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


Hotate-shinjo to endomame no surinagashi / green pea soup with fish and scallop dumplings

Plump green peas in season make a cheerful chartreuse soup. While the soup is very pleasant by itself, fish and scallop dumplings broaden the spectrum of gentle taste.  Juicy and crispy fuki stalks work as a nice counter-punch in this small soup.

121 calories (1/2 of recipe); 12.0 g protein; 0.7 g fat; 14.6 g carbohydrate; 12.3 g net carbs; 298 mg sodium; 27 mg cholesterol; 2.3 g fiber


Kaburamushi / steamed fish with grated Japanese turnip

Another super-light steamed fish dish topped with a fluffy white blanket of turnip and aromatic gin-an dashi sauce. This is generally regarded as a cold season dish in Japan, yet erratic weather and different growing seasons here offer good excuses to serve this on chilly days -- it warms you up from inside.

119 calories (1/2 of recipe); 15.4 g protein; 1.4 g fat; 9.9 g carbohydrate; 8.3 g net carbs; 177 mg sodium; 31 mg cholesterol; 1.7 g fiber


Saba no oshizushi / pressed sushi with grilled mackerel

A specialty sushi from the eastern part of Toyama Prefecture. This sushi appeared at gatherings of relatives at the house of my grandmother on my mother's side in Urayama (Unazuki). We would all get together for mid-summer obon to welcome ancestors as well as to attend spring and fall ennichi festivals at the local shrine. In my mind's eye, I can see my grandmother and aunties working in the large, earthen floor kitchen, chattering away and laughing against the sounds of running water, chopping vegetables and steaming pots, with indulgent smells filling the air. There, they used several huge wooden molds to make hundreds of sushi to feed dozens of people during their stay at the house and to take home. My mom, the youngest of her siblings, claims that gently breaking up grilled mackerel was her role in the sushi making, but she is not in my picture ...

I have a clear visual recollection of me holding a piece of sushi with vivid green sansho leaves. After my grandmother's health deteriorated and we began buying this type of sushi from shops, sansho was always missing, and needless to say there were differences in taste and texture. It was still home style, but certainly not what my family was familiar with.

Because of the big operation I used to see at grandmother's kitchen, I had long thought making this sushi would be too much work. But when I finally made a satisfactory one, it was surprisingly easy -- why couldn't I make this before?

As with masuzushi pressed salmon sushi, making this -- especially mackerel prep and pressing after assembly -- takes a bit of time. It tastes better the next day, too, so plan ahead.

Whole recipe: 1,212 calories; 32.9 g protein; 28.9 g fat; 187.9 g carbohydrate; 185.4 g net carbs; 443 mg sodium (with shiokoji salted rice malt for sushi rice); 69 mg cholesterol; 2.5 g fiber

1/9 cut: 135 calories; 3.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat; 20.9 g carbohydrate; 20.6 g net carbs; 49 mg sodium (with shiokoji salted rice malt for sushi rice); 69 mg cholesterol; 2.5 g fiber


Fuki to ebi no ohitashi / Japanese butterbur and shrimp marinated in light broth

Colorful coon shrimp (small spot shrimp), a local specialty, paired with fuki Japanese butterbur from our garden. Cooked coon shrimp we bought the other day happened to be inexcusably salty. After wondering if we should just throw them away, I decided to do an experiment, marinating them in lightly seasoned dashi to get rid of excess sodium while flavoring at the same time, a technique that works like magic with smoked salmon. And yes, the rescue effort was a delicious success.

32 calories (1/2 of recipe); 4.8 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 2.0 g carbohydrate; 1.5 g net carbs; 145 mg sodium; 38 mg cholesterol; 0.5 g fiber


Karukan / steamed yam cake

A regional specialty with 300 years of history from Kagoshima in southern Japan. Traditionally made with yamaimo or jinenjo Japanese yam (Dioscorea japonica), regular rice flour, sugar and water, this simple snow-white cake has a nostalgic sweet taste. Karukan has a supple texture like mochi rice cakes but much lighter and spongy like steamed buns, which seems to make your hand automatically reach for one more piece, and another, and ...
The recipe below features more commonly found nagaimo Chinese yam and an egg white for additional fluffy texture. Plain, white cake without topping is the basic style, yet there are a number of flavor and color variations today.

Whole recipe (approx. 360 g), without kumquat confiture:
676 calories; 12.2 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 152.5 g carbohydrate; 150.9 g net carbs; 70 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.6 g fiber

1 piece (approx. 40 g; 1/9 of recipe), without kumquat confiture:
75 calories; 1.4 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 16.9 g carbohydrate; 16.8 g net carbs; 8 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.2 g fiber


Asazuke hakusai kimuchi / quick napa cabbage kimchi

Sodium-savvy kimchi that we can eat without hesitation. This is a quick version inspired by non-fermented salad-like baechu geotjeori. Quick, but not exactly so ... the process takes some patience, as you need to let hakusai enjoy the sun (or the chill in the fridge) to intensify its natural sweetness and then spiced it up in red seasoning mix. The seasoning mix does contain sodium from fish sauce, shiokoji salted rice malt and shrimp flakes, but total sodium content is one-third to one-quarter of regular store-bought kimchi.

Kimchi (whole recipe; approx. 320 g [260-270 g solids])
237 calories; 7.2 g protein; 6.7 g fat; 33.7 g carbohydrate; 27.4 g net carbs; 612 mg sodium (approx. 340 mg with solids only); 1 mg cholesterol; 6.3 g fiber

Yangnyeom seasoning mix only (whole recipe; approx. 100 g)
175 calories; 4.3 g protein; 6.4 g fat; 19.1 g carbohydrate; 17.6 g net carbs; 596 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.5 g fiber


Kabocha pumpkin

Right: 赤皮栗かぼちゃ Akagawa kuri kabocha (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne "Red Kuri")
Left: 黒皮栗かぼちゃ Kurokawa kuri kabocha (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne)

Most kabocha grown and distributed today in Japan are improved varieties of kuri kabocha [lit. chestnut pumpkin] or seiyo kabocha [lit. Western pumpkin, Cucurbita maxima Duchesne], which were introduced to Japan in the late 19th century. The less commonly distributed nihon kabocha [lit. Japanese pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata Duchesne] arrived in Japan on a Portuguese ship via Cambodia and has deep grooves on its skin, as seen with the representative kiku kabocha [lit. chrysanthemum pumpkin] variety. Cambodia is said to be where the vegetable's Japanese name "kabocha" comes from. As a side note, kiku/nihon kabocha's true origin is Mexico, whereas kuri kabocha's roots are in Peru -- just two more examples of vegetables crisscrossing the globe.