We stayed local with friends for the New Year, and after we exhausted our list of our favorite cafes one by one as they closed for the holidays, we holed up in the apartment and cooked up a storm.
My kitchen has a breakfast nook, which I usually use for storing my electric kettle and as a station for listening to podcasts while I cook. One of my coworkers gave me six half-dried korogaki (dried persimmons, also known as hoshigaki) to finish processing. I dried them for about two weeks on my laundry line–in the country, my neighbors dried persimmons, daikon, or onions in their sheds or carports; and in the city apartments near me, people usually have a rack installed by their laundry lines for drying fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the winter precipitation, I just used the actual laundry rack on my balcony. With korogaki/hoshigaki, the persimmons are peeled and then dried to remove astringency. The white stuff on the outside is sugar from the fruit. I brought them inside to store for a few days before I served them, so we hung them up over the breakfast nook like so.
Fuku-ume, or “lucky plum,” are one of Kanazawa’s famous wagashi (Japanese-style sweets). During the Edo period (1603-1868), the province of Kaga was ruled by the Maeda family, and their kamon (family crest) is the five-petaled plum. Like other important families, the Maeda ordered custom wagashi, and this style, a thin shell shaped like the plum with an, sweet red-bean paste, in the middle, became one of Kanazawa’s culinary traditions. As a thank-you gift, I received a box from Saka Kobo Taro (茶菓工房たろう), my favorite wagashi-ya in the city and my go-to shop for omiyage. Taro is a very modern wagashi-ya–in addition to the more traditional tea sweets, they make fusion sweets like chocolate yôkan and peanut dorayaki. The box included a set of mini fuku-ume with unusual an in the center–strawberry an in the pink ones, caramel an in the brown ones, and white chocolate an in the white ones. Gorgeous to look at and delightful to taste!
Oh, what a contrast…. I make kuri daifuku from scratch. Daifuku are an wrapped in a shell of mochi. (This mochi shell around ice cream is what many Americans seem to think “mochi” actually is. It’s not.) Ichigo daifuku, a fresh strawberry coated in an and covered in a mochi shell, is a popular winter dessert thanks to hothouse strawberries. I got some sweetened preserved chestnuts at the store and made it with those instead. (Still working out the kinks in my mochi recipe!) They were not very pretty, but they tasted good. Best not to quit my day job for the wagashi industry, I fear.
Nabe is a great meal to share with a group. Sometimes called hot pot in English, it’s a one-pot dish of veggies, meat (optional), and tofu boiled together with broth. I’ve been experimenting with my broths this winter. This is a curry nabe. I added half of a package of vegetarian curry roux (they do exist!) to the pot near the end, which gave this a soup-curry consistency. (Stay tuned for a post on my favorite nabe broths.)
I also made a ginger-yuzu nabe with pink and white mochi, carrots, shirataki “noodles,” scallions, and kohlrabi. (Normally I add a lot more veggies but we were running low on food.)
One of my prized possessions is a waffle maker with removable plates for waffles, taiyaki, and mini donuts. This recipe on Eating Well is my go-to waffle recipe, especially since corn meal is easy to get in Kanazawa. I served these with the Vermont maple syrup that Sarah gave me at Thanksgiving.
The next leg of our holidays was spent at our friends’ place in Komatsu. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures with my new camera there, but I do have some cell phone shots for next time. Part 2 is here.
Since I’m planning a nabe “recipe” post, what are your favorite nabe ingredients?