Grilled Ongiri - A perfect July 4 weekend BBQ treat

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Here is the story which appeared on Zester Daily about my favorite snack food:

Killer Onigiris

Posted on June 10, 2014 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I've been eating Tartine bread non-stop for breakfast, lunch and supper but after two days, I felt like eating rice for lunch.   Onigiri came to mind, but of course, I wanted to celebrate RICE CRAFT - the ongiiri book I am going to write for Chronicle Books. One of the reaasons why I was in SF was to close the deal, and closed it is!  It's a good feeling. The book will be published in Spring 2016. A long ways to go but I have to get to work because some of the manuscript is due in September. I will make killer onigiris.  

Perfect Eggs for a Japanese Omelet's Elegant Swirls

Posted on April 27, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

One of my favorite passtime is making a Japanese omelet.  If I have pastured eggs, the occasion becomes even more special.   The pastured eggs I used to make this omelet came from Linda Vista Farms.



Posted on November 4, 2013 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I like to include a dish during the coming American holidays that remind me of home.  This year, I am going to have Kinpira gobo - stir fried burdock and carrots seasoned with soy, mirin and a little sugar.  There is a chopped chili pepper in there to give it some heat.  I love this dish cold and warm.  Here is the gobo that I wrote for Zester Daily. 

Fried Mochi - Kagami Biraki

Posted on January 8, 2011 at 7:28 PM Comments comments (1)

Fried Mochi sprinkled with Ao-Nori seaweed

Before leaving for Tokyo, I needed to put away the It has been decorating my home in Santa Monica since the first of the year. 

The Japanese ceremony of putting the Kagami mochi away is called ; literally, it translates to "Open the mirror" or "Breaking of the Mochi." The mochi is broken into small pieces with your hands and a hammer. Usually it is done on the 11th day of the New Year and as the description suggests, you are officially open for business.    

Nowadays, many Japanese people don't  bother decorating the home with fresh Kagami Mochi.  Artificial mochi made of plastic and ceramic have become popular substitutes since hardly anyone make mochi at home. I was lucky to find fresh mochi in Los Angeles at my local Japanese market because I don't like the idea of using artificial food for this occasion. 

Old Kagami mochi is perfectly edible and good, but it will get hard and a little bit moldy, especially if you live in a humid climate.  But once cleaned,  mochi can be deep fried to make Age-mochii or boil ed and used it in sweet azuki bean soup.  If you don't have Kagami-mochi, you can use regular mochi for the recipe.

10 day old Kagami mochi, cracking in places. The green mold grows where the two discs touch.

Scraping the mold off the mochi is a little laborious but I find it rather meditative.  


It took me about ten minutes to clean the mochi.

Break the mochi discs with your hands or a hammer. Use a sharp
knife to srape off the mold.

Deep frying mochi.

Paper towels remove excess oil on the fried mochi.
I start munching the moment they come out of the oil!

You can sprinkle fried mochi with salt.  Also good is with Aonori seaweed flakes, which are sold in a glass jar or in little packets at the Japanese markets.  If you like it hot, try

Age Mochi - Deep-Fried Mochi -  Recipe:
Makes 4-6 servings (appetizers)

4-6 pieces of mochi or Kagami-mochi
2-3 cups Vegetable oil for deep frying  
Salt, Shichimi Pepper, Aonori-seaweed flakes for sprinkling

Use week old mochi that is hardened.  Scrape off mold, if any.  Break the mochi with your hand unto small edible pieces.  You can also use a hammer.

Heat oil to 325-350F in a cast iron pan.  Use enough oil so it is about 1 inch in depth.
Fry one side until the mochi is browned, flip the mochi pieces over and brown the other side.

Pat dry on paper towel and sprinkle the mochi pieces with salt and other sprinkles of your choice.  

Serve while the mochi is piping hot.






Soba Noodle Chips

Posted on July 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (2)

While making soba for lunch today,  I made some fried soba chips with fresh dough.  I love these chips. They can be salted or sprinkled with sugar.  I like them with salt.  

It later got scorching hot this afternoon.  I didn't feel like doing much cooking in the evening. And I didn't have to. I found a beautiful fresh Dungenous crab at the market, all cooked and ready to be cracked.  It was a perfect evening to sit outside in the patio to have dinner.  I laid out some newspapers and we had the crab with the freshly made soba chips, cucumber asazuke pickles, and a nice white  wine from Spain - (2007) from Galicia.The wine was crispy and fruity.  I love these kinds of easy summer nights.

