How to plate Japanese food

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This pork dish was really a hit.  I cooked two hours, and then I sautéed them with sweet sauce.  My husband loved it.  However something is wrong in this photo above.  Can you see it?

A few days ago I got e-mail from my Japanese male friend.  He was saying that he couldn’t stand seeing that photo.  He said,

Did you forget Japanese spirits?  Do you really like cooking?  You love cooking, but don’t mind a proper plating?

I could feel how upset he was.   We are good friends from university, so he didn’t mean he offended me.  He always teaches me things I don’t know.  I like it.

I was thinking for a while, looking at this photo.  He was mentioning something about plates.  He said it was opposite.  The plate is white, so there is no pattern or a figure.  How could it be opposite then?

 

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He meant I put pork opposite.

 

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taken at one of Japanese restaurants I have been 

As you can see in the photo above , we should put any slices (fish or meat or anything!) as HIDARI OMOTE, left side up to pick up easily with chopsticks (for right-handed).  We also traditionally believe HIDARI (left) is good.

 

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borrowed from MARUKOME.co.jp

For example, we plate a whole fish a head left. Especially for a festive occasion, we definitely have to put head left.

That is why my plating was wrong.  More over I could put garnish at wrong corner.  As for garnish, I had to put it on the right corner.

Japanese food is famous for beautiful plating, and it has a rule like cutlery setting in French.

For example, miso soup and rice should be set in front of the dishes, miso soup at the right and rice at the left.  This is very basic.

 

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Also we should plate foods by  odd numbers.   We think odds numbers are good (Yang-as in Yin/Yang).

Each food culture is so unique.  What is thought to be good for one culture can be unacceptable in other culture.  Think about slurping Ramen!

 

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There are still tons of rules for Japanese food, and I will write about them sometimes in future posts.

By the way the pork in the first photo and the photo above are so good, so I will write about them next!

I was so glad that I put pork and snap peas in odd numbers……

Good job, me!

Eternal Theme-how to cook easy-peeling eggs

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I often use a boiled egg for my husband’s OBENTO unintentionally.  When I have still some space in the box and don’t have anything I could put,  I reach  a carton box of eggs in the fridge and take one egg and boil it.  Last resort.

How to cook eggs perfectly for easy-peeling is often being asked in cooking magazines, and , like many people, I have tried various ways, seeking the BEST way.

Here is my way.   I put eggs in a pot with water, and start boiling it.  After it boils fully, I turn off the heat and put a lid on.  Wait 8-10 minutes.  Then save eggs from the water and put them in the cold water.   This is the way I decided to do ten years ago.

When I went back to Japan last year, I found an interesting tool in the grocery store.

 

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The product name is TSU RU RI N, which is the sound we use when something is slippery or smooth.  For example, you could use it  for the slippery floor or  you could use it for beautiful smooth skin. Oh, that makes me remind that we express a beautiful skin as egg-like-skin!  Do you have the same expression here?

Returning to the topic, how to peel eggs perfect is still my forever theme, even though I have my  way.  So I purchased this product.

 

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This is a simple tool.  It has a hidden sting underneath.  I put an egg on this product and push it under.

 

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Then the sting makes a tiny hole on the egg-shell.  That tiny hole helps making space between shell and inner membrane.  If you are interested in this product, go and get  it in Japan.  Kidding.  You don’t need to go to Japan.  Just simply use a pin.

 

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It works well, but sometimes it fails. Very close, but Still not perfect for me.

Then I decided to do a new method.  I am not going to boil eggs this time.  I will steam them!

 

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I used to cook white rice in Le Creuset, but recently I got a new pot, DONABE.   Donabe is a story type of clay cookware from Japan.  This pot has a long history, but recently people rediscover its wonderful utility.  One  day  my lovely friends gave me  a recipe book of Donabe witten by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton.  That book fascinated me a lot!  I just enjoyed seeing all the beautiful photos and interesting recipes!  I thought Donabe is only for a hot-pot, but NOT!  As soon as I found out various usage of  Donabe, I asked my husband to get one for me.  Since he could get benefits from that, he gladly ordered it for me!  Now I switched from Le Cruiset to DONABE for rice cooking.

