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Edo Miyage

Using the same recipe, but different ingredients, for a hundred years.Ebisen from a purveyor to Edokko (people born and raised in Edo - modern day Tokyo).

Crunchy. Soft. ebisen, a light snack which you can easily eat anytime, since at least the Taisho period (1912-1926) it has continued to be loved as the best souvenir in Edo. The same family has been making it for six generations, and the taste of their snack has been passed down over the years. We asked them about what hasn’t changed over the past 100 years, and about what is changing.

Edo Miyage

From Tsukiji to Gotanda.Edo Miyage, a treat that you can only buy in Tokyo.

“The name Edo Miyage was registered as a trademark in 1921. But, I think today we could register it under any general name” says Takeshi Sugie as he laughs. He is the current sixth generation owner of Shinseido, an old established Senbei (rice crackers) store. Originally, Shinseido was opened as a store in Tsukiji that served up seafood delicacies like arare (rice crackers made from powered rice) and okaki (fried rice cakes). Later, it was moved to the present day location of Gotanda. Inside the store there are all kinds of senbei, okaki and arare lined up.

Edo Miyage

Inside the store there is a very palpable sense of existence, this shop really is Edo Miyage. The main kind of ebisen has a light cherry blossom color, but other kinds of senbei include kinjo roll (containing shredded seaweed), shinagawa roll (wrapped in seaweed), kozakura (a cherry blossom-shaped soy sauce senbei), chakin (with green tea), onikozou (hard rice crackers), genroku (fried salty rice cake) or are senbei which might include rice grains, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. There are about 8 to 9 types, depending on the season. When you eat the ebisen, you will find that it has a light, crunchy food texture. The high-quality salt in the raw ingredient of shrimp comes from the shrimp itself, it is not added. Its pure flavor will take over your hands without you noticing it; one cracker after another will find its way to your mouth without ever stopping. The sheer variety of senbei, besides ebisen, gives you has a rich choice, you will never get tired of eating them, and you will end up finishing the whole box in one go. What on earth is the secret behind this amazing taste?

High-quality shrimp and the company’s glutinous rice from its own rice field.What was the motive behind carefully selecting your raw ingredients?

The shrimp they use, an ingredient which is a key factor for the flavor of ebisen, is a high-quality variety of Takatsume shrimp, which they started to receive supplies of from September last year, found off the coast of Ehime Prefecture. The raw, still fresh, shrimp arrives is then delivered to the store, it has already been carefully peeled, one shrimp at a time. Mr. Sugie explained that “previously, we used a supplier from Mikawa Bay, but because of environmental changes it became difficult to secure the quantity that we needed, so I found our current producer when I was looking for shrimp which had a similar quality to what we had been using." The Takatsume shrimp, minus their tails and legs, are then mixed with potato starch flour.

Edo Miyage

Mr. Sugie has extraordinary enthusiasm about how he procured a supply of Takatsume shrimp. Also there is his devotion to mochi rice (glutinous rice) which form the basis for his arare and okaki products. When I asked this, the surprising answer was that about 17 years ago they started cultivating their own rice fields. Furthermore, this is no ordinary mochi rice, it is Shimehari mocha rice, a kind of mocha rice which was thought to be lost in history. "It was eaten during the Taisho period (1912-1926) and was well-known for its flavor, however it was difficult to cultivate and during the Showa Period (1926-1989) it disappeared. It has a sweet taste, and as it gets pounded it stretches out quite smoothly and becomes a great rice cake. I just thought about if I can make it myself." While under the guidance of a rice specialist, Mr. Terukichi of Nagata, who uses Nagata agricultural methods to draw out the maximum yield from plants in his well-maintained terraced paddy fields in Niigata, he started the cultivation of Shimehari mochi rice.

Edo Miyage

“For both ordinary rice and rice for mochi, if they are grown using Nagata agricultural methods then the roots grow deep in the ground and develop into robust plants, which naturally lead to great tasting rice. From planting onwards we use as little or no agricultural chemicals as possible. Whenever I have time I am always popping out from the store to go to our rice fields." As for Mr. Sugie's store, since he started selling daifuku (mochi sweets) they have achieved a surreptitious popularity; he has been excited about connecting people with his delicious Shimehari mochi. In addition, their nori is from the Saga coast in Ariake, and the soy sauce they use is from an old soy sauce maker in Wakayama, so you could say they have quite a passion for ingredients. The reason that they think through so carefully the quality of their ingredients is because of their belief that "There is no technique that can surpass the ingredients." "I have no intention of changing our recipes that we have used generation after generation. However, depending on the ingredients it is sometimes necessary to tweak recipes in order to make the best use of them. I think that may be my own personal 6th generation technique."

Now a hundred years have passed? What have you managed to prevent from being changed?

Previously, Mr. Sugie sought advice from a renowned designer regarding changing the Edo Miyage wrapping paper. However, the designer realized that he simply “couldn’t change a design which has lasted for a 100 years." "I was relieved at that time. As the recipes for our sweets have already been perfected to a high degree, there isn’t really anything that I feel I should interfere with, so inheriting this perfect product means that, honestly speaking, it is a bit boring (he laughs). But, fundamentally what I think is most important is that “I want to make delicious food." Just like how it isn’t necessary to change the package design, it is also okay not to have to change our recipes which have lasted for 100 years. To that extent, I have an unwavering commitment to ingredients and to maintaining the delicious taste of our products."

Edo Miyage

But how is ebisen made? Let us introduce how it is made, using techniques which have not changed over the past 100 years! On the 2nd floor of the store, they carry out the frying process of the finely chopped dough, which has already been baked once and left to dry in the sun for 2-3 days. Drying it in the sun, which is dependent on the weather, is absolutely necessary in order to achieve a distinctive crunchy food texture. Winter, during which the drying continues in fine weather, is the golden time for making ebisen. The frying oil is a blend, using their own original recipe of Taihaku sesame oil and cottonseed oil - which are used at top tempura stores. Once the ebisen is fried, it is put into an adjacent centrifugal separator, and the excess oil is removed. It is now ready for eating!

Edo Miyage

For Mr. Sugie, he wants to evolve traditions. It isn’t that “nothing can be changed,” but that change has to go together with the clear will that some things can’t change. As our conversation came to a close, he also talked about some important words from a very special family member, “my father often talked about how ‘if the store expands too much the business will collapse,’ and ‘we should just go forward in our usual steadfast way,’ I really treasure those words and always keep them in mind.” Edo Miyage shines brightly with the spirit and taste of Edokko (people born and raised in Edo - present day Tokyo); in truth it is a fitting sweet to add the name Edo to.

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