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Grapefruit Kanten Jelly Slices

Oh, it’s been a while since I posted. Mom is in her last stages of cancer, but she has been eating – about one onigiri a day. I thought she might like something different today like this kanten dessert. It’s tart and slightly sweet, and soft which is perfect for her. Served up inside grapefruit cups and sliced, it’s also nice to look at.

I made a basic recipe for a kanten dessert in a previous post and just to recap, kanten is also called agar agar and its jelling power comes from the kanten seaweed. It’s sold as dried seaweed sticks or as a powder.

Grapefruit Kanten Jelly Slices

4 grams dried powdered kanten

1 1/4 cups water

2-3 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)

3/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice (from one grapefruit)

1. Cut the grapefruit in half from top to bottom. Squeeze out the juice. You should have about 3/4 cup of juice. Scrape off the white pith on the inside of the peel taking care not to tear a hole through it.

2. Add the kanten powder to the cold water and stir well. Heat it over medium heat and stir until the kanten is completely dissolved. When the liquid begins to simmer, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the grapefruit juice. Cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour the liquid into the grapefruit cups. If you have extra liquid, pour it into other cups or hollowed out fruit. The jelly will set in 15-30 minutes at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Fruit slices made with kanten jelly flavored with grapefruit juice.


How to Make Amazake

Amazake made with glutinous rice

Every morning this week, I’ve been able to treat myself to amazake, a fermented beverage that you can make with cooked rice and rice koji. Koji is a type of fungus that ferments the cooked rice and converts the carbs into simple sugars. I like to eat it in the form of porridge, smoothie and puddings, but you can also add it to sweeten dressings or baked goods. My previous post has a recipe for amazake scones.

Amazake translates to “sweet sake” but it has no alcohol at all, so it’s safe for children to consume.

Here are the three ingredients needed to make amazake: water, cooked sweet rice, and rice koji.

Basic Amazake Recipe

(weight measurements provided)

1 1/2 cups cooked sweet rice (glutinous or mochi rice) 200 grams

2 cups hot water (70 degrees C/140 F) 500 ml

1/2 cup rice koji 200 grams

1.  Cool the rice slightly and mix with the hot water in a bowl.

2. Rub the grains of rice koji between your fingers. Stir it into the cooked rice and water.

3. Loosely cover the bowl so some air can still can into it. Place it in a warm spot so it maintains a temperature between 60-70 degrees C/120-140 F. Stir it every few hours. If kept in a consistently warm spot, the amazake base should be done in 10-12 hours. Taste it after 8 hours to see if it is becoming sweet. When the mixture is very sweet, it is ready.

4. To store it, refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 days or freeze for up to one month.

Serving ideas:

Heat it with added water and consume as a traditional amazake beverage.

Warm the amazake and eat it like porridge.

Blend it into a smoothie with added fruit.

Heat it with added soymilk and agar agar powder to make a pudding.

Stir the cooked rice and hot water together; then add the rice koji.

There are many ways to keep the rice mixture warm. I fill my crock pot with hot water and makes sure the temperature is between 120 and 140 F.

I put a plate over the top of the rice and place the crock pot lid on top of everything. Place it on the “warm” setting for an hour, then turn it off. Place a towel over the crock pot to insulate it. Check the temperature periodically to make sure the temperature is between 120 and 140 F. If it gets lower, you can add hot water or turn on the “warm” setting again. If the temperature goes above 140 F, quickly remove the rice bowl and cool down the water in the crock pot by adding ice cubes until it’s in the proper temperature range again.

After 10-12 hours, your amazake will be sweet and then it’s done.

Amazake Banana Smoothie

1 cup amazake

1/2 banana

Blend and serve cold.

Daikon and Carrot Rolled in Fried Tofu

Ever since I signed up for Elizabeth Andoh’s Kansha Cooking Workshop I thought about making these beautiful rolls with its checkerboard design. Daikon and carrot are wrapped in fried tofu (abura-age) and tied with gourd strips (kanpyo). Vegan Japanese cooking has such appeal to me when I can create foods that are as tasty and elegant as this.

I’ve recently discovered Elizabeth Andoh’s recipes and I appreciate her philosophy to eat with “kansha” or with a full appreciation for nature’s resources. She not only teaches vegan cooking in her book Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions, but she also teaches to eat simply, seasonally and without waste.

Kanpyo (dried gourd strips) and kombu seaweed are soaked in water which is later used for stock.

Rub the salt into the kanpyo strips until they soften. Rinse off the salt.

Take the abura-age and cut open the long and short sides, so you end up with a rectangle about 4 x 10 inches.

Cut the daikon and carrot strips into batons which are square on all sides. Arrange them so they form a checkerboard pattern.

Roll the abura-age.

Wrap with the kanpyo strips, once in the middle and one on either side.