Enough chips to feed 4 people

8 oz Soba dough -left over from making soba, cut into strips - random is okay
3 cups of vegetable oil

Heat oil to about 320F in a heavy cast iron pan.  Drop 1/4 of the dough into the
heated oil and fry until brown on both sides.  Be Careful not to burn them.
Pat dry on paper towels.  Season with salt or pepper. 

Best served fresh but they also keep well in a sealed container.

Carrots and Burdock Chips - Suage

Posted on June 4, 2010 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I love vegan chips. The latest experiment is with carrots. I made a lot of burdock chips 
at the Tsukiji Soba Academy while learning how to make toppings  for noodles.  These chips are perfect for soba and udon noodles, but can also be eaten straight as chips.  (here is the link to the recipe). The carrots tasted sweet and paired nicely with burdock chips.
I ate this entire dish by myself.  That was like eating one whole burdock root and a large carrot.

Shaved burdock and carrots.  I soaked them in water with a little
rice vinegar.

Stir fried Hijiki Seaweed with Tofu and Vegetables

Posted on January 16, 2010 at 7:23 AM Comments comments (0)

When I am in Japan, I find myself eating some type of seaweed everyday. One in particular that i love is hjiki, a porous grassy seaweed that grows wild on the rocky coastlines of Japan. Hijiki has great texture and flavor. It is sold in the US in dried form. Hydrated, hijiki expands to about ten times its original size, so a little amount goes a long way.  I use the long Hijiki seaweed, called Naga-hijiki

The easiest and tastiest way to prepare hijiki is to simply stir fry it with other vegetables. The most popular combination is hijiki with sliced tofu pouches, age, carrots, and green beans.  The way I do it is, I look in the fridge and see what vegetables I want to use up. You can come up with your own combination. Peas, sliced burdock, peppers and celery also work well. I season this dish with dashi or chicken stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. You can spice it up fresh ginger. For a more savory flavor, you can add about a cup of thinly sliced pieces of meat or seafood such as shrimp or clams to this recipe. If you want to make this dish more like salad, add crispy greens like mizuna, lettuce or sprouts (daikon radish sprouts are good.), just before serving. The  other nice way to serve this dish is to mix it into steamed rice and turn it into hijiki rice. I do this quite often.

One thing to remember about hijiki is to make sure you soak it in water for at least an hour, drain, and rinse it several more times to remove any impurities. Serve this dish in small appetizer portions.  It's a great source of calcium, iron and fiber.

Naga-hijiki - Long hijiki

Serves 4

1 cup dried hijiki, hydrated

3 -4  dried shiitake mushrooms, hydrated

1 large or 2 small pieces Age (deep fried tofu pouches) optional

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, 1/8 thick

1 tsp peeled and thinly sliced ginger

2 tbls roasted sesame oil or vegetable oil

1 cup dashi, dried shitake mushrooms stock or chicken stock of your choice

2 tbs mirin

1 tbs sake

1 tsp sugar or honey (optional)

1/4 cup soy sauce, or to taste

Salt if needed


Garnish: 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds (optional)

Add the hijiki last.

Soak hijiki in cold water to cover for at least one hour. Drain.  Rinse a couple more times to remove impurities.

Hydrate shitakes in cold water to cover, about 20 minutes.  Slice shitakes into 1/8 inch pieces. Reserve soaking liquid for the stock if you like.

Put oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir fry the carrots, age, mushrooms and ginger first for 2-3 mintues. 

Add the hydrated and drained hijiki.  Stir a couple times; add the stock or shiitake soaking liquid, mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce. Stir, turn heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated. Mixture should not be soupy or dry. Taste, and make adjustments with soy sauce, sugar and salt, if needed.

Serve as a salad or appetizer, about 1/3 cup servings per person.  Garnish with roasted sesame seeds.

Ganmodoki - Tofu Fritters with Yuzu

Posted on November 7, 2009 at 5:07 AM Comments comments (1)

We are approaching   season. This aromatic citrus is a bit pricy at about $1 or $2 for a tiny fruit, and at the moment, I can only find green unripe us.The ripe yellow, mini-grapefruit shape beauties should come out soon though.  You can still use the green  in the same way as the yellow ones. A little zest adds lovely fragrance to the food, and to the hand that holds it. Yuzu is a nice brightener for gammadoki, tofu fritters. Gammodoki is a tofu based, vegetarian fritter.



