how to make a good MISO SOUP !

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When I came to the US, I was so amazed to see people eating SUSHI.

I had never thought that they knew any Japanese foods and more over eating raw fish was very challenging for them.

It has been more than 15 years since then, and now we could find many Japanese related foods in restaurants and grocery stores.

Even some American or Mexican restaurants have Japanese fusion food  in their menus, and we could easily find soy sauce, sake, or other Japanese condiments in grocery stores.

I love reading food magazines, and I notice lots of recipes  don’t to hesitate using miso these days.

Before people only enjoyed MISO in miso soups in restaurants, but now I think some families have miso in the fridge, and use it as one of regular condiments.

Today I introduce very basic menu using miso. That’s right!

MISO SOUP!

Do you recognize what they are in the photo below?

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I believe they are now familiar to you.

They are KOMBU.

I always keep cut KOMBU like this in pantry for easy use.

Because of their rich nutrients, KOMBU tea or water is now popular, and I often see them in stores (although I have never tried them.).

Here are ingredients for today’s miso soup.

(for 2 people / serving size a large bowl)

  • 3 cups of water
  • 3 inches of KOMBU
  • dried seaweed (hydrated)
  • 1/4 onion (sliced)
  • chopped green onion (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of miso ( you could adjust the quantity ar you like)

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For the stock of  miso soup, I usually use KOMBU and NIBOSHI (small dried sardines),  but I was out of NIBOSHI now,  so today I only use KOMBU.

It is OK.

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KOMBU sometimes have white substance on its surface.

This is the sugar mannitol, one of UMAMI substances.

If you have an overactive thyroid function, you need to be careful of not taking it too much, but otherwise it is good to take KOMBU because it is an excellent source of the vitamin B and is rich in iodine. calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Before using Kombu, we need to take dirt just in case, but try not to take UMAMI substance on its surface, so…..

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just wipe  with a wet towel very gently.

Then,,,,

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put KOMBU in water for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Then heat the pot, BUT!

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You have to save this KOMBU  before it gets boiling.

If you boil KOMBU water. KOMBU’s sticky substance comes out, and DASHI gets thick.

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I saved KOMBU, and I don’t want to throw this away, so

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I always save it for other use such as topping on TOFU or salad ,or as an accent of pickles.

Now we have DASHI stock for miso soup.

How about other ingredients for soup?

You can put anything you want!

Today I return to the basic, so I will use,,,

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WAKAME, seaweeds.

There is fresh WAKAME in Japan, but here we can not get it, so I use packed seaweeds.

There are two kinds of seaweeds here.

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I believe you could get this type of dried seaweeds in any grocery stores these days.

It is very easy and covenient to use.

Just put some in water, and wait for 5-10 minutes.

Then you could get hydrated seaweed in front.

Today I will introduce the other type of packed seaweeds, which is,,,,

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wet type.

It is called ENZO WAKAME, which literally means salted seaweeds.

As you can see,,,

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they are being preserved in salt.

I have to wash out these salt well before using, then,,,,,

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do water bath for about 10 minutes.

They absorb the water gradually and get hydrated.

After 10 minutes, it changes ,,,,,

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like seaweed you see in the sea!

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Smells like ocean!

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I really like the way they look!

Just one handful of dry seaweed becomes like,,,

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THIS!!

Don’t you think it is AMAZING?

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This gigantic seaweed has a thick string on top, so,,,,

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take it off!

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Now I can cut in a bite size.

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I put the knife in 2 inches.

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Like this.

Then WAKAME is ready for the soup.

Other than these WAKAME, I will add,,,,

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onion slices.

By the way, my husband’s favorite combination of miso soup ingredients is onion and potato, but I don’t like it, SO it seldom appears at my kitchen.  If you like potato, you would love onion and potato combination.

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When you put more than two kinds of ingredients, you want to add the one which needs more time to be cooked.

In this case, seaweed is edible as it is and also seaweed melts when it is cooked too much, so we want to add seaweed at the very end.

Now we can add MISO!

