Tuesday, July 31, 2007

doyo no ushi no hi

Yesterday was doyo no ushi no hi (literally mid-summer day of the ox. It is believed that each part of the day follows the 12 zodiac signs, e.g. 1 o'clock to 3 o'clock is the ox, or something like this.), it is the day to eat unagi (eel) to build stamina to last the summer. You should have seen the shopping arcade and supermarket, unagi everywhere! (The fishmonger in the shopping arcade actually had part-timers come in to help grill the unagi!)

I was a bit leery about buying unagi though, there have been news articles in which the ones being imported from China are being raised inappropriately. I hope the Japanese supermarkets and vendors are labeling products properly, there have been incidents in the past where they change the label in order to sell items.

For example, when the B.S.E. (mad-cow) thingy was going on here, some supermarkets switched the labels for beef coming from the U.S. and labeled them as Australian or Japanese to get rebates from the government and also to make a sale. Another scary thing about this is that products, like cows and such can be imported as babies then raised on farms and as long as they have been in Japan for a year, they can be called "Made in Japan". And even though you are choosing local (Japan), the restaurants and bars may not.

Another scary thing that is going on here is that Japan is now exporting rice to China. With fears of reika (cool summer) this year, I hope the government has an ample stash for us in Japan, since part of reika comes shortages of rice. (Apparently, the last time for reika was 1993 and they had to import rice from Thailand)...I have a feeling though that they are just looking to make a quick buck and aren't thinking that far ahead.

Sorry, I got sidetracked...back to unagi, I personally don't like unagi. I think the first time I tried it, there were bones in it and the unagi was kind of oily tasting, not a good first experience.

Still, I try to eat it at least once during the summer, just to go through the motions, in hopes that it helps me survive the summer (believe me, I need all the luck I can get especially with Japan summers). Satoshi, on the other hand, loves unagi and every time we go to his parent's house they order this dish for us to eat. He always tells his mother, "Kat doesn't like unagi", but she always forgets and orders it and I force myself to eat it because I don't want to be rude.

So, I bought unagi yesterday. Cut off the tail and the head-like area and throw them out, they are too hard to eat. (The first time I bought unagi, I served Satoshi the head-like area and tail and he told me that I'm supposed to throw it out, who knew?)

Slice up the body of the unagi and put it into an omlette and serve on rice. Sprinkle some sansho (Japanese pepper) on top.

I feel more powerful already...

Monday, July 30, 2007

what? another election?

Well, it turned out that it was too hot and humid to go galivanting yesterday, but since I still needed some things for dinner, I did go grocery shopping while Satoshi went to his German class. The supermarket was packed! I guess everyone knows that it is a great place to cool off.

I decided to make a variation of the reisei pasta that I made the other day. Instead of tuna, I added tako(octopus), some lemon juice and lettuce. Very refreshing!

And for dessert, I made mini blueberry clafoutis. I used the same recipe I posted before, put some lemon zest into the batter and topped the clafoutis with lavender sugar. Heavenly!

Since there was nothing but election results on tv tonight (what? another election?)we were watching some DVDs--(can you believe Japan is having another election? At least the loud speakers during Kat's nap time were non-existent this time around.) Awhile back I told you about Li Hing popcorn which I picked up while I was home? Well, we finally got around to eating the next flavor that I picked up....Korean BBQ.

I was quite disappointed with this one. Somehow the flavor packet was weak and tasted mostly of furikake and arare. And why is it that the arare (rice crackers) that come with the furikake are always stale? I wonder if they get stale when you mix it with the butter? Maybe the packaging isn't very airtight. Either that or I'm spoiled with the fresh arare that I eat here. I have a feeling it might be the latter.

So back to the election, Satoshi says it is because the rest of the government do not like the current prime minister, so they are having an election to change the prime minister. Apparently whichever party wins, that political party gets to choose who will be the new prime minister. Satoshi says most times the very second the political party wins and chooses someone, the rest of the government wants to change the guy in charge. So someone chosen for 4 years could get kicked out half-way or several months into his term. Definitely not very good for world relations.

If you ask me, I think they have too many political parties in Japan, which causes a lot problems, kind of like when there are too many chefs in the kitchen? But since I can't vote here, I guess I can't grumble too much about it other than I wish they would do all of their elections in one swoop and stop using their loud speakers to campaign (especially during my nap time!)

Have a great week.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

guess what I found...

bacon...crispy bacon.

