Tells a story

Tofu and Myoga Ginger Soup


Posted at 04:42 PM on August 25, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  

Suimono with Tofu and Myoga 

Whenever I see Myoga at the Japanese Market, I buy them.  The local farmers grow Myoga but not enough.  The Japanese markets also carry Myoga at about $1-1.50 per bud but one Myoga will go along way.
In the summer time, just one Myoga flower bud can be refreshing in soup or with noodles or chopped in a salad. Mygoa tastes spicy like ginge or scallion but it is more delicate and feminine; it is a flower bud after all, not a root or a leaf.  My Grandmother had wild Myoga growing in her garden where the bamboo grew.  We would go into the forested area to hunt for them. She believed Myoga had good medicinal properties, and itdoes.  Myoga ginger is a popular  yakumi (medicinal condiment), that is commonly used to spice and season Japanese dishes and aid in digestion.

The combination of tofu and myoga in a simple dashi broth is a perfect summer soup.  You can garnish with yuzu or lime rind if you wish.





Makes  4 servings


2 1/2 cups Dashi broth (See Basics for Dashi broth recipe)

2/3 tsp of salt

1 Tbs Light color soysauce (Usukuchi-Shoyu)

2 Myoga, sliced thinly

2 Tbls  scallion, sliced thinly (optional)

1/2 Tbls Yuzu or Lime rind, very thinly sliced

1/2 Soft silken Tofu


Make the Dashi. You can make Dashi in advance.  See Basic recipe for instructions.

Season the dashi.  Heat the soup but do not boil it.  Turn to a low simmer. 


Slice the tofu in long rectangles or small cubes.  Add the tofu and turn the heat t the lowest.

Let the tofu warm up for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat.

Pour the soup in individual soup bowls.  Arrange the sliced Myoga, the scallions and

garnish with Yuzu.  Serve immediately.


Note: Reheating Dashi does not improve in flavor.  Make fresh dashi and use it right away for best flavor.




Categories: SoupsEgg and TofuRelaxed Macrobiotic


Summer Pickles - Quick and Easy



  Cucumber, turnip and carrots take a plunge into the ice water




I don't know when we are going to get another rainfall in Southern California.  I miss the rain and so do my vegetables in the garden.  In the late afternoons, the cucumbers look a bit limp from the heat.  So today, I decided to give them an ice break.  They went for a plunge in bowl of ice water.  I'd like to take a plunge myself.


I made quick pickles, Asazuke, (it is the Japanese word for lightly pickled) with basically what i found in the fridge and garden - one carrot, 3 turnips and 2 Japanese cucumbers. You can also use cabbage, radishes, celery and peppers too. What great about these pickles is that they are quick  to make and not too salty. I thought these pickles will last over two or three days.  But we ate most of  it  in one evening. They were good.  I have to make some more.



You can use the leaves of the turnips, too.

There is no need to peel the turnips.




Cut the turnip and cucumbers thin, but not too thin.  

I use the leaves of the turnip.  Just chop them up.

The carrots are cut in match sticks.




Sprinkle some chopped shiso as a garnish for extra flavor.



Quick Cucumber, Carrots and Turnip Pickles


3 turnips

2 Japanese cucumbers

1 medium size carrot

2 shiso leaves, sliced thinly (optional)

2 tsp salt



1 tsp salt

2 inch piece konbu seaweed, sliced, 1/4-inch wide

1 cup water (250 cc)


Don't peel the turnips.  Slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick pieces.

Peel the cucumbers and slice them crosswise, 1/4-inch thick

Peel the carrot and make 2-inch matchsticks.



Soak the sliced konbu and salt in one cup of water. Put the mixture in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn off heat. Cool broth and set aside.



Sprinkle measured salt over sliced cucumbers, turnips and carrots. Let stand for 5 minutes to let the salt settle.  Then gently mix (massage) the vegetables with your hand until water is extracted from the vegetables.  


Put the vegetables in a zip log back.  Make sure there are no air pockets. Press the vegetables by putting some weight on top for about 30 minutes. You can put a plate on top and then a large can of tomatoes or something even heavier like a stone if you can find one that fits on the plate and not break it. That's how it was done and still being done in many Japanese homes.  The modern Japanese way to press vegetables is with a pickling device (see picture below). I've had mine for more than 20 years but it's as good as new.  It comes with a lid so I can put it right in the fridge.  You can find pickling devices at a Japanese market.  They are great to have if you plan on making pickles, which I do regularly.   


