Tag Archives: japanese
It’s Foodie Tuesday!
Mochi, that quintessential Japanese treat has found its way to the palates and hearts of the people of the world This sticky rice cake/ball makes for an eating experience that one just wants to go back to again and again. It has a soft and smooth mouth feel, with an oh, so delightful sticky, chewy, resistance. And it usually comes filled with interesting fillings, from the classic sweet red bean paste, to the decadent raspberry white chocolate.
As if it were not already wonderful to begin with, mochi has in recent years gotten wayyyy cooler — literally. I just want to sing the praises of Frances Hashimoto who first thought of filling mochi balls with ice cream. Genius! And in places where temperatures are getting up to a steamy 34° Centigrade, these frosty confections are a welcome relief from the overheated air.
The ice cream idea is novel, and yet its versatility opens itself up for even more creativity. And once that initial cool innovator got the ball rolling, others took it places, with different delectable spins on what is becoming a global favorite.
Add Oreos and milk to the mix, and you have a kind of east-meets-west comfort food.
It gets even cooler with this mint and chocolate variant.
It doesn’t even have to stick to ice cream. This one’s made with frozen yogurt, and some even use gelato (thus resulting in the term mochilato).
And on the off-chance that you’d like to attempt to make your own variant of mochi ice cream, here are some basic instructions from Japanese Ice Cream blog.
Each year on March 3rd, Japan celebrates its Girls’ Day with the Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival. The festival celebrates young girls in Japan, wishing them healthy growth. The contemporary festival celebration originated from Hina-nagashi, wherein the past dolls in straw boats were set afloat onto a river in order to guard from evil spirits. This custom is still done today in the festival in Kyoto.
Leading up to the festival, families in Japan who have female children display a set of traditional dolls. Traditionally, families that have girls in the family acquire a set of these dolls after the first girl is born, usually inheriting them or through purchase. The dolls are representations of happiness, health, beauty for girls.
The custom of displaying the dolls is said to have begun during the Heian period of Japanese history, from the late 8th century to the early 12th century. The dolls in fact represent the hierarchy of the imperial court at the time, and are arranged on the display platforms.
The dolls are intricately crafted pieces in themselves. The doll bodies are primarily composed of fabric, usually reinforced with wood or straw on the inside. The face and hands are usually hand-carved, hand-painted wood. The dolls’ hair was traditionally made with real human hair, but silk has also been used in more recent years.
Woven fabrics with traditional patterns are used for the dolls, similar to the woven fabric used to make kimonos. The fabrics are layered intricately and decorated with different ornaments depending on the type of doll.
Each doll has beautiful, intricate details. From the 17th Century to the late 19th Century, doll making as a craft surged when prominent families commissioned elaborate sets to show off their wealth.
While most families usually put out traditionally crafted doll sets, today there are many contemporary variations of the hina dolls, for example those portrayed by Disney characters beloved in Japan.
The dolls are usually promptly taken down the day right after the festival (March 4), with the superstition that if they are left out too long, the girls in the family will have late marriages.
Apart from the doll displays and festivities usually done at a local shrine, the festival is also characterized by the uniquely colorful food made for the occasion.
The traditional festival foods include colored candy, rice cakes (mochi), and sweet rice wine. The special ball-shaped, colored rice crackers made for the festival are known as Hina-arare. The brightly colored, delicate foods are made of course to appeal to girls.
Hina Matsuri is a great start to the spring season in Japan–filled with color, happiness, and well wishes, which although are intended mainly for girls, surely bring joy to everyone who participates.
With spring almost here, the cherry blossoms are getting ready to bloom!
It’s Foodie Tuesday!
After my trip to New York a few weeks ago, which was ladden with nostalgic noshes like pizza, cheesecake, and corned beef, I have really felt the need to lighten up in the kitchen. My usual sweet tooth has been replaced with cravings for all things sour.
