Candice Kumai explores Japanese culture in latest wellness book

Candice Kumai’s newest project may be her most personal yet.The Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and writer has made a name …

Candice Kumai’s newest project may be her most personal yet.

The Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and writer has made a name for herself in the burgeoning wellness world, from regular appearances on “The Dr. Oz Show” to cookbooks such as “Pretty Delicious,” “Cook Yourself Sexy” and “Clean Green Eats.”

Her latest book, “Kintsugi Wellness,” out this week, explores health and self-care through a cultural lens.

Kumai, who is half-Japanese and half-Polish, explores her Japanese heritage in the new book.

“The Japanese traditions I grew up with I didn’t really embrace until I got older,” said Kumai, a California native who lives in Williamsburg. “I said, ‘Whoa, this is next level,’ but it’s not. It’s actually quite ancient and humbled. It’s teachings that my mother learned from her parents, and they learned from their parents.”

“Kintsugi Wellness” features chapters on “strengthen,” “nourish,” “lifestyle” and “heart,” with guides on how to apply Japanese practices to them, like the titular kintsugi (the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, but also a philosophy that respects imperfections).

There is a large emphasis on food especially, from breaking down nourishing ingredients like green tea, ginger and daikon to sharing California- and Japanese-inspired recipes for donburi bowls, bento boxes and more.

For inspiration and research, Kumai pulled from trips she’s made to Japan particularly over the last 10 years, from visiting onsens, or hot springs, in the Iya Valley to studying matcha under a tea master in Beppu.

Matcha may be a large part of Kumai’s next venture; the ambassador for Matcha Love is looking to launch a matcha beauty powder, a drinkable supplement that “brings together beauty and food,” she said.

“It keeps me calm and focused,” Kumai said about the trendy tea powder. “It also means a lot to me because it’s part of my heritage. My great-grandmother and my grandma and my great-aunt all shared it with me when I was little and got me my whisks and bowls many years ago. For me, it’s not a trend play, but rather a really big deal as far as heritage goes.”

Kumai hopes people with or without ties to Japanese culture can benefit from the book.

“I wrote this book for everyone,” she said. “To help and inspire other people.”

More matcha

Kumai doesn’t shy away from including sweets in her books. The matcha-chocolate chip cookies from her first, “Pretty Delicious,” were such a hit, she knew she needed to include a version in “Kintsugi Wellness.” Traditionally, Kumai notes, the Japanese do not mix sugar with a cup of matcha, but might enjoy a sweet like cake with it. “The Westernization of matcha has turned it into a sweet treat,” she writes.

Matcha-chocolate chip cookies

Makes 18-20 cookies

  • Nonstick olive or coconut oil cooking spray
  • 3⁄4 cup gluten-free flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1⁄4 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 tbsp. unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  • 1⁄3 cup organic sugar (or 5 drops of stevia)
  • 1 egg (if making vegan, add 1-2 tbsp. of water)
  • 1 1⁄2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1⁄2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. matcha powder, sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, vanilla and sugar (or stevia) to combine. Add the egg (or water) and whisk well to incorporate.

4. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the mashed banana and stir until well incorporated.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the oats and chocolate chips. Sprinkle in the sifted matcha powder and fold in gently.

6. Chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

7. Using a tablespoon, scoop out 1 1⁄2 -in. balls and place them about 1 in. apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden on top, 10-13 minutes. Cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.


Candice Kumai participates in the talk The Wellness Revolution, along with Inspiralized founder Ali Maffucci and F-Factor creator Tanya Zuckerbrot, on May 23 at 7 p.m. at the 92nd Street Y | 1395 Lexington Ave., 212-415-5500 | tickets $20 at 92y.org

Meredith Deliso