 

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This pot has an inner lid for keeping contents from boiling over and providing extra heat retention.    On the inner lid, we could put eggs just taken from fridge.

 

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Make sure not cover the holes of the lid.  Then just cook rice.  As rice is being cooked, eggs are also being cooked.

 

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Smell so good!

It cooks rice always perfect!

How about the EGGS?

I thought they might have some cracks on the shell, but they didn’t.  Right after steaming time for the rice, I saved the eggs and put them in  cold water.  After a while, I peeled them.

TSU RU RI N!!!!

This is the best TSU RU RI N!

The egg was hard-boiled(hard-steamed?), but it was so easy to peel.  This can end my challenge to seek the best way to cook eggs.

 

Then a few days later,,,,

 

 

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Oops,,,I did it again.

I reached the carton box again.  However I didn’t put an egg in the water.  I put the egg on the inner lid.

My husband must enjoy this perfect steamed-egg.

 

 

Final Episode of EHOMAKI!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

I know this coming Sunday is  St.Valentine’s Day, and I should write about chocolates,cookies, and bonbons, but we are still in,,,,,,

 

 

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SETSUBUN!

If you come to my blog for the first time, please check the last two articles.

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Yes, we are preparing those things for this final episode of EHOMAKI!

Finally we ROLL IT !

OK, let’s roll them!

So sorry to say this,   BUT we still have one more very important thing we need to prepare.

WE NEED RICE!

I already write how to cook white rice here,  but there are some different procedures, so I will show that again.

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Here I have 3 cups of rice, washed and rinsed well like we did for white rice.  Then drain them and leave them in a colander for 30 minutes.

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Differently from just white rice, I have KOMBU here.  You may notice that , I have two balls which I put every time I cook whatever rice.  They are potteries and they distribute the heat well. Of course you don’t need to have them.

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Kombu has white stuff on the surface, but you don’t need to worry.  This is not mold. This is mannitol, which is one of  umami, a sweet agent in kombu, so please don’t wipe it off.  Just rub gently to take dirt ( if it has) with paper towel, and it is ready to go.

Place two pottery balls in the rice, and pour water.  This rice will have vinegar later, so we need to cook somewhat a little dry.  Here I use 3 cup of rice, and we need  10% more water of rice amount.  In my case, I use a 200ml cup ,so for my rice, I need 660ml of water.

After pouring the water, put kombu in it, and  leave it for 30minutes for rice to absorb the water slowly.

Now we need to prepare sushi vinegar.

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Recently many grocery stores carry sushi vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar.  It is totally fine to use it, but sometimes it may contain corn syrup, so you might want to check the ingredients.  It should be rice vinegar, salt and sugarHow simple is that?

For one cup (200ml) of  rice, we need 20-25ml of vinegar, 4-5g of sugar, and 2.5g of salt.

I use 3cups of rice, so I need 60ml-75ml of vinegar, 12-15g of sugar, and 7.5 g of salt.

Most of the stuffing of my EHOMAKI has already cooked with sugar, so this ratio is not that sweet.  If you like sweet rice, you could increase the amount of sugar.

In a small sauce pan, put them all and heat it until salt and sugar dissolve.  Please don’t boil it!  The flavor of vinegar will be gone!

While you cook rice, prepare the large bowl and a fan.

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This is SUSHI OKE, a sushi rice container made of wood.  This absorbs unnecessary water, but at the same time leaves rice moist.  FANTASTIC!

My mom send this to me a while ago, and this is my first time to use.  Until then, I was using glass bowl (non reactive bowl), so it is totally fine for you to use a regular bowl, but you need a large one.

 

OK, rice is cooked!   Take kombu out, and fluff the rice with a large spoon lightly.  Then ,

 

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transfer the rice to a large bowl, in my case into sushi oke.

 

 

Now you have cooked rice and sushi vinegar in front.

READY?

