I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

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)
にんじん(人参) carrots
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.



Blogger Patti said...

How interesting! I am going to forward this post to John Kessler and to your friend Scott Peacock. As an adventurous food writer who also spent time in Japan as you are doing, I bet John has tried 粕

I just came across a similar product called Marmite described in a blog that I follow by an English woman who lives in Tanzania.

It is apparently an acquired taste that many Brits find appealing! Here are some other recipes you might want to try!


10:26 PM

Blogger Stephan said...

Is Kasu a slightly doughy white substance? As I think Diana gave me some to put in my miso soup and have been meaning to give it a try.

11:03 AM

Blogger Justin said...

Do you have "The Omnivore's Dilemma" here in Japan? Judging by the title, it sounds like it would only reinforce my thoughts on the subject.

By the way, I've turned into a Thursday night vegetarian. It doesn't get much more insignificant than that, but it's basketball night so I eat on my own that night.

3:57 PM

Blogger Stephan said...

Last night I made cauliflower cheese with half cauliflower half daikon mixture, lovely indeed with the daikon adding a nice bite, but it does seem to freak out any Japanese teacher when I mention the ingredients.

9:20 PM

Blogger Salem Willard said...

Mom, thanks for the additional recipes! I'll check them out too. I actually just made the kasu/miso soup again tonight. It was a nasty rainy day, so the soup really lifted my spirits...

Stephan, yes kasu is the doughy white thing. Usually at the store I've seen it in clear packages, and it looks like it comes in prepackaged blocks. Don't go for that junk...the stuff I've been getting is fresh, basically it is alcohol dough; it's soft and quite moist. Definitely try putting it in the miso soup, it's oishiiiiii!

Justin, I have the Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm researching some of the stuff in it at the moment, but you can borrow it soon!

11:45 PM


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