A frightening and sad experience for all of us, it is hard to believe that the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami happened one year ago. Japan set a moving example of how people in the world should act during a crisis. To all of the wonderful friends I have made here, I am incredibly grateful that you were all safe during this time. Let us remember those who were not as fortunate. 3/11/11---Never Forget.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
We visited the relatively new KNK soy sauce factory in Towada. Their soy sauce was recently featured on the news. The factory was impeccably clean! After an explanation and being shown around, we were allowed to purchase soy sauce (and other sauces) at a discounted rate. We were also presented with a goody bag of samples of different types of sauces.
Senbei is a type of Japanese rice cracker. Locally, you will find “Senbei-jiru” which is a specialty nabe from Hachinohe where they put the senbei in soup. This “factory” is more like a little mom and pop store where they make senbei fresh. I had never been a huge fan of senbei until I came here. Once you walk in you are greeted with the comforting aroma of senbei baking.
The owner was so happy and proud to give us free samples. You can buy a lot of great senbei here. They have a crispy and soft type. I like the soft one especially. It is so warm and fresh! There is nothing like it!
Last weekend we took a free tour at Momokawa Brewing, Inc. in Oirase Town. Momokawa Brewing, Inc. was originally established in the Edo Period (1846) and launched a full-scale sake brewing operation in the 22nd year of the Meiji Period (1889). MBJ brews and sells 2,700 kiloliters of sake every year. It is the largest sake brewery in Aomori Prefecture and the 38th largest sake brewery in Japan. They also have a sister brewery in Forest Grove, Oregon called Sake One Corporation that brews and distributes Momokawa and Moonstone brands nationwide in the US and overseas.
This is the Momokawa Giant Sugidama (Cedar Ball). The name Sugidama derives from the cedar ball ornaments (sugidama) that decorate brewery exteriors. These ornaments are symbols of the ancient role that Japanese cedar plays in the production and drinking of sake. Its origin is from the sake god cedar tree at Miwa shrine in Nara and the cedar ball represents hope for good sake that year. It changes colors as the seasons change which is symbolic of the aging of sake
Sake is rice based but the rice used for sake isn’t the same as “cooking” rice. This rice is larger and less sticky. The water used to brew Momokawa is tapped from an underground aquifer from the Oirase River and runs 230 meters below the surface where filtering and softening process of the water are undergone naturally. Before aging , the entire process for making sake takes between 45-50 days. 10kg of rice produces can produce between 18-20 liters of sake.
The final part of the tour and the pièce de résistance was the free sake tasting! After you taste everything you can purchase your favorite one. Be warned though, it seemed as though everyone liked the first one they tried the best, no matter which one it was. So maybe start with the cheapest. (I started with the most expensive and found it to be the best, others felt differently. I didn’t buy that one but a grape flavored beverage instead, it was wonderful!) We were also given a small bottle of sake as a souvenir. If you go to the sake brewery and taste test, please remember to have a designated driver!
Sake in moderation is good for your health. Recent research has found that sake reinforces activity of NK cells which destroy cancer cells and prevents formation of thrombosis, senility, obesity and diabetes. There is an old saying that sake is the chief of all medicine!
Momokawa Brewing, Inc. Japan
112 Kamiakedo Oirase, Aomori. 039-8543
February 25th the Misawa International Center held a Nabe Cooking Festival contest. I was recruited for one of the teams. It was a great experience! There were five teams all together. We made nabe (hot pot) dishes with Japanese and American elements. We began by going on stage, introducing our team and describing our nabe.
Next, some team members went to the judging station and served the soup to the eleven judges. The rest of the team members were out serving the audience samples of our creation
Afterwards, Ringo Musume (an all girl’s group from Aomori….like the local AKB48) performed on stage.
Finally all teams joined the stage and the winner was announced. This year the grand prize went to the Misawa Bulls. The prize was ¥5,000 worth of Aomori beef to each contestant. Everyone went home a winner though, all teams were also given assorted sausages, local vegetables and live hokki clams.
The recipes from each team will soon be available in both English and Japanese for you to try at home.
This was a great experience and I’m sure all who attended were grateful to have a hot cup of soup on such a cold day.