 

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The reason I told you to prepare a large bowl and a FAN is because,,,,

 

 

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we need to make wind while mixing rice with sushi vinegar!

WHY?

One of the reasons is because rice shines when it cools down with sugar quickly.  The other reason is that we want rice to absorb vinegar, that is why as soon as rice is cooked, we put vinegar.  However at the same time, we don’t want rice to too wet , so we need to cool and dry rice to prevent too much absorption.

Don’t you think this work needs more than one two hands?

YES!

I called my husband to make wind!  I was lucky.

When I was a kid, I was always asked to do that by my grandma.  That is a sweet memory…

 

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You could adjust the amount of sushi vinegar.  After mixing some, taste it, and you can stop whenever you want.

Now we have sushi rice ready.

Finally we can roll!

Before roll sushi rice, please prepare 1:1 ratio of water and rice vinegar mixture for wetting hands.  Otherwise the rice stick to your hands.

 

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We have sushi rice, vinegar and water mixture, a bamboo mat, and seaweed!

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Everything is ready!

 

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Place a sheet of seaweed (nori) on a mat, short side in front.

By the way, do you know there is two sides for nori?  The smooth side is supposed to be seen, so in this case, the rough side is up, the rice side.

 

Then,,

 

 

wet your hands with the vinegar mixture, and grab rice and place it on the seaweed.

300g of sushi rice would be good for one big roll.

We will put ingredients in the middle of the rice, so we need to make an indentation in the middle.  The thickest part is the front and then the back, and the middle.

Don’t put rice at the far edge of the seaweed.  Leave about 1 inch.

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Now place the ingredients in the middle.  If some stuffing is shorter than the length, like egg here, adjust the length, adding some.

Like rolling cakes, rolling sushi makes me excited and also nervous.

I have to do it at once!

 

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GO! GO! GO!

ROLL IT!  ROLL IT! ROLL IT!!

You have to roll tight, but don’t squash the rice.

Try to the end of the mat into the roll and make shape for finishing.

 

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Finish!

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You can serve as it is, but for it to be looked neat, let’s cut the edges.

 

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Wet the paper towel with the left over the vinegar and water mixture, and apply it to the knife.

 

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Now we can eat!

As I mentioned in the previous article, when you eat this, you have to face this year’s lucky direction.  This year South Southeast!

Ohhhhh, I wish I could show you my husband’ eating this.

I don’t know why, but he stood up and held the sushi in both hands,and finished it!

He will be healthy all year long!

 

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Would you like to be healthy and  get luck, eating EHOMAKI?

 

EHOMAKI PART 1 -tamago yaki-

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February the 3rd is SETSUBUN, a very traditional Japanese event.

SETSUBUN literally means ”division of seasons“.  It is used to mark the end of winter according to the old lunar calendar, which we don’t use any more.

However, the most of our seasonal events follow the lunar calendar, and we keep SETSUBUN as well.

On this day, we throw soy beans from inside of our houses to the outside, saying ONI HA SOTO, FUKU HA UCHI, evil out and happiness in.  Usually ogres are the symbol of evil, so one of family members has to play this role, putting a mask of an ogre on the face, and be a target of throwing beans.  Of course, usually fathers do this role. No question.

We throw beans at night.  On the same night for the dinner, we have EHOMAKI, a big and long sushi roll.   We shouldn’t cut the roll.  While eating, we wish for our health and happiness, and should eat it at once without breath.  We hold this sushi by both hands, and  eat it as if it is a burrito.

When we eat this roll, we have to face toward the year’s lucky direction.  This year the direction was South-southeast.

 

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Eating a long sushi roll on SETSUBUN has been a KANSAI (west side of Japan) area’s long tradition, but  Seven-Eleven had started this as sales promotion in 90s, then it spread quickly because Japan is a small country!

That’s why I didn’t have EHOMAKI when I was a kid.  I lived in Tokyo.  The first time I had EHOMAKI was when I was here in the US!

Now because I am away from my home country, I am trying to be a JAPANESE harder, so I have to make EHOMAKI like many Japanese people do!

