Stuffed Grape Leaves (: Warak Dawali)


Rolls stuffed grape leaves with a few simple herbs and tomato. A rich Gaza kitchen through Hadeel Assali family stories. Homemade young grape leave from her parents farm in Texas farm, Laziza Farms. Hadeel's mom Nahida Saker has a PhD in food science with a specialty in cheese-making. 

Hadeel Assali is a Palestinian-American anthropologist who is interested in cultural practices around food, especially rice.  She is currently a PhD candidate at Columbia University. 


roasted brown rice green tea


Genmaicha is the name for roasted brown rice green tea, 현미녹차 (Korean). In Japan, it was known as the poor person’s tea,  because the rice served as a filler and reduced the price of the tea. It was also drank during a fasting period  for religious purposes.  The sugar and starch from the rice cause the tea to have a warm, full flavor that is similar to that of nuts. It is considered easy to drink and helps one's stomach feel better. It is satisfying and filling to have between meals.

The tea has a light yellow hue. Its flavor is mild combining the fresh grassy flavor of green tea with the aroma of the roasted rice. Although this tea is based on green tea, the recommended way to brew this tea is different. To make the best aroma, brew 2 tablespoons (10 g) of tea leaves with boiling water for 30 seconds.

Rice with Cherry Blossom pickles

Pickled cherry blossoms are originally used to make sakura tea, which is used on special occasions such as weddings. They have used seasonal ingredients for dessert or drinks. However, when cooked together with rice, it creates a beautiful colorful contrast and rice also absorbs the flowery aromas of the cherry blossoms.

Five grains on the full moon day

Koreans celebrate the full moon two weeks after the New Year begins.  This custom has its ancient roots as the time when farmers sorted and carefully selected  their seeds that were harvested from the previous year. A special dish made with the five important grains of rice, barley, millet , sorghum and red beans is prepared and served with side dishes of nine to ten special herbs. It is eaten with hopes for a happy and healthy new year.

Eat the color with brown rice

Salads are popular in western culture and health-conscious people are turning to brown rice in their diet.  Because brown rice is coated with fibrous bran it has a high nutritional value. Combined with fruits and vegetables, the chewy, hardy textures of the rice makes for a popular salad.

Eating a variety of colorful foods insures that  a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourish your body. These organic sources have healthy benefits that cannot be replicated in a vitamin. These varieties provide a powerful mix that that benefit all parts of the body. Here is a power recipe full of colorful fruits and vegetables. Try it and enjoy!

Preparation Time: 1hr
Yield 4 Servings

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked peas
1 cup chopped green bell peppers & cucumbers
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped purple onion
2 cups cooked corn
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
1 cup kidney beans
½ cup chopped Cilantro

1 tablespoon Salt, ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ½ cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons Honey, juice of 2 limes

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl to blend. Add salt to taste. 
Combine all ingredients in very large bowl and mix. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Farmer liquor

Makgeolli or “Korean rice wine” is the oldest alcoholic beverage in Korea.  It is known as is a slightly sweet milky, off-white color 6-8% alcohol. It’s traditionally made using a blend of fermented rice (though other grains are commonly used), water and nuruk (:a fermentation starter) that provides microbial properties.

It was originally quite popular among farmers, so it used to called nongju (농주 / 農酒), which means farmer liquor.  According to The Poetic Records of Emperors and Kings (Jewangun-gi), written during the Goryeo Dynasty (established in 918) , the first mention of the drink was in the founding story of the Goguryeo during the reign of King Dongmyeong. During the Goryeo dynasty, makgeolli was called ihwa-ju (pear blossom alcohol), as the liquor was made during the blossoming of that particular flower.

As it is an unfiltered beverage, makgeolli is generally shaken or stirred before being consumed, as the cloudy white portion tends to settle to the bottom, leaving a pale yellow-clear liquid on top. It is best served chilled. Adding to the experience is the ritual of drinking it from a brass or wooden bowl, which is often poured from a brass kettle.

Aside from the alcohol, the bulk of  Makgeolli is pure nutrition. Other than the 80% water and 6-8% alcohol, Makgeolli consists of 2% protein, 0.8% carbohydrates, 0.1% fat and 10% dietary fiber, along with vitamins B and C, lactobacilli and yeast.

Makgeolli is unfiltered and contains high levels of lactic acid and lactobacillus bacteria 500 times the level in yogurt and dietary fiber. This helps to aid digestion, improve immune function and slow the aging process.

Sake brewmaster Yasunobu Tomita

Photo Credit: Junya Mori

Photo Credit: Junya Mori

Shichi Hon Yari sake company, one of the oldest and smallest breweries in Japan. The sake brewery was founded in the 1540's and is managed by the 15th generation of the family.

1. What is your role at Shichi Hon Yari? 
I am owner of Tomita brewery. I have been in charge of sake making since 2005. I focus more on sake making in the winter time, but mainly I take care of sales of Sake in our company.

