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The latest manicure trend in Japan takes the art of sushi to a new level
Sushi nail art is the latest craze in Japan.
Japan is continuing to teach us all about the art of sushi with its latest trend.
Japanese social media is wrapped up in tweets of manicures and nail art that feature a plethora of sushi decals.
Though original photos of sushi nail art have been making rounds on Twitter for a couple of months, the current photos of these sushi decals are gaining so much popularity that some posts have been retweeted more than 10,000 in the past few days.
— あやもん (@mqmx666) August 3, 2014
Among the most recent images is a picture posted by one user of her sushi nail art that features tuna on the thumb, shrimp on the index finger, salmon roe on the middle finger, salmon on the ring finger and egg roll on the pinky.
— 에리@でんちゃん (@eri0128_as) June 23, 2014
Other uses are also posting photos of similar, three-dimensional decals on their nails including squid, octopus and sea urchin artwork.
Alexandra E. Petri is the travel editor at The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @writewayaround
Chinese collectors go crazy for rocks that look like meat
All collections are inherently a touch bizarre: Why do we display commemorative dishes, or stamps, or useless figurines ? But even within the realm of strange collections, Chinese “meat rocks” are bizarre. The Wall Street Journal offers this in-depth look at the growing phenomenon of collecting rocks that look like marbled pork or beef, a new and growing pursuit among Chinese collectors.
Hundreds of members have joined a new meat-rock research group, and meat rocks have their own dedicated museum in Lushan, China. (I am calling dibs on the name Meat Rock for my new female-fronted metal band, by the way.) Thanks to increasing state media coverage, The WSJ reports prices for meat rocks have skyrocketed, with especially good specimens selling for thousands of dollars. Towns are also looking to meat rocks to drive tourism, and a meat-rock expert has written a book with guidelines for classifying and grading rocks on a 100-point scale.
Why? There does appear to be a historical root for the recent meat-rock craze: Some see it as the continuation of a centuries-old tradition of valuing these rocks for their aesthetic and mythic properties. Plus, says Yuan Ziming, a collector from the northeast city of Tianjin: “Everyone can appreciate meat rocks.” Indeed. Read more about this fun hobby—if there was ever a reason to pony up for WSJ digital access, it’s meat rocks— over at The Wall Street Journal .
100 Shiso Recipes to Build you Culinary Confidence
1. Marinated Japanese Mushrooms
I am mushroom-obsessed, so, I just had to try these Japenese-style mushrooms topped with chopped shiso and mitsuba.
2. Miso Yaki Onigiri
Shiso works as an amazing garnish for lots of different dishes, like this Miso Yaki Onigiri, meaning Miso Glazed Grilled Rice Balls.
3. Sweet Potato and Harissa Soup
A delicious and comforting soup that is loaded with flavor and packed with nutrients. It uses micro-shiso leaves to add flavor and to make it look great!
Perfect for your next BBQ! These Japenese Chicken Meatball Skewers are drizzled with a sweet soy sauce and have the fresh taste of shiso inside.
5. Korean Perilla Leaf Kimchi
A Korean dish that uses shiso leaves (or perilla leaves) as the main meal. They are topped with an array of herbs, spices, and flavor!
6. Corn and Shiso Fritters
These Corn and Shiso Fritters are a delicious snack that is crunchy yet soft and perfect for serving as an appetizer during game day.
7. Vegetable Shiso Tempura Rolls
Onions and carrots wrapped in robust shiso leaves and battered with tempura. Enjoy them with ketchup, soy sauce, or just on their own!
8. Shiso and Hibiscus Tea Iced Latte
Okay, just the look of this drink is making my mouth water! It’s so beautiful! The perfect summer pick-me-up drink!
9. Agedashi Tofu
A tofu that melts in your mouth and excites your taste buds… Yes, please! Grated ginger and chopped shiso leaves add extra flavor.
10. Shiso Leaf Meatballs
Because of the citrusy, minty, and subtle spiciness of the shiso leaves, they pair wonderfully with meat. Try adding shiso leaves to your meatballs next time!
11. Green Rice
Without even knowing what’s in this dish, it just already looks good for you. If you’re curious as to what is in it though, check out the post here.
12. Mini California Sushi Cones
Cute little sushi cones with the delicious ingredients of a California roll. Crab meat, cucumber, kewpie mayo, and of course… Soshi leaves!
13. Watermelon Shiso Salad
Oh, yes! This salad looks amazing! Juicy watermelon, with minty shiso leaves, and a light sesame dressing. This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.
14. Peach, Hazelnut, Shiso Crisp
*Drool…* I am a sucker for a fancy dessert and this one is definitely calling my name! Served with a gluten + dairy free ginger ice cream!
15. Ume Shiso Pasta
Simple ingredients that create a wonderful flavor and a hearty meal. Try this Ume Shiso Pasta tonight!
16. Shiso Pesto
A great recipe for homemade pesto using shiso leaves for an exotic twist in a classic sauce. Fresh, minty, and tasty.