Only thing is I won't tell you how much I paid for it or how many slices were in the package. You would freak!

I bought scones and Earl Grey croissants for our breakfast today. The scones were too dry, but the croissants were nice and flaky.

I will tell you this...I'm getting good at frothing milk....

Have a good week!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

kan kan de ri

Today was kan kan de ri. In Japanese, kan kan is an onomatopoetic phrase. When paired with the word for mad, it means REALLY mad or when paired with the word te ri or de ri(heat), it means fiercely hot. Even though the phrase means really hot, I really like the sound of it and think it is fun to say.

Anyway, just stepping outside the hair and skin on your arms starts to shrivel up, your clothes automatically cling onto your body and it feels like when you jump into your car that has been sitting out all day in an open air parking lot and you turn on the engine only to find that your a/c is broken and the vent only blasts hot air. And somehow, the cicadas' chirping at a volume of 10+ doesn't make the situation easier to take in fact, they seem to make the heat seem even hotter.

Satoshi had to work today, so it was just a normal day at home for me. After lunch, there wasn't much to do, so I decided to take a nap. At about 3 p.m., a loud crackle ripped through the sky and then a huge BOOM shook the building--it was lightning and thunder, but since I was rudely awakened, I actually thought some kind of accident occurred (since we live really close to an airport). You could hear the children that were playing outside running inside for cover, saying "ooh, scary". Surprisingly, no rain fell and I was surely up after that.

Dinner was a new recipe I tried for buta kim chee (pork with kim chee). This recipe was relatively easy to make and the flavors are potent! I think the next time I make this, I will cut back on the chili pepper powder. My nose was running and mouth was burning after eating this. But it really went well with beer and RICE! After finishing my dinner, I had to take a spoonful of nutella just to take away the heat a bit. (Good excuse, huh?) The site that I got this recipe from didn't give a lot of directions or measurements, so it is kind of an ad-lib.

Serves 4. Grate ginger and onion, salt and pepper over thinly sliced pork and marinate for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon chili pepper powder, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon sake (rice wine), salt and pepper. This mixture = sauce #1.

In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and cook meat. Add kim chee just as pork changes color. Add sauce #1, plus 3 tablespoons water.

Let simmer a bit, add 1/2 tablespoon sake, 1/2 tablespoon shoyu, 1/2 teaspoon sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil.

Serve with rice.

Hopefully the weather won't be so humid and hot and I can wander about while Satoshi goes to German language class tomorrow.

UPDATE:this buta kim chee literally gets hotter as it sits in your refrig, we heated up the leftovers and it totally burned our mouths! even drinking water did not help.

Friday, July 27, 2007

rockin' girl blogger

When I read Rowena's post, I found out that she had nominated me for the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. (eh, wow, thanks!)

According to the rules, you have to nominate 5 other female bloggers and they in turn nominate 5 more and this is how it gets passed around.

So the 5 that I'd like to nominate are:
Tea @ Tea and Cookies -- the topics that Tea posts about are thought-provoking and her photos are delicious
Sue @ My Korean Kitchen -- Sue takes in-depth looks at making the food of her culture
Carol @ Paris Breakfasts --Carol's watercolors and photos are beautiful
Ellie @ Kitchen Wench -- I love how Ellie writes, it sometimes brings a smile and her dog, Mr Woofy is a cutie!
Barbara @ Winos and Foodies -- Barbara's posts are thought-provoking and I love her foodie adventures.

There were so many blogs to choose from that it was hard to nominate just five. I hope you check out these rockin' girl blogs for yourself and maybe get hooked on them as well.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

reisei pasta

I hate to be so whiney and grumble about the heat and humidity so much especially since other areas in Europe have it way worse, but the heat and humidity was pretty bad today. It was so bad that we have the a/c on, but it is still warm inside (31C/87F). And when I changed my clothes, it felt like when you put something on straight out of the dryer, only problem is we have no dryer.

Satoshi was off today, and I had a bead class, so I had to figure out what we could eat for lunch since we didn't have time to eat out. I recently found a new recipe for reisei pasta, so I wanted to try it out. Reisei means cool dish, so reisei pasta is cool pasta. I've made a version and also have bought reisei pasta in the past and posted about it here and here.

This recipe is really fast and delicious, if you have the ingredients, I hope you will try it.