Japanese pickling device.  It has a handle so you can also use

it  as a weight to build some triceps if you like.  




Prepare a bowl of water with ice and set aside.  

In a saucepan, boil 3 cups of  water. We will dump the hot water on the vegetables first, and then give them the ice bath.  So go ahead and take the vegetables out of the zip lock bag or pickling container and put them in a strainer.  Pour the hot water over the vegetables. Let stand for 5 to 10 seconds. This step will make the vegetables slightly limp. Then transfer the vegetables into the ice water with ice cubes and cool the vegetables quickly. This is to get them crispy and cold. Keep the vegetables in the ice bath for 10 seconds.  Drain. Return them to the pickling device or zip log back and press for additional 30 minutes or longer.  Keep refreigerated.


To serve, lightly squeeze the water out of the pickles and sprinkle some chopped shiso leaves.  



Nutty Tofu Dressing- The Oil and VInegar Alternative


Posted at 03:13 PM on August 24, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  



SHIRA AE is a tofu based dressing that goes well with vegetables and seafood. It is one of my favorite ways to eat tofu since I was a child.  My grandmother would sometimes make it just for me.  That meant a lot because I had four other siblings and many cousins to compete with.  I would help her grind the sesame seeds in the mortar. The grinding of sesame seeds took time but that was okay, we talked stories while we worked.   



Traditional Japanese mortar and pestle -suribachi and




The ridged interior of a Japanese mortar works efficiently to grind

sesame seeds and nuts.  




This pestle which is made from the branch of a pepper tree

is more than 20 years old.   





My grandmother made Shira Ae to dress a variety of vegetables - spinach, green beans, eggplant, taro potatoes, carrots.  I still remember the day she suggested making Shira Ae with Taro potatoes.  I thought it was a bizzare idea but I loved it.  Shira ae is very mild in flavor.  It is pureed tofu with a little soy sauce and sugar. You can add ground nuts or roasted sesame seeds and even add a tablespoon of heavy cream, if you want a richer and creamier sauce.  Today, I wasn't really thinking about putting any nuts in the sauce but I remembered that I had some fresh trail mix, which I got at the farmers market.  Okay, so why not throw a few pieces in to make it a little nutty?  I picked out the fresh walnuts and pecans, enough to make a 1/3 cup. The amount of nuts will depend on how nutty you want the sauce to be.  I tried this sauce on shimeji mushrooms, broccoli and banana, yes, fruit too.  


Broccoli with Walnut and Pecan Tofu Sauce




Strawberries, kiwi, apples, kaki work well but not the citrusy kind. I could be wrong but I think the general rule is to leave out the watery and citrusy fruit because it will make the tofu sauce watery.  Don't combine the sauce with the vegetables or fruit until the last minute because that will also make it watery.  You can serve fruit with tofu dressing at the end as a dessert.


What's a Banana doing here?






Banana with Walnut and Pecan Sauce - a good dessert







1/2 Firm (Mengoshi-type Tofu)

1 Tbls sugar or maple sugar

1 Tsp Light color soy sauce (Usu-kuchi shoyu)

1/3 cup unsalted mixed nuts (roasted, unsalted) - pecan and walnuts * (optional)

1 Tbls heavy cream (optional) 


Grind the nuts in a blender or mortar until it is as fine as you can get them to be. You want to extract the oil out of the nut.  Aadd the tofu, sugar, heavy cream and soy sauce to the ground nuts and blend well to make a smooth sauce.  You can also do the whole thing in the mortar if you have one.  It will be more textural.  If you want a creamy finish, you can press it through a strainer.  That will mean more work though.  It's good either way.




Makes 4 servings

1/4 broccoli, cut into florets

Tofu Dressing



Make the Tofu Dressing (See recipe above)


In a medium size saucepan, cook the broccoli with a pinch of salt until its cooked but still firm. Drain.  Chill in ice cold water for a couple of minutes.  Drain again. 

Serve with the Tofu dressing.  Either put the sauce on top or serve it on the side like a dip.

You can make the broccoli in advance but do not combine it with the dressing until you are ready to serve.


Makes 4 servings

1 package of shimeji mushrooms, ends removed and mushrooms separated

into small mouth-size bunches

Tofu dressing



In a medium size saucepan, blanch the mushrooms with a pinch of salt in boiling water for about 10 seconds. The mushrooms should hold their shape after cooking so be careful not to over cook them.  Gently drain.  Set aside and cool.


