All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Egoma no kimuchi / kkaennip kimchi / wild perilla leaf kimchee

This simple Korean pickle of egoma wild sesame leaves is a great companion for rice. While some people do not care for fresh egoma leaves, the pickling process nicely softens their distinctive aroma and taste, transforming this Korean shiso into an appetizing accent for everyday meals.

40-50 egoma wild sesame leaves (40 medium egoma leaves, 46g in photo)

For kimchee marinade
2 tbsp shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt
2 tsp sake
2 tsp mirin
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp Korean chili pepper flakes
2 tsp Korean chili pepper powder
10cm 1 thick or 2 skinny green onions (toward root end; 12g in photo)
1/2-1 fresno pepper (20g in photo)
2 cloves garlic
1 knob ginger (optional)
1 tsp white toasted sesame seeds

whole recipe above: 209 calories; 7.6g protein; 2.5g fat; 34.5g carbohydrate; 602mg sodium (with shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0mg cholesterol; 5.1g fiber

3 egoma leaves (approx. 1/13 of recipe above16 calories); 0.6g protein; 0.2g fat; 2.6g carbohydrate; 45mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol; 0.4g fiber

5 egoma leaves(1/8 of recipe above): 26 calories; 1.0g protein; 0.3g fat; 4.3g carbohydrate; 75mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol; 0.6g fiber


Mix sake, mirin and rice vinegar, and microwave for 10-15 seconds to let out alcohol and excessive sourness.


Grate garlic and ginger.
Finely chop green onion and fresno pepper.


In a prep bowl, mix all ingredients for kimchee marinade. 


Wash egoma leaves, and pat dry individual leaves.


Gently press both sides of each leaf (or a few leaves in a bundle) onto marinade, and place in container.

Put some marinade on top of layers from time to time.
After stacking all egoma leaves, put all remaining marinade around and on top of egoma leaves, cover, and refrigerate. 

Best after two nights.
Day 3 (photo at left)

  • This is only mildly picante.
  • This keeps for weeks, but tastes best the first week while leaves are still fresh.
  • Ginger adds a sharp note; without it, this tastes much milder.
  • This is a great wrapper for steamed rice (photo at right).
  • If shoyukoji is not available, use soy sauce. The sodium content for the whole recipe and for 5 leaves would be: 944mg and 118mg, respectively, using 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; with regular soy sauce, 1,884mg and 236mg, respectively.
  • Rice vinegar is added to give a tingling sensation that mimics salt, as shoyukoji has a mellower taste than soy sauce.


Koebi no mabodofu / mapo tofu with bay shrimp

Very tasty. One of my favorite Chinese dishes from our kitchen, now made to be sodium savvy by tweaking seasoning in the original recipe -- replacing sake with Shaoxing wine, black bean paste with black beans themselves, partially replacing soy sauce with shoyukoji as well as tobanjan with red chili pepper, and adding kurozu brown rice vinegar. While this features bay shrimp, it is also good with ground or finely chopped pork or a combination of pork and beef.


(Serves 4)

1 large kinugoshi soft tofu (460g in photo)
Handful bay shrimp (80g in photo)
2 tsp huajiao Sichuan peppercorns
1 medium or 2 small green onions
1 medium or 2 small cloves garlic
1 small knob ginger
2 taka no tsume red chili peppers (slices in photo)
1 tbsp douchi fermented black beans

For seasoning
50cc chicken stock
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp kurozu brown rice vinegar
1/2 tsp tobanjan
1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp canola oil (to cook ingredients; not in photo)
1/2 tsp sesame oil (to add aroma at the end; not in photo)
1-2 tsp katakuriko potato starch, mixed with equal amount or slightly more cold water (not in photo)

174 calories (1/4 of recipe above); 12.8g protein; 7.3g fat; 12.6g carbohydrate; 351mg sodium (when using 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce and shoyukoji made of reduced-sodium soy sauce); 44mg cholesterol; 2.0g fiber


Place tofu on zaru flat strainer to eliminate excess water.


Mix all ingredients for seasoning.
Set aside.
Mix katakuriko potato starch and water.
Set aside.


Finely chop green onion, garlic, ginger and douchi.


In a pan, heat oil, and saute huajiao for a few minutes on medium low heat until fragrant.
Discard huajiao


Put garlic, ginger and green onion, and fry until fragrant.
Add douchi, and mix.
Add red chili pepper, and mix. 

