I love getting parcels through the post, whether it is something I’ve ordered, a product I’ve been asked to review or in this case a box of ingredients from Japan with the challenge to do some cooking.
Inside I found all these goodies…
Dashi stock – a widely used ingredient that brings the flavours of the sea to Japanese cuisine. You can make it fresh from kombu kelp, shiitake mushrooms and dried fish or use instant granules. You’ll find it in miso and udon soups and many other popular dishes.
The Obanzai No Moto Dashi Stock which I’ve been sent comes in handy teabag-like sachets which you simply infuse in warm water to make the perfect dashi stock.
Sansho pepper – a Japanese pepper with a citrus kick.
Shichimi spice – a mix of 7 spices with a versatile flavour that’s great with both meat and fish.
Thanks to Shichimiya for these great ingredients. They’ve been selling spices for some 350 years and are considered one of the finest spice shops in the whole of Japan. I’d love to visit their shop one day and extend my collection of spices that I’ve collected from around the world.
Rice cracker croutons – great with soups and salads.
A range of Japanese Teas – from Fukujuen Uji-No-Tsuyu Seicha
Chamomile Sencha, Rose Sencha and Cinnamon Sencha plus Matcha, a powered Japanese tea, that can be used in cooking; I’ve seen a very interesting Matcha chocolate brownie recipe that I’m dying to try.
Sake – From the Gekkeikan Sake Brewery. They’ve been making sake since 1637 and you can order it in the UK from Japan Centre. You’ll find lots of great things on their site including sake sets and some gorgeous bento lunch boxes as well as a range of Japanese ingredients and drinks.
Eyewitness Guide to Japan – I will hang on to this safely as Japan is somewhere I have dreamed of visiting for a long time now, especially in cherry blossom time.
Back to the challenge…
Last weekend I cooked a three course Japanese meal for Neill and my Mum. While Neill is a big fan of Japanese cuisine, Mum was not so sure, as in not so sure she’d ever eaten it before, but they were both willing guinea pigs.
We started with miso soup which was a big hit. Mum loved it and Neill said it was the best he’d ever had (fall off chair in surprise). He thought it was the dashi that made all the difference. The rest of the meal went down well, especially the udon noodles with a prawn and vegetable stir fry sprinkled in shichimi spice mix, another ingredient I’d highly recommend. The delicate flavour of the rose tea was a perfect accompaniment, followed by the sake which really hit the spot.
Sadly the sake cocktails I made later in the day weren’t so good but I believe that was due to the recipe rather than the ingredients, so more research and experimenting is needed there. You’ll be the first to know if I strike on a good one. Mind you, it was great on its own, having been chilled in the fridge, so I can’t guarantee the rest of the bottle will last long.
In the meantime here’s my recipe for a really simple, quick and easy way to make miso soup with tofu. It uses Japanese tofu, also known as soft or silken tofu, which is much, as you may have guessed, softer than regular tofu. Handle carefully so it doesn’t fall apart. It’s an excellent source of protein and was first eaten by Buddhists monks in Kyoto, who weren’t allowed to eat meat or fish.
Miso Soup with Tofu
These amounts make enough for 4 served in small soup bowls.
- 1 sachet of Obanzai No Moto Dashi Stock
- 2 tbs miso paste
- 2 x spring onions
- 200g Japanese tofu, cut into small cubes
- 800ml water
- Bring the water to the bowl in a saucepan and add the dashi sachet and stir.
- Finely slice the spring onions diagonally. Add to the pan and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Place the miso paste in a small bowl and add a ladle of hot broth. Mix until smooth. I found stirring it was enough but whisk if necessary.
- Slowly pour this mixture into the saucepan, stirring constantly.
- Add the tofu. Gently heat through being careful not to boil.
Win a trip to Japan
Of course nothing can beat eating traditional food, prepared by an expert, in the land of its birth.
The Japanese tourism organisation, Visit Japan, have teamed up with Air France and Hyatt Regency Kyoto to offer one lucky winner a fabulous 4 night trip for 2 to Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto. You can enter via Visit Japan’s Facebook page and read the Terms and Conditions here. If like me, you’ve always yearned to visit Japan, head over to Facebook right now. It only take s a few minutes to enter as all you have to do is answer one simple question (and between you and me, you may well already know the answer).