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.

 

 

shiso syrup

 

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It is already November, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  I know time flies so fast, but I didn’t expect that fast!!

 

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While I am making autumn flavor foods , trying to catch up the season, still I am enjoying the left over summer flavor.

That summer flavor is Shiso Syrup.

Shiso is my favorite Japanese herb, and I believe that is one of the most popular herb in Japan.

A touch of shiso at the end of cooking makes many dishes completed, and that refreshing flavor enhances the deliciousness.

 

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A few weeks ago even though the summer was already gone, I got a huge bunch of red shiso luckily.

I have to confess.  Even though I love shiso, I had never purchased and cooked red shiso.

I know people use red shiso for pickles because of their beautiful natural color and distinctive flavor.

When I got red shiso, I used them like I did to regular green shiso, but I had plenty of them!  They had never gone!

Then I searched the recipes, and I found very attractive one.

Let’s make shiso syrup!

 

 

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The result was wonderful!

That’s why even though it might be difficult for you to get them, I would like to introduce this lovely color syrup just in case.

 

Here are the ingredients.

 

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  • about 1 lb of red red shiso leaves
  • 16 oz of water
  • 1/4 lb of cane sugar
  • 2 oz of apple cider or rice vinegar

 

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Before cooking, look at their,,,

 

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beautiful color!

 

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This purple color indicates they have lots of polyphenol, and recent study shows they are good for anti-aging(!!) and allergies.

Because of their good smell, they stimulate appetite, so they are often taken during the humid summer in Japan.

Usually they are sold by bunch, so please wash them thoroughly.  They might have lots of dirt.

 

Then let’s cooking!

Since we use vinegar, we have to use stainless or enamel coated pot.

Pour the water into the pot, and bring to boil.

Then, put all the leaves into it.

 

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They might reach to the top of the pot, but once they are cooked, they wilt, so push them in!

Close the lid and cook it for a few minutes.

Then,,,

 

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squeeze all the liquid from the leaves.

They are very hot, so be careful.

First I was so careful that I used tongs, but I wanted to squeeze more, so I used secret weapons, my  hands.

HOT!!!!!

I took a risk, and I got a good,,,

 

 

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result!

 

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Return all the shiso liquid to the pot, and add sugar.

I use relatively a small amount of sugar, so if you want, you could add more.

Once all the sugar dissolves, pour ,,,

 

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the vinegar.

I want this syrup to be fruity and mild, so I used apple cider vinegar, but you can use rice vinegar as well.

 

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I didn’t do canning, but just in case I sterilized by boiling.

 

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Pour all the liquid and that’s all!

When you drink, dilute with water or sparking water.

It depends on you,  but you could dilute 1 Tb spoon of syrup with 5 oz of water.

 

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You can store it in the refrigerator for six months! but it doesn’t last long….

 

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Every day after taking shower, we enjoy this, and now it is almost gone….

I miss summer and I already miss this syrup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALREADY AUTUMN, STILL AUTUMN

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One of the main reasons we chose to live in this area was because we could feel four seasons  like we could in Japan.

Japanese religion ,Shinto, is based on the nature such as  wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility, and I believe the large part of our culture is based on this religion.

We cherish each season, celebrating the traditional and historical seasonal events even now, and the many of those events are associated with ,,,

of course,,,

FOOD!!!!

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I love summer, but I have to admit the autumn is already around the corner.

In Japan we often call the autumn as the season of the pleasure of the table, MIKAKU NO AKI.

The stars of the autumn flavor are chestnuts, matsutake (mushroom), sweet potatoes, persimmons, and Pacific saury!

Saury is spelled as 秋刀魚、which indicates fish caught in autumn and shaped like a sword.

Ohhh, now I miss autumn flavor saury, missing summer flavor already.

In September, we celebrate OTSUKIMI (viewing the beautiful full moon event in the middle of September), making TSUKIMI DANGO, sweet dumplings offered to the moon.

At the same time in this period, we start enjoy chestnuts.

