Wednesday, May 30, 2007

carrot salad

After hearing about a carrot salad on Bea's blog, I googled a recipe from Orangette. The salad is very simple and apparently can be found in many French bistros. Here is the post with the recipe on Orangette.

The dressing for the carrots is so light and simple that it brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots. I didn't have a julienne blade for my food processor, so I ended up shredding the carrots. Also I added a couple of grinds of pepper and didn't add the garlic. (Since Satoshi is in sales, he is conscientious of his breath, so I try not to make foods with garlic in them on weekdays.) I think I'll be making this often this summer!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

green pea curry

Tried a new curry recipe for dinner last night. It came out pretty good, a spicy zing lingers in your mouth, plus it is a good way to get in your veggies.

Green Pea Curry adapted from "Orange Page's Haru ni Oishii Kondate"
Serves 4

360g shelled peas
300g thinly sliced pork roast, sliced into 3-4cm long pieces
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, cut into 2cm squares
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 3-4cm long pieces, 1cm width.
1 red bell pepper, cleaned and sliced into 2 cm squares
10 okra, sliced
cooked rice (about 800g)

2 cups water
1 chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Shell peas and boil for about 2 minutes with a little salt. At the end of 2 minutes, turn off the heat and let cool in the salted water. Then drain.
2. In a frying pan, add the oil and cook the onions until transparent. Add the pork and cook until it changes color. Add the carrots & red bell pepper. When everything is coated with the oil, add the ingredients for the soup. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add in the green peas and okra and cook for another minute or two. Serve with rice.

NOTES: when I tasted this it was a bit salty, so I added a little more water.

Monday, May 28, 2007

aloha festival in osaka

Yesterday was the last day of a 3-day event called "Aloha Festival in Osaka", which was held in the courtyard of the Umeda Sky Building. The Umeda Sky Building has a garden area at the top called Kuchuteien, where you can see other buildings for miles on a nice day. (For some reason all the Japanese get excited about the view, but I can't seem to get excited over seeing miles and miles of buildings.) Holding up the garden are two towers which hold offices and other businesses. (Satoshi's German class is in one of the towers. )

Whenever I hear about events or foods that claim to be "Hawaiian", I try not to get my hopes up too high because most times they tend to be let downs. And a lot of times they tend to have pineapples on them....not that I dislike pineapples or anything like that, I just feel that Hawaii's cuisine has a bit more to it than that. Also, a lot of times the Japanese change the taste of things to match their palates.

So, I met Satoshi after his German class and we were excited to see something rare...the lunch wagons. The one on the left called Funky's and was serving hot dogs and nachos.

We bought their nachos with "real" fake cheese and salsa (350 yen = about $3.50). There was also another vendor selling Kona Brewing Company's Longboard Island Lager, Fire Rock Pale Ale and
Big Wave Golden Ale (600 yen each = about US$6)--we got the Longboard Island Lager.

The one on the right was called Yammy's (I wonder if they meant to call themselves Yummy's?) and was serving Loco Moco & Taco Rice. We stood in line for the Loco Moco & Taco Rice. After about 20 minutes we were able to get our food.

Here is Satoshi's order: Loco Moco (600 yen = about US$6). The gravy wasn't the authentic brown gravy, in fact, he didn't think it was gravy at all. He has decided that the only place to eat a loco moco is in Hawaii.

Here is my order: Taco Rice (600 yen = about US$6). Taco Rice is an Okinawan dish that was influenced by the American military there. I thought this was pretty close to the type of taco meat filling we have in the U.S. There were other booths there selling food but they were mostly hot dogs or curry.

There was lots of entertainment.

Lots of hula halau (hula groups) and ukulele players practicing before their chance to perform.

This group was waiting for their turn.

And even a shave ice stand...though it wasn't the same as Matsumoto's...I didn't get one but I don't think you could order a rainbow either....

but there were TONS of people! We went to the German Christmas Market a couple of times that was held in this same courtyard and the amount of people was nothing compared to what we saw today.

