Did you know

Amazake

20151105_104837.jpg

Amazake, or “sweet sake,” is a traditional, nonalcoholic, sweet Japanese drink. It is very similar to the Chinese jiuniang, Korean sikhye, and Vietnamese cơm rượu.

There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. In the most popular recipe, Koji is added to cool down cooked whole grain rice. This causes enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simple sugars, making the naturally sweet flavour of amazake. 

Amazake can be diluted further with hot water, sieved and sipped for comfort. The ”sweet sake” is served on New Year’s Day to toast and celebrate for new year of health and prosperity. Amazake undiluted, is also used as a dessert, smoothie, or baby food.

Amazake contains vitamin B1, B2, B6, folic acid, dietary fiber,and oligosaccharides. It also contains cysteine, arginine, large quantities of glucose and amino acids such as glutamine. Koji, one of key ingredients, helps digestion. It is also known for promoting healthy hair and skin.

Recipe of Month

Chirashi Sushi

Towards the end of summer, I was invited to a Sunday brunch at Mrs. Nishimori's house. The table was full of pickeled vegetables, napa cabbage, cucumber, radish, carrots, myoga and so on. However, a highlight was homemade Chirashi Sushi which means "Sacttered Sushi". Each home in Japan serves different ingredients and toppings that reflect the regional area of Japan where they are from. It is one of the most popular household meals in Japan. Her Chirashi Sushi was more festive with colorful ingredients: Yellow, Red, Orange, Green, Brown, White and Seafood.. 

Ingredients (serving for 2-3)
2 Japanese rice cups (=360ml) short grain premium Japanese rice
Sliced vinegar-pickled mackerel
Cooked salmon & shrimp
Shredded egg crepe garnish
Extra ingredients (Sliced shiitake, thin cut Carrot, Braised burdock root) 
Ikura (salmon roe)
Handful of blanched snow peas
Soy sauce, Sugar, Salt, Sushi vinegar, Cooking Sake,

1. Cook the rice until al dente
2. Mixing extra ingredients with soy sauce, cooking sake, Mirin and sugar; simmer on low heat until the liquid is evaporated. Set aside.
3. Place warm cooked rice in a large bowl and sprinkle the Sushi vinegar. Using a rice spatula and separate the rice grains quickly.
4. Add all the Ingredients in rice bowl and mix them together.
5. Place Ikura (salmon roe) & blanched snow peas before it serves.

Mako Nishimoshi was trained as a sculpture artist in Kōchi, Japan and has built a passion for ceramics for more the 40 years in New York City. She has been awarded numerous ceramic compositions and selected for exhibitions around New York City. She also holds the position of Director of Ceramic Artist Friendship Association and coordinate the annual Tokyo-New York Friendship Ceramic International Completion.


Mrs. Nishimori moved to New York City the early 1970's with Mr. Nishimori, where they had started a Japanese restaurant. They believed food and art should compliment one another. Thus, they opened NY Togei Kyoshitsu in 1994. Togei Kyoshitsu offers classes using traditional artistes that are still used in studios across Japan bringing the same aesthetics taught in Japan to New York.

Chef Sonoko Sakai

Interview

Bio
Born in New York, and raised in many places, including Tokyo, Kamakura, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Mexico City. She is a food writer, author, Japanese cooking teacher, and producer based in Los Angeles. She is a founder of Common Grains, which aims to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for food and culture. Within this mission, she advocates a sustainable and healthy lifestyle with grains and vegetables at the heart of Japanese meal.

She is well known for as Soba (Buckwheat) noodle master. Also, her new book ‘Onigiri (rice ball)’ will be published in 2016. She hopes to see Onigri will be alternate the healthiest fast food in the future. She is also working on a project to revive heirloom grains in the Southern California region. With a seed grant from Anson Mills,  she has been working with farmers in the Santa Barbara and Kern Counties, bakers and chefs to grow heirloom grains and create a sustainable community grain hub in the region.

1. You left with over 20 years in the film industry, what motivated you to become part of the culinary community?
I always had one foot in the culinary community, doing freelance food writing for the Los Angeles Times and a few other outlets.  I always wanted to be closer to the kitchen so in my late forties, I began thinking about myself being more involved in the culinary world and I started putting my eggs in that basket.