These fritters are fried at a low temperature of 250 degrees F. If you deep fry it in higher temperatures, it will brown faster but you will end up with cold tofu inside so keep an eye on the thermometer.  To this tofu mixture, I added edamame and shitake mushroom, which gives the bland tofu a lot more flavor. Other possible fillings are chopped carrots, ginko nuts, lotus root, hijiki seaweed, black sesame seeds, chopeed shrimp, squid, octopus.  Make sure these vegetables and seafood don't exceed forty percent of tofu, or it will not hold together in the oil very well.  Gamodoki's other name is Hiryozu, Flying Dragon's head, and as in its name, I find the best way to eat it is piping hot with soysauce and yuzu or lemon; it makes a nice appetizer. Ganmodoki is a popuar ingredient in braised dishes and  Nabe, Japanese Hot Pots. Prepare the ganmodoki a few days ahead of time, and have them ready to throw in your hot pot!  And don't forget the yuzu.  You can add yuzu rinds into the hot pot or enjoy the cooked hot pot ingredients with a squeeze of yuzu. 


Serves 4 - about 12 tofu balls

1 firm tofu, about 14 oz

1 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg 

1/2 cup edamame, shelled

4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped

4 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying


Garnish - Yuzu wedges (if you can't find yuzu, use lemon or lime)

2 teaspoons of grated ginger 

Soysauce for the table.

 Wrap tofu with a clean cloth or paper towels and put it on a cutting board. Place another cutting board or plate on top of the tofu to press out the water, about 20 minutes.  Put tofu, egg, salt and flour in the food processor.  Process to make a paste. Add the edamame and shitake mushrooms.

In a cast iron pan, heat oil to 250-275F.   With slightly wet or oiled (use vegetable oil) hands, make tofu balls the size of a golf balls. The oil or water prevents the tofu mixture from sticking to your hands.  You should be able to make about a dozen. Slowly drop the tofu balls into the heated oil.  Deep fry the tofu balls slowly until they are golden.  Drain well on paper towels or newspaper. Serve them with yuzu or lemon weges, grated ginger and Soysauce on the side.  

Wrap the tofu in a clean cloth or paper towels.  Place a cutting

on top to press out water. 

Deep fry the tofu balls at around 250F-275F until golden.

Do not put too many balls in the oil. 

Remove excess oil with newspaper or paper towels

Serve with yuzu wedges, grated ginger and soy sauce.

Shrimp, Wakame and Cucumbers in a Rice Vinaigrette

Posted on August 23, 2009 at 1:22 AM Comments comments (0)


Shrimp is one of the most popular and easy to find seafood in the world but I have had my set of hit and misses, especially with boiled shrimp. The texture of boiled shrimp can often be rubbery and the flavor blah. I would avoid ordering shrimp coctails at restaurants because they almost always disappoint.  I think shrimp deserves better.

Recently, I found a way to boil shrimp and make it come out with a lot of flavor and texture. What I do is coat the shrimp in a little potato starch (katakuriko) before boiling it. You can use other starches like kuzu or cornstarch.  The Chinese have used this technique for centuries.. They coat cornstarch on both meat and seafood. You don't need a lot. In fact, you need to use just enough to put a thin coat.  I did it with this vinegared shrimp.  My shrimp looks a little prettier on the plate and the shrimp has much better flavor and texture.

I used a benrina to slice the cucumbers thin.


Makes 4 servings

4 large shrimp or 8 medium size shrimp
1 cup of reconsitituted dried wakame seaweed, cut in 2-inch pieces
1-2 cucumbers, sliced thinly,  1/8 inch or thinner crosswise
1 Tbls Potato starch (katakuriko)

Vinegared dressing:
2/3 Cup Dashi Broth (See Basics dashi recipe)
1/8 cup Rice vinegar
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 Tbls sugar 

Make the vinegar dressing.  Chill in the fridge.  

Rub the sliced cucumbers with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt until water starts to come out
from the cucumbers.  Squeeze gently.  Set aside in the fridge.

Clean and devein the shrimp.  Sprinkle potato starch on the shrimp.
Bring a small saucepan with water to a boil over medium heat.  
Prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes and set in the sink.
Now cook the shrimp in the boiling water for about 30 seconds or until it is 
cooked. Turn off heat.  Transfer cooked shrimp to the bowl of ice water and

Rinse and drain the wakame seaweed.  Squeeze out excess water.

