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


Gindara no yuanyaki / grilled yuan-marinated black cod

Black cod with a sweet and pleasant citrusy taste from yuan marinade (soy sauce, mirin and sake with yuzu citrus). A good alternative to grilled saikyozuke black cod marinated in sweet Saikyo miso.


Umeninjin no nimono, shoga-aji / plum-blossom cut carrot simmered in light ginger-flavored broth

A part of takiawase -- assorted vegetables and tofu separately cooked in broth -- for New Year's osechi food. The slightly sweet ginger-flavored broth is one of my favorites for takiawase carrots.


Buta no kakuni / stewed pork

Among the wide range of variations -- from somewhat firm to heavenly soft, as well as light to heavy -- this kakuni is at the soft, light and non-greasy end. While extra fatty pork belly is the cut of choice for a supremely soft texture, country-style rib, which is more commonly available in the US, is used here.  Okara soybean pulp is the secret to removing extra fat and tenderizing pork at the same time in prep-cooking.


Yasai nukigata / vegetable cutters

Handy tools to cut vegetables into flowers or blossoms for different seasons.

From left: ume plum blossom (late winter/early spring); sakura cherry blossom (spring); kikyo Japanese bell flower (summer); kiku chrysanthemum (fall)


Nejiriume / plum-blossom cut carrots

For celebrations such as New Year’s, carrots often appear in the shape of a plum blossom. Plum blossoms symbolize early spring, and red blossoms in particular are prized for their celebratory color (red, often in combination with white, is for happy occasions). Some carrots have a reddish color, and those types are usually recommended. The orange of an average carrot still makes a pretty plum blossom. Carrots can be hand-cut or formed with a vegetable cutter.


Kyabetsu to satsumaage no itameni / saute-simmered cabbage and deep-fried fishcakes

The “green” taste of cabbage’s outer leaves turns sweet from sauteing and is further softened by cooking with satsumaage in broth, resulting in a juicy, flavorful dish.


Yakimochi to satojoyu / grilled rice cakes, with sweetened soy sauce dip

This is the standard way to eat mochi rice cakes, mainly as a snack, at my parents’ and relatives’ homes.


Chukadon / Chinese-style saute with sauce over steamed rice

Another standard Japanese Chinese dish. Assorted ingredients are sauteed and flavored in Chinese style -- often meaning a combination of ginger, garlic, chicken stock, and oyster sauce. Here is one example with prawns and scallops.

When served with 150 g steamed rice:
428 calories per serving (1/2 of recipe); 17.1 g protein; 3.0 g fat; 79.0 g carbohydrate; 75.9 g net carbs; 1077 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 1419 mg with regular soy sauce); 53 mg cholesterol; 3.1 g fiber



Tomyo to chikuwa no nibitashi / pea shoots and chikuwa fishcake simmered in light broth

A very quick, warm side dish. The stems of tomyo pea shoots stay crisp even when cooked and make this little dish stand tall. Their texture contrasts well with soft fishcake, which adds a mellow salty taste as you bite in.


Ginnan gohan / gingko nut rice

Nutty, starchy little gingko nuts are another reminder of fall. Lightly salted to bring out the soft sweetness of mochigome rice.


Breakfast, December 3, 2012

We had lunch with Tom's sister and niece at Shanghai Garden in Seattle yesterday. My favorite dish at the restaurant is pea vine (shoot) saute. It is a very common dish, and Shanghai Garden’s pea vine saute tastes as good as those I used to have in Taiwan. Pea vine saute is not a fancy “wow” dish, but it certainly hit the spot and inspired me to make a decent breakfast the following day with ingredients we already have on hand and something just purchased in Seattle.

    Ginnan gingko nut prep

    Gingko nut shells can easily be cracked open with a tool, ranging from a hammer to a heavy knife handle or bottle opener. Something slightly heavy usually works better. Kitchen scissors and pliers could smash shells, and require some practice for effective use.

    Opening shell
    Hold a gingko nut with one of the side ridges straight up, and quickly hit the ridge with a hammer, heavy bottle opener or a tool of your choice.


    Sake no chanchanyaki / salmon and vegetable saute with miso sauce

    A regional dish from Hokkaido that includes salmon, cabbage, onions and other vegetables. Sweetened miso sauce sends off an appetizing aroma as you cook – take the frying pan to the table or cook on a tabletop griddle and enjoy the dish as it cooks.


    Ginnan gingko nuts

    Seeds of Gingko biloba

    Gingko trees grow extremely slowly, but they certainly live a long time. Some old gingko trees in Japan are said to be at least 1,000 years old. Unless you are into gardening, gingko leaf extracts for memory improvement are probably more familiar. Considering the longevity of the tree, I wonder if people started to look to the gingko tree as possibly offering an elixir for long life.


    Jagaimo to ebi no remon haabu sarada / potato and prawn salad with herbs

    This has been my top potluck and party dish for years. Lemon juice and fresh herbs turn this starchy salad into a light dish. No matter how many times I make it, I never get tired of eating it.


    Konnyaku no nimono / konnyaku yam cake simmered in broth

    A somewhat straightforward, soy sauce-flavored dish that reminds me of dishes that appeared at my grandmother’s house. 