Aside from the crowd, we were happy to be able to listen to the Hawaiian music, although we both agreed there is no place like Hawaii (home).

Have a great week!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

aramaki (part 3)

Friday, it rained ALL day long. Waking up to a sunny day on Saturday, we decided to do some gallivanting.

It is rose season here. We made our way to the Aramaki Rose Garden in Yamamoto (about four stations away from ours). Last year, we visited this garden three times, two times in Spring and once in Fall.

The rain from the day before combined with the heat of Saturday made the roses seem a bit droopy and tired. So there wasn't that vibrant spark.

Still, you could smell the light rose fragrance and the bees were happy. (That bee in the photo was two times the size of a normal honeybee! Yipes!)

Besides roses, I also found some interesting flowers. (sorry, I don't know the names of them.)

For lunch, we walked to a restaurant near the Yamamoto station and had noodles. Satoshi had a curry udon, they were nice enough to give him a bib so that he wouldn't splatter himself with the curry sauce/soup.

After lunch we did more galivanting, like go to the airport to check out their interior shop's renovation and going to the neighborhood library to donate some books.

Dinner was a new recipe. Since I still had some veggies leftover from making ratatouille (I really bought a lot!), they were perfect for this dish.
Nasu to butaniku no kotterini (eggplant & pork in a rich sauce) translated from "Orange Page's Obaachan no Aji--Book 5" Serves 4

4 nasu (eggplant)
150g butakomagire (chopped pork)
200g shirataki* (thinly sliced devil's tongue jelly)
8 okra
oil for frying

2 cups Dashi (stock)
1.5 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1.5 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
ginger juice

1. In a pot, put the shirataki in and cover with water, boil for 6-7 minutes. Drain well and tie about 10 strands in a knot. Repeat until all shirataki are tied. *Shirataki (Kanto) is also called Itokonnyaku (Kansai). You can also find it already tied, in this case, just boil for the 6-7 minutes.
2.Cut the top off the eggplant and split the eggplant lengthwise in half. Wipe well. Make slanted cuts in the skin like a lattice but not enough to cut through the eggplant.
3. Fry the eggplant in some oil for about 1 minute turning frequently. Take out and drain on a paper towel. Next, fry the okra until the color turns vibrant green and put out onto a paper towel.
4. In a pot, put the shirataki in and heat to evaporate any water. Add the pork and cook until it turns color.
5. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the soup ingredients and cover with an oshibuta (drop lid), if you don't have one, make one with foil. Be sure to make it one size smaller than the pot and put two holes in the center, it should look like a pig's snout. Cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes.
6. Move the shirataki to the side of the pot and add the eggplant and okra. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the ginger juice.

NOTES: I read somewhere that shirataki when cooked next to meat makes the meat tough. Following this recipe, the meat became quite tough. For step #4 after the shirataki's water is evaporated, take it out and then cook the pork. Add the shirataki back in before cooking for the 7-8 minutes.

This dish is great with lots of rice and beer :)

It was a great Saturday.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

culture shock (part 2)

An unusual cultural shock for me was tissue and handkerchiefs. In Japan, usually near the train stations, you can find people passing out packets of tissue.

These aren't your ordinary tissue, these are advertising tissue. Many companies use this tactic to get their name out.

Now, you might think that having one packet would be enough and you would be wrong. A lot of the toilets in the train stations do not provide toilet paper, so having a couple of these tissue packets definitely come in handy. (There are also some vending machines at the entrance to most restrooms, but I can't see myself paying 100yen (about US$1) for a little packet of tissue.)

Blowing your nose with tissue in public is also considered rude, so you will often hear the Japanese "recycling things" with their noses and throats on the trains and buses...eeew! (I think I would rather see someone blowing their nose than to hear them making these sounds.)

