Trends in Japan > Lifestyle > Eating It My Way
Consumers Seek Unique, Custom-Blended Tastes
(March 26, 2007)

Grape and blueberry vinegar (Uchibori)

More and more people are blending foods like rice and soy sauce themselves for the thrill of creating something new. In addition to the feeling of cool gained from having something that does not exist anywhere else, this practice satisfies consumers' discriminating tastes. The trend for custom blending has now spread from ingredients used in main dishes to those used in desserts.

Seeking Nutrition, Beauty, and Flavor
Up to now, people have tended to purchase a sack of a single type of rice, such as Koshihikari or Akita Komachi, and cook it by itself. These days, however, as part of the ongoing boom in healthy living, an increasing number of people are blending in mineral-rich cereals like millet and adlay seed.

In the basement food section of Printemps Ginza there is a specialty shop called Wa-Deri (currently closed for renovation) that sells brown rice and blended grains. While there are existing blends prepared by the shop, many customers decide to create their own blends by combining some of the ten or more available grains. Staff who are qualified experts on grains are available to provide advice, such as recommending a combination of red rice and millet to warm the bodies of people who are sensitive to the cold or adlay seed for people who want to look their best. But nutrition is not the only consideration; the appearance of blended rice is also one of the secrets to its popularity, as mixing in black rice will give your rice a light purplish hue, and adding millet will result in rice with a bright yellow coloring.

There are also people who blend two or more types of rice. Roughly 20% of the customers at Suzunobu, a rice specialty shop in Tokyo, blend different types of rice at home. Many people seek the smooth texture suitable for Japanese cuisine that results from combining the sticky Koshihikari with the lighter Akita Komachi. Behind this boom lies the appearance of powerful, hi-tech rice cookers that can be set differently depending on the type of rice.

And of course there are people who create their own blends of the soy sauce that is an indispensable seasoning for Japanese cuisine. Yamakawa Jozo, a brewery in Gifu Prefecture, will blend soy sauce for customers according to the taste and color that they desire using five types of soy sauce, including shiro (light), tamari (brewed without wheat), and koikuchi (dark) soy sauce. They will also provide detailed consultation on such things as salt levels, taste, and the use of preservatives.


Pineapple vinegar (Uchibori)

Tastier Than the Sum of Their Parts
People are enjoying blending their own dessert foods, as well. A store run by Gifu Prefecture's Uchibori Vinegar offers popular dessert vinegars made by blending vinegar with fruit juices. While simple flavors are available, the recommended ones are rich varieties that blend orange and cassis, or strawberry and peach. A 250-ml bottle costs around ¥1,300 ($11.30 at ¥115 to the dollar), and most people choose to drink the vinegar after mixing it with water. Fruit vinegar that has not undergone microfiltration and thus allows one to savor the crispness of freshly made vinegar is so popular that it is almost always sold out ahead of time.

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