Saturday, June 30, 2007

easy dinner

It has been really humid the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon it poured with thunder and this morning we awoke to cloudy skies and more humidity, not very inspiring cooking weather.

For dinner, I decided to make something easy.... Donburi (dish in a deep bowl). I found a relatively easy recipe in a cookbook I have been using a lot lately, "Orange Page's Natsu ni oishii kondate"

Oroshinose-yakinikudon (grilled marinated meat bowl with grated daikon on top) Serves 2
2 bowls of cooked rice (about 400g)
200g thinly slice beef sirloin
3 cm daikon (long white radish)
3 leaves of shiso (perilla)
shiroi irigoma (white sesame seeds)

1/2 tablespoon sesame seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
ichimitogarashi (ground red chili pepper) to taste

1/2 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce

Prep: Cut meat into bite sized pieces. Peel daikon and grate. Wash grated daikon and drain well. Mince shiso.

Method: In a frying pan, put the sesame oil and heat on high. Place beef flatly and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Cook in pan until beef changes color then add sake and ingredients for the sauce. Let the sauce coat the beef well and take out of the pan.

Plating: In a donburi bowl (deep bowl), put the cooked rice and place the cooked beef on top. Add the grated daikon and shiso on top of the beef. Sprinkle some sesame seeds and some ground chili pepper.

NOTES: This dish was delicious. The sauce didn't overpower the beef and went well with the cool grated daikon.

Another thing that I did was "toss together" a little salad. This recipe was also from the same book on the same page as the recipe above.

Celery no kim chee ae (Celery dressed with kim chee) Serves 2
1 stalk of celery
80g kim chee
1 teaspoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon of shoyu (soy sauce)

Prep: Take the leaves off the stalk and break the leaves with your hands into easy to eat pieces. Slice the stalk of celery to 2mm (thinly). Slice the kim chee to 2-3 cm pieces.

Method: In a bowl add the mirin, sesame oil and shoyu, mix. Add in celery and kim chee.

NOTES: The leaves of the celery were quite bitter, but I liked the crunch of the celery stalk and kim chee.


Friday, June 29, 2007

asazumi tomato

What to do when the humidity is so thick outside? Take out a "cool" treat.

This is made by Seikanin, a Japanese confectioner in Kyoto.

It is called Asazumi tomato because it is supposed to resemble a freshly harvested tomato that is ripened in the sun. The second ingredient on the label is tomato and boy! was there a nice tomato flavor--a little tart but still tomato-y. The outside is made from kuzu (arrowroot/kudzu) mixed with peach and mango juice. The sweetness from both of these flavors fades in the background to the tomato flavor when eaten together.

Very refreshing!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

pongashi okoshi

I've been seeing a lot of this around in the shops and on television. In Hawaii, we call this puffed rice. In Japan, it is called pongashi. This one was a genmai(brown rice) puffed rice.

It is probably called pongashi because of the machine that puffs the rice. It looks like a cannon and when you release the pressure in the cannon it makes the sound "pon". (Actually, it doesn't sound cute like "pon" it sounds more like a "bang" and usually makes the people standing around the machine jump.)

When I started blogging and reading other blogs, it sparked me to try to cook or bake things from scratch. (Like instead of buying a ready-made salad dressing, I will try to make one from scratch. FYI: I haven't bought ready-made dressing in two years!) Since I am always willing to try a recipe at least once, I wanted to try making pongashi okoshi, or the Japanese version of a rice krispie treat.

I looked around on the internet and was surprised at how little information was out there. There were many sites that sold the finished product, but only one that gave a recipe.

So, I got all the ingredients together and tried the recipe.

Pongashi okoshi translated and adapted from a recipe on the Internet

1 cup mizuame (glucose/heavy syrup)
400g sugar
1 teaspoon salt
180cc water
1/4 cup oil
pongashi (puffed rice) teki-ryo (suitable amount)*

In a pot, heat all ingredients except the oil, stirring with a wooden spoon, let everything come to a boil. Scoop a little of the liquid, when the bubbles do not disappear on your spoon, add the oil.

Mix in the puffed rice and other items like nuts or arare (rice crackers).

Spread out to the desired thickness and cut before it cools completely.

NOTES: *One Japanese cooking instruction that I don't like is "teki-ryo" which means "a suitable amount". What does that mean? how would you know what is suitable? should I use 1 bag of puffed rice? 1 cup?