Combine with tofu dressing or serve it on top of the mushrooms.  Serve immediately.



Makes 4 servings

1 banana 

Tofu dressing


Make Tofu dressing.

Slice the banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces.  Each person should get 3-4 pieces.

Combine the pieces with the tofu sauce and serve immediately.



* You can use other seeds and nuts like peanuts and sesame seeds.

Categories: Vegetable Dishes Egg and TofuRelaxed Macrobiotic

Miso Soup with Tofu

Posted at 05:20 PM on August 19, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  









We've had cool weather in LA.  It was perfect weather for the eight mile hike we did up   Westridge fire road last Sunday.  I got my arm stung by a bee as we were coming down the mountain but otherwise, it was nice to be outdoors.  My hiking pal Ellen always asks the same question when we get to the top of the Santa Monica mountains, "So what does this remind you of?" and we all have the same answer,  "TUSCANY!"  (...........without the vineyards!).  See, you don't have to spend all the money or free miles to see Italy.  If you have never done this hike before,  try it.   it's very nice.  You can bring your dog along.


On cool summer days like this, you can have warm soup in the middle of the day and get a nice lift of energy.  I made some miso soup. It only took a few minutes to whip it up since I already had the Dashi broth ready.  Good girl.


For this miso soup, use the freshest tofu you can find.  I love Meiji Tofu.  You don't  have to cut the block of tofu in cubes.  Just put the half or whole block of tofu into the saucepan and break it up with the ladle to get uneven size pieces of tofu.  It is more fun and textural this way.   





Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes


3 1/2 cups Dashi (see BASICS for  Dashi broth recipe)


3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons koji, white or red miso


6 ounces soft tofu, drained 


1 green onion, chopped, optional



Bring the Dashi to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.


In a small bowl, dissolve 3 1/2 tablespoons of the miso paste in a few tablespoons of the warm Dashi. Add the mixture to the saucepan. Taste and add more miso paste, Dashi or water, depending on how strong the soup tastes.


Add the tofu to the soup.  Break up the tofu in the saucepan.

Pour the soup into individual bowls.


Sprinkle each bowl with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.


Categories: SoupsEgg and TofuRelaxed Macrobiotic

Shrimp, Wakame and Cucumber in a Rice VInaigrette

Posted at 01:22 AM on August 23, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  



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.

Categories: SaladsAppetizersSeafood

Learning the Art of Hand Made Soba - Tsukiji Soba Academy 

Making Soba by Hand, Tsukiji, Tokyo

Posted at 12:56 PM on August 15, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  


I love soba.  It's food I can eat everyday and never get tired of.  I was on a soba marathon for the last few weeks while in Tokyo, visiting one artisinal soba restaurant to another and cooking it at my parents' home in Shibuya.  I also did something I have been wanting to do for the longest time: Take a cooking class in handmade soba.


The search for a school started whlle I was still in Los Angeles. I came upon several listings on the web. I chose Tsukiji Soba Academy because I liked the description of the classes and the location, which is near the Tsukiji Fish market. They offered classes for beginners to a full on soba chef training course that can last anywhere from a week to a month. I decided to sign up for the day class for beginners.  I had no idea what to expect but I had high hopes that when I come out of the class, I will get to eat my own handmade soba.


The school was on the third floor of a building just a few blocks off the fish market.  It was equipped with all kinds of tools and state-of-the-art machinery.  The place was spotlessly clean and had a feeling that you entered a dojo.  I was greeted by the Founder and Master Chef Akira Inoue and  his apprentice chef.  The apprentice chef asked me to take my shoes off and change into slippers.  My name tag was waiting for me on the work table along with the mixing bowl, knife, cutting board and a couple rolling pins.  Two more students had signed up for the class so we waited for a few minutes but they were a no show.  I ended up having a two-on-one class. I felt lucky but slightly nervous.


One of the first questions the Master chef asked me was how serious I was about learning how to make handmade soba. I said in my registration form that I was considering becoming a noodle maker one day. Ha. I said it.   I love working in movies but I can't do it forever. Even if I did, I want to make soba.  It would be wonderful if I can have a tiny handmade soba bar. Ideally somewhere not far from where I will grow my own buckwheat.  Pretty ambitious dream for an urban girl. This dream started when I was making the film SILK in a small village in Nagano prefecture near Matsumoto, Japan, which is famous for good soba. The man who built the film set invited me over to his house to eat his 85 year old mother's handmade soba. The old lady grows the buckwheat in the lot across from her house, mills the flour herself and makes the soba noodles - all by hand.That is when I thought,  If she can do it, maybe I could.  Of course, she has been making soba for more than 50 years so I will have to live a long time but I have good genes for that.  The handmade soba the old woman made was one of the best meals I ever had. I still think about  her and her family who went out of their way to treat me. That lunch was the inspiration and dream I have been dreaming for quite some time.   