Assemble the shrimp, cucumbers and wakame seaweed.  
Pour the dressing over the salad.  Serve immediately.

Note: The dressing will keep in the fridge for a week.

Braised Duck Leg with Ginger

Posted on July 13, 2009 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

When I started making my own soba noodles, I acquired a new taste for duck as a topping for soba. The morsels of baised Duck with ginger is like eating spicy caramels of duck meat. These gingery sweet little cubes of meat cam be enjoyed with rice or as a topping wtih soba or udon noodles.   

Fresh duck leg meat is not very expensive, about $5 for two legs at Wholefoods.  With two legs, you can make enough toppings to serve 3 to 4 people.  This dish has lots of ginger so it's quite spicy.  You can cut it back if you prefer a milder flavor.  The last bit of soup is caramelied to give the meat a nice glaze finish.  It keeps in the fridge for about a week, so make a batch.   It also makes a nice appetizer with ginger.


Kamo no Shigureni
Makes 2 -4 servings

2 Duck Legs (Kamo no Momo), de-boned
2 -3 tbls, peeled and thinly sliced Ginger (Syoga)
1 tbls Sugar, optional
3 oz Sake (Sake)
10 oz Soba Broth (Kake Jiru)

Chop the duck into ½ cm cubes. Blanch the duck meat in hot water to remove odor.

Comine ginger and duck in a medium size pot. Add all the seasonings and cook over low heat until most of he liquid is absorbed and caramelizes the meat.  Let cool to room temperature.  
Serve as toppings for soba or udon. It's delicious at room temperature.

Cut it into even cubes. Leave the fat on the meat for good flavor.


Posted on June 25, 2009 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (1)

There are so many ways to cook an omelet. What I often make at home is a Japanese style omelet called tamago or tamago-yaki. This is a good recipe when you want to use up your eggs. I've got lots of eggs in the fridge. If I don't cook them before I leave town, noone else will so I better get on with it. I use five to make one tamago-yaki.


You have probably ordered tamago at a sushi bar. The -yaki from tamago-yaki is dropped and is simply called by its principle ingredient: tamago which means egg. I take the quality of tamago at a sushi bar as seriously as a piece of tuna. It is one of the few things that the sushi chef serves cooked. The secret of a good tamago is in the ingredients, which are eggs, dashi broth, sugar and light soysauce. Some sushi bars buy ready made tamago from a tamago-maker; they can be horribly sweet and dry. A good sushi chef will make his own tamago . Fresh everyday. If you are lucky, it may be sitting on the counter top still cooling off. The chef will slice you a fluffy hot piece, which you will have to blow at while eating it. It's so good.

I often make tamago-yaki to serve with noodles or put in the bento box. Or sometimes as an appetizer. I stuff tamago-yaki with herbs and vegetables such as Mitsuba, tomato, scallions, mushrooms, etc. Also, meat and seafood. I made one with cut pieces of grilled eel the other day. It was great. I will have to blog about that recipe.

This is my everyday non-stick pan, which I use for making tamago.

Since I made a big batch of somen and soba noodle dipping sauce, I decided to serve noodles and make tamago-yaki as a side dish. I haven't made tamago-yaki in awhile. My tamago making skills will be a bit rusty. I can make it in a rectangle tamago pan or a round non-stick pan. I will make it in a pan that everyone recognizes and probably owns - the round non-stick pan. Most Japanese home cooks don't bother to invest in a rectangle tamago pans. The shape of the tamago can be molded with a bamboo mat while the tamago is warm. My grandmother made hers from a round pan. She would serve it right out of the pan on a small cutting board and slice the hot tamago-yaki right at the table. It was one of the last beautiful dishes she made for me when she was 100 years old and still living on her own in Kamakura. I remember eating tamago with sashimi. She cooked rice on the wood burning stove and seasoned it to make sushi rice. Grandmother always tried to make the occasion of our visit, the best onel ever. It always was.



Pop the air bubbles with a fork or chopstick before folding the tamago into three.