Anyway, I cut the recipe for the sugar mixture to one-fourth. I added 2 and 1/2 cups of the puffed rice and 3/4 cups of an arare/peanut mix. Since the okoshi is still on the soft side, I'm thinking that I should have either let the sugar mixture boil a little longer before adding in the oil or added more puffed rice and the arare/peanut mix or maybe both. On top of that, the weather was very humid yesterday. Still, it is addictingly delicious! I'll definitely have to try this again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

guess what this is

I wonder if you know what this is? I saw it while visiting Mt Koya.

I'll let you know what it is in a couple of days.

ANSWER: There weren't many guesses, but I want to thank those who gave it their best shot...most of you knew it was some kind of hive. It is a suzumebachisu (hornet's nest). At first when I saw it in the show window of a Japanese sweets shop at Mt Koya, I thought it was a vase.

I'd never seen one this big in person (it was about a foot tall!), only on TV, but apparently they can be found around Japan. Every year, some who stumble upon the nests are killed from the shock of being stung. Now, you know if you see one...don't touch it!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

naan taco

Awhile back, I posted about MOS burger and how they serve a naan taco during the summer. Well, Friday was the start of naan taco on their menu.

In Japanese, they call this dish "naan tacosu", I think it is because if they called it "taco" they would get people confused into thinking that there is tako(octopus (same pronunciation)) on it. Plus, the Japanese have a hard time pronouncing things, I think this is due to the katakana phrasing of words, they can't pronounce "boot", it will always come out "boots", "salad" will always come out "salada".

Anyway, since I had a lesson in Ikeda this morning, I walked to MOS burger for lunch on the way home.

This year, they came up with 3 types of naan taco. Cheddar cheese sauce naan taco--with "real" fake cheese (This is the original one and the one that I had). A spicy sauce naan taco--with a habanero & jalapeno sauce. And mole sauce naan taco--with a sweet sauce made from chutney, chocolate & cocoa.

The only part of the naan taco that I don't like are the chips on top, they tend to be stale. So now that I've had my naan taco for the year, I think I'm ready for the heat of summer ahead.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

mt koya

Friday was a very rainy day and Saturday morning we awoke to a beautiful sunny day.

From our place, Mt Koya is a two hour train ride, 5 minute cable lift ride and 10 minute bus ride away. We bought the Nankai Mt Koya free subic (I'm not too sure about the spelling or what it means but in katakana it is pronounced koyasan furee saabick) ticket for 2780 yen per person (about US$30). This fee included the cable lift, and round trip train ride, off and on privileges for the bus, plus, discounted entrance fees to some of the temples, museums and discounts at some gift shops.

Mt Koya is located in the Northern part of Wakayama prefecture about 1000m above sea level. The Shingon(True Word) sect founded in 816 by Kobo Daishi has a huge religious retreat here. If you want to truly experience everything, it is best to stay a night at one of the shukubo (missions).

From Gokuraku station, you need to ride the cable lift up to the top of Mt Koya. At the top, there are buses waiting to take you to the retreat area.

The first place we stopped at was for lunch. One of the things you have to try is the goma tofu (sesame curd). I won't tell you the name of the restaurant because the one that we ate here was a bit bland to me, a better goma tofu would have been really fragrant from the sesame seed paste that is used to make it.

Next we walked to Okunoin. This area is a huge cemetery with very old and large sugi (cedar). It is a very tranquil place. One of the people buried here is Tokugawa Ieyasu, a famous shogun (Japanese general). Kobo Daishi is also said to be in "eternal meditation" in the cave of Okunoin waiting for the Buddha of the Future to meet him. Other people also want to be "invited" to attend this meeting, so they are also buried at Okunoin, waiting along side of Kobo Daishi.

There were some interesting headstones here, and many companies have graves here also. Take for example, the UCC coffee company. And the astronaut association. Satoshi and I overheard a guide say that most companies have graves here but it is also a good way to advertise for them.

At Okunoin, we were able to see a group of monks. There were a lot of interesting artifacts inside of Okunoin, but no photos were allowed.

From Okunoin, we took the bus to Karukaya-do and walked the main street. We stopped at Shoeido for some yakimochi (grilled rice cakes).

We tried the yomogi (mugwort) and plain--both were filled with tsubu-an (chunky sweet bean paste), just off the grill...delicious.

We then walked to Kongobuji. This temple was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a Japanese warlord). There was a free tea ticket with our transportation, so we were able to enjoy a little tea break here.

This temple also had a very nice rock garden.

And a very old kitchen area that was still being used.

