It’s cold, snowy, rainy…. Whatever the winter weather may be in your area, the cold air makes you want to cuddle up in a blanket at home, right? If you can get one thing to complete the coziness, what would it be? For me, it’s Oshiruko! It’s a typical Japanese dessert for winter and it’s sweet azuki (red bean) soup with mochi (rice cake). I know it sounds weird, but it’s very good! I made it again this year, and it brought back some memories from my sweet home, Japan. For mochi, you can either use regular mochi or shiratama-dango. (see “Mochie Feast” from last year’s article for mochi.) Shiratama-dango is a small mochi ball and made out of rice flour – shiratama-ko. I like Shiratama for my Oshiruko experience and here is how I make it.
(You’ll notice when reading below that I don’t provide a recipe with the exact portion of each ingredient. That’s because I’ve never followed recipes so I don’t have them…. I think experimenting with ingredients and flavors are the fun part of cooking. You may get disappointed with a first try like I always have, but I think you’ll improve your sense of curiosity that way. )
It’s very easy to make shiratama dango. The rice flour you need to make this dango is not fine powdery flour. It’s rougher and larger texture and usually in a small 150g bag. A Japanese grocery store should have them.
Just put about a half bag (5-7 servings) of the flour into a bowl and pour water a little by little until you get a “play dough” consistency. The dough cannot be too sticky to your hands like mochi texture. If it gets like this, just add more flour to it. Once you make the dough, make a small 3/4″ ball. Press the middle with your finger to make a “belly” and make it a little flatter.
Put the dango balls into boiled water (medium heat). Once they start to float on the top, they’re ready to get scoped up. You can then eat them with anko, kinako (roasted soy bean powder and sugar mixture from “Mochi Feast”), ice cream or whatever you like.
Oshiruko Soup Base
Cook azuki beans like any other beans until they’re tender – soaking in water overnight helps to cook faster. The only additional step is to drain the water after it’s boiled to remove the bitter taste, and replace with fresh water. Don’t worry about how much water you need right now. The beans will soak up most of the water as you cook and you’ll end up adding more later.
Once the beans are done, add sugar to your liking and a little bit of salt. These are the only ingredients, so play around with your sugar until you get what you want. You cook for an hour or longer at low heat after adding the sugar so that all the water on the top gets dark and azuki color. Some people like more beans and others like more soup. If you like more of the soup part, add water and adjust your sugar. As I like seeing and tasting beans, beans occupy about 2/3 or more of my oshiruko portion.
And finally serve the oshiruko in a small bowl and add shiratamko. A cup of green tea will make your Japanese dessert experience complete!
So, what’s your comforting dessert??
What a day! We came back late night night from the Japanese festival in Charlotte. It was just a 5 and a half hour event, but it was a full busy, busy day for us from leaving at 6 AM. Thank you very much for coming to our booth. We really enjoyed interacting with our customers and hearing great feedback. I couldn’t leave our booth until at the very end and I got to catch the last few minutes of Japanese Taiko performance which was incredible.
Sorry that we haven’t been able to to show all the new products on our site, but we’ll upload everything as soon as we can! It’s been crazy here….
Remember, for those who entered the drawing at the event, we’ll announce a winner of a $50 Target gift certificate next Monday, 8/10/09. Stay tuned!
We’d never thought that we would be going to an event like Otakon in Baltimore, MD, but we did. We didn’t attend as a vendor, but a visitor this time, and we had a fun! We wanted to check things out and see what the biggest East Coast Anime show was all about.
We were there for only a day and a half, thinking that that would be a plenty of time to browse things through. But it was not that case. I wished we’d arrived there from the very beginning and got to see more of it.
In order to explore the anime world, we decided to take a couple of seminars. One of them was called “Cover Your Bases.” It was an overview of the most important Anime that we should watch before we could call ourselves true anime fans. I could recognize only 10% of what they were talking about just because I used to watch some of the shows on TV as a child. Every time the panel introduced a new title, people would applaud. Everybody in the room was interested and excited about what the panels had to say about each anime. Clearly, we have a lot to learn. I do watch Japanese dramas sometimes, but that’s because it’s easy to hear my own language when my brain is dead after a long day. But for non-Japanese people to watch those shows with subtitles, they would have to have a special interest in the language or culture. Apparently, there are lots of fans out there for Japanese entertainment. From what we learned, there’s a lot of variety in anime and a bit of something for everyone.
It’s so nice to see people reacting the way they were to parts of the Japanese culture. I think they get into Anime or drama first and then Cosplay or kimono. Then the Japanese language, food and culture….
However that works, I do appreciate when people show an interest towards Japan. When I realized how much more Japan has to offer after attending this event, I was very proud to be Japanese.
We were tired after our crammed schedules, but it was refreshing to see a different world that we’d never experienced before. When we come back as a vendor next year, we should have a better understanding of the culture of anime.
Noren have been around in Japan for a long time. They’re made out of fabric and were initially used as signage for stores. When a store is open, Noren is placed up in front of the store and taken away when it’s closed. They come in various sizes, colors and designs. They are usually short and narrow, and hang over your head. You tend to lower your head or put your hand up to keep it away from your face when you enter a store.