 

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I would like to show how to make EHOMAKI, but before that, I would write about TAMAGO YAKI, one of the ingredients of EHOMAKI.

 

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TAMAGO YAKI is not only the stuffing for sushi roll, but this could be a dish!

We eat TAMAGO YAKI for breakfast, put it in obento, and also many IZAKAYA style restaurants offer this as appetizer.

TAMAGO YAKI is very simple and very Japanese, and everyone loves it.

Each house has its flavor, a little sweet or a little salty.

My mom makes it a little salty, so I like that way, but we could change depending on situation.

Here is how to cook TAMAGO YAKI.

Ingredients are 3 eggs, shirodashi (you could use salt instead), and oilThat’s it!

However we need special equipments.  Makisu, bamboo mat, and a special pan for TAMAGO YAKI.

 

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You could use a regular pan, but there is a pan only for TAMAGO YAKI in Japan.

I believe every mother has one in her kitchen.

My mom sent this pan for me 10 years ago, and this is not the popular style.

This is an easy TAMAGO YAKI maker, and it curves for us to roll eggs easily from one side to the other.

You have no idea what I am talking about, so I will show you.

 

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By the way, when you cook eggs, do you take the chalaza off?

In Japan, I think many people take this, and I had been seeing my mom always taking that, so I thought it was so crucial.  When I took a biology class here in the US, I learned this is not harmful at all.

I get accustomed to not taking this, but when I want eggs to finish smooth, I take it off.

Then beat the eggs.  I heard that when you make omelet, we need to beat at least 80times with a fork.  I do that for omelet.

 

You can use salt for eggs, but I used shirodashi because it has UMAMI flavor along with saltiness.

Add a just half teaspoon of shirodashi or salt.

Heat a tamago yaki pan or a regular small sized pan well with a little oil, pour about 1/4 of beaten egg to the pan, then immediately distribute it evenly.

When the most of the surface looks cooked,

 

roll the egg towards the other side with a spatula.  Roll it until it hit the other end.

 

If necessary, wipe the pan with a paper towel with a little oil again, then pour another 1/4 of egg to the pan.

Here is a key. Try to pour the egg under the cooked part.  That way it attaches the cooked part.

Then like the first roll, distribute the egg evenly, and when it looks cooked, roll it towards the other side, in my case, towards the right.

 

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Then repeat the same  another one or two time.

If you prefer sweet TAMAGO YAKI using some sweet agent, it easily gets burned, so do quickly.

 

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This is going to be my 4th time roll.

When you finish rolling, put the cooked egg onto a bamboo mat.

 

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Here the egg is a kind of cylindrical shape.   You can eat as it is, just cutting into several pieces horizontally.

I want this egg to be in my long sushi roll, so I want to cut it vertically.

For that, I want it to have angles.

That’s why I need this bamboo mat!

When you make sushi rolls with this mat, this helps sushi to be round, but also this could help egg to be angular.

 

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While the egg is still warm, make angles with this mat and leave it.

 

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That’s it!

When it gets cool, I cut this vertically into 6 pieces.

 

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I like the smell of TAMAGO YAKI.

 

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You could put this in obento like this.

 

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Did you get how to make TAMAGO YAKI  now?

Now I could move on to the main topic, EHOMAKI!

That will be in my next article!

I am so tempted to eat this TAMAGO YAKI, though……

 

 

how to make KAKIAGE (Tempura)

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What do you think is the most known Japanese word?

SAYO(U)NARA, ARIGATO(U), FUTON, SUSHI, RAMEN, SOBA, TOFU,,,and,,,

 

TEMPURA!!!

 

Today I would like to show how to make tempura.

To be honest with you, I didn’t cook tempura often in Japan because we have tempura specialty restaurants.

 

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Like sushi, frying tempura needs lots of experience and technique.

 

 

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We make chirashi zushi (sushi) at home, but we don’t make regular sushi since we know we couldn’t do well like sushi chefs.

 

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Chirashi zushi is sushi rice in a bowl mixed with lots of ingredients, most of which are vegetables.