So, why don't they use their handkerchiefs to blow their noses? This is because their handkerchief is used to wipe their hands after washing them in the restrooms. Paper towels are rarely provided in the train station restrooms. Although nowadays, there are some train station restrooms that have those hand dryers.

Another use of handkerchiefs are as napkins. Many restaurants do not have napkins unless you go to very upscale ones, so a lot of women use their handkerchiefs for their laps and as napkins themselves.

Growing up with tissues for noses, paper towels in restrooms and napkins while eating, I thought it was kind of odd about the wiping of hands on handkerchiefs. Although, I do agree that using your handkerchief in lieu of a paper towel or napkin would be helping the environment. (Not used to this handkerchief and tissue carrying I do sometimes forget to bring a handkerchief or some tissue and end up borrowing Satoshi's...)

Friday, May 25, 2007

quincy melon

With the use of hothouses here, there are some melons appearing in the supermarkets, I think the normal season is somewhere in July. This melon is called a quincy melon. It is similar in taste to a very ripe cantaloupe (maybe they are in the same family?) and it said to have a high amount of beta carotene. This melon was very juicy and sweet.

I also wanted to show you how price labels look like. On the top, there is a 14% (black arrow), this shows how much natural sugars are in the melon. On the price label itself, there is an area to show where this melon was grown, this one was from Kumamoto (green arrow). The labels almost always have a shomikigen (consume by date) (red arrow). After having several incidents involved spoiled foods, Japan is very sensitive about this date and always throws things out if this date is passed. (You can usually buy things for 50% off on the date of the shomikigen.) Instead of just throwing things out, I tend to go by the "nose test" and keep things past this consume by date. For fresh food items like meats, fish and fruit, they also list the date that the food was cut or prepared (blue arrow). Lastly, the price (purple arrow), a few years ago, the government passed a law that deemed stores to list the price of items with the tax already added in. Not all stores are following this law, so it can be a bit confusing when trying to figure out how much you owe.

When shopping for fruits and veggies, almost all produce sections have their fruits and veggies pre-packed or packaged, there is no handling, smelling, buying "only the good looking" items or weighing them. Most items are already top notch, with little to no blemishes and perfectly shaped. There is no switching of eggs from one carton to the other either, each carton is sealed. Luckily, the cartons are see-through, so you can at least see if they are cracked or not. Oh, and no tasting of grapes either...

Growing up with picking out your own veggies and fruit at the supermarket, I sometimes miss being able to handle or smell them, and I wish they would sell them by weight, so that I don't only have to buy just 3 carrots or 5 asparagus that they have pre-packed. And most certainly, I would appreciate paying less for a deformed fruit or veggie.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

sunomono & kinpira

When the weather is humid and hot, what do you like to eat?

I tend to favor things with vinegar in them because the sourness paired with a little sweetness is somehow refreshing to me.

This is what I made for dinner last night: Tako sunomono & kinpira

Tako sunomono (Octopus marinated in vinegar)-serves 4
150g boiled tako(octopus) legs
4 cucumber
20g wakame (kelp)
wasabi(Japanese horseradish)

Marinade: 6 tablespoons vinegar
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1.5 tablespoons dashi (stock)--if none on hand, just water will be fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)

Slice the cucumber thin and salt, leave for at least 3 minutes
Take hot water and pour it over the tako legs (this is to get rid of the fishy smell it may have, plus get the tako ready to soak in the marinade)
Cut tako & wakame into bite size pieces
Assemble marinade, put everything in.
When serving, you can add some wasabi on the side.

Another type of food that I like to make is something spicy. The second dish I made for dinner was kinpira. It was the first time for me to try this recipe and boy, was it good! Be sure to serve it with lots of rice.