Kimchi; Image: Shape Magazine
I usually keep a jar of dill pickles in the fridge but they don’t really make a well-rounded meal. But the idea of pickled something got stuck in my head and it wasn’t long before I was dreaming of Korean food, mostly for the kimchi that is served as a de rigueur accompaniment for all meals and even stars in dishes like kimchi jigae (kimchi soup).
Kimchi Jigae; Image: No Recipes
Kimchi consists of chunks of vegetables (usually cabbage, daikon radish, and scallions), seasoned with ginger and red pepper, and fermented in salt. Its pungency and fiery heat is an acquired taste but once you get used to it, it can be addictive.
Kimchi Rueben Sandwich; Image: Closet Kitchen
I love the idea of breaking it out of its traditional mold and creating some fusion yumminess like Closet Kitchen’s Kimchi Rueben Sandwich, which replaces the traditional sauerkraut with this Korean condiment.
DIY Kimchi Kit; Image: Kombucha Brooklyn
We don’t have many Korean restaurants in Louisville; As soon as I have a weekend to spare, I’m going to try Kitchen Wench’s recipe. In the meantime, I’m considering ordering some of the awesome Mother In Law’s Kimchi brand or one of its cute DIY kits.
Pickled Ginger, Image: Rasa Malaysia
I started to look around for some speedier options and came across several easy recipes for Japanese pickles. Despite my crazy obsession with sushi, I was completely ignorant of the popularity of pickled vegetables in Japanese cuisine beyond the ubiquitous bright pink ginger (which I could eat a plate of all on its own).
Tsukemono, Image: The Road Forks
But a quick search reveals that the Japanese pickle just about everything, from green beans to plums, which are collectively known as tsukemono. In homage to my love of dills, the first one that I am going to try is The Cultivated Life’s Sonomono Salad, a sweet-tart mix of cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, and sesame seeds. I’m also eager to try Just Bento’s slightly more robust Yuzu-Scented Winter Vegetable Tsukemono Pickles, which mixes a variety of veggies with the aromatic Asian citrus fruit.
Sonomono; Image: The Cultivated Life
In addition to being easy to prepare, tsukemono are extremely versatile. Just about any vegetable can be quickly fermented in a simply-spiced acidic base. And nothing says that you have to stick to traditional recipes.
Pickled Ramps; Image: Apple Pie, Patis, & Pâté
Why not borrow from both cuisines, like Apple Pie, Patis, & Pâté does with Pickled Ramps, in which spicy red Korean peppers are blended with Japanese seven-spice and rice wine vinegar? I’m not waiting for spring to try this one out-I’m just going to switch out the ramps for another veggie and enjoy this pout-puckering treat now!
image via sake puppets
I’ve been looking for a new craft to take up while I (not-so-patiently) await the arrival of spring, and I think I have found a winner. Sashiko, a traditional Japanese embroidery technique, is a simple craft that anyone can pick up, requires very few supplies and is very relaxing to practice. Sashiko is used to embellish cloth, assemble quilts and even sometimes to simply mend textiles. Today I will rundown the basics and point you in the direction of resources where you can find supplies or learn more about this beautiful craft.
Sashiko needles via the purl bee
sashiko thread via grumperina
Thread and Needles
Sashiko uses extra long needles and special embroidery thread that you can find online, or at some stores that carry embroidery supplies. This may be a contentious statement, but if you can’t find the real deal you can certainly learn and practice with ordinary embroidery needles and thread. Etsy seller Sake Puppets also sells starter kits that are perfect for beginners and come with everything you need to get your stitching started.
traditional coat with sashiko embroidery via Charming Treasures
Traditionally, indigo-dyed hemp was chosen for sashiko. The dark blue does show off the simple white stitches beautifully, but if you choose a more colourful approach that’s okay too. Densely woven textiles tend to be better suited to this type of embroidery so pick a hemp, canvas or cotton.
image via the purl bee
There are numerous traditional Sashiko patterns that can be found online or in Japanese craft books, but you can also experiment with creating one yourself. Typically the patterns are geometric and made up of a series of interlocking lines or curves.
image via Sashiko Stitchers
Basic Sashiko Stitches
If you’re familiar with embroidery then most likely you know how to do a running stitch. This is the stitch that is most often used in Sashiko, and luckily it’s easy to learn. Simply insert your needle up through the back of your fabric so just the tip pokes through. Guide your needle tip into the fabric following the line of your pattern, making a short stitch while gathering the fabric on the needle. Keep doing these two steps until you have a few pleats of fabric on your needle. Pull your needle and thread through the gathered fabric and you should have a neat row of stitches. Continue working in this manner until your pattern is complete. There are two great tutorials that can be found here and here if you need more detailed instructions.
