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Last month we talked about the Art of Japanese Tea. In Japan, tea is steeped in tradition (no pun intended), ceremony and the world of the connoisseur. But tea can also be used more casually as an ingredient in cooking, with surprising success to add character, texture and dimension to a recipe. It can be used as a spice, a marinade or even to tenderize meat. It can be used to boil other ingredients or the leaves themselves can be mixed into the dish.

This month's tea recipes feature popular Japanese ways to use tea and rice, both of which are essential to everyday cuisine in Japan.

In Japan, Food is Rice and Drink is Tea
This is the essence of Japanese food culture, and the basis from which Zojirushi products are created. Both of these recipes are easy to make with help from Zojirushi.
Imagine hot fluffy rice infused with the fragrance of green tea. This rice dish calls for the the first month's harvest of Sencha tea, the new crop, to be mixed directly into rice as soon as it is cooked in your rice cooker. The result is an aromatic taste of the new Spring season. Also known as Ochazuke, this is a simple and very popular dish which consists of pouring hot tea over a bowl of rice in a proportion similar to pouring milk over cereal. The dish probably originated as early as the 8th century in Japan, when hot water was used. Tea did not become popular until the 17th century Edo Period.
See recipe for Green Tea Rice

See recipe for Salmon Chazuke (Green Tea Rice Soup)

East / West Tea Culture
It is understandable that with the amount of tea that is consumed in England in the West and China in the East, these two tea empires have more than one way to take their tea.
Earl Grey, so named after a British prime minister in the 1830s, was first given this black tea blend scented with the oil of the bergamot orange. When used in baking bread, the tea imparts a wonderful aroma. Also featured is a variation with dried orange peels, for a deeper flavored bread. This is a classic Chinese recipe that features delicately crunchy shrimp, flavored with the intense fragrance of Longjing tea, otherwise known as Dragon Well tea. Longjing is a green tea known for its emerald green color and aromatic flavor, well regarded as one of the most famous teas produced in China.
See recipe for Earl Grey Afternoon Tea Bread
See recipe for Dragon Well Shrimp
(Stir-Fried Shrimp with Longjing Tea)
Tea Trivia
1 Ochazuke in Kyoto is known as bubuzuke. If a Kyoto native asks if you would like some bubuzuke while you are a guest at his home, he is subtly hinting that it is time for you to go home.
2 As you might expect, China and India are by far the largest tea producing countries in the world. But in terms of consumption, the Irish consume more tea per capita than any other group.
3 There is a difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea. Afternoon Tea is the sophisticated British service taken at 4 or 5pm with scones, small sandwiches, cakes and other pastries. High Tea is a more hearty supper of the English working class, consisting of hot meat, cheese and egg dishes served at 6pm.
4 The age old question of which is poured first, the milk or the tea when serving milk tea, has been answered by the British Standards Institute. Milk is best poured before the tea so that the hot water scalds the milk, which brings out the tea's flavor. Pouring milk first also prevents the china from cracking when contacting sudden hot water.
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Thank you for following our Shokado Bento series of recipes. For your convenience, we've collected our past dishes from our back issues and made them available for your review. We hope you're enjoying the Kaiseki experience with our Zojirushi touch; stay tuned and we'll have more to inspire you in traditional Japanese cuisine.

See Kaiseki Review
Spring is the Season of Fresh Starts
Next up in our continuing series of dishes to fill our Shokado Bento is our seasonal spring recipe. Traditionally, every bento of this kind would feature a Tsukuri (sashimi dish) with fresh raw fish. Since our Zojirushi bento is a bit more casual and fresh sashimi may be difficult to obtain in many parts of the country, we'd like to convey the spirit of this dish with simpler ingredients.

Using smoked salmon or roast beef is more than an adequate substitute, especially when served in the image of spring. Slice thinly into bite-sized portions and present them on a bed of crushed ice. Imagine the first thaw of spring when the ice melts; you've got a fresh catch from the sea and a hearty offering from the mountains, the essential elements of the season captured for you in a single culinary dish.