For those of you who love sushi but always worry about being caught in some tragic faux pas, Japan Culture Lab has come to the rescue. Proper manners while eating at a sushi-ya sushi bar is serious matter so you may want to take notes while viewing their free eight minute video tutorial.
When I was growing up mom never once taught us the correct etiquette for pouring beer so I found the ‘Samurai Way’ to be quite an eye opener.
My recent obsession with the beauty of wagashi has led to finding a vast collection of delicious photos on Flickr. These artfully crafted sweets certainly deserve their own Kung Foodie gallery page. Titles provided by moi….your official Edible Arts Curator.
Hidden Passion by Princess
Modern Trio by Princess
Essence of Spring by Princess
Blushing Sorbet by Princess
Space Odyssey from Sakamencho
No discussion about amazing food creations can go without mentioning traditional Japanese desserts known as wagashi.
(101 Ways to Play With Your Food, ideas #31 to 40)
Oh little hanamidango, so cute and plump…what better way to celebrate cherry blossom season!
These tiny sweets take the art of beautiful confection obsession to a whole new level. Flickr member jam343 shares a slideshow of some awe inspiring treats that he made while Blogger Lovescool came up with her own daifuku recipe. Her favorite NY shop Minamoto Kitchoan has a good wagashi faq.
The intense sweet flavors of these little desserts are meant to be paired with a slightly bitter tea, such as matcha, and are traditionally served during a Japanese tea ceremony.
Wagashi come in many flavors and shapes and often take inspiration from nature. One type (called higashi) is made from a glutinous rice flour, sugar and starch mixture and then pressed in molds to form dry sweets. My favorite Ping Mag design writers recently found a market stall in Kyoto selling vintage candy molds, including a large number of flowers and leaves.
If you live near San Francisco you can sign up for a wagashi workshop. The Urasenke tea practitioners association has collected a large number of wagashi recipes which you can view online. Including… Koshian (sweet bean paste), plum shaped Aoume, chrysanthemum like Kiku, and space age Ajisai kinton.
Toraya is Japan’s oldest confectionary company, providing the Imperial Court with many exclusive sweets. Journalist Hilary Hinds Kitasei was lucky enough to take a class with their master chefs. Her first lesson of the day was “laboriously boiling beans at exactly 50 degrees Centigrade but no higher… straining, re-boiling, and finally squeezing out all of the liquid. Then sugar is added, no less than 60 percent of the beans by weight.”
Clearly, Toraya chefs understand that to create a masterpiece the artist must know their medium.
I’m not sure how it happened, but after twenty-seven years of living near San Francisco I’ve turned into a confirmed Japanophile. I can’t go more than a week without craving sushi or some other Japanese goodie like Pocky; and for me, a hot bowl of miso is the ultimate comfort food.
So a recent dinner invitation from our friend Anthony and his lovely Japanese wife Akane had me excitedly bouncing around for days.
We had gone out to a shabu shabu restaurant earlier in the year and talked about topping that experience with a home style meal. Their purchase of an electric nabe pot clinched the deal…and they put together an amazing stew featuring a great selection of fresg veggies (shitake mushrooms anyone?) along with tofu, noodles, chicken, and ginger seasoned turkey meatballs. Akane had all the ingredients prepared by the time we arrived, including adding a seasoned broth to the nabe pot.
When the nabe pot slowly emptied Akane deftly added a some raw whisked eggs, some precooked rice, a bit of crushed nori, and voila…we had a second entirely different savory dish!
Nabemono style meals are traditionally served during the Winter time, and we found out why as the windows quickly began to steam up. Shabu shabu and other one-pot Japanese meals like sukiyaki are typically cooked on the table with a portable gas burner, and even with an electric pot the boiling broth can heat up a room in no time. It’s a great way to share dinner with friends as it’s actually quite simply (the host doesn’t have to spend any time sweating over a hot stove) and often becomes the entertainment as guests can eat right from the pot with their chopsticks.
Here are some more shabu shabu style recipes…Blogger Tea And Cookies shares her “How to survive a Japanese Winter” recipes for basic vegetable nabe, and ginger chicken balls. I also found Chanko Nabe wich is a special hearty stew eaten by sumo wrestlers, and here’s a recipe for Beef Shabu Shabu.
To cook nabe at home you’ll need a portable butane stove or hot plate, with a ceramic casserole dish or cast iron nabe pot (or an electric grill pot). These are fairly affordable and easy to find in any Asian shopping district at the restaurant supply shops. Then just pair your favorite vegetables with some thin sliced meats and provide each guest with their own bowl of dipping sauce like ponzu. You can also serve rice, tofu, and noodles (glass noodles are perfect), then enjoy!
I can’t wait for our next nabe meal so I can try peppered tuna and crab legs…mmmmm.