Simmer in the kanpyo broth and seasonings of sugar, sake and soy sauce.

Daikon and Carrot Rolled in Fried Tofu

Adapted from Elizabeth Andoh’s Kansha Cooking Workshop

Makes 2 rolls or six pieces

1 (2-3 foot long dried kanpyo)

2 pieces of abura-age (deep fried tofu)

4 pieces of carrot sticks, cut into batons about 4 inches long

4 pieces of daikon sticks, cut into batons about 4 inches long


1 ½ cups kanpyo stock

1 tablespoon sake

1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Soak the dried kanpyo in 1 ½ cups of filtered water for 20 minutes. Remove the kanpyo from the water and dry it off. Reserve the soaking liquid as it will be used for the stock. Rub about 1 teaspoon of salt on the kanpyo strips to soften it. After the kanpyo begins to soften, about 1 minute, rinse off the salt with water.  Cut the kanpyo strips into 6 pieces about 10 inches long a piece.

2. Pour boiling water over the abura-age to remove the excess oil. Once it has cooled slightly, squeeze the abura-age in your hands gently to remove the excess water. Open the abura-age pouch by first cutting the long end with scissors; then cut along the short ends on either side.

3. Place the 2 carrot batons and 2 daikon batons along the length of the abura-age sheet, placing them strategically so they form a checkerboard pattern when seen from the cut end. Roll the abura-age around the vegetables. Tie the roll with kanpyo strips, one in the middle and one on each side.  Do the same for the second abura-age sheet and the rest of the carrots and daikon.

4. Heat the kanpyo stock over medium heat until it is simmering. Add the sake and sugar. Place the rolls in the pan so they are in contact with the stock. Let the stock come back to a gentle boil for 5 minutes, turn down the heat slightly and turn the rolls so that all sides are basted with the stock. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the soy sauce and turn the rolls over once again so they are seasoned evenly on all sides. Simmer, covered for another 5 minutes. Remove the rolls from the pan and when they are cool, cut the rolls in between the kanpyo ties. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm.

Steamed Shio-Koji Chicken

Shio-koji works well as a marinade because the salt and enzymes tenderize the meat and add umami flavor. The simplest preparation is to marinate the chicken in shio-koji overnight, then steam-cook. The meat is tender and flavorful.

Steamed Shio-Koji Chicken

Serves 4

1 whole chicken breast, skin and bone-on (about 1 1/2 pounds)

2 tablespoons shio-koji

1. Cut the chicken breast into two equal halves. In a gallon-sized plastic bag, combine the chicken and shio-koji. Make sure all parts of the chicken are covered with the seasoning. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2.  Place the chicken in a steamer and steam on high for 20-30 minutes or until meat registers at 160 F at the thickest part.

Red Shiso and Turnip Greens Furikake

If your family is like mine, you love furikake on rice. But as you know, some of the prepackaged varieties include msg (sad face). If you make your own, it’s much cheaper and healthier too.

I decided to make my own furikake with red shiso (aka-jiso) since I have some growing in the garden. Red shiso is rarely sold in stores, so it’s worth it to grow your own. It self-seeds and it’s a hardy plant that grows well here in Wisconsin.

The red shiso or “beefsteak plant” has a strong taste, not unlike basil but it’s a member of the mint family. According to my book Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji, it’s mainly used to make umeboshi (pickled plums). In the summer, I pick large leaves of it and make an infused sweet beverage – so good. There are also green shiso varieties too.

The new rage is to sun-dry vegetables, but today I roasted the red shiso leaves in a dry frying pan.

These turnips are in season here in Wisconsin. What to do with all these greens? Roast them, of course. Chop them up and dry roast them in a pan or in the sun.

If you add some salt to the pan, this will help draw the water out of the leaves and roasting will go much faster. The leaves need to be crispy dry in order to grind them into a powder.

Either take a Japanese suribachi or spice grinder and grind all the ingredients into a powder. A lot of greens became a few tablespoons of powder, so use a lot of greens. I also added roasted sesame seeds and fish flakes and salt and sugar to taste.

Shiso and Spring Greens Furikake 

Makes 1/3 cup (double or triple the recipe)

Fresh shiso leaves, about 1 cup

Fresh turnip greens (can substitute other greens), at least 2-3 cups chopped small

Fish flakes (katsuo bushi), 2 tablespoons

Sesame seeds, roasted, 2 tablespoons

Sugar and salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon of each)

1. Dry-roast the shiso leaves and greens using until they are very dry.  You can heat them in a dry pan on low heat or in the sun. Add salt to draw out moisture from the leaves. When the leaves are dry and crunchy, remove them from the pan.

2.  In a suribachi or spice grinder, grind the leaves along with the fish flakes and sesame seeds. You may want to reserve some of the sesame seeds to keep them whole. Add the salt and sugar to taste and grind along with the ingredients.