Nearby Kongobuji is the Konpondaito. This pagoda is 48.5m tall and situated in the center of Mt Koya. Again, no photos were allowed, so I could only get a shot of what was on the outside.

At most places, you are required to take off your shoes. I thought this sign was funny...."off shoes, off"....

At many of these temples you can get your prayer books stamped and then something written by the monks. These ladies happened to be doing just that and apparently, many people travel all around Japan getting these stamps and calligraphic writings....kind of like an autograph book of sorts.

Next to Konpondaito is Kondo Hall. This is actually the 7th reconstruction of the building. Sorry, I didn't take a photo of it.

From Kondo Hall, we walked to Daimon. This HUGE gate stands at the main entrance to Mt Koya. I had to walk across the street to get the whole thing in!

From Daimon, we walked to the Reihokan. This building displays many National Treasures. Again, no photos allowed.

From the Reihokan it is about a two minute walk to Daishi Hall, this is where all that want to become Daishi missionaries come.

We caught a bus from Daishi Hall to Namikirifudomae. This is where the Tokugawa Family Tomb is. In the front of the tomb is a temple called Namikirifudo, here there is an awesome dragon covering the ceiling. To tell you the truth, we were a bit disappointed with the Tokugawa Family Tomb. Admission is 200 yen (about US$2) and there wasn't much to see because the tomb is fenced in.

We then caught the bus to Nyonin-do. Nyonin-do is where all the women who came to Mt Koya were allowed to stay and worship. Apparently, they weren't allowed into the retreat area until 1872. This shot is of the entry way--all women were to stay behind this gate. (There used be 7 other entry ways, but this is the only one still in tact.)

Then it was time to return to the hustle and bustle...we took the bus back to Mt Koya station to catch the cable lift down the steep mountain.

Since the cable lift uses one rail, there is a point where you pass another car.

Here are some omiyage (souvenirs) that we bought--goma tofu and ume (pickled plums). (Wakayama prefecture is also known for their ume.) I hope this goma tofu is better than the one I had for lunch.

After all that walking I felt like this little guy...I hope you enjoyed our adventure as much as we did.

Have a great week.

Friday, June 22, 2007


The rain has been coming down since the early morning, last night I was awoken by the awful humidity. It felt like someone turned the oven on and stuck us in there....blah!

Since Satoshi is off today, we decided to go to Irifune, a cute little soba (buckwheat noodle) shop in our shopping arcade. I've written about this shop before, here.

Summertime brings the cold version of noodles. The soup or broth that the noodles are served in are icy cold. And although the rain was coming down, I wanted to eat the shop's kisetsu gentei (season limited) item, ume oroshi soba. (I've heard that most people in Osaka are weak for anything that is limited editioned or maybe it was the Japanese in general.)

Ume is pickled plum (the big red thing on top), it is soft and very sour, makes every part of your mouth pucker. Oroshi is finely grated daikon (long white radish), depending on what part of the daikon you use to grate can depend on the spiciness of the oroshi. If you use the bottom half it is more spicy than the top, this is because the top half gets all the love from the sun. Most shops use the bottom portion of the daikon to get their oroshi really spicy.

Hopefully the rain will stop so that we can get out and about tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

cherry clafoutis

It is cherry season here. Bing cherries are here from America. In Japanese they called these...American cherry. I've been seeing a lot of cherry clafoutis on blogs and here and here and having never eaten this, I wanted to try making it.

I found a recipe in "The Silver Spoon". (There was another recipe for it in another cookbook I had, but that recipe called for 3 eggs and I wanted to half the recipe, so I chose the one in "The Silver Spoon".)

I didn't have a cherry pitter, so I improvised and used my tomato knife. I never knew what that hook-like thing on the tip of the knife was for (I tried using it to take the stem of the tomato off with it, but it never really did the job) now it is my cherry pitter. I was amazed at how easily the pits came out using this hook. Not much mess either.

You can check out the other blogs for their recipes, or you can use this recipe, it really was easy.

Cherry Clafoutis (Clafoutis alle ciliege)
Serves 6 from "The Silver Spoon"

sweet butter for greasing
scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 cup milk
scant 2 cup black cherries, pitted
vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400F(200C). Grease a cake pan with butter.
Sift the flour into a mound in a bowl, make a well in the center, add the eggs, sugar and milk and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan so that it is two-thirds full.
Sprinkle the cherries on top and bake for 40 minutes.
Sprinkle with vanilla sugar before serving.

