Making Japanese Sweets (Wagashi)
I had always admired Traditional Japanese sweets served at tea ceremonies. They are a work of art, each piece, elegantly representing the flowers or icons of each season. I would have never imagined that I could make one on my own until I came across a Wagashi Lesson organized by one of my acquaintances.
In this lesson, I learned how to make a hydrangea flower shaped wagashi made with anko (red bean paste and white bean paste). It was sort of like playing with play dough and quite fun. This type of wagashi is called "kinton" , and is made by pressing a colored white bean paste through a coarse sieve to shred them, then placing the pieces on a ball of anko.
I plan to attend a few more courses and hopefully be able to teach whoever is interested to learn.
Washing Vegetables in Japan
Sometimes I'm asked how I wash vegetables here in Japan. As you may know, most vegetables and fruits will have pesticides on the outer skin unless you grow it yourself. The Japanese Ministry of Health has a standard for the amount of pesticides to be used, so you don't need to be too worried but if you would like to be extra cautious, here are some helpful information.
Most of the time, I wash vegetables in tap water, which should be fine, but for some vegetables I use a vegetable washing powder to get rid of the pesticides . I've read that baking soda is also effective in getting rid of the pesticide. You need to get one that is suitable for consuming and not the ones for cleaning though.
The most effective way of getting rid of the pesticides is to peel the skin, but you don't want to do that as the skin contains the most nutrients and full of antioxidants. I normally leave the skin on unless I am eating it raw, such as for carrots as the residue on the skin may contain bacteria. Be sure to use a vegetable brush to clean your root veggies.
The vegetables I normally use the washing powder are strawberries (this contains loads of pesticides) and broccoli. You can tell that it is sprayed by pesticides by pouring water over broccoli as the water will roll over it as if it is coated in oil.
I haven't personally used this method but if you would like to use baking soda to get rid of the pesticides, just add 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda in a bowl of water and soak the vegetables or fruit for 30 seconds to 1 minutes (shorter time for leafy vegetables and rinse. Don't soak for longer as the vitamins and minerals will start to dissolve in the water. The scientific reason behind this is that the chlorine compound in the pesticide and the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) joins together and becomes sodium chloride (salt).
If you are interested in the washing powder I use, It's called "ホタテの力 海の野菜洗い" It's made from the shells from scallops. The powder makes strong alkali powder which kills various bacteria including salmonella, E-coli, Fungus. It also has a preserving effect so the vegetables will last longer. You need to add 2-3 shakes of powder into a bowl of water and soak the fruit or vegetables for 5-10 minutes. and rinse.
You can buy both products on Amazon.
I've posted this recipe in my Grocery Guide Section under "Ground Meat" a couple of months ago. Although nabe (hot pot) is not in season at the moment, you can pan fry this chicken balls by shaping them into patties. It is a low calorie main dish with lots of protein. It will go well with ponzu or teriyaki sauce, or just soy sauce as the taste is quite plain.
Ground chicken 300g
Grated Ginger 1/2 - 1 Teaspoon
Potato Starch or Corn Starch 1 Tablespoon
Tofu 1/2 block
Sake (rice wine) 1 Teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste
Beat the egg and set aside. Place the minced chicken in a bowl and knead it to break down the tissues. Add the tofu, egg, sake and potato starch and mix well. Finally add the grated ginger and season with salt and pepper. Shape into walnut size balls and add to soups and hot pots and boil until done. Can shaped into patties to be pan fried as well.
I'm Miyuki and I teach Japanese Home cooking at my home in Tokyo.
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