Adapted from "Orange Page--Obaachan no aji (book 5)"
1 package pre-cleaned kinpira mix*
200g minced pork
1.5 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1/2 teaspoon tobanjan (Chinese chili paste)
1 tablespoon miso (soy bean paste)
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)

Rinse kinpira mix and set aside. *you can sometimes find kinpira mix in the refrigerated sections or freezer sections, it should have gobo (burdock), carrots and sometimes renkon (lotus root) in it.
Add oil to pan and coat kinpira mix well.
Add tobanjan, when you can smell the chilies, add the pork.
Cook until pork changes color, then add rest of seasonings.
Cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

Both dishes pair nicely with beer and can be served as pupus (Hawaiian for appetizers). Be sure to make the sunomono in advance so it can take in some of the marinade. If you are a working mom or dad, you could probably make the sunomono the night before, or both dishes the night before, so that when you come home you can just heat up the kinpira. You can also cut back the fat from the kinpira by making the dish in advance and scraping off the oil the next day.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ratatouille & samsoe gratin

The other day our supermarket had their 10% off coupon on all veggies. I bought quite a bit and made ratatouille it was really easy and tasted great.

The ratatouille that I made was adapted from "The French Kitchen"
Serves 4
1/2 onion, chopped
garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 eggplant, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
5 okra, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
dried oregano
dried marjoram
flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and onion
When the onion starts to turn transparent, add zucchini, eggplant, carrot and red bell pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and herbs.
Simmer until all veggies are soft.
Serve and garnish with flat leaf parsley.

Remember last week when my student gave me a little tub of cream cheese? Well, she also gave me an interesting cheese called Samsoe (Thank you again!). I had never heard of this cheese. It is a semi-soft Swiss-style cheese and is apparently named for an island near Denmark where it is made. I think this cheese might also be nice in fondue.

Since I still had veggies leftover from making ratatouille, I decided to make a gratin using potatoes, eggplant, red bell pepper, okra, onion, carrots and bacon. The weather hasn't been too hot so I figured this is one of my last chances to make a baked entree. I used this recipe for the bechamel sauce.

I can't give you a temperature at which I baked this gratin at because my oven has a pre-set button for gratin, but I will tell you that after the pre-set time, I cooked it in a 150C oven for 20 more minutes since the potatoes were a bit hard.

The gratin was spicy from the cayenne and the cheese matched nicely. With the addition of okra, the slimey consistency added to the gooey-ness of the cheese. The gratin was very delicious (and HOT (spicy & temperature wise)) and went well with a glass of red wine!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


In Japan it is the beginning of pickling season. In the markets, you can find plums to make umeshu (plum wine) or umeboshi (pickled plum), rakkyo (shallots) and shoga (ginger) to pickle. I really like rakkyo, so I was interested in trying to make my own and was surprised at how easy it was to make. It was actually similar to making takuan (pickled daikon(long white radish)).

Buy your rakkyo. If you are lucky, you can find them already cleaned. Just rinse and drain.

Make your sauce. This is the sauce measurements that was on the bag of rakkyo.

For 1 kg. of rakkyo (the amount inside the bag):

350cc vinegar
250g sugar
60g salt
60cc mirin (sweet rice wine)
Heat these ingredients until the salt and sugar melt. Cool mixture.

Put your rakkyo in a glass or plastic jar. Pour the cooled mixture over and wait 20 days before eating.

NOTES: I put a teaspoon of chili pepper in there too to give it a little kick!

Stay tuned...I think it's going to be good!

Monday, May 21, 2007


These grapes are in season now. They are called "Delaware". According to something I read on the internet, they originally came from Delaware, Ohio. If you've ever tasted grape candy, that is what these taste like.

In Japan, the skins are usually quite bitter, so we don't eat them. Just pop them in our mouths and spit out the skins.

This bunch was about 6 inches long and 298 yen (about US$3). It may seem kind of pricey, but that is the usual cost for these. They are sweet and delicious.

buta kimchee-don & shinto beer

An easy dinner. Buta kim chee don(pork with kim chee bowl)--rice topped with some lettuce, slices of pork cooked with kim chee and then a scrambled egg poured over. This went well with the Shinto beer we bought in Toba. The beer is a pale ale (I think) and kind of fruity and went really nicely with the spicy pork kim chee bowl.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

hey, don't smoke that here!