I have two kinds of miso at home now, and they are,,,,

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white miso (right) and red miso (left).

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White miso has milder flavor, so it is easy to use for anything from miso soup to dressing.

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On the other hand, red miso (which actually is brown) has relatively a strong  deep flavor of UMAMI, so it might overwhelm mild dishes, but is perfect for hearty soups, braises, and glazes.

Today I mix two of them.

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This is the tool for MISO I believe every household in Japan has.

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With this amount of white miso, I will add a little bit of,,,

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red miso.

You don’t want to boil the soup after you put miso because you lose its good flavor.

Dissolve miso gradually until it reaches adequate saltiness.

If you make good DASHI base, UMAMI enhances the flavor of soup, so you don’t need lots of saltiness.

That is one of the reason why you’d better make good DASHI!

Also as I told you, it is better to add WAKAME at the end.

Just warm the soup, trying not to boil.

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If you want,  you can add chopped green onions.

We don’t  use a spoon to enjoy miso soup.

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Eat the ingredients with chopsticks, and just drink directly from  a bowl!

My husband noticed I added a little bit of red miso today, and he loved it!

Here are some suggestion of ingredients for miso soup.

  • wakame (seaweed) and tofu
  • onion and potato (yellow)
  • napa
  • cabbage
  • daikon radish

My father likes putting oiled tuna! Also he likes put a little bit butter before drinking!

Use your imagination and try putting anything!

KA RA A GE !! (Japanese style fried chicken)

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I think FRIED CHICKEN is one of the national dishes in here.

Many people love it, and we Japanese also love American style fried chicken!

However Japanese don’t cook American style fried chicken at home.  We go to Kentucky Fried Chicken…

It might be because American style fried chicken doesn’t go well with white rice or we can’t find butter milk (which is sometimes necessary to make good fried chicken) in regular grocery stores in Japan.

I hope we could get buttermilk in Japan someday soon for not only chickens, but also for pancakes or muffins.

I love the flavor of buttermilk.

Anyway we don’t cook American style fried chickens at home, but instead we cook Japanese style fried chicken very often at home.

This is one of typical Japanese home cooking dishes and also it is very popular for OBENTO, lunch box.

We call Japanese style fried chicken as KA RA A GE.

My husband loves KA RA A GE very much.

He might jump with joy if he knew I am going to cook KA RA A GE for tonight’s dinner.

KA RA A GE, is so easy to make, and also they are bite sizes, so it is easy for us to bring them to the mouth by chopsticks.

They go well with white rice as well.

Today I would like to introduce how to make KA RA A GE!

Here are what you need for Ka Ra A Ge.

  • 3/4 lbs chicken thigh
  • 1 piece of ginger
  • 1-1 1/2 table spoons of sake
  • 1-1 1/2 table spoons of soy sauce
  • white flouer
  • potato starch (optional)
  • garlic powder (optional)

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Of course we need chicken thigh.

I usually purchase a family pack and freeze them in plastic bags in a small portion.

Recently I found a very good way to freeze meat without getting freeze burn thanks to America’s Test Kitchen!

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After portioning meats in a bag, you can submerge it in the water slowly with  the bag opening at the corner.

Try to push out all the air in a bag. Then,,,

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TA DA–!!

We don’t need to buy an expensive vacuum machine!

OK, return to the cooking.

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Dry the chicken with paper towel,and take fat if you want. ( I WANT!)

Next we marinate those chicken.

We usually use a mixture of sake and soy sauce for Ka Ra A GE, but today I use a secret weapon, one of traditional Japanese condiments, SHIO-KOJI.

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Shio-koji is KOJI  which is cooked rice that have been inoculated with a fermentation culture.

It is a live food that is rich in enzymes and brings out the UMAMIi in foods.

I am very glad that the word UMAMI is used often these days.

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We could use this SHIO KOJI in place of salt in any dishes or as an ingredient in sauces.

The saltiness is mild and sweet, and because of its enzymes, when you mix this with meats, meats get very tender.

This is one of my favorite Japanese condiments.

