Every good cook has their secret resources— the place where they source quality ingredients that can really take a dish to the next level. My not-so-secret resource is The Japanese Pantry, who source ingredients made by Japanese food artisan families who have been making these products for generations. Founders Chris and Greg once invited me to a tasting, and let’s just say I’ve never been able to purchase a bottle of conventional soy sauce, sesame oil, or vinegar since!
When I lived in the countryside of Japan, it was hard not to notice that many Japanese food artisans were shuttering or struggling during a time when convenience foods were often more economical and available in modern Japan. At the same time, many of us in the US are yearning for a return to artisan-level quality. That’s why I think the work of The Japanese Pantry is doing so important in preserving and sharing the traditions of food artisans in Japan, and in turn, stemming the tide of forgetting. As a Japanese American myself, I’m grateful to The Japanese Pantry for doing this important and profound work, and for giving me access to these incredible makers and ingredients.
One of my regular purchases is the Pure Rice Vinegar from Io Jozo, a 123-year-old vinegar company located on the Sea of Japan, near the town of Miyazu. Today, the company is run by Akihiro Iio, the fifth generation. The process to make the rice vinegar is incredibly labor intensive; the Iio family even makes their own sake from which the vinegar is made. The vinegar takes about 100 days in total to make, compared to the larger rice vinegar companies that produce their rice vinegar in just one day’s time. Iio Jozo also uses only 100% pesticide-free, new-harvest rice. They use 200 grams of rice to make one liter of vinegar, which is five times the minimum amount required by Japanese law. To me, that paints a picture of just how high quality and special one bottle of this magical vinegar really is!
Perhaps luckily (or dangerously), Chris and Greg also happen to live (separately) near me! They generously provided me a bottle of my favorite rice vinegar to play with, and I enjoyed coming up with this simple recipe that I will definitely add to my rotation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed developing (and eating) it! —Kristin Eriko Posner
boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced against the grain into strips
salt and pepper
brown onion, peeled and thinly sliced
shiitake mushrooms, sliced
tepid filtered water
cooked short grain Japanese sushi rice
handful of thinly sliced green shiso leaves
handful of thinly sliced green onions
ground toasted golden or white sesame seeds
Shanso powder, if desired
In This Recipe
Marinate chicken breast in sake, salt, and pepper for 10 minutes while you caramelize the onions in the butter in a pan over medium high heat, stirring constantly so the onions don’t brown. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the onions while they are cooking.
Once the onions have turned translucent and caramelized a bit (about 1o minutes), add the chicken to the pan. Once the chicken has mostly cooked (there should not be any pink spots), add the shiitake mushrooms.
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the potato starch and water together.
Add soy sauce to the chicken, shiitake, and onion mixture, then add the potato starch mixture to thicken. Once a thick sauce has formed, add in the rice vinegar stirring to incorporate then remove the pan from the heat.
Serve over a bed of steaming hot white rice, and garnish with the shiso, green onions, and sesame. Add a light sprinkling of sansho powder, if desired. Enjoy immediately!