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


Sansai tanuki soba / buckwheat noodles with mountain vegetables and tempura pearls

As a noodle topping, sansai mountain vegetables alone give a refreshing taste but could be a bit too light. Tenkasu tempura pearls add a rich note but could lack texture. They soak up the soup, which could also mean you get more sodium than desired. Combining these two ingredients while reducing the volume of each is one delicious solution. Sliced young myoga stems offer a clean aroma and taste.

For the recipe below, usukuchi pale soy sauce and regular dark soy sauce, not reduced-sodium soy sauce, are used for the soup to achieve stronger umami. Dried enoki mushrooms are also added to enhance the umami effect. The strong soup means more satisfaction with a smaller amount compared to a weaker soup, and this naturally makes us refrain from taking extra sips, preventing excess sodium consumption. This works especially well with unflavored toppings or toppings that contain lots of moisture.

1/2 of recipe: 
425 calories; 17.7 g protein; 3.6 g fat; 78.6 g carbohydrate; 8.4 g net carbs; 479 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 7.2 g fiber; 371 mg potassium


Koyadofu to warabi no misoshiru / miso soup with freeze-dried tofu and bracken

Spongy rehydrated freeze-dried tofu absorbs the delicious flavor medley of the soup, which is released into your mouth as you bite or chew pieces of koyadofu. Its resilient texture contrasts well with succulent warabi bracken. Pale young stems of myoga are sliced for an invigorating garnish for this low-key miso soup.

1/2 of recipe:
64 calories; 5.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat; 2.9 g carbohydrate; 1.9 g net carbs; 250 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber; 181 mg potassium


Lunch, May 13, 2018

Multiple experiments in one meal.

  • Gobo to satsumaage no donburi / burdock root, deep-fried fishcake and enoki mushrooms over steamed rice
  • Kabu to usuage no misoshiru / miso soup with Japanese turnips and thin deep-fried tofu
  • Fuki no amazuzuke / Japanese butterbur in sweetened vinegar
  • Yaki-papurika no shoga-zoe / roasted red bell pepper with grated ginger


Shoyu raamen / ramen with soy sauce flavored soup

One of the standard ramen noodle variations in Japan comes with soy sauce flavored broth. Here is a tasty example topped with asparagus and eringi saute for spring and early summer. A combination of homemade chicken stock with a soft ginger aroma and niboshi-kobu-shiitake dashi (dried young sardine, kelp & dried shiitake stock) provides a flavorful underlying tone.

Proportion of seasonings was figured out backwards, starting from total sodium figures and the salt level needed to ensure tasty results, and it did work like magic after several trials and adjustment. Once you get the right proportion of seasonings, this is pretty simple to make and satisfies your taste buds.

1/2 of recipe:
427 calories; 18.2 g protein; 5.9 g fat; 74.7 g carbohydrate; 8.4 g net carbs; 500 mg sodium (with koikuchi shoyu regular soy sauce & shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 27 mg cholesterol; 5.3 g fiber; 450 mg potassium


Renkon no ebi-hasami-yaki, gin-an-gake / sauteed lotus root with shrimp, with pale thickened dashi sauce

Plump shrimp sandwiched between somewhat crunchy lotus root slices, served with slightly salty thickened dashi sauce. Making the shrimp filling (chopping shrimp, mixing with potato starch and egg white) and putting it between lotus root slices may seem complicated at first, but it is easy when you actually try it. The assembled pieces can be kept in the fridge until ready to cook, and sauteing them does not take much time. Below, the pale thickened dashi sauce is made in the microwave for quick preparation as well.

This dish provides soothing comfort on cooler days. As summer approaches here in the Pacific Northwest it is getting a bit too warm for this dish, but we may still have a few nights cool enough to enjoy it ...

1/2 of recipe:
76 calories; 6.9 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 9.4 g carbohydrate; 8.4 g net carbs; 85 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 45 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber; 289 mg potassium


Enbunkei / salt meters

Here are some very useful tools for a reduced-sodium diet. Aside from measuring spoons and cups and a scale, enbunkei (塩分計) salt meters to check sodium content of food become extremely handy and necessary to come up with best estimates of how much sodium is going into your body. A number of Japanese dishes are accompanied by broth that is not necessarily consumed, so knowing the sodium content of ingredients is often not enough, and measuring what is consumed (or what is left behind) really helps.

Some salt meters are as simple as indicating low, appropriate and high ranges in color codes, and some also give a percentage. I have one in a thick pen shape by Eishin (right) and one by Atago (left) that looks like a fat compact remote control. The Eishin model gives sodium level to one decimal place, whereas the Atago model gives it to two decimal places. Both models (and most salt meters sold in Japan, I suppose) display sodium content as a table-salt converted level. For example, when a salt meter shows 0.9%, an item with a weight of 85 g (approx. 3 oz) contains 301 mg sodium (0.9 [%] x 85 [g] / 100 x 1000 / 2.54). 


Arugura to biitsu, kurumi no sarada, zakuro doresshingu / arugula, beet and walnut salad, with pomegranate dressing

Nutty arugula paired with toasty walnuts, earthy sweet and juicy baked beets, and sweet yet punchy kumquats. A simple dressing made with pomegranate molasses binds these elements amazingly well.

1/2 of recipe:
162 calories; 3.7 g protein; 12.6 g fat; 14.0 g carbohydrate; 10.0 g net carbs; 66 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 4.0 g fiber; 497 mg potassium