Mankametarō ~ Imperial Cuisine

Yūsoku imperial cuisine

Yūsoku imperial cuisine

Traditional Kyoto cuisine is divided into four categories: yūsoku, meals that were served to the imperial family and court nobles; kaiseki, which has its origins in tea ceremony; shojin, vegetarian cuisine originating in Buddhist temple kitchens; and obanzai, which started as street food. After the imperial court lost its power base to the martial rule of the shogunate, the art of yūsoku, imperial cuisine, gradually faded; however, one restaurant in Kyoto has kept this tradition alive for almost three hundred years: Mankametarō. As well as being the tenth-generation head of this Michelin two-star restaurant, Masakiyo Konishi 小西将清 is also the twentieth-generation master of the Ikama school of shikibōchō 式庖丁, a traditional culinary art form of displaying skill with knives by filleting a fish without touching it with the hands. An essential part of a yūsoku chef’s training was in the art of the knife.

Masakiyo Konishi performing the shikibōchō ceremony

Masakiyo Konishi performing the shikibōchō ceremony

These days, the Michelin two-star restaurant is run by the tenth-generation family head, Masakiyo Konishi 小西将清, but here is a translation of an interview with his father Shigeyoshi Konishi 小西重義, the ninth-generation head of the family, from September 2010.

I understand that the restaurant was established in 1722, is that right?
Yes, that’s right. Originally the family was established here in Nishijin as sake purveyors to the palace. This gradually changed and the business came to be known by its present name, Mankamerō, which catered for the imperial palace ceremonial court banquets. I’m now the ninth head of that family.

Today, what kind of meal is it that you are preparing?
This is a traditional banquet for September: it’s called the “Chrysanthemum Festival.” Since olden times, the Chrysanthemum Festival was a special annual event to pray for prosperity and longevity for oneself and one’s family members. Celebrated since the Heian era, this was an imperial court tradition, no doubt originating in China, in which sake was infused with chrysanthemum flowers and then drunk as a talisman for long life.

This meal looks so elegant and refined: what kind of food are you preparing?
To begin with, this is the appetiser: it is the first dish for which the guest will be using chopsticks, so it is called hatsu-hashi, “first chopsticks.” Today, the hatsu-hashi is sesame tofu with chysanthemum flowers. The next dish is called wanmono, which is a seasonal soup: in this case, it is eel with matsutake mushroom, which brings together an ingredient that is at its seasonal height, the eel, with an ingredient that is just beginning to come into season, the matsutake. This is followed by sashimi, served on a special raised platform that is unique to yūsoku cuisine, called a shimadai [see photo above]. Today the sashimi is tilefish which is known as kuji in Kyoto. As well as the kuji, there is sashimi of lobster, which is a symbol for eternal youth and long life. The centre of the arrangement is garnished with chrysanthemum flowers, which is suggestive of the flower-infused sake that was the Chinese tradition in times gone by.

Today you’re using chrysanthemums, but does this change in accordance with the season?
Yes, that’s right. For example, at New Year we use pine, for Setsubun in February we use plum blossoms, for Doll’s Festival in March it’s peach blossoms, and so on, in preparing for each seasonal banquet, which are known as sechi-e. Amongst them all though, I think the Chrysanthemum Festival is particularly gorgeous. In preparing yūsoku imperial cuisine, the food has to reflect the seasons: spring is gay and showy; in summer you need to feel coolness; in autumn there is a sense of abundance and richness; in winter you want to feel warmed. So I want to embody those feelings in the meals I prepare. Autumn is the season of ripening fruit and abundant harvests, so the meal should reflect this richness and extravagance.

Expressing the taste of the seasons is very typical of Kyoto cuisine isn’t it.
Indeed. When people come to Kyoto, an important part of their visit is getting that sense of the seasons. Of course, there is that seasonality anywhere in Japan, but it seems that the changing of the seasons are more acutely felt here in Kyoto: this changing of the seasons is expressed wherever you go in Kyoto. I think that developing a keen sensitivity to the seasons is really important.

Source: Wakasa Seikatsu


Takekage bento

Takekage bento

Mankamerō details:
Address: 387 Ebisucho, Inokuma-dori Demizu Agaru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto
Lunch: 12,420円~
Takekage bento: 6,534円
Dinner: 37,260円~
Phone: 075-441-5020
Bookings essential


Chef Iida’s steamed duck

In Kyoto, as in the rest of Japan, seasonality is fundamental to cuisine. The year is traditionally divided not just into the familiar four seasons, but into 24 seasons, which is further broken down to 72 mini-seasons of about 5 days each. This is a translation from Chef Iida’s book about the 72 seasons of the year and the foods that he recommends to accompany those seasons. 

