

Vegetable tempura

Vegetable tempura

Next, clear wakame (seaweed) soup.

Wakame soup

Wakame soup

Finally, rice with a seasonal ingredient and pickles – this rice is served with kinome, a new sprig of the Japanese pepper tree, which is traditionally a sign of spring.

Rice with kinome

Rice with kinome

Here is a video showing the exterior and interior of Izusen in Kyoto…

Photos courtesy of Hisagon & Yokorin


Tofu and Broken Needles

Hari Kuyo - Memorial for Broken Needles

Hari Kuyo – Memorial for Broken Needles

Tofu, it seems, isn’t just for eating…

Every year on February 8th, various temples and shrines around Japan have a memorial ceremony for worn out and broken sewing needles. People bring their old and broken needles to the temple and place them in a block of tofu or konnyaku. The soft bed is offered as the final resting place for the needles that have worked so hard. The pilgrims who bring their needles are offering their gratitude for the needles’ hard work and also praying to improve their skills in sewing. As well as being an act of gratitude, the pilgrims also pray that all the things that are broken in their lives are laid to rest in a bed of softness – taking away all the sharp pain in their lives.

The gentle soft taste of silken tofu is to be enjoyed perfectly unadorned, as it is. In Kyoto, the best tofu is prepared using the natural spring water that is so delicious in Kyoto. There are a number of famous temple restaurants in Kyoto that serve yudofu 湯豆腐, which is just plain cubes of tofu simmered in spring water, that you eat dipped into a light soy sauce and topped with spring onions and grated ginger. The texture and subtle favour is enjoyed in the meditative surroundings of an ancient garden, so that all of the senses are engaged in the simple act of eating this perfect humble food. It is a sublime culinary experience.

Yudofu

Yudofu

Yudofu

The key to this dish is to use only the highest quality tofu, spring water and konbu.

Ingredients:
1 x 15cm piece of konbu
4 cups of spring or filtered water
Silken or regular tofu cut into cubes about 5cm
Dipping sauce:
1 cup dashi
3 Tbsp shoyu
Sliced spring onion
Grated ginger

Method:
Traditionally, this dish is prepared in a donabe clay pot on a small table burner, but you can use a regular saucepan and then transfer the tofu and water into a warmed casserole pot.
Place the konbu in the water and leave for about 5 hours. Put the saucepan on a low heat until the first bubbles appear, then turn off the heat and pour into a pre-warmed casserole dish with the tofu in it.
Each person takes a piece of tofu and puts it in their bowl, adding the dipping sauce and condiments to their own liking.