Fixed star. Something that lasts. Hidden secret. Chapter XXI. Little Prince. Saint-Exupéry. Conversation between fox and prince. Golden grain. Have I already led you where I am going with this? I am contemplating the relationship between Miyabi and you, where the hijiki, gobo, and konnyaku works in a similar way as the fox remembered the prince’s golden hair through wheet grain. Hijiki. Gobo. Konnyaku. Miyabi domesticated you through them and you domesticated Miyabi. We became friends.
Miyabi has hIjiki, gobo and konnyaku in her character
Hijiki, gobo and konnyaku are three ingredients that Miyabi could put into her coat of arms. I already imagine it: Twisted black nematodes of the hijiki algae glued to a long rod of burdock gobo root. A glassy translucent slice of solid konnyak would be like a fly swatter that commands everything. Or maybe baffles? The image fits into the story of what and who Miyabi is. Yes, throughout her existence, Miyabi has boldly offered ingredients that no one knows, which does not inspire trust either to their color or structure, shape, and certainly not in their name. Well, tell me who wants to eat Snake palm or Woodoo lily. These are names for the Japanese konnyaku. Or who would enjoy black food such as hijika algae, which is eminiscent of worms. And the fact that hijiki are healthy? Well, that was almost a word of damnation a quarter of a century ago in Czech. Healthy equaled bad. Then we have here gobo? Another adept for rejection. It is full of fiber, besides no one thinks it’s edible. Only herbalists know that burdock has healing effects. I remember the large burdock leaves that grew behind my grandmother’s mountain hut. I was not interested in its roots, moreover, they grew in the place just behind the toilet -probably a lot of nutrients were there. And konnyaku? It has almost no taste, it has no calories, it does not smell and on the top of everything one has to bite well, otherwise having difficulties with digesting it. Konnyaku accepts liquides and swells – stomach can burst. I overgraduate, but …. This plant may be admired by passionate lovers of houseplants for her flower, but who would like to eat it? When blooming the flower smells a lot and flower is definitely not edible. It is originally a carnivore plant. The konnyak tuber can be eaten, but only after a long processing work. As raw, it is a bit poisonous, but it can all be adjusted. Fixed. By neutralization with calcium. The resulting product – konnyak jelly is a great tool for cleansing our digesting system. The Japanese say it’s a broom. In summary – Miyabi lives by her determination to crawl toward her vision: With algae we expand your diet with a piece of sea exoticism and support your ourage to eat the raw materials of the future, with gobo we heall and treat your body supplying rare fiber in your food and with konnyak we clean and revitalize. We nourish, heal and regenerate.
The taste of umami is a tool for the survival of humankind
This is exactly the kind of service – nourishing, healing and regenerating – I needed when I arrived in Japan at the age of twenty-one. I had an inherited gout and suffered from high blood pressure. And also lack of appetite and mild anemia. Since childhood. The doctor prescribed me iron wine and my parents forced me to eat spinach. Japan saved me. I don’t know if it was because I was in love, but I liked everything in Japan. From day one. Even fermented natto beans, which do not smell nicely to many Japanese. And because the Japanese diet was clearly doing well to my health, my body liked the food too. Probably because the Japanese cuisine contained a lot of umami flavors, tastes that taste good. In Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbeak’s book “Umami – Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste“, I read that the key to human survival is that we can recognize the taste of umami. It will guarantee us that we will eat what is good for us. Umami. When in Japan, I wasn’t with my mom and I couldn’t just eat the dishes I was used to. I had to rely on umami and it opened up a new world for me. The world my body needed. The world of healthy eating. I haven’t even remembered my health difficulties after only three years living in Japan. And when my children were born, the food I cooked for them was mostly Japanese cuisine. That has lasted to this day – I cook Japanese. And maybe that’s why I founded Miyabi when we moved to the Czech Republic. It was for my fellow citizens and for my children as well. It was my deep desire that the same dishes I cooked at home would be cooked for my children by Miyabi chefs. We lived in the same house in Navrátilova street. Above Miyabi. Miyabi was my second kitchen.
Operational efficiency or the beauty of the mission?
The chefs who came to visit us from Japan and the United States and help Miyabi with chef training and food design were amazed that we make homemade meals in Miyabi. Now it’s fashionable in Japan to open restaurants that specialize in homemade food. Common foods like hijiki, kimpira gobo or various nimono. What amazed them most was that I promoted wagashi sweets from shiroan beans and konnyaku. Even like sashimi. They knew well that such meals were unpopular with guests outside of Japan. They usually don’t order them a second time. However, the efficiency of the operation was not an obstacle in my passion. I simply ignored it. But who perceived the practicality of the operation very consistently was our Miyabi manager, about whom I wrote in the first part of the Retro series. When I left the country for longer time, hijiki, gobo, konnyaku, shiroan and such food the Miyabi manager withdrew from the menu. But I have confidence in them. They are our permanent stars.
I was very pleased when the Japanese embassy also noticed my stubbornness and nominated me as a candidate for the award from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The embassy people and me even the more were surprised that I was chosen among the five most important promoters of Japanese ingredients in the world in a given year. We were selected among nominees from hundred countries. It was 2016. I went to Japan to receive the award. At that time, I wanted to invite all those who helped me on the way, but I could only have four pre-announced guests at the party. This was because not only the Minister of Agriculture Yuuji Yamamoto but also Prime Minister Shinzó Abe was present at the ceremony.
