All About Asian Food

June 2013 Archives

Japanese culture has long been known for its close relationship with tea but with recent developments, Japanese coffee techniques has been making waves in the US. Third wave, to be exact. That's right, I'm talking about Third Wave Coffee, a movement that has been brewing for the past five years in cafes across America. Cafe owners and baristas had more and more looked to across the Pacific Ocean for the equipment and technique that would revolutionize coffee in America to beyond Starbucks.

Third Wave coffee emphasizes coffee farms and the freshness of the beans. Roasters try to get their beans to you as quickly as possible, from a single source. That way, you know where your coffee is coming from and you can taste the variance and nuances in the different beans.

More and more coffee drinkers are switching from the tried-and-true coffee brewer machine and getting a bit more hands on with their morning cup of Joe. Taking cues from the Japanese, third wave coffee connoisseur prefer the "pour-over" method, in which one brews a cup at a time, pouring water over suspended grounds to extract the coffee for a perfect cup. If coffee has become boring and routine for you, switch up the brewing method and rediscover how you fell in love with the bean.

Here at Asian Food Grocer we have the necessary implements to start brewing pour-over style. With our direct connection to Japanese importers, we have brought in quality coffee accessories from esteemed companies such as Hario and Porlex. This is the top-of-the-line yet affordable equipment that the trendiest coffee shops are using today. You'll find leading coffee stores such as Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco and Intelligentsia in Chicago stocking its shelves with Japanese accessories found here.

Before brewing, you have to pay mind to your coffee beans. This almost seems redundant to say, but the quality of your coffee hinges greatly on your coffee beans, and the best way to ensure quality is to purchase whole beans and grind them right before you brew your coffee. When choosing grinders, the recommended way to go with be to get burr grinders instead of grinders with metal blades. Burr grinders work by rolling on your beans and grinding them to consistent size, whereas metal blades simply whirl and chop up the beans. The spinning blade actually can cause friction and heat up during grinding and thus evaporate some of the precious oils that are released when beans are ground. Look towards the Hario Skerton Ceramic Hand Mill or the Porlex Grinder for some of the best hand-powered coffee grinders. The ceramic burr mills will led to a consistent grind that will get the best flavors out of your beans.

The centerpiece equipment for brewing pour-over coffee is the iconic Hario Buono Kettle. Its simple, ripple-like design and long, thin swan-neck spout are some of the reasons why the kettle is revered and used in many coffee shops. The spout allows you have better control in pouring a consistent stream to the areas of the coffee ground where you want. In terms of drip brewers, we have the stylish black Bonmac dripper and the classic glass Hario V60 both excellent choices for pour-over beginners.

So what do you do once you have the necessary equipment. It starts with boiling water. Once boiled, let it sit for a minute to cool down slightly for the optimum brewing temperature. Put a coffee filter into your brewer, set the brewer on top of your mug, and "pre-wet" the filter by pouring the into the brewer and filling it up. This accomplishes two things: it warms up the brewer so temperature will stay even during brewing, and it gets some of the paper taste out of the filter.

Next, grind up some coffee beans to a medium grind, similar to drip grind for your coffee machine but a bit coarser, and put the grounds into the brewer. Pour and soak the grounds with hot water, allowing it to "bloom." Watch as the grounds (if fresh) bubble up and release the gases trapped within.Some coffee experts suggest precise pouring, in concentric circles or criss-cross patterns in order to efficiently extract flavor from the grounds. The aroma should be amazing at this point. Now you can pour water into the grounds and let it drip through into your cup for the final product. It should take about 3-4 minutes total for the coffee to drip through and brew.

The whole process, from heating up water to grinding beans to brewing your coffee, can take about 10 minutes. Set your alarm clock so you have 10 minutes to spare in the morning and take the opportunity to smell the fresh oils and aromas that drift up from your coffee. Some may say this is too much work or too precious. But why not? Coffee can be simply fuel, but it is also a luxury. Have fun with it. The pour over is an opportunity to get in touch with coffee. It elevates coffee to a science. The time spent personally brewing your coffee will be well worth it once you take that delicious first sip.

For those without the time and patience to grind their own beans every morning, our world-class German ground coffee is a great substitute. Jacobs Kronung makes a variety of blends that are ready to brew, whether in a drip machine or pour-over dripper. And we have ready-to-drink coffee in cans and bottles as well, already creamed and sugared for a tasty pick-me-up on the road. So fill up on your caffeine fix! As long as the sun comes up, you'll need it. 

Recently I've blogged about the elusive fifth taste, umami. If you've ever had salad at a Japanese restaurant, you may gotten a taste of the addictive salad dressing.The secret ingredient (well not so secret, as it is actually a point of emphasis) is miso paste. No longer relegated to soups, miso is a flavor that enhances any food that it touches. And Nago Foods have applies this concept to salad dressings, harnessing the rich umami flavor of miso to produce a unique taste experience.

The essence of this line of gourmet salad dressing is miso paste. This revered Japanese ingredient is culinary gold in paste form. Miso has really come on lately as a "superfood," and one can see why given its health benefits that are renowned in Japan. First, it is incredibly nutritious, being rich in vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and other nutrients that are good for you. As a product of its fermentation, miso has a high volume of "good" bacteria that bolsters the health of your digestive tract. The most tangible benefit of miso is that it taste delicious, which makes you happy. Happiness is what leads to long lifespans, after all (or so I've read.)

In addition to miso's health benefits, the entire line is gluten free. Whether you're trying to cut out avoiding wheat for health or dietary reasons, rest assure that Nago's dressings with play well with just about any form of diet. Four of the six available dressings eschew eggs, so they're fully vegan as well. This is the dressing to grab if you're looking to eat healthy but unwilling to lose out on flavor. With the inclusion of miso as the main flavor component, you'll get a big taste without a guilty conscience. And I haven't even mentioned how it's low-fat and low-calories.

All that healthy talk does not mean a thing if this dressing didn't taste good, but believe me it does. The miso paste imparts a creaminess that goes great on salads, but is not overly fatty. The use of natural and organic ingredients aid in keeping the flavors of these dressings clear and focused.

Founded in 2009, Nago has steadily rolled out their miso salad dressings to the delight of healthy-conscious customers in the Bay Area. Nago can be found in various farmer's markets around the Bay, bringing it your dinner table straight from their kitchen in San Francisco. Each dressing is handcrafted and bottled individually-no 100-gallon drums or conveyor belts here.

The dressing slowly expanding into local markets in the Bay Area and all over California. Now you can get this tasty dressing anywhere else in the world. We are proud this carry this product line that is making waves in the food scene. The Ginger Sesame Miso Dressing won the Silver sofi Award in 2011, an honor bestowed upon the best gourmet and specialty foods. This is your opportunity to try a truly world-class condiment.

Find out more about this exciting line of products from Nago Foods by visiting their manufacturer's page here. But really, the best way to learn about this great new item is to try some yourself.