17. Sugar Snap Zucchini Rice Bowl
A refreshing salad with lots of tasty and healthy ingredients. Sugar snap peas for crunch, shiso leaves for flavor and drizzled with a light sesame oil dressing.
18. Tomato Toast
This tomato toast looks divine, and it tastes so too! It’s served with a macadamia nut ricotta, shiso, and black lava salt. Wow!
19. Grape, Kale, Edamame Bean Salad
Sauteed grapes, autumn kale, and edamame beans, and shiso leaves. A burst of flavor comes with each bite of this delectable salad.
20. Mung Bean Leek Burger
These vegan burgers are also gluten-free and come with a gluten-free bun recipe! The patties are made of mung beans, quinoa, and a whole bunch of other nutritious ingredients.
21. Pork Belly Shiso Yaki
Ever tried pork belly? Well, why not give it a shot with this unique salt and peppered Pork Belly and Shiso recipe!
22. Scallop Crudo
A fancy-looking meal with a unique texture and intense flavor. It’s served with yuzu and shiso oils and a pink peppercorn.
23. Mahi Mahi
This mahi-mahi is crusted with crunchy sesame seeds, soaked in a soy shiso ginger butter sauce, and served on rice.
24. Red Snapper
Shiso pairs delightfully with seafood and that include red snapper. The recipe is simple, healthy, tasty, and also happens to be paleo, gluten-free, and dairy-free!
25. Cold Pasta with Olives and Shiso
An elegant cold pasta recipe that has juicy confit tomatoes, olives, and of course shiso! Perfect for a picnic! (Use Google Translate to read instructions)
5 Must Try Japanese Egg Recipes for Egg Lovers:
Welcome to a new world of tasty egg delights. Read on to know about those delicious recipes:
1. Tamagoyaki – Rolled Omelet:
Thin layers of eggs are cooked and then rolled akin to logs with the help of Tamagoyaki pan, an exclusive rectangular-shaped pan. There is no fixed seasoning for this particular japanese egg omelette recipe and you can incorporate your creativity here.
- Eggs – 4
- Soy sauce – ¼ tsp
- Mirin – 1 tbsp
- Salt – ¼ tsp
- Sesame oil – 1 tsp
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, add soy sauce to mirin and salt, and mix well.
- Crack in eggs and using a spoon, mix the mixture until well-combined.
- Place a medium rectangular-shaped pan on medium to high flame and heat the oil.
- Divide the egg mixture into 6 equal portions.
- Pour one portion of the egg mixture into the pan as a thin layer, swirling the pan so as to ensure that you get a very thin layer.
- Wait until the bottom of the egg is completely set and liquid is left on the top.
- Start rolling into a log and allow it to rest on one end of the pan.
- Add one more portion of the egg mixture.
- Allow this layer to get set completely.
- Once set, roll the cooked egg layer in the opposite direction.
- Repeat the process until the entire egg mixture is used and the egg now resembles a thick piece of log.
- Remove and arrange on a plate.
- Cut into ½ inch pieces and serve.
2. Omurice – Omelet Rice:
Here comes another delicious japanese egg rice recipe to try out! Ketchup drenched fried rice is stuffed within fried eggs which are thin like crepe. This doesn’t sound really Japanese, but the fact remains that it came into existence during the 1900’s. It is quite popular among kids. While the traditional Omurice gets its finishing touch with ketchup, you can use a thick, creamy sauce or a glazing brown sauce for added visual appeal and taste.
- Chicken thigh – 1, cut into 1 inch pieces
- Onion -1, small, finely chopped
- Butter – 1 tbsp
- Olive oil – 1 tsp
- Rice – 2 cups, cooked
- Salt – to taste
- Pepper – to taste
- Ketchup – 3 tbsp
- 9. Green peas – ¼ cup
- Place a medium frying pan on medium to high flame, and heat butter with oil.
- Add chicken thigh pieces and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Mix in onions and cook until the onion turns translucent.
- Mix in rice and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Adjust the seasoning.
- Make a well in the centre of the rice and add the ketchup. Cook for ½ a minute more.
- Mix the rice and ketchup well and fry for 2 minutes.
- Mix in peas and cook until the peas turn soft.
- Remove from fire and keep aside.
- Take a medium sized bowl and pack it with half the rice. Unmold it on a plate. Repeat the same with leftover rice.
- In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs with salt.
- Place a frying pan on medium to high flame and heat half of the oil.
- Add half the egg mixture and swirl the pan to get the thinnest possible crepe.
- Once the eggs are completely cooked, use the crepe to cover the molded rice to give an oval shape.
- Repeat with the rest of the eggs.
- Drizzle the ketchup atop the rice and serve.
Treat your friends to a hot appetizer with this easy-to-make Japanese steamed egg custard recipe. ‘Chawan’ in Japanese stands for rice bow or tea cup, while ‘mushi’ is a term for steamed. In short, this is nothing but steamed egg in a cup. While the dish’s texture is akin to egg flan, it gets its flavor from the blend of mirin, soy sauce, and dashi. Check out the recipe.