I made sushi rice, using black rice this time.  Black rice reacts with vinegar and turns to be pink, so I wanted to make this pink rice in spring, thinking of cherry blossoms in my country.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!!

I think chirashi sushi is like,,,

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this, isn’t it?

Yes, this is also called chirashi sushi.

I should probably write more about sushi in near future.

Today’s topic is TEMPURA!! (REMEMBER??!!)

The reason I wanted to make tempura today was because I had a bottle of frozen water, which was forgotten in the freezing car.

We need ice cold water to make good tempura.

The reason is because we don’t want batter of tempura to be gooey with gluten.  The higher the temperature is, the more gluten is produced.  Using ice water, we can make minimize the production of gluten.  It might be much better to chill flour until we use.

So,

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when I found this poor bottle, I said, OK, I could use that!

 

I decided to make tempura soba, which is a hot noodle soup with tempura.

That is also one of the popular soba dishes in Japan.

Today I focus only on tempura. (Please remind me!  I often go to the other direction!)

Among a variety of tempura, I would like to make kakiage style, which is a mixture of vegetables and other ingredients fried in batter.

I wish I had shrimp, but I didn’t, so I went vegetarian.

Here are the ingredients for today’s kakiage.

 

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  • 1 small carrot
  • about 1/4 of medium size onion
  • flour
  • ice water
  • egg
  • canola oil
  • hijiki (optional)
  • ao nori (optional)

You could use regular onion here.  The reason I used purple onion today was because it was too pungent!!  I tried several methods to get rid of this pungency, but I failed, so I decided to use this onion not for eating raw but for cooking.  The heating process changes the pungency to sweetness.

By the way, do you know what the green bottle is in the picture right?

That is AONORI, green laver.

Aonori has strong flavor, so I often use this when I want to add some punch to dishes.

I would like to put aonori in the batter.

For vegetables, you also use corn, bamboo shoot, snap peas, asparagus, green beans and even carrots leaves!

I also add some seaweed called hijiki with vegetables.  That is one of my favorite food.  I put this in my salad almost every day!

It is sold dry, so we need to hydrate this before using.

Once you prepare the vegetables, start heating the oil, and let’s move on to the batter.

 

As I mentioned above, the water  has to be very cold to make tempura crisp.

For the batter, water and flour is 1:1 ratio.

I only make 4 small kakiage this time, so I only use 1/4 cup of water and the same amount of flour.

When you mix them together, use chopsticks to avoid over-mixing.

Open chopsticks wide, and mix roughly.  Some flour has to be remained.

Remember?  We don’t want to produce gluten here.

 

I should have added aonori before mixing with water, but it is fine.

Add aonori if you have ,and now you put this batter into the vegetables.

 

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Before adding, coat 1/4 egg with the vegetables , and then add just a little bit of flour to cover them.

This makes vegetables stick together and makes frying easier.

(I used egg white in the bottle.)

Then add some of the batter into vegetables.

Heat the oil until it gets 340F.

 

 

It might be easier using the shallow pan, that way you could slide the vegetables from the side.

Spoon some vegetables  and slide it into the oil.

Don’t overcrowd the pan!

Otherwise they get soggy.

 

The tempura chef often say “don’t look!  Listen the sound!”.

You may be able to recognize the change of the sound.

The sound gets high and short when they are ready.

 

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Do they look delicious to you?

Usually we eat this with dipping sauce, but this time I will put this into soba noodle soup, so I didn’t make dipping sauce.

If you want to eat this as it is and you don’t have dipping sauce, you can try this like I did.

 

 

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Can you guess what the green powder is?

 

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This is Matcha Salt!

I just mix matcha powder and salt.  This is very simple but very good.

We decided to eat some with mathca salt, and some in the soba noodle in the soup.

 

 

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What do you think?

You might want to add some shichimi (Japanese seven spices) like we do.

 

Would you like to try to make tempura at home?

 

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It is simple and easy.  Just experience.

 

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!