You might be able to find SHIO-KOJI in Asian grocery stores.

ME?   I ask my mom to send them…….

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After cutting chicken thigh in a bite size, I put 1 or 2 tea spoons of SHIO-KOJI.

You can add sake and soy sauce here.

Then,,,

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grate ginger.

Sorry for this old tool.

I got this when I got married……still it  works perfect for me!

You can use,,,

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zester.

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We could use entire grated ginger, but I would rather do ,,,,,

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like this.

Squeeze the grated ginger, and use only ,,,,

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its liquid for smooth texture.

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Now you have cut chicken, sake and soy sauce ( in my case SHIO-KOJI), and ginger liquid in a bowl.

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Rub gently, and

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put them in a plastic bag to keep in the fridge at least 3-4hours.

It can be overnight.

When you open the fridge in other reasons, if you could rub the chicken over the bag, it would be wonderful!

Well, the phone is ringing!

My husband called me as KAERU call (KAERU=I am coming back!), so it is frying time!

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You could use only flour, and if you like garlic flavor, add garlic powder in it.

I sometimes use only flour, sometimes use only potato starch.

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Today I do mix both of them.

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Here again, I use a small plastic bag to flour the chicken.

It is an easy way!

Before adding chicken in a bag, don’t forget to dry the chicken with paper towel!

Otherwise it gets soggy after frying.

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Coat the chicken evenly with flour and potato starch mixture, then fry!

Put canola oil in a pot and heat it at 340-350F.

Now put the chicken in oil.

Don’t overcrowd the pot with chicken.

Turn once and fry until they get golden brown.

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Ohhhhh, smell so well!

My husband came back, and before greeting TADAIMA ( I am home!), he screamed I SMELL YOU FRY SOMETHINIG!!

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Of course he enjoyed them very much! and he asked me if there were more left in the kitchen.

I hope you like Japanese style chicken fry!

For tonight’s dinner, I made ICHI JYU SAN SAI ( 一汁三菜 features soup, one main dish and two side dishes. Not counted but always served with rice).

ICHI JYU SAN SAI is very basic rule for preparing meals.

Today’s ICHI JYU is of course, miso soup!

Today’s SAN SAI are Ka Ra A Ge, HIYA YAKKO (TOFU) with kombu, and cucumber salad.

I will introduce what I made today next time!

MOTE con HUESILLO!

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How many Mother countries do you have?

I have three. Japan, here US, and CHILE!

I used to live in Chile for about two years. It had been more than 10 years since we left Chile, and I had been missing it a lot. THEN, we had a chance to return to Chile for the last winter vacation!

It was WONDERFUL!

I still remember the air when we arrived at Santiago and went out of the airport.

I screamed THIS IS CHILE’S SMELL!

I think each country has its own SMELL. When I smelled the air at the airport, all my memories refreshed.

Today I would like to introduce very tasty summer cold dessert (or drink) to you, remembering that feeling.

We had never tried it (actually we didn’t know about it) while we were living in Chile, but we had an opportunity to encounter this delicious drink during the last vacation.

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It is MOTE CON HUESILLO!

HUESILLO means dried peach, and MOTE means wheat berries.

It was summer in December in Chile, so this cold sweet drink was so satisfying for us.

I really liked it, so I purchased HUESILLO (dried peach) and came back.

I had been waiting for summer to come here.

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This is the book I brought from Chile and I wanted to follow this recipe, but there are some parts I don’t agree, so I changed a little bit.

Here is what you need for MOTE con HUESILLO.

  • 8 of huesillo (dried peach)
  • sugar
  • water
  • wheat berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick

So simple!

Now I will show you how to make.

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They are the huesillo I brought from Chile.

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They are 2 inches size and smell so good.

In a large bowl, put 1 liter of water and then,

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pour the sugar.

It depends on your favor, and I poured about 1/3 cup of sugar.

I don’t want it to be too too sweet.

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Then wash the peaches and put them in the water.

Also I put one cinnamon stick.

If I had oranges, I would have loved to put orange peel also.

