Fend Off Colds with Ginger Kuzu-yu

 

ginger-kuzuyu

Kuzu was first put on my radar by the famous vegetarian chef, Yumiko Kano. Kano Sensei is a prolific cookbook author with 29 cookbooks, all vegetarian, except for the very last one, Okazu Salada, which is vegetable-rich, but does introduce a bit of fish and meat.

At a cooking class Kano Sensei talked about the health benefits of using kuzu instead of katakuriko (a potato starch) as a thickener. She said that kuzu warms up the body while katakuriko cools the body down. Kuzu is also rich in flavonoids, a strong antioxidant. Here is a hon-kuzu that we like: http://www.morino-kuzu.com/en

A friend of mine told me that she and her husband were advised by their doctor to take kuzu to fight off a cold that they both felt they were coming down with and it worked like a charm. Influenza is spreading in Tokyo at the moment and so I started drinking a thick slurry of kuzu mixed with grated ginger and honey when I too started to feel like I was catching something. It has kept the cold from setting in and I love the ritual of making the drink.

Look for hon-kuzu 本葛 本くず in the supermarket. Do not use katakuriko (potato starch).

Ginger Kuzu-yu

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon hon-kuzu

1/2 Tablespoon grated ginger

honey

In a pot add 1 Tablespoon of hon-kuzu to 1 cup of cold water. Mix until the chunks of kuzu dissolve. Turn on the heat and continue to mix until the color changes from white to almost transparent. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 Tablespoon grated ginger. Add honey to taste.

kuzuyu-mattcha

Mattcha green tea and black sugar is a classic combination in traditional Japanese sweets. This mattcha kuzu-yu is a refreshing and earthy afternoon tea, here served with sweetened black beans.

Mattcha Kuzu-yu

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon hon-kuzu

1/2 Tablespoon instant mattcha

kokutō (black sugar)

In a pot add 1 Tablespoon of hon-kuzu to 1 cup of cold water. Mix until the chunks of kuzu dissolve. Turn on the heat and continue to mix until the color changes from white to almost transparent. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 Tablespoon instant mattcha. Add kokutō to taste.

http://yumiko-kano.com/index.html

 

 

 

Gotta Get – Kokuto Black Sugar 沖縄黒糖

Kokuto

Kokuto

Do you know about kokutō? Black sugar that is harvested on the islands south of Kagoshima in Okinawa. It is a dark sugar that is rich in minerals and is 100% natural sugar cane. We often keep a jar of kokutō on the counter. It makes a nice little snack. Kokutō can be cooked with water to make a syrup for desserts. This with some kinako, roasted soybean powder, over vanilla ice cream, is a combination of flavors that most people love.

A friend of ours is an editor of a famous food magazine in Tokyo. He is a fountain of information and I never share a meal with him without my notebook and pen. At a recent dinner party we were talking about kokutō and he said that each island produces a different flavor of black sugar. Of course, that totally makes sense, but how different could the flavors be?

Shinji picked up five different kokutō at the Washita Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza. Each from a different island. First of all, they all look very different from each other. Who knew? And, drumroll…….they do all taste very different from each other.

Kokuto Packaging

Kokuto Packaging

These small packages are 50 grams each and cost about 200 JPY ($2 USD). Our tasting notes counter-clockwise starting at pink:

  1. Ie-shima 伊江島 (pink) *** Our favorite. Light in color, not too sweet and surprisingly salty. Rich in flavor and very natural. Will go back for this.
  2. Yonaguni-jima 与那国島 (yellow) ** Medium in color. Light in flavor, not as rich as Ieshima. A hint of saltiness. Hard texture and cut into squares.
  3. Iheya-jima 伊平屋島 (blue) * Light in color. For both of us it was too sweet, much like sugar.
  4. Tarama-jima 多良間島 (dark orange) * Dark color and very hard texture. Sweet and rich flavor.
  5. Hateruma-jima 波照間島 (light orange) ** Very dark in color. Blocks are very chewy. Rich mineral flavor.

Overall the Ie-shima was our favorite. We loved that it wasn’t too sweet and the saltiness was a surprise at first, but we came to love it. Most people love kokutō when they try it.

Note on the names. Shima means island in Japanese. Sometimes the pronunciation of shima can change to jima depending on what name comes before it.

Shochu 101 – Part Two

Packaging Shochu in Miyazaki

Packaging Shochu in Miyazaki

There are many base ingredients that shochu is made from providing a wide variety of flavor profiles. The most commonly found are:

Imo 芋 – (sweet potato) is highly aromatic, can be smooth, and also slightly sweet on the palate. There are many varieties of sweet potato all contributing their own characteristics. Kogane sengan is one of the more popular potatoes used.

Mugi 麦 – (barley) is roasty, toasty, and often dry. Can be aged in barrels making it fuller on the palate and reminiscent of whiskey, but lower in alcohol.

Kome 米 – (rice) is light, crisp, and very food-friendly. This is a good shochu to start drinking as it is very smooth on the palate.

Soba そば – (buckwheat) buckwheat aromas are strong and it can be round on the palate.

Kokuto 黒糖 – (brown sugar) is sweet on the nose and on the finish. Kokuto jochu is only made on the islands between Kagoshima and Okinawa. This is also a good starter shochu as it is slightly sweet on the palate.

Awamori 泡盛 – (Thai rice) is full body from the black koji. This pairs well with rich and well-seasoned foods of Okinawa where it is produced.

Other base ingredients are:

Kuri 栗 – (chestnuts) can be slightly sweet and aromatic like marron glace.

Goma 胡麻 – (sesame seeds) has a nutty aroma and a round mouth feel. Try this mixed with milk on the rocks for a unique cocktail.

Shiso しそ – (perilla leaves) has the undeniable aroma of minty shiso leaves.

Shochu can also be made from a variety of vegetables, sake kasu, kombu, and much more.

Shochu 101 part one.

Shochu 101 part three.

Shochu 101 part four.