TAMAGO - Japanese style omelet

Serves 4



  • 6 eggs
  • 6 Tbls Dashi ((link to Basic Dashi stock recipe)
  • 4 tsp sugar 
  • 3 tsp light color soy sauce (Usukuchi-syoyu)
  • Vegetable oil for frying, about 3 tbls (to be used for basting the pan)
  • 1/2 cup grated daikon radish to serve on the side
  • Soysauce- on the table to taste
  1. Make dashi broth. (here is the link).
  2. Bring the eggs, sugar, soy sauce and dashi and mix gently. Do not beat the eggs.  
  3. Put the egg mixture through a strainer.  Any big egg while lumps remaining in the strainer should be discarded.  
  4. Heat the non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Spread the oil around the pan evenly. Wipe away excess oil.  Keep the remaining oil in a little cup.  Have a paper towel ready to baste/rebaste the frying pan with oil.
  5. Drop a little egg in the frying pan to test the heat. If the egg sizzles and starts to cook right away, the pan is ready for cooking.   You want the pan on the hot side but be careful not to burn the egg.  Add about 1/6 of the egg mixture to the pan and distribute it quickly and evenly around the pan, tilting it up and down. When the egg starts to bubble, use the tip of the chopsticks or something pointy to break the air bubbles. Tilt the pan and fill the holes with egg batter in the pan.  
  6. When the eggs are half way cooked,  move it away from the heat for a moment and with a non-stick spatula quickly take the far end of the omelet and fold it towards you in three, as if you were folding a napkin. Push the tamago to the far end of the pan again and reheat the pan over medium high heat.
  7. Put a little oil in the empty spaces and remove any egg parts stuck to the pan. Now pour another 1/6 of the egg mixture and again, wait for it to cook. Pop the bubbles if you see any. Fold the egg over the first egg roll.Repeat three or four more times. Be careful not to burn the egg. Some sushi chefs make tamago that remains yellow and soft. This is a matter of preference.  I like it a little bit on the brown side but I still want the tamago to come out fluffy and taste the dashi. When you have used up all the egg, brown both sides to give the Tamago some color. 
  8. Bring out the bamboo sushi mat. Put the tamago on the bamboo mat surface. Wrap the tamago and let it taken on a rounder shape. Don't wrap it too tightly. Let tamago rest for a couple of minutes. Slice the tamago crosswise into 1 inch pieces and serve it with grated daikon radish and soy sauce. You can also serve tamago at room temperature.  

Menu suggestions: Tamago, Soba noodles with dipping sauce, Satsuma-age


Roll it up in the mat and let the tamago rest for a few minutes or long


The ends are for nibbling



A Lunch Guest from Japan

Posted on June 22, 2009 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Bufala and Spaghetti with Ragu alla Bolognese

Russ Parson's Roasted Cherry Tomates and Mozzarella Bufala.

I am having a Japanese guest over for lunch today. I figured she might be hungry for Japanese food after being in LA for 5 days. So I made some fresh dipping sauce for the noodles last night and checked the pantry to see what kind of noodles I have in stock. I have plenty of soba and somen noodles. I am in good shape. It would be a no brainer simple lunch. But later in the evening, I did what I usually do almost every night. I took a cookbook to read in bed. Whenever I read about food, I either get involved with it or it knocks me right to sleep. What came with me to bed was an old issue of Savuer (April 2008), which featured Classic Pasta. I've read this issue countless times but when it comes to classic recipes, I like to reread and cook them in my imaginary kitchen. This practice hones my skills and deepens my appreciation for cooking, without any pressure. This issue discusses various Ragu alla Bolognese recipes. Ground meat, tomato sauce, red wine, onions, carrots and celery are the basic ingredients. The modern recipe spices the ragu sauce with coriander, star anise, cardamon, sherry vinegar, fish sauce, tabasco and tons of garlic. Another recipe in the same issue doesn't ask for garlic or a single sprig of parsely. An Italian ragu recipe with no garlic or parsely? I reread the recipe to make sure I didn't skip a line. So funny what keeps me up in the middle of the night. Some where between looking for the garlic in the recipe and thinking about tomorrow, I fell asleep. When I woke up this morning, I was still thinking about the ragu alla Bolognese so I decided that I will serve Spaghetti with Ragu alla Bolognese and forget the Japanese noodles.