Then you keep this mixture in the fridge overnight.

Next day,,,,,

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pour the mixture in a pot, and simmer about 30 minutes with a lid closed.

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The liquid part is done! 

Ummmmmm, smell so peachy!

Then cool this juice.

Meanwhile we need to prepare MOTE, wheat berries.

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Have you ever used wheat berries?

I love any kind of grains, but this was my first time to use.

I cooked it for 15 minutes in the water after washing it, then drain and wash with cold water.

Put it in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy MOTE con HUESILLO.

Now I am so ready to enjoy this!

Put the wheat berried in the bottom of the glass, then put the peach, and pour the juice!

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TA DA-!

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IT WAS SO DELICIOUS!

It is very good on a hot summer day!

I definitely repeat making this and enjoy this through this summer!

The question is CAN I GET DRIED PEACH HERE?

By the way, I really liked wheat berries, so I used for my husband’s lunch as well.

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I mixed with sautéed pork sausage, snap peas, mini tomatoes, strawberries, red onion, leaf lettuce, roasted pecan nuts.

In a day advance, I soaked dried cranberries in pomegranate vinegar.

I made dressing , using olive oil with the vinegar mixture, and mix with wheat berries.

I hope my husband enjoy this as well as he did MOTE CON HUESILLO!

VERSATILE FLAVOR! with any greens

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There are very essential condiments when we cook Japanese food.

Before talking about it,  I would like to talk about our language.

WHY? 

Because it is related with Japanese ingredients.

We Japanese use HIRAGANA instead of alphabet, and there are 51 characters in HIRAGANA.

In them, there are SA SHI SU SE SO, which all have “S” sounds plus vowels.

Using this S line in HIRAGANA, we often express our very important condiments.

SA   SATO (sugar)

SHI      SHIO (salt)

SU       SU (rice vinegar)

SE      SEUYU (SHOYU) (soy sauce  *in old time writing and speaking words were different in Japan, so we wrote SHOYU as SEUYU).

SO      MiSO (miso)

They are very basic and essential condiments for Japanese foods, and besides them if you have SAKE and MIRIN, I think you could cover many of Japanese dishes.

MIRIN is a type of SAKE, but it has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content.

Today I will introduce one of very easy dish, using SAKE, MIRIN, SHOYU (soy sauce), and SATO(sugar).

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The dish is at the corner of this OBENTO.

I used beets greens, but you could use,,,,

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DAIKON leaves (at the right corner of this OBENTO), radish leaves, and even kohlrabi  greens.

Here is the ingredients of this side dish.

  • about 3-4 cups of any greens     chopped
  • 2 Tbs of soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs of SAKE
  • 2 Tbs of MIRIN
  • 1 Tbs of sugar
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • dried red chili pepper (cayennne) (optional)
  • sesame oil or canola oil

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First chop the greens. Then if you have sesame oil, put a little bit of it in the heated pan.

If you don’t have it, you could use canola oil.

Then if you like spicy, you could add a little red chili peppers flakes in the oil.

Be careful not to get it burned. Then add chopped greens in the pan,saute it, and when it gets wilted, you can add other ingredients , Sake, Mirin, Sugar and soy sauce.

You want to add ingredients which have sweetness first because once you add salty stuff, it is hard for vegetables in the pan to absorb sweetness.

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At the end, you could add sesame seeds if you want. I sometimes add bonito flakes with sesame seeds.

That’s it!

I have never thrown away leaves of vegetables.  Sometimes I want to use them, so I buy Daikon or radish!

I hope you also would love to use the leaves, and love this dish!

Thai Green Curry with,,,,,

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I love Asian food.  Especially Thai food.

I think once you get to know this flavor,  you will have craving sensation later.

In my case, well,,,,,at least once a month.

Today I had to have Thai food!

My craving sensation had come.

It is so easy and quick to make Thai curry if you have a Thai curry paste in your pantry.

I have made curry paste before from scratch and it was more tasty and delicious, but I didn’t have time to run for Thai basil or other stuffs, so I reached to a small bottle of Thai paste in my pantry.