What's wonderful about Master chef Inoue is that he instills confidence in you from the very start even though I may turn out something that looks like a rubbery inedible mass of starch.  I've had such disasters in my kitchen before.  However, when I revealed my dream to him, he said it was very realizable.   That he has many people who attend his school with the same dream in mind.  I told him that I even tried growing buckwheat flowers in my backyard as a fun experiment.  He warned me that Buckwheat should not be grown for pleasure as it is a precious food.  Whoops, I failed him already.  Master Inoue means business. I washed my hands, put my cap and apron on and so the lesson began.  He demonstrated first.


Ingredients for making soba noodles:  

80 grams All purpose flour (churiki ko)   

320 grams Buckwheat flour

160 grams water - approx 40% of the flour weight plus additional water 2-8% of the flour, as needed during kneading.  


The ingredients are measured on an electric scale.  Soba making is quite a science.  The extra water (2-8% of the flour) indicated in the recipe will be used to make adjustments to the flour mixture according to the level of humidity, season, quality of the flour and soba maker's skill.



Once the measured water is added to the flour mixture, Master Chef  works very fast, using all ten fingers (see how they are spread open) and the entire space of the mixing bowl. What you get is a sandy flaky mixture.


Now he rolls the dough into one oblong mass.



Notice how clean the bowl looks.  He wastes no flour.



The ends are gathered into one. The opening looks like belly button.  At this point, the dough is smooth as a baby's skin and has a nice shine.



He turns the dough out and we have an upside down Kiss chocolate.




He flattens the dough, using both hands and turns it into a disc. The kneading is complete. At this point, Master chef takes a break to wash his hands and wipes the bowl clean.  

The soba dough does not require drying like Italian pasta.

He uses his hands to flatten the disc to an even thickness.



Then begins rolling.




He takes a pinch of buckwheat flour and sprinkles it vertically across the dough in three areas.  To roll, he applies the most pressure at the center of the dough and eases the pressure as he rolls outward. The hands move across the dough like a pair of  window wipers.  I tried to do this but this window wiping motion takes practice on a piece of dough.






The dough eventually turns into an oval shape.  He then shapes it further into a rectangle shape.  This is easy said than done.  My dough was missing two corners and had wrinkles in the middle. No panic though.  You stretch the wrinkles gently so as not to tear the dough and leave the missing corners as is.  Any attempt to patchwork like we do with apple pie crusts will affect the texture of soba.  


This rolling is done rather quickly to prevent the dough from drying out.  The ideal thickness of the dough is a uniform 1.5mm  The dough in its final stage of rolling is smooth, long and flexible. These three elements are essential for making that slurpable long soba noodles.   





He uses the smaller rolling pin to roll out the corners.




He spreads buckwheat flour. Look at the generous amount of flour he uses!  

Now the dough is ready to be folded and cut.





He uses a special soba cutting knife, which is rather big.  Move over Freddie and Jason!


See how holds the knife.  He uses a forward motion to cut the noodles. Then tilts the knife at a 1.5 degree angle (very slight) to cut the next noodle.  It takes a lot of practice to make thin, even noodles.  Mine started out thin but as my hands grew tired, the noodles began to grow in size.  Some of my noodles were as wide as 2 mm to 2.5mm (some even 3mm!!!) , instead of the ideal 1.5mm.  I wanted to hide my noodles.  The apprentice chef told me not to worry, that when cooked they will still taste good.





The right hand and the left hand need to work in unison to make the perfect cut.





So this is the finished soba. Thinly sliced and ready to be cooked.  Talk about perfection.





