Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sweet Seasons/February 2006 - Red Plum -

No, I haven’t forgotten about this lovely project. This is the wagashi for February: Kobai (red plum).

It’s such a shame that my photos cannot show the delicate and elegant color of this wagashi. These photos do not show the beautiful gradation of reddish pink to very light pink – almost white – unfortunately.

There’s one thing I learned after I started this project of combining photos of wagashi and plants/flowers of the season that it represents. The fact is that the wagashi is supposed to go a little ahead of time. In other words, they make and sell, for example, persimmon-shaped wagashi before persimmons are actually in full season.

It is probably because of the custom in tea ceremony. They seem to value the ability of sensing a subtle sign of seasonal changes as early as possible. So it is often difficult to get the photos of certain wagashi and flowers at the same time. Last autumn I had to give up on some ideas for this project because when the flowers became available, the wagashi was already gone from the shelves of wagashi shops. I was very lucky that it worked out this time with red plum. :)

I took this shot at a nearby shrine.

Plum trees in Japan originally came from China more than 1,000 years ago. Initially, white plum blossoms were popular, but later in Heian period, around the time when “The Tale of Genji” was written, red plum blossoms became more favored, though that kind of trees do not bear fruit.

* Wagashi by Ogasawara

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Obachan's Quasi-Kaiseki #2

Yes, I did this again. This is Obachan's quasi Kaiseki #2. If you're interested in what Kaiseki is and why I call it "quasi-kaiseki," click here. This time, I made all these on one day (not today, though). Oh, sorry! Misozuke-tofu was an exception. I pickled it a couple of days in advance.
Anyway, enjoy!


Obachan's Early Spring Quasi-Kaiseki
お品書き (Menu)

前菜/先付け Zensai/Sakizuke (Appetizers)

椀/吸い物 Wan/Suimono (Soup Dish)

煮物 Nimono (Simmered Dish)

焼き物 Yakimono (Broiled Fish)

揚物 Agemono (Deep-Fried Dish)

酢の物 Sunomono (Vinegared Dish)

御飯・止め椀・香の物 Gohan, Tome-wan, Koh no mono (Rice, miso soup and pickles)

菓子 (Dessert)

* I omitted 刺身Sashimi (Sliced raw fish) this time.

前菜/先付け Zensai/Sakizuke (Appetizers)

Yurine with Ume dressing, Taro with Yuzu-miso, Chigusayaki (Fried Egg with hijiki, ground chicken and vegetables),
Misozuke tofu, Daikon with mentaiko, Green soybeans,
Mentaiko on Chikuwa (Grilled Fishcake) Boat

Yurine with Ume dressing: My favorite. I usually blanch yurine (lilly bulb) very briefly so that it is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The seeded umeboshi (Japanese salty plum pickle) was sweetened with sugar and mirin.

Taro with Yuzu miso: Yuzu miso was a great success, but I had to use peeled and vacuum- packed taro potatoes, which were no good at all. What a disappointment.

Chigusa yaki: This is basically tamagoyaki with minced vegs and ground meat mixed in. The hijiki seaweed (the black bits in the square-shaped fried egg in the photo), ground chicken, minced carrot and black mushroom were seasoned with sake, mirin, sugar, soy sauce and dashi. This time I didn’t make the tamagoyaki very sweet. This was heated in a frying pan first till the egg was half set, then poured into a square baking pan and baked in the oven. When the surface was set, I brushed it with egg yolk. Green laver flakes were sprinkled on top at the end.

Misozuke Tofu: Tofu pickled in miso-sugar-mirin mixture for a few days. This appetizer is said to have cheese-like flavor and texture, but mine turned out too salty. I used the home-made moromi-miso that my colleague had given to me long time ago, which was very salty, so I shouldn’t have left the tofu in the miso mixture for that long. Next time I’ll try this with regular miso.

焼き物 Yakimono (Broiled Fish)

Grilled Salmon Marinated in Yuzu -flavored Sauce

This salmon was marinated for about an hour in soy sauce and mirin based sauce with 3 to 4 yuzu slices.

Oh, I really wanted you to smell this! While this was in the fridge, the aroma of yuzu filled there. And when this was being grilled… Hmmmm….!!
Delightful dish.