Kiji-hajimete-naku ~ the first call of the pheasants

Kiji-hajimete-naku ~ the first call of the pheasants

Kiji-hajimete-naku occurs between January 15th and 19th and refers to the season when the call of the pheasant is first heard.

On January 18th, at Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in the city of Yawata in Kyoto prefecture, they celebrate the festival Aoyamasai, and on January 19th, they celebrate Shōnōsai. Aoyamasai, in the Heian era, was an event to prevent the demon Ekijin from entering Kyoto. Prayers are chanted in front of the kami altar which is adorned with sakaki branches from Aoyama, in order to trap the demon. Because the ritual is held late at night, it is also known as Kurayamisai – Festival of Darkness. In the Shōnōsai ritual, the supplicants write their name and age onto a stick that is then burned in the sacred fire, in order to pray for protection from illness and maintain good health in the coming year as well as purification from all defilement.

My recommendation for this season is “steamed duck.” At first, the degree of steaming required is difficult to calculate, but don’t be afraid to try this at home.

Steamed duck breast

Steamed duck breast

Firstly, purchase fresh duck breast meat. Because wild mallard ducks have an unpleasant aroma, it is best to buy aigamo, which is a cross between a mallard and domestic duck. Trim the excess meat and fat from the breasts and remove the thin skin. Holding about 10 bamboo skewers in a bunch in your fist, prick the skin surface of the duck multiple times with the skewers. Next, place the duck, skin side down in a fry pan and fry just until the skin turns golden brown. Quickly rinse the duck with boiling water to remove the excess fat, then place the duck into a pot or baking dish.

Mix sake and mirin in a saucepan and boil to reduce, add shoyu to season. Pour this mixture over the duck, add chopped shinbu (davalia fern) and slices of ginger, seal with a lid, then place the dish in a steamer and steam for 15~18 minutes. Because the amount of steaming required depends on the thickness of the duck meat and the intensity of the steam, push the meat with your fingertip and if it still feels soft like raw meat in the middle, then steam it a little longer. But be careful not to cook it too long or else the meat will be too tough.

When you’ve steamed the duck, take it out of the broth and pierce the edge of the duck with a skewer and some blood should still come out. Return the duck to the broth and let it cool overnight in the refridgerator. The flavour of the meat will permeate the broth and a layer of fat will form on the surface. Carefully remove this layer of fat.

Duck that has been steamed exactly right will be deliciously tender with a beautiful rose pink colour. Some people prefer not to eat the skin of the duck; however, because duck fat actually lowers cholesterol, please don’t hesitate to eat the skin. Serve garnished with plain or seeded mustard.

Source: 『京都料理七十に候』 by 飯田 知史, page 14


Before the Meiji era, at which time Japan adopted the Western calendar, the old calendar was based on the phases of the moon. The full moon always fell on the 15th day of the lunar month, and the full moon of the first month of the year was celebrated as Koshogatsu 小正月. Today in Japan, this festival is often celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month, i.e. January 15th, although this now has no connection to the full moon (what a pity!). Since the Heian era, on the morning of Koshogatsu, a special rice porridge made with red azuki beans and mochi is eaten: In Japanese, this special dish is called azuki-kayu 小豆粥, but in Kyoto it is called azuki-no-okaisan.

Azuki-no-okaisan at Torin-in

Azuki-no-okaisan at Torin-in

At Torin-in, a sub-temple within the Myoshinji temple complex, from the 15th Jan to 31st Jan, you can enjoy visit Torin-in and receive the azuki rice porridge with a beautiful tray of shojin (vegetarian) cuisine, as well as an amulet to take home that is for protection from illness and for the prosperity of the family. (Torin-in is the home of Genbo Nishikawa, about whom I have written before. Details about how to participate in this even are given at the bottom of this post.)

At Torin-in there is a special Buddhist ritual performed on the morning of January 15th, which the public are welcome to join, where a little bit of the azuki-kayu is offered to all the trees in the garden of Torin-in, while sutras are being chanted.

