O NASU and SHIO KOJI ( Eggplants cooked with shio koji)

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When I go to the grocery store, there are certain vegetables  I always purchase.

Lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, broccoli, peppers and sometimes mushrooms and green beans.

I always see big eggplants sitting next to zucchini, but I seldom reach them.


Because they are too big!

I think they are really good in lagsania or eggplant parmesan, but when I think about Japanese dishes, I only come up with one dish, BEINASU no DENGAKU.

We call big eggplants  as BEINASU, literally means “American eggplants”.

This dish is “cooked eggplants with sweat miso sauce”.  It is delicious!

Maybe I would introduce that someday!

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Today I will introduce a dish using Japanese eggplants.

When I go to the farmer’s market, I sometimes find them, but it is difficult to find at regular grocery stores.

Japanese eggplants are relatively small like Italian eggplants, but the shape is thinner than Italian’s.

Japanese eggplants have thin skin, so you don’t need to take off peel.

The eggplants I got this time are from Suzuki Farm, and they are gifts with purchase.

When you purchase value pack at Suzuki Farm, you could get OMAKE (small giveaway)!

How nice!

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They have some scars, but they are as delicious as the regular ones.

By the way, I read an article about ugly produce.

The farmers used to compost them to landfill since  they don’t look perfect and not qualified as grocery stores’ produce even though they are as delicious as the regular ones.

Some farmers started donating those ugly vegetables, or selling to the restaurants where chefs don’t care what they look because they eventually turn into soup or mashes vegetables.

I am glad to know that they are saved!

Today I would like to save this a little ugly but  delicious vegetables in Japanese style.

I found this recipe in a Japanese magazine, and modified a little.

Here are the ingredients.

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  • 2-3 medium size of Japanese eggplants
  • bonito flakes
  • 2 tablespoons of shio koji
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • sesame oil

Let’s preparing!

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Cut eggplants in half in lengthwise.


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give slits diagonally, but not cut through.

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Eggplants have some strong AKU (harshness), so once you cut them, they get easily darken and they give dish bitter taste, so put them in water for about a few minutes to get rid of AKU.

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Then save them from water, and towel dry them.

Next prepare the condiments we use.

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I have already introduced SHIO KOJI several times.

They are salt with fermenting koji mold, and they have lots of UMAMI.

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It smells sweet and also it has a SAKE flavor.

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Also we need bonito flakes to get more UMAMI into the dish.

Let’s start cooking!

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Heat the pan and put generous amount of sesame oil.

As you know, eggplants absorbs oil well, so don’t hesitate ( forget about calories!).

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Put eggplants.

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Then flip over and cook both sides well.

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Meanwhile mix shio koji  and mirin with water.

Then, when eggplants are cooked,

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pour the shio koji mixture and,,,,,

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bonito flakes into the pan.

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Then cook this for a few minutes.


How simple is that!

Take this from heat and cool it down.

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Put them in a container, and keep it in the refrigerator.

They are delicious in cold.

When you serve this, grate ginger, and put it on top of eggplants.

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Eggplants and ginger are a good match.

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Just grilling eggplants with soy sauce and grated ginger is also a delicious dish!

Next time when I go to the grocery store, let’s reach BEINASU (American eggplants) and cook in Japanese way.

SATOIMO no NIMONO ( how to cook taro)


Japanese people love O IMO.

We collectively call starchy root vegetables such as regular potatoes, sweet potatoes (not like the one here, ours are purple outside and golden inside), yam (yamaimo), and taro(satoimo) as IMO.


Other than regular potatoes, it is difficult to get here, but fortunately thanks to the Suzuki farm, I could get satoimo, which is one of my husband favorite vegetables.

What should I cook with them, then?

Japanese like simple dish, taking advantage of vegetables’ freshness and flavors.

My husband and I also like simple dishes.


Let’s make SATOIMO no NIMONO, the very basic Japanese dish!

It is SATOIMO version of KABOCHA no NIMONO.

Here are the ingredients.


  • 6-7 of medium size of satoimo (taro)
  • 1.5 cup of dashi
  • 1.5 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce


By the way, what beautiful satoimo!

Usually they are covered with dirt, but this time I didn’t need to wash them vigorously with vegetable brush.

Let’s start cooking!


Peel the skin thick.

Be careful!  They are very slippery!


Cut into bite sizes.



cook them for about 2-3 minutes in the boiling water to take their sliminess.