Reisei pasta serves 2
2 portions cappelini or any type of pasta you have
1/2 can of tuna
2 tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons pine nuts
6 leaves basil, torn
4 tablespoon EVOO
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Put the tuna, tomato, capers, basil into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Mix well and chill.
Cook pasta about 30 seconds longer than what the package says.
When the pasta is ready, put into an ice bath.
Drain the pasta well and add the tuna mixture. Add the EVOO, balsamic vinegar and nuts.
Salt and pepper to taste.

NOTES: I used whole wheat fusilli and spaghetti, added diced onions and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and pine nuts. I also had some Italian parsley leftover, so I tore that up and added it in too. Instead of 4 tablespoons of EVOO, I only used 2. This pasta went nicely with 3-bean salad.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

spicy and cool dinner

Summers in Japan are HOT, hotter than the summers that I am used to in Hawaii. In Hawaii, we have tradewinds, this makes the heat of summer bearable, in fact most homes in Hawaii do not have air conditioning, or at least where I've lived in Hawaii, we didn't. Japan's summers have this awful, wet humidity that makes every piece of clothing stick to you. (If you've been reading this blog, you know that I do not like summers here.)

One dish that I really like during summer is tan tan men. Most times when I eat this dish at Chinese restaurants I usually can't finish it and give it to Satoshi, it is so spicy that just a taste will do. I found out while watching a program that Japan added soup to this dish, apparently when you eat this in China, it is just the noodles and no soup.

I've been anxious to try making tan tan men after I found a recipe for it in a cookbook I have called "Tenyu".

First off, you need to make ja jan, this is the minced pork which I used to make ja ja men. I posted about that here.

Tan tan men for 1 translated from "Tenyu"
50g ja jan
30g spinach
1 bundle of chinese noodles

1 teaspoon tsuonyu*
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1/3 teaspoon minced tsa tsai (pickled mustard tuber)
2 tablespoons chimajan**
1.5 tablespoon ra-yu (chili oil)
1 tablespoon minced scallion

Soup: 320cc chinese soup

*tsuonyu is an oil that is made with leeks, ginger and lard
you can make your own with the following recipe:
300cc melted lard
50g green part of leek
30g thinly sliced ginger

Rip the leek with your hands and put into a pot with ginger. Put 50cc of melted lard into the pot of leek and ginger, cook until fragrant then add rest of lard. Do not mix too much and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Then turn up the heat to high and fry the leek and ginger. Strain the liquid. Keep up to 1 month in an airtight container, makes 300cc.

**chimajan is a sesame oil with more of a paste consistency like tahini. To make your own, follow this recipe:
500g sesame seeds
500cc canola oil

Roast sesame seeds in a pan until golden and fragrant, put out onto a pan to cool. The seeds roast pretty quickly so work fast, if burnt it will taste bitter. When cool, put into a food processor or meat mincer to create a paste, run through the processor/mincer twice. Bring the oil to 140-150C (I wasn't too sure what the Fahrenheit temperatures would be) and mix in with a wire whisk. Mix well. Keeps in an airtight container for up to 1 month, makes 850g.

Now back to making tan tan men....

Boil spinach and drain.
Prepare your noodles according to the package.
Put the ingredients for the sauce together.
In a bowl add the sauce, then add the soup. Place your noodles into the soup and top with the ja jan and spinach....enjoy!

NOTES: If you don't like it really soupy, the sauce and soup can actually be used for 2 people. I didn't use or make the leek oil, also I didn't have tsa tsai or spinach so I left that out. It still tasted great. I had somen (Japanese vermicelli) instead of chinese noodles. Oh, most important, I only put 1/2 tablespoon of chili oil. It was just enough heat to leave a little sting on your lips, without setting your whole mouth on fire.

So that was the spicy part of my dinner last night, the cool part was this 3-bean salad. When I was living in Hawaii, my mom would make this every so often and I like it because it is tart and makes your mouth pucker, plus I love beans! She uses 1 can each of green beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans and adds diced onion and bell pepper. I couldn't find canned green beans and refused to pay the ridiculous price for canned kidney beans, so I steamed green beans and soy beans instead.

The recipe for the dressing is as follows:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup oil

NOTES: Try to make this a day ahead so that all the ingredients will be nicely marinated. I made this salad at lunchtime and it was pretty marinated by dinner time.

So, summer is finally here, the rainy season officially ended in the Kansai area yesterday. The cicadas are out and creating a ruckus. The news said that Osaka has the noisiest cicadas (um, okay...). They also said that today will be humid (I guess I jinxed myself...ugh.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

trying to beat the heat

Recently, I saw this at the department store and had to get it. It is watermelon sherbet made by Koujuken, a Japanese sweets maker in Nara.

