A Taste of History & Health & Zen

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CHEF IRYO AND MAAYA ARAKAWA AT THE 12TH CENTURY POND GARDEN, KYOTO

I’m rejoicing. I’m surrounded by the exquisite 12th century pond garden, (ikeniwa, or Shakusuien garden) and getting a taste of maestro Tsuyoshi Iryo’s melt in the mouth home made tofu. And this in Kyoto, one of Japan’s best-preserved historic cities. Not only was it Japan’s capital for over a thousand years but most of what we consider the essence of Japan…from the art of the tea ceremony to Ikebana flower arranging…originated here. I attend an hour long Zen meditation in a Buddhist temple, chanting at another at the crack of dawn and Go on the Hozugawa River Boat Ride.

I  thrill to the fact that today, Kyoto is home to cutting-edge biotech, education and is  a forward-looking centre for art and design. Combining both the traditional and the modern is the magnificent Four Seasons hotel at the heart of which is this 12th century pond garden. A glass bridge takes me to our quaint tea house, Shakusui-tei. The essence of Japan alive in the interiors, with thewashi-paper lamps,fusuma screens and urushi lacquerware. This is meshed in with modern and hi-tech conveniences,  In the hi-cool Brasserie, modern cooking techniques and local Kyoto ingredients come together in seasonal and vibrant dishes.

It is here that maestro Tsuyoshi-san who has honed his skills internationally, conjures memorable dishes.  Tsuyoshi’s contemporary, chic and elegant cooking style fits perfectly with  the”hip and cool” modern Brasserie concept. The ever helpful and super efficient Maaya Arakawa guides me through the intricacies of Japanese culture (including wearing a kimono) history and cuisine.  My smattering of Japanese language lesson comes in handy to say “Japan I love you”

TERRIFIC TOFU

Vegetarians  and Vegan’s delight! Delicious and healthful are two words that usually do not combine together. Tofu is one of the few exceptions. Tsuyoshi san shares his recipe and some of the health benefits of… tofu

Tofu, or bean curd ( made by curdling fresh soya milk) which originated in China 2000 years ago, is an excellent source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and minerals.

Soya protein (from which tofu is derived) is believed to help lower levels of bad cholesterol . Interestingly, Tofu contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones – whichy help menopausal women reduce their symptoms.  However, it is important to remember that Tofu and all soya products contain large amounts of oxalate. So all those who  have a history of oxalate containing kidney stones should avoid over consuming soya products.

Chef Iryo’s Home-made tofu ginger sauce

Ingredients    

200cc Soy Milk

1g Brine

300cc dashi (seaweed)

2tsp Soy

1tsp Mirin

Pinch Salt

ginger (grated)

2g potato starch

spring leek (chopped)

edible flower

Method

①Mix soy milk and brine together and steam for 10 minutes in a steam proof bowl.

②Soak Kombu (kelp) in water over night.

③Combine the kelp dashi (step ②), soy sauce, mirin, salt and grated ginger into a pot and bring to a boil.

④Place the above mixture over a medium heat. Once it begins to simmer, gradually add the potato starch slurry, thickening the sauce. Stir well until glazed.

⑤Pour the sauce over the tofu and place the spring leek and flowers on top for garnish.

UNIQUELY KYOTO  

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Azusa Hosoya and Eiko Nakayama with Kyoto salt, tea and yuzu

I’m thrilling to a therapeutic  massage of my senses. Not only am I tasting, fragrancing …Kyoto ‘s famed salt and tea from Thamba and  Yuzu the famous Japanese fruit but also having a massage with them. Azusa Hosoya and Eiko Nakayama   skillfully explain and then soothe my senses in the serene and beautiful Four Seasons Spa.

The Japanese Yuzu ( a good source of antioxidants that can help replenish dead skin cells) is a unique blend of lime, lemon and grapefruit. It’s health benefits  are mainly from the vitamin C that can be found in it, which is a powerful antioxidant.It makes the skin smooth and silky and even fragrant.I love Yuzu’s tart flavor with overtones of mandarin orange, though it is rarely eaten as a fruit,  but in Japanese cuisine its aromatic zest (outer rind) is used to garnish some dishes, and its juice is commonly used as a seasoning.

Sure, it has a long tradition and is believed to ward off winter colds and flu. But right now what is delighting me is that it is rich in multivitamins and minerals,  and it is helping me to glow, reboot and rejuvenate.

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