Spaghetti with Ragu alla Bolognese



You can almost never go wrong feeding Italian food to Japanese people. They adore it. If you go to Japan, the second most popular flag next to the Japanese flag is the Italian flag. This is because there are so many Italian restaurants that fly them. I basically combine three recipes from Saveur but use ground chicken as a base because that is all I have in the fridge. Ground beef, lamb or pork are more common meat for making a ragu sauce. From the modern ragu recipe, I use a dash of coriander and with some hesitation, star anise but I skip the fish sauce, tabasco and the sherry vinegar. That would too adventurous. Then I go to the old recipe I already have in my head, which is no recipe. I add some dried herbs - basil and oregano. Now I feel in my comfort zone. I cook the sauce for about two hours over low heat. I get a little nervous about what the star anise is doing to the sauce. What if my guest doesn't like the flavor? I don't want it to overwhelm so I scoop it out. I taste the tomato sauce. It has a hint of the anise scent. That's exactly what I was going for. I make a few adjustments to the sauce with a teaspoon of sugar to help neutralize the acidity of the tomato and a generous splash of red wine just for fun. It can't hurt. My kitchen smells Italian. The Ragu came out light because I used chicken. My guest thought it was nice and healthy.


There is time to make an appetizer. I decide to do the dish that my friend Russ Parson made for Marisa Roth's party the other night. It is Roasted cherry tomatoes and Mozzarella Bufala which is served on slices of toasted baguette. Russ is not only a very good journalist but also a very good cook. This appetizer was so popular at the party that people took turns sitting in front of the plate. Unfortunately, the Bufala I bought is not the creamy Puglia type that Russ used. I cut my soft but not creamy soft Bufala into bite size morsels and make a sheet of white on the plate. My guest arrives just as I am taking the roasted tomatoes out of the oven. "It smells very good, " she says. "I hope you don't mind, we are eating Italian?" "I love Italian, she said smiling. See I told you. My guest is walking around the house taking pictures of my funky vegetable garden and Sakai's sculptures. While she is snapping away, I put the roasted cherry tomatoes on top of the bufala. I start the water for boiling the spaghetti. Then I go back to the appetizer plate. I garnish the roasted tomatoes with chopped basil and serve it with the toasted baguettes.I offer her wine but she opts for ice tea. I have the same. I will have a glass of wine in the evening.


all gone!



Serves 2

  • 1/2 box or about 24 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/2 ball Mozzarella Bufala (Puglia style is preferred) 
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic, chopped finely 
  • 1 tbls sliced basil 
  • 1/2 baguette, sliced about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick,crosswise 
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper to season 

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. 
  2. To roast the cherry tomatoes, put them on a sheet of aluminim foil large enough to hold the tomatoes.  Toss lightly with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Seal the foil and put it in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes.  When the tomatoes are half way cooked, throw in some chopped garlic for added flavor.  The tomatoes are done when they are very soft and begin to burst.  Do not burn the tomatoes.  Take the tomatoes out of the oven and open the foil to let them cool down.
  3.  If you can find Bufala from Puglia, the cheese will be too soft to cut.  Simply, scoop it out of the container and spread it on the serving plate.  If you have regular Mozzarella Bufala Campagna, the ball will be soft but not creamy soft.  So you will be able to cut it into small morsels.  Lay the morsels on the serving plate.  
  4. Toast the baguette.  You can brush the surface of the baguette with olive oil, if you like.  Serve the roasted tomatoes on top of the Bufala and sprinkle basil.  Serve with toasted baguette.  
  5. Serve immediately.

Roasted cherry tomatoes 


SPAGHETTI WITH RAGU ALLA BOLOGNESE  (Revised from Savuer recipe - Anna Nanni's Ragu alla Bolognese -April 2008) 


Serves 4 people   

  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  •  2 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 lbs ground beef or ground chicken
  • 1 4oz piece pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tbls tomato paste 
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt, pepper, taste
  • 1/4 tsp each of coriander, dried oregano and dried basil, or more to taste
  • 1 star anise 
  • 1 package of Pasta - spaghetti
  • 1 cup Parmegiano-reggioano, grated 

  1. Put the tomatoes and their juice in a blender; puree until smooth and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery, onions and carrots.  Season with the condiments.  Just a 1/4 teaspoon of each seasoning, to taste.  Put one star anise in the pot but take it out after 15 minutes of cooking and discard. Lower heat and cook for another 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Taste the sauce again and make adjustments.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a spatula, until the meat begins to brown, about 10 mintues. Add the pancetta and continue cooking.  Ad the wine and simmer.  Add tomato pate, the reeserved tomato puree and sugar, and continue simmering utnil sauce is very thick, about  2 hours.
  4. Cook the pasta, following package instructions.  
  5. Serve cooked pasta with the ragu alla Bolognese and grated parmigiano-greggiano. 