Comments about the soba making class.  A three hour class was just a brief glimpse into this artful world of soba making.  Master Chef Akila Inoue did a thorough and beautiful demonstration that really helped me appreciate the craft and tradition.  I know that in order to replicate the same soba at home, it will take a lot of practice, skill, and some soba making tools and equipment.  I think a beginner could modify the tools and use what they have at home but the end result will be quite different.  I am willing to take the lesson a step further and go for the longer commitment.  That soba cutting knife will be a commitment.  Not sure if I can even get it across customs!   I don't want to wait too long to take the next class.  At the end of the class, the apprentice chef cooked the soba made by Master Chef and served it with a dipping sauce, wasabi and chopped green onions.  It tasted heavenly.   I also got to take home my soba home.  I cooked the soba that very night for my family who were all waiting to be the guinea pigs of my creation.  My father, sister and nephew thought my soba was very tasty even though the noodles were a bit uneven in width. I got the texture right.  When I shared my dream about someday becoming a soba maker, they didn't discourage me. They were so busy slurping, all they could do was nod.  Did I pass the slurpability test?  Not bad for a first try.   I am hooked!



In the Mood to Peel - Sushi Ginger

In the Mood to Peel -Sushi Ginger

Posted at 04:49 PM on August 28, 2009

Sushi Ginger - Gari 




I am in the mood to peel today.  It's the new ginger I just bought at the Asian market that got me all excited.  I want to make Gari, Sushi Ginger.  Unlike the mature knobby ginger root, the young roots (shin shoga)  have smooth creamy skin.  While they are just as spicy as mature ginger, the meat is more tender and easier to work with because they are less fibrous.


I have another reason why I am in the mood to peel.   I just got this new peeler.  I found it at Tokyu Hands in Shibuya, Tokyo on my last trip.  It is safe to use, light and handy but most of all, Incredibly sharp. I can shred cabbage at nearly the speed of lightening.  The peeler comes with two other blades for making matchsticks.  I don't have the name of the manufacturer because I threw out the box that it came it but this is how I found it. I was watching the salesman at Tokyu Hands do a demonstration with it.  He did all sorts of tricks using the peeler to cut daikon, tomato, onion, cabbage.   This man was such a good performer, he had to direct traffic while doing the demonstration.  I am a good sucker for good performers. You don't know how many peelers, grinders, knives, pots I was fooled into buying based on the salesman's lively pitch.  So far, this peeler is working.  


  I peeled all this ginger in a matter of a few minutes.




The young ginger, Shin-Shoga, is used to make Gari - Sushi Ginger.  It is easy to make at home and much better for you because it doesn't contain any food colorings or additives like the commercial ones often do. Sushi ginger also goes well with grilled fish and cold Chinese noodles (Hiyashi Chuka) so you can make a batch and find good use for it.  



Homemade Sushi Ginger is naturally pink




Sushi Ginger - Gari



Makes 3/4 cup of pickled ginger


12 oz Fresh ginger, peeled

1/3 tsp salt


Sweet vinegar (Amasu)  dressing

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup rice vinegar


In a medium saucepan, bring the salt, sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn off heat.  Add the vinegar.  


Peel the ginger to make long and thin wide shavings, about 1/8 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long. I use a Japanese peeler that makes this step very easy.  (see picture above)  You can also use a knife to slice the ginger.


Bring a medium sauce pan with water to a boil.  Add the sliced ginger.   Drain.  While the ginger is still hot, add 1/3 tsp of salt and toss together. 


Transfer the sliced ginger into a glass container or jar and pour the Amasu, Sweet vinegar dressing.  Cover tightly.  Marinate the ginger for 3-4 hours.  


Best eaten after 2--3 days in the pickling jar but you can start eating it in a half a day.




The blade is slanted, can you see?



Categories: Pickles and PreservesBasics - Broths, Sauces, and MarinadesKitchen Tools and Utencils

Mushroom Rice with Yuz

Mushroom Rice with Yuzu

Posted at 02:54 PM on August 31, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  

Mushroom Rice  with Yuzu 



My new electric rice cooker broke down a couple of weeks ago.  I have to take it down to the service shop in Gardena but the heat and perrenial traffic discourage me from driving. There is another reason why I am not in a rush to fix my fancy rice machine. I can cook a much better rice in a donabe rice cooker. 


I did a donabe story for the Los Angeles Times (here is the link) in March. I wrote three rice recipes but the Mushroom Rice recipe did not make it into the story for limited space.  Since then, I made the mushroom dish many times and found a way to keep the fragrance of the mushrooms in tact.  I do not add the mushrooms until the last few minutes of cooking. By doing so, I let the mushrooms cook in the steam of the rice.  This works especially well with such aromatic mushrooms as maitake, shitake and matsutake (but these will no be in season until the fall).  You can also do truffles but I would just shave them into the rice after the rice is fully cooked because they don't need cooking.  I like to garnish the mushroom rice with Yuzu rind, which adds a refreshing citrusy fragrance.