椀/吸い物 Wan/Suimono (Soup Dish)

Shrimp-Chicken Meatball, Taro, Shrimp, Daikon, Carrot and Kelp

Some of you might have noticed by now that my soup dish in this kind of meal tends to be made with whatever ingredients left from other dishes. But I do make a good dashi stock from bonito flakes and rather-expensive rausu kelp for this kind of course meal, so you have to give me a credit.
Isn’t this tiny mitsuba leaf cute? ;)

煮物 Nimono (Simmered Dish)

Daikon, Shrimp-Chicken Meatball, Seaweed and Black Mushroom

Now this is a big blooper of mine, to tell you the truth. First of all, I was going to use turnip but couldn’t find one anywhere, so I ended up with substituting it with daikon radish. Second, I was going to use shirodashi instead of dark soy, because I knew that dark-soy would ruin the color of daikon and shrimp-chicken meat balls. But before I realized it, my hands disconnected from my brain added dark soy to this soup. ※■#△!The taste wasn’t too bad, but look how brown the daikon and meat balls turned out! :(

揚げ物 Agemono (Deep-Fried Dish)

天麩羅 Tempura

Ganmodoki (Fritter of tofu and vegetables)
 Deep-Fried Green Pepper

This was my first time making home-made ganmodoki. The photo here shows how the tofu-veggie mixture looked before being deep-fried. I had read about how great it tastes when home-made, and now I understand!

What’s on top of ganmodoki is momiji-oroshi which was made by inserting a piece of red pepper in a cut made in small daikon block and grating the daikon with the red pepper. I know… this is a lousy job. But it tasted OK. ;P

天麩羅 (ふきのとう・たらの芽・シシトウ)
Deep-Fried Butterbur sprout, Aralia bud and Green pepper

These deep fried greens were supposed to be lovely…but unfortunately the fukinotou (butterbur sprouts, the ball-like ones in the photo) were so bitter! Later I was told that the younger the sprouts, the bitterer they are. I should have bought them 3 to 4 days in advance to let them bloom a bit more before use.

酢の物 Sunomono (Vinegared Dish)

Blanched Field Mustard with Miso-Vinegar Dressing

Now I’m not sure if a dish with sumiso (vinegar-miso dressing) can be considered as vinegared dish in Kaiseki course in a strict sense. Oh, well, this is not “real” Kaiseki anyway. I wanted to use something springy, so here’s nanohana (field mustard). But to be honest, I like it with mustard dressing rather than vinegar-miso dressing.

Daikon and Cucumber Pickled in Sweet & Sour Brine

Originally I was going to use one of these daikon-chrysanthemums as a garnish for the salmon, but it looked too big for the fish, so I decided to present them as a vinegared dish. Again, I was going to use a turnip to make these chrysanthemums, but couldn’t find any.

止め椀 Tome-Wan (Rice, miso soup and pickles)

ヒジキの炊き込みご飯、味噌汁、香の物 (Hijiki Takikomi, Miso Soup and Takana Pickles)

This takikomi gohan (Japanese pilaf?) was cooked in donabe (clay pot), and the (scorched rice) was just soooooooooo good, though I tried not to show it in this pic. The beige-colored bits in the rice are strips of aburage (deep-fried tofu pouch).

菓子 (Dessert)

黄身しぐれ Kimishigure (Steamed Sweet Bean Paste - Egg Yolk Dough with Matcha-flavored Bean Paste Inside)

This was my very first try and it was not a great success, honestly.
Here’s some pics that give you an idea of how these are made, if you’re interested.

I guess I made a mistake when copying the recipe … the amount of joshinko flour seemed too little, and I had to add more and more of it to make the dough handlable. So I couldn’t get the texture right. Ideally, the green color of matcha-flavored bean paste inside should have shown in the cracks… Well, I’m going to try making this dessert again, so better luck next time. :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Banana-Walnut Bread

Banana-Walnut Bread

I had this sudden craving for banana-walnut bread today, so I baked one this afternoon.

The banana I used wasn’t very ripe but this still tastes OK (a little overbaked, though). I just had two slices. Very filling. Mmmm…

OK, guys, here's the recipe. I substituted the shortening with butter, though. ;)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tai no Aradaki

Tai no aradaki

I gave up. There’s no way I can present tai no aradaki in a more sophisticated way, hiding all the grotesque parts. This is the best I can do.