Here is the recipe for azuki-no-okaisan from Kyokarashi, a website dedicated to Kyoto obanzai (home-style cooking)

Some azuki beans*a
Water as needed
Rice ~ 1/5 cup per person
Round mochi ~ 1 per person

1. Soak the azuki beans overnight and then rinse.
2. Fill a pot with plenty of water and simmer the beans
3. While the mixture is still hot, transfer it to a thermos flask and leave it overnight
4. Make okayu with the rice.
5. Add boiled mochi to the okayu, then add a suitable quantity of the now-softened azuki beans from the thermos.
6. Add salt to taste
With the leftover beans and water remaining in the flask you can make ozenzai by adding sugar, salt, and grilled mochi

*Not giving clear measurements is very typical of Japanese recipes: there is always leeway given for you to experiment and decide how much of an ingredient is to your own taste. Also, where you live affects the ingredients, especially the quality of your water, so the quantity of ingredients will vary according to where it is grown, how old it is, where you live, etc. It is up to you to refine your own sense of taste. However, that’s all well and good if you are an experienced cook! But if you would like a recipe with more concrete details, you can read about how to make red bean okayu (in English) at Just Bento

Koshogatsu event:
Location: Torin-in東林院, within the grounds of Myoshinji
Dates: 15th – 31st January
Time: 11am – 3pm
Cost: 3800 yen (reservations not necessary)
Nearest station: Hanazono on the JR line to Arashiyama
Phone: 075-463-1334

Photo: Oagaritei

Kitcho’s Daikon Furofuki

Kyoto traditional vegetable: shogoin daikon

Kyoto traditional vegetable: shogoin daikon

Shōgoin daikon 聖護院大根 is one of the traditional vegetables of Kyoto and is sometimes referred to as Kyo-daikon. It is said that during the early 19th century, a farmer moved to Kyoto from Owari province (present-day Aichi-ken) and started cultivating ordinary long daikon radishes in the vicinity of the temple Shōgoin. It seems that some of the daikon seeds produced a mutant round daikon, but the farmer was so intrigued with this new vegetable that he continued to cultivate the variation instead of the regular-shaped daikon. Since then it has become one of Kyoto’s unique vegetables, valued for its shape and its very fine white flesh with a mild flavour, much suited to the delicacy of Kyoto cuisine. When boiled it keeps its firm texture and doesn’t break apart like regular daikon.

The shōgoin daikon is mostly now grown in the northern part of Kyoto prefecture in the Tango area, where the heavy snowfalls in winter produce the best flavour. It is also dried and shipped all over Japan. It is sometimes called vegetarian dried squid because of its resemblance to the squid which are cut and dried on racks in a similar way.

Shōgoin daikon can be prepared in much the same ways as standard daikon, but the flavour is milder and slightly sweeter, with a firmer texture; however, it is rarely used as “oroshi” (finely grated).

Kunio Tokuoka, owner-chef of the famous Kitcho restaurant, has this to say about daikon:

“Even though daikon is most well known as an accompaniment to other foods, such as finely grated and served with whitebait or grated with a dash of shoyu (soy sauce) served with mackerel and so on, at Kitcho we like to serve our customers something with a little element of surprise, so daikon is prepared in a more unpredictable way such as grilled or as tempura. Unlike turnips, in which all parts can be used, only the very middle part of the daikon is used, where the flavour is at its best.”

Here is Chef Tokuoka’s recipe for Furofuki Daikon – Simmered Daikon with Miso



Konbu dashi
First lot of rinse water that was used to clean the rice for dinner (this water contains rice starch that keeps the daikon from discolouring and maintains a bright whiteness)
Awase-miso (miso sauce):
100 gms hatcho-miso: the most highly regarded miso, a rich dark brown, made only from soybeans
135 mls sake
100 gms sugar
Yoke of one small egg

How to make the awase-miso:
Firstly, mix the egg yolk and sugar well, then blend in the sake. Warm the hatcho miso in bain marie. When it’s cooled, add it to the egg and sake. Keep aside.

1. Under the skin of the daikon is rather tough layer that should be removed. If you don’t peel it enough then the daikon won’t have soft texture and will be too hard. So peel the skin quite thickly – up to 2 cms deep (alternatively, cut the daikon into slices and then cut around each slice). Using the water that has been left after first rinsing the rice for dinner, parboil the daikon. Parboiling in this way takes away the bitterness of the daikon and helps bring out its sweetness.

2. Using a good amount of konbu dashi, lightly simmer the daikon until tender; in this way, the umami of the konbu gradually penetrates the daikon. The key point here is that in order for the heat to draw out the daikon’s natural sweetness, the deciding factor is the quality of the konbu dashi that you use. And in order to make the most effective dashi, please use the best quality konbu that is marketed for use in dashi.

3. Place the daikon in a bowl, spoon a little of the awase-miso over the daikon, and garnish with grated yuzu zest (or other citrus zest) and pinch of togarashi or shichimi (or similar types of chilli powder).

JA Kyoto

New Year Osechi

Hamatoku osechi

A kaiseki restaurant nearby to Myoshinji temple, in the western part of Kyoto, Hamatoku was established about a hundred years ago. The focus of their cuisine is seasonality and bringing beauty to all aspects of the preparation and serving of the meals. Their special Wajima lacquer dishes, made especially in Kanazawa, are inscribed with images from the Tale of Genji. There are 38 different scenes and the dishes are carefully matched to the season and type of food.