NOTES: As I said above, I halved the recipe and used ramekins instead of a cake pan. I didn't have sweet butter and used olive oil to grease the ramekins. I really liked this--the texture was like bread pudding with warm cherries, very different from canned cherry filling in pies. These cherries were a bit tart, but the vanilla sugar topping helped to balance everything out. (Maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be nice with it too!) Plus, when I opened my bottle of vanilla sugar the aroma was heavenly!

Hope you have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

comforts of home

With the rainy season here in Japan, two things I miss after it stops raining are the rainbows that you can usually see in Hawaii and the air cooling, in Japan after the rains you are just left with humidity....ugh! For some reason, I've never seen a rainbow around mainland Japan. I think there may be too many buildings here or something. (this photo was taken while home in January from the H-1 freeway)

Anyway, yesterday started off nice and sunny and then turned gloomy, humid and drizzly!

To cheer myself up, I wanted to make something to remind me of home, but it had to be easy--I decided to try Rainbow Drive Inn's recipe for shoyu chicken--I got the recipe from Nate at Hwn Pake in Okinawa. (Thanks for the recipe, Nate!)

This recipe didn't take too much time to cook. Make sure to pour some of the thickened gravy onto your rice, it is ono! (Hawaiian for delicious)

Yesterday, I received some fresh salmon from my friend, Kazumi. (Thank you!) She had suggested grilling it or cooking it meuniere style (baked with butter and herbs), but I had a really ripe tomato, half an onion and some green onion in my fridge, so I decided to make lomi lomi salmon instead. (I think it is called lomi lomi salmon because you are supposed to "massage" (lomi lomi) all the ingredients together.)You are supposed to use salted salmon, but since this salmon was fresh, I added some Hawaiian salt.

I hope the sun comes out soon, but until then I have my comforts of home to keep me company. Hope you are staying dry and cool where you are.

UPDATE: Since Nate passed away and his blog is no longer public, I'm posting the recipe for the chicken here:
12 pounds chicken
2.5 cups sugar
3.25 cups shoyu
3/4 cup to 1 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
6 dashes worcestershire sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3-inch to 5-inch pice of ginger, crushed

1. Wash, drain chicken
2. Combine sauce
3. Bring to boil, cook until chicken is cooked (about 30-40 minutes)
4. Skim oil, thicken sauce with cornstarch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

michael mischer's web site

I just got word that Michael Mischer's website is up. (For the longest time, it was only a top page, now you can drool over all the wonderful stuff he is creating.)

If you are in the Oakland area, check his store out!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

e komo mai

"E Komo Mai" means "welcome" in Hawaiian. In Hawaii, we don't usually use this phrase in everyday conversations, but you will often see it around at entrances to restaurants or subdivisions. On my trip home in January, I bought this welcome mat at the Swap Meet (a flea market)--I was bummed that it was made in the Philippines and not made in Hawaii. Still, it brightens up our entryway.

If you remember, while I was in Hawaii, Satoshi came to re-new his drivers license and we met up with friends. (Before we moved to Japan in 2001, the Dois were in Hawaii too. Mr Doi works for a hotel. After moving to Japan, we've gotten together with them several times for dinner.)

We've talked about having them over for dinner or heavy pupus (Hawaiian for appetizers), but with everyone working (except me), it was hard to get everyone's schedule free...until today.

The menu I planned was not too fancy and usually things you can find at pot-luck parties in offices or homes in Hawaii.

Layered Taco Dip with tortilla chips
Chinese Chicken Salad
Spicy Poke
Kim Chee Dip with crackers
Deconstructed chocolate haupia pie

Layered Taco Dip is Satoshi's favorite. I've mentioned this before but this is what Satoshi asks for when we are throwing a party in our home. It also has become sort of a tradition at our Christmas parties. One of Satoshi's friends actually said that it isn't Christmas unless he eat this dip...kind of like needing turkey for Thanksgiving I guess...

Chinese Chicken Salad is my favorite. Actually, I like the dressing because of its sweet/sour flavor.

Spicy Poke was a new recipe for me to try. Sam Choy (you may have seen him cooking with Emril on the Food Network) is the "master of poke" in Hawaii and also has a contest every year on the Big Island to find the best poke. I found a recipe in the Honolulu Star Bulletin while home in January. (Nate, since I can't send some over to you, this photo is for you!!)