    29 calories (1/2 of recipe); 0.9 g protein; 0 g fat; 5.0 g carbohydrate; 3.3 g net carbs;  240 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 468 mg with regular soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 1.7 g fiber
    *See Notes for seasonings for a lower-sodium version.


    Hakusai to kani no chanpuruu (champuruu) / Okinawan-style saute with crab, tofu and napa cabbage

    The sweet inner leaves of hakusai are a great match with crabmeat. Together with tofu and egg, this is a satisfying, flavorful and nutritious dish for an everyday meal. Bonito flakes added at the end give a rich flavor. 


    Eringi to burokkorii no sotee sarada / sauteed king oyster mushrooms and broccoli salad

    Tender, somewhat chewy eringi contrasts well with crunchy broccoli. Due to the very light saute, this is like a hot salad.


    Breakfast, November 21, 2012

    It is the day before the buttery-sugary feast. Recent radio shows about how to prepare turkey and side dishes make me feel full already. One of the most recent programs emphasized the importance of butter. We do not use butter excessively even with Western food, but tomorrow’s food is an annual exception. I will have six dishes with butter: panna cotta of beets, gougère, crispy cauliflower salad, baked yams, salmon-potato spread, and pumpkin cheesecake. Some only use less than 1 tsp of butter, but all together they are buttery. To counter the highly likely overdose, we had a butter-less breakfast as usual.


      Oden / fishcake, tofu and daikon radish stew

      With its steam and heavenly aroma wafting up from a large, softly bubbling pot, this dish envelops you in a comforting warmth, and is a mainstay of cold winter months. It is available at specialty restaurants, street stalls and even convenience stores -- and, of course, at home. This is my standard oden as passed down by my mom, with the addition of some techniques adopted from her friend's oden restaurant.


      Daikon to kaki no namasu / daikon radish and persimmon in sweetened rice vinegar

      A fruity affair with sweet persimmon. The sweetness of persimmon, the saltiness from daikon radish and the mild sourness of rice vinegar and lemon juice blend together after some time, resulting in a pleasant little side dish.


      Tori no karaage / fried chicken

      The standard dish for picnics, parties and bento lunch boxes – probably one of the top 10 bento items I made in my high school days. I’m still using the same recipe.


      Konnyaku to tamanegi no itameni / saute-simmered konnyaku yam cake and onion

      Among a number of quick konnyaku dishes, this tastes slightly similar to sukiyaki. A nice companion with a rich punch for mild-flavored dishes.


      Kaki no dote-nabe / hot pot with oysters, broiled tofu and vegetables with miso

      Miso is pasted along the inside edge of the pot so you can adjust the taste as you eat. The combination of oysters, miso and a squeeze of lemon is warm yet refreshing. Vegetables, broiled tofu and other ingredients contribute to the mild broth, making this hot pot very satisfying.


      Kaki to shungiku no kurumizu-ae / persimmon and garland chrysanthemum in sweetened vinegar with walnuts

      “Wow!” Tom said, after his first bite. Sweet orange-colored autumn fruit is paired with aromatic garland chrysanthemum, with lightly sweetened vinegar and walnuts smoothly working as a go-between.


      Ebi to ginnan-iri mushi-renkon manju / steamed lotus root dumplings with prawns and gingko nuts

      Grated lotus root is transformed into soft dumplings by steaming. Prawns add a mild sweet flavor while gingko nuts provide the nutty tang of autumn.


      Warabi, konnyaku, satsumaage no itameni / saute-simmered bracken, konnyaku yam cake and deep-fried fishcake in broth

      Somewhat crunchy warabi bracken makes a good contrast to tender fishcake and soft yet chewy konnyaku yam cake. A tasty, low-key companion for plain steamed rice and sake.


      Kasetto konro / table-top portable gas stove

      The compact table-top portable gas stove is incredibly handy for the nabe hot-pot season. Nabe is all about enjoying food cooking right in front of you with family and friends, and a portable gas stove makes it so easy to have a good time at your table.

      These stoves take butane cartridges. Cartridges used to be available only at Asian supermarkets but are now available even at our local outdoor shops.


      Arugula to kabocha no gomasoosu-gake / arugula and kabocha pumpkin with sesame sauce

      When you want something lighter than gomaae, this is a good option. The sesame-like nutty taste of arugula is a natural with sesame sauce. You just need to counter it with naturally sweet, in-season kabocha pumpkin. Lots of fresh green arugula also helps to lighten up the pumpkin, which could taste a bit heavy because of its starchiness.



      Breakfast, October 12, 2012

      Tom has been a star in our kitchen lately. He bakes great bread. He is getting really good at pozole and dishes with beans, from soup to salad. He repeatedly made jabara kyuri to use as many cucumbers as possible from the greenhouse. He cooked warabi bracken for the first time, grilled eggplant for the first time, used a tortilla press for the first time, and he tried my new daikon radish grater for the first time – all in the last few weeks.

      I get cranky, however, because of an insufficient variety and amount of vegetables. On a deadline-free, stress-free day after a few weeks of a hectic work schedule, one word was echoing in my head – vegetables, vegetables, vegetables….


        Gindara no kareejoyu-ni / black cod simmered in curry soy sauce broth

        A mellow and mild black cod dish accentuated by aromatic curry and soy sauce broth. Semi-steamed cauliflower adds a gentle, sweet note.