2. Have brewing methods & taste changed in recent years from 1500's?
Unlike these days, in the 1500’s they hadn’t developed a refined milling system, so sake was made with brown rice and natural yeast. After World War 2, a new develop a milling system changed the taste of Sake.

3. How well do your retailers in Japan sell Sake vs Shochu or Wine?
After World War 2, beer has been consumed more than sake. Along Japanese food culture’s changing, gradually Shochu to wine sales increased. Shochu sales started to pick up in 1973 and finally started to settle 2014. Now, people are able to choose their favor of sake, so small breweries could stay a marketable business.  A wine boom had started 15 years ago and has slowly decreased.  

Good news, small breweries have been in the spotlight the past few years. Despite of big competition from corporate companies, current consumers look for who makes and what ingredients used that help to small breweries stay strong.

4. What about the costs associated with making sake compare to 20, 10 years ago?
Sake Labor union (Toji Kumi) throughout Japan work in agriculture fields during the season, and move on to Sake making during their off season which is winter time. It has provided a good balance between the Union and the brewery. Sakakura (Sake Brewery) numbers has decreased almost ½ of what it was 20 years ago. Now there are only 1300 breweries in Japan. Sakakura has been an aging generation which could cause the financial troubles and close down the Sakakura. We decided to have full time employees. Not only they make sake in wintertime, but they learn from the consumers during the off season, to provide us with the information to for make great sake the following year. I believe the strong financial base keeps us going and I need to find a balance between quality and profit.

5. What percent of your sales does the US and overseas market account for?
We started exporting in 2005. Total sales of 10% is overseas and the USA is the largest market.

6. What are your visions for for future?
I would like to grow rice and make sake from our own rice. However, due to modern culinary lifestyles, it has led to decreasing rice consumption, and local farms have had a hard time with production and profit. I would like to support our local farms. However, I feel that not knowing growing our own rice misses a step in the sake making process. I would like to grow own rice. So, I have been looking for a right place (such as soil & weather) to grow sake rice.

7. What kind of rice do you (or your local community) plant for your sake?
Saka Mai (:Sake rice) ‘Tamasakai’. FIY, that grain of rice is different than rice we consume at the dining table.

8. I heard that you had a special rice plant 50 years ago and started to grow it again recently. ‘Watari Bune’. Tell me about separates it from the others.
11 sake brewery decided to get together and to grow the old Shiga rice ‘Watari bune’. This old style Shiga rice easily absorbs water and is easily broken. However, we try to use flavors contained in the the grain.

9. What is your message to audience how important rice as one of main ingredient in Sake?
Like Beer is hops, Wine is grape, if there is no rice; sake would not be born. 

Photo Credit: Junya Mori

Photo Credit: Junya Mori


Craftmanship with Rice

The Birth of Sake came back in NYC, IFC Center last weekend. As expected, it was a beautifully executed documentary describing sake brewing season. Sake makers are commit 6th months being away from their family and they input their soul into the 6th generation of traditional sake methods.  We were fortunate to be present for the Director & producer Q & A after the screening.

How did you feel during the film?
The Crew and sake makers lived together for the during the shooting of the documentary. This  allowed sake makers at the Brewery to open their heart and build trust, as one of their own.

How long did it take to film?
3 extended visits for 2 years

What was the biggest change/challenge the story?
One of sake makers (Yuchi) sudden and unexpected death provided devastating emotional turmoil as Japanese do not like to display emotion openly.

What was a initial meeting and how did you approach them?
Erik met  Yasuyuki Yoshida brewery’s sixth-generation heir at a fundraising event. Erik had asked him to donate their sake for the event. Since then, their friendship grew over the next year and he visited the the Brewery and fell in love with the process of making sake. It was originally intended to be a Short film, but it became a full length documentary feature film.

Is there female workers?
Like other Japanese craftsmanship, Japanese believe the God of Sake will not allow any female workers in their work. They believe it would bring jealousy. However, the new generation has made a change to bring a female workers for the first time last year (2015.)

How is their Business doing now?
Since the Film screened in public two years ago, their sales has increased. As a result, they have  extended the work from 6 months to 7 months in production.

How many crew members for this film
Usually Director and producer, sometimes a 3rd person for audio

What is the difference of this Brewery that distinguishes it from a modern sake Brewery?
Modern sake making is year round and a full time 9-5 pm without discrimination upon the rice quality. Over the course of the year, Rice quality and/or flavor could be different and it has to be to adjusted. The best way to control the quality is the traditional way used by this traditional brewery and not by the mass produced factory process where this is not accounted.

What was the reaction from sake makers and/or village?
As Special guest, the master and Yuchan were at Tribeca film festival. It was also screened in their town, where it became very emotional because Yuchi’s sudden death.

Explain the film’s ending:
Wanting to film as a circle, the film starts at the brewery in beginning of sake making and the ends with sake makers walking back in brewery again for new season displaying the cycle as continuous.