What could be the proper English translation of tai no aradaki? It’s basically a simmered sea bream, but what you use is the head, bones, tail and a little flesh left on the bones, which were left after the fish was filleted. So it’s a very inexpensive dish (130 yen this time for all the fish parts), but believe me, the flesh left on the bones tastes sooooo good! Especially, there are some very tasty parts in the head of the fish that my grandma really loved to eat. ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Chocolate-Covered Ponkan Orange Bread

St. Valentine’s Day in Japan is not so much fun for this obachan who was once spoiled in the U.S. about this custom. This site says how it is like in Japan. See, I miss the nice cards and flowers I received on Valentine’s day when I was in the States, but here in Japan, women don’t get anything today. Yeah, of course, White Day comes one month later. But … I don’t mean to deny everything about Japanese Valentine’s Day and White Day, but this part of sending giri (obligation) gifts back and forth just to contribute to the sales of confectionery makers is … it’s not something I like very much. And wait and see. They’ll import the custom of “Black Day” from South Korea next. I'm almost positive.

Ponkan oranges from my dad's orchard

Though I didn’t take part in the chocolate-giving custom this time, I did something with chocolate to amuse myself. I baked my favorite ponkan bread (or cake?) and coated it with chocolate, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day.

Ever since I found this recipe (Japanese) on the net about one year ago, I have made this orange cake many times using ponkan oranges from my dad’s orchard. This is my favorite. The aroma and flavor of ponkan oranges make the cake a little different from regular orange cake, and even my parents liked it when I made it once at their house. I heard that orange and chocolate make a good combination and I had been wanting to try it out. So, today was the best opportunity.

And here’s what I learned today: The ponkan bread probably tastes better without chocolate coating.
Maybe orange frosting would be better. ;P

Monday, February 13, 2006

Friendly Sushi Place

Fish fish’s recent sushi post had triggered my sushi craving, and this was the place I went last Saturday. Yeah, I can’t afford expensive sushi served at a real sushi restaurant, but I can go for a more action-oriented sushi once in a while --- the ones that come and go on the belt-conveyor. ;)

The place is called Marine polis. Don’t ask me why. I can only imagine that the “marine” has something to do with the seafood used for sushi, and “polis” came from “metropolis” or something… but I’m not sure.

Broiled mayonnaise-prawn sushi?

I liked this. The shichimi pepper gave a nice kick to the familiar combination of mayonnaise and prawns.

Fried eggplant with miso glaze sushi?

I didn’t try, but these were my friends’ favorite. They looked so happy eating these, so I’m sure this will be on my “things to try next time” list.

Hirame (left-eyed flounder) sushi

This is my absolute all-time favorite. Mmmmm….!!

Jumbo hokki-gai gunkan

Look at these! Do you feel like trying them? The white peaks on top are chopped surf clam, possibly mixed with chopped veggies and seasoned with mayonnaise, maybe? I didn’t feel like trying, but definitely thought these were worth taking photos. ;)

I wish I had more money that day.
BTW, in a kaiten-zushi shop, sometimes the conveyor makes me feel a little dizzy. Does this happen to you, too?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Izakaya Chronicles #2- Changes -

Looks like a few of the kitchen staff are going to quit at the end of this month.It always feels kind of strange to work with someone, knowing that the person is going to be gone soon.
New staff.
New entries to be added to our menu.
New work shift.

Usually, I feel excited when something new comes in, but…

Oh, one funny thing. Last night at work, one of the cooks told me that they had the electric dishwasher repaired. The repair person said, “You guys are lucky. If you had kept using this without repairing, some of you would have gotten electrocuted!” according to the cook. That would have been me. I'm the one who spends most of the time with the dishwasher, and I didn't even know that there was anything wrong with the machine. :O

Friday, February 10, 2006

With the Leftover Walnut Sauce...

With the leftover walnut sauce, I made this dish. I sautéed ground meat with chopped lotus root, then seasoned with the walnut sauce, sake, miso, tou ban jan and soy sauce.

Wrapped in lettuce with shredded celery, the sweet-spicy meat tasted pretty good, though with no trace of walnut flavor at all.

Anyway, so good with beer! ;)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Project Mochi - Vol. 3 -

Kurumi Mochi (Rice Cake with Walnut Sauce)

Here’s my another experiment with mochi. Kurumi mochi seems to be fairly popular especially in northern part of Japan, but I’ve never tried it before. I combined a couple of recipes I found on the net to come up with this recipe, and I think this can be improved somehow, but not sure how.