The list of ingredients were kind of interesting, there was sugar, watermelon and melon, and then akadaikon (red radish)?, gelatin. When you looked at this up close it actually looked like a slice of daikon (long white radish).

The texture of this sherbet was different than what I was used to, it was more gel-like than icy. You can also just refrigerate it and have it as a gelatin treat. To have it like a sherbet, you need to freeze it for at least 5 hours.

Another treat made by Koujuken, is called kingyosukui. Kingyosukui is a game that you can participate in at many local matsuri (festivals). You pay an amount (about 200yen or so..about US$2) and receive a flat paper "net" with a handle and a little dish with water. You then have to dip the net-like gadget into the water and pick up a kingyo(goldfish) quickly without your "net" breaking. I've never actually tried this, but it seems quite hard because the weight of the goldfish usually tears the paper net before you can get the goldfish into the little dish that they also lend you. Whatever goldfish you do catch, you get to bring home. There are also contests to see who can pick up the most goldfish with one "net" called kingyosukui taikai. (I think last year a company or university created a robot that can quickly catch several goldfish with the paper net in a short amount of time.) With the yucky humidity that we had last week, the two of these desserts really hit the spot!

Yesterday, the sun was blazing, (hopefully I'm not jinxing myself by saying this), but the humidity actually wasn't too bad. The news is saying that this year maybe reika (cool summer). This means temperatures won't be so dreadful, but it also means that farming will suffer, especially with veggies and rice. Apparently, the last time reika occurred was in 1993--the price of veggies soared and they had to import rice from Thailand. I hope the weatherpeople are wrong, veggies are already pretty pricey as it is.

For dinner I made tofu salad. You can usually find this dish at pot-luck parties in Hawaii. This is a simple dish to make and it is definitely a nice way to stay cool.

Tofu Salad

1 can salmon
1 block tofu
tomato, diced
green onion
watercress, par-boiled

1/3 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a dish, layer the veggies. Heat dressing and pour over salad just before serving.

NOTES: I used momen-dofu (literally means cotton soy bean curd, but this is actually a firm tofu), it tends to keep its shape better in this salad. Hopefully, you can find fresh tofu where you live, if not, the ones that are boxed should be just fine. I couldn't find watercress, so I didn't put it in. Also, I used the veggies that were in my refrig. You can also add thinly sliced white onion. I heated the dressing, let it cool and then refrigerated it since I wasn't going to eat the salad right away. Just before eating, I poured some of the cooled dressing over the salad. The combination of tofu and salmon are a good source of protein without too much fat--perfect for summer!

Hope you are staying cool where you are!

Monday, July 23, 2007


After seeing Nate's post, I wanted a B.L.T. too, so when I went to the supermarket I picked some up.

Japanese bacon is actually more like ham, totally disappointing. Doesn't get crispy. (Anyone living on Honshu that has a great crispy bacon brand, please let me know what you are using. I'd really like to try it.)

At least Nate had sent me some Best Foods mayonnaise (Thanks Nate!). The sandwich actually reminded me of ham sandwiches after Thanksgiving or Christmas, so I think I'll call it an H.L.T. rather than a B.L.T.

And while I'm on the topic of sandwiches, check out this sign...I don't know that I would want to eat a sand witch. would you? I can't believe these people paid for this sign....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

pork togan

The other day while grocery shopping I came across togan (wintermelon). I never knew this, but it is called wintermelon and it is in season during the summer months (neat, huh?). I had never cooked with togan before, but have eaten it many times while growing up in Hawaii.

My uncle used make this dish sometimes for our weekly Sunday dinners. (At least I think he was the one who used to make it...) Anyway, to tell you the truth, when I was growing up, I didn't care for this dish much. What can I say? growing up, I was a picky eater. Plus, I think I would always get that big hunk of ginger nicely hidden in my dish and end up chomping into it unexpectedly..blah!

So, the other day when I saw togan in the store, I hesitated, should I try making this dish? I walked around the supermarket a bit, contemplating, (The supermarket security must have gotten suspicious because I went and came back to the togan many times.) I decided I would try making pork togan.

I looked in all my cookbooks from Hawaii, but none noted a recipe, so I emailed my mom to ask if she had a recipe. (I love the internet!) She said she had just cooked pork togan for dinner and added a little shoyu (soy sauce) and mirin (sweet rice wine) with no specific measurements, onion and lastly the togan. (Boy, I wish I could cook by "feel" and "eye balling".)

