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Chapter House

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  1. Aiiieee. I understand the appeal of a broad palate, and I certainly get that wealth and power get exercised in sometimes funny ways. Regardless, not only does this menace dimishing wild populations, but it's also a fine way to get exposed to viruses one really doesn't wish to be introduced to, in even the most polite of company. John
  2. There's also a mold culture involved in the production of katsuobushi, which may contribute to your sensitivity. In any event, I've always thought of it (and the kombu) as meant to have a distinct but certainly not overwelming flavor contribution. "Vegetarian" dashi (no bonito) works passably for a number of things (hey - I'm not the vegetarian, but was catering to one who was). Since I suspect a number of other availble cured fish products won't be acceptable subsitutes for you (unless it is the mold, in which case I would head straight to smoked salmons or tunas), I imagine stock from any flavorfull fish'd be just fine. A -little- stock. I've seen it in Manhattan on a couple of occasions (by accident), but never gone looking for it purposefully. John
  3. By the way, the paste food colourings can be found at cake supply stores and the like (and are likely easily found all over the internet. Matcha will actually work quite well, if you don't mind the pronounced tea flavor you'll have in the end. There's a bunch of places selling it on the internet if there isn't a likely shop near you. John "let it sit out on the trash heap a couple of days- it'll be green"
  4. So it seems that a) it is legal, you may just need to pick it up in person. b) be prepared to pay customs/duty/tariffs at time of pickup c) pay irs excise taxes Probably good to keep in mind that state laws vary widely in this regard (particularly in how much alcohol a person without a liquor licence may receive). The answer is "none" in many states. John
  5. I gotta say up front that anything you put it front of me before giving me a bowl of tea, it’s for eating. Still, the pressed sugar higashi are pretty common in chanoyu circles, both here and in Japan (though, of course, my experiences in Japan are mostly in Kansai and were often influenced by chanoyu). I am talking about the smaller ones (as shown), not the larger works which, as you point out, do have a more ceremonial presence. Still, one of them shows up at class, we’ll figure something out (the rarely-heard sound of knives being sharpened back in the mizuya). That whole delicate flavor and seasonal forms has tea written all over it (as it were). I decided for the ones shown to forego any flavor, so that the (newly-acquired) wasanbon flavor could come through. As an aside, I ran across the large molds (antique but fine for use) at the basement tea shop at Takashimaya in Manhattan. Pricy, but there have been a few on sale on several trips. Apparently, they are in demand as household decorative items (sigh). I like the spoon idea! (I am a little slow sometimes). You can also press them into those lift out molds for yokan and such and cut them to size. I’ll take some pictures of molds soon. Yeah, imagine how hard it is to find around here – yurine does come lightly blanched, vacuum sealed in plastic and covered with Chinese in the monster Chinese/Asian store here. It wasn’t so much a matter of “come across” as it was one of my instructors suggesting that I bring some to one of the smaller local study groups when I went (guinea pigs, but polite and enthusiastic ones). The one pictured was from last fall; I took a photo at home, but never thought to photograph it on a tray once I was at class (obviously, I remedied that with the higashi, but that was just this past weekend – I’m learning). That batch of hatsugari were slightly over-steamed – they get a little gummy in texture when that happens, but I was still working on getting a feeling for the cooking time. All kuzu-mochi will also get gummy when under refrigeration, which probably limits their availability in places that don’t make them close-at-hand. Naturally, though, the sweets I’m taught through Urasenke teachers are going to be weighted towards Kansai regional tastes. Although as mentioned this particular one does have several incarnations, it’s a pretty old tradition. Yeah, that’s the problem though - I'm happy to buy wine, say, from the winemaking experts, but they do sell wine here in Boston. When asked about yokan recipes, one of our instructors actually did pretty seriously answer "Nobody makes it - we just buy it". That works for folks living up the street from Toraya in Kyoto, but otherwise it’s a little more complicated. Naturally, it’s nice to make tea sweets for your guests yourself, anyway. Yup – there’s something to be said for seasons. It really isn’t too early; it cooled off over the weekend so the end of summer is on everybody’s mind (and besides, Urasenke is sort of on the old lunar-solar calendar, so fall started last month). The ones I took to class were chosen to have more green than orange and red, just to not be too blatant about it. John
