Rivers winding from inland mountains to deep bays formed the fertile plains of Aichi prefecture, a land that fed the samurai armies that unified Japan. Today, Aichi's soil and sea sustain an industrious population known for blending traditional craftsmanship with modern innovation. A belief that products are a reflection of the character of the people behind them pervades the region's culture of monozukuri, or "making things," and Aichi's commitment to superior quality can be tasted in its unique and varied cuisine.
Fishing communities from Aichi's Chita and Atsumi peninsulas carry on a centuries-old tradition, taking to the Pacific and hauling treasures from the sea to Nagoya, Central Japan's hub city and Japan's third-largest metropolis. Chefs from the city's world-class restaurants rise early to get their pick at Yanagibashi Central Fish market, ensuring the freshest dishes for discerning diners in both elegant restaurants and raucous neighborhood eateries.
Expertly cultivated ingredients from Aichi's farms find their way into hearty meals gulped down hurriedly by diligent urbanites mid-commute or at the end of a long work day. A hot bowl of noodles thickened with deep-flavored miso, a rice ball moistened with locally brewed vinegar and topped with crispy deep-fried jumbo shrimp, or grilled eel made savory-sweet with soy sauce produced from locally grown soybeans are all typical fare. When it's time to unwind, the region's quality ingredients are interpreted drastically differently in meticulously prepared dishes that encourage savoring, perhaps to be accompanied by tea made from locally grown leaves or cups of sake brewed in rural mountain towns.
High protein, mineral-packed miso is staple food of the Japanese diet that is most familiar to foreigners from its common use in miso soup. Aichi hatcho miso is a particularly hearty version of the fermented soybean paste that is used generously in dishes in the region and beyond. Miso is invariably linked to the Aichi city of Okazaki, where it has been made since the days of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a ruling shogun who was himself a miso enthusiast.
Where to Buy
Maruya Hatcho Miso Co., Ltd.
52 Oukandori, Hatcho-cho, Okazaki City, Aichi,
Contact: Nobutarou Asai
Marusan-Ai Co., Ltd.
1 Arashita, Niki - cho, Okazaki City, Aichi
Center of ceremony. Symbol of hospitality. Nurturer of the body. These are the many faces of green tea in Japan. The tea leaf holds a venerated place that is comparable only to that of rice.
Matcha (powdered green tea), is the central component in the tea ceremony, a centuries-old tradition that epitomizes the Japanese aesthetic. Its slightly bitter taste also led matcha to be incorporated as a counterbalance to the sweetness of traditional confections. More recently, matcha's distinct flavor and an ever growing list of health benefits have captured the attention of western chefs who use it in everything from delectable desserts to healthy smoothies. The Aichi city of Nishio and the surrounding region grows over half of the leaves that are used to make the world's matcha, making "Nishio Tea" synonymous with powdered green tea.
Where to Buy
AIYA America, Inc.
2291 W. 205th Street Unit 104 Torrance, CA 90501 USA
*Available in wholesale
AOI SEICHA Co., Ltd.
7 Kamiyashiki, Kami-machi, Nishio, Aichi
*Please direct inquiries to the e-mail, fax, or telephone number above.
Nanzanen Co., Ltd
20 Minamiyama, Fujii, Anjo, Aichi 444-1198 JAPAN
As Japanese cuisine grows in popularity in the west and diners' palates gain sophistication, quality wasabi is increasingly in demand. A generous pinch of nose-tingling genuine wasabi enhances the flavors of fresh fish in sashimi and sushi meals. Foodies who have had a taste of the real deal accept no imitations.
Where to Buy
Kinjirushi Sales Co., Ltd.
365 Van Ness Way, #504, Torrance, California 90501 USA
Water-soluble, oil-resistant oblate is a transparent paper made from starch and agar that is most often used to wrap powdered medicines to ease ingestion. Creative chefs are also finding ways to take advantage of oblate's unique qualities in the kitchen. They use oblate when shaping delicate desserts and other dishes to make them easier to manage and more appealing to the eye.
Where to Buy
Takikawa Oblate Co. Ltd.
3-3 Shimizuno, Hitokuwada, Shinshiro City, Aichi
Hitsumabushi (grilled eel over rice)
tasty local favorite utilizes one of Aichi prefecture's many aquatic culinary
treasures. Slow grilling a whole eel allows for the subtle flavors of
the tender meat to merge perfectly with the savory and sweet aromas of
simple ingredients. Locals make sure to partake of the dish in three distinct
steps, first savoring the eel and rice as is, then adding half of the
seasonings that accompany every order, and finally combining the last
of the seasonings, the side of green tea (or in some cases soup), and
the remaining eel over rice. The process allows for full appreciation
of the natural flavors of the eel as well as a bit of zing.
Miso Nikomi Udon
A regional favorite, miso nikomi udon is a hearty dish that incorporates Aichi's famous hatcho miso and thick, filling udon noodles. Restaurants throughout the region take great pride in their versions and noodle lovers in the capital city of Nagoya passionately endorse their favorite spot.
Hand-made udon noodles - 220 grams
Japanese soup stock (dashi) - 2 1/2 cups
Hatcho miso - 1 1/2 tablespoons
Deep-fried tofu (abura-age) - 1 slice
Chicken - 30 grams
Egg - 1
Fish cake - 20 grams
Green onion - 10 grams
1. Bring soup stock to boil in an earthenware pot.
2. Place deep-fried tofu into boiled water to remove excess oil and cut into two rectangles. Cut chicken diagonally into thin slices. Cut fish cake into thin half-moon-shaped slices. Cut green onions into approximately two-inch strips.
3. Place miso into soup stock, add deep-fried tofu, chicken and fish cake and bring to a boil.
4. When soup reaches a boil, add udon noodles, green onions, add raw egg, cover and boil briefly. Monitor texture of udon noodles and do not overboil. Noodles should maintain an elastic, firm texture.
5. Remove from flame and let stand for approximately five minutes.
This light and airy dessert epitomizes the versatility of matcha, incorporating the traditional powdered tea into a cake that is easily made with ingredients found in almost any kitchen.
Egg - 200 grams
Granulated sugar - 1/3 teaspoon
Cake flour - 100 grams
Matcha (green tea powder) - a pinch
Matcha cream filling
Fresh cream - 1 tablespoon
Granulated sugar - 2 tablespoons
Matcha (to taste) - 7 grams
Syrup - 70 cc
Granulated sugar - one tablespoon
Water - as appropriate
Preparation: Combine and mix cake flour and matcha powder, set aside. Coat 7" cake pan with butter. Heat water for syrup, melt in granulated sugar and set aside to cool.
1. Using bain-marie technique, heat and whisk egg with hand-mixer on high setting. Add 1/3 of granulated sugar at a time, constantly whisking well until mixture is fluffy and well mixed. Set hand-mixer to low, mix for approximately one minute to get rid of large bubbles.
2. Add matcha cake powder mixture. With a spatula, stir batter from the bottom to the top in a figure-eight motion while turning the bowl. Once cake flour is no longer visible, continue to mix slowly approximately 15 more times.
3. Pour contents into buttered cake pan, bake at 340 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
4. To prepare matcha cream, add granulated sugar to fresh cream and 7 grams of matcha dissolved in a small amount of water. Beat until cream stands up slightly when mixer is pulled away.
5. Cut matcha sponge cake into 3 equal portions, spread syrup over surface of each. Stack layers, spreading matcha cream between each. Spread matcha cream over the top and the sides. Using a strainer, sprinkle a small amount of matcha powder over the cake to decorate.