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Usually Thai green curry has thin sliced bamboo in it.

As I told you, I didn’t have time for shopping, so I didn’t have  a bamboo tin in my pantry.

However I have a good substitute.

Can you guess?

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ARTICHOKE!

I try to use often this unfamiliar vegetable (for me Japanese) whenever I have a chance since I found out they are very beneficial for prevention of liver problem, high blood pressure, and even cancer.

I put them in salad and pasta as many people do, but to be honest with you, I have never cooked raw artichokes.

Like GOBO ( in the previous article) to you, artichokes are scary  for me to cook, so I buy frozen or canned or marinated artichokes.

I have to cook them sometime soon, though.

Anyway I have an artichoke can in my pantry .

When I used it before, that smell and texture reminded me of something.

BAMBOO!

It might be because it had the same  smell which many canned vegetables have, but for me it was a BAMBOO smell!

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So I used them instead of bamboos.

It was,,,,,,

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DELICIOUS, and my husband was agree with my opinion.

Now I might be able to use artichokes for other dishes which require bamboos.

Maybe even for some traditional Japanese dishes.

It is interesting that if you don’t have any preconceptions, you could use anything for anything!

I was so surprised, shocked, and amazed to see the various Soba recipes in the magazines these days.

For me, O-SOBA ( I put O for respecting SOBA) is OSOBA with DASHI soup!!!

GOBO ( BURDOCK) and SESAME SAUCE

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Every country has its unique and special vegetables.  I had never seen artichoke, kohlrabi, and rutabagas when I was living in Japan.  Even after I lived here, they looked just not right for me .

I didn’t think I was going to use for my cooking.

Unfamiliar vegetables look scary, don’t you think?

However I love them now, and now I know exploring new vegetables or any foods is very exciting!

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Do you know the long beige color vegetables in front in this photo?

They are so familiar and loved in Japan. Just looking at this photo stimulates my taste buds!

Would you like to eat this root?

Probably NO.

I got these unfamiliar vegetables at the special event held by Japanese organization.

I think you could find them at some Asian grocery stores, but surprisingly I found them  at Whole Foods a few days ago!

They didn’t look like the ones I could get in Japan, though.

They were thinner and called BURDOCK.

Yes, they are BURDOCK, and we call them GOBO in Japanese.

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OK.

Those beige vegetables might not look attractive to you, but how about the ones with sesame in this photo.

Maybe not, but they look much better than the ones before cooked, right?

They look delicious at ;east for two people, me and my husband who enjoyed them in this day’s OBENTO.

GOBO has lots of fiver as you could imagine, so we can not eat as raw, but if we boil or saute well, we could use for anything even in salad!

It has lots of harshness, so you may want to put them in the water before cooking to remove it. When we do that,  put a little bit of vinegar.  That helps GOBO being white.

(Recent study shows we don’t need to do that because when we put them in the water, we also lose its antioxidant elements along with its harshness.)

I know you may not get interested in trying to cook GOBO, so I will introduce the sauce I used for GOBO today.

You could use this sauce for other vegetables or cooked chicken breast.

This sesame sauce is also typical flavor of Japan, so ,,,

I HAVE TO INTRODUCE TO YOU!

Let’s cooking!

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Here I have a traditional mortar.  I got this from an old lady I respect.

If you don’t have any kinds of mortars, you can do with grinders or mini food processors, but in that case you need to be careful with the timing you stop.

Here are the other ingredients you need.

(I used vinegar here because it goes well with GOBO, and also vinegar is good for keeping OBENTO fresh.

  • 4 tablespoons of white sesame or black sesame
  • 2-3 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of rice vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons of light soy sauce

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First we need to roast sesame to enhance its flavor.  You could use a small pan and roast it until the flavor comes out.

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Then grind!

Do not over grind!

Leave some sesame seeds as whole.

(if you use an electric grinder or a food processor, you have to pay attention to the timing!

Otherwise it gets paste!)

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Looking good!

