Vegan and Vegetarian Ultimate Drink: Japanese Sake!

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I’m persuaded many vegans and vegetarians all over the World like their drinks!
The fact is that they may some reservations as whether their drink qualify as far as their culinary priorities prevail.
For example, do you know that many wines (don’t misunderstand me, I love me my wine!) are still filtered in the traditional way with egg whites?

On the other hand, (good/unfortunately there is not so good, too…) Japanese sake is exclusively made with rice, pure water and vegetal yeast. That is all! Sometimes, brewers will use lactic acid to help with preservation, but it is also of vegetal origin.
Some brewers (not many, only 13 of them in the whole of Japan) like Aoshima Brewery in Fujieda City, Shizuoka Prefecture will go as far as making organic sake with rice grown organically!

The (simplified) process of making sake is as follows:

-Rice millage/polishing: the rice will be milled down carefully as the starches are concentrated in the middle of the grain contrarily to edible rice. The more the rice is polished, the higher quality of the sake.
-Washing and soaking: the rice is washed and then soaked in pure water.
-Steaming: the rice is then steamed and left to cool on large pieces of absolutely clean cloth.
-Production of koji/malted rice: some rice is malted with Aspergillus oryzae mold
-Yeast starter: malted rice, regular steamed rice and pure water are mixed in a vat to which is added a culture of pure yeast cells. The latter is one the main ingredients which will differentiate all sake in taste, aroma and other characteristics. The wole is called “moto” or “origin/root” of the sake.
-Moromi and sandan shikomi: moromi is is the “moto” transferred to a larger vat where rice, malted rice and pure water are added. This is done in three steps, “sandan shikomi”, for a gradual and even process.
This is left to ferment for eighteen to thirty-two days.This step will also define the characteristics of the sake.
-Pressing: it is done in many ways, depending on the quality of the sake
-Filtering: The brewer will choose to filter it or not through various processes.
-Pasteurization: Most sake is pasteurized as “nama”/unpasteurized sake has to be kept at low temperature, making it very difficult to export. A pity, as this is “true sake”!
-At this time, pure water may be added to the “genshu” (unaltered sake) to lower the alcohol content, and also pure rice acohol for a different type of sake.

(Simplified) List of Sake types:

-Futsushu/”normal sake”: made with rice milled/polished down to 80% (that is, 20% will be polished off). Can be rotgut or incredibly good sake depending on millage, equipment and ingredients.
-Junmai/”pure rice”: made with rice milled to 70% or lower. No alcohol was added.
-Junmai Ginjo: made with rice milled down to 60% or lower. No alcohol wa added.
-Junmai Daiginjo: made from rice milled down to 50% or lower. No alcohol was added.
-Honjozo: made with rice milled to 70% or lower. Alcohol was added.
-Ginjo: made with rice milled to 60% or lower. Alcohol was added.
-Daiginjo: made with rice milled to 50% or lower. Alcohol was added.

In the case of Shizuoka Prefecture, futsushu is usually made from rice milled down to 70~65%, junmai and honjozo, 60 t0 50%, junami Ginjo and ginjo, 50~40%, junmai daiginjo and daiginjo, 40~…%.

Tere are other intermediary “appelations” such as Tokubetsu (special) Junmai and Tokubetsu Honjozo, Yamahai, etc…

“Nama” means “unpasteurized, “genshu”, unaltered sake, “muroka”, unfiltered, as for most commonly used added indications.

Incidentally, sake powder resulting from polishing will be used for Japanese-style cakes or animal feed depending on quality. “Sake kasu”/white lees which are left after pressing and filtering are used to make “amazake”, “Sake kasu nabe”, pickles and so on!

For a thorough study of Japanese sake, read John Gautner’s website or buy his books. John is the universally recognized non-japanese authority on Sake!

Must-see sake blogs:
-If you live in the Us, and particularly New York, visit Timothy Sullivan’s blog!
-If you live in Tokyo or Japan visit Melinda Joe and Etsuko Nakamura‘s blogs!
-If you want to know ALL about one region’s sake and sake breweries, visit Shizuoka Sake!

Cheers, Kampai!

Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (‘9/4)

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Today was Tuesday, the day after Monday, both days when I can expect a bento by the Missus!
She had quite a battle this morning as things seem to drop or fly all the time!


