Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kouri Zatou (氷砂糖)

Here's a short post for The Hapa Pantry: Kouri Zatou (氷砂糖)!

Kouri zatou, "rock sugar" is an ingredient used in making infused liqueurs in Japan, like umeshu. Rock sugar is ideal for this because it dissolves slowly; if the sugar dissolved too fast, it would take longer for the fruit to infuse into the liquor.

Kouri zatou is also a pretty neutral sweetener that allows for the flavor of the fruit to shine through. More assertive sweeteners like honey and black sugar will obviously make the finished product taste different.

Ichigoshu (いちご酒)

Last month, I shared a recipe on how to make your own umeshu! However, I realize that unripe ume or ao-ume (青梅 literally "green/blue ume") might be hard to find in some areas. So since strawberries are in abundance here in the states, here's an easier recipe to do: Ichigoshu.

Another bonus besides strawberries being easier to find and cheaper here: this drink is ready to drink in 2 weeks! Of course, I like to let it to sit and mature, but the freshly made ichigoshu is such a pretty color, a bright red. As it ages, it will turn a beautiful deep orange. In the above picture, I mixed it with sparkling water so the diluted color is a pretty soft orange.

If you can't get a hold of shochu, vodka or brandy will also work. And remember, just like umeshu, just because it can be roughly translated as "strawberry wine" doesn't mean that ichigoshu has a low alcohol percentage! It is actually more of a cordial or infused liqueur.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Itawasa (板わさ)

It's been so hot recently, I need a break from cooking. Everything becomes an unwanted source of heat: the oven, the stove, even the toaster. So I decreed it was time to bust out some easy eats that were sans-heat.

Also, sometimes my blog amazes me, in that some of the simplest stuff I haven't shared with you. Itawasa has to be one of the simplest dishes to try and make at home!

Itawasa is slices of kamaboko served in the same fashion as sashimi-- very simply with shoyu and wasabi.

I have way too much fun with wasabi
I'm infamous for these food ideas that you can barely call a recipe, but I still wanted to bring this idea to you as it is a great way to experience kamaboko.

This is also a fantastic way to experience and experiment with different soy sauces. Because kamaboko is sweet and mild flavored, this is the time to really try out all those funky artisanal soy sauces you've seen but haven't had a chance to try.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

O.C. Buddhist Church Obon 2013!

Obon season is upon us! Dancing, drumming, food and festival games, let me paint a picture for you:

Japanese lanterns sway gently above us, silhouetted by a beautiful sunset: fiery red that roars across the horizon before extinguishing into a riot of pink and purple.

 Gold and silver, glitter and sparkle.

Nothing is as beautiful as a woman in a colorful kimono. In the sweltering heat, the thin cotton yukata allows one to stay above it all and the women here are glamorous despite the temperature. An elderly woman in a purple one patterned with white and silver epitomizes grace and refinement as she dances. Swirling and twirling to the steady beat of a taiko drum, these dancers circle around a center tower strung with lanterns, people watching and clapping along on the sidelines.

A little girl darts out amid the dancers, giggling madly in her flip flops and waving a clacking noise-maker gleefully. Soon enough, an older gentleman in a colorful orange happi coat scoops her up and brings her back to family. Little girls in their first yukata rush toward each other to compare obi, then break apart to have a furious war of waving uchiwa fans at each other.

People are shouting over the heads of others, recognizing friends from church. Backs are clapped, a bite of dango is offered, and then both parties swivel to smile at a child walking by with a precious bag of water containing one goldfish sparkling like a jewel at the bottom.

Above the beat of the drum, winding its way around the happy chatter, is the unmistakable aroma of Japanese festival food. It smells like coming home.

And then there's me, the perennial wallflower.

Not dancing, not talking, just watching this happy spectacle. There must have been skinned knees, lost fans, dead goldfish--but I never saw it.