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
In the evening of ‘Hinamatsuri‘ (Girls’ Day, the 3rd of March) I attended the Sake Tasting seminar which was organised by Japan Centre. The venue was the popular Ramen restaurant Shoryu near Piccadilly Circus in London. Although it was early evening on Thursday the Ramen shop was packed with Ramen lovers. As soon as we arrived in a private Dining Room downstairs we were welcomed with a glass of chilled sake 🍶. Lovely 💓
Red ‘Oni’ with two horns
In Japan we have several special days in a year. The 3rd of February is one of them, It is a day called ‘Setsubun‘.
What is ‘Setsubun’?
Setsubun is written as ‘節分‘ in Japanese which means ‘divide (分)’ ‘season (節)’. The day actually is one day before the changing of season. It seems like we used to have four Setsubun before each season in the past but since Edo era (a few hundred years ago) we particularly cerebrate only the beginning of Spring. So the 3rd of February became our ‘Setsubun’ and we celebrate the coming of Spring on this day.
Did you know that all the tea is made from the leaves of exactly same tea plant, Camellia sinensis? They might be grown in different countries in different climates, but yes, English Breakfast tea, Japanese Sencha tea, Chinese Oolong tea or Sri Lankan Ceylon tea … any tea is from the same leaves. The difference is just the process of how to make them from leaves into a tea. I found it very fascinating that the same tea leaves can taste so different just by how it is treated.
In Japan we have several types of tea. Unlike Chinese tea most of Japanese tea is steamed and unfermented. That is why it has kept a clean green colour and aroma with lighter flavour. Some of the famous ones are as follow.
🎍 Happy New Year! 🎍
In Japan we celebrate three days for the New Year. Yes, the New Year Days are very big deal for Japanese. It is the biggest National Holiday and everybody should be resting including the person who cooks for the family too. In order to have less cooking time home chef prepares celebratory meal ‘Osechi (お節)’ until New Year’s Eve. It is like a bigger version of Bento box filled with lots of delicious & luxurious food all of which last for 2-3 days so that you just need to add some extra thing such as ‘Sushi’🍣, ‘Sashimi (さしみ)’ or something warm.
The main reason I went back to Japan this time was that my family had a Buddhism memorial service called ‘Hohji (法事)’. A Monk visited our home and gave us a prayer service. It lasted about 30 minutes to an hour. It was not that long but you had to be seating on a ‘Tatami (たたみ)’ mat and that was the toughest part of it. We of course sat on a cushion ‘Zabuton (座布団)’ but since I’ve been living in the UK for a while now and not used to seating on my leg … My legs became numb. The monk told us to sit in any position we felt comfortable and followed by telling us that he knew somebody who had broken her/his bone because s/he had tried to stand up and stumbled due to numbed legs. It was a hilarious story that we thought a little too extreme. Anyway we finished our prayers, thanked and said good-bye to the monk. None of us broke our bones luckily.
Before the service we had a special lunch for the day.
Do you know this beautiful shiny fish?
It is ‘Sanma (さんま, 秋刀魚)’ in Japanese. I have learned it’s called ‘Pacific Saury’ in English just recently. I never had a reason to search their name before because I have never seen them in London. Oh, only once actually in Japanese food shop but it was a frozen one.
The fish swim towards Japan in a big shoal in Autumn season with lots of oil on its body for laying eggs. They apparently have a very short life for just two years or something… 😦
Lots of Sanma appear in fishmongers in Autumn. It is one of the Taste of Autumn for Japanese.
So how do we eat them?
Of course there are many ways to cook it. Some are very regional like famous ‘Sanma Sushi’. However, the way I like the most is the simplest one.
So it is officially Autumn now. Whilst I stayed in Japan I had a chance of eating ‘Kuri Gohan (Rice with Chestnuts)’ twice. It is one of the seasonal food you MUST have in Autumn.
I visited a famous land of ‘Kuri (Chestnut)’. I spotted great looking Chestnuts sold at a tiny train station so I brought some back home.
In the heart of Nagoya in Japan I found a very old-fashioned ‘Ramen’ shop in the basement of a building. Ramen shops in London try to look fashionable (and charge more) but all the Ramen shops used to be like this shop in very retro style when I was a child. It looked so nostalgic and I could not resist going inside …
The 21st of September was ‘Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日)’ this year in Japan. It was one of the National Holidays for showing our respect and care for elderly people.
Bento on ‘Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日)’
We ordered some Bento from a well known restaurant for my mother on ‘Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日)’. The Bento was particularly planned for elderly people with the idea of 1. Easy to eat 2. with good source of various nutrients and 3. of course it had to be good quality food. We made a clear soup called ‘O-suimono‘ to go with it.
The ingredients and decoration was made in an Autumn theme. The amount of food was just enough ‘Hara Hachibunme (腹八分目）’ (‘Hara’=stomach, ‘Hachibunme’=80%) for us. It means moderate eating up to 80 percent in stomach is the key for a healthy life.