Now, for the main dish, she steamed rice with hijiki/sweet seaweed and Kyo-ninjin/Kyoto-style deep red carrot and a couple of secrets she would not reveal.
She prepared tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette and chicken balls she fried with a seet and sour sauce containing thinly sliced kinkan/kumquats (in season right now/which reminds me I marinated some in vodka last year!) and served with black sesame. Plenty of lettuce and boiled Brussels sprouts.


As for the salad and dessert she included some yellow and violet yams/sweet potatoes salad, a plum tomato, boiled broccoli, shredded vegetables and cress, and finally a couple of “kinkan amani” (“kinkan” for kumquat, “ama” for sweet, “ni” for simmer) prepared by Lojol‘s wife!

Before I left she enquired if I was going to drink tonight (I didn’t last night). When I asked why, she replied she would have to take it in account before preparing dinner.
Stupid question!

Bryan Baird’s Newsletter

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Baird Beer & Taproom Events Bulletin 2009 #2

Dear Taproom Friend & Baird Beer Enthusiast:

During this winter period of short days and long nights have you been wondering about the 2009 release of Dark Sky Imperial Stout? Wonder no longer — Dark Sky will be pouring from the taps of fine pubs and restaurants throughout Japan beginning Wednesday, January 21.

*Dark Sky Imperial Stout (ABV 9%):

As the name implies, this is an extremely foreboding brew, pitch black in color, unctuous in body, complex and elusive in flavor, and hoppily aromatic. This granddaddy of Stouts is brewed with eight different malts, Japanese dark sugar and five varieties of hops. If you are a fan of hearty dark ales, Dark Sky Imperial Stout is for you!

In addition to Dark Sky on draught, a limited number of 633 ml bottles (adorned with our new label artwork) will be available for purchase both direct from the brewery estore and through the family of Baird Beer retaililng liquor stores in Japan.

Remainder: The IPA Festival (Ten Days, 10 IPAs) is in progress at our Nakameguro Taproom in Tokyo. The final festival day is Monday, January 26. If you have yet to attend, please make haste.

Bryan Baird

Baird Brewing Company
Numazu, Japan

Abondance’s Classic Cakes (1): Tendresse/Tenderness

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Bernard Heberle in Hamamatsu City has become the reference in the whole of Shizuoka Prefecture when it comes to French cake and confectionery.
A man of character, he has steadfastly kept faithful to his principles and ethics and blessed us with uncompromising creations of a level diificult to equal!

This particular creation is named “Tendresse” in French, meaning tenderness in English.
In Bernard’s French words:
-“Voici le gâteau que je te propose ce mois ” Tendresse ” qui est un gâteau a base de Fromage blanc et de pâte a bombe , très léger et même ceux qui n’aime pas le fromage y trouverons leurs plaisir. Léger et onctueux décoré avec des macarons a la Framboise.”
-“Here is the cake I would like to introduce your friends to this month. It is called “Tenderness” and is made with a very light combination of Fromage Blanc/White cheese and Pate a bombe/very fine sponge cake variety. Even people who do not like cheese will appreciate it. Light and soft, it is decorated with raspberry macarons”.

I’m ready to take the 30-minute bullet train to Hamamatsu to savour it!

Address: Hamamatsu Shi, Sumiyoshi, 2-14-27 (in front of Seirei Hospital)
Tel.: 053-4738400
Fax: 053-4738401
Opening hours: 10:00~20:00. Closed on Tuesdays.

Tofu Recipes (1): Fried Namaage with Cheese and Ponzu

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This is I hope the first installment of a long series of simple recipes with tofu. Some will be vegan and vegetarian, some vegetarian like this one, others for omnivores!


This particular one is one one of the Missus’ favorites.
She uses on full “namaage tofu”, tofu that was deep-fried whole and that you can buy either fresh at a Japanese market or packaged.

She cuts the tofu in equal-sized bite pieces about 1 cm thick and fry them in a non-stick pan. No real need for any oil as what is contained in the surface of the tofu will be sufficient.
The point is that she fries them only on side. While they cook she lay a thin piece of mild/processed cheese over each tofu piece, add some black pepper, and cover with a glass lid. When the cheese has nicely melted over the tofu, she takes off the lid, sprinkles the whole with ponzu and fries for another minute. She serves on a dish with the sauce and liberally sprinkles the lot with chopped thin leeks!

Great snack with Japanese sake or beer!

Today’s Lunch Box/ Bento (‘9/3)

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The Missus has decided to expand here bento repertoire and to experiment with design and ingredients!


