The Five Contemplations
This food is the gift of the whole universe, the Earth, the sky, and much hard work.
May we eat in such a way as to be worthy to receive it.
May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat in moderation.
May we take only food that nourishes us and prevents illness.
We accept this food in order to realize the path of understanding and love.
Shoujin Ryori – Buddha Food
Twice a year the local Shin-Buddhist Temple in Kasubuchi hosts a special service and meal for community members. The prepared meal is free of animal products and oil:
My First Teishouku
I’m working towards the ancient Japanese diet which I see so often presented in the teishouku – meal tray. The typical set up of teishouku includes fish, rice, tsukemono (salt pickles), tsumono (vinegar pickles), miso shiru and nimono (seasoned boiled veggies). My first attempt at present a homemade meal tray to a guest included aji (in-season fish), osekihan (festive azuki beans with mochi rice), natsumikan (winter citrus) and kasujiru (soup made from the leavings of sake production).
My First Attempt at a Japanese Tea Tray
Whenever visiting someone’s home for the first time I am usually served what I’ll refer to as a “tea tray” – usually a beautiful ceramic tray with a cup of tea (or coffee) and a small sweet arranged neatly on it. Depending on the ability of the host to prepare their own delicious sweets (wagashi) – you may be served homemade sweet bean and mochi rice daifuku or Oreos…
For my first attempt, I simply skinned and peeled a natsumikan and served it alongside a small dish of sugar for cutting the supai (sourness). The tea was a local tea made from herbs grown at Kobokunomori Herb Garden.
(natsumikan, ha-bu ocha (lemongrass, rosehip, lavender, mint))
Yaki Hoshi-imo (Grilled Sun-dried Sweet Potato)
(kinkon, sugar, time…)
Although this dish is very Japanese, it’s not traditional. Kareraisu is katakanized “Curry Rice”. When you walk into any grocery store this time of year you are confronted by boxes upon boxes of curry rue – from apple and honey to spicy, there is almost every variety imaginable. The curry used in Japan is thick and savory, almost always prepared with root vegetables, and eaten over a pile of rice.
(jagaimo (potatoes), ninjin (carrots), tamanegi (onions), rue from the store…)
Made-from-Scratch Kimuchi Nabe
I have enjoyed store-bought natto almost everyday since arriving in Japan. The stinky, slimy, fermented soybeans are one of my favorite traditional Japanese foods. To make it at home, I simply mixed a store-bought package of natto (already fermented with Bacillus subtilis) and mixed it into a larger batch of cooked soybeans. I left the fermenting natto under my kotatsu for 24 hours – after which time the Bacillus subtilis had spread and my entire pot of soybeans was covered in a delicious coating of slime. I’m now allowing the natto to age for a few days, and will make my next batch as soon as this one runs out!
A common way of preparing a natto dish is to mix it with raw egg, shouyu and green onions and eat on top of rice. Here’s my egg-less nattogohan:
My first natto-makizushi roll:
Sekihan – Festive Rice and Beans
This dish is simple and delightful. Mochi rice and azuki beans are cooked together – giving the rice a purplish-red tint that gives the dish a festive quality (white and red are festive colors in Japan). Eaten with a touch of salt and sesame seeds (together called gomashio).
Nabe – One Pot Dish for the Chilly Season
Nabe is a general term for any delicious combination of meat, vegetables, and noodles cooked together in a delicious broth and eaten communally. There are many variations of nabe dishes – including seasonal vegetables and broth styles. Here’s my current collection:
(soy milk broth)
(lightly salted broth w. ponzu for dipping)
This one literally translates as “meat and potatoes”, made with a local specialty – wild boar. A local farmer shot the boar and was kind enough to share a slab of it with me. I don’t prepare much wild game but I sure do love to eat it. I soaked the boar in vinegar and yuzu juice for a day in an attempt to keep the meat from being too dry. I’m not sure how well it worked…but the meal was delicious nonetheless – perfect for a Shimane ALT Thanksgiving dinner.
(inoshishi (wild board), jagaimo (potatoes), daikon, onions, shouyu, brown sugar, mirin, sake)
The Japanese bento is quite simply an elaborate and well-organized lunch box. It is usually a shallow box comprised of a series of small compartments – one filled with rice, one with vegetables, one with meat/fish, and one with pickles or some other side. I am always envious of the beautifully-prepared Japanese bento, as my lunch is typically a pile of rice and veggies stuffed into a single reusable container. I’ve started to make side dishes at the beginning of the week and store them in the fridge to use in making bentos Monday – Friday. My first attempt at a beautiful bento featured lotus root, winter squash, and brown rice… It’s supposed to look like a peace sign.
(poached renkon, kabocha nimono, genmai)
Yakisoba (fried noodles)
This is my version of a classic Japanese dish. I’ve heard a good deal of contradictory information regarding yakisoba – including what type of noodles to use, what veggies to include, and how to prepare it. I used what I had and I think it’s absolutely delicious…
(soba (buckwheat noodles), onions, giner, bean sprouts, shouyu, brown sugar)
(renkon (lotus root), ginger, bok choy, sake, shoyu, sugar, mirin, sesame seeds, shichimi togarashi)
(rice, shiitake, shoyum mirin, sake, konbu dashi)
Satsumaimo Kurigohan Onigiri
This is my own little creation – although it is really just a combination of a couple of very common Japanese meals. I freeze the chestnuts before cooking them together with the rice and sweet potatoes. I also use a combination of genmai (brown rice), mochi rice, and sushi rice – which makes for a delicious combination of flavorful genmai and chewy mochi.