Drain the water, and then wash them well.  (you can do this under the running water. )


Drain, and we need to prepare dashi stock.


I have a secret weapon.

This is dashi pack, and there are 30 packs which has bonito flakes and dried powdered sardine.

I know you don’t have this, so you can use instant dashi you could get at any Asian grocery store.

If you use instant dashi, prepare 1.5 cup.

When we cook potatoes, we always need to cook them from the water, so,,,,


I put one pack in the water, and then,,,


heat with prepared satoimo until it boils, and cook them for 3-4 minutes under medium flame.


After 3-4 minutes, put sugar.

Remember!  Always sweet agent goes first.

Then add salt.

I added ,,,,


shiro dashi (concentrate dashi stock with saltiness) instead of salt to enhance dashi flavor.


Cook them with lid ,or  you can put  UCHIBUTA (literally inside lid.  You could cut parchment paper into circle, and poke it several spots, and then you could put it directly onto the satoimo.).

The UCHIBUTA method is traditional way, but since my pan does a great job, I didn’t do UCHIBUTA.

Cook 7-8 minutes.


Then add mirin and


soy sauce and ,,


cook extra 7-8 minutes until the satoimo absorb most of the soup.


Not yet.


Almost there!



They are waiting for my  husband to enjoy.


They soaked up all dashi flavor, so they are good in OBENTO  like KABOCHA no NIMONO!

As soon as my husband came back home from work, he peeked the table and found SATOIMO on NIMONO, and,,,


He danced!



There are lovely places all over the world.

I love traveling, and in every travel, I encountered a beautiful scenery.

I got impressed with the Great Wall in China, Airs Rock in Australia, the Iguazu Fall in Argentina, Paine National Park in Chile, and so on, so on….


Even here inside the US, there are tons of wonderful places, and I had a great time exploring Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Monument Valley, the wildness of Alaska, the Niagara fall, and so on , and so on,,,,,

Here I have to mention there is another exciting place in a sense.



MITSUWA, Japanese grocery store, in New Jersey!

This store is  a little far from where I live, so I only have a few chances in a year to explore there.

That’s why every time I go there, I couldn’t help being so excited.

They have EVERYTHING I miss here, and if there were MITSUWA in my neighborhood, I might not miss Japan that much.

Well, luckily, I had a chance to go there on the way back from the vacation in Vermont, and of course, I threw many things into my shopping cart including GOYA.

Goya might have been a new thing for you, but how about this?

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I know you can’t see it.

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This is YAMAIMO, and specifically this is one kind of YAMAIMO, called NAGAIMO.

IMO means potatoes in Japanese.

YAMAIMO is a type of yam  that we could eat  as raw unlike the other potatoes.

The best part is using YAMAIMO for cooking is not only they are delicious, but also it doesn’t take much time for preparation!

We could just julienne or grate it, and we have a delicious dish in front!

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Since YAMAIMO itself is very mild and somehow bland flavor,  it goes well with any salad.

We could mix julienned YAMAIMO with UME (Japanese plum pickles) or soy sauce or sesame oil dressing!


Today I will introduce one of the popular way of eating YAMAIMO.

We call that TORORO.

Tororo is the grated YAMAIMO.

We could put this TORORO onto soba noodles or rice.

I will show it how.

Let’s cooking!

Here are the ingredients.

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  • 4 inches of YAMAIMO
  • 1 cup of relatively thick miso soup  (how to make miso soup is here)

The tools you need is ,,,

  • grater
  • mortar with pestle

When you prepare misosoup, add a little more of miso than usual.

(The way how to cook miso soup is here.  You don’t need to add any vegetables in this case.)

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This is a quite simple dish.

First wash YAMAIMO well with running water, and peel the skin.

Be careful!

It is really slimy!!!

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Now we have peeled YAMAIMO here.

Then we grate this,,,

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into the mortar.

The key is the air.

The more air we add, the softer and fluffier TORORO would be, so if you have very fine mesh grater, it would be wonderful.

Mine is not that fine, so I need to work more in the next step.

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After finishing grating YAMAIMO, add thick miso soup little by little.

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Make sure they blend well.

Work hard trying to add air.

You could use a whisker here.

I should have done that,,,,,

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OK, then how much miso soup do we need to add?

It really depends on you.

If you like strong flavor of miso, add a lot.

However in that case, you need to prepare really thick miso soup, otherwise TORORO truned out to be very soupy.


This is easy, but I know this is so delicious!

My husband would get surprised to see this very JAPANESE dish on today’s dinner table!

