At this time, while you can’t go on vacation to Japan, you can bring a bit of Japan into your home. We have partnered with Kokoro Care Packages, to bring you collections such as CREATIVE BEGINNINGS: Redefining “Wa” so you can enjoy regional, all-natural products sourced from trusted producers across Japan.
What are Kokoro Care Packages?
Kokoro Care Packages is dedicated to providing premium Japanese products in a curated box, shipped straight to your home. Each collection is centered around a theme, like CREATIVE BEGINNINGS: Redefining “Wa,” which is specially designed with all of the essential Japanese ingredients, perfect for people in any stage of their Japanese culinary journey.
This care package is ideal for beginners who want to start their Japanese home-cooking journey and need an easy starter pack with necessities like soy sauce, rice vinegar, miso, and more. It’s also great for more seasoned Japanese cuisine enthusiasts, who are accustomed to using the generic products available in local Asian markets, and would like to elevate their cooking with premium and exclusive ingredients.
No matter how basic or advanced your cooking skills are, purchasing a Kokoro Care Package is a great way to support local producers in Japan, especially at a time when they need it the most. Kokoro Care Packages believes in sustainability and community, and these themes are present in every single box. Many of the products included are representative of Japanese cultural heritage, made using traditional methods that have been passed down from generation to generation.
CREATIVE BEGINNINGS: Redefining “Wa”
Included in this collection, you’ll find:
- Marunaka’s Brewing Soy Sauce (Shiga Prefecture)
- Pure "Stork" Rice Vinegar (Hyogo Prefecture)
- Shio Koji (Tokyo Prefecture)
- Yuzu Miso (Tokushima Prefecture)
- Soda Bushi Dashi Powder (Kochi Prefecture)
- Hontaka Shichimi Togarashi (Osaka Prefecture)
1. Marunaka’s Brewing Soy Sauce (Shiga Prefecture)
With concentrated umami flavor and complex fragrance, only a drop of Marunaka's Brewing Soy Sauce is needed to upgrade any dish. No wonder it’s the soy sauce brand of choice for many Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan.
Shoyu (soy sauce) is an essential ingredient in a variety of dishes, so it’s important to choose a trusted brand. It can be used as a dipping sauce for sushi and gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), to give color and flavor to fried rice and stir-fry dishes, as a glaze or marinade for vegetables and meats, and in many other applications.
Marunaka Shoyu Brewery has been producing soy sauce, using the same barrels for fermentation, for over 200 years. These wooden barrels are home to beneficial microbes which are essential to soy sauce brewing, keeping the traditional culture of brewing alive, quite literally. Designated a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan, Marunaka Shoyu Brewery is as authentic as it gets.
2. Pure "Stork" Rice Vinegar (Hyogo Prefecture)
Modern farming methods often try to bend Mother Nature to their will, despite the consequences. That’s not the case with the ethically-produced “natural stork rice” that forms the foundation of Taijima Brewery’s rice vinegar.
This rice is grown with methods intended to not only nourish humans, but also local wildlife, in a harmonious cycle. The rice cultivation consciously creates an environment that benefits animals native to the area, with flooded rice paddies providing a safe retreat for birds such as oriental storks.
No chemical fertilizers are used in this all-natural rice vinegar, which has a smooth and gentle flavor, perfect for dressings, sauces, soups, and of course, sushi rice.
3. Shio Koji (Tokyo Prefecture)
Soy sauce, miso paste, rice vinegar... What do they have in common? They all start with shio koji; a magical, multipurpose ingredient that should be a staple in your pantry.
Use shio koji, which combines the natural sweetness of the fermented rice koji with domestic sea salt, in marinades, sauces, and even to pickle vegetables. However you use it, shio koji will reveal a new dimension of flavor that evokes the elemental nature of the volcanic Izu Oshima Island off the coast of Tokyo, where it is made.
While shio koji has a variety of uses, it is most often use as a simple marinade for meat and seafood, boosting umami flavor and tenderness. Koji fried chicken is one trendy, modern take on this traditional method of using koji, which yields a juicy interior and flavor-packed, crispy exterior.
For the health conscious, shio koji is also an alternative to salt. And as a fermented food, koji has a variety of health benefits, from speeding up metabolism to promoting gut health (perfect to offset the effects of all that deep-frying).
4. Yuzu Miso (Tokushima Prefecture)
The salty, robust flavor of miso is brightened by a splash of invigorating yuzu, Japan’s favorite citrus fruit.
Founded by a 66-year-old woman living in Tokushima, a prefecture famous for growing citrus, Yuzurikko has a commitment to pesticide-free yuzu and a zero-waste process. It all began when the founder noticed the amount of excess yuzu that was going to waste because aging farmers couldn’t keep up with the harvest. She decided to lend a hand, and make her own yuzu products, using the entire fruit — juice, pulp, skin, and all!
Yuzurikko’s yuzu miso has won numerous awards, including three bestowed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Taste the lively, subtropical warmth of Tokushima in every dollop.
But miso is just for soup, you say? Think again. This fermented soybean paste has a variety of sweet and savory applications. It plays well in salad dressings, as a glaze for fish and meat, and can even be used in baked goods as a substitute for salt or for an added layer of je ne sais quoi, complementing the warm spices in sweet potato pie, or mirroring the savory nuttiness of peanut butter in a cookie.
5. Soda Bushi Dashi Powder (Kochi Prefecture)
The foundation of Japanese cuisine, dashi (Japanese stock made of dried bonito) is ever-present in a variety of dishes. Made from frigate tuna native to the waters of Shikoku Island, this soda bushi dashi powder from the John Mung Company is a quick shortcut to soup stock that can form a base for broths such as miso soup, or be used as a concentrated seasoning in dishes like yakisoba and stir-frys.
Tuna goes through multiple stages before it can transform into dashi. From cutting to smoking, fermenting to drying, all taking place over the course of several weeks, you’ll taste the dedication and care that goes into this handmade dashi powder.
Dashi powder is like the bouillon cube of Japan, always on hand to amp up the flavor in any savory dish in seconds. Aside from miso soup, dashi is used to flavor tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelet) and is the liquid component of okonomiyaki batter. In the creamy, savory custard chawanmushi, dashi is a vital ingredient. While you might not be able to put your finger on its presence, you’ll certainly notice its absence.
6. Hontaka Shichimi Togarashi (Osaka Prefecture)
Taking Japanese cooking to the next level, Yohgado’s shichimi togarashi, or “seven spice blend,” contains a balanced mix of domestic Japanese ingredients like chili peppers, citrus, sesame seeds, and seaweed, to provide a well-rounded spicy kick to any dish.
Yohgado's faithfulness to using only domestic chili peppers is unique, and one that few of its competitors can match. In particular, they use the kagawa hontaka chili pepper, which has been part of Japanese cuisine for over 400 years.
We recommend using shichimi togarashi in hot dishes, like soups and stir-frys, to allow the spices to bloom. Sprinkle it on yakitori, tempura, ramen, and more, for a boost of heat and flavor that’s complex and multi-dimensional.
*Please note that due to COVID-19, shipping is limited to these countries: USA, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Korea (Rep of), Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.
It's the perfect time to brush up on your cooking skills and a Kokoro Care Package is an excellent gateway into the world of Japanese home cooking, for beginners and seasoned cooks alike. Learn new recipes (provided in the package) like Japanese gyoza (potstickers), niku (meat) udon, yakitori skewers with yuzu miso, and more! With these new tasty dishes in your arsenal and a pantry stocked with premium Japanese ingredients, you'll upgrade your Japanese cuisine chops at home.
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