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


Lunch, March 30, 2012

I have been trying to make a good nagaimo Chinese yam dumpling soup for some time, and I wanted to try it with less potato starch for a softer texture without the powdery taste.


Ebi to abogado no wasabi sarada / prawn and avocado salad with wasabi dressing

Prawns, avocado, wasabi and soy sauce go together wonderfully well. Serve with salad greens to add a fresh note to the rich taste.


Chirashizushi / sushi with assorted ingredients and julienned egg crepe

In my hometown, chirashizushi features root vegetables cooked in broth, unlike the chirashizushi topped with raw, marinated or cooked seafood in some other areas, including Tokyo. When I was growing up, chirashizushi always appeared at celebrations such as March 3 (doll festival or girls' day), hanami cherry blossom viewing in April-May, birthdays and gatherings with friends. It is my favorite sushi from the home kitchen.


Zukkiini no namuru / zucchini namul saute or salad

Another simple namul with zucchini. Saute for a richer taste or simply mix with sesame oil for a fresh taste.


Nira no champuruu / Okinawan-style stir-fry with tofu and garlic chives

Nira garlic chives go very well with eggs. The combination becomes substantial when sauteed with firm tofu, making this dish a great match with plain steamed rice as well as with beer, shochu and of course awamori from Okinawa.


Sakana no tochimushi / steamed fish with douchi black beans

A quick steamed fish with a very Chinese flavor from green onions, ginger and douchi black beans. Currently one of my favorite fish dishes.


Age-renkon dango no amakarani / deep-fried lotus root nuggets in salty-sweet sauce

Grated lotus root is almost chewy, and totally different from the crunchy, crispy texture when it is cut or sliced. This recipe is originally from a temple/vegan cookbook. It has been modified to be less sweet, but it is still on the sweet end for my taste. Depending on how much you reduce the sauce, it could be mellow sweet or almost candy sweet.


Kiriboshi-daikon to mizuna, kani no sarada / dried daikon salad with mizuna and crab

Rehydrated dried daikon is sweet and soft. Fresh mizuna gives the salad some crispness. Crabmeat, which goes wonderfully well with mizuna, provides additional depth.


Rutabaga, eringi, asupara no guriru, nanbanzu-an / roasted rutabagas, king oyster mushrooms and asparagus with spicy sweet and sour sauce

Rutabagas! Crisp and mildly sweet rutabagas along with eringi mushrooms and asparagus are roasted for a dense flavor, and are complimented by a slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce.


Daikon to shami no itameni / simmered daikon radish with shami dried shrimp

Daikon absorbs the other ingredients' flavor extremely well. Using only a small amount of seasoning is the key for a soft, mild taste at the end.


Tom cooks 5: Mabodofu (mapo spicy tofu)

He said, "You can make it."
Of course I can. But if I do, he won't learn a thing.
A friend once told me about how frustrating it is to teach her teenage kid how to prepare food, as she knows she can do it much faster and more efficiently without a lot of waste. Patience, I thought to myself.

So Tom finally made up his mind to cook mabodofu without my help -- at the beginning, anyway -- then changed his mind and wanted me to tell him what to do next.


Gyoza no pirikara-nabe / mildly spicy hot pot with jiaozi dumplings and kimchi

Shuijiao dumplings taste great when they're hot. Then why not add them to hot pot? And by adding kimchi and salted baby shrimp to chicken stock-kombu kelp broth, the hot pot is similar to Korean jjigae stew. Filling and satisfying yet gentle and light, thanks to all the vegetables cooked together.


Shiromizakana no suigyoza / shuijiao dumplings with white fish

Mild white fish shuijiao with ginger and cilantro. Very light, and has a "clean" taste.

Kinsai/serina Chinese celery

Apium graveolens var. dulce
Kinsai has strong aroma and taste than those of Western celery (Apium graveolens L.), even after cooking. Kinsai's flavor is one of the strongest among all Asian vegetables we eat at home. Compared to common celery, kinsai has skinnier and longer stems, and both stems and leaves are darker green. When kinsai is not available, celery is usually called for as a substitute.


Fuki-miso, kurumi iri / Japanese butterbur buds with red miso and walnuts

A red version of fuki-miso. Walnuts add extra depth, texture and a mild flavor. This dish is aromatic rather than bitter. Great with plain rice or sake! A favorite of Tom's.


Hotate no mazegohan / steamed rice mixed with scallops

Scallops lightly flavored with teriyaki sauce are mixed into steamed rice cooked with dashi. Finely sliced kinsai Chinese celery adds a refreshing note.


Satoimo to atsuage no nimono / baby taro root and deep-fried tofu in broth

Extra starchy satoimo baby taro root is cooked until soft in mild broth. Deep-fried tofu adds a tender yet deep taste, while ginger gives a refreshing note.


Gomoku-mame / soybeans with root vegetables in broth

A tried and true everyday dish with soybeans and root vegetables. You can always use a spoon if picking up each little piece with chopsticks is too much work, or you can use it as a way to slow down while eating ...


Tom cooks 4: First misoshiru

A surprise was waiting for me this morning (March 4). Tom made miso soup. Did he finally figure out it's so easy to make after many, many years of eating it?


Fuki-miso / Japanese butterbur buds with miso

The bitter taste of early spring: fuki no to, Japanese butterbur buds, are paired with sweet miso. Great on plain steamed rice, with grilled vegetables, and more.

Fuki & fuki no to / Japanese butterbur & butterbur buds

Petasites japonicas
This notorious invasive plant in our region is a tasty vegetable with a faint bitterness and succulent texture similar to that of cucumber or celery stalks. The plant is in the chrysanthemum family, which explains some similarity with the tangy taste of shungiku garland chrysanthemum.

Fuki stalks are normally first boiled and sometimes soaked in water after itazuri preparation, in which fuki stalks are rolled against a cutting board with salt to loosen the skin and reduce bitterness before main cooking. Pre-boiled cut fuki stalks in bags are available at stores, but doing the initial preparation yourself ensures the taste of the season.


Renkon lotus root

Rhizome of Nelumbo nucifera
Underneath those beautiful, elegant lotus flowers and large saucer-shaped leaves, crunchy edible roots grow in the muddy water.

Hitachinokuni Fudoki, an early 8th century document of the Hitachi region (today's Ibaraki Prefecture), makes special mention of the taste and medicinal effects of starchy lotus root, saying, "growing in a swamp created by water flowing in from the heaven at the beginning of the world (in Japanese mythology), lotus roots taste incomparably delicious, and those who are ill quickly see recovery by eating them."