Kurumi mochi (rice cake with walnut sauce or glaze?)
2 pieces of mochi
25 g walnuts, chopped
35 g sugar
1+1/2 teasp water
1+1/4 teasp soy sauce

Toast walnuts to bring out their flavor (thanks Jen for the tip! :D) and chop them coarsely. Grind chopped walnuts in suribachi. Add sugar and grind well. Add water and soy sauce. Grind some more until the sauce is thick and smooth.
Wet and microwave mochi until tender. Dress with walnut sauce (glaze?). Top with chopped walnuts, if desired.

If you like the sauce runnier, add more water. I tried adding a little sake, too, and it was not bad, but I thought the sake hid the taste of walnuts to some extent.

I used this kind of mochi (made from glutinous rice) this time, but I think mochi made from mochiko (rice flour) will be OK, too.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Kaki furai (breaded and deep-fried oysters)

I made kaki furai twice this winter, and I was disappointed both times. I don’t know why… The oysters tasted rather bland. I thought it was my seasoning, so I used more salt and pepper on my second try, just to find out that it didn’t help much.

One of the cooks at the izakaya said that smaller oysters would probably taste better. That’s right… the ones I used were quite big both times. Mmmm… next time I’ll look for smaller oysters.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The 7 Meme

Bilbo tagged me for the 7 Meme the other day and I’m going to let the world know a little more about myself.
BTW, there seem to be a few different versions of this meme, but I followed bilbo’s. ;)

7 Things to Do Before I Die

1. Go to Singapore and eat chicken rice.
2. Go to Australia and see Ayers Rock.
3. Go to Canada and learn fishing (esp. fly fishing)
4. See aurora.
5. Live in a small house near the ocean with a big dog and a little kitty.
6. Meet with foodbloggers in Japan and enjoy all-night karaoke party ;)
7. Clean my room and the bathroom completely and perfectly.

7 Things I Cannot Do (or things I do NOT enjoy doing)
1. Maths
2. Watching horror films (there are a few exceptions, though)
3. Cleaning
4. Eating fish with a lot of bones
5. Brown-nosing a hypocrite
6. Touching a cockroach with bare hand
7. Public speaking

7 Things that Attracted Me to Blogging
1. I can make friends all over the world
2. I can learn from friends all over the world
3. I can share my thoughts and creativity(?) with friends all over the world
4. I can use my “Engrish”
5. I can see things around me in a different way through blogging
6. It’s free.
7. It’s fun to play with templates

7 Things I Say Most Often
1. Really?
2. Maybe.
3. OMG.
4. Oh well.
5. Yeah, right.
6. Kind of.
7. Maa, nantoka narudesho. (Translation please, anyone?)

7 Books I love
1. Gone with the wind, Margaret Mitchell
2. ABC Murders, Agatha Christie
3. Flowers to Algernon, Daniel Keyes
4. Wathering Heights, Emily Bronte
5. The Grape of Wrath, John Steinbeck
6. Hyakumankai Ikita Neko (The Cat That Lived a Million Times) (Japanese)
7. Tebukuro wo Kaini (Japanese)

7 Movies I Watch Over and Over
1. Fried Green Tomatoes
2. The Hustler
3. A Chorus Line
4. Thelma & Louise
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
6. Amadeus
7. Shawshank Redemption

7 Bloggers I’m Tagging
Sorry, I’m taking an easy way out again, because this meme has been around for a while and it tags 7 bloggers, not 3 or 5 like most other memes, I think most blog friends are probably tagged already. And if I would tag them again, it’d give them another trouble of having to come to my blog and say “Hi Obachan, I’m already tagged by so and so,” and/or add another name to the list of the bloggers who tagged them. So I’ll do this again. Please let me know if you want to play this meme and want to be tagged. Thanks! :D

Friday, February 03, 2006

Common Cold Remedies Meme

Tamagozake (Japanese Eggnog)

Rosa’s Yummy Yums tagged me for the Common Cold Remedies Meme last month, and now here it is! Sorry for taking so long.

This tamagozake is one of the common cold remedies in Japan. As the name indicates, it’s a mixed drink of egg (tamago) and sake, sweetened with sugar. The sake is supposed to give you a good sleep and the lysozyme in egg white is said to strengthen the immune system and thus help cure the cold.