That's what I wish I could tell all the people who smoke in Japan.

Anyway, Satoshi plopped this box onto my computer the other morning and said, "Please smoke this". (Aside from the one time my dad let us take a puff on his nasty cigar when we were little, I tried cigarettes another time in college just to have the alcohol run through my body faster...but that is a bit too much information and another story.)

The box says Orion's Cocoa Cigarette and is made by Orion Star Candy Company. I was intrigued because growing up we had something similar--a cigarette-like gum wrapped with paper and when you put it to your mouth and pushed air into the "cigarette", a little puff of sugary "smoke" floated out, giving you the feeling like you were really smoking, or that was what I thought when I was little anyway.

But upon opening these I was a bit disappointed.

It was hard candy in the shape of sticks...No puff of "smoke". This cocoa candy is also flavored with hakka (peppermint). This candy has been around in Japan since the 1950's. It reminded me of those chocolate Velamints (gosh, those are a blast from the past! I had to ask around because I couldn't remember the name of those candies! Thanks S & BFF!).

Anyway, if everyone that smokes in Japan or the world decides to "smoke" these instead, I think I could live with it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

kitsune udon (actually somen)

Remember the junkie somen (Japanese vermicelli) that I bought recently? Well, I figured out that it wasn't the somen, it was me. I didn't have the water at a rolling boil when I cooked it the last time. These noodles are a bit thicker than the somen that I am used to and seem more like udon (wheat noodle).

For lunch yesterday, I made kitsune udon(actually somen). Kitsune means fox. The reason this dish is called kitsune udon is that an old legend once said that foxes love to eat aburage (fried tofu). Plus, kitsune-iro is also a brown, amber color that you look for when cooking things, I guess "it should be as brown as a fox"? Kitsune udon is one of the top 3 food items that should be eaten when visiting Osaka, in order, #1 takoyaki, #2 okonomiyaki and #3 kitsune udon.

I bought a piece of aburage. It comes thin or thick, cut or uncut. I bought the thin and uncut.

Cut the piece of aburage into triangles, it is up to you as to the size. The piece I bought was about 8 inches long, so I made it into 4 triangles.

Then run hot water over the pieces. This is to get rid of the oil coating on the aburage.

Put the aburage into a pot that all the pieces will be able to lay flat in. (If you don't have a pot large enough, you'll have to turn the pieces around every so often.)
Add 1.5 tablespoons of shoyu (soy sauce) and 7 or 8 tablespoons of mirin (sweet rice wine).

Bring the mixture with the aburage, up to a boil and put an oshibuta (drop lid) on top. (If you don't have a drop lid, you can make one with foil--make it a little smaller than the diameter of the pot and put two holes in the middle, it should kind of look like a pig's snout.)

Turn down the heat to simmer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, the sauce should have reduced quite a bit and should kind of be thick, like caramel. And the aburage will be a little plump, this is because it soaked in a lot of the sauce.

Cook your udon according to the package. Rinse the udon after cooking.

Get your tsuyu (soup) ready. I used a pre-made concentrated one that needed to be diluted with water. The pre-made stuff can be a bit on the salty side, but it is easy to use. You can dilute it with cold water for cool noodle dishes and hot/warm water for warm noodle dishes.

Add your cooked udon, and aburage, chopped green onions and some shichimi (Japanese 7-pepper spice) to the tsuyu.

Lunch is served!

p.s. If you have leftover aburage, you can keep it for a couple of days in the refrig to make kitsune udon again, just zap to heat it or warm it up in your soup before serving. You can also make this dish with soba (buckwheat noodles) instead of udon, which would then make it kitsune soba.

Friday, May 18, 2007

bagels (part 4)

My student Yoshimi gave me a little tub of cream cheese at our lesson on Wednesday. (Thank you!) With my newly acquired cream cheese I wanted bagels for breakfast so after our lesson, I went to a bagel shop nearby, but to my disappointment, they were closed.

