Japanese food is among the most diverse and multi-layered cuisine on the planet, with flavour profiles that spark the imagination. A large volume of regional Japanese food doesn’t get to be experienced outside of the country, so it’s wonderful to see businesses like Kokoro Care Packages changing that by offering bespoke Japanese food hampers from regions all over Japan.
Run by Lillian Hanako Rowlatt and Aki Sugiyama, Kokoro Care Packages is built on a foundation of bringing people closer together with new foods and tastes. I had the opportunity to see what was in Kokoro’s Community Favourites of 2020 package, which really opened my eyes to the huge range of regional Japanese products that are out there.
The package came with several interesting food items, which are as followed:
Awamori Chili paste
I happen to love spicy food and Okinawan chili paste is definitely up there with the hottest things I’ve ever tried. Produced by Higa Seicha, the chili paste is the quintessential condiment of Okinawa. The hot sauce makes use of Koregusu chili peppers soaked in awamori.
It goes well with broths, soups and other sauces, but do be aware of the heat factor. It will blow your face off so it’s best to enjoy it in small amounts.
A ubiquitous Japanese ingredient, yuzu tastes like a cross between tart lemon, apples and pears. The taste really comes out in yuzu senbei crackers from Miyazaki Prefecture.
Made from wheat, egg, granulated sugar and yuzi, the crackers are produced by Suki Tokusan, a brand that focuses on locally grown produce to share the unique flavours of Miyazaki.
Iburigakko (Pickled daikon radish)
Pickled foods are a huge part of Japanese cuisine, personified by these daikon radish slices that have been dried and preserved. Iburigakko come from Akita Prefecture, which have been made in a local tradition that involves fresh daikon being hung over a fire to dry. Smoke from the hearth infuses a smoky flavour into the slices.
The pickled daikon has been produced by Yumekikaku, a brand founded on the idea of keeping the Akita tradition alive. The smoky, crunchy qualities of the daikon is wonderful and really goes well with ramen or on a sandwich.
Another sweet part of the package came in the form of yatsuhashi cookies from Kyoto. There are several types of these sweet treats, ranging from sugar-coated varieties to savoury soybean snacks.
I liked the combination of the sweet and savoury cookies and Aoyama Mameju have done an awesome job of producing some great treats to pair with coffee or tea.
It’s always amazing to discover a new type of noodle dish and that was the case with goto udon from Nagasaki Prefecture. Goto udon comes from the Goto Islands, a place so remote that not many Japanese have had the ability to experience these exceptional noodles.
Long, silky and chewy, they are reminiscent of spaghetti and made without any preservatives. The udon comes with the faint aroma of the camellia plant, due to the oil that has been used to help preserve shelf life.
Japanese curry roux with apples from Aomori Prefecture
Kare raisu (curry rice) is one of Japan’s most popular comfort foods and much of the unique flavours come from the premade blocks of curry roux used to create a thick sauce.
A roux that’s bursting with deliciousness is made by Kazemaru-Nojo. Made with apples harvested from Aomori Prefecture, the roux doesn’t have any additives or artificial flavours. It also contains sugar beets from Hokkaido Prefecture and brings a sense of sweetness to curry rice.
Kokoro Care Packages offers a new Japanese food package every month. There’s always going to be something, so be sure to visit the website for more information and the kind of producers that they work with.