Donabe rice  pot 






(This recipe works for both donabe rice cooker and electric rice cooker)


2 1/4 cups medium grain rice (equals 3 cups Donabe 180 ml cup)

15 oz water  

3 Tbls Sake

3 Tbls Light color soy sauce (Usukuchi shoyu)

1 package of shimeji mushrooms or a combinations of 1/2 package of shimeji mushrooms and 3 medium size shitake mushrooms  or 1/2 package of Maitake


Garnish options:

1 Tbls yuzu or lime rind

Roasted sesame seeds, shichimi pepper, sansho pepper, chopped Mitsuba leaves, Cut Nori seaweed


Rinse rice and let stand in the strainer for 15 minutes.


Trim ends of mushrooms and separate them into individual pieces. If using shitake mushrooms, slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. Set aside.


Put the rinsed rice, light color soysauce and sake in the donabe or electric rice cooker. Mix the sauce and sake into the rice. Let stand for 15 minutes.


Cook donabe over medium high heat for 15-17 minutes or until the steam comes out "vigorously" from the ventilation hole. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.


Open the donabe, using pot holders so you don't burn your hands. Add the sliced mushroom and close both the inner and upper lids. Let stand for another 5 minutes.


Open the donabe and gently toss the rice with the mushrooms. You may have some toasted rice on the bottom which is good.


Garnish with yuzu rind and/or other recommended garnishes.


The rice tastes best  when served right away.




Categories: Vegetable Dishes Rice and SushiOne Pot Donabe

Eggplant with Miso

 Pretty in Purple - Eggplant with Neri Miso

Posted at 02:55 AM on August 20, 2009

Sun drying eggplants




When I visit the Santa Monica Farmers Market I am always amazed at the variety of food farmers are growing and fishermen are catching locally. Just today, I found live spotted sprimp from Santa Barbara, which is in season until November, Korean Shiso, Japanese shiso -both green and purple types, dehydrated kaki, Japanese Koho white peaches and these gorgeous eggplants . Italian, American, Japanese eggplants - all one happy purple family.


Drying eggplant in the sun brings out the vegetable's natural sweetness and adds texture. Just a couple of hours will make a difference. You can do this with other vegetables such as daikon radish, zuchinni, and carrots. To accompany this eggplant dish, I made some Neri-miso - a thick all purpose sauce that goes well with grilled eggplant and grilled tofu. The classic Neri Miso can be much sweeter than my neri miso recipe. The eggplant itself can be sweet. Also the miso, sugar, sake and mirin. In other words, all the ingredients in this recipe contribute to the sweetness but sugar in particular. The amount of sugar you use depends on how salty the miso paste is and how keen you are about using sugar. The sweetness of mirin may just be enough. The saltiness differs from miso to miso, so taste the Neri miso and make adjustments accordingly. You can also add a half a teaspoon of grated yuzu or roasted sesame seeds, which are both wonderfully fragrant. Neri Miso can be used with both the sun dried eggplants and regular eggplants. Both recipes are listed below.                        



Pan fried Eggplant with Neri Miso




Makes 4 servings



  • 3 Japanese eggplants
  • 3-4 Tbls olive oil
Miso Sauce (Neri Miso): 
  • 3 Tbls Miso paste (red or white miso - I like to use mild miso, which is not too salty)  
  • 1 Tbls sugar  (as needed)
  • 2 Tbls Mirin (sweet sake)
  • 1 Tbls Sake
  • 1/2 Tsp grated ginger juice
  • Chopped chives 
  • Crushed red chili peppers or shichimi pepper
  • Red chili peppers or shichimi pepper
  • Grated Yuzu (optional)
  • Roasted sesame seeds
Neri Miso made with white miso

  1. Cut the eggplants into 1/2 inch pieces crosswise.  Sun dry for 2-3 hours.  
  2. In a non stick frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Grill or Pan fry the sun-dried eggplant until it is toasted on both sides and cooked inside but not too soft, about 4-5 minutes.  Make sure there are no dry spots.  If you find any, brush surface of eggplant with olive oil.  Remove from heat.  Keep warm.
  3. In a small bowl, mix miso, sugar, sake, ginger jurice and mirin.  Cook the mixture in a small pan over low heat. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the miso mixture is no longer runny. Be careful not to burn the neri miso. 
  4. Serve the eggplant in a bowl. Garnish with chopped chives and and red chili pepper and serve the Neri Miso on the side.
Dengaku style Eggplant with Neri Miso just out of the oven


Alternatively, you can slice each eggplant lengthwise into four, base it with olive oil and follow the same steps as the other recipe to cook and toast the eggplant on both sides. Then dab the Neri Miso generously on top of each eggplant and put them under the broiler to toast the miso. Keep a close eye on the eggplant so they don't burn. Serve immediately with the garnishes. 