- Eggs – 3
- Dashi – 2 cups
- Sake – 1 tsp
- Soy sauce – 2 tsp
- Mirin – 1 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Chicken thigh – ½, cut into nibble sized pieces
- Shrimp – 4, large, halved
- Shiitake mushrooms – 2, sliced
- Green onions – for garnish, finely chopped
- In a small mixing bowl, mix ½ tsp sake with equal amounts of soy sauce. Add chicken pieces, toss well, and keep aside for 10 minutes.
- In another mixing bowl, mix ½ tsp sake with equal amounts of soy sauce and add shrimp pieces to it. Toss to ensure even coating and keep aside for 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix dashi with rest of the soy sauce, mirin, and salt.
- Crack in eggs and using a spoon, mix the mixture so that the ingredients blend well.
- Using a sieve, strain in as much of the egg as possible.
- Divide the chicken, shrimp, and shiitake into 4 equal portions. Arrange one portion each in 4 cups. Top up with equal amounts of egg mixture in each cup until the cup is ¾th full.
- Using an aluminum foil, cover each of the cups and arrange in a steamer.
- Steam the mixture on medium to high flame for about 15 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clear.
- Garnish with chopped spring onions, cover, and steam for 2 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Egg and chicken simmered in a seasoned broth is poured atop hot rice packed in a bowl, and served hot – that is the simplest way of explaining this dish. A one bowl meal, it is a healthy dish with zero added oil. Plus, you can make it in an effortless way. The flavors of fluffy eggs and dashi blend with the rice, making this dish purely addictive.
- Egg – 1
- Chicken thigh – ½, cut into bite sized pieces
- Dashi – ¼ cup
- Sake – ½ tbsp
- Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
- Mirin – 1 tbsp
- Onion – ½, medium sized, thinly sliced
- Green onion – ½ thinly sliced
- Steamed rice – 1 cup
- In a small mixing bowl, mix dashi with soy sauce, mirin, and sake.
- Place a medium sized saucepan on medium to high flame.
- Add dashi mixture and heat until the mixture starts boiling.
- Mix in onion, lower the heat from high to medium, and cook for about 60 seconds.
- Mix in the bite sized chicken pieces and continue cooking on medium heat till the chicken is well-cooked.
- Crack eggs into a small mixing bowl and beat well.
- Pour beaten eggs atop the chicken mixture.
- Cover with a lid, and cook on medium heat, for about 60 seconds.
- Fill a rice bowl with steamed rice.
- Pour the egg and chicken mixture along with the sauce atop the rice placed in the bowl.
- Garnish with green onion and serve hot.
5. Kinshi Tamago:
Don’t get carried away by the image. This is not linguine pasta. These are egg crepes that are shredded it is not just a dish on its own. It could be used as toppings for sushi and noodles. The Japanese generally do not eat these shredded crepes as such. However, if you want you can toss them with a handful of nuts and roasted veggies, and enjoy it as a meal. This is definitely one of the best Japanese sushi egg recipe to try out.
- In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs with salt, using a wire whisk, thoroughly.
- Place an 8 inch frying pan on medium to high flame.
- Add oil and swirl to ensure that the pan is evenly and completely coated.
- Divide the egg into 4 equal portions.
- Add one portion of the egg mixture and swirl the pan to get an extra thin crepe.
- Cook for 30 seconds.
- Flip the egg over and cook for 2 seconds more.
- Remove immediately from the frying pan.
- Repeat the same process until the entire egg mixture is used up.
- Once the crepes become slightly cool, roll them up.
- Using a sharp, non-serrated knife, cut the crepes into 1/8 inch thick strips.
- Use as desired.
These are my top 5 picks when it comes to delightful egg recipes from the enormous Japanese cuisine. It doesn’t matter if you are a pro or a beginner everyone can try these recipes with the same ease. So, what are you waiting for? Try these today and treat your family.
Have you ever tried any Japanese egg recipes? What was your experience? Share with us. We are just a scroll away.
Tokyo's Food Hall Craze
The basement food halls of Tokyo's department stores have become hot places to see and be seen. A writer examines the depachika madness.
Looking for a trendy tempura stall recommended by friends, I descend into the vast, teeming basement food emporium at Takashimaya Times Square, a department store in Tokyo&aposs Shibuya district𠅊nd promptly get lost. It&aposs easy to get disoriented by the scale, diversity and sheer gorgeousness of nearly half an acre of the world&aposs choicest comestibles. Dodging a hail of free samples, I thread past a rosy display of German wursts, ranks of yakitori sticks slicked with a burnished caramel glaze, pastel-colored Japanese confections molded into swans and chrysanthemums, and sleek piles of panini at an outpost of Peck, the famous Milanese deli.