(genmai, sushi rice, mochi rice, satsumaimo (sweet potato), sesame seeds, chestnuts, mirin, sugar)
Sanma, Kurigohan, Horenso, Chawanmushi, and Satsumaimo no Monburan
I made this meal with the Fathers’ Cooking class I attended this week. It was much more complicated than the first class, but there was also much more dairy used, so I probably won’t be duplicating many of the dishes anyway.
The sanma is a fish specifically consumed this time of year because it’s flavor is significantly better than at any other time.
Ordered from Left to Right, finishing with the fish:
Kocha (black tea)
Chawanmushi: (egg, shrimp, shitake, crab, ginkgo nuts, sake…)
Horenso Salad: (horenzo, shimeji, ponzu, vinegar)
Satsumaimo no Manburan: (sweet potato, kuri, milk, sugar, butter, flour, cream…)
Kurigohan: (kuri, mirin, sake, shoyu, rice, sugar)
Sanma: (sanma, daikon, ginger, garlic, shoyu, sesame, leek…)
At a recent all-night kagura show, mochi was tossed into the audiece during one of the breaks in the performance. I brought home these special treats and prepared them as instructed – roasting them until they were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, then drizzling them with a combination of sugar and shoyu. They were absolutely incredible. Possibly the Japanese equivalent of a s’more…
(mochi, shoyu, sugar, goma (sesame seed), nori)
Literally translated, this is “university sweet potatoes”…but I’m not quite sure why. They’re simple and delicious – fried sweet potatoes tossed with honey and sesame seeds.
(Japanese sweet potato (imo), honey, sesame seeds)
I prepared this without the niku (meat), so I’m not sure what to call it…it was delicious though, and reminded me of the Japanese equivalent of a good old meat and potato stew.
(potatoes, onions, mirin, soy, dashi, sugar)
The flavor of Autumn – sweet potatoes and chestnuts.
(rice, sweet potatoes, mirin, salt, konbu, chestnuts)
Natto w. Rice
A classic Japanese breakfast dish. The natto is mixed until it acquires the stringiest, slimiest texture imaginable. Typically served with green onions and raw egg.
(natto, onions, mustard, shoyu, rice)
Misoshiru w. Turnips
Another typical breakfast food. I can’t wait until it’s a bit colder so I can truly appreciate how hot soup in the morning warms your body for the day.
(miso, turnip, onion, iriko)
Prepared especially in the fall, ohagi is made by mashing glutinous rice into a sticky paste and wrapping it around a portion of anko. I coated my ohagi with toasted sesame seeds and kinako (soy bean powder).
A fall specialty – chestnuts and rice. Another ALT has an overabundant chestnut tree in her front yard – so I’ve been making this dish almost every day.
(rice, chestnuts, salt, mirin, sake)
I think these would be even tastier grilled. Next time…
(squid, daikon, turnip, tofu, mirin, shoyu, sugar, dashi, salt, onion)
Sabakandon and Konbu Shiru
I learned how to prepare these two dishes at a local “Fathers Cooking Class” (which means the recipes are very easy…)
(rice, egoma, mioga, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shiso, miso sabakandon)
(kombucha powder, tororokombu, daikon sprouts, egoma oil)
Beans w. Sesame & Miso Dressing
(sesame seeds, sugar, miso, shoyu, Japanese long green beans)
Furofuki – Daikon w. Miso
(daikon radish, kombu dashi, red miso, sugar, mirin, ginger)
Udon refers to the thick noodles used in this dish. Eat it hot in the winter and cold in the summer.
This recipe came from an exceptionally classy website: norecipes.com
(bonito flakes, kombu dashi, iriko (tiny whole dried fish), shoyu, mirin, sugar, tofu, udon noodles, scallions, shichimi togarashi)
This recipe came from the website of a foreign farmer in Japan: http://gaijinfarmer.com/
(eggplant, green pepper, green onion, sesame oil, sesame seeds, shoyu, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger)
Stir-fried Lotus Root w/ Sesame, Garlic, Ginger and Green Onions
(lotus root, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, green onions, pepper, shoyu, sesame oil)
Stir-fried Bell Peppers, Mushrooms, and Umeboshi
Umeboshi are pickled plums – a common ingredient in many Japanese meals, they are thought to be an appetite stimulant, and are therefore traditionally consumed in the morning.
(umeboshi, bell peppers, shimeji mushrooms, black pepper, shoyu, chili powder)
Tofu w. Myogia and Shoyu
The texture of tofu in Japan is enough to make it edible on its own.
(tofu, myogia, shoyu)
Japanese Bitter Melon ridiculously bitter. If you’ve never experienced it, you should give it a try. This recipe traditionally calls for pork, but I’ve substituted eggplant on several occasions and have found it to be more than satisfactory.
(goya, tofu, bonito (dried fish flakes), shoyu, salt, pepper)
Lotus Root Poached in Dashi and Vinegar
A more traditional way of preparing lotus root. A very good side for a bento(lunch box).
(dashi, rice vinegar, salt, shoyu, sugar)
Burdock root seasoned with shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice blend). The most interesting part of preparing this dish was utilizing the sasagaki technique – cutting the burdock root like you’re sharpening a pencil.
(burdock root, sake, sugar, shoyu, shichimi togarashi)
Onigiri is to Japan what the sandwich is to the U.S. Although umeboshi are typically tucked into the rice, I chose to mix them both together.
(rice, salt, umeboshi, nori)