Tamagozake (Japanese Eggnog)
Ingredients: for 1 serving
1 egg
180 mL sake
2 tsp sugar
(A little ginger juice from grated ginger root -- optional))

In a saucepan, heat sake and let it flame for a while to evaporate alcohol. Remove from heat and wait for a few minutes to let it cool. Add beaten egg to sake little by little (do NOT add all at once), stirring well. Add sugar and heat over a VERY low heat, stirring continuously until thick and creamy. Add a little ginger juice, if desired. Serve hot.

* To stir tamagozake, I prefer using 5 to 6 chopsticks to a whisk. ;) To make it smooth and creamy, it is important to keep stirring thoroughly while heating over very low heat. (The double boiler method may be safer, but it still needs thorough stirring.)

This is a common cold remedy in Japan, but it also reminds me of Buddhist memorial services in my childhood. Women in extended families got together to cook, and while men were drinking and eating in the main guest room, women in the kitchen enjoyed this drink made with leftover sake. :)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Kakiage Don

Kakiage Don

I work at an izakaya pub in Japan, and kakiage don is something they often make for staff’s meal there. When this dish is served for supper, waiters/waitresses figure out that the kitchen staff is really busy that night and there aren’t much leftover ingredients in the kitchen.

Kakiage Don (Shredded Vegetable/Seafood Tempura on a Bowl of Rice)
Ingredients - 2 to 3 servings -
The vegetable/seafood ingredients can be substituted with your favorites.
(20 to 30 g for each)
- Carrot
- Onion
- Sweet potato
- Mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley)
- Shrimp
- Kobashira (eye of scallop)

Cooked short grain rice for 2 to 3 servings
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

55 g flour (cake flour preferred)
2 tsp corn or potato starch
1 egg yolk
A pinch salt
100 mL ice water
(1 tsp sake … optional)

Tsuyu (Sauce)
160 mL dashi stock 
40 mL soy sauce
40 mL mirin
40 mL sake
1+1/2 tsp sugar


1. Heat all tsuyu (sauce) ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Set aside.

2. Shred vegetables. Cut seafood in small chunks.

3. In a bowl, mix egg yolk and ice water. (Do not get ice in the egg-water mixture. Add sake, if desired.) In another bowl, mix flour, corn or potato starch and salt and add to the mixture. Stir lightly by running chopsticks or a fork through the batter in a “cutting” manner so that it does not develop gluten in the flour. The batter can be lumpy and should be slightly runnier than regular tempura batter.

4. Add shredded vegetables and seafood chunks to the bowl that was used for mixing dry ingredients. Sprinkle with a little amount of flour and toss to coat the vegetables and seafood.

5. Pour the batter over the ingredients and mix.

6. Heat vegetable oil to apx. 180 C. Take a scoop of the ingredients on a turner and let the excess batter drip off.

Slip the ingredients into oil, pushing gently with chopsticks or a fork. Deep-fry until both sides are golden brown.

Drain on paper towels.

7. Heat the sauce again. Pour sauce (apx. 60 to 70 mL per serving) over warm rice in a big rice bowl (donburi). Place a kakiage on the turner and dip it very briefly in the remaining sauce in the saucepan, then transfer onto the rice. Serve warm.

Read More for Serving Suggestions and Tips

Serving suggestions: Pickles, soup (especially miso soup) and hot green tea would be nice accompaniment to refresh the tongue. If you like the kakiage crispier, just place it on top of rice without dipping in the sauce and pour sauce over it.

* Tips:
Now, these are various tips for crunchy tempura batter that I’ve found on Japanese websites. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these, but there might be something totally new to you. Choose what you like. ;)

To make crunchy tempura batter:
1. Use ice water to make batter and keep ingredients refrigerated until use.
2. Use egg yolk, instead of whole egg.
3. Add a little corn/potato starch to flour.
4. Add a little salt to flour.
5. Add a little baking powder to flour.
6. Add a little vinegar to batter.
7. Add a little beer or other kind of alcohol to batter.
8. Use mayonnaise instead of egg.
9. Use unsweetened soda water instead of ice water.
10. Use rice flour instead of flour.
11. Make batter right before you start deep-frying. Do not make it way beforehand.

I have tried 1 to 4 and 11, and they seem to work for me, but you may not get the same result because the crunchiness of tempura also depends on other factors such as the kind/temperature of the oil you use, how you drain tempura, etc. I use vegetable oil, sometimes canola, and at our izakaya, we use the mixture of shirashime oil (refined oil) and lard.

* Kakiage is also great for the topping of warm udon or soba noodles. I always do this with leftover soggy kakiage.