I then looked in another cookbook to see how to clean the togan. I bought this already cut and it looked like a cross between a pear and watermelon. Take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. The book also said to use a knife to peel the skin of the togan, but that was too scary for me (in the past, I have cut myself badly), so I used a vegetable peeler. (Thank goodness for fingernails! I did lose one, but it saved me from shaving off my fingertip...whew!)

Since I didn't have a recipe to follow, I decided to use a variation of the sauce that I use for nikujaga (Japanese stewed meat and potatoes)--the taste is close to what I remember the dish tasting like.

Kat's pork togan
150g thinly sliced pork
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 togan (wintermelon), cut into 1/2 inch width pieces*
1 tablespoon olive oil

2.5 cups dashi (stock)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
3.5 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1" nub of ginger, peeled

In a pot, put the olive oil and heat, add pork and onion, coating everything with the oil.
When the pork changes color, add the dashi and togan.
Turn the heat up to high and let come to a boil.
Then bring the heat down to medium and scrape some of the scum from the top.
Cook for about 4 minutes, scraping the scum every so often.
Add the ingredients for the sauce and lower the heat to simmer.
Cook for another 20 minutes.
Poke a piece of togan with a chopstick to see if it is soft, if not let simmer for another 5 minutes and check again.

NOTES: I forgot to put the ginger in (subliminal? maybe), if possible, try to put a piece in, it adds a different layer of flavor to the dish. *Also, do not cut the togan to thin, it will "melt" while cooking (1/2 inch size width pieces should be okay).

I actually ate this by putting my rice in with the pork togan soup, I grew up eating a lot of soups this way and always thought it was a way to cool down the food to be eaten easily. In Japan, it is looked upon as rude (especially for miso soup) to do this. Satoshi said they call this nekomeshi (cat's food), because this was how you made food for your cat. (I guess it is Kat food...)

This was a good experience--I got to use an ingredient I've never cooked with before, realized I actually like this dish and though my uncle isn't with us anymore, it brought back nice memories of the dinners with him and my family.

Hope you have a nice week.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

kiwi house

Today for lunch, Satoshi and I went to New Zealand...well, sort of, there is a restaurant called Kiwi House in Takarazuka. The last time we ate here was 3 years ago (before this blog) and at that time, we missed their lunch service. The restaurant is located about 5 minutes from the Hankyu/JR Takarazuka station.

Amidst all the high rise condos, there is a large farm house styled house. (The owner/chef apparently fell in love with New Zealand on a visit and decided to start a restaurant using imported foods from New Zealand. )

The course we chose was called: yuttari lunch (leisurely lunch) (1890yen about US$16) which started out with 3 appetizers--canteloupe and proscuitto, marinated feta cheese with tomatoes and red onion and a seasoned greenshell mussel.

Satoshi had a glass of Kiwi fruit wine by Preston. I thought this wine was a bit too fruity and could have been drier. And I had a glass of merlot-cabernet by Matua. It was a nice wine but I would have enjoyed this wine more if it were served at room temperature instead of chilled.

Next came a chilled edamame (soy bean) soup. You could really taste the soy beans and I enjoyed the little cream swirl, it reminded me of a flower. Satoshi didn't enjoy this soup too much, he said that soup should be served hot.

A good-sized salad with a light vinaigrette.

The main dish was a daily special--rolled pork. Veggies rolled inside a piece of pork then braised and served with peas, broccoli, and carrots. The sauce was a little sweet but really delicious with the french bread that was served.

Dessert was a cheese cake made from NZ cream cheese and ice cream also made from NZ products.

It was nice to "get away" for a bit, re-visit this restaurant and enjoy a relaxing lunch.

Kiwi House
7-3 Yumotocho
Takarazuka, Hyogo
Phone: 0797-86-7657
Closed on Wednesdays

Friday, July 20, 2007

home again

Satoshi came home safely and brought home several omiyage (souvenirs) for me--one was Furaibo, a fried chicken that is dipped in a sauce which is quite famous in Nagoya, chocolate chip cookies from Saipan and the biggest omiyage--his dirty laundry. You should have seen him, wheel in his suitcase and say, "I brought a big omiyage home for you"...I quickly said, "I don't want it"...

Later, we had a bit of a scare...as I was cooking dinner, I had put some veggies to roast in the oven, at the same time, the rice was cooking...all of a sudden the oven clicked off. Oh no! don't tell me we need to buy a new oven (although inside I was kind of hoping we needed to).