Neri Miso ist best if you can use it within five days.

Somen Noodles Story

Somen Noodles Story

Posted at 01:47 AM on July 01, 2009Delete delete   Overlays edit  




   Classic Somen Noodle dish with an assortment of garnishes.





I wrote a story on somen noodles in today's Los Angeles Times Food Section. My dentist in Pasadena who has treated me since I was a teenager read the article and contacted me about it.  I had not seen him in years. I got a few other e mails like this. Here is the link for the two recipes:,0,1958041.story. I like traditional somen served with a soy-mirin based dipping sauce.  I also made one with a spicy bean paste sesame dressing, which is Asian fusion.



Asian fusion style somen noodles served with spicy sesame sauce




I am packing for a month long trip to Tokyo and Paris. I leave on Friday. My family in Tokyo asked for the following souvenirs: My sister Fuyuko: an assortment of cheeses, My father: 3 packages of buckwheat pancake and waffle mix; My brothers: fresh tortillas; My mother: cotton pajamas; My friends: my homemade apricot jam.


I am also packing some mollases from North Carolina so Fuyuko, my pastry chef sister can try it in a recipe. My gifts from California are always ecclectic. I am going to the farmers market now to get some dried California fruit. I am not a light t dream to be. I am looking forward to spending some solid time with my family in Tokyo and also am looking forward to having some food adventures.




Flank Steak and Cold Soba - A Nice Summer Match


Posted at 03:51 PM on August 10, 2009






I have been back in Santa Monica for almost a week but I am still on Tokyo Time.  I would love to slurp some of that  handmade soba I had in Tokyo.  But I don't have the tools to make handmade soba, not yet, so I am just going to make a quick lunch with dried soba noodles, which is also very good. 


I already have the dipping sauce for the soba because my sister, Sachiko, and my little niece Miki and nephew Mako were over at my house for noodle slurping a few days ago. The left over batch is still fresh. In fact, the dipping sauce tastes better because I threw in a a couple of dried shitake mushrooms to enhance the flavor.  


Normally, I make just a simple tamago omelete to accompany soba but there is a beautiful Wagyu flank steak marinating in some sesame oil, ginger and green onions.  It looks too good.  I want to eat it for lunch.  Meat and Soba!  A traditional soba eater would not serve beef with soba but, hey why not go modern.  With some sliced tomatoes from my garden, chopped lettuce and green onions, the flank steak will make a very nice "side dish" to go with the soba. Yes, even a Wagyu-style steak is a humble being before soba.  


Now you want to slurp the soba right away before they go limp.  So grill the steak first grill and whle the steak is resting, boil the soba.  Then while the soba is cooking, slice the steak. This way, you will have perfect timing.



Serves 4




1 1/2 lbs pounds Kobe style Wagyu flank steak

1/4 cup roasted sesame oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 Tbls soy sauce

2 Tbls wine vinegar

2 scallions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbls grated ginger juice

1/2 tsp black pepper

Salt to taste


Garnishes - chopped lettuce, green onions, sliced tomatoes, lime wedges 


In a flat container, mix the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, scallions, garlic, ginger juice, black pepper and salt to taste. Marinate the steak in the mixture for six hours to overnight, turning meat once or twice to coat thoroughly.


Preheat frying pan or grill for medium-high heat.


WIpe off the marinade.  Grill or pan fry steak for 3-4 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness.  It is more tender and flavorful on the rare side.  


Let the flank steak rest for a few minutes.  Then Cut across the grain at an angle, about 1/2 inch or slightly wider.  Serve the steak with sliced lettuce, tomatoes, chopped onions, and lime wedges.


Kitchen note: This piece of American Wagyu beef comes from the State of Washington. Like the true Wagyu (Japanese beef such as Kobe) , the American Wagyu (a cross between Angus and Wagyu) has nice marbelized juicy fat. It is pricy but less pricer than its Japanese cousin. I get American Wagyu beef  at Vincent Foods Market in Brentwood. They have one of the best meat sections on the Westside.









Serves 4


For this lunch menu, make your life easy by fixing the dipping sauce the night before so it doesn't become a big cooking project on the day of the lunch. This is one of the easiest Japanese lunch I can think of if you follow what I do.   