ONIGIRI

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I showed how to cook white rice in the previous post, and now I have rice in front of me, so I could make rice balls for my husband’s lunch!

A rice ball is called ONIGIRI in Japanese and it is very typical lunch or picnic foods like sandwiches in here.

I enjoy preparing any lunch for my husband, but I specially like making ONIGIRI because I feel like I put all my heart and spirit to this tiny ball when I am rolling rice in my both hands.

ONIGIRi is very easy and simple to make, but like cooking rice, there are some points to make good ONIGIRI.

Today I will show you how to make them.

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You could make just simple ONIGIRI with no stuff in it, but usually people put something in it.

Basically you could put anything you like, but the popular stuffing for ONIGIRI are bonito flakes, tuna, baked salmon, baked cod roe, or even Tempura and Karaage (Japanese style fried chicken) and SPAM!

Today I will put UMEBOSHI (pickled plum) which is also one of the popular stuffing for ONIGIRI.

I think most of the families in Japan have UMEBOSHI in the fridge all the time.

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This is UMEBOSHI.

UMEBOSHI is thought to have the effect of killing bacteria, so during the humid summer in Japan it often shows up in lunch box.

When we make ONIGIRI, we used to use bare hands, but these days we use plastic wrap for not spreading bacteria from hands.

BUT!! 

I don’t like using plastic wrap because I can’t feel I am making it. So,,,,,

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I use rice vinegar instead of just tap water.

YES, we need to wet our hands before making ONIGIRI.

For that water, we could put just a few drops of vinegar.

That wouldn’t change the flavor of ONIGIRI.

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Also we need to set salt in front.

There are special salt only for ONIGIRI in Japan, but you could any kinds of salt.

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Now you have cooked rice, some stuffs for ONIGIRI, vinegar water and salt.

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I mix UMEBOSHI and BONITO flakes together.

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When UMEBOSHI is too sour, I put a little bit MIRIN, honey or sugar, but this huge UMEBOSHI is not that sour, so I only add bonito flakes.

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Just a little bit of salt, ,,,

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put that salt on the wet hand,,,,

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YES, just a little bit.

Then rub your palms together to spread the salt evenly.

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Put the half of prepared rice on the palm, then make a small indentation in the middle of rice.

(Rice has to be a little warm.  Once rice gets cold, it is not easy to manipulate)

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Put UMEBOSHI mixture or other stuff in the middle of the rice, and

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cover with  remained rice, then,,,

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Now we need RHYTHM!

I am a right-handed person, so a base hand would be a left hand.

I use my right hand for shaping ONIGIRI to be triangle.

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Once you make triangle shape with both hands, then you have to roll ONIGIRI to make another top angle to be sharpen. Don’t grab rice hard!  Otherwise rice gets sticky.

We have to remain air between the grains of rice.

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Roll ONIGIRI in hands like dancing!

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I usually don’t look to my hands.

I look straight and just thinking about my husband (who is beside me this time for photograph)

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Quickly roll ONIGIRI.  Once it gets a triangle, it is done!

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TA DA – !

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Now if you have NORI (seaweed), it is better.

Nori is familiar for you these days thanks to Sushi culture here, but some of you may have not used it before.

You could find Nori in the Asian section of any grocery stores today.

This black seaweed sheet has a front and a back.

The smooth surface side is a front and the rough surface is a back.

When we wrap something with Nori, we have to use the rough side to come inside and always the smooth side is outside to see.

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So, on the rough side, I put ONIGIRI in the middle of Nori.

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Then just fold it.

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Nori’s flavor enhances when it attaches with ONIGIRI.

Ohhh,,, Now I want to eat this , not giving this to my husband.

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After it gets cold, we could wrap with plastic or aluminium foil.

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There sells various wrapping bags in Japan.

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We could make those kinds of Onigiri like Seven Eleven’s at home!

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When I go back to Japan and stay at my parent’s home, the last request to my mom during the stay is always to make ONIGIRI for me to have them in a train to the airport.

Also one or two more extra Onigiri for me to enjoy in the plane and for my husband to be able to enjoy in the US!