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It is still warm here and is early for OTSUKIMI, I cooked chicken thigh with chestnuts, celebrating the coming autumn.

I ‘ve used chestnuts in turkey stuffing before, but it was my first time I used them in a WESTERN (for me) dish other than turkey.

Why didn’t I use chestnuts for Western dishes?

BECAUSE chestnuts is always for KURI GOHAN for me!

KURI GOHAN (chestnuts rice) is the most popular and typical Japanese autumn flavor.

I believe every house makes KURI GOHAN at least once in autumn season.

This is not versatile rice which goes well with any dish, but it is very Japanese and goes very well with Japanese food.

Maybe  you could enjoy KURI GOHAN with MISO SOUP, SHIRA AE, and grilled saury.

Today I will show you how to prepare the KURI GOHAN.

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I was gladly surprised to know that  we could get beautiful chestnuts here in VA, and when I got them, I was so excited to make KURI GOHAN.

Chestnuts have thick skins as you know, and in my case it took a WHOLE DAY  to peel them!

YES! 

ONE WHOLE DAY and I got rewarded with painful red fingers, but it’s worth it!

To soften the skins, we usually put them in the water overnight or if you don’t have time, you could boil them for 4-5 minutes.

I put them in the water overnight like,,,

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this.

Then the next day I did peeling.

First you need to peel the bottom part (thickest part) of them. You can sit on the chair if you want.

It takes long time…

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My friend gave those beautiful chestnuts cultivated in her orchard, and she already cooked them a little, so the chestnut color was yellow.

She didn’t cooked through.

I used this half-way cooked chestnuts for KURI GOHAN.

Here are the ingredients you need to make KURI GOHAN.

  • 3 cup of sticky rice ( such as Sushi Rice)
  • water (10% more of the rice, so it would be about 27oz)
  • chestnuts as many as you want ( I used approximately 1 cup of them)
  • 2 (scant) teaspoons of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of Sake

In Japan some people use MOCHI GOME (very sticky rice) along with regular white rice,  but as you could see the photo above, I used regular white rice  with some ancient grains.

For the instruction of the cooking rice, please check the previous post here.

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Ohhhhh, smell so good!

I didn’t want my husband to make an effort of finding chestnuts hidden in the rice, so I generously used them.

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After the steaming time, you could mix the rice gently and distribute chestnuts evenly.

If you couldn’t find raw chestnuts, you  could use cooked chestnuts in the vacuum-seal package.

However they might get very soft during the cooking process, so even though you might get hurt, I recommend you use raw chestnuts.

You might ask why I am keep telling you “you get hurt” for just peeling one cup of chestnuts?

I did more than 1 cup.

I don’t know how many cups I peeled their skins!  Probably,,,,,,

8? 10? 12 cups?

When my friend gave me those beautiful chestnuts for the first time, I was dancing with joy, so I did peel them all even though it hurt me, but a few days later the friend gave me more again !!

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I couldn’t dance any more.  She kindly gave me three or four times, and each time gave me TONS!

I didn’t want to waste them, so every time she gave me, I peeled and distributed to the freezer bags and froze them.

SO you think I am cooking autumn dish ahead of the season, but actually,,,NOT!

They are the last year’s product.

I heard they last 1 year in the fridge, so it is totally safe to use them (I believe).

I have to use them up before my friend gives me this year’s product!!

Now I had to confess.

Even though I love KURI GOHAN, I was a little tired of making it (all year round!!), so this time I used them for the WESTERN dish as I told you, and cooked them with chicken thigh.

I brined chicken with chestnuts and leeks with white wine, and added whole grain mustard at the end.

It was a success!

I borrowed the recipe from bon appetit, and chagned a little.

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Thank you, chestnuts!

They did good job in this dish!

Now I have to think again what I could use them for.

I have several more chestnuts in the freezer bags in my fridge……

HURRY!!  The autumn is coming!!!!

a package from my mom, and how to trash used oil

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Every mother is wonderful.

