A Ninja looks over a cooking fire

Culinary Treasures of 17th Century Japan: Nourishing the Ninja’s Soul

Discover the culinary delights of 17th-century Japan, as a ninja shares the unique flavors and traditions that nourished their soul.

As a ninja in feudal Japan, my life was shrouded in secrecy and danger, yet amidst the shadows, there was solace and pleasure to be found in the distinctive foods that adorned my table during the 17th century.

During that era, Japanese cuisine boasted a range of flavors and ingredients that differ from those enjoyed today. One of my cherished culinary delights was “funazushi,” a traditional dish made from fermented lake fish. The unique process of preserving the fish in salt and rice for months resulted in a pungent and tangy delicacy. The complex flavors danced on my tongue, leaving a lasting impression that only time and craftsmanship could create.

Funazushi is fish preserved in salt here are some thin cut slices laid out on a plate.
Funazushi is fermented fish, preserved in salt.

Another culinary treasure of the time was “hoshigaki,” dried persimmons. This labor-intensive process involved meticulously peeling and hanging the persimmons to dry in the winter air. The result was a sweet yet slightly tangy fruit, its texture transformed into a rich, chewy treat. With each bite, the concentrated essence of the persimmon filled my senses, reminding me of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our ancestors.

Hoshigaki -3 dried persimmons are laid out on a rectangular tray
Hoshigaki – dried persimmons

In the realm of vegetables, “gobo,” or burdock root, held a special place in my heart. This fibrous and earthy root was often simmered in soy sauce and mirin until tender, creating a dish known as “kinpira gobo.” The harmonious blend of flavors, along with the slight crunchiness of the root, made it a delightful companion to rice and a staple on my plate.

Kinpira gobo, julienne cut burdock root is mixed with carrot and lotus root and tossed in a small bowl. Wooden chopsticks are sitting nearby.
Kinpira Gobo is made with julienne cut burdock roots and sometimes mixed with other root vegetables

Furthermore, “yakitori” took on a different form during that period. Instead of using chicken, as is customary today, skewers of grilled meat were often made with wild game, such as boar or deer. The succulent and slightly gamey flavors mingled with the smokiness of the grill, creating a dish that satisfied both my taste buds and my warrior’s spirit.

Reflecting on the unique foods of the 17th century brings back memories of the distinct flavors that defined my existence. These dishes were a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our ancestors, who transformed simple ingredients into culinary masterpieces. Each bite was a journey through time, connecting me to the rich history of my homeland.

As a ninja, my love for these traditional delicacies was not only a source of nourishment but also a reminder of the resilience and creativity that defined our culture. It served as a testament to the ability to find joy and pleasure even in the most challenging of times.

Yakitori on skewers cooking over an open flame
Yakitori in feudal Japan was often prepared with wild game such as boar or venison cooked on skewers over an open flame

In the quiet moments between missions, when I savored the lingering tastes of funazushi, hoshigaki, kinpira gobo, or yakitori, I found solace and a connection to the past. These foods became more than sustenance; they were a link to the traditions and heritage that shaped me as a ninja and as a person.

Thus, I am forever grateful for the distinct flavors of that era’s Japanese cuisine, for they not only nourished my body but also fed my soul, reminding me of the resilience and beauty that can be found in simplicity and tradition.

Authors note: All of these dishes that were enjoyed during Japan’s feudal era can still be enjoyed today. 

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