Since I couldn't buy bagels, I made bagels yesterday. I previously tried making bagels and have posted my adventures here, here and here. This time, the bagels came out great except for it sticking to the parchment paper that I had put them on while baking.

Here is the translated recipe if you'd like to try making them.

From "Bagel & Bagel Book 1" makes 4 bagels.

For bagels:
250g flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
15g sugar
140ml water

For kettling:
2 liters water
2 tablespoon honey

Add the flour and make a well. Add the rest of the dry ingredients into the well. Add the water (in winter, you may need to use warm water).
Knead the dough for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 (about 100g) pieces
Make into balls and let rest under a dampened cloth for 10 minutes
Get a pan that you can rest another pan into
Form your bagels by rolling them between your palms and the board--cylindrically. Form a ring and overlap the ends a bit and pinch to seal--it should look like a bagel.
Sprinkle some flour and put your finished bagels into the smaller pan and then fill the bigger pan with hot water (30-40C (86-104F)) and cover with a dampened towel for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes kettle bagels as follows.

Add honey to water, bring to a boil
Put bagels in and cook on each side for 1 minute.
Wipe off and place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 190C(375F) for 15 minutes.

Also in this book are recipes for different kinds of cream cheeses. I usually like to mix a jam like blueberry jam into cream cheese, but the two recipes that intrigued me were a bit different and Japanese-y: matcha & azuki.

Here are the recipes for each:
Matcha (green tea) cream cheese
55g cream cheese
5g honey
1/2 teaspoon matcha (green tea)powder

Azuki (adzuki bean) cream cheese
35g cream cheese
25g sweet azuki bean paste (smooth or chunky)

If your cream cheese is a bit stiff, leave it out for a couple of minutes before mixing. Mix each well and slather on your bagels!

NOTES: Since I was following this recipe given in the book and everything was listed by weight, I used a scale to measure everything out. I think I needed to dry the bagels better before putting them onto the parchment paper.

The honey mixed in with the cream cheese and green tea balance the bitterness from the green tea and tartness from the cream cheese. And the pre-sweetened azuki paste mixed in with the tart cream cheese are a great match. Both spreads are great on bagels and they aren't too sweet.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

nu daifuku

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I've been kind of crazed with making mochi (rice cakes). Last week, I made ichigodaifuku, and yomogi mochi.

Well, the western style mochi that I wanted to try is nutella daifuku or nu (new) daifuku (get it?).

Anyway, it was my first time to open a bottle of nutella (what?!) and to try it. Talk about heavenly stuff! (Why haven't I bought this before?) It is so creamy!

Only problem was trying to stuff mochi with it. It is a bit too runny. In the past, I've put peanut butter into these mochi (you HAVE to try this version also!) and also a peanut butter chocolate spread (remember Jif's chocolate silk?) both are, as Rachel Ray would say, "yum-o"!

So, the oozy nutella wouldn't stay in the still tasted great!

One question I have though, the bottle says "do not refrigerate", the weather here is getting warm, will it be alright for it to stay out?

save my faves

I was asked by Melting Wok (a blog that used to be in the blogosphere) to list my top 5 faves as part of a thing going around the blogosphere called "save my faves".

If I understand the rules correctly, you are supposed to list 5 of your favorite mom & pop places to give them a little boost in business and recognition. I'm not sure my choices are exactly "mom & pop", but they are my favorite and within 5 miles of where I here goes.

Momofukutei in Ikeda (one station away from our place). I've previously posted about them here and here. Named after the inventor of Cup Noodle, the late Momofuku Ando, this little restaurant is a great place for lunch or dinner.

Another noodle place near our place is Hanamichi. I love their tomato miso ramen. Lots of lycopene and collagen from the soup. I've posted about this place, here. In fact, I just had this the other day.