Making Onigiri is very simple step as you see, but every Onigiri tastes different depending on a person who makes.

The pressure the person gives to rice, the quantity of salt,,,,

My husband loves my Onigiri, but for me the best Onigiri is my mom’s.

I could never reach to my mom……

how to cook White Rice (GOHAN)

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For us Japanese, RICE is very important.

Most of Japanese eat white rice at least once a day, and some people eat it in every meal.

We eat rice even with a hamburg steak not in a rice bowl, but on a flat plate.

When I was in Japan, I have never thought it is strange, but now I think it is a little strange.

Rice is our main staple, so  there are vairious kinds of (really) good rice cookers.

I believe 90% of Japanese family own them and use them every day.

ME?

No.

I used to have one, but I donated it to some organization about 10 years ago because I found out there was a better way for cooking rice.

What is that?

That is to cook in Le Creuset (or any cast  iron pots)!

It is difficult to get the same quality of rice here as Japan has, and to make most out of rice here, Le Creuset does a really good job.

Also it takes less time than cookers need.

Today I will show how I cook white rice in Le Crerset.

You might think just cooking rice is EASY task.

Yes, it is a simple and easy task, but there are some important points we need to pay attention to.

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I  cook white short grain rice whenever I prepare Japanese dishes.

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It has more moisture and sweetness than regular rice.

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Rice could absorb water very quickly in the first 30 seconds.

Not to let rice absorb remained rice bran, the very first rinse must be done very quickly.

Also we had better use distilled water for the first rinse.  That makes a big difference.

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Once adding the distilled water,,,,,,,

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using the hand, swirl the rice gently but quickly. (sorry repeating the word “quickly”, BUT it has to be QUICK!!)

Then, get rid of the first rinse water immediately.

For the next few rinses, you could use regular tap water.

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After the first rinse, using the palm of the hand, polish the rice without any force. (rice would be broken if you apply strong force.)

Then pour the tap water again, and polish rice  about 5~10times.

If you don’t see any milky colored water any more, the rice is ready.

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Rice is ready, but we have to wait at least 30 minutes for it to dry out.

Be patient!

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After 30 minutes, rice gets very dry, and

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when you drop it, it falls easily from the palm with dry sound.

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Put the rice in a pot, but we need to be patient one more time!

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Put the distilled water or bottled water (about 10 % more amount of rice ) and we have to wait at least another 30 minutes.

Traditionally Japanese have rice for the breakfast, so it can be done the night before and you can soak it in the water over night in the kitchen.

Then we could finally cook rice, and here is my new weapon which makes rice more delicious.

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THEM!

Can you guess what they are?

They are the character of one old tale “MOMOTARO”.

They are made of one type of pottery, BIZEN.

BIzen pottery is made in the Okayama prefecture which is located the west part of Japan.

Recently they found Bizen pottery has some specific power.

One of them is that it makes rice fluffy and soft when cooked with this Bezen balls by its infrared effect.

Here is the link about some interesting other powers it has.

http://www.japanese-bizen-ware.com/about/about2/

So,,,

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I always put those cute balls in rice.

Finally we could cook rice!!!

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For the first 6-7 minutes, use a medium to large flame.

After 6 minutes, open the lid just a little bit QUICKLY not steamed air to escape, and if it is boiling, that is the sign of that you could turn down to a small flame and keep cooking for another 12-13 minutes.

After 12-13 minutes, turn off the flame, and wait for 10 minutes, with lid closed.

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Now we could open the lid!

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I have to save those cute guys first!

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GOOD SMELL!!

Now we stir the rice not to break it. If you think it is dry, return the lid on the pot.

It will keep steaming. If you think it is wet, just leave the rice without the lid.

Like this, you could adjust the texture of rice even after cooking.

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This works every time.

This method works even any other kinds of rice.

You might think it is a little complicated, but it is not.

Once you learn, there is no other simple way and delicious way for cooking rice! Now I have to think what I want to cook besides this rice for tonight’s dinner,,,,,,