2. You have involved several of grain communities (organizations). What is your connection to rice and how important is rice in your cooking?
Rice is fundamental to my culture. Japanese culture evolved and still revolves around rice. Most of our meals centers around rice. Everything else is a side dish.  

3. I know you are very well known as a Soba buckwheat noodle chef, but what made you cook and write about the rice ball (Onigiri)? I know that your book Onigiri will be published soon, so feel free to elaborate.
Soba and Rice are two separate foods.  Most Asian people love their rice and their noodles. I love them both for different reasons.  Onigiri is Japan's favorite finger food. It's a savory alternative to sugary snacks. I want to turn Onigiri into everyone's favorite finger food.

4. What do you find are the best complementary ingredients in making rice ball (Onigiri)?
I love pickled plum, salmon, bonito flakes... but also a piece of leftover grilled chicken works. Rice complements every kind of food.  Even nuts and raisins can make a great filling.  I grilled in the broiler and brush it with some butter. It's my morning toast.

5. Do you envision rice ball (Onigiri) as an alternate fast food like hamburgers?
Yes, definitely.  Millions are sold in Japan everyday as a snack, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's a very versatile, fast food that is filling, nourishing, low in fat and delicious.

6. What kind of rice ball (Onigiri) is your favorite?
Grilled salmon

7. Who is your targeted audience for your new book and what is there a particular message you are wishing to convey?
Onigiri is the healthiest fast food.

                     photo by stephanie kordan

                     photo by stephanie kordan

Recipe of the Month

By MiHyun Han
Whenever I am asked about a traditional Korean food that deserves to become popular all over the world, I always say: “Bibimbap.” One bowl of bibimbap contains many different elements of traditional Korean food including rice and side dishes. It is a healthy meal that showcases vegetables as its main ingredients. It offers nutritional balance and its wonderful taste is enhanced by fermented gochujang (Chili pepper paste), which brings harmony to the flavors of all the other ingredients.

Bibimbap

bibimbop.jpg

Ingredients (Serving for four)
800g rice
100g bean sprouts
100g Gosari (Mountain vegetables)
100g bellflower roots
100g carrots
100g squash
100g shiitake mushroom
1 cup of Red chili pepper paste
Small amounts of salt, sesame oil and grape seeds oil

1. After removing the roots from the bean sprouts, lightly boil the in the water. Then remove the bean sprouts from the water. Place them in the frying-pan and after adding a little salt and sesame oil, stir-fry them.
2. After stir-frying the Gosari (Mountain vegetables)together, with the soy sauce, sesame oil, finely chopped scallion, minced garlic and the beef stock or water, cover with a lid and simmer gently.
3. After tearing the bellflower roots into narrow strips, rub with coarse salt by hand, and then wash with the water to remove the bitter taste. Stir-fry them in a pan with sesame oil and grape seeds oil. Add about ¼ cups of beef stock or water and simmer gently.
4. After cutting the carrots into 3cm pieces, slice them into thin stripes. Then, stir-fry the carrots in a pan with grape seeds oil and sprinkle with the salt.
5. Remove the stems of the shiitake mushrooms, then slice the mushroom heads and fry gently in a pan with sesame oil and grape seeds oil.
6. Cut the squash into thin round slices. Mix the grape seeds oil and sesame oil in a pan and once it has been heated, add the squash and gently stir-fry with a little salt.
7. After mixing a small amount of sesame oil into the steamed rice, place the rice in a bowl or plate together with the other ingredients and serve with the red chili pepper paste on a separate dish.

Bio
Mihyun Han is a Culinary Entrepreneur and consultant based in New York City. She grew up with a family who cooked fresh local and seasonal meals in Korea. After she worked as head chef at a Korean restaurant, Grace's Galbi Bar in Manhattan, she took her passion and focused deeper in her culinary skills. She trained at International Culinary Center in New York City for a wide range of culinary knowledge. She had worked at Don's Bogam past 10 years as General Manger. Her new exclusive Japanese restaurant “KOSAKA” will be  opened this fall at Chelsea, NYC.