She devised two types of “nigiri/rice balls”:


Two were wrapped in a thin ham with a pair of mini-asparaguses. I ate them wrapped again inside lettuce provided together in the box.
As for the rice, it had been mixed withn white sesame.


The other two “sandwiched” a slice of seasoned smoked salmon and were wrapped again between two chickory/endive leaves and topped with cresson and capers.

I was provided with some cornichons and yam/sweet potato (yellow and violet) salad with black sesame in lieu of dessrt.


As for the salad dish, it contained a boiled half egg, boiled Brussels sprouts, brocoli and broad beans, cut plum tomatoes on a bed of shredded vegetables, to which I added dressing I keep in the fridge at work!

I certainly don’t mind those changes! LOL

Vegetables Facts and Tips (5): Yams

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Yams or “Satsuma Imo” were first introduced to Japan in the rykyu Islands (Okinawa) in 1604 by the Chinese. It was then introduced in Kyushu in 1609, an area that grows 80% of the total Japanese production.

It has been recognized in this country fro a long time for both its nutritional and pharmaceutical qualities.


There are over a hundred species in Japan, but the most popular edible ones (not the ones exclusively used for making shochu) have red skins and light yellow flesh.


My personal favorite is the “Tanekoshima Gold Imo” grown in Taneko Island south of Kyushu. It has the particularity of being red when raw before chaning to a rich golden color when cooked. Among other varieties, the violet yams are getting increasingly popular.

Tanekoshima yam (deep yellow), “common yam” (light yellow) and Murasaki/Violet yam.

The Missus particularly likes to mix the three above as a cold salad with mayonnaise or cream-based dressing.

-Season: September to November
-Main elements: Carbohydrates, Carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, vegetal fibers.
-Beneficial to digestion.
-Lose very little of its beneficial elements even after a long cooking.

-Choose specimens with nice color and a “fat/roundish” aspect!
-Plunge yam in cold water as soon as you have cut them. They will not lose their color!
-Boil, bake or steam long enough before taking skin off. Discard skin!

Cheese Plate at Gentil (4)

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Last night I visited in the company of a good friend, I paid my first visit of the year to Gentil Restaurant In Shizuoka City.


My good friend, Ms. Keiko Kubota, the only Japanese Cheese Sommelierto hold the title of Compagnon d’Honneur de Taste Fromage came up with Cheeses she is currently maturing:


-“Sakura” (Cow’s milk, Hokkaido)
-Tommette D’Aravis (Cow’s milk, Pyrenees, France)
-Talegio (Cow’s Milk,Italy). Rowena, for you!
-Le Chevre Noir (Goat’s milk, Canada). She served that particular creamy hard goat cheese at the G8 Summit in Hokkaido in July last year!
-Fourme d’Ambert(Cow’s milk, France)

We had a very tasty mature Bourgogne wine with the cheese, and a Fonseca Port with the dessert:


Chocolat Fondant and vanilla ice-cream!

Restaurant Gentil
Address:420-0031 Shizuoka Shi, Gofuku-cho, 2-9-1, Gennan Kairaku building, 2F
Tel.: 054-2547655 (Reservations advisable)
Fax: 054-2210509
Opening hours: 12:00~14:00, 18:00~last orders for meals at 21:30. Bar time 18:00~23:30. Closed on Mondays.
Credit cards OK
Homepage (Japanese)

Japanese Snack: Sakamushi Asari/Cockles steamed in Sake

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The night before, the Missus did not feel like cooking anything big and came with a succession of “snacks”.
One of them was cockles she had steamed in Sake or “Sakamushi Asari”.
She usually utilizes Japanese sake, but this time she opted for old Chinese rice wine. Of course one can replicate the recipe with a dry white wine!
When you choose your cockles at the market, tap them ligtly with a finger. If they are alive you will see them retract whatever was poking outside. If not, disregard them.
First leave the cockles in slightly salted water overnight to have them disgorge any sand that has been inevitably sucked inside.
Next day drain water and have them “dance” inside a bowl by making them twirl/run around by hand for a minute. This will have them retracting more inside. After cooking they will detach easily from their shells. Incidentally, “tossing” them will not work.
Drop them in a fry pan with a good glass of sake , some mirin/sweet sake and som shoyu ponzu (normal soy sauce is too salty or strong). Cover with a glass lid and heat them on a strong fire until they are all open. Serve them in dish with a good measure of chopped thin leeks.

Simple is sometimes the best!