Judging from the high-pitched squeals around me, "Oishi!" (delicious!) might be replacing "Kawaiiii!" (cute!) as the battle cry of the Japanese female consumer, a force that pretty much drives the world&aposs second largest economy. Still trying to find my bearings, I scan the shoppers nearby. Two schoolgirls in plaid miniskirts and matching flared leggings perch at a counter in triumph, having scored a bamboo tray of tofu so coveted it&aposs sold only four times a day. Across the aisle, a posse of retro-punk teens in torn fishnets are ogling this week&aposs "it" sandwich, white-bread triangles layered with whipped cream and sliced bananas and kiwis. The sandwich is both kawai and oishi. Beyond them, a prim Ginza matron is deep in contemplation of a $175 pair of muskmelons, no doubt intended as an omiage, or obligation gift.
The food basement at Takashimaya Times Square is one of the dozens of depachika𠅊 contraction of depato (department store) and chika (underground mall)𠅍oing booming business all over Tokyo. To a Westerner these subterranean food halls seem less like places to buy-and-bite and more like mammoth hyperdesigned exhibition spaces devoted to the latest food trends. And it isn&apost just the profusion (an average food basement stocks some 30,000 items). The thrill of being at a depachika these days is the sense of riding the crest of the Japanese shopping mania, marveling at the virtuoso layering of the ritualistically traditional and the outrageously outré, of handmade and high tech. If Japan is the mecca of global consumerism, depachika are its newest shrines to excess.
Excess, actually, isn&apost a word one associates with Japan&aposs slumping economy (the mobbed new Louis Vuitton store notwithstanding). But this is where the depachika comes in. In the past, Japanese shoppers would stop at depachika for Belgian chocolates or expensive green tea on their way to the fashion floors. A few years ago, though, with luxury goods sales declining and the general food mania growing—this is a country that airs three-hour TV shows on ramen—stores started adding culinary concessions and features. A Pierre Hermé pastry is infinitely cheaper and just as desirable and status-packed as an Hermès bag. So people came, they spent, the hype grew. Today food basement profits account for more than 15 percent of department store sales.
In their bid to lure customers, rival emporiums outdo each other with endless festivals and promotions (bean-sprout day, bonito-shaving day)—not to mention takeout from famous restaurants and exclusive arrangements with celebrity chefs. Tokyu Food Show in Shibuya stands out for its array of incredible cheeses and rare honeys. The Seibu depachika in Ikebukoro, sprawled out on two floors, awes by sheer size.
To better understand the trend, I take the train back to Shinjuku Station for a guided tour of Takashimaya&aposs food hall. Shinjuku is one of those districts where Tokyo blares at you like some sci-fi movie trailer. In the dim drizzle, the adult-entertainment warren of Kabuki-cho, east of mammoth Shinjuku Station, glows in a jumble of lurid neon. Right by Takashimaya, the new DoCoMo tower rises like a goofy mock-up of the Empire State Building as if rendered for a neo-&apos60s remake of Godzilla. When the rain starts to come down for real, I look up and note that every single woman on the block has popped open a Fendi umbrella.
Takako Sakata, one of Takashimaya&aposs public relations reps, whisks me downstairs—quickly, quickly. Takashimaya Times Square is one of Japan&aposs largest department stores, she informs me, with 15 retail floors, 28 restaurants and a 2,700-square-foot basement occupied by some 130 concessions, including outlets of local bakeries and international stores like Fauchon. Scattered around are exhibition kitchens where fresh-faced young chefs hand out tastes of fusion potato salad and recipes for truffled croquettes.
Competition for Japanese taste buds, I learn, isn&apost just fierce, it&aposs brutal: A tenant who fails to impress after a few months is sacked and immediately replaced. Depachika, Sakata explains, are able to change their tenants more quickly than the fashion floors can. In other words, what I&aposm seeing here represents the cutting (and cutthroat) edge of Japanese taste.
Sakata shows me this week&aposs best-sellers, some of which are literally labeled with flags showing their number-one status. We start at Gramercy New York bakery, a Tokyo version of Manhattan minimalism, where creations bear names like Tribeca and Foggy Mountain. "These are more sculptural than French cakes, and more of a novelty," Sakata says, pointing to a confection adorned with a jagged praline rendition of the Manhattan skyline. Also huge at the moment are smoked-salmon onigiri (rice balls), plain-looking egg-salad sandwiches (go figure) and a dark-and-milk-chocolate mousse from Parisian pastry legend Gérard Mulot. Besides pastries, one of the best-selling categories is sozai, deli-style foods that range from fettuccine con salmone to Kobe-beef patties that taste richer than foie gras.
The stampede around China Tea House with its 200 types of tea indicates that oolong is the leaf of the moment. Though for all I know tomorrow will bring a frenzy for chile-spiked Mexican cocoa. Or salt. Sakata hurries me now to a shelf displaying 70 kinds, from fleur de sel de Guérande to boutique Okinawan brands. Saline advisors stand by, ready to suggest which salt would work best with which dish.