Nowadays, people use long Noren inside of their house usually between rooms. By hanging between door frames, you can hide your kitchen or bedroom from your guests. Or a beautifully designed Noren can be used to accent your hallway. At some restaurants, they use Noren as wall art to accent a bare wall or for use on the pathway to the restroom area. Modern Noren come in various fabric textures, but are usually hemp for interior use. Of course, cotton is used as an inexpensive alternative, but the hemp Noren gives you a more soothing and relaxing atmosphere and an authentic look because of the texture.
Here at J Flair, we have selected Hemp Norens that are popular in Japan. We hope you’ll enjoy our collection!
There are so many different kinds of traditional sweets (wagashi) in Japan, but when you don’t live there, you have to do what you can to satisfy your taste buds.
Because I missed the Japanese New Year feast (Osechi) and Zouni (clear soup with rice cake), I was craving for something very Japanese. So, I decided to challenge myself to make Mochi (rice cake). I’ve made Anko (sweet azuki bean paste that is typically used with Mochi) before, but making Mochi was my first time.
My only excuse for not making Mochi in the U.S. was because I don’t own a Mochi maker. But when my friend assured me that I could use my bread machine, I thought I had to give a try;
I cooked Mochi rice (Japanese sweet rice) in a rice cooker after soaking it over night. I transferred it to the bread machine and let it knead for a while (as soon as I opened the lid, I could immediately smell and feel the steam of sweet rice, and that made me smile). I put potato starch all over my hands to keep it from sticking, and quickly formed individual small pieces of Mochi in my hands. As a hot Mochi ball started to form in my hands, I was feeling grateful to be Japanese and able to enjoy this unique food. I was also excited and proud to accomplish this task that I’d never done before. I’d never thought that I would make Mochi when I was Japan. It was something that you would buy at a store.
To make this Mochi production be worthwhile, I decided to use this dough for various items:
Daifuku: Flatten a Mochi ball, put a spoonful of Anko in a middle and close it.
Ohagi: Cover Mochi with Anko. You’ll have to use saran wrap to form the shape. It’s opposite from Daifuku where Anko is in the center.
Kinako Mochi: Put Mochi in warm/hot water for a few seconds to get it wet. Cover it with Kinako (roasted soy powder) and powdered sugar mix – you can use regular sugar, but I don’t like the texture when everything else is smooth and powdery.
Ohagi with Kinako: Cover Ohagi with Kinako powder.
Oshiruko: Put Mochi in hot Oshiruko (sweet azuki beans soup). It may sound weird to some people when you hear “sweet”, “beans” and “soup” altogether, but this is a popular sweet dish in Japan. My favorite desert in winter!
Norimaki: Cover with dry seaweed and dip in soy sauce. I like to put butter on hot mochi and add cheese for more flavors!
I stopped counting how many I was eating after a while…..kind of scary to know…. All I know is I was stuffed and my stomach was VERY happy. It’s a good thing that I’m not on a diet…. I can not be, especially when I see Japanese food in front of me…
You can buy pre-made Mochi at a Japanese store, but the big difference is the softness of fresh mochi. Fresh ones are soft and gooey – just the way it should be. I was especially happy with the way that Daifuku and Ohagi turned out. I could’ve eaten 10 of them if I hadn’t been careful. See the photo- don’t they look delicious!
I thought I made enough Mochi to last for a while, but all disappeared very quickly. hummmm…… There are still many other Mochi dishes that I can make with limited ingredients in the U.S. I’m sure my kitchen will smell like yummy Japanese Mochi again soon.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Hope you had wonderful holidays with your friends and family. We sure did! We ate a lot of good food with our friends, but missed Osechi (New Year’s special meal) for the Japanese New Year (Oshogatsu). Oshogatsu is my favorite event in Japan, but I’ve not been able to celebrate it in Japan for years. I’ll look forward to the time when I can in the future…
Yes, putting all of the Christmas decorations away can be sad, but what about replacing them with something unique this year? We recommend Red Beko to put near the entry or in the living room. 2009 is the year of the cow and it’s a perfect way to acknowledge and celebrate this year. You can also place a Kokeshi doll in a bookshelf or on an end table. It gives a unique accent. You can place those decorative items on a Silk Tea Mat to make it stand out more. It will look very elegant for sure!
Other small decorative items to dress up your rooms are Yamada Heiando Collections . Jewelry boxes or even paper weights can be used as decorations around your home. Put all of your Christmas cards you received from your friends and family in an Akikusa Letter Box and put it on a coffee table. You can share them with your guests for great conversation topics.
Did you take a lot of pictures during holidays? Show them off in Japanese fabric picture frames. Because the fabric is so pretty, it will draw everyone’s attention! You can place a gold leaf mouse pad (made from real gold) on a plate stand and it can be used as beautiful gold art.
The holiday season starts from the Thanksgiving day and the whole country gets decorated with beautiful Christmas decorations in the U.S.
