I like ‘Matcha‘ Green Tea. Actually since I was a child I really liked the taste. Although we had a set of Matcha making tools at home my mother did not make Matcha tea that often. Only when we had very good Japanese sweet ‘Wagashi‘ my mother brought out the set and made Matcha tea for us. Maybe that is why I thought having Matcha tea is something special. It was more like for ceremonial occasions and I still get excited about the whole process.
I think Matcha’s popularity these days is phenomenal. Western people knowing its Japanese name ‘Matcha’ was unthinkable to me until 5 years ago and it is unbelievable that there are several shops and cafés serving Matcha drink or food even here in London. Now we have been informed that there are great health benefits in Matcha and it is not just foodies but healthy food eaters are joining the Matcha drinking club.
I have been on a quest for searching a great way of using ‘Houjicha‘ Japanese Green Tea. When I saw a photo of Parfait dessert on a magazine I thought “This is it! It must be definitely tasty if I make this with Houjicha flavour”. I also wanted to add some colour and texture to it. As I posted earlier I have been harvesting Raspberries in my garden so I decided to use some into this dessert. With soft, melting but slightly crunchy texture, roasted Green Tea aroma and fresh sweet and sour soft fruit … I think it is perfect to combine Houjicha and Raspberries all together to make a Parfait.
Houjicha Latte Parfait with Raspberries
It is a great dessert for a dinner with friends. The best thing about this dish is that it is so simple to make. No fiddliness and no failure. I added some Raspberry and ready-made Meringue but you can use any other soft fruit or you don’t need to add anything at all. It is delicious as it is.
On the 7th of July we have another traditional event in Japan. It is called ‘Tanabata 七 夕’. It seems like Tanabata originally came from China a long time ago but it became one of the Japanese traditions started in about Nara period (AD 710 to 794).
The story behind the event is like this …
Yay, it is Raspberry time. It has been raining a lot almost every day here in London so I hardly water plants in my garden.
Whilst I was not even going out to my garden my Raspberries gradually started to appear. They were small and green at the beginning and became bigger …
It rains a lot here in London these days and it is ‘Tsuyu 梅雨’ the Rainy season in Japan now too. Japanese like associating things with each season and we have a special name ‘Kigo 季語’ for those words that describe seasons in songs and poems like ‘Haiku‘. For instance they can be from weather (Snow), astronomy (Full Moon), event (Rice planting, ‘Hanami‘ Cherry Blossom viewing) or food (Clam, Wasbi). Of course plants and flowers are very seasonal and they are also Kigo.
So what kind of thing can be Kigo for this ‘Tsuyu‘ Rainy Season? There are several things that reminds me of Rainy days and one of the things I am very certain that most Japanese people would associate with must be ‘Ajisai / Hydrangea’ and a Snail. The plant grows and glorifies the flower during the Rainy season and the colour of the flower (OK, I know it is actually calyx and not petal) intensifies in rain and deepens. Strangely there is always a snail or two on a leaf. Ajisai and a Snail are inseparable in Japan.
During Tsuyu season it rains day in, day out, but you cannot just live in a life dark and dull. You need to brighten up your feeling as Hydrangea is getting more and more beautiful in rainy days.
I tried creating several sweets in a theme of ‘Tsuyu’ for this month. ‘A leaf on a Puddle’ in my previous post was one of them and this ‘Ajisai/ Hydrangea’ was another.
The weather has been a little crazy in England. We had a short heat wave about three weeks ago and then it became very cold for a week. It suddenly became much hotter again and the temperature jumped up about 10 degree. Then again it became rainy for the last few days. It was thundering with heavy rain the other day but now at this moment …
‘Tsuyu (Rainy Season)’ is coming
The weather in Japan seems also a little strange this year. In some northern part it snowed right after the temperature was 30℃. However, it is June now and the one thing we are sure is that the ‘Tsuyu‘ is coming to Japan soon most definitely. ‘Tsuyu‘ is the Rainy season written as ‘梅雨‘ in Japanese. The first character ‘梅‘ means Plum and the second one ‘雨‘ is Rain. So why could ‘Plum-Rain’ mean Rainy Season?