But how and why do particular items become popular, I ask Sakata. Her shrug indicates that food-hall trends are as difficult to predict as which stiletto will achieve cult status among fashionistas. But when it happensm!—the counter is swarming with media. And once paella hand rolls or sweet Nagoya custards or German Roggenbrot are featured on TV and in weekly magazines, the queues can last hours. The most desirable items are rationed like Birkin bags. Fueling this food mania, daily newspapers regularly print a list of current depachika best-sellers, while women&aposs magazines devote as much space to sozai trends as they do to hem lengths. Food-basement junkies keep abreast of the novelties and promotions by logging on to www.depachika.com.
Many customers tell me that the depachika craze reflects the changing reality and the new-found independence (or selfishness, some argue) of the Japanese working woman. Why cook a meal from scratch in cramped living quarters after traveling an hour on a jam-packed train? Why not hang out at an underground food theme park gawking and grazing, then carry out an Italian salad or an Osaka seasonal delicacy for the family?
Among the most influential trendsetters are the "OL," or office ladies, in their twenties and thirties. Some are married with kids some are "parasite singles," a Japanese-coined term for people who live with (and off) their parents and spend all their disposable yen on luxury goods. I strike up a chat with such a woman, Hiromi. Her bob is à la mode auburn. She&aposs fond of Piedmontese cheese, green tea pound cake and furry pink stoles. She can mix checks and polka dots with aplomb and giggles when I ask if she prefers French or Japanese pastries.
"By now we Japanese don&apost distinguish between Western and domestic," she declares. "Udon or pasta—it just depends on my mood."
Hiromi can&apost afford to eat out every night like she used to. But she&aposll never give up "prestige foods" or debase herself by shopping at a konbini (convenience store). She first started coming to depachika to pick up a bento box, but now she&aposs addicted, dropping by every night after work on her way to the train just to keep up with what&aposs new. Someone could probably get very rich, it occurs to me, by starting a Depachika-holics Anonymous.
By the time I finally find that trendy tempura counter, it&aposs lunchtime, and the line snakes all the way past the Chinese dumpling stall. To make matters worse, on my way out I suffer a head-on collision with a depachika baba, one of those tiny oba-san (older ladies) who propel themselves into action the second a vendor announces a sale. What this particular oba-san is planning to do with two dozen red bean𠅏illed scones is anyone&aposs guess. I go out into the rain, consoling myself with the thought that in the time it took for the elevator to whisk me upstairs, tempura has probably already become passé.
Anya von Bremzen is the author, with John Welchman, of Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook and of Terrific Pacific Cookbook.
Why choose between two delicious things when you can smash them together instead?
Last month we saw East-meets-West cooking in the form of English breakfast udon. But now we get something that perhaps has a more universal appeal: sushi burgers.
While sushi burgers have been around in some form or another for quite a while, they’ve recently been taking the internet by storm, most likely due to their impactful appearance.
▼ How could you not take a picture of that and post it online?!
Of course, there’s more than one type of sushi burger. But as long as there are rice patties, some sort of meat, and you can hold it with both hands, it passes the sushi burger test.
Here’s some other juicy specimens to feast your eyes on. Maybe you’ll find the inspiration for today’s dinner (or tomorrow’s breakfast?) that you’ve been looking for.
▼ A 100-percent vegan sushi burger made with jackfruit instead of chicken.
Latest Tokyo Craze: Tiramisu in a Bottle
For trendier Japanese, European flair is in these days, while Americana has lost in luster. But few of the recent Euro-fads have swept Tokyo as thoroughly as tiramisu, which has been transformed from a chic dessert to a marketing phenomenon packaged as candy and even dispensed from vending machines.
This is a society closed to many things, as trade negotiators often assert, but open to trends more than most outsiders realize. In the last few years, as the traditionally penurious Japanese have been urged by their Government to spend some of the vast wealth that trade surpluses and a booming economy are depositing here, luxury goods with a foreign air have been snapped up with ferocious energy.
Now, tiramisu, the dessert of espresso-soaked cake slathered with mascarpone cheese, with a dusting of cocoa powder and Italian cachet, is demonstrating anew how a foreign product can breach Japan's forbidding cultural ramparts and take the country by storm -- once tastemakers and marketers decide to put their promotion machines into action.
Last week Asahi Breweries, which has a line of non-alcoholic beverages, unveiled its Tira soft drink. It is a canned concoction of coffee, chocolate, cream, sugar and, of course, mascarpone cheese. The development follows the widely advertised introduction of a tiramisu chocolate bar by a Japanese confectioner.
Last month Kentucky Fried Chicken rushed to unveil a frozen tiramisu dessert at its 415 outlets in the Tokyo region. (It tastes suspiciously like ice cream with chocolate powder on top.) Wendy's, the American fast-food chain, and two Japanese chains, Mos Burger and First Kitchen, have brought out their own versions.
Jun Orihara, an executive at the Nosawa Company, one of the major importers of mascarpone cheese from Italy, said his sales of the commodity have gone from less than 3 tons in 1989, before the fad took hold, to about 140 tons last year.
"Tiramisu is the only reason for this tremendous growth," he said.
