Keep Warm with Oyuwari

As Japanese whisky and shochu enthusiasts, we are no strangers to mizuwari-style drinks - a bit of cold water can be a pleasant addition to a specific dram or certain style of shochu. But now that the weather is cooling down, it's the perfect time to switch things up and start thinking oyuwari.Oyuwari (お湯割) means "with hot water," which is the perfect way to enjoy shochu and whisky during the winter months. When serving a drink oyuwari, hot water is usually prepared in a traditional Japanese teapot. It is then poured into a glass and the spirit is added afterward. The hot water helps to release the flavors in the spirit, adding intensity to the drink, and the result is a deliciously warm libation.The ratio of alcohol to water depends on whether you're drinking whisky or shochu, but 3 parts alcohol to 2 parts water is most common. Stronger spirits are ideal for oyuwari-style since the hot water brings out a lot of flavor, but it's never a bad idea to test out different combinations to find out what you like best! Let us know your favorite shochu and whisky to enjoy oyuwari in the comment section below.

The Shochu Liquid Diet

Shochu is a part of Japanese culture that many people outside of Japan don't know about. Shochu is typically combined with other ingredients during the distillation process and although the amounts can vary, shochu generally has more alcohol content per serving than sake. In the past, shochu was the drink of choice for oyaji (old men) in izakayas, but today, drinking shochu is becoming popular again, especially amongst women!Not only does shochu taste good, but it's even considered good for your health. Shochu has been shown to prevent blood clots due to a specialized enzyme called urokinase. It's also said that shochu won't give you a hangover! Apparently, due to the distillation process involved, shochu is actually better absorbed by the body than other types of alcohol. And for the weight-conscious, shochu is also a big draw. Without mixers, the drink has hardly any calories at all.So while moderation is always key, why not go for shochu the next time you're out for a drink? It might be your best bet!

Kasu: Sake's Multipurpose Byproduct

The byproduct of the sake-making process may not be internationally known, but it's an important ingredient in Japan. This byproduct is sake kasu, also known as the lees left behind after the liquid is expressed from fermented rice. These solids are separated during the pressing stage of sake production, but just because sake kasu is technically a leftover, it should never go to waste!There are many culinary uses for sake kasu. Many breweries vacuum-pack it and sell it frozen to supermarkets throughout Japan, allowing people to buy it year-round. However, fresh sake kasu that comes straight from sake makers is the best, and full of complex flavors. Sake Kasu is packed with umami enhancing compounds, making it ideal for cooking, but its characteristics will vary depending on the type of sake it comes from. In Japan, this unique ingredient is used to add flavor to many different dishes, including soups and marinades.Aside from adding flavor and complexity to food, sake kasu is very nutritious and full of fiber, amino acids, and vitamins. And on the beverage side, it can be used to make amazake (a traditional, sweet, low- or non-alcoholic drink) or distilled to make shochu.

The Buzz Behind Yuzu Kosho

Yuzu Kosho is a Japanese condiment that comes from the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. It's often made with green or red Thai chiles or bird's eye chiles, which are fermented with salt, yuzu zest, and yuzu juice. About the size of a tangerine, yuzu is mainly cultivated in Japan, Korea, and China. It's incredibly fragrant but also super sour and tart.Red Yuzu Kosho has a rounder flavor profile while green Yuzu Kosho is much sharper. The combination of spice, citrus, and salt come together in a powerful and distinctive flavor that can be paired with everything from grilled meats to sashimi to hot pot. At Yardbird, Yuzu Kosho is used in the Seared Yellowtail Salad, Korean Fried Cauliflower, and on top of the Chicken Neck Yakitori.So if you're looking for something new to spice things up in the kitchen, pick up a bottle of Yuzu Kosho!

Fish Files: Yazu Young Yellowtail

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files.Yazu (油甘魚) (やす) Young Yellowtail - This fish is extremely popular both in and outside of Japan. It's often used in sushi and sashimi around the world, but depending on how big and how old it is, the Yellowtail fish goes by different Japanese names. Characterized by a yellow stripe along the tail, this fish is a quick swimmer and can be found in the Northwestern Pacific waters. Young Yellowtail are around 15-20 centimeters long and are usually caught during the summer season.The Yellowtail is a fatty fish since it dwells in colder waters and is popularly served as sashimi and sushi. Other cooking methods include broiling, simmering in sauce, and grilling the collar with salt. It is rich in vitamins B1, B2, and D.