There are several theories regarding the word. [Theory 1] It is because it’s the season Plum fruits ripen. [Theory 2] The word ‘Baiu (黴雨)’ came from China meaning as Rainy Season a long time ago. The first character ‘黴’ means ‘Mould’. Because in high humidity things gets mouldy easily so then it was actually ‘Mouldy Season’. However, people in Japan did not like the sound of Mouldy Season so changed the character ‘黴’ to ‘梅’ which has the same sound ‘Bai’. Now the Rainy Season is written as ‘梅雨’ and read either ‘Baiu’ or ‘Tsuyu’.
A Leaf on a Puddle
I wanted to make a Japanese sweet in the theme of Rainy Season. I tried several ideas and then a Puddle image popped into my mind.
This sweet is created from an image of a puddle with a leaf floating on its surface. Rain has been stopping for a while but some droplets have just started falling onto the puddle to make a swirl and some bubbles.
It was ‘RHS Chelsea Flower Show’ week last week. It is the biggest Flower show on earth and people from all over the world exhibit their design and display. I am not a member of RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) but love to go there whenever it is available. Although I was not expecting that would happen to me this year, I got a ticket accidentally so I went to view beautiful gardens.
My Chelsea viewing starts as soon as I come out from the tube station. The nearest station to the show is Sloan Square which leads to King’s Road with lots of clothes shops. During the Flower Show period many shops around there use flowers as a part of their window display. I always wander around there before walking towards the show.
Last year I entered to a Sake recipe competition for which I had to create two Non-Japanese food recipes, one savoury and the other a dessert. To my surprise I went through to the final that was held in London in January. More surprisingly I won second place among 6 finalists. I have posted about this event and what happened to me on that day.
At the end of that event I was given some vouchers. That was great but that was not the main prize. The prize for the second place was “Two Days Certified Sake Sommelier Course” by the Sake Sommelier Academy. Although there are more and more people interested in Japanese alcohol ‘Sake’, the course runs only 2-3 times a year. So I had to wait to attend the course until the next one would be held in London and that was last week. So finally my waiting was over!
Two Days “Certified Sake Sommelier” Course
Selection of Sake
‘Koinobori‘ on my previous post is the traditional decoration on the ‘Kodomo-no-Hi‘ (Children’s Day/Boy’s Day) on the 5th of May in Japan. Another tradition on the day is that we decorate out house with ‘Shobu (Iris)’. So what is the reason behind this custom?
‘Shobu (菖蒲)’ on ‘Kodomo-no-Hi’
First of all there are two types of ‘Shobu‘. One of them is ‘Hana-Shobu‘. It is Iris which we enjoy the magnificent flower with a striking colour and shape. The other one is medicinal ‘Shobu’ with very scented leaves but with insignificant flowers. They are totally different plants.
It seems like that people started using Shobu for this ceremonial occasion because …
Time passes fast. Very fast indeed! It’s already May. This week people in Japan are having the longest National Holiday break in a year called the Golden Week. One of the Bank Holidays during the Golden Week is the 5th of May, ‘Kodomo-no-Hi‘. It is a day to celebrate the growth & health of children, but it is more like the Boy’s Day. We have the Girl’s Day on the 3rd of March as I posted before.
There are several things people do on the Kodomo-no-Hi. The most famous thing is that we place fish shaped flags outside called ‘Koinobori‘ (‘Koi’ means carp and ‘Nobori’ is a kind of Flag). We have a song about it for children.
🎶 Yane yori takai Koinobori 🎶
It means “Koinobori swimming higher than the roof …”
Koinobori swimming high in the blue sky
Yes, it is placed traditionally higher than a roof, and some of them are bigger than a house. However, because many people live in a small apartment these days the size of Koinobori became much smaller in the last 50 years. From a week or two earlier towards the 5th of May you can see Koinobori swimming in the blue sky. It is a magnificent sight with a bit of wind, as they look like swimming in the sky. (However, I just saw somebody’s comment on social media that there is no Koinobori seen around where he lives…)