Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Donabe cooking class report...Shojin Bento

Last Saturday, I hosted a new Donabe & Japanese cooking class. The theme was "Shojin (Buddhist-style vegan) Bento". So, we made the dishes which can easily travel on a picnic in bento boxes (or thermos for the soup) and can be enjoyed warm, cold, or at a room temperature.

Shojin cuisine is, in fact, the base of traditional Japanese cooking. You don't have to be Buddhist or vegan/ vegetarian to enjoy shojin dishes. Many of the shojin dishes are something quite familiar at any Japanese household (or some are so sophisticated like what I had at Kajitsu in NYC!). I'm not a vegetarian, but when I eat a shojin meal, I don't miss meat at all. Shojin dishes are always so complete and satisfying to me.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Lotus Inari Sushi...Abura-age (fried tofu pouch) was simmered in the seasoned broth in a classic-style donabe pot. Meanwhile, we made the sushi rice (cooked with the double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san") and lightly-pickled lotus root slices were folded in. The sushi rice was stuffed in the seasoned abura-age. This is a very popular picnic rice dish in Japan. You can just pick a piece by hand and bite into it, so it's easy to eat, too.

Haricot Vert "Goma-ae"...First, the roasted sesame seeds (both black and white) were ground in the mortar and pestle and seasoned with sake, soysauce, sugar, and karashi mustard. Blanched haricot vert and roasted walnuts were folded in. "Goma-ae" is another very popular dish at Japanese homes. We normally have it cold or at a room temperature.

Roasted Corn with Shojin Dengaku Sauce...The corn-on-the-cobs were "steam-roasted" in the tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san". Then "Dengaku" sauce (miso-based sauce) was spread all over the corn. Regular dengaku sauce would contain egg yolk, but this "shojin" style dengaku sauce was made with our homemade miso, mirin, and also our homemade ume-shu (plum liquor).

Photobucket Photobucket
Cold Kabocha "Suri Nagashi" Soup..."Suri Nagashi" is Japanese-style potage. The soup itself is made of only 4 ingredients (kabocha pumpkin, shojin dashi stock, saikyo white miso, and sea salt). Kabocha was cooked in the shojin dashi stock in the soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru Nabe" until tender, then they were blended with the rest of the ingredients. No cream or butter, of course, but it tastes so creamy and soothing. The soup was garnished with the thinly-sliced young ginger ("shin-shoga") and roasted pine nuts.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
With these shojin dishes, we had the extremely dry sake from Yamagata. It was Junmai Oni-Karakuchi by Toraya Shuzo. In the very warm weather, the crisp dry sake tasted especially nice and it was a wonderful pairing with all the dishes. At the end of the meal, we tasted my homemade Okinawa Purple Yam Blanc Mange with Okinawa Black Sugar Sauce. It's also a shojin dish. The blanc mange has the purple yam flakes, soymilk, raw brown sugar, rum, and gelatin. It made the nice ending!

Photobucket Photobucket
The tasting took place in our little gazebo in our front yard. Most dishes were served right out of the lacquer bento boxes. What a perfect day it was to do an outdoor "bento" lunch! I am really happy that my shojin-theme classes are becoming more and more popular. We had several people on the waiting list (I'm sorry to those who couldn't get in!), so I want to do another shojin bento class next month.

Lastly, and most importantly, I always feel so lucky to meet really wonderful people at every class. They always give me energy and inspiration, and I am grateful for all the positive feedback from them! I am excited to share the report about this class by Ms. Amy Tan. Please check out her blog entry here. Amy, who is a talented artist, also included a beautiful illustration artwork and I love it so much. Thank you, Amy!