But enough bragging and enough memories. Rather you want to know what the three Retro 3 dishes actually are, and how they taste and what they bring you.
1. The cooked salad made of hijiki seaweed and carrot, where you can smell the sesame taste, is Miyabi’s number one pride. I put it wherever it suits – on our Nami plates, where the main dish is fish, meat or tofu. It often is included in the obento boxes. And most of all I am glad that more and more guests are ordering hijiki from as a single dish from the Chiisai osara category on our menu. It is a sign that they already know the food and that they love it. They surely are friends with Miyabi through hijiki. Try our uramaki sushi Coral Reef and you can compare four types of seaweed – wakame green and red, nori and of course hijiki. Mehijiki – young hijiki. We also make mehijiki tsukudani, which is a long-lasting food that complements freshly cooked rice well. Adult hijiki are longer and thicker and are twisted. Hijiki are rich in fiber, containing iron, calcium, magnesium and iodine. Of the vitamins, the most important is K. They have a low caloric value and help fight cholesterol. Eat hijiki for your diner and you will sleep well. I know it.
2. Gobo kimpira is a food that you will enjoy at the first meeting. When working with fresh gobo, be sure to put the exposed root into water immediately, otherwise it will turn black. It is nice to cook is as sauté. You may combine gobo together with what you want to be influenced by the distinctive taste of gobo. The taste is called “koubashii” in Japanese and I don’t know how to translate it. You will know when you eat gobo. I write about gobo at my blog. In Miyabi, we have kimpira gobo in our year-round menu, but my even more popular gobo dish is pork, sliced like for goulash and slowly cooked with gobo. Of course, you will add dashi as well as mirin and soy sauce. Japanese classic. Then add carrot at the end. Chopped the same like gobo, into slices as if you cut pencil. You can make a whole casserole and eat the next day and the the next. It is good to eat it at room temperature also. Therefor it is suitable for obento to take with for a trip or to your work. The next retro weekend will have this dish on our offer.
3. Konnyaku as nimono. Years ago, I complained to a friend, the author of our Miyabi logo, Aleš Najbrt, that I would like our guests to eat konnyaku much more, and they didn’t. Aleš, who likes konnyaku very much, especially as our sashimi konnyaku with yuzusumiso advised me not to hide what the Czech name for konnyaku is. In translation it is poisonous viper. He advised me that it works when people deal with a challenge. In the end they may order konnyaku out of curiosity. I think it helped. When I went to Japan, my itinerary was to visit Konnyaku Amusement Park in Gunma Prefecture. It is absolutely a must! I bought there a book that I show Miyabi guests on all occasions. It’s a children’s book in Japanese, but everyone understands the pictures. Mainly that konnyaku is the broom of the organism. There is also blog written on the topic on our web. You may like to read it.
Japanese enhanced cheesecake
Hijiki, gobo and konnyaku are Japanese classics. But what about cheesecake? It is also included in Retro 3. Each retro weekend there is one desert. First, we offered the original daikon cake with yuzu pudding cream, then kurimanju with yuzu shiroan in a butter crust, and as the third dessert there will be something that is not a typical Japanese too. Actually, it’s not Japanese at all, because the cheese wasn’t eaten by the Japanese until recently. Of course, the cheesecake came to Japan from America, but like many other things from abroad, this cake has been wonderfully improved in Japan. I included cheesecake in Retro 3 also because it was my favorite dessert which I baked for my kids in Japan and I passed it to Miyabi along with hijiki, gobo and konnyaku. Cheesecake is a typical Seiyougashi dessert, means sweets from the West. Wagashi, the Japanese sweets, I didn’t dare prepare in Japan myself. It wasn’t until I was with my family in Turkey for three years and couldn’t buy wagashi that I embarked on a lengthy process to extract the essence from the beans. Believe me, peeling a pound of beans from the skins is a job for the whole evening. You can watch a movie. It may be a good idea to take this dessert to retirement homes and have it as therapy for clients. After all, it is said that working with fingers is very beneficial. It prevents aging. Miyabi chefs were not excited with making shiroan. But the cheesecake was different. They put plain cream cheese, whipped cream, eggs and flour into a blender and poured the mass into shallow molds. Then they just baked in the oven. Every day we baked one volume of the mixer, displayed the cakes to the bar and people could not resist the nice smell or taste. Some may remember. At that time, cheesecake was a little exoticism in Bohemia. Especially when it had a citrus yuzu flavor. From Japan!
I wrote about wagashi and shiroan extensively, because in the next retro blog, Retro 4, we will finally offer you real wagashi. Sweets in harmony. To balance the main dishes, which cannot be said to work for harmony. The theme will be pork – butakakuni and such. Yes, the thema will be mainly about pigs because I will print for you for fun my old story called Boiled Pig Head or Divorce. It talks about difficulties to live abroad. I often was a burden for people, but at the same time I entertained them too. And finally, when people have fun, they get to like each other.
This get me to remember time ten years ago in a survival camp on the island of Nelson in Antarctica led by the Czech adventurer Jaroslav Pavlíček. We followed his basic advice on how to survive. It was: Make sure to be busy whole day. And so, I advise you to our situation today: Always look for something that will cheer you up, that you enjoy. Make yourself busy with fun. The April 1, will be a good excuse to laugh.
Yours, Miyabi Darja