Spicy Poke by Sam Choy taken from the Honolulu Star Bulletin 1/31/07
1 lb. ahi (tuna) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium tomato cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup ogo (limu kohu seaweed) chopped
1/2 cup onion cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup cucumber cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced green onion
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed minced chili pepper (seeded)
1 teaspoon kim chee base
salt, pepper to taste

Serves 16--1/4 cup servings

NOTES: this recipe makes a LOT of poke. I used 473 grams of maguro (tuna) (about a pound according to the conversion calculator that I used). Also, I used the poke packet that I bring home from Hawaii. Inside the packet is dried ogo--all I did was reconstitute it in water and chopped it up. Since Mrs Doi either cannot eat cucumber or doesn't like it, I didn't add it in. Make this a little prior to serving so that all the flavors can meld and can be served cold.

Kim Chee Dip was a last minute addition. I knew there was a super easy recipe but I didn't have it in any of my cookbooks. Thank goodness for the internet, it hooked me up with the recipe.

From HECO (Hawaiian Electric Company)

1/2 cup chopped kim chee
8 oz. cream cheese cut into quarters
1 tablespoon kim chee juice

Whiz in a blender add more kim chee juice if needed. Chill and serve with crackers or chips.

NOTE: I only had half of the cream cheese amount, so that was what I used. I stuck everything into the food processor, unchopped, and just whizzed everything just a bit to have some texture from the chunks of kim chee. It is really fast and easy!

Dessert was a deconstructed chocolate haupia pie of sorts.

I made the haupia (coconut pudding/gelatin) using the NOH mix. I really wanted to make everything from scratch but couldn't find all the ingredients in time.

The chocolate pudding was from a mix too, Jell-o. I toasted the macadamia nuts the night before and put everything together this morning.

NOTES: I'm gonna try making this from scratch, the haupia mix is not too coconutty and the chocolate Jell-o is too sweet and overpowers everything.

We also had wine called Birillo made by Tenuta Marsiliana. A couple of months ago, I had this wine with dinner and really liked it, so I hunted for it around our area but came up empty handed. Then one day while surfing the internet, I found it online in Japan and quickly ordered 2 bottles. This "mini Super Tuscan" wine is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and Shiraz.

The Dois also brought Santero's Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay--it was good, dry and reminded me of champagne.

We sure had a lot of food, I hope the Dois had a nice time.

Have a great week.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

coffee warabi mochi

Warabi mochi is a great treat during the summer. Stick it into the refridge and chill it up.

A little shop near our place called Korakudo makes a coffee version--with just enough sugar so as not to overpower the coffee taste.

The shop owner sells this frozen, by the time I walked home, about 10 minutes, it was ready to eat!

Summer is here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

snacks & scones

I don't know about you, but while I'm sitting in front of the computer, or in front of the TV, I like to munch. Sometimes it is dried fruits, sometimes it is nuts, but most times it has to be something crunchy, like these snacks....

Karinto--a sweet, deep fried treat made from flour and sugar. Some are also made with kokuto (literally black sugar = raw sugar), matcha (green tea) and aonori (green laver). I read somewhere that this treat goes back to the Edo period (around 1830).

Senbei--a baked wafer. There are many different types but these are called shoga senbei (ginger flavored wafer), a sweet but spicy wafer with some sprinkles of matcha (green tea), kurogoma (black sesame seeds) or shiso (perilla). Both of these snacks go well with either hot or iced Japanese teas.

Changing the subject a bit, Summer brings "cool" and refreshing looking sweets. This effect is created by using kuzu (kudzu/arrowroot). For this kuzumochi (arrowroot rice cake), a ball of an (sweet bean paste) is enveloped in translucent kuzu. I hope to show you more of these "cool" sweets throughout summer, some are really pretty.

My friend Val sent me a box of Stonewall Kitchen's scone mix. After looking at the box, I realized that this called for a LOT of unsalted butter (a stick and a half!) and after calculating it into grams, I realized it would take almost a whole box of Japanese butter.

Butter is quite expensive here and unsalted butter is even more expensive. So, whenever I try baking, I always try to cut down the recipe to the smallest portion possible to use the least amount of butter.

Since I was out of things for breakfast, so I decided to make these. I followed the directions on the box and also added blueberries and lemon zest. These scones rose very nicely,were moist and kind of flaky. (Thanks Val!)

Well, we have officially gone into the rainy season here in Osaka although we were 6 days late. The way the weather was going, I was thinking (more like hoping) that maybe it wouldn't be so humid...I was wrong.

Hope you have a nice weekend.