Silvano Borroni, the Italian proprietor of Il Boccalone, a popular trattoria in Tokyo, explained the popularity this way: "They really like booms here. I tell them there are other very beautiful Italian desserts. But they feel whatever is a boom is good."
Trend, fad, craze -- none of those familiar words quite grasp the sometimes peculiar enthusiasm with which Japanese embrace "in" things, ranging in recent years from Louis Vuitton and then Chanel handbags to fresh French bread, pasta, pizza and foreign travel.
It can, however, seem a bit mechanical. Japan's corporate establishment seizes on these sales opportunities and pushes them with the vigor of a research team chasing the latest breakthrough in computer chip technology.
In fact, these spasms of buying are a sign of the times. A few years ago the Government decided to reduce the economy's reliance on exports, a sore point with trading partners, particularly the United States, and place more emphasis on domestic consumption as an engine of growth. One result: the mass passions that fill magazines and television talk shows and, ultimately, cash registers.
The current phenomenon was captured best by a description in a popular magazine, which labeled it the "tiramisu syndrome."
The craze began with an editorial meeting a year ago at the offices of Hanako, an influential two-year-old magazine whose 350,000 readers are largely women in their 20's seeking help in navigating the treacherous waters of trendiness. The subject of the meeting was desserts for affluent, fashion-minded, urban women.
Cheesecake (lighter here than the classic New York version) dominated the dessert scene for several years. But it seemed out of touch with the recent popularity of things European. That's when it happened.
"Iɽ been feeling we were ready for another big cake hit," said Yamato Shiine, Hanako's editor in chief. "But I didn't know what. While we were talking, someone mentioned tiramisu, and it just clicked. It sounded like a pop to me. I knew that was it."
Not least, it coincided with another boom, Italian food. There are now more than 100 Italian restaurants in Tokyo, compared to a handful a few years ago. And it did not hurt that tiramisu had already swept New York several years earlier, giving Manhattan's respected imprimatur to the dessert.
Last April Hanako touted tiramisu in its cover article and included eight pages listing restaurants and cafes that carried the dessert. The main headline read: "Emergency Information on Tiramisu, the New Queen of Italian Desserts."
"Delicious tiramisu is proof," the magazine said, "of a classy restaurant." Eating tiramisu, Hanako enthused, "will make you feel like an Italian all day."
The article hit Tokyo like the starting gun at a track meet.
Mr. Borroni of Il Boccalone said he had to eject a few customers who came in merely to have tiramisu and cappuccino.
Tetsuro Yanai, head of planning at Fuji Oil, a vegetable oil processor that had been trying without much success to market a synthetic mascarpone, said his company was soon overwhelmed with orders.
"After that article, the boom spread like a fire," Mr. Yanai said, adding that he felt Fuji Oil had helped create the groundwork for the fad by selling the virtues of cheesy desserts to bakers for several years. "Demand was much larger than what we could supply."
Sales of the mascarpone substitute, which is about half the price of the imported cheese and lasts longer without spoiling, more than doubled in each succeeding month.
"Tiramisu might be a little past peak now, but I think it is here to stay," Mr. Yanai said.
Ichiro Takatsuki, a spokesman for Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd., said that as the trend fades in Tokyo, his company plans to introduce tiramisu in other cities, like Osaka and Nagoya, where it takes about a year for Tokyo fashions to grab hold.
Some trendsetters feel the tiramisu fad is stale, but say they have not hit on a fitting replacement yet. Hanako tried in a recent issue to push creme brulee, the custardy French dessert with a burnt sugar crust, but failed to incite much enthusiasm.
"The problem," he said, "is that it's too hard for a Japanese to pronounce. We have to find something with a better name. We're still looking."
Japan’s ingredient du jour: shio koji
The latest trendy cooking ingredient in Japan is a fungus. And that fungus is spreading. Professional and home cooks in Japan are crazy for it, and it’s flying off the shelves at Japanese markets in the U.S., too.
They’re using shio koji -- a fermented mixture of koji (rice inoculated with the special -- and safe -- mold Aspergillus oryzae), shio (sea salt) and water – as a seasoning in place of salt for its powers of umami.
Japanese supermarkets carry bottled salad dressings and sauces touting shio koji as an ingredient. The popular Japan-based burger chain Mos Burger this summer introduced a limited edition shio koji burger. “Moldy Mos Burger Confirms Koji Boom,” read a Japan Times blog headline in June. Famed Tokyo ramen chef Ivan Orkin tweeted: “Shio koji burger at Mos Burger umami bomb extraordinaire!”
There are blogs, websites, cooking videos and even a cartoon character devoted to the stuff, which some have dubbed a “miracle condiment,” the “new MSG” or the “next soy sauce.” (Not bad for something that looks like beige sludge and smells like slightly sweet sweaty socks.) It marinates meat, chicken and fish makes quick pickles and can be added to both savory and sweet dishes.
“It’s really great for [tempura] fritters, chicken and pork chops,” says Yoko Maeda, a private chef and food stylist who recently hosted a shio koji cooking class at her home in Marina del Rey. “I bet it would be good in pancake batter.”
