I have been excited about an upcoming trip to Japan recently, and by 5 am, my eyes were wide open. So I decided to cook a Japanese breakfast to start our week.
- Ninjin gohan / steamed rice with carrot, topped with scrambled egg (355 kcal, 104 mg sodium)
- Konsai to shiitake no misoshiru / miso soup with root vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, topped with ichimi pepper and kaiware daikon radish sprouts (63 kcal, 289 mg)
- Kyuri no sunomono, shiso-iri / Japanese cucumber and perilla leaves in sweetened rice vinegar dressing (27 kcal, 10 mg)
- Zukkini to nasu, shishito no karee-itame / zucchini, eggplant, shishito and fresno peppers saute, curry flavor (69 kcal, 46 mg)
These are the figures for 1/2 of the whole recipe. Tom actually eats about 20% more than I do (above photo is what I eat). Still, the sodium intake for him would be 524 mg.
All in all, breakfast was filling, and I could still focus on work even past 11:30, which is rare with an oatmeal breakfast. The summer vegetable saute could use a bit more seasoning, perhaps a tiny amount of soy sauce or oyster sauce. The carrot rice, too, would benefit from more shoyukoji, again just a drop to improve the taste. They will both taste better next time.
It has been about one year since we began exploring reduced-sodium cooking. In today's world, you would think all the information would be available online, but the reality is different for preparing sodium-savvy food at home in the US. Here, sodium information focuses on packaged food, especially half-cooked or ready-to-eat food. Your doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists tell you to read labels, and stay away from packaged food, cook from scratch as much as possible and be creative when cooking, but seldom give practical tips on how to reduce sodium in your cooking -- making you wonder if they know what they are talking about, at least as far as cooking at home goes.
A huge amount of detailed data and tips on food preparation as well as tools such as sodium-level checkers are widely available in Japan, yet sooner or later you face the challenge of figuring out realistic numbers for sodium intake. How much sodium stays with fish when marinating it as a preliminary step? Differences by species/fat content? Differences according to marinating time? What amount of salt is necessary to get the best or acceptable results in a prep step? Is prep with salt even necessary? Can shiokoji salted rice malt or rice vinegar fulfill the same function? Is there a way to get similar results without using salt or soy sauce? How long should cured meat such as sausage be soaked in boiling water to desalinate it? How much sodium do you get when food is served with broth that is never consumed? Facing these endless questions was a bit daunting at first.
But slowly, all the tangled threads unravel, one at a time.
The process has involved lots of trial and error followed by calculations of nutritional values under various conditions, discovering more tips, testing hypothetical methods and ingredient combinations, getting tired of cooking, and asking Tom to cook pasta.
I have gathered just enough ideas to modify existing recipes and have finally started to feel comfortable serving food for both Tom and guests again. There is no need to compromise on good meals. My cooking quest continues.