What is winter solstice?
The winter solstice is the day at which the sun is furthest South of the equator with the shortest sun time in the Northern hemisphere. Japanese and Chinese people believe they would be getting good luck after the winter solstice because the sun power is getting stronger after the winter solstice. Many Japanese people believe the custom to take a hot citron bath in the winter solstice is a kind of purification to get rid of bad luck before they can have some good luck.
Today’s recipe, using “citron” for “Winter Solstice”
I want to introduce the recipe which goes well with rice wine or Japanese “sake”. I recommend this during the long night “winter solstice”. Why? It's because I love sake and old and new world wine very much. In fact, I have organized a cooking class and food event with the menu.
So, today’s recipe uses citron (talking of winter solstice, Japanese people take a citron bath in winter solstice.) and the recipe is really easy, a made-in-heaven match with sake”.
How about enjoying marriage with sake and grilled tofu dressed with sweet citron miso paste in long night winter solstice? Imagine a perfect marriage of sake and grilled tofu dressed with sweet citron miso paste during a romantic long winter solstice.
Let the cooking begin.
Recipe / grilled tofu dressed with sweet citron miso paste
1/2 cake of firm tofu or grilled tofu
1 citron skin
3tbsp white miso
1 tsp sake
1 tsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
1. Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces, arrange them in a heat-resistant cookware and heat it in the microwave oven for 1 minute. Then, wipe off any excess moisture.
2. Make an ornamental citron’s skin for decoration. Grind the other citron’s skin in a grater. Mix all the miso, sake, mirin and sugar. Heat it in a microwave oven for 1 minute without wrapping, and mixing it. Then, mix it and heat it in a microwave for another 30 seconds. Add grated citron’s skin and mix well until texture becomes thick.
3. Pull a cooking sheet on a baking tray, spread the salad oil thinly, bake the tofu in a pre-heated oven toaster (medium heat) for 5 minutes. Then, baste the tofu with miso paste and bake it again for another five minutes until the surface becomes light brown. Then, take it out and use the ornamental citron’s skin to decorate its top.
The trend of “TOFU” in the world
So, why the humble tofu? The reason is I want to share with you the knowledge that I hold as a Tofu Meister having tofu become a very popular ingredient around the world.
Japanese food has taken on the world's center stage since its registration in the "UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage" in 2013 with the export volume of tofu constantly increasing in proportion in terms of popularity and its use in the Japanese cuisine. For example, in the United States and France, tofu, as it is called in Japanese but more popularly known as bean curd in English, has become a more familiar ingredient on American and French dining tables.
Since tofu contains abundant ingredients for health and a good quality low calorie protein, it is positioned as a health food and is often used as a substitute for meat around the world.
For such reasons, Tofu has gained support from vegetarians and health-conscious people. We can see various recipes and menus using tofu in the worldwide web.
1. As an ingredient for salads and noodle dishes, using drained and diced really firm tofu that is harder than the tofu in Japan.
2. As an ingredient for hamburger patty, a good substitute for beef.
3. As an ingredient for cream of dessert, using silk tofu instead of whipping cream and cream cheese.
It is used not only for ingredient of Japanese cuisine, but also for a wide range of dishes.
Tofu is an old familiar ingredient in Japan, but overseas it is a popular newcomer and trending really high.
The trend of “sake” in the world
Let me talk about another rising trend in the world from Japan. It is the Japanese “sake”.
I often suggest sake in my cooking classes and food events. It is not yet widely known but the export volume of “sake” is increasing (the export value of sake in 2008 is about 2.7 times in these 10 years). When in Japan, many tourists should never miss "drinking sake" as it is now a must in every traveler's bucket list.
However, the type of “sake” is limited overseas and there is just a few ways to enjoy it. Although there are categories such as "cold sake" and "hot sake", “sake” is offered in restaurants overseas but only a few would give enough explanations about the difference of production districts, brewing processes and levels of polished rice, such as " Junmai-Daiginjo" and "Honjozou-shu". For those in Japan, people just get drunk the first time they try sake while reading the list of sake varieties but without understanding the list and knowing what the technicalities of making sake.
“Sake” is an alcoholic beverage, which we can enjoy "AISHO" with dishes (the same meaning as a “marriage” in the wine). But most foreigners just picked up “sake” without knowing "AISHO" or its perfect match.
Do you know the detailed AISHO of “sake”?? These are similar rules of that of wine. I want to share the rules that we, Japanese people follow when drinking sake.
Here are some “AISHO” quizzes of Japanese food and “sake”. Choose which of the following are good "AISHO".
A. sweet sparking sake + mozzarella cheese
B. sweet old sake + gataux chocolate
C. junmai-shu(sake) which has a strog umami + cheese
D. daiginzyo-shu(sake) + grapefruits and white fish carpaccio
E. sashimi, thinly sliced white fish + old sake
The answer may be surprising, but “AISHO” is all good except for letter E. But you must know that “sake” is an all-rounder not only for Japanese food. It also goes well with other foods from around the world like spicy and hot Chinese food with old sake. Try it to believe it!
As for letter E, old sake is just too strong to fit the tastes of thinly sliced white fish sashimi.
Sake in the future
I believe the business of “sake” will expand and “sake” will become popular all over the world. From Japan, "sake" will soon be a staple in world's finest dining table.
The key to success is to spread the basic knowledge of “sake” such as basic sommeliers' qualifications, to develop restaurants and shops that offer sake for tourists in Japan, and to strengthen the service to show how to enjoy sake. (Although it sounds easy, there are many disappointing restaurants that do not have visitor-friendly menu and staff)
There is still more that we can do. Let's promote "AISHO" between "foreigners who are interested in Japan" and "Japanese / Japanese sake" with hospitality.
- 北村 美友貴/フードコーディネーター・料理家/野菜ジュニアソムリエ・豆腐マイスター