A. oryzae has been used for thousands of years to make miso, soy sauce and other traditional Japanese foods. The Brewing Society of Japan has dubbed it the “national fungus” for its importance in brewing sake. Its key selling point: the mold’s ability to convert proteins into enzymes, inlcuding glutamic acid -- the enzyme responsible for umami. (It also converts starches into sugar, which is vital to sake making.)
Myoho Asari, a 9th-generation koji maker from Saiki in southern Japan, has been proselytizing the benefits of shio koji, recently leading classes in New York and Los Angeles. Her family has been in the business of making koji – innoculating rice with A. oryzae spores – for more than 300 years, originally for miso and soy sauce. A few years ago she, among other koji makers, saw an opportunity to diversify by marketing salt and koji as a seasoning for cooking.
The shio koji craze tracks a broader culinary trend in all things fermented. The Nordic Food Lab, the research workshop affiliated with the restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, has experimented with koji, growing mold on steamed buckwheat and then fermenting miso made with yellow split peas.
David Chang of the Momofuku empire of restaurants in New York is a confessed fermentation geek who has been using powdered koji as a seasoning. Chang also has contributed to an article in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science: “Defining microbial terroir: The use of native fungi for the study of traditional fermentative processes.” That includes reports about his experiments in making koji with both A. oryzae and naturally occurring molds in his culinary test lab.
On a recent weekend at Maeda’s apartment, Asari stood in a pale blue kimono at a kitchen counter mixing up a batch of shio koji. Through a translator, Asari -- who is also a longtime Girl Scout leader, with a sunny disposition -- tells a dozen rapt students about the goldmine of enzymes in koji: Amylase transforms starches into simple sugars protease splits proteins into amino acids and lipase breaks down fats. These are the systems that multiply umami, she says.
Tubes of prepared shio koji can be purchased at Japanese markets. But it’s easy to make yourself, and it’s far less expensive. The initial mixing of koji (inoculated rice sold in small tubs), sea salt and water requires a modicum of finesse but no more work than heating water and stirring. Then it’s just a matter of letting it ferment for about a week to reach full flavor, stirring it once a day. (See step by step.)
Shio koji is substituted for salt in recipes. Asari has written several cookbooks, adding shio koji to soups, salads, pasta, preserves and more there’s shio koji meatloaf, shio koji bagna cauda, shio koji spaghetti carbonara. As a general rule of thumb, Asari recommends substituting 2 teaspoons of shio koji for 1 teaspoon salt. Or, use the golden ratio of 1:10 – that’s the weight of shio koji to total ingredient weight, so for every 100 grams of ingredients, use 10 grams of shio koji.
Start by using it simply, she suggests. Dress raw vegetables with it for a quick pickle. Make a tuna poke with it – diced sashimi-grade tuna tossed with shio koji and lemon-dressed avocado. Shio koji‘s transformative powers work pretty miraculously as a marinade for meats. Asari passes around pan-roasted chicken breasts that have been marinated with shio koji overnight, and it is umami-tastic. “This is the best chicken I’ve ever had – it’s delicious,” says one student. “And I don’t even like chicken.”
Julia Turshen’s New Cookbook Redefines ‘Health Food’ in a Body-Positive—And Delicious—Way
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Photo: Courtesy of Julia Turshen
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When it comes to food, the concept of "health" has become an increasingly fraught one for proof, all you need to do is look at the many eating plans that market themselves as revolutionary new ways of making you feel good about yourself, when really, they're just. diets, which have been shown to be ineffective as a long-term means of keeping off weight. That's why cook, writer and all-around food expert Julia Turshen's new cookbook Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food feels so revolutionary along with powerful essays, childhood memories, and love letters to her wife Grace, Turshen's book contains recipes that prioritize taste and accessibility, not weight loss.
In a recent excerpt from the book published by Bon Appetit, Turshen described her long-running quest to leave diet culture behind and feel good in her body, writing, "For as long as I’ve always loved food, I’ve also been as conﬂicted about consuming it." (Incidentally, Turshen's story inspired me to quit dieting after a lifelong battle with disordered eating, something I divulged during our call in a shameless moment of TMI that Turshen was, nonetheless, extremely gracious about.) Below, find a conversation with Turshen about Simply Julia, COVID-19, food, queerness, body peace and much more:
The experience of reading Simply Julia feels so organic, as though you just jotted things down as you thought of them, but obviously so much work went into it about how long were you working on the book in total?
It's been two years between when I started on it and talking about it now. I basically turned in the first draft in February 2020, so that means I had not only written all the recipes, but they had all been tested and I had written all the intros. What was different for me with this book, as opposed to previous books, is that my wife was a big part of the recipe testing. My book schedule kind of coincided with her closing her business, so she dove into that process with me, which was actually really amazing and helped me to be a better teacher in this book than I've been before. I was planning to shoot all the photos in March 2020—you know, a team of people turning my house into Camp Cookbook for a week, which is what I've done on my previous books and has been a great experience. That plan went out the window [with COVID-19], but then I remembered I had the phone number for this amazing woman Melina Hammer, who lives ten minutes from me. She's a super-talented food photographer and stylist, so I reached out to her and was like, "Maybe we could figure out a safe way to do this, if you're interested and available." We basically shot the entire book over the course of a month—just the two of us, no other assistance, although we both have very supportive spouses who were very helpful. And we were never in the same room.