Shizuoka Fish: Red Trumpet Fish/”Aka Yagara”

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This evening, on my way back from University in Fukuroi City, I ventured inside the great Supermarket inside Shizuoka City JR Station as they are bound, especially in the seafood department, to exhibit some interesting specimens.
I certainly was not disappointed!


Here is another picture to give you an idea of the size!

Trumpet Fishes come in “blue” and “red” varieties.
This one is a red (“aka”) Trumpet Fish.
A bit of a monster, it was a good 1,5 meter (five feet) long and weighed over 5 kg.
I was told 3 meters (10 feet) long specimens are regularly caught in Suruga Bay, the main Bay of Shizuoka Prefecture!

I knew that my friends at Tomii Restaurant would be interested.
I called them on my mobile.
They replied they definitely were!
I bought the fish on their behalf. At 130 US$, it was cheap (I actually bargained a bit!), considering what customers would pay for this delicate fish, either as sublime sashimi or delicious “nabe”!

Japanese Viper Sake/Mamushi Sake: A Drink for Sex?

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Last Tuesday night I had to go to the lavatory in a fairly busy and popular izakaya (sorry, I won’t tell you the name!) in Shizuoka City.
The “Mens” and “Ladies” were separate (important deatil!).
I found this “notice” pinned on the wall at eye-level.
The notice says:
“Genki no nai Otoko ha mamushi sake!”/Viper Sake for people (men) not feeling enrgetic!”
This is real sake in which a snake was marinated!
The note says above that you should be careful not too drink too much, or you will suffer from nosebleed (Japanese men supposedly go through this predicament when their libido is overstimulated!).
Actually, orders are limited to a single glass. It had better work as it costs a whopping 22 US$!
Last, but not least, as if men needed more incentive, they added a picture of a “well-endowed” man (face not shown!) wearing snake skin pants!

N.B.: A lady friend in our party told us later that there was nothing hanging on the wall inside the ladies’ facilities!

Chirashizushi: Marinated Tuna Sushi for Lunch

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The Missus does not work on Thursday. This is the day we usually go out at night, but the frigid temperature outside having discouraged her to venture into town, she decided to cook both lunch and dinner for us for my (and her own ) pleasure!

For lunch we had a salad of beans, yams from Ishigaki Island and greens with a big bowl of miso and mushrooms soup. As for the main dish featured above, she prepare “Chirashizushi/Sushi on a plate or in a lunch box.
She steamed the rice with a piece of konbu/seaweed.
She later added this seaweed shredded once the rice had been mixed with the rice vinegar, sugar and some “secrets”. She also mixed in some shredded “takuan”/yellow pickled daikon to balance the sweetness of the sushi. Sushi in Shizuoka in generally “sweeter” than that found in other areas of japan, notably Tokyo where it is more “vinegary”.
On top of the rice she placed slices of “maguro”/tuna she had marinated beforehand in konbu ponzu ( a lot lighter tha soy sauce!) and mirin. She added “ikura”/salmon roe and “tobikko”/flying fish roe and completed for color effect and balance pieces of “shiso”/perilla leaves. A dollop of real grated wasabi, et voila!

She couldn’t help remark how much she would price it for customers at her virtual restaurant! LOL (not a bad price, actually!)

Japanese Seasonal Fish: Noresore/Conger Eel Whitebait

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“Noresore” will soon appear at some select fish markets, and as it will be a very short season, you will have to keep your eyes open!
Noresore stands for very young conger eels. They are called different names depending on regions: “Berada” in Okayama Prefecture, “Tachikurage” in Misaki, “Nagatankurage” in Wakayama Prefecture
In Shizuoka, they mainly come from Hamana Lake, a seawater lake west of the Prefecture, famous for its oysters, eels and clams.


5~6cm long, they are practically transparent, save for their eyes. They emit no smell. In our Prefecture they are available only during the first two weeks of March. They are slowly but surely becoming a rarity wherever in Japan, and people come from afar just for the experience!


Before serving them, lightly wash them in clean salted water.
As sushi, put them on top of “gunkan”, or a rice ball if you are an expert, with freshly grated ginger and chopped thin leeks.
I like them best served as they are with a little “ponzu or “yuzu” vinegar, a dash of “momijioroshi” (freshly grated daikon and chili pepper) and some chopped thin leeks for a last touch of colour!