We pulled the plug, put it back in, checked the manual...it was looking like we needed a new one (yeah!). Then, I opened the refrig, hmmm, the light was off, but the sink and stove areas were still lit. I went to look at the breaker box and sure enough, the refrig breaker was off. I asked Satoshi to click it back on and the oven worked, the refrig light went on. But the rice was cooked half way...I had to take out the rice cooker manual to see what we could do, it turned out we had to re-cook the rice.

Even though the rice turned out a bit dry, it was still edible and at least we won't have to buy a new oven (although I still want a new one...)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Since Satoshi is on a business trip (he'll be back later this afternoon...yeah!), I've had lots of "me" time--which means I can go to sleep at a decent hour (not having to wait up for Satoshi to come home), get up a little later than normal and leisurely get breakfast together without running around trying to get Satoshi fed and out of the house on time.

So, with all that "me" time, I've been having these with my breakfast....cappuccinos. I don't have an espresso maker, so it is just coffee with milk that is heated then frothed. I read somewhere that the milk needs to be heated in order for it to froth. Also, I think if it were made with espresso it would then be called a latte. (I always get the two mixed up.) If anyone can tell me the difference between the two, I'd really appreciate it.

p.s. this is a Bodum tea cup, but I like to use it for cappucinos because you can see the definition of coffee and froth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

just use a different bag...

As I watched the news, I was rolling my eyes at all the people lined up in front of the department stores in Japan to get this bag. And in Taiwan (I think it was), they had a stampede for this bag...pu-lee-ze.

Sure, it may be the in-thing to have right now, but if you truly want to help cut back the amount of shopping bags and plastic bags being used and waste going to the landfills....just use your own cloth bags, I'm sure you have a couple lying around waiting for you to use.

Photo from Anya Hindmarch site


You ever have a craving for something and then when you go to eat it, the place is either closed or not in business? That is what happened to me for lunch today. I was so bummed that I wandered around for an hour or so aimlessly, trying to figure out what I should eat. (sad, yeah?)

Changing the subject, after I posted yesterday, Nate emailed me to say that my mom's recipe was similar to Big Way Burger's spareribs--a local eatery in Hawaii. I then googled them and found this article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, a local newspaper.

The article mentioned serving the ribs with kim chee and rice...luckily, I had some kim chee in my refrig...dinner is served!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Well, after the huge typhoon, there was a huge earthquake. Luckily, Osaka was not affected. I hope the people who were, will be able to get the help they need to get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Changing the subject...As you can tell (because I'm posting), I couldn't stay away from the kitchen.

Today, I was walking the aisles of the supermarket when I spotted spareribs. Usually, they are priced really high (from 680 yen about US$7 or higher) for 6 pieces and not very meaty looking--more bone than meat.

But today, they were reasonably priced and really meaty looking---only 365 yen (about US$3) for 6 pieces. I guess I could have bought something pre-made for dinner since it is only me, but for only 365 yen, it seemed cheaper than to buy something pre-made and plus, this should last for two dinners.

The recipe I used was my mom's...I think. (Awhile back, I had scribbled it on a piece of paper with no notation of where I got the recipe from.)

3 lbs. spareribs
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
pinch of salt

Bring to boil. Simmer. Cook for 45 minutes.

NOTES: At first, I had cut the sauce amount in half because I only had six pieces, but mid-way through cooking, I noticed that most of the liquid had evaporated, so I added some water and the other half of the sugar, vinegar & shoyu. I only used 1 clove of garlic and an inch sized nub of ginger. Also, I ended up cooking this for 1 hour.

Be sure to pour some of the gravy on your rice (it's one of my favorite ways to eat this dish!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

sleepless in minoo (or urusai!)

My neighbors are awful. They like to fight at 2 in the morning. With my ear on my pillow I can hear EVERY word that my neighbors on the 2nd floor are screaming, and every door they are slamming. I'm amazed at how much sound carries in a cement building. The way sound bounces off the other building around us, it sounds like they are fighting right out on our lanai. Why don't the police come? The police here don't seem too powerful like the ones in the U.S. (or maybe the ones in the U.S. are too powerful?) Guess I'll try to take a nap now, everything seems to have calmed down...Hope no one got hurt.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

dinner for one

Well, the typhoon has passed Osaka, I think we got off easy with just a lot of rain. This morning the sun was actually shining as if the typhoon never existed.

