In Japan, where we have 4 seasons, people tend to value the custom to use seasonal ingredients or add some seasonal taste to their cooking. Japanese dishes are delicate, in which you can find the elements to satisfy the five senses – taste, sight, smell, etc.
Today we focus on the sense of “smell”, featuring especially “sesame”, whose season is September to October, and tell you how to grind sesame and extract its rich smell.
What is sesame?
Sesame, originating from Africa or India, is a seed containing oil. This oil, when extracted, is sesame oil. Sesame oil is used in cuisine of various countries such as Japan, China and Thailand.
The main attraction of sesame is its savory rich smell. Not only sesame oil but also grinded sesame on tofu or with sweet Miso (soybean paste) enriches the flavor of dishes themselves. For this reason, sesame is an essential ingredient for Japanese dishes.
How to Grind Sesame
There are 2 important points to optimize the flavor of sesame. One is to grind sesame just before eating them. The other is to use an appropriate Suribachi mortar to grind sesame.
Sesame has richest flavor right after grinded and has less smell over time. So, it is better not to grind large amount at a time but to grind the amount to be used. The same applies to other flavorful food including Wasabi, Japanese mustard and pepper.
Using an appropriate Suribachi mortar is also important. In particular, we need to choose right size. There are a variety of size for Suribachi mortars.
When the size is not right, it cannot work well or cause stresses. You may use bigger size, but it would require more space for storage. So, you should choose the one that fits the purpose.
8 GO Size
8 GO Type has about 25 cm of diameter. It is slightly big for home use and maybe good for restaurant use. This mortar is from Motoshige Ceramic, which is located in Gotsu City, Shimane Prefecture and specializes in mortar manufacturing. Their mortars are individually handmade by craftsmen using high quality earth from locale. This high quality earth is baked at 1300℃ or more and made into durable mortars. The mortars of Motoshige Ceramic have uneven right surface which can hold the ingredients to grind finely.
6 GO Size
6 GO Type has about 19 cm of diameter. This size of mortar is a standard for home use as it is easy to handle and good for storage. This is from Motoshige Ceramic too.
As it has non-slip silicon rubber at the bottom, you can grind the ingredients in more stable position. Even when you serve it straight to the table, It won’t make scratches on the table.
5 GO Size
5 GO Type has about 15.5 cm of diameter, rather small. It isn’t appropriate when you need to large amount of ingredients but easy to handle and good for grinding herbs ad or spices. The biggest advantage is that it can save storage space.
There are also compact small mortars that can fit in both hands. This has about 8.5 cm of diameter. It is good for grinding small amount of condiments or spices and serve straight to the table. Or you can grind on the table. It is also good as a gift or Japanese souvenir.
Now you see Suribachi mortars have a variety of size. Especially, the mortars from Motoshige Ceramics, which we mentioned above, are provided in various sizes and colors. Besides standard reddish brown, there are blue, matt white, blackish red (called “Tenmoku”), blackish green (called “Oribe”). etc.
The mortars from Motoshige are all made in Japan. The main materials are clay from Iwami Region, Shimane Prefecture mixed with earth from Tajimi Region, Gifu Prefecture, which is the center of manufacturing of Mino ware. They use glaze with ensured safety and pursue functionality in manufacturing.
Their mortars can grind the ingredients smoothly and optimize the flavors. This is all because of the comb patterns on the surface that were individually made by craftsmen.
To grind seasonal ingredients, such mortars with good functionality are recommended.