4 bunches of dried soba noodles (100 grams per person)

8 oz daikon radish, peeled and grated.

4 scallions, sliced thinly.

1 sheet of crumbled or cut nori seaweed (optional)

Wasabi, Shichimi peper - optional seasonings

Basic Dipping sauce (see below)


In a large pot, bring water to a boil. This water will be used to boil the noodles later.

First make the grated radish sauce. Peel and grate the radish. What you will get is a watery substance. Pour out most of the daikon juice and use the grated part but do not squeeze too much of the juice out. You want the grated radish to be juicy but not runny. Put it in a small bowl.  

Slice the scallions and put them in a small bowl or next to the grated radish. 


Cook the noodles in the boiling water for approximately 5 minutes. You want the soba noodles to be al dente. Prepare a large bowl with a dozen ice cubes. The ice water will be used to chill the soba noodles.  Drain the cooked soba noodles in a strainer and rinse under cold running water to remove the starchy film. Transfer the soba noodles into the cold ice water and let the noodles chill for 1 minute. Drain the soba noodles in a strainer and serve on a flat basket or plate.





This bamboo basket serves as a strainer and a serving basket.




Bring the grated radish, wasabi and scallions, nori seaweed and the shichimi pepper to the table. Set the table with chopsticks, bowls for the dipping sauce.   




Pour the chilled dipping sauce in the individual bowls. 

Let everyone help themselves to the soba noodles. The way to eat soba is first you put some grated radish (about 1 teaspoon) or wasabi and a sprinkle of shichimi pepper into the dipping sauce. Take approximately one or two mouthfuls of noodles with a pair of chopsticks and dunk them into the sauce and eat them. Repeat until the noodles are gone.

Serve the soba noodles with the grilled Flank steak.











This is an all purpose basic dipping sauce that I use for dipping Tempura, Soba, Somen noodles. You can use this as a basic recipe and make some adjustments with the seasonings to suit your palate. The sauce is sweetened with Mirin, sweet sake, which unlike sugar has more depth in flavor.


1 cup of Dashi (see Basics for Dashi broth recipe) 

1/6 cup - light color soy sauce (Usukuchi-shoyu) or regular soysauce. (I prefer light color soysauce)

1/6 cup - Mirin, sweet sake

1/2 cup - bonito flakes


Bring the Dashi broth, soysauce and Mirin, sweet sake in a medium size pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add the bonito flakes and let the flakes sink to the bottom. Strain broth. Discard bonito flakes. Let the broth cool down to room temperature.  Refrigerate.


Makes about 11/4 cups of dipping sauce.  

Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days.




Cold Chicken with Ginger and Scallions

Posted at 02:12 AM on June 18, 2009





Steamed chicken breast with wasabi and chopped scallions,

shiso, scallions and sliced tomatoes.  Serve with soy sauce.



If someone offers me chicken, I am inclined to go for dark meat and chicken breasts would be my last choice.  It's probably due to all the rubber chicken breasts I have eaten over the years at business conventions and on airplanes.  But there is one good recipe that tells me not to give up on chicken breasts.  It is a steamed chicken breast dish that my Grandmother taught me.


The recipe is simple.   It's steamed chicken seasoned with sake, scallions and ginger.  What's great about this dish is that there is hardly any cooking involved.  I usually serve this chicken with noodles or as a salad.  I leave the skin on or take it off depending on my mood.   It tastes good with wasabi or grated and soy sauce or a little mustard.













Serves 2



  • 1 chicken breast with skin
  • 2 scallions, roots cut off. sliced in halves and then cut horizontially in two.
  • 2 tbls ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 tbls sake
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Wasabi
  • Soy sauce
  1. Bring the steamer to a boil over medium heat.
  2. In a soup or pasta bowl, put the chicken. Top with ginger, scallions, sake and sesame oil.
  3. Put the whole plate in the hot steamer. Be careful not to spill the liquid. Cover the steamer and steam for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Let the chicken cool completely. You can keep the chicken in the liquid. This will turn into a gelatin which makes a nice sauce for the chicken.
  4. When the chicken is cool, take it out of the bowl. Discard ginger and scallions. Peel the chicken skin off or leave it on, whichever you like. Slice the chicken crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick. Serve with grated ginger or wasabi and soy sauce. Pour some of that gelatin on top.
  5.  Serve with wasabi or grated ginger and soy sauce.








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