3. Cool the furikake and store in a lidded jar in a cool, dry place for several weeks. Serve furikake sprinkled over rice or mixed in rice for onigiri.

Tofu Walnut Burgers with Mizuna Greens

I’ve been experimenting with veggie burgers and they are quite easy to make and very tasty. Leftovers make good bento fare. Today, I added mizuna greens and spring onions from our garden to the burgers and the yogurt sauce to add color and fresh flavor. The flavor of mizuna is somewhat like arugula, but much more mild in my opinion. It’s very easy to eat that way and its great in fresh salads.

You can make a lot of substitutions in this burger if you don’t have all the ingredients. I really think walnuts taste good in this and I recommend you keep it in. If you add enough protein in the form of beans or tofu, you probably don’t need to add egg, but sometimes I do.

Tofu Walnut Burger

Makes 4-6 small burgers/patties, serves 2

1 cup firm tofu

1 cup okara (soybean lees) (substitute with cooked mashed beans or lentils)

1/2 cup toasted whole walnuts, ground in a food processor

1/4 cup sprouted wheat cereal (such as Ezekiel Brand)

4-5 mizuna leaves, minced

1 green onion, minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons shio-koji (or 1/2 teaspoon salt)

1 teaspoon oil

2 tablespoons potato starch

Oil for frying

1. Heat a pan with oil and add the okara. Lightly toast the okara for 5-10 minutes, until just starting to turn color. Add the tofu and break it up in the pan. Stir-fry for 10 minutes until the okara is cooked and most of the water has evaporated from the tofu. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Turn off the heat. The mixture should be somewhat sticky and dry at the same time. If it’s too wet, cook it a little longer.

2. Using your hands, shape the mixture into burger patties.

3. Heat enough oil in a pan to come up halfway up the sides of the patties. Before adding the burgers into the hot oil, lightly dust it with potato starch. Put into the pan and heat for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve with shio-koji yogurt sauce and pita bread.

Shio-Koji Yogurt Sauce

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 teaspoon shio-koji

minced mizuna leaves

How to Make Shio-Koji

When you buy rice koji, it will look like rice with a powdery white substance on it. This is because the rice has been inoculated by the spores of a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae, also known as “koji.”  Koji is the key to making fermented foods such as miso paste, mirin, sake and soy sauce.

Today, I’m using rice koji to make a seasoning called shio-koji, but in a previous post I used rice koji to ferment sweet rice to make amazake.

When rice koji is mixed with water and salt, the koji is activated and fermentation of the rice begins. The carbs and proteins in the rice turn into sugars and amino acids. One of the amino acids is glutamate which adds umami or a deep flavor. You will be pleasantly surprised by the sweet and salty flavor of shio-koji. It adds flavor to food and is healthy too.

Basic Shio-Koji Recipe 

Rice koji 200 grams

Salt 60 grams

Water 300 ml (1 1/3 cups)

1. Mix together rice koji and salt, rubbing the grains of rice between your fingers.

2. Heat the water to 60-70 C (120-140 F). Add it to the rice and salt mixture and stir.

3. Put the mixture in a clean container with the lid loosened or with a paper towel covering the top.

4. Stir it once a day with a clean spoon.

In the summer it takes 7 days to make shio-koji; in winter it takes 14 days. Taste it around 5 days to make sure the fermentation is taking place. It should not have a “rotten” or off flavor. The taste will be pleasantly sweet and salty. When the shio-koji is done, the color will be light brown.

Here is the finished shio-koji. Keep covered in the refrigerator and use in place of salt of soy sauce. It can be used to marinate fish or meat, to make dressings, pickle vegetables and much much more.

Shio-Koji Marinated Tofu and Salad

Here is my 7-day marinated shio-koji tofu. Doesn’t it look like feta cheese? The tofu gets really creamy and the flavor is not unlike feta cheese with its tang and saltiness. I mixed the tofu with avocado, sprinkled some cilantro and added some cracked pepper. I also made a carrot salad with shio-koji dressing and currents.

To make shio-koji, I used 200 grams of koji rice, 60 grams of salt and 300 ml water (1 1/3 cups). Heat the water to about 120 degrees F and stir all the ingredients together. Keep it in a glass or plastic container with a paper towel covering the top. Stir it once a day. In the summer, the shio-koji will be done in 7 days.

Marinated Shio-Koji Tofu

1 block of firm tofu, Chinese or Japanese variety is fine

2 tablespoons of shio-koji or more if necessary

1. Cut the tofu into blocks and place in a glass jar with lid. Add the shio-koji and shake the jar gently so all the tofu comes in contact with the shio-koji. You may need to add more shio-koji to coat the tofu. Close the jar loosely and place in the fridge for one week. Every day, give the jar a gentle shake to coat the tofu.