Wow! How did that work?
I would prep whatever we were shooting that day and put it in various containers with tons of labels and notes, I planned out each shot with reference photos, and I would pack all this stuff up in a box and send it to Melina sometimes I would slip in something funny like a ceramic my wife made at summer camp, or my grandmother's dish, things that were small but important to me. I would drop it all off at Melina's doorstep, drive home, and then we would just text all day. She would set up the shot and send me a picture, and, you know, Iɽ ask her to move something a little bit this way or that way. That's how we made all the photos. I'm so hands-on with every aspect of my work, down to the design and everything, and I just wasn't in the room, so I had to let go a little bit. That was a really good exercise. Then I got to edit my book as the pandemic progressed.
Speaking of the pandemic, did you intend for the book to be sort of calming to the reader in a stressful time?
There are a few things I was trying to accomplish with the book, and one was to help readers feel exactly what you just described. I'm very anxious about everything except cooking at home—it's the place where I feel my most calm and confident and resourceful—but I feel like cooking at home stresses so many people out. I just feel like if I can help alleviate some of that stress and give us some calm, I want to do that, because I can't imagine how bad my anxiety would be if I didn't have cooking in my life.
It's been such a hard year for the queer food world how have you and your wife stayed connected to that side of life?
Well, my married life looks very different than my single life, and has involved moving out of Brooklyn. [Laughs.] I feel so grateful for the life we have, but in terms of like food and the queer community, I really miss going to other people's houses for meals. When I was like in my twenties in Manhattan, and then briefly in Brooklyn with my wife, I spent a lot of time basically at Cubbyhole—
It's still open, thank God! Although we did lose Ginger's.
It's so hard, because the lesbian bar scene in general was already dwindling. In some cases, that's leading to more inclusive spaces, but I also wonder if I'm the problem, because I just stay home with my wife and make dinner.
I would call that 'the dream', not 'the problem'!
[Laughs] Maybe! Simply Julia is really special to me, though, because I've written about my wife before in other cookbooks and recipes, but I love doing it in a way that feels totally relaxed. There's no disclaimer about my same-sex marriage, because it doesn't require a disclaimer! It feels so natural to me to do, but it also feels like incredibly important, because I think cookbooks have an amazing power to normalize things that have been othered. They're very friendly, warm things we keep in our homes. I consumed so much food media when I was growing up, and I wonder all the time: What would it have been like if Iɽ been 13 or 14, flipping through a cookbook at home, and it was full of love letters between women?
Your Bon Appetit excerpt essay meant so much to me, and many other readers also struggling with diet culture and body image, I'm sure. How are you feeling about food and body stuff these days?
Having a peaceful relationship with my body is, to me, just like home cooking—it's a daily practice. It's something I pay attention to, and work on, and learn about every day. Just yesterday, I put on a pair of pants that fit me but used to be looser, and I had a really hard time with that. It's funny that we were just talking about queerness, because talking about my body in this very public way has felt to me almost like a coming-out of sorts. I had felt so closeted and shameful about the topic! I've always felt good about cooking, but I haven't always felt that way about eating, and that has been really confusing for me because when I think about food, I feel so positive about making it, but I have felt so fraught and guilty and scared and just isolated when it comes to eating that food. That has been incredibly confusing. In this book, I wanted to be just totally honest and talk about how I've gotten to a place where I am trying to feel as much joy and freedom when it comes to eating as I do cooking.
Salad Cake: Japan’s Latest Health Craze
Guilt-free cakes made entirely of salad? Yes, it’s a thing.
We’ve unearthed the latest health food craze out of Japan and it means you can (finally!) have your cake and eat it, guilt-free too. Introducing ‘vegedeco salads’ (vegetable decoration salads), aka salads disguised as cakes.
The ‘cakes’, made from soybean sponge, cleverly hide layers of superfood salad ingredients, whole vegetables and roots and peels, while the thick frosting, a mixture of cream cheese and tofu, is blended with veggies to add a bright pop of colour.
If you’re having flashbacks to 80’s-tastic American muffuletta, Aussie spinach cob dip or Swedish smorgastarta (sandwich cake), you’re on the right track.
Created by Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu, the low carbohydrate, gluten-free ‘cakes’ have been such a huge success since their initial trial run at Nagaoya restaurant Bistro La Marsaille, that on April 5 The Vegedeco Cake Café, a new cafe dedicated entirely to salad cakes, will open.
Slices of cake start at 735yen ($8.50 AUD) and come with a special fermented dressing made with koji (Japanese sake starter), which is said to have health and beauty benefits. Still want more? They’re also serving up vegetable drop tea and gluten-free rice bread.