(He wasn’t with me when I threw YAMAIMO into my shopping cart!)

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I would be satisfied only with this TORORO and rice as dinner!!

He screamed and enjoyed it!

It is very easy for me to satisfy him if I have Japanese vegetables.

That is why MITSUWA grocery store is a wonderful place, but I know more wonderful place.



I know MITUWA help me not missing Japan, but,,,


I need to go back again for this!!!!

Goya Chanpuru ( pork with bitter melon)


I  purchased Kohlrabi this summer. It was my first time.

I encountered this alien like vegetables at the local farmer’s market.

They looked so new and strange to me, but looked so good for the health because of the purple color.

I reached my arm towards the alien, and brought them home.

I enjoyed them for several dishes such as slaw and Japanese pickles.

They are not alien any more.

They look even beautiful to me.

Kohlrabi might not look like alien to you, but  this  vegetable might look like it to you.

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Are you familiar with this green Godzilla looking vegetable?

This is a GOYA, a bitter melon.  Also we called it NIGA URI, which literally means bitter melon.

When I found this beautiful creature at the Japanese grocery store, I was so excited, screaming in my mind


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I could say this is so fresh.

Look at the each bump!  They look like sea anemone, and look as if they are moving now!

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Momordica charantia is the scientific name for GOYA, and is originally grown in the southern prefectures of Japan, Okinawa.

When I was a kid, I had never had GOYA, but now this vegetables are very popular in summer.

The most popular dish using GOYA is GOYA CHANPURU for sure.

CHANPURU is a dialect of OKINAWA prefecture, and means “scrambles”.

SO, GOYA CHANPURU is a dish, in which we scramble GOYA with other ingredients such as tofu.

Today I will introduce GOYA CHANPURU.

Here are the ingredients.

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  • 1/2 big goya or 1 small goya
  • 1/2 package of tofu (preferably firm)
  • 1/3lb of pork (thin slice)
  • (optional) Japanese leek
  • (optional) 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of white flour
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • soy sauce
  • brown sugar
  • bonito flakes

Before start cooking, marinate pork with a little bit of sake and tenderize it in a plastic bag and keep it in a fridge for about an hour or more.

Let’s cooking!

Cut  the goya vertically.

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They have seeds and white fiber in the middle.

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Use a metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and the white fiber.

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This will give you two long halves that are crescent-shaped.

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This goya was relatively big, so I only used half of them.

Slice the half by 1/4 inches.

If you have Japanese leek, slice them diagonally.

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Break up 1/2 package of tofu by hand roughly and put them on a sieve with paper towel, trying to drain water well.

That way they absorb flavor well .

Take out the pork in the fridge, and wipe the dripping with a paper towel.

Coat them with some flour, and take away excess flour.

Heat the pan with some oil, and cook the pork.

When they change the color, take them onto a plate.

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Using the same pan, cook drained tofu and saute them nice.

Take tofu from the pan and put aside.

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Now saute them all together.

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Saute goya and leek until they get tender.

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Put reserved pork and tofu into it, and saute together for a while.

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Now pour sake, and then,,,

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Put just a little bit of sugar (I usually use brown sugar for cooking) to balance out the bitterness and sweetness.


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Put a little bit of soy sauce, about 2 teaspoons of it, from the side of the pan, and stir them well.

If you want to use egg, you could add beaten egg towards the end.

Turn off the heat.

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Pour this bonito flakes generously!

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Smell so good!!

That’s it!!

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I think my husband will like it!


The other day, I made stuffed goya with chicken and vegetable mixture.



cooked in Dashi based soup, and,,,


I thickened dashi soup and poured onto them with peas and see weeds.


Also I used goya for toppings of rice.


I cooked with soy sauce and sugar and that became my husband’s lunch box.

OK, they look good, but where can we purchase such a unique vegetable?

I have an answer.


If you don’t have a Japanese grocery store in your neighborhood, you could purchase them on-line.


Suzuki Farm in Delaware offers various types of Japanese vegetables on-line!!


I have  another unique vegetable in my fridge now, so I will introduce it next time!

My husband came back home, and was enjoying GOYA CHANPURU.


I think my husband enjoyed it in a proper way.

By the way, I have never had GOYA CHANPURU at OKINAWA, I think we have to go and make sure mine is authentic, don’t you think?



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!


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.



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 ,,,


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.


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 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.


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.


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.



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,


roll it, and


chop it.

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


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.


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.


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

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