 And she left for the airport.

Faithful Fish Cake (Kamaboko)

Posted on June 16, 2009 at 2:17 AM Comments comments (0)

No, this is not an eraser or a piece of conceptual art.  Though there is a lot of thought that goes into making Japanese fishcake - Kamaboko.  The shape alone is a work of art that has withstood the test of time.   

I was hungry when I got back from Portland so I went to the fridge to see what I can snack on. Of course, most of the fridge looks pretty barren.  But in the meat compartment, I find kamaboko (fish cake). Like salami or cheese, I can always count on this fellow. I also found some Persian cucumbers in the vegetable compartment that I picked up from Teheran Market.   With a piece of ginger, which I always have,  I could fix a little Sunomono - vinegared salad. That with a glass of wine will comfort me.

If you wonder what Kamaboko is made out of, it is mostly of cod or sea bass.  The fish paste is placed on a piece of wood and shaped into a half moon and steamed like a sausage . There are many ways to eat kamaboko. Straight like cheese.  You sliced it up.  It's chewy and on the bland side in flavor. If you find kamaboko bland in flavor, you can dip it in soy sauce or even have it with soy sauce and wasabi like sashimi.  Chinese and Vietnamese also make steamed fish sausages but the color, texture and seasonings are quite different.   

Here, Kamaboko is served with sliced cucumbers to become a refreshing salad. It is a simple variation of vinegared Cucumber and Octopus I blogged about on June 7. This dish is really a no-brainer. Kamaboko keeps in the fridge for about a month, so it's good to have a block around.  I said, the cucumbers should be sliced thin, about 1/8-inch but they definitely look thicker in my photograph, don't they.  Doesn't make a good picture so be careful.  Slice them thinner than mine! 




Vinegared Cucumber and Kamaboko





Serves 2-4

  • 1 Japanese cucumber, peeled
  • 4 1/4 inch thick slices of kamaoko
  • 1 tbls ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp salt for the cucumber

  • Vinegar dressing:
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbls water or Dashi broth (see  Basics - for Dashi Broth - optional)
  1. Make the Vinegared drsss
  2. Rub cucumber with 1t sp of salt. Slice thinly, 1/8-inch thick. Soak the salted cucumber pieces in a bowl of water (2 cups) for about 15 minutes. Drain.
  3. Slice the kamaboko pieces into small triangles. First cut the 1/4 inch thick piece vertically in half. Then cut the triangle in half again to make two triangles. You will have 4 triangles out of each kamaboko slice.
  4. Grate the ginger.
  5. Assemble the cucumbers and Kamaboko in a bowl. Pour the dressing and serve with grated ginger.






Posted on May 31, 2009 at 4:08 AM Comments comments (0)

Today, I invited a few neighbors for Happy Hour.  Everyone bought a bottle of wine.  I served a L'Estandon rosefrom Cote de Provence.  I love to drink roses in the summer. I love its color and refreshing taste.  Dan came with a red wine from La Vieille Ferme from Cotes du Ventoux. He said it wasa good one and a great buy - under $10.  He was right.   Ellen brought a beautiful Santa Barbara Chardonnay from Gainey Vineyard. This one was a hit.  

I decided to make Gyozas for everyone. They are the perfect food for a casual gathering. People love to participate in the wrapping process .  No one quite wraps gyoza the same way. I once made gyozas for a party of sixty Brazilian and Canadian film crew in Toronto. There were about 7 or 8 people who volunteered to help and the volunteers kept growing. The kitchen got chaotic and Tommy, one of my volunteer wrappers, ended up slicing his finger with a glass he was using to cut the wonton skins into roundshapes. He had bought square wrappers by mistake instead of the roundones we commonly use for gyoza. Austin, his boyfriend had to rush him to emergency. I felt really bad. Some of the gyozas that we made that evening turned out like empanadas and charcoal but we managed to fry them all up and feed the hungry crowd. They were ecstatic but it was a lot to manage.  


