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


Dinner, August 5, 2013

A relief dinner from the night before, which was a restaurant meal saturated in so much salt that Tom could barely eat his steak. 

  • Gohan / steamed rice
  • Shiozake no guriru / grilled salted salmon
  • Konsai no misoshiru / miso soup with root vegetables (daikon radish, carrot, gobo burdock root) and kabu turnip leaves
  • Nasu no agebitashi / deep-fried eggplant in light broth, with okra

Tom experienced continuing discomfort from the night before, and we had a simple dinner featuring my typical root vegetable miso soup, with a seasonal addition of kabu turnip leaves from the wine-barrel planter on the deck. Kabu, a cold season vegetable, grows so well in our cool summer. While I prize juicy kabu root, its softly spicy green leaves are also great.

Another dish, nasu no agebitashi with okra, was something I had wanted to try for some time. Deep-fried eggplant and blanched okra are marinated in broth and chilled, and served with grated ginger. The deep-fried eggplant is already heavenly creamy, and okra thickens the broth, giving extra texture to the dish. I made the broth a bit sweeter than usual by adding more mirin in order to make it mellower. It worked great and provided good contrast to the clean, refreshing taste of grated ginger.

Grilled shiozake was a last-minute addition to this menu, as I realized there were only vegetables. Tom likes to have fish or meat for dinner, even if a small amount. There was a leftover piece from the day before, and I simply microwaved it.

What did we suffer?

Excessive salt intake has always been my major concern with Japanese food. According to a 2011 survey by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (summary in Japanese), the average daily consumption of salt (sodium chloride) is 11.4 g for men and 9.6 g for women in Japan. These amounts are not bad compared to the decades old number from 1950, when Japanese people were said to consume 20 g or so of salt per day. But then the level of people's physical activity was much higher, and now the Japanese government and medical circles have a long-term goal to reduce the figure to below 6g (equivalent to 2300 mg sodium)/day -- for the time being, the standards are below 9 g for men and 7.5g for women. When these numbers are discussed, I often spot a line saying, "reduce sodium intake to the level of Western nations." This comment naturally misleads you to think that people in the West take only 6 g of salt per day.

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says, "the average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is 3436 mg," which is just below 9 g when converted into salt weight. So it is lower than Japan's averages. And the center recommends reducing the number to below 2300 mg (of sodium; 6 g salt).

Now, am I the only one who has experienced pounding in the blood vessels in the head while eating at a restaurant in this country?
My mom has bad kidneys, so I am probably more aware of the impact of salt. But based on my almost 20 years of experience in this country, food at restaurants and delis is often way too salty.

While the food at the restaurant we dined at the night before had always been on the salty end -- just like at other restaurants -- the mac and cheese with Dungeness crab, my favorite at the restaurant, was beyond my limit this time. I am not ready to die yet...

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