Maqluba or Upside-Down

by Hadeel Assali



“Maqluba” is a rice dish that means “upside down” in Arabic. Some might say it is the quintessential Palestinian dish, and many debate - quote passionately sometimes - which are the ingredients to use (i.e. eggplants vs. cauliflower*). The rice is layered in a large pot with vegetables, meat and flavorful spices, and the prevention is almost as important as the last. The chef achieves star status if, upon flipping it upside-down, the rice retains the shape of the pot once the pot is removed. This is usually a performed in front of the crowd of diners and met with cheers and applause (even if it doesn’t hold the shape of the pot, because everyone is just excited to eat maqluba!).

Here is my mother’s recipe from Laziza Farms.

For preparing chicken and broth:
Whole chicken cut up into 8 pieces
oil for frying/sauteeing
1 stick cinnamon
4-6 pods whole cardamom
3-4 whole black peppercorns
1/2 onion (un-chopped)

For the rice:
2 cups of medium grain rice
2 large eggplants peeled and sliced into 1/2 - 3/4 inch slices
2 onions peeled and sliced
3 medium potatoes peeled and sliced into ½ inch slices
3-4 tomatoes sliced in half
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½- 1 teaspoon turmeric
oil for frying
Salt to taste
slivered almonds or pine-nuts (optional)

1. Sauté the washed and cleaned chicken in some oil then cover it with water. When it starts boiling skim the foam that comes up. Add the half-onion, stick of cinnamon, cardamom pods, black peppercorns and a teaspoon of salt. Once the chicken is done remove it to a separate container and strain the broth.
2. Fry the sliced onions to a light golden brown and drain on a paper towel.
3. Fry the potatoes to a golden brown and drain from oil.
4. Arrange the eggplant slices in a pan and brush with oil. Broil in the oven until golden-brown.  Turn the slices over, brush with oil and broil until golden-brown. 
5. Spray the skin side of the tomato halves and broil
6. In a heavy bottom 6 qt pot sprinkle a handful of the rice in the bottom of the pot. Arrange the cooked chicken and the fried and broiled vegetables in alternating orders.
7. Spread the rest of the rice on top of the vegetables and cover with a plate to weigh down the rice and prevent things from shifting while adding the liquid.
8. In a separate pot, add 4 cups of the reserved broth and the remaining spices and salt. Bring to boil. Pour the hot and seasoned broth over the rice.
9.  When the broth begins boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot tightly. Cook until all the rice is done.
10. Let the Maqluba cool for at least half an hour. Remover the cover of the pot and replace it with a flat round tray or plate that is bigger than the pot. 
11. Make sure you have an audience. Quickly and carefully flip the pot and pan. You might have to bang the sides and the top of the pot to loosen the rice. Remove the pot. You can decorate with toasted nuts.

Some recipes use fried florets of cauliflower and carrots instead of eggplants and tomatoes. Some meat (preferably lamb) instead of chicken. 

*In the short film by Nicolas Damuni titled “Maqloubeh” , the debate of eggplants vs. cauliflower in Maqluba is the humorous backdrop to the grim realities of daily life in Palestine. 

Hope to gain the strength of the rice divinities

One of the traditional foods served during shōgatsu(Japanese New Year) is Mochi. Traditionally, neighbors would get together to make the Mochi. It is made of glutinous rice pounded into a paste and formed into shape. The traditional ceremony of pounding Mochi is called MochitsukiThe big lump will be divided up into round pieces or squares. Some popular ways of eating Mochi are: coating it with anko (a bean paste made of boiled and sweetened beans), kinako (a sweet powder made of roasted soybeans) and dipping it in soy sauce and wrapping it with nori (dried seaweed). By eating Mochi, believers hope to gain the strength of the rice divinities.

Photo: n9nlinar

Photo: n9nlinar

Ozoni (Japanese rice cake soup) is a Japanese tradition to eat on New Year’s holiday. Ingredients for zoni vary region to region. Basically, zoni is seasoned with soy sauce in eastern Japan, and it’s seasoned with shiromiso (white miso) in western Japan.

Prep Time: 15 min.   Cooking Time: 30 min.      Servings: 4 Ingredients:
4 cups dashi soup stock
4 blocks mochi (rice cake)
1/4 lb. boneless chicken thighs
2 inches carrot, cut into thin
4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed.
3 inches negi (scallion), rinsed and diagonally sliced
1/4 lb. fresh spinach, boiled and cut into 2 inches
4 slices kamaboko (fish cakes)
1 tbsp soysauce

1. Peel the carrot and use the food cutter to create flowers.
2. The top of the shiitake mushroom cap, creating a star pattern.
3. In a large pot, bring the water, dashi and chicken stock to a boil.
4. Skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface.
5. Add the carrots, green onion and shiitake mushrooms into the pot. Turn down the heat to low. Add soy sauce in the soup. Simmer for a few minutes.
6. Grill mochi in the oven until softened.
7. Add grilled mochi, kamaboko, and negi slices in the soup.


Did you know



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.