When douchi become fragrant, add shrimp, and stir.


Meanwhile, cut tofu into 2cm cubes.


Add tofu to pan (after getting rid of water pooled on cutting board, if any).

Gently turn with spatula.
If ingredients seem watery, raise heat to eliminate water.


Add seasoning mixture, and bring to boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low or low, and simmer for 5-10 minutes while occasionally turning gently for even flavoring.


Mix katakuriko and water again, and add to pot to thicken broth.

Add sesame oil, and gently turn.
Ready to serve.

  • This tastes great the next day, too.
  • Make sure to mix katakuriko and water well before adding it to the pot, because katakuriko tends to sink to the bottom. How much katakuriko + water mixture to add depends on how much liquid there is in the pot. For the above dish, I added about 1 tsp of katakuriko (+ 1 tsp water).
  • Momen firm tofu is usually the choice for mabodofu. Kinugoshi soft tofu makes it tender and works well with bay shrimp.
  • If you do not like vinegar in general, 1 tsp of kurozu brown rice vinegar might make the vinegar taste noticeable in the final dish. To prevent this, you can reduce the amount to 2/3 tsp, or first microwave kurozu briefly (5 seconds or so) before mixing it with other seasoning ingredients.
  • Chinese brown rice vinegar (hei cu) has a more distinctive taste and aroma than Japanese kurozu. However, hei cu usually contains sodium, so I stay with Japanese kurozu (sodium free).
  • I use homemade chicken stock containing far less sodium than store-bought stock.
  • This recipe is quite mild. To make it spicier, add more red chili pepper, Vietnamese chili paste or chili garlic sauce. Tobanjan, of course, works too, but its sodium content is more than twice as high as that of chili paste or garlic sauce.


Breakfast, September 8, 2014

For the past one year, our first choice for breakfast has been oatmeal. Every day Tom has been cooking rolled oats with equal amounts of water and whole milk, and we put our preferred toppings when we eat. The main drawback is that we get really hungry before 11 am.

I have been excited about an upcoming trip to Japan recently, and by 5 am, my eyes were wide open. So I decided to cook a Japanese breakfast to start our week.

  • Ninjin gohan / steamed rice with carrot, topped with scrambled egg (355 kcal, 104mg sodium)
  • Konsai to shiitake no misoshiru / miso soup with root vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, topped with ichimi pepper and kaiware daikon radish sprouts (63 kcal, 289mg)
  • Kyuri no sunomono, shiso-iri / Japanese cucumber and perilla leaves in sweetened rice vinegar dressing (27 kcal, 10mg)
  • Zukkini to nasu, shishito no karee-itame / zucchini, eggplant, shishito and fresno peppers saute, curry flavor (69 kcal, 46mg)

In total: 514 kcal; 449mg sodium


These are the figures for 1/2 of the whole recipe. Tom actually eats about 20% more than I do (above photo is what I eat). Still, the sodium intake for him would be 524mg.

All in all, breakfast was filling, and I could still focus on work even past 11:30, which is rare with an oatmeal breakfast. The summer vegetable saute could use a bit more seasoning, perhaps a tiny amount of soy sauce or oyster sauce. The carrot rice, too, would benefit from more shoyukoji, again just a drop to improve the taste. They will both taste better next time.

It has been about one year since we began exploring reduced-sodium cooking. In today's world, you would think all the information would be available online, but the reality is different for preparing sodium-savvy food at home in the US. Here, sodium information focuses on packaged food, especially half-cooked or ready-to-eat food. Your doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists tell you to read labels, and stay away from packaged food, cook from scratch as much as possible and be creative when cooking, but seldom give practical tips on how to reduce sodium in your cooking -- making you wonder if they know what they are talking about, at least as far as cooking at home goes.

A huge amount of detailed data and tips on food preparation as well as tools such as sodium-level checkers are widely available in Japan, yet sooner or later you face the challenge of figuring out realistic numbers for sodium intake. How much sodium stays with fish when marinating it as a preliminary step? Differences by species/fat content? Differences according to marinating time? What amount of salt is necessary to get the best or acceptable results in a prep step? Is prep with salt even necessary? Can shiokoji salted rice malt or rice vinegar fulfill the same function? Is there a way to get similar results without using salt or soy sauce? How long should cured meat such as sausage be soaked in boiling water to desalinate it? How much sodium do you get when food is served with broth that is never consumed? Facing these endless questions was a bit daunting at first.

