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


Shirunashi tantan men / dan dan mian noodles

Yummy dan dan noodles featuring okara-konnyaku bits and Chinese-flavored green olives. The numbing spiciness of hua jiao Sichuan peppercorns is intriguing in this dish. One of the big hits in our kitchen this year.
Use fewer noodles if adding more vegetables or other unflavored goodies, as the amount of sauce is on the low end below.

1/2 of recipe:
523 calories; 14.2 g protein; 16.2 g fat; 81.6 g carbohydrate; 75.6 g net carbs; 497 mg sodium (with lower sodium seasonings); 0.2 mg cholesterol; 6.0 g fiber

1/2 of recipe without noodles:
177 calories; 4.2 g protein; 14.2 g fat; 9.6 g carbohydrate; 5.6 g net carbs; 439 mg sodium (with lower sodium seasonings); 0.2 mg cholesterol; 4.0 g fiber 


Renkon to ginnan no shiokoji kinpira / spicy lotus root and gingko nut saute

A quick saute of crunchy lotus root slices and chewy gingko nuts. While soy sauce is usually the main seasoning in salty, sweet and spicy kinpira saute, using salt or shiokoji salted rice malt helps to retain the color of ingredients and brings out the taste of ginkgo nuts.

1/2 recipe:
96 calories; 2.1 g protein; 2.5 g fat; 16.1 g carbohydrate; 14.2 g net carbs; 105 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.9 g fiber


Ginnan to shungiku, kani no karashi sumiso-zoe / gingko nuts, garland chrysanthemum and crab with mustard vinegar miso sauce

Dishes with salty, sweet and sour sumiso sauce or its spicy karashi mustard variation were for sober grown-ups in my mind, and it took a long time before I found their charm. Both match very well with strong-tasting leafy greens, among which green onions and their relatives are the popular choices, as well as seafood, especially calamari (including hotaruika firefly squid) and shellfish. While both types are more common in spring, fall ingredients -- gingko nuts and shungiku below -- also pair well.

1/2 recipe:
60 calories; 7.1 g protein; 0.5 g fat; 6.6 g carbohydrate; 5.6 g net carbs; 143 mg sodium; 17 mg cholesterol; 0.6 g fiber

Karashi sumiso only (1/6 recipe):
13 calories; 0.4 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 2.5 g carbohydrate; 2.2 g net carbs; 58 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.2 g fiber


Okara-konnyaku no nikumiso-fu soboro to iritamago no gohan / steamed rice topped with sweet & salty fried soybean pulp yam cakes and scrambled egg

Here is an example of how to use my meaty meatless okara-konnyaku bits. Just like other strong flavored items, these bits cooked with dried shiitake and gobo burdock root make a great topping for steamed rice. Oil-free scrambled egg with dashi offers a mild balance, with green onion slices accentuating the dish with a softly spicy note.

1/2 recipe without rice:
60 calories; 4.0 g protein; 3.5 g fat; 3.2 g carbohydrate; 1.6 g net carbs; 104 mg sodium; 105 mg cholesterol; 1.6 g fiber

1/2 recipe with 110 g steamed rice (approx. 1/3 of steamed rice made with 180 cc/150 g dry rice):
239 calories; 7.0 g protein; 3.9 g fat; 42.0 g carbohydrate; 40.1 g net carbs; 104 mg sodium; 105 mg cholesterol; 1.9 g fiber

1/2 recipe with 165 g steamed rice (approx. 1/2 of steamed rice made with 180 cc/150 g dry rice):
328 calories; 8.5 g protein; 4.1 g fat; 61.4 g carbohydrate; 59.4 g net carbs; 104 mg sodium; 105 mg cholesterol; 2.0 g fiber


Okara-konnyaku no nikumiso-fu / sweet and salty fried ground soybean pulp yam cakes

A meaty meat-less topping for noodles, rice and more. This is the latest popular creation using okara soybeans at our house. It also features gobo burdock root and dried shiitake mushrooms for deeper taste, aroma and variation in texture. Its strong flavor translates into keeping longer in the fridge. One major disadvantage is that Tom wants to eat more than he should. This is made to fit a sodium savvy diet, but take care with how much you eat.

Whole recipe (with okara-konnyaku made with nagaimo Chinese yam):
311 calories; 12.4 g protein; 13.1 g fat; 43.8 g carbohydrate; 21.0 g net carbs; 972 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 22.8 g fiber

1 heaping tablespoon (4 tsp/20 g; 1/10 of recipe):
28 calories; 1.1 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 4.0 g carbohydrate; 1.9 g net carbs; 88 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 2.1 g fiber


Murasaki tamanegi to renkon no amazuzuke / red onion and lotus root in sweetened vinegar

A handy small side dish or condiment to accompany other dishes or in a bento box. Its pleasant color and refreshing taste offer a nice change of pace. While red onion alone would become vivid purplish pink in the vinegar, adding another pale color ingredient -- lotus root in this case -- results in a much softer pink for both ingredients.

Whole recipe (solid ingredients):
111 calories; 2.7 g protein; 0.2 g fat; 29.3 g carbohydrate; 21.8 g net carbs; 46 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 3.9 g fiber


Okara-konnyaku / soybean pulp yam cakes

Okara-konnyaku is a hybrid of okara soybean pulp (rich in soluble fiber) and konnyaku yam cake (rich in non-soluble fiber), and has been around for more than a decade in Japan. It is mainly used as a meat substitute for health, weight loss and diet preference reasons. As with konnyaku, okara-konnyaku becomes very chewy after being frozen and defrosted. While konnyaku simply become fibrous after the same process or tofu becