Get ready to embark on a fun Japanese culinary adventure, as today, I am thrilled to introduce you to Kokoro Care Packages. Rooted in the profound Japanese concept of 'Kokoro', which encapsulates 'heart', 'spirit', and 'emotion', these carefully curated care packages provide a sensory journey into the heartland of Japan.
Founded by Lillian Hanako Rowlatt and Aki Sugiyama, two food enthusiasts with a strong belief in the power of nourishment and community, Kokoro Care Packages is an exploration of Japanese culture and cuisine.
Every month, Kokoro Care Packages unlock the enchanting world of Japanese food with a new theme. Each package is thoughtfully filled with over five artisanal, all-natural Japanese foods, locally made in Japan. You'll find a wide range of tastes, from cosy noodles to tasty snacks, delicious seasoning, mouthwatering sauces, and warming teas, all bursting with Japanese food's richness.
Unlike other Japanese subscription boxes on the market, Kokoro Care Packages allows you to order specially curated starter packs from the Kokoro collection. I have ordered the Vegan Shōjin Ryōri 'Zen' care package, and I'm going to tell you exactly what was in my box, how to use the ingredients and if the package is worth it.
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What is Kokoro Care?
Kokoro Care Packages is a subscription service that delivers curated boxes of artisanal, all-natural Japanese foods directly to your door. Each package is a collection of high-quality Japanese foods that have been locally made in Japan.
But even with my Kokoro Care pack, I could see that these care packages are not just about food. They are about connection, community, and culture. Each package includes an in-depth English brochure, detailing the products, their ingredients, and suggested uses. It even provides easy-to-follow recipes to whip up your own Japanese meals.
More than just a culinary guide, the brochure also shares fascinating stories that connect you to the local farmers and producers, regions, and traditions of Japan. Even though I had lived in Japan, the brochure detailed new foods and food methodologies I didn't know about. I loved the narratives that give a glimpse into the regions and traditions from where the products originate.
The founders started Kokoro Care Packages as a way to connect people with the traditions and philosophies of Japanese food, as well as with the stories of the local farmers and producers who create these food items.
What sets Kokoro Care Packages apart is their commitment to authenticity, quality, and sustainability. Each package is a culinary voyage that brings you closer to the people, traditions, and regions of Japan. To me, this really feels special, especially knowing just how much I love Japan.
Target audience for Kokoro Care
Kokoro Care Packages are perfectly tailored for food enthusiasts and home cooks who harbour a passion for exploring Japanese food, and are eager to experiment with authentic ingredients.
Kokoro Care caters to those who are curious about Japanese culture and wish to gain a more profound understanding of it through the captivating world of food. The service also connects with Japanese individuals living abroad, or anyone who has experienced the unique flavours of Japan and yearns for a taste of the country (that's me!).
I honestly believe that Kokoro Care Packages are ideal for those seeking to present their loved ones with a unique experience. Think of it as a foodie Japanese souvenir for those living outside of Japan.
What's inside the Kokoro Care Package
There are many Kokoro Care collections to pick from, but I was genuinely interested in Vegan Shōjin Ryōri 'Zen' pack. In case you don't know, my husband and I are mostly plant-based at home but flexitarians when we travel. Thus, the vegan option seemed most exciting for me to be able to cook vegan at home.
My Vegan Kokoro Care Package, inspired by the Buddhist vegan cuisine, Shōjin Ryōri, provided a mindful eating experience with ingredients selected to nourish both body and soul. Here's what was inside my pack:
- Shōjin Vegan Dashi from Hiroshima by Marushima. This umami-rich broth elevated any dish with its ingredients of salt, sugar, konbu (Hokkaido kelp), shiitake mushrooms, and dried daikon (Japanese radish).
- Yuba (Tofu Skins) from Kyoto by Yamashiroya. This creamy and smooth foodstuff, made from the top layer of warming soybean milk, was a versatile addition to soups, spring rolls, or even as a pasta substitute.
- Koya Dofu (Freeze Dried Tofu) from Nagano by Tokiwa Frozen Foods. This non-GMO tofu, known for its spongy texture, had a unique way of soaking up any broth, delivering an explosion of flavour with each bite.
- Fried Fu from Miyagi by Yamagataya Shōten. A chewy source of vegan-friendly protein, it absorbs the flavour of any sauces or seasoning paired with.
- Kuzukiri (Kudzu Noodles) from Kyoto by Yamashiroya. These versatile, transparent noodles could transform a simple syrup into a refreshing traditional Japanese dessert or elevate soups and hot pots.
- Hishio Moromi (Fermented Paste) from Okayama by Kono Vinegar Miso Manufacturing Factory. Made from barley, soy sauce, eggplant, and radish, this rich, savoury paste added a dash of umami to various dishes.
- Dried Kikurage (Wood Ear Mushrooms) from Kochi by Niyodogawa Kikurage. Harvested in the pristine mountains of Shikoku Island, these mushrooms added a distinct firm, crunchy texture to stir-fries, soups, or salads.
As you can see, there were 7 items in my Vegan Shōjin Ryōri 'Zen' pack. Alongside these ingredients, was the English brochure I was telling you about which detailed recipes and offered more information about each ingredient.
What I made using the Kokoro Care Package
I created the following dishes using the ingredients from my Kokoro Care Package. I wanted to inspire you with my creations too and let you know that some of these recipes are available in your Kokoro Care brochure with detailed instructions and measurements.
This is a super simple recipe and loved it so much, I made it twice (as you'll see in my pics). Until Kokoro Cares, I never knew that there was such a thing as freeze-dried tofu. And now it's my favourite way of eating tofu. It's so much better. Possibly, it's because of the texture that it's spongy but not crumbly? Either way, love it.
Koya dofu is essentially simmered in dashi broth. You have both ingredients in the Kokoro care pack. Mix the dashi with sugar, mirin, soy sauce and salt and bring it to boil. Add a block of koya dofu and simmer for 10 minutes. The full recipe is available in the Kokoro care brochure.
Onigiri filled with Hishio Moromi
I came up with this recipe because I really fancied filled onigiri. Make the sushi rice. I like to make mine in the Ninja Foodi. Make sure you wash your sushi rice really well. Add one cup of sushi rice in the Ninja Foodi, cover with water and pressure cook for just 4 minutes. Add mirin and rice vinegar to make your sushi rice taste incredible.
Ideally, you will get some onigiri shapes. They are less than $5 and are super easy to use. When handling sushi rice, make sure your hands are always wet. This way the rice doesn't stick to your hand. Add a little rice in the shape, add a teaspoon of Hishio Moromi in the middle of the onigiri, then add more rice. Ta-daaaa, your onigiri is now ready. Add a little nori around, some sesame seeds and you are ready to eat a super filling (and extremely delicious) lunch!
Wood Ear Mushroom Tsukudani
I made these to serve with my onigiri. Simply allow the wood ear mushrooms to rehydrate in a bowl of water. Julienne them and combine with a little sugar, soy sauce, mirin and sake. Add them to a frying pan with a touch of olive or sesame oil. All you need is a few minutes on the hob and your ear mushrooms are now ready. Serve with sesame. This recipe is available in the Kokoro Care brochure.
Fried spinach yuba maki
Soak the yuba at room temperature and please remember to be super delicate with it. All you need is to soak it for abour 3 minutes then lay it on a flat surface.
Meanwhile, blanch some spinach. Drain the spinach and squeeze any remaining water. Coat with a little soy sauce.
Roll the spinach in the yuba skin. Try and be as tight as possible but gentle as the yuba is very fragile. In a frying pan, add a little olive or sesame oil, then fry your yuba rolls on medium heat for about 1-3 minutes on each side until golden and crispy.
A similar recipe is available in your Kokoro Care brochure.
Fried Fu in Dashi with Nori
There are a couple of recipes in your Kokoro Care brochure but I went a bit rogue here. I decided to dip my Fried Fu in Fashi stock to rehydrate. After a good 10 minutes, I just squeezed out the water, chopped the Fried Fu and served with sesame and nori. It's a very good side dish.
There are a few more recipes in the brochure including a Hot Pot with the Kuzukiri, sesame and soy Yuba Noodles, a delicious Kuzukiri with Kuromitsu Sauce, a Mixed Rice recipe and a Japanese Rice soup. You can select the dishes you want to make with your Kokoro Care Pack.
How much does Kokoro Care cost
My Vegan Shōjin Ryōri 'Zen' costs $80. Generally, collection packs cost between $72.50 to $200. Although most of them average at $80 USD per pack.
Subscription packages are prices a little differently:
The Monthly Nourishing Essentials Care Package costs $60 for a 12-month subscription. A 6-month subscription costs $61.67, a 3-month subscription is $63.44 and a subscription for a month is $65. This pack contains 5+ artisanal, all-natural Japanese foods made locally in Japan.
The Seasonal Delights Care Package costs $97.50 for the year (4 care packages) or $100 for each seasonal pack, payable every 3 months. The Seasonal Pack gets delivered every 3 months and contains 7+ artisanal, all-natural Japanese foods made locally in Japan plus a hand-crafted gift.
Kokoro Care Delivery
Kokoro Care ships all of their products straight from Japan to your door. The products are available for delivery worldwide to most countries.
There are no additional shipping costs for most countries, unless specified at checkout. In addition, Kokoro Care tries their best to value each Care Package to fall within the duty/tax-free allowance for most countries. They always recommend that you check your individual country's import laws, including duties and taxes, as they are not responsible for any additional fees upon delivery.
Is the Kokoro Care worth it?
The value of Kokoro Care Packages is definitely worth it, if you're passionate about exploring authentic Japanese cuisine, interested in cooking with unique ingredients, or seeking to connect more deeply with Japanese culture and its food traditions.
Each package is thoughtfully curated with artisanal, all-natural food items made locally in Japan, and comes with an informative brochure detailing the stories behind each product, providing recipes, and suggesting uses.
The mission of Kokoro Care Packages is to share the traditions and philosophies of Japanese cuisine, and this focus on not just the food, but the cultural context, makes it quite special. This service allows you to experience a range of Japanese flavours without having to travel to Japan, and the convenience of having it delivered to your door is a significant advantage.