Chef Andy Matsuda

Interview

Chef Andy Matsuda

Chef Andy Matsuda

Bio
Master Chef Andy Matsuda is founder of the Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles. Born in 1956 in Kobe in Japan, He was raised with a family restaurant business. Chef Matsuda was trained and worked at one of the most prestigious restaurants in Osaka. At the age of 25, he headed for a new challenge in life moving to Los Angeles, California. Along the way, he had worked hotels in major metropolitan cities in the USA and learned other cuisines. At the age of 36, Chef Matsuda faced the biggest challenge of his life; he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and began the epic battle for his life. Going through 4 years of intensive treatments and self reflection, he began to understand the relationship between food and health; people and environment.  Overcoming Cancer, he gained full of appreciation of life and wanted to somehow pay back his depth of gratitude to American society. In 2002, he opened the Sushi Chef training school in downtown Los Angeles. One of the few Sushi schools outside of Japan, he teaches beginners and professional chefs from all over the world. He also works with the California Rice Commission & Norwegian Seafood Council.

1. Sushi Chef Institute is known for being one of the only few certified sushi schools outside of Japan. What was your motivation to opening up the Sushi School in abroad or United State?
Over 17000 Japanese restaurant in US and much more coming in to the world,  but less than 5% of these restaurants are owned by Japanese.  That means most of the sushi booming world of are owned by Non-Japanese.  The world sushi boom is growing without Japanese. The concern is if they know Sushi and safety and is it "tasty sushi?" The realty is not and standards are in decline. It is not right that such a decline can take place. Most of chefs or owners need help and knowledge, but who is able to help them?  No one.  After my cancer treatment I had a very difficult recovery for my life. I was one of the few with skill and knowledge of sushi.  That is why I like to share with everyone my knowledge. American medical and its supports made life possible, so now I can give back by sharing my knowledge to anyone.  

2. How important is rice in sushi making?
Sushi is a 70% of portion are sushi rice. Bad sushi rice happens to be a bad business. Sushi rice is a most simple cooking method using rice and water. BUT, there are many secrets. Everyday consistency of the same condition of taste and flavor make success in business.

3. How much time is devoted to the teaching of rice in your class?
Basic understanding and concept of cooking sushi rice minimum 2-3 hours. Everyday keeping the same consistency sushi rice making takes 3 years’ experience.

4. What is the most important key to cooking rice? How do you identify the best cooked rice for Sushi rice?
Choice of rice, season, tools, temperature and all basic practice. When eating Nigiri sushi you feel of cold fish first. You don’t feel much rice, because of as same temperature of the body of sushi rice. It is soft and supports matching the flavor of each fish. Soy sauce and wasabi help both flavor. "Make happy and enjoy the sushi." Best corroboration with fish and sushi rice.  

5. Is it hard to find a great quality of Sushi rice in US and how do you tell your students what to look for in selecting the best sushi rice?
Sushi main ingredients are fish not sushi rice. So best matching with fish with sushi rice. That a best sushi rice.  How to make a sushi rice for what purpose? Take out or sushi bar or cater. A box sushi or Nigiri or rolls  

6. I have seen one of your workshops at NYC. I know you have many classes, but also workshops. What is the most surprising thing that people don’t know about rice. What was your response?
I always ask for Japanese ladies, how do you cook rice? Most people said to put hand in the rice cooker and cover all fingers with the water and start cooking. That’s it. Looks very simple…Then I keep asking few more questions. Are you cooking Gas, or Electric? Are you cook new crop or old crop? Can you cook Brown rice? Do you know how to cook rice at Japan, Thailand, NY or Alaska?  Most answers are No. If one is to become a sushi chef, we need to know anywhere how to cook sushi rice with same conditions and consistency. But most chefs do not know either. But, all my graduates are knew it now. That's my education. Be a chef to professional Sushi chef.

7. What is your message to your students about rice?
Sushi could be copied by look, but taste of sushi are not able to copied. Anyone can tell by putting in your mouth whether it isl good or bad. Need to educate and understand all steps by step 1 to 10 about Sushi & fish. Comprehensive story of sushi education to be professional sushi chef. “Rice is such a wonderful ingredient to be used in many Japanese food. Especially, fermented rice could be very important to help a healthy strong body.”

chef andy matsud with his student

chef andy matsud with his student