Satoshi is off to Guam & Saipan for business. It was kind of questionable with the typhoon, but it looks like he'll be able to fly out from Narita. (He has to fly out from Narita because all the flights from Kansai were full.)

So, it is just me for dinner tonight. Kind of sad cooking for one...oh well.

I made buta kim chee donburi (pork with kim chee bowl) and put it atop lettuce, mizuna and rice. I also had carrot salad, some daikon pickles and the spicy soybeans. The spicy soybeans are good cold as well as straight out of the pan.

I may not post for awhile, unless I get inspired to cook this week, but I wouldn't hold my breath, although you never know...

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

waiting for the typhoon to pass

Well, the typhoon is now over Kyushu and part of Shikoku, it is estimated to pass over Osaka either tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, we have been having rain off and on during the day. (Can you believe that Satoshi had to go to work?)

Anyway, I saw the recipe for this pupu (appetizer in Hawaiian) in Gourmet Magazine's January issue. I also saw it being served here. (I think it may be a trendy thing in Hawaii now)...stir fried soybeans with garlic and chile.

Another easy dish to make and really good with BEER!

Stir Fried Soybeans with Garlic & Chile
from Gourmet January 2007--adapted from Pineapple Room

1 lb. soybean (frozen in shell)
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoon minced garlic

Cook soybeans in 5-6 quart pot of unsalted water for 5 minutes then drain in colander.

Stir together soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and red pepper flakes in a bowl.

Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately.

Add vegetable oil, swirling to coat wok. Add ginger & garlic and stir fry until fragrant (about 15 seconds). Add soybeans, stir fry until lightly charred (about 2-3 minutes).

Add soy sauce mixture and stir fry until soybeans are coated and most of liquid has evaporated (about 1 minute).


I had this appetizer for dinner along with shogayaki donburi (pork ginger bowls) topped with okra and green onions and of course...BEER!

NOTES: I used fresh soybeans for this recipe. The flavor of the sauce is very addicting and leaves a little sting on your lips after you have eaten a few.

Friday, July 13, 2007

corn chowder

Well, I made it to the supermarket before the rain got too hard and picked up some food items to last us at least until Sunday. They say that the typhoon will pass over Osaka around Sunday or so.

I don't know what it is, but there is something about rainy days that make me want soup. Sure, outside the humidity is still awful with the rain, but being indoors, I just wanted to curl up with a book and make some soup for dinner.

It has been awhile since I've made this soup, but since I still had some luncheon meat from making goya champuru, I decided to make a soup that we used to eat growing up....corn chowder. This dish is really easy to make and doesn't take too much time either.

1 slice of bacon, cut into strips
1/2 luncheon meat/spam, cut into cubes
1 potato, cut into cubes
1/2 onion, diced
corn kernels taken off 1 cob, rinsed and separated
2 cups skim milk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prep the bacon, luncheon meat, potato, onion and corn.
2. In a pot, heat some oil and add the onions, cook until transparent.
3. Add the meats, potato, corn and milk.
4. Cook until the milk begins to bubble, then turn down the heat to simmer until the potatoes are cooked.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with rice.

NOTES: This was the first time that I used fresh corn, it was great because the kernels stayed quite crisp even after cooking it. If you cannot find fresh corn, you can use canned corn just drain it well. Also, I know a lot of people do not eat luncheon meat/spam, but it is something that I grew up eating and most people from Hawaii love it. If you do not eat luncheon meat/spam, don't use it, but don't cut out the bacon from this recipe, it really gives this soup flavor. Instead of rice, you could also eat this with crackers or bread too.



Blueberries are available in the supermarkets now. They are coming from the U.S.

I saw on a U.S. news program that the price of blueberries was rising. The first pack that I bought was quite expensive almost US$4 for 150g. Another pack that I saw was organic and almost US$8! (I quickly put that one back.) The next time I bought some, it was US$3 for 150g. I think it may be timing.

All I know is that they are good with sliced bananas and muesli in the morning.

It is Friday the 13th...We are expecting a typhoon over the next couple of days. Okinawa has already had very strong winds and rain. It is already raining here, I usually go grocery shopping everyday, but just in case I can't get out on Saturday and Sunday, I'm going to pick up a few more things today. Satoshi is also supposed to go on a business trip to Guam and Saipan on Sunday, but with the typhoon coming, he wasn't sure if he would be able to fly out...wish us luck!

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ja ja men

Satoshi and I have been watching a program in the mornings and they often eat this dish...ja ja men or ja jan men.