MOS Burger. This is a burger place that you can find around Japan and is definitely not "mom & pop". MOS stands for mountain, ocean, sun and boasts fresh veggies and ingredients used.

There is even a list of which farms they got their veggies from that day and everything is made to order. I usually eat their roast katsu burger (pork loin cutlet). I love this sandwich because they put lots of shredded cabbage. In summer, I also look forward to their naan taco--Naan (Indian flatbread) with taco meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and spicy salsa sauce on top. There used to be a shop in Waikiki, but they have since closed down.

Abientot. I've posted about this place here, here & here. I love their breads and sandwiches and try to stop by anytime I go to Makiochi (two stations away from our place).

And for dessert, Korakudo. This little sweet shop has interesting mochi (rice cakes), like their nama choco daifuku (rice cake with ganache inside).

I've posted about this place here and here.

Whew! that was a lot of food. Thanks Melting Wok for this thought provoking list-up. It was sure hard to narrow my choices down to 5, but it was fun!

What's your 5 favorite places to eat?

UPDATE: Momofukutei is now Ippudo and Hanamichi no longer serves the tomato miso ramen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

easy lunch, easy dinner

I didn't feel like having something from a bake shop or sozai (prepared foods) for lunch yesterday, so I made a sandwich that I grew up with.

In Hawaii, we call satsumaage, tempura (or that is what my family calls them anyway). The tempura patties are bigger in Hawaii, almost 4 inches in diameter. You can usually buy them with 2 in a bag and they come with different stuff inside like gobo (burdock), veggie (carrots and green beans).

We make these tempura sandwiches by putting some mayo on bread, laying down a tempura patty and lettuce. (You can blot the patty with a paper towel if you wish.)

Somehow this version wasn't too much like home, I think it is the mayo and maybe my mom's touch. At home we use BestFoods and here I use an organic Japanese brand, I think they put a little vinegar in their mayo. Still, it was easy. I had my sandwiches with some kaki no tane (spicy rice crackers that look like the seeds of persimmons) and cold mugicha (barley tea).

For dinner last night, I wanted to use some things that were in the freezer, so I took out some hamburger, a piece of ginger and bought a half of a cabbage.

The recipe I followed was in the "Orange Page Haru ni Oishi Kondate" cookbook.

Nikudango to Shin-cabbage Amakarani (meat balls and spring cabbage simmered in a sweet salty sauce) (serves 4)

400g minced pork
1 egg
4 tablespoons minced green onion
1/2 tablespoon ginger juice
700g cabbage
50g kinusaya (snow peas)
sake (rice wine)
shio (salt)
kosho (pepper)
shoyu (soy sauce)
katakuriko (cornstarch)
salad oil
mirin (sweet rice wine)

1. In a bowl, put the meat, egg, green onion and ginger juice. Then add 2 tablespoons sake, 1/2 teaspoon shio, pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon shoyu and mix with your hand until the mixture gets sticky. Add 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and mix. Form into bite size balls.

2. Clean the cabbage and snow peas. Break the cabbage into random pieces.

3. In a fry pan, put about 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the meat balls, rolling them around as you fry them. Take them out after they brown and set aside.

4. In a pot with a lid, put half of the cabbage in then put the meat balls on top. Put the rest of the cabbage onto the meat balls. Turn the heat on to about medium.

5. After the cabbage starts to wilt, add 2 tablespoons sake, 2 tablespoons shoyu,1 tablespoon mirin and 2/3 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat.

6. Then carefully stir the pot so that the items on the bottom go to the top and vice versa. Add the snow peas and simmer for another 5 minutes.

7. Enjoy!

NOTES: I couldn't find nice looking snow peas, so I didn't buy any. The only hard part about this recipe was frying up the meat balls, my mixture was a bit wet, so it didn't make very nice ball shapes. I translated the recipe for 4 people but you can easily pare it down for two or one and this could easily be a busy week night dinner, just prep the meat balls (by cooking them) ahead of time.