She always takes good care of her children even though they get old enough.

Yes, I am over 40, but still I am her baby.

About every two months, my mom sends me a thoughtful package over the sea.

It is usually way so heavy that even the strong delivery guy hesitates to carry to my  home.

My mom always prepares a package upstairs at her house, and after filling goodies in a big box, she carries it downstairs.

Just imagining her carrying that heavy stuff makes me cry.

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She knows everything about me.

I sometimes wonder if she hides somewhere in my house and checks what I am missing.

She has a special power to read my mind and she sends me what I really need.

Of course, she never forgets to send seaweeds  since she knows I love them.

Thank you, mom.

This time she sent something else besides seaweeds she always wanted to send to me,

which is,,,,,

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SUSHI OKE (wooden bowl for Sushi Rice).

This bowl keeps rice nicely warm and  adjusts the moisture of rice.

A little scent of the wood  also enhances the flavor of the rice.

I had been wanting to have this for a long, but when I went back to my country, I always forgot to get one in the busy schedule.

When I opened this package and saw SUSHI OKE, you could imagine how happy and lucky I felt.

Also she sent me,,,

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this.

Could you guess what this is?

It is not food.

As you could see in the package photo, it is for used oil.

Among Japanese living in the US, sometimes they talk about how they trash used oil.

We shouldn’t pour oil directly into the sink, so many of us put newspaper into an empty carton of milk or juice and pour oil into it to soak oil, then trash it.

In Japan, many of us use this package. It is so convenient and easy.

When I deep-fried KA RA A GE, I had to trash the used oil.

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I reached to this box.

In a box, there are small packages, so took one.

Each package has powder.

In the hot oil, I sprinkled the powder and stirred well.

Then just left it for a while.

After 30 minutes or so,

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oil got solid.

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It is easy to flip.

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You can just throw this into a garbage bag!  That’ it!

Ok, now you know how to use it, but WHAT IS IT?

There are several brands of oil solidifying agent like this in Japan, but all of them are made from plants substances, so it is safe to use and good for environment.

Thanks to my mom, I live in the US as though I were in my country.

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mom and I am so lucky to have two mother countries.

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Now I enjoy this Japanese sweets my mom sent to me at my favorite place in the US, thinking of my mom.

Peach Salsa Canning!

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It is summer and a stone fruits season now!

I have been waiting for this season coming for a year and now my mind is full of the recipes I would like to try with those delicious fruits.

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Of course I did and will make cobblers, tarts, and shortcakes, but I had wanted to make peach salsa other than those.

For lunch, I often have wraps at home.

Then I put a store-bought peach salsa on top of it.

It has a smokey flavor and the balance of sweetness and sourness and spiciness is wonderful.

I don’t know how many bottles of this salsa I consume in a year, that’s why I decided to make more delicious peach salsa for me to enjoy in this year round.

I use the recipe in Home Preserving by Ball (a similar recipe is on its site. HERE.),  but I switched peaches to nectarines since I couldn’t get fresh peaches then, and also I omitted cilantro because cilantro is very naive herb which geta easily mushy.

I am sure I will put fresh cilantro anyway when I have wrap, so I decided not to add it in my salsa.

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I adjusted the heat, reducing jalapeno peppers for my husband.

I like lime, so I add ,,,,

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lime juice and zest.

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I also added chipotle chili pepper (powder) for the smokiness.

Just preparing those ingredients made me so excited.

Smelled already delicious!

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I did canning last year for the first time, so I am a still beginner.

I did hustle this time as well, but I really love canning!

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When I heard the popping sound which indicates the good sealing, all the efforts were rewarded.

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Now I am enjoying this salsa for my lunch or as a condiment when I make Mexican flavored dishes.

Next time I think I would add chipotle in adobo for further smokiness, and I think that next time would come soon because,,,

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I don’t think those 8 bottles will be kept for one year in my pantry.

I already opened two……

I have to do more canning!

YES! MORE!

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!