We select ingredients and seasonings with the following strict criteria:
If a food manufacturer unthoughtfully uses chemical seasonings (labeled “seasoning, amino acid etc.”) or yeast extract, the raw materials may not be selected carefully. Since foods manufactured in such a way can be sold at lower prices compared to real foods, the manufacturer who aims patiently at producing a good food without using any additives will lose out in price competition. Such circumstances lead to the destruction of food culture. To prevent this, a food manufacturer should produce real and convenient foods that go with the times at popular prices, while at the same time providing correct information to the consumers.
We believe that consumers should understand the essential point of the information and not be deceived by superficial ads and low prices. Also, they should support good manufacturers by continuing to buy their high-quality foods, while recommending them to others. A trusting relationship between the consumer and the manufacturer is crucial to passing real food on to future generations.
Quality depends significantly on the location of collection. Ma-Konbu (L. Japonica) has the highest quality, followed by Rausu-Konbu, Rishiri-Konbu, Hidaka (Mitsuishi)-Konbu and Naga-Konbu. Even among the highest-quality Ma-Konbu, the quality is different along different hama (shores); Shirokuchi-hama which is the best, is followed by Kurokuchi-hama and Ori-hama. And among kelp collected in Shirokuchi-hama, those in Kakkumi-hama and Osatsube-hama are considered to have the best quality. Note that each shore provides wild, farmed and young farmed kelp, and obviously, the wild one has the most excellent quality.
However, kelp collected along ordinary shores and the young farmed kelp are not significantly different in safety as food and they become wonderful food if you cook them with a little ingenuity. However, when sold as processed foods, umami is often added by some chemical seasonings (amino acid etc.), yeast extract, etc.
Needless to say, naturally brewed soy sauce is the best. Soy sauce made of whole soybeans is better than that made of defatted soybeans, and for many reasons, the best whole soybeans are produced in Japan. Since salt without bittern has been traditionally used to make good soy sauce, you do not need to have bittern-supplemented salt to make soy sauce.
Also, we often find soy sauce with mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) added, although we wonder if it isn’t better that each person chooses good a mirin and uses it as needed. Real soy sauce, without any additives and chemical seasonings, tastes salty, although the actual content of salt is not so high. And even if it is, when you adjust the amount used, it would be better than using much more low-salt soy sauce.
Raw materials used in our product : Whole soybeans, wheat, salt
Mirin manufactured in a traditional manner is not often seen these days, although you can still find it. It was originally made only of sticky rice, malted rice and real shochu (distilled spirit; Otsu-class) made of rice or sake lees. But nowadays, mirin is made using Ko-class shochu (diluted distilled alcohol) or has added sugars or various seasonings, and is marketed with the name “Hon-mirin.” Mirin-like seasoning is totally different from real mirin.
Raw materials used in our product : Sticky rice, malted rice, rice shochu (Otsu-class)
Refined sake was originally made only of rice and malted rice (junmaishu). However, many sake have added distilled alcohol manufactured in an industrial manner to increase the volume. Sake labeled as honjozo is of this type. During times of wartime shortage, a manufacturing process was developed for dilution of junmaishu with alcohol to make sake using less rice, flavored with sugars, organic acids and seasonings. This process has been handed down to this day. Junmaishu, having many grades of quality, seems to be still better than other sake on average.
Raw materials used in our product : Rice, malted rice
Like sake, real rice vinegar is basically made of rice and rice malt. You may use amazake (a sweet non-alcohol drink made from fermented rice or sake lees) to add a natural sweetness. You may also use sake lees, but care should be taken since sake lees have many grades of quality. Rice vinegar with alcohol (used to increase the volume) cannot be considered as real rice vinegar.
Raw materials used in our product : Rice, rice malt
Since sugar has wide range of types, you cannot tell which one is the best, so you should select it according to the purpose. Wasanbon sugar was developed in the Edo era is characterized by its sophisticated flavor and is best in making Japanese confectionery or cuisine, although there are almost no manufacturers who make Wasanbon sugar using the local variety of sugar cane which was introduced into Japan several hundred years ago. We use Wasanbon sugar and Hokkaido Tensai sugar.
Manufacturing is classified roughly into two methods:
(1) physical crystallization and (2) electrical filtration with ion-exchange membrane.
It is inevitable that the salt made with Method 2 has an unnatural mineral balance. Among the types of salt made with Method 1, the one crystallized through sun or wind exposure (and in which you can imagine the manufacturer’s visible effort) would be the best. Although the one produced by dissolving imported tenpien (salt crystallized by sun or wind exposure) into seawater, removing impurities then re-crystallizing the solution is also good and is relatively inexpensive.
We use the two types of salt made with Method 1.
Katsuobushi (dried bonito)
Katsuobushi is roughly classified into “karebushi” and “arabushi.” Karebushi is produced with the aid of mold and comprises a type in which mold is attached by artificial means, or a type in which one arranges favorable conditions for mold and waits for a natural growth. You can yield a product of better quality from the latter procedure, but there are almost no producers who adopt this method. No mold is attached on “arabushi.” But if the freshness of the bonito, the material and the smoking process are good, it will yield a dried bonito which is inexpensive and of excellent quality, it is also good way to select the product depending on your intended use.
Mizuame (starch syrup)
It was originally made of sticky rice and the like by saccharification of malt, although the products obtained by saccharification of various starches with acids or enzymes have been introduced recently in the market. In these cases, since the saccharification is achieved rapidly and strongly, you do not have to select carefully the cereals. This leads to deterioration of the flavor. Also, even if it is labeled as malt syrup, caution is needed since the raw materials such as starches or malts are often of poor quality.
Raw materials used in our product : Japanese sweet potato starch, malt