I make my gyozas with three folds on each side. I have tried folding them in one direction but they don't come out as nice. Gyoza making is similar to knitting. Once you get into a certain habit, it sticks with you.  In my meat Gyoza, I use ground pork or chicken, shrimp,scallions, napa cabbage, garlic and ginger. It's all chopped up evenly and I marinate the meat mixture in sesame oil, sake, and soy sauce for a few hours. For today's happy hour, I made two packets worth of gyoza,about fifty in all. They disappeared along with the wines, lemon cillo and the strawberry buckle that Ellen and Liz each went back home to get.  It's good to have neighbors over.  We were one happy bunch. Since I was out of town on Memorial day, this really felt like my first day of summer.  Please also refer to the pictures in the Gyozas I made for a Summer lunch. (here is the link)



Serves 4 (or more as appetizers) 

  • 2 packages gyoza wrappers (about 50 pieces) 
  • 3/4 lbs ground pork or ground chicken
  • 2 cups napa cabbage, chopped finely
  • 6 shrimp, deveined and chopped finely
  • 3 scallions, chopped finely
  • 1 tbls ginger, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1-2 clove garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 tbls soy sauce 
  • 1 tbls sake
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 tbls water
  • Sesame oil for cooking
  • Serve gyoza with Chili Oil (La yu) and soy sauce


  1. Combine the meat, cabbage, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, water, salt and peper. Mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to marinate the meat. 
  2. Prepare a cup of water in put it to the side of the cutting board where you will make the gyozas. The water will be used like glue to seal the wrapper.
  3. Put one wrapper on a clean dry cutting board. Place approximately 1.5 teaspoons of meat in the middle of the wrapper and fold in half.  Do not overstuff the wrapper. It will tear. Seal the edge of the wrapper by basting it with water.  You can do this by dipping your finger intothe cup of water and use the wet tip of your finger to baste the edge of the wrapper.  Make folds as in the picture or anyway you like.  Use more water to baste and seal areas of the wrapper that are open. You don't want the meat to fall out while frying.  Line wrapped gyoza on aplate. You can refrigerate the gyoza at this stage for a few hours andcook them later but best if you fry them right away.
  4. Ina medium size non-stick frying pan, pour about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil or more and heat pan to medium. You will get the best results when the pan is heated evenly.  It's the same idea as making pancakes. Put about half the gyozas in the pan. When the bottom of the gyozas are evenly brown, pour about 3/4 cup of water or enough to cover the gyozas a third way in water. Turn heat to a low and cover the pan.  Let it simmer until almost all of the liquid is gone. Open the lid and bring the pan to a medium high.  Let the bottom of the gyozas get crisp. You can add a teaspoon of sesame oil in the pan if you want to have a really crispy finish.  Loosen up the gyozas with a spatula.  When all of them look crispy, transfer to a serving plate, brown side up.  Serve immediately with chili oil and soysauce.  While everyone is eating the first batch, you can start the second batch.  Makes about 50. 




Fresh Peas Salad - Ohitashi

Posted on April 10, 2009 at 2:33 AM Comments comments (0)

While living in Paris last spring, I discovered French peas. That's all I wanted to eat for days in a row. A little butter on top and the peastasetd like heaven.  California peas have the same effect on me. I wantto eat them everyday while they are in season.

Ohitashi is another heavenly way to enjoy fresh peas  Ohitashi in Japanese means "to gently soak".  No drowning of dressings. Just soaking. The flavor of Ohitashi dressing is a very mild dashi based stock that is seasonedwith soy sauce and sake.  The idea is to taste the fresh peas. 

Use usukuchi soysauce to make Ohitashi. It is a little saltier but milderin flavor than koikuchi soy sauce.  Other vegetables that like to soakgently in Ohitashi dressing are cooked asparagus, spinach, enoki andshimeji mushrooms, tomatoes, okura, edamame, cabbage and bean sprouts. Just be careful not to overcook the vegetables. 


Makes 4 servings

  • 3 cups fresh peas, shucked
  • Dash of salt 
  • Ohitashi dressing (see is the link
  • Garnish: 3-4 tbls Bonito flakes - optional 
  1. Make the Ohitashi dressing (see the Basics)
  2. Shuck the peas.  Do this last minute so the peas don't dry up. 
  3. Bringa medium size pot of water to boil.  Add salt and peas at once.  Letthe water in the pot boil again. The peas will come up to the surfaceand begin dancing.  Turn off heat.  Drain water.  Let peas cool alittle, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Put peas in a serving bowl.  Gently pour theOhitashi dressing on the peas and let them soak in the dressing for atleast 20 minutes. You can chill the Peas Ohitashi if you like. Best toeat this dish within a day.
  5. Garnish peas with bonito flakes and serve.