Shio-Koji Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon shio-koji

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

salt and pepper to taste


Amazake Scones are Naturally Sweet

Happy Children’s Day to all who celebrate this Japanese holiday. I believe it is officially Boy’s Day, but they call it Children’s Day. To celebrate, I made amazake scones and they are perfect with a cup of tea. (Ironically, amazake as a drink is usually served on Girl’s Day).

Without further ado, let’s talk about amazake. Amazake is a sweetened concoction made from fermented rice. In order to make amazake you need to have a starter called rice koji. This rice koji has been inoculated by the spores of a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae. Koji not only makes amazake, but it also ferments foods that make other Japanese ingredients such as soy sauce, mirin, sake, and miso paste.  Read more about koji here.

Here is my amazake from this morning. It was really sweet and it had no added sugar! During fermentation, the carbs and proteins of the rice turn into sugars and amino acids. The result is a mixture that is sweet and full of “umami” a flavor enhancer.

To make a traditional amazake drink, blend the amazake with equal parts water and heat until warm. I mixed it with homemade soymilk and it was a delicious and healthy smoothie.


1 cup sweet rice or glutinous rice

500 ml water

200 grams rice koji

1. Bring the rice and water to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice cool to 150 degrees F. This will take about 30-40 minutes.

2. Rub the grains of rice koji together with your fingers. Add the rice koji to the cooked rice and stir together. Cover, wrap and let the rice rest for 8-10 hours, trying to keep the temperature around 130 to 145 degrees F.

Note: You can cover the pot with towels or set it inside a styrofoam container with hot water next to it. It is better if the temperature stays at or below the optimum temperature. If it’s lower, the fermentation will take longer. If it’s too hot, you may destroy the spores that aid in fermentation.

The recipes are adapted from Mrs. Donabe’s Rustic Japanese Cooking. Thanks Naoko-san! Also, I really want to try the Amazake Carrot Muffins from Hanna’s Bittersweet Blog. They have no added sugar and are vegan. wow.

Amazake Currant Scones 

Makes 8

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose white flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 egg, beaten

5 ounces amazake (about 1/2 cup), blended until smooth

3 tablespoons butter, cold and in small pieces

3 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup currants

1. Mix all the ingredients together and form the dough into a flat circle. (I rubbed it all together with my hands and added the currants last). Cover and let it rest for 10-15 minutes to relax the gluten.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  Flatten the dough with a rolling pin into a 7-inch circle that is about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 equal wedges. Place the scones on a baking sheet covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Leave about 2 inches between the scones.  Sprinkle raw sugar on top of the scones if desired. Bake at 375 for 14-15 minutes or until the edges are just turning golden brown.

Amazake Icing

Mix equal parts (blended) amazake to equal parts powdered sugar. Add soymilk to thin if too thick.

Can’t wait to share with you more recipes using amazake and rice koji.

: ) Emi

Friday Bento: Bamboo Shoot Rice

Today’s bento includes: brown rice with bamboo shoots, parboiled snap peas, egg omelette with chirimen sardines, stir-fried eggplant with miso, macaroni salad with shrimp, and fruit.

It was another hectic day this morning, but at least I had thought ahead and saved some food from last night’s dinner to put in today’s bento. All I had to do was make the eggs and stir-fry the rice with bamboo which was already cooked.

Today’s bento features one of the first signs of spring – the bamboo shoot. One popular way to eat it is with rice. To cook fresh bamboo, remove the fibrous exterior. Cut the fleshy parts into wedges and boil it in water with a little salt for 15 minutes. You can also use canned bamboo, but boil it in water for 1 minute to remove the “canned” taste. This is my version of bamboo shoot rice.

Brown Rice with Bamboo Shoots

serves 1

1 cup cooked brown rice

4 or 5 wedges of cooked bamboo shoot

1 teaspoon oil

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


1. Heat a non-stick pan with oil and fry the bamboo shoots until starting to turn color around the edges. Add the rice and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the sesame oil and salt and stir to combine.

Stir-fried Eggplant with Miso

(Adapted from The Book of Basic Japanese Cooking ISBN9784072795453)

Serves 4

1 medium purple globe eggplant

1/4 red pepper

1/4 cup dashi

2 tablespoons sake

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons miso

2 teaspoons oil, for frying

red chili flakes, optional

1. Peel the eggplant, leaving some of the skin on. Cut it into wedges than in thirds. Cut the red pepper into strips lengthwise than in half.

2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the eggplant and stir-fry it for 2-3 minutes until starting to turn brown around the edges. Add the red pepper and stir-fry for 2 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Add the red chili flakes if desired for extra heat.

3. In  a small cup, mix the dashi, sake, sugar and miso together. Add this to the eggplant and red pepper. Stir-fry for 10 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated and the miso sauce is thick. Serve as a side dish warm or at room temperature.

Have a good Friday.

: ) Emi

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