When the people on this show eat this dish, it looks really delicious, so Satoshi has been saying how he wants to eat ja ja men. (I really think there are more foodies in Japan, they have so many shows which have lots of "food porn"!) Anyway, I looked in my cookbooks and found a recipe in the Szechuan cookbook, "Tenyu", which I've posted about recently.

The recipe is kind of complicated and takes some time to make, but I think if you prep everything ahead of time, you could easily throw the components together for a weeknight dinner.

Ja jan makes about 350g
300g minced pork
30cc laoshu (chinese rice wine)
30cc shoyu (soy sauce)
20g tenmenjan (sweetened miso (bean curd paste))*
Keeps in an airtight container for about 4 or 5 days

*if you cannot find tenmenjan, use the following recipe to make your own.
Tenmenjan (sweetened miso) makes about 500g
300g hacchomiso (dark miso (soy bean paste) that is fermented for 3 years found mostly in Nagoya)
150g sugar
500cc warm water
In a bowl, mix the miso with water a little at a time with a wire wisk, when the mixture gets a bit creamy, mix in the sugar and add more of the water.
Heat mixture over medium heat, when it begins to boil it will look like bubbling lava, turn heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Be careful as the liquid may fly out while simmering and burn you.
When the mixture turns to a consistency of ketchup, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.
Keeps in an airtight container for about 1 month.

Ja ja men Serves 1
100g ja jan
3 shiitake mushrooms
20g mizuna (spider mustard)
1 packet Chinese noodles
1 tablespoon cornstarch/water (to thicken)

Sauce A: 1 tablespoon tobanjan (chili paste)
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
200cc soup stock or warm water

Sauce B: 1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon laoshu (chinese rice wine)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 grinds of pepper
2 tablespoons of minced scallions

Sauce C:pinch of salt
1 teaspoon shoyu (soy sauce)
2 tablespoons of soup stock or warm water

Slice shiitake thinly, and mizuna to 5 cm in length, rinse and set aside.
In a pan, put 1 tablespoon of oil and add ja jan, tobanjan, ginger and garlic. When you can smell the ginger and garlic, add the soup/water. Next add the shiitake and Sauce B ingredients. Then thicken the mixture with the cornstarch/water.

Cook your chinese noodles according to the directions on the package.

Put the ingredients for Sauce C into your bowl/plate and add the noodles. Top with the shiitake mixture and mizuna.


NOTES: I didn't know the romanized way to spell some of the Chinese ingredients so I am posting it phonetically (sorry!). I made half the recipe for the ja jan, and boiled double the amount of noodles. For the shiitake mixture, I used the measurements above and the amount of mixture and spiciness was just right for two people. The shiitake mixture is quite spicy, so if you do not like it too spicy, cut back on the tobanjan (chili paste). If you cannot find mizuna where you are, any type of green leafy veggie would work. Although this dish took some time to prepare, it was definitely worth it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

trying to beat the humidity and rain

The weather here hasn't been too nice. It has been raining for the past couple of days, in Kyushu (southern Japan) they have been having major flooding. We have been having some rain and humidity too which makes going to get groceries not too fun, kind of depressing and non-motivating if you ask me.

I wanted to share with you some things I have been eating. Goya Champuru--I've posted about this before. We started eating this after our first visit to Okinawa about 4 years ago.

Hot and Sour Soup or Suanratan--I got the recipe from a book I have called "Tenyu"--it is relatively easy to make. It didn't taste exactly as I imagined it would, I think I may have to try making it again some time.

2 kinds of chilled tofu-this dish is perfect for warm days. A block of momen tofu (hard type soy bean curd) plus tamago tofu (savory soft egg custard), a little shoyu (soy sauce), the konbu (kelp) stock that the egg custard comes with and lots of okra on top.

Mushroom risotto made from dried mushrooms that Bourgogne sent me. (Thank you!)

Lastly, a cool dessert made by Seikanin. This one is called Kiraboshi (shining star). We had this on Tanabata. A clear ume (plum) flavored gelatin with yokan (jellied sweet bean paste)stars and sasa (bamboo leaf).

I hope your week is going well and you are keeping cool/dry where you are.

Monday, July 09, 2007

how time flies...

I can't believe that a year has passed already.

It was a year ago that my family and I made the climb up Mt Fuji.

3776m (about 12,390ft) of mountain.

To read more about our adventure, and re-live the memories, check it out here.