Muso Soseki, a Zen priest and poet known as the father of the Zen rock garden, was born on the west coast of Japan in 1275, and died in 1351 in a temple on the outskirts of Kyoto, where he had created one of his last rock gardens.
This inner contemplation and calm can lead to a fresh outlook and clear mind. Like a restorative balm, Zen gardening is an antidote to stresses of modern living.
The gardens are a means to discover the sources and strengths of our natural humanity which, according to Zen teaching, is poised, calm, sincere and capable of facing all matters in life with calmness and perfect composure.
2, Schichimi Macaroon
Shichimi is distinguished from ichimi tōgarashi (一味唐辛子), which is simply ground red chili pepper, and means literally “one flavor chili pepper” (ichimeaning “one”).
A typical blend may contain:
- coarsely ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient)
- ground sansho (Sichuan pepper)
- roasted orange peel
- black sesame seed
- white sesame seed
- hemp seed
- ground ginger
- nori or aonori
Near the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in the Northwest section of Kyoto lies Chobunya, the only shop in the city where you can get your shichimi togarashi (seven spice powder) blended just the way you like it. Shichimi togarashi may have originated from China but developed over the years into a uniquely Japanese condiment.
It dates back at least to the 17th century, when it was produced by herb dealers in Edo, current day Tokyo, and sometimes it is referred to as Yagenbori(Japanese: 薬研堀, from the name of the original place of production). Most shichimi sold today come from one of three kinds, sold near temples: Yagenbori (やげん堀?) sold near Sensō-ji, Shichimiya (七味家?) sold near Kiyomizu-dera, and Yawataya Isogorō (八幡屋磯五郎?) sold near Zenkō-ji.
It is more fragrant and herbal than hot and spicy, the depth of flavor comes from the seven (or more) different ingredients, typically: dried red chili pepper, roasted black and white sesame seeds, dried ground orange (citron), hemp seeds, poppy seeds, dried seaweed and my personal favorite,sansho peppercorns.
Japanese food is not typically spicy, and Kyoto cuisine is even less so. Shichimi togarashi is used as an accent to add a little kick to certain foods and is usually found at the table, in small bamboo containers, instead of in the kitchen. At home, it’s a nice condiment to have on hand: Try a sprinkling some on a steaming bowl of udon noodles, or atop a skewer of yakitori. A little of this deeply aromatic spice is all you really need.
Here you can see the blending in action. Upon walking in to these kind of shops, one is enveloped by the aroma of yuzu and pepper. The seven ingredients were contained in rectangular containers with transparent lids to show their colorful display.
There is a recommended standard mix, but customers can specify a little more sansho, red pepper or any favorite ingredient to taste. The Kyoto’s blend is typically less spicy than togarashi found in other regions.
3, Choux Pastry with a almond and red miso crust filled with Tamagozake flavoured white bean
This dessert is inspired by Japanese Wagashi principles.
Wagashi are delicious traditional Japanese confectionaries that embody the four seasons and masterfully fashioned by artisans – a skill that has been passed on from generation to generation – to represent various motifs of nature and come in all colours and shapes and are a feast for the eyes as they are for the mouth…
The main ingredients used are beans, grains, sesame seeds, potatoes, various fruits and nuts, and sugar. They are low in calories and high in vegetable protein and therefore very healthful. This is principally why the Japanese have been enjoying Wagashi for centuries and the reason so many health-conscious Westerners are now progressively including them into their diets.
These flavoursome edible works of art can be eaten between meals, as a dessert and when drinking tea. As a matter of fact, they were traditionally served during the tea ceremony, known as Chanoyu, to sweeten the palate which would counteract the bitter taste of matcha, a powdered tea whisked with hot water to make an earthy-tasting froth-like beverage. Furthermore, it was through the popularity of the tea ceremony that a large number of Wagashi became available, and over the years, they gradually developed into the exquisite confectionaries loved by many today.
4, A new interpretation of Tart Tatin
You can read all about this in my article about the egg of Dali and the Tatin sisters