April 14, 2009

by Airi Okubo; Tomoko Inoue

Senmaizuke are different from most common pickles because they can be preserved for a long time. Senmaizuke are made from the seasonal “ Shogoin turnip ” and are pickled in the winter, and are very delicious in that season. The best time to eat is three to seven days after they have been pickled. Then just the fresh natural ingrediants effect the taste. Senmaizuke uses only Shogoin turnip, which is the biggest turnip in Japan. The larger the diameter of a Shogoin turnip, the more expensive it is. Why it is called Senmaizuke? Shogoin turnips are cut into very thin slices. The thickness is only 2 to 3 millimeters. So one turnip can be cut into 20 or more slices. They are then pickled in a barrel a thousand slices at a time. “Senmai” means “1,000 slices.” Therefore, we now call it “senmaizuke.”

Many traditional Kyoto pickle shops where you can buy senmaizuke can be found in the Nishiki Ichiba, or the Nishiki Market, which is on Nishikikouji Street north of Shijo street, between Kawaramachi and Karasuma Streets. It called “kyo no daidokoro,” or “Kyoto ‘s Kitchen.” This market has flourished in Kyoto for about 400 years. Do you know why the market is located in Nishiki? There is a good reason. People today don’t have problem when they preserve uncooked food because they have refrigerators. However, in the past, people only had a few ways to preserve uncooked food. One was with water. People preserved uncooked food by cooling it in water. Nishikikouji has a large supply of water, and shops could use it freely. So, Nishikikoji was the best place to preserve uncooked food like fish. The Nishiki Ichiba has a lot of small shops, so it looks like a shopping arcade. Now, local people and tourists enjoy shopping there together. It has become one of the popular tourist attractions in Kyoto.

There are six traditional Kyoto pickle shops in Nishiki Ichiba. Their names are Uchida, Uchida East, Takakuraya, Masugo North, Masugo East, Masugo South. There are different tastes of senmaizuke. Therefore you had better try samples from each shop. First, please visit Nishiki Ichiba!! And try many samples of senmaizuke, then decide which one to buy.

In Kyoto, tofu is also famous. Both tofu and Senmaizuke are really representative of Kyoto and Nishiki Ichiba. A lot of tofu markets or tofu shops are in Nishiki Ichiba. If you go there, please try to eat tofu. Now I will explain how to make delicious tofu.

I will translate the charts above.

The ingredients of tofu are soybeans, water and nigari. Do you know nigari? It is like salt. Delicious and healthy tofu is made as follows:

1. Washing and soaking
 Some good soybeans are washed and soaked in water.

2. Smashing
 Soggy soybeans are smashed in a grinder.

3. Cooking
 Mashed soybeans are boiled in water.

4. Separation
 Squeeze the broth using a fine mesh to separat soy milk and bean curd lees.

5. Coagulation
 The separated soy milk and nigari are mixed.

6. Mold
Put the coagulated soymilk and nigari mixture into a box which is lined with a cloth. Put a weight on the top to squeeze out the water.

7. Taking out lye
Put tofu into fresh water to take out the lye cut the tofu into smaller blocks.

8. Packing and cooling
Pack tofu in sanitary conditions and cool it.

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