Hamatoku offers a special New Year cuisine (osechi-ryori) that you can order and eat in your own home.

Hamatoku's special New Year bento - Osechi

Hamatoku’s special New Year bento – Osechi

Included in the 28 different foods that are in the bento are some special traditional New Year treats:

Black beans from the Tanba region of Kyoto, boiled in dashi and served with gold leaf

Kuromame are black beans from the Tanba region of Kyoto, boiled in dashi and served with gold leaf. This is a traditional New Year food that represents a wish for good health in the coming year.

Datemaki - rolled egg omelette, made with mild, white-fish paste. This is a traditional New Year food.

Datemaki – rolled egg omelette, made with mild, white-fish paste. This is a traditional New Year food that represents a wish for many auspicious celebratory days in the coming year.

Prawns simmered in sake. This is a traditional New Year food that represents wishes for a long life.

Prawns simmered in sake. This is a traditional New Year food that represents wishes for a long life.

Fresh herring roe from Hokkaido. This caviar is a traditional New Year food which represents the wish for many children and prosperity in the home.

Kazunoko is fresh herring roe from Hokkaido. This caviar is a traditional New Year food which represents the wish for many children and prosperity in the home.

31 Hanazono-icho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Closed Wednesdays
Price range: Lunch from 8000 yen; dinner from 9500 yen
(No credit card facility)

Nishiki Nabe Festival

Event News
Nishiki Nabe Festival 錦市場の鍋まつり
Date: Sat 15th Nov
Time: 7 – 9:30pm

Location: Within the Nishiki-koji Market, between Gokomachi-dori and Sakaimachi-dori
Cost: Food tickets need to be purchased in advance in books of 10 tickets (100 yen each ticket) which are then converted into a points card to be used with the individual stalls

Stalls include all kinds of hot-pot (‘nabe’) meals, such as yuba, tomato, salmon (Ishikari), suppon etc. There are also other meals available such as yakitori, sanzai, etc, as well as beer and other drinks.

Further information call 075‐211‐3882 (Japanese)

Source: Kyoto Nishiki Blog

Poster for Nishiki Nabe Festival

Poster for Nishiki Nabe Festival

Chrysanthemum Turnips

In my last post I translated a piece by Keiko Matsunaga about Gion and Chrysanthemums. Here, Matsunaga-sensei gives her recipe and technique for making turnips look like chrysanthemums, which is not only a delicious seasonal recipe but also provides practice in perfecting the skills of knife-handling. Following the recipe I have added a video to demonstrate the technique. You can also read more about “chysanthemum turnip” pickles at Kyoto Foodie.


Matsunaga-sensei’s Kikka-kabura (Chrysanthemum Turnips)

1 large turnip
3 pieces of konbu, each about 3cms square
2-3 small dried chillies
Sweetened rice vinegar, made by adding 35gm of sugar per 100ml of rice vinegar

Preparing the turnip:
1. Cut the greens off the top of the turnip, and after washing the turnip thoroughly, peel it and then cut it in half lengthways.
2. Cut a slice about 2.5cm from the top end.
3. About 5mm inside the skin side, you’ll see a ring line. No matter how long you boil the turnip, this fibrous outer ring won’t soften, so cut back to that line (don’t discard this outer cutting though – you can use it in other recipes).
4. Place the turnip slice flat and make fine lengthways incisions close together all along the slice, cutting about 2/3 into the thickness, being careful not to cut all the way through.
5. Turn the turnip slice around 90° and do the same thing widthways.
6. Carefully turn the turnip up-side-down, with the cuts on the bottom, and then cut the turnip slice into 2cm wide squares

Directions for making Chrysanthemum Turnip pickles:
1. Take the turnip squares you’ve prepared as per above and weigh them. Calculate 2% of the weight and that is how much salt you are going to need to use. Cover the turnips with salt and put aside for 30 minutes to an hour, so that the turnips soften. Then drain off the excess moisture from the turnips.
2. Rinse thoroughly in running water, then gently squeeze out the water, being careful not to disturb the fine cuts.
3. Add the konbu and the dried chillies to the sweetened vinegar and then put the turnips in the vinegar and leave them in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days to pickle.
4. To serve, separate out the little ‘petals’ so that it looks like a chrysanthemum, and add a thin slice of chilli in the middle for garnish.

In this video, the cook shows us a nifty trick to prevent the knife from cutting all the way through the turnip by using chopsticks.

Source: 京のおばんざい100選


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers