A New Recipe with 粕
Just a few weeks ago I went into a 地酒店 (sake shop that specializes in local products) looking for fresh bottle of sake. Lately I've been on a pretty strict local diet to reduce the number of miles (and barrels of oil) my food travels to get into my belly. Shiga is a great place for this, because so much of the land is devoted to agriculture, and in my neighborhood I can find just about all of my organic roots and vegetables picked daily––broccoli, spinach, onions, green onions, carrots, eggplant, red and green peppers, daikon, cabbage, potatoes, you name it! There are even a number of meat and cheeseries, not in my city of Kusatsu, but within 40 or so miles. As I understand, and this knowledge is of course limited to my Japanese, the animals are treated humanely and fed a natural diet (unlike American cows which are on a diet of inedible corn, antibiotics, and lord know what byproducts). To top it off, their farms, slaughterhouses, and other facilities are open to visitors. As Michael Pollan said in his book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," U.S. beef would benefit, and should operate with glass walls to ensure the integrity of their products. I haven't checked the places out for myself yet, but I plan on doing it in the near future just to put my conscience at rest.
Anyway, so on my visit to the coop of liquor stores, I received a special gift, 粕（かす, kasu), and along with it a recipe for a kasu and miso soup. First an explanation:
I may be befuddled, but I believe the following analogy is correct:
If sake were milk 粕 is the curds, sake is the whey
粕 is the doughy sediment that surfaces during sake brewing. As many of you know, sake is called a 'rice wine', but in fact sake is fermented like a beer. This brewing process produces two main goods: sake and kasu. Of course, we drink the sake––but what of the kasu? Due to it's rich content, it's not very tasty if ingested as pure kasu.
One option is soup...and thus I've finally found my way back to the point of this story. The woman who was running the shop gave me a bag with a mysteriously squishy substance that smelled like a hangover and the following recipe：
粕と味噌が半々 equal parts kasu and miso
豚肉腹肉 pork (a particular belly cut)
大根 daikon (giant raddish)
油揚げ fried tofu
ねぎ green onion
（里芋、こんにゃく） potato, or gelitan based potato substance called konnyaku
I did it a little differently with the following substitutions:
-no pork, no daikon, no potato or potato substance
-added onions, ginger, spinach, garlic, a splash of soy sauce
If anyone has more info or ideas about the kasu and this soup, please let me know. If you guys back home can get your hands on some kasu, I definitely recommend it. It was delicious.