Latest Event Updates
Pureism is happy to announce their next supperclub. Enjoy an evening of music and food at a secret location in Highgate, North London (not open to the public yet) on the 8th August. More details to follow shortly.
Mari Sensei, the famous shojin ryori chef will be visiting London in July. Mari sensei learnt the secrets of temple cuisine from her husband Sotetsu Fujii, who was a Buddhist monk for over 30 years. She has published a number of cookbooks, including one in English (The Enlightened Kitchen), and has made regular appearances on television (http://konnichiha.net/fushikian/). We are delighted to welcome Mari Fujii to London, who will share with us some of the secrets of Shojin ryori. She will be using local ingredients to prepare a traditional Buddhist Zen meal consisting of a number of dishes. The class will be held from 6.30pm and will last roughly 2.30 hours, on July 9th in Woodside Park. It will be run in both Japanese and English in collaborations with Pureism. The price is £40 / person. For booking information please contact us here at Pureism (email@example.com) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were lucky to host our first supper club in Tokyo over the weekend. Hiring a small cafe in the alternative area of Koenji (where the punk scene reportedly started in Japan) we hosted a 7 course meal to 26 hungry guests. Supper clubs are not yet common in Tokyo, so there was a mixed atmosphere of excitement and nerves both from us and the guests before the event started – however the event went brilliantly. We managed to sell out, and thanks to the beautiful voice of Yuki we offered an evening of Bossanova and shojin inspired food. The menu : Carrot tofu Turnip hotpot Moriawase plate Tempura Soup Sushi Dessert This was accompanied with pickles and vegetable sticks. A real feast. We are waiting for feedback from our guests, and photos. Once we get them we will post them here. Looking forward to host another supper club in London soon.
I had the privilege to sitting in on a shoyu making workshop last week, and what I learnt was fascinating. There are a number of types of shoyu – and these differ based on the proportion of soya beans that are used to make them. Let me back track for a minute – shoyu is made of wheat and soya beans. This is then fermented using koji and the liquid that forms is shoyu. There are five main types of shoyu – koikuchi, usukuchi, tamari, saishikomi and shiro shoyu. So, as I mentioned, each one is made using a different proportion of soya beans, which impacts the taste of the shoyu. The higher the proportion of soy bean the stronger the taste. Tamari is made from 100% soy bean, and therefore it has the strongest taste (and is also gluten free). Koikuchi and usukuchi shoyu have a proportion of around 50% soy bean and 50% wheat. Sai shikomi shoyu, whereby the initial shoyu made is re-fermented with koji is made of about 90% daizu and 10% wheat. Shiro shoyu, the lightest of all the shoyus (both in colour and taste) is made up of 95% wheat, 5% soy bean. In Japan the most common type of shoyu is koi kuchi, although the oldest is tamari – shojin ryori would therefore have originally used only tamari shouyu although nowadays it seems most of the temple kitchens (at least the ones I have visited) use koikutchi shoyu. It is believed that monks brought back fermented soy beans from China, and the liquid that had formed as a by product of the fermentation was the first time that shoyu (tamari) was discovered in Japan.
During our workshop we were lucky to try our hand at making shiro tamari – made from 100% wheat. This is where is gets a bit tricky – in the UK there seems to be the belief that if the label says tamari it does not contain wheat. In fact, tamari is actually quite a generic name ,and can be used for a product that contains both wheat and soy bean so anyone wanting to be gluten free should be careful! Shiro tamari in this case is called tamari because in Japan there is a law that states if soy beans are not involved in the making of shoyu then it cannot be called shoyu – and therefore what we made was shiro (white) tamari. The more wheat that is used the sweeter the flavour, and therefore shiro tamari is actually quite sweet, but its main USP is its colour – it is very light, and therefore does not disrupt the colour of stocks or soups. Making it was surprisingly easy – all we needed was water, salt, wheat koji and some muscle. There was a lot of stirring and shaking glass bottles to ensure the salt had completely dissolved. Apparently in 3 months we will be able to use the liquid that forms since it will be shiro tamari. Tanoshimi desu (can’t wait)!
On my third day in Japan I was lucky enough to be invited to make miso. Never really thinking about what miso was actually made of I thought this would be a good way to learn, so got on the first night bus, and 11 hours later arrived in Fukui, a prefecture west of Kanto, and apparently famous for its crab (according to Wikipedia). After short introductions we met our instructors for the day and got stuck in. Miso is made from boiled soya beans that are crushed, mixed with salt and koji which this time was made from rice. This may sound simple, and quick, but surprisingly it was very labour intensive with a number of different steps. To add to the complication half of the day was spent preparing a different group’s miso. Since the preparation takes upto 5 days, other groups are involved in preparing your miso and you involved in preparing theirs to prevent having to come to the plant on multiple occasions (which would most likely be impossible for most of the working population). There was something a little strange to think that a group we didn’t know had spent half a day massaging our rice for us, but there was also something nice about wondering who would be eating the miso that we were lovingly preparing.
There were a number of steps, some of which I may have forgotten (apologies)
– Drying the rice once it was been par cooked in a huge industrial pressure cooker
– Shovelling the rice (we were making 700 kg of rice so there was a lot of shovelling) into a machine that makes tiny slits in the grain, speeding up the fermentation process.
– Spreading the rice in a heated room and spreading the koji over it, and then creating a mountain with the rice and covering with a blanket
– Revisitng the rice after about 3 hours and re-feeding it into the machine, again to speed up the fermentation process
– Letting it sit to dry out in a room that was over 30 degrees (there was a lot of sweating)
– Shovelling the boiled beans into buckets
This rice is then mixed with cooked soya bean, salt and water in a massive food processor, and the crushed material stored in fermentation bins.
The ingredients we used were all organic – organic rice from Fukui-ken, soya beans from Kokkaido. The salt was from Greece.
I think what was most striking about making miso is how physical it is – it is like spending a whole day gardening. It took 8 of us 7 hours to make 700 kg of miso, apparently quite impressive (they were expecting it to take 9 hours)… While the miso can be eaten in six month, the flavour will peak in three years time!
Looking at the history of miso it was interesting to find out that it was Buddhist monks that originally brought miso over to Japan, together with soy sauce, from China. There are three types of miso currently used across Japan – one type made only from soya beans, one type from wheat and one from rice. Speaking to a shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine) chef it is the skilled use of miso that makes a good dish into a great dish – the proportion of each type is crucial, and it is with miso that umami can be teased out for vegetables to make the dish feel complete.
We have finally uploaded our photos from our first supper club. We learnt so much from the evening, and were humbled to be able to spend it with such great people. Want to say a special thanks to Trista Cheng and Michelle Ramrachia for their excellent photography skills.