That’s a very basic guide to Sashiko embroidery and I hope you’ve found it helpful. After tackling a few small projects I am looking forward to attempting something larger like a pillow or a quilt.
Happy Friday Everyone!
I spent five days last week in New York City and, like most of my trips to the Big Apple, it was a bit of a whirlwind. I didn’t get half of what I planned to see and do, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of hours at the Guggenheim before I left for the airport.
Image: Stage of the Art
I was content just to get to explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnificent building but the opportunity to see the new Gutai exhibit really made my trip. The Gutai Art Association was founded by Yoshihara Jirō in Ashiya, Japan in 1954; for 18 years its 59 members created some of the most influential avant-garde works of the postwar era.
Kazuo Shiraga, Wild Boar Hunting II (1963); Image: Guggenheim Museum
“Gutai” means “concreteness,” and the group’s name reflects its collective interest in explorations of materiality, in a manner similar to the contemporary western Abstract Expressionists. Kazuo Shiraga’s “Performance Paintings” illustrate this practice. The artist abandoned the brush and used his feet to smear crimson, blood-like paint on a bullet-ridden boar hide canvas, evoking the very slaughter of the animal though thick impasto.
Atsuko Tanaka, Electric Dress (1986); Image: Jamie Ratliff
Performance came into play in many of the Gutai Art Association’s pieces. Included in the Guggenheim exhibit is Atsuko Tanaka’s Electric Dress, an electrical costume meant to be worn in performance. When lit, it evokes the neon streets of postwar Japan and echoes the interest that several Gutai artists had in the intersection of art and technology. I was disappointed that the Electric Dress was not plugged in, as I have seen at other shows, and there wasn’t a video of her performances as there were for other works on display.
Yoshihara Jirō, Please Draw Freely (1956); Image: Guggenheim Museum
Gutai artists were interested in breaking down the barriers that kept art-making and display within the walls of studios and museums, which lead to numerous outdoor performances and installations, but they were also interested in involving their audience in their work. One such ground-breaking piece was Yoshihara Jirō’s Please Draw Freely, which invited visitors to Ashiya Park to participate in the painting’s creation and critiqued the Japanese government’s strict control on artistic expression of the time. This installation also captured Gutai’s interest in play and the untapped creativity of children.
Please Draw Freely (2013); Image: Guggenheim Museum via Facebook
One of my favourite features of the Guggenheim’s exhibit is the interactive elements. Please Draw Freely (2013) has been installed in the lobby, inviting its audience to contribute to the drawing just as visitors to Ashiya Park did in 1956; while it isn’t the defiant act it was 57 years ago in Japan, it brings a sense of fun and involvement that few contemporary exhibits include.
Image: Guggenheim Museum
On Saturday, February 16, children had an opportunity to work with Gutai artists and imitate their painting techniques. And weekday visitors can buy a postcard from the Gutai Art Box, a recreation of a 1962 installation. I only wish this was operational when I visited!
Motonaga Sadamasa, Work (Water) (2013);
Image: Guggenheim Museum via Facebook
With over 100 works displayed along the spiraling corridors of the Guggenheim, interspersed with videos, photos of installations, and displays of the Gutai Manifesto and the group’s print projects, this exhibit is the largest and most comprehensive showing of Gutai work in North America. For those with an interest in the avant-garde, and specifically contemporary Japanese art, this is not to be missed.
Gutai: Splendid Playground is on display at the Guggenheim NYC until May 8, 2013.