But slowly, all the tangled threads unravel, one at a time.

The process has involved lots of trial and error followed by calculations of nutritional values under various conditions, discovering more tips, testing hypothetical methods and ingredient combinations, getting tired of cooking, and asking Tom to cook pasta.

I have gathered just enough ideas to modify existing recipes and have finally started to feel comfortable serving food for both Tom and guests again. There is no need to compromise on good meals. My cooking quest continues.


Nasu to atsuage, shishito no misoitame / sauteed eggplant, deep-fried tofu and shishito peppers in miso sauce

A quick, small side dish with a somewhat sweet miso flavor. Soft and juicy eggplant contrasts well with the "green" taste of crispy shishito peppers.


1 nasu eggplant (104g in photo)
1 atsuage deep-fried tofu (130g in photo)
6 shishito peppers (26g in photo)
1/2 taka no tsume red chili pepper (slices)
1 green onion

For seasoning
2 tsp aka red miso
1/2 tbsp sake
1/2 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tbsp sesame oil

171 calories (1/2 of recipe above); 8.6g protein; 10.7g fat; 8.3g carbohydrate; 222mg sodium; 1mg cholesterol; 2.4g fiber


Mix all ingredients for seasoning.


Pour boiling water over atsuage to get rid of excess oil.
Pat dry with paper towel.


Rangiri diagonally cut eggplant.
Cut shishito diagonally in half.
Cut atsuage into bite-size pieces.


In a frying pan, heat sesame oil, and saute eggplant on medium to medium high heat.
When eggplant is generally coated with oil, add atsuage and taka no tsume, and continue cooking while occasionally stirring.

When atsuage is heated through, add shishito, and stir.

When shishito is coated with oil, pour seasoning mixture, and mix well.

  • This is best with Japanese-type atsuage, which is soft inside.
  • Shishito cooks fast, so they are added at the end.
  • If shishito is not available, any green pepper (ideally thinner wall ones such as piiman Japanese green peppers and anaheim peppers) works fine. Eggplant and atsuage alone (with sliced green onions, at right) also taste great.



Ebi to kyuri no itamemono / stir-fried shrimp and Japanese cucumber

Tasty and light. The plump shrimp in this quick stir-fry are a big plus. Great as part of a meal and bento, or with drinks. Cook cucumber on high heat for a crispy finish!

6 shrimp (170g in shell in photo)
2-3 tsp katakuriko potato starch (to clean shrimp; not in photo)
1 tbsp katakuriko potato starch (to coat shrimp)
1 kyuri Japanese cucumber
1 knob ginger

1 tsp canola oil (not in photo)

For seasoning
1/4 tsp kurozu brown rice vinegar
1/2 tbsp shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt
1/4 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil (not in photo)

102 calories (1/2 of recipe above); 10.7g protein; 3.3g fat; 6.3g carbohydrate; 188mg sodium (when using shoyukoji made of 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 78mg cholesterol; 0.8g fiber


Shell shrimp, and clean with katakuriko potato starch. Rinse, and drain well.

Bring plenty of water to boil for shrimp.


Meanwhile, cut cucumber lengthwise in half, and slice diagonally into 3-4mm thick.
Julienne ginger. 


Mix shoyukoji, oyster sauce and Shaoxing wine.


When water boils, coat shrimp with katakuriko, and blanch.

When turning pinkish, remove, and drain well. 


In a frying pan, heat canola oil, and stir-fry cucumber on high heat.

When cucumber starts to look brighter, add ginger and kurozu vinegar, and continue frying for another minute.


Add shrimp, and mix.
Pour shoyukoji mixture, and mix well.
Put sesame oil, and mix well.
Ready to serve.   

  • No Japanese cucumber? Try English cucumber. If you do, remove seeds (cut out inner part) to prevent a soggy outcome.
  • If shoyukoji is not at hand, soy sauce works. Sodium content above would be 231mg with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce, and 348mg with regular soy sauce.
  • If kurozu brown rice vinegar is not available, use regular rice vinegar.
  • Sake can substitute for Shaoxing wine. Both Shaoxing wine and kurozu add a deeper, more complex taste and aroma, whereas regular rice vinegar and sake lighten this dish.