Origin Stories: Kewpie Mayo

There may be other brands of mayonnaise in Japan, but KEWPIE is the Japanese mayonnaise. With its iconic baby logo, KEWPIE is a smoother, creamier, and tangier mayonnaise compared to Western brands, such as Hellmann’s. It's made with egg yolks only, as opposed to whole eggs, and with rice vinegar rather than distilled vinegar. The ingredients list also includes unidentified “spice”. Its flavor is slightly sweet, yet umami, thanks to MSG.Mayonnaise was first introduced to Japan in 1925 after KEWPIE founder, Toichiro Nakashima, discovered the condiment in the US. Mayonnaise isn't considered a "health food" these days, but Nakashima had originally hoped to create a high-quality, nutritious mayonnaise to help Japanese people improve their physique. They launched the first KEWPIE mayonnaise in a glass jar in 1925. In that first year, they only shipped 600kg of product, but by the following year, the volume had increased to 7 tons. The company stopped producing KEWPIE mayonnaise in 1943 due to the difficulties of sourcing quality ingredients during World War II, but they resumed production in 1948.Today, KEWPIE mayonnaise - in its modern plastic squeeze bottles - is a staple condiment in households all over Japan and loved by professional chefs and home cooks alike across the world.

Fish Files: Hotaru Ika Firefly Squid

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files. baby-squid-hotaru-ika

Hotaru Ika (螢光魷魚) (ホタルイカ) Firefly Squid - In season from March to June, Hotaru Ika is found in the Western Pacific Ocean. It's referred to as the firefly squid because it is bioluminescent - the photophore organ located in its tentacles illuminate to attract smaller fish for it to eat. These squid are very small, usually around six to eight centimeters long.
The Hotaru Ika is a popular appetizer and bar snack in Japan. Although it can be easily contaminated with parasites, it can be served raw as sushi or lightly boiled. Other common preparations include boiling with a sumiso dressing made of white miso and vinegar or simmering in soy sauce and sake.

Tenugui: The Fabric of Japan

At first glance, a tenugui towel doesn't look like much. It's a thin piece of cloth, usually dyed to show a design or pattern, that is used in everyday life in Japan. And while the popularity of tenugui towels started to decline with the introduction of newer, thicker fabrics, they are currently experiencing a resurgence and have made their way back into Japanese lifestyles.Tenugui refers to the traditional Japanese cotton-weaved towel. These towels are usually about 90 centimeters long and 30 centimeters wide and their history dates back to the Heian period (794 AD - 1185) when they were exclusively used in religious Shinto ceremonies. During the Edo period (1603-1868), tenugui towels were common household items and today, they're often used as handkerchiefs and hand towels (they are also good for wrapping gifts, souvenirs, and as headbands).Because tenugui towels are so thin, they dry very quickly and are extremely absorbent. Because the edges aren't sewn down, they are usually frayed - this adds character to each towel and helps them dry quickly when wet. Since tenugui are often hand-dyed and get better with use, each towel is personal and unique to its owner. In the kitchen, tenugui are useful for wiping down the surfaces of counters, dishes, and sinks. Chefs also wear them as bandanas to absorb sweat. They are reusable and biodegradable, which makes these towels ideal for kitchen use.

Tachinomi: Japan's Standing Bars

Tachinomi, also known as standing bars, are staples in Japan. They are ideal places for the fast-paced, convenience-driven lifestyles of Japanese people and while previously reserved for businessmen, are increasing in popularity with women and young professionals. These bars are colorful places for a quick, inexpensive drink and bite to eat.While standing bars first came about due to the scarcity of real estate, they were also established from the need of having a convenient gathering place for a drink before commuting home or a serious night out. Tachinomi can be found everywhere from train stations to working class neighborhoods to the alleyways of business districts. Classic Japanese favorites such as beer, sake, and shochu are served along with simple cocktails like whisky highballs and shochu highballs.The food offered at tachinomi is similar to the dishes found at izakayas. From simple skewers to kushikatsu to edamame, the offerings are often diverse, small, and meant to be shared. These days, tachinomi are getting creative with some serving specialty wines, others with French themes, and there are even boutique sake standing bars that play reggae. But while the types of tachinomi have evolved over time, their purpose remains the same - to provide a convenient place for people to gather and mingle combined with a satisfying and fast food and drink experience.

Fish Files: Tachiuo Silver Beltfish

At RŌNIN, we pride ourselves on following the Japanese tradition of eating fresh and seasonally. Every morning our chefs go to the market to pick up ingredients for the daily menu and our seafood is either local or flown in from Japan. We’re meticulous with our fish preparation and passionate about understanding their flavor profiles and where they come from. Learn more about the fish that we serve in our series, Fish Files.Tachiuo (太刀魚) (たちうお) Silver Beltfish - Literally translated, Tachiuo means swordfish. This fish is available year-round but is used in Japan to signify the summer season. They can grow up to two meters in length and can be found dwelling in waters all around Japan. Tachiuo bodies have shiny, silver skin with a hairlike tail.The meat of the Tachiuo has a mild taste and soft texture. It can be served both raw and cooked, but is most popular in dishes like sashimi with ponzu, aburi, and nigiri.