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Then add other ingredients.

I used brown sugar.

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You could soak any vegetables in this sauce such as steamed spinach, boiled broccoli, boiled green beans, boiled carrots, fresh tomatoes, and ,,,,,anything!

If you don’t like sour taste,  you could just omit vinegar.

Just ground sesame, soy sauce and sugar changes any vegetables to a quick Japanese side dish!

It takes time for GOBO to absorb this sauce, so I boiled it in advance in Dashi  with sugar , vinegar, and light soy sauce.

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Do you want to try GOBO or at least this sauce?

Please do! 

I hope you would love it!

Or if you could come up with other ideas for GOBO like I did my unfamiliar vegetable, artichoke,,,,

please share your idea with me!

Obento in Summer

Hello everyone!

It is getting warmer and more humid here in Virginia.

I know this is summer, so I have to consider this heat when I prepare OBENTO.

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I was telling about UMEBOSHI, plum pickles, in the previous post.

I mentioned that it has an antibacterial effect, therefore we often use it for OBENTO in summer.

This is wisdom of the people in the old age, and it is proved today.

By the way I am always impressed with their wisdom and knowledge.

They figured out many useful tips from their experience, not from  experiments!

We now live in such a convenient world, so I don’t need to worry that much for food to get rotten.

I can just put meats and vegetables in the refrigerator.

I call my fridge as a treasure box.  It has everything I need and keeps it fresh and cool!

What an invent!

Of course, people at oldt time didn’t have refrigerators, so they had to use their knowledge from the experience.

Now we have to thank them here because without their wisdom, one of the Japanese food many people love these days might not have existed.

SUSHI!

Sushi is a very traditional Japanese food and it has 1000  years history.

It was made because of Japan’s humid situation.

By using vinegar in rice, they found they could keep rice fresh.

Thank you, old people!

To prepare OBENTO, even though we now have a cooler box, we still use these old people’s knowledge to keep food fresh.

Today I would like to introduce that knowledge besides UMEBOSHI and a little trick for the preparation of OBENTO.

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Do you know what this is?

This is a Japanese herb called SHISO (perilla).

This is my favorite Japanese herb.

Shiso is a mint family.  As mint leaves are thought to be antibacterial, Shiso is also thought to kill bacteria.

When you go to grocery stores in Japan and see Sashimi section,  you could find Shiso underneath Sashimi.

Shiso is not only so flavorful and delicious but also is good for keeping food antibacterial.

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These days some grocery stores here carry Japanese foods and vegetables and I am so happy with this trend.

However I have never seen SHISO even at farmer’s markets.

I wish everybody can enjoy this herb.

FARMERS PLEASE MAKE THEM !!!!

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SHISO has lots of small bags which have its flavor in the back, so you don’t want to ruin the back side of SHISO.

To make most out of its flavor, it is recommended to cut like this first (picture above), and then,

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roll it, and

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chop it.

Ohhhh, I wish I could send  this wonderful smell to you.

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On that day I used SHISO and UMEBOSHI paste inside the pork slices with SHISHITO (Japanese pepper).

SHISO and UMEBOSHI are  a good match, so if you have any chance to get both of them, try both together.

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Also any citrus is good for keeping OBENTO fresh.

They also help our appetite in humid summer.

I made Vietnamese style pork with lots of lime juices.

There are other things usuful for OBENTO.

Like Umeboshi, Shiso, and citrus groups, wasabi, ginger, and karashi (Japanese mustard ) have also effects of keeping OBNETO good.

I know many don’t have such things, but you could pack your lunch box with garlic, onion, allspice,parsley or oregano which have very strong antibacterial effects.

When you prepare OBENTO, it is also very important to cool down warm foods completely.

Bacteria love the warm temperature ( from 85F-100F, 98F is very dangerous temperature).

Another tip!

Also it is good way to kill bacteria to wipe a box with a little bit of vinegar before putting food in the container.

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Now my husband could enjoy this by mouth and by body!

Then I could get GOCHISOSAMA (it was delicious!) when he comes back home!