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
20 bite-sized rolls
Iio Jozo rice vinegar
carrots, ends removed, outside skin peeled and discarded
cucumbers, scrubbed with water and salt, ends removed, outside skin peeled and discarded
inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into very thin matchsticks
*all ingredients used in my recipes are almost always organic
Place the first three liquid ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Peel both the carrots and cucumbers lengthwise with a vegetable peeler. You’ll need to add a bit of pressure to get thicker slices.
Layer a carrot strip on a cucumber strip, placing another cucumber strip and a carrot strip atop that. The cucumber will be on the outside when you roll it. Roll the carrots and cucumbers up tightly, and secure with a toothpick. Make sure the toothpick punctures all the way through, but don’t push it through (it will be longer on one end to make it easier to pick up). Place some of the carrot and cucumber rolls into a large mason jar, sprinkling the ginger onto it with each addition so the ginger is evenly incorporated in the jar.
Pour the pickling liquid over the rolls and let sit for 10 minutes. Carrots and cucumbers can be rolled in advance, but I recommend adding the liquid right just 10 minutes before you eat them, since it becomes a bit too salty for my taste if I let them pickle for longer than that.