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


Ishikari-nabe / Ishikari hot pot with salmon, tofu and vegetables

A specialty nabe hot pot from the Ishikari region in Hokkaido. Along with salmon, produce for which Hokkaido is famous -- potatoes, onions and cabbage, and even butter as an option -- are added, making this dish unique.


Shimofuri “frosting” for quick-boil sealing

Shimofuri literally means "frosting," and is a technique to seal in umami, or savory taste. Shimofuri is often used for fish and meat. When used with fish, shimofuri also makes it easy to clean the surface of fish, including bloody lumps, membranes, scales and skin. It also eliminates the extra fishy smell in the final dish and helps fish pieces to stay intact in soup or broth. Shimofuri is a common prep method when making a soupy dish with fish and the fish is not grilled, sauteed or deep-fried as part of preparation. It is not necessary for dishes where fish is grilled or cooked with oil -- either sauteed or deep-fried -- because these processes can effectively conceal the fishiness in terms of both taste and smell.

Shungiku garland chrysanthemum

Glebionis coronaria

An edible chrysanthemum with a distinctive taste and aroma. This cold-season vegetable is a common ingredient in various nabe hot pots. It is also eaten raw as salad, blanched, sauteed, deep-fried, and so on. Just like with any strong-flavored vegetable, shungiku's taste softens somewhat when cooked or combined with oil or oil-rich ingredients such as nuts.


Yurine / bai he / dried lily bulbs

Lily bulbs are used in soup, steamed dishes, sautes and deep-fries, and are also a key ingredient in traditional confectioneries.

Fresh, premium, garden-size lily bulbs become available at many grocery stores in Japan in winter, usually starting in December. They are tasty -- subtly sweet with a faint bitterness -- and starchy like potatoes, and they are pricey.


Daikon no kawa no kinpira / kinpira saute of daikon radish skin

A tasty, crispy dish of daikon skin, which gets mildly sweet when sauteed. When I get very fresh daikon, I peel the skin a little thick (4-7mm) when making another dish and keep it in plastic wrap in the fridge.


Nira no ume okaka-ae / garlic chives with pickled plum and bonito flakes

The distinctive taste of nira garlic chives mellows when cooked, but still holds enough aroma. A simple, quick and oil-free dish.


Dinner, February 19, 2012

Starving cats and a hungry dog welcomed us with whining and complaining when we returned home from a day trip to Olympia and Tacoma for Tom's boot shopping and my Mexican and Asian grocery shopping. After a delayed dinner for the animals and a small walk for Tai, the Boykin Spaniel, it was already 6:30. We had brought back more food, which meant our fridge was going to be packed unless we ate something already there. Nabe hot pot was the easy choice. Luckily, we had fish suigyoza shuijiao dumplings I had made and frozen the day before. Shuijiao dumplings in somewhat thick flour-dough wrappers are filling by themselves, so there was no need to prepare rice. All I had to do was to cut up ingredients and put them in broth.


Sake no suigyoza / shuijiao boiled dumplings with salmon

Juicy salmon dumplings are very satisfying. This can be the main dish of the day or a tasty appetizer for a group of people.



Breakfast, February 17, 2012

Extra cheese, double cheese, loaded with cheese...

According to what we see around us, Tom is "under-cheesed." Moreover, Tom is also under-mayonnaised, under-ketchupped, under-sugared, under-buttered, and under-meated.

Not taking in extra fat or sugar seems quite normal to me. However, not having built up your resistance to this stuff can cause digestive problems when you eat out at places where fat is loaded into the food, probably just out of habit. Poor under-greased Tom realized this yesterday when he experienced a serious stomach problem after eating a club sandwich somewhere local, and he is continuing to complain of discomfort this morning.  So for today's breakfast...

Yukimi-nabe / hot pot with tofu and grated daikon radish

Grated daikon radish turns to falling snow... that's the idea behind the name. A great nabe hot pot dish when your stomach feels a bit tired of heavy, rich food.


Kinoko itame no oroshiae / mushroom saute with grated daikon radish

Sauteing makes mushrooms taste rich, and grated daikon radish fluffs them up. This dish can be light or rich, depending on the proportion of oil and daikon radish.



Gobo sarada / burdock root salad with soy sauce lemon mayonnaise dressing

Finely julienned burdock root is crispy yet delicate. Mayonnaise and soy sauce work great together, and lemon juice gives this great combination a light taste.


Nigari tofu coagulant

Nigari is a byproduct of making salt from seawater. Its primary component is magnesium chloride (18.99 g/100 g nigari); other minerals in nigari include potassium chloride (3.54 g), sodium chloride (2.48 g), calcium chloride (2.29 g), phosphorus (0.1 g), iron (0.1 g), zinc (0.1 g) and manganese (0.01 g).

Nigari is used to solidify tonyu soy milk to make tofu in the traditional method. It comes in both liquid and semi crystal solid forms, and at least one of them is usually available at Japanese grocery stores.


Chryptotaenia japonica

Mitsuba is sometimes referred to as Japanese parsley. For me, it is similar to Chinese celery but milder in terms of both taste and aroma, and having a slight bitterness. As the name implies, mitsuba has three leaves as well as leggy stems, which also have a distinctive aroma even after being cooked. It is mostly used raw as a garnish, just like parsley, and cooked just like any other leafy greens. It also functions as a handy string to tie packets such as kinchakuzushi and little stacked-up finger foods or appetizers. While mitsuba is eaten for its distinctive aroma (from such substances as cryptotaenene and mitsubaene – some disagree about these substances), it is also rich in Vitamin C (8-22 mg/100 g), carotene (730-3200 μg), calcium (25-52 mg), potassium (500-640 mg) and iron (0.3-1.8 mg). It is said to be beneficial for prevention of anemia, lifestyle diseases, beauty care (smooth skin), stress relief and to put you in a calm mood. Its season is winter, although it is available all year round at stores.


Negi pankeeki / cong you bing scallion pancakes

A somewhat flaky pancake-like snack from Taiwan, crispy outside and a bit chewy inside. The simple combination of flour and green onions tastes great, especially when cooked with a little more oil -- dangerous for those who wish to stay trim.