In Japan, we didn’t traditionally celebrate Christmas. It was introduced about 450 years ago, but the concept didn’t really flourish until 1900 when one of Japanese grocery stores used it for a commercialized purpose. Not many people in Japan may know about the meaning of Christmas or how it started, and we spend Christmas as more like a giving gifts time.
Christmas is more important for a couple than a family in Japan. I don’t know why, but for some reason, it’s a HUGE deal to spend time with someone special on Christmas eve if you’re not married. Many restaurants are packed with couples for romantic meals on Christmas Eve.
As a child, I remember getting excited about a Christmas western dinner on Christmas Eve. A typical Christmas meal in Japan consisted of chickens and a white strawberry short cake. The recipe of a whole chicken was passed on from my mom’s American friends, and that has become our traditional Christmas dish in my family. Considering a typical Japanese meal is rice, miso soup, and fish, this western feast was something to look forward to for a year at least in my family.
Christmas is my favorite event in the U.S. The decorations, songs, and spirits make everyone happy. I still cook chicken for Christmas in my home in N.C to cherish my memories of my dearest family in Japan.
This year, I’ll get to share that special day and meals with some of Japanese friends who are away from their families in Japan.
We have some traditions in Japan that others may not understand, and one of them is Oseibo. Oseibo means giving gifts and Oseibo time is the end of year. People give gifts to thank their relatives, coworkers, or businesses for their relationships and show that you care about them. It’s almost like Christmas Cards that you send to your friends and coworkers, but in this case, it’s a gift that ranges $50-300 or so.
Things got very efficient over the years and people can just go to the Oseibo-section at a department store and pick gifts and have the store ship directly to those who live far away. If you live close by, you make a visit with a gift, which may be wrapped with furoshiki, and have some conversation over a cup of green tea. Typical gifts are gift cards, alchohol, ham, oil, jam, sweets, etc… It’s almost like Christmas gifts, but it’s not. You have to give Christmas gifts separately if you want. Oseibo is something that you should not skip if you want to keep the relationship with them. A Oseibo gift shows how important they are to you, so you have to be careful about selecting a gift.
We have another gift giving time in summer called Ochugen, and you’ll have to do the same thing all over again!
The more people you know, the more gifts you have to buy. I remember my grandmother was on top of all these stressful things. She used a brand new note book every Oseibo or Ochugen time to list what she sent, who she sent to, and what she received from who. I don’t know how much my grandparents spent, but it must have been a lot if you have to use a whole note book!
Because it was usually in the summer or the end of year when we visited them, we got to observe gift giving customs first hand and constantly heard the door bell ring during our visit. People bring their gifts and greet at the front door. You hear a lot of “Arigato gozaimasu” – thank you very much in Japanese. As a child, I always looked forward to visiting their home because they had TONS of stuff in a “gift room”. I would go to the room and pick a couple of things that I liked. If it was food, I could either get to eat as much as I could while I was there or I could bring it back home with me.
It may be that not many people like these customs because they can be stressful and people may feel obligated to give gifts, but as a child, I remember looking forward to it and enjoying it very much!
We had some people over this past weekend for yummy Japanese meals. We had Temaki (hand roll) sushi, Okonomi-yaki (Japanese Pizza), Yakisoba (Grilled Noodles), sake and other goodies.
We prepared the main Japanese meal and people came over with various tasty dishes and drinks. It was very refreshing to see one of my Japanese friends show up with her dish wrapped in furoshiki. Because I am so used to see people coming over with paper bags or plastic grocery bags, it was nice to see someone actually using furoshiki. It was a simple design and a color, and all she did was to tie the four corners in the center. It looked elegant and looked like she had something special – yes indeed, she brought Mochi (rice cake) and Dango (smaller rice cake) to honor our dogs (we named our dogs after Japanese sweets!).
She brought back the furoshiki and I’m certain that she will reuse it for another party.
We hope that more people will be aware of the environment everyday and spread the use of eco-friendly items such as furoshiki to do something “green” .
People in Japan have used square cloths to wrap or carry things in since the 8th century. Furoshiki means literally “bath (furo) spread (shiki)” in Japanese. People used it to put their clothes in while enjoying a bath.
Since then, more people appreciate the meaning and the usefulness of furoshiki. A piece of cloth can turn into a “magic” cloth and wrap any shape or form. See “How to Use Furoshiki” provided by the ministry of environment, government of Japan. The best thing is that furoshiki comes in various designs and sizes, and most of all, you can use them over and over!
Furoshiki has started getting attention from people around the world for environmental reasons. There are so many ways for us to be a part of this environmental movement.
For example, if you’re invited to a party or dinner, you usually bring something for your host, right? Instead of using a paper bag to put your special gift in, why not wrap it with furoshiki? It will look very pretty and your host will love the presentation, too! You can give the furoshiki with the gift or reuse it again for a next party!
Here at J Flair, we have a good collection of Furoshiki wrapping cloths: from luxury nylon cloths to cotton cloths. Our customers purchase these for use as a regular wrapping cloth or as art. The holiday season is approaching. Just remember to give yourself a pat on the back when you use a furoshiki. You’re doing something good to the earth and hopefully people around you will notice that, and do the same!