Vegan and Vegetarian Japanese Cuisine: Tofu (2)-Varieties

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“Zarudofu”, my favourite variety of tofu just filtered out in a “zaru/basket”. You just eat it with a spoon on its own. No seasoning needed!

This is the second article dedicated to some of the many varieties of that celebrated food, tofu. A third article is in preparation as for recipes!

Okinawa Tofu

Tofu comes in various degrees of firmness.
The softest are “Zaru dofu” (see pic above) and Okinawa-style tofu.

“Kinu Goshi Tofu”

Next come “Kinu Tofu/Kinu Goshi Tofu”/Silk-sieved tofu. It can be used for almost any recipe, although you might have to press it as it contains a lot of water.

“On Tofu”

“On Tofu” is similar to “Kinu tofu”, but it has been conceived as it its name indicates for being eaten hot or warm instead of cold.

“Momen Tofu”

“Momen Tofu”/”Wool Tofu” contains less water, is firmer and is perfect for “Nabe/Japanese Pot-au-feu”.

“Yaki Tofu”

“Yaki Tofu/Grilled tofu” (not to be confused with deep-fried tofu) is usually “Momen tofu” grilled to give it the “gratine” look. Tasty, it is particularly interesting when sauteed with vegetables and so forth in Japanese, Chinese, Korean or Thai food.

“Yawarakaage or Yawarakai Aburaage”

Tofu can be bought cooked/deep-fried in many manners.
“Yawarakaage” is tofu deep-fried into a thin sheet which can be opened as a pouch like in:


“Inari” is “Yawarakaage”, which has been first marinated in mirin, soy Sauce and sugar. Do ask about its preparation as some companies or individuals add dashi, which is usually not vegan or vegetarian!


“Karaage Tofu/Deep-fried Tofu” comes in many forms.
The above “Namaage/Deep-fried raw” is the most common.

“Kinu Namaage”

“Kinu namaage” is great for the contrast between a solid outside and vey soft inside.

“Ganmo” and “Kyo-Ganmo”

“Ganmo” is Tofu that has pressed to almost dry, then broken into very small lumps to which one added cooked carrots, Hijiki sweet seaweed, grated yam, a little sugar (not always), shaped into a ball and lightly deep-fried. Great, heated again with vegetables and a swet and sour sauce, or in whatever recipe you might imagine. “Kyo-Ganmo” is the smaller Kyoto-Style variety. Ganmo should be made exclusively with vegetal matter, but do ask if you are not sure!

“Tofu Doughnuts”

Yes, you have read it, “Tofu Doughnuts”, very popular with kids!

Other varieties:
-“Okara” is hard-pressed, almost dry tofu sold broken into very small lumps.
-“Yuba” is the “skin” appearing on top of the pan when tofu is being prepared. Very popular served cold with all kinds of ingredients.
-“Koya” is hard-pressed tofu sold marinated. Now, as it contains fish stock dashi, it is not suitable to vegans or vegetarians.
-“Kuro goma tofu” or “Shiro goma tofu” (Black and white sesame curd) are not made with soy beans but sesame, although they make for great food for vegans and vegetarians.

There are many other “fancy” varieties, but I cannot guarantee their suitability to vegans or vegetarians!


Blue-Fin Robin and Scampi baked in Foil Paper

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Pic kindly upgraded by Jay Gustafson!

Last Friday, on my way back from University, I visited the big Parche Supermarket inside Shizuoka City JR Station as I wanted to cook some seafood for the Missus that night!


I was lucky to find a couple of medium-sized “Houbou/Blue-Fin Robin” for a little over 4 US$. This fish was caught off the western part of Shizuoka shore. I also discovered a few great value fresh “Te-naga Ebi/Scampi” caught in Suruga Bay (Shizuoka Prefecture). I only needed to check with the vegetables stand nearby and I was back home!


Things are (most of the time) best when kept simple.
I had had the fishmonger dress the fish beforehand, so I needed only to make a couple of shallow cuts across the skin.
In two separate large sheets of foil paper, I place one fish (seasoned with salt and pepper) in the middle, flanked it with two (on the the left) and one scampi (on the right), filled the upper right corner with plenty of fresh basil and dill. I placed mini asparaguses and large fresh broad beans along them, added a good portion of white wine, a little olive oil, some freshly pressed lime juice and a good measure of sweet and hot Thai sauce.
I closed the foil tightly around the whole and baked it on grill at 250 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.
Served at once, they made for a great and light dinner enjoyed with white wine (for the Missus) and Japanese sake (for me!)