O-cha-zuke… tea on rice.

Ochazuke, the Japanese tea soup.

Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! Click here (later today) to see other challengers’ dishes and 3 recipes.

As you may know it, I already had a number of recipes with tea as an ingredient (don’t click on photos) :

click here for savory dishes with tea.
click here for sweets with tea.

That’s something people prepare quickly for a light dinner. Or after a long night of drinking, before letting the guests go back home, you feed them a hot bowl. There is a nasty story about it. People of Kyoto are said to be very well mannered, you know, so they avoid saying things directly and harshly. Hypocritical ? nah… Let’s say you are invited in their home, and after a while, they think you should leave, they won’t tell it. They will ask if you’d like to eat an ochazuke. And if you are polite, you say : “No, no, I am soooo sooooorry, but I have to leave now.”.

You need cooked rice (here genmai, brown rice) and stuff to garnish : sesame seeds, leaves of kikuna (chrysanthemum), ribbons of nori seaweed…

A small slice of salmon. It is salted, not smoked, not dry. We can buy it this way here. It can be kept longer than fresh but still needs refrigeration. No need to soak it, it’s not so salty. Just don’t add salt in the rest of the dish.
I grilled it under the broiler.

Tenkasu are crumbs of tempura.

Everything in the bowl…

Just pour hot Japanese green tea. This time I have a mix of sencha (green tea leaves) and matcha (green tea powder).

Ume plum blossoms for an early Spring tea

Ume (Japanese sour plum) trees are blossoming in Osaka. Their fragrance is like in a dream.

Old style yatsuhashi sweets (from a shop, not home-made). They are a specialty tea cake of Kyoto, whose production started in Yatsuhashi (8 bridge street) in 17th Century.

The oldest ones were yaki yatsuhashi that are cookies, shape in half cylinder, like the bridge that gave the name. Today, it’s nama yatsuhashi (fresh time), a more recent type.

My green tea looks muddy. I have added a little matcha (ceremony powdered tea) in my cup of sencha (Japanese leaf tea)…
Matcha is NOT powdered sencha, they are from different tea leaves, from tea bushes grown differently, so tastes differ, but they went well together.

This yatsuhashi is matcha flavored. This is a variation, not too recent. They recommend it for this season as green is the color of Spring, of course.

The sweet is made of a sheet of mochi, inside tsubuan (chunky sweetened azuki beans).The powder around is kinako (roast soy bean flour) slightly sweetened.
To know more about ingredients :
Wagashi Saga : Photo-menu of all Japanese sweet posts.

Now, hanami, the blossom viewing festival means cherry blossoms in Japan. Over 1000 years ago, ume plum blossoms were the most popular , and there were other flower events. High society refined people would have small picnics under the tree, to hear poetry and music.
All these traditions were those of the princes of China. Japanese nobles imported their lifestyle and pertpetuaded long after it became extinct in China.

The historic yatsuhashi, the nikki flavor. Nikki is cassia, Chinese cinnamon. Yes, that’s the one that is toxic, but amounts are small here.

They recommend this flavor for the season as the nikki taste is complex and fragrant and relates to the smell of the ume flowers.

Hey, you don’t eat anything at any time of the year, in Old Japan. You have to tune all your life to nature, stars and moon.