  6. Yoshinoya and Kotobukiya do, indeed, both have it in stock. John
  7. Hey, that's a great idea! I bet one could still see the leaf shape tucked under the top layer, too (yeah, I see hanabiramochi everywhere, neh?). Here's some fall sweets: Rakugan molded from kanbaiko, johakuto, wasabon, and mitsu. Colored with mattcha and paste dyes. It's probably a tiny bit early for the color mix, but we're supposed to anticipate, so what the heck. Kuzu (arrowroot) and dark brown sugar (kurosato) cooked in a pot and then molded and steamed until translucent. It has slices of lily bulb (yurine) in it. This tea sweet historically has the poetic name 'hatsugari' (first goose); the yurine are meant to remind one of geese in the fall sky. There are also versions of this made with yokan or wafer cookie (geese are branded on the wafer). I think it's shinier in the photo than in real life. Hmm. John
  8. I am sadly unaware of a convenient source of kanbai-ko in the US (at the moment, and it hadn't occurred to me to check with the lot at Corti - thanks!). It's not trivial to find in Japan, for that matter, but there are currently a couple of folks here in the Boston tankokai that are kind enough to return with it for me upon traveling. I have to confess that taking pictures of my efforts (or the nice things that come to our tea classes, for that matter) has only recently occurred to me. I'll work on that, and I'll look through the current collection, such as it is. Regardless, please keep up with the torturing! Your experiment is terribly interesting, and besides, you get to pick your mom's brain, too. I'm am mostly working on higashi, kuzu-manju style stuff, and fun variations of yokan at them moment, and have only a cursory exposure to dango. Let me dig through my notes for the recipe, though ... John
  9. Tht is my impression as well (shiratama-ko is finer and whiter than mochi-ko). I'm also using (as instructed) kanbai-ko (maybe aka mijin-ko in some places and uses) exclusively for higashi-style sweets (rakukan and variations like un-pei). It is also from sweet/glutinous rice and is extremely fine. I further have the impression, actually, of the japonica rice flours, that joushin-ko is finer than kome-ko (aka uruchimai-ko, mentioned earlier in thread). The latter is nice in dango, but not manju. There is also jouyou-ko, further finer than joushin-ko, which is nice for manju. I can probably dig up kanji for the less everyday -ko if helpful. Kanbai-ko is a little difficult to obtain, but a helpful confectioner shop would know. Hmm. Good question. John
  10. I've been tinkering with the process, too. I still change the water once, after an initial evening boil. They sit at room temp overnight, then simmer the next day until done with really only enough water to cover (suplement as needed). I'm strongly given to the impression the latter will help preserve the color and flavor. The folks that instructed me have always said that the repeated changes of water make the final product less bitter, but I am no longer convinced. I've given up on more than trivial amounts of salt, baking soda, and whatever. I have also been told that the final koshian, while still gathered in cloth, shold be sprinkled wiith water and re-wrung; again, to reduce bitterness. I remain unconvinved but imagine that this probably is the 'delicate taste' thing mentioned above. John
  11. They're really easy to make. Break up and soak one stick of kanten, then transfer to 275ml of water and heat gently until melted. Strain, return to pan, mix in 300g sugar, and heat to simmer. Cool a bit, tint, and flavor as you like, then cast in a mold (appropriate-sized flat pan will do). The thicker, broken edged version mentioned already is one version, but it's also nice to cast them about 4mm thick and use small cookie cutters, too (maple leaf, plum blossom, that sort of thing). It's best to wet the mold and cutters. The cut shapes can then be transfered to a rack; allow them to dry until tacky and dredge in caster sugar, or allow to dry longer until they have a nice crust (as you describe; as they are thinner this won't be much longer than a day). Pack them up until ready to serve. My tea instructor tends to flavor with mint, lemon, and so forth (not too much), but I've had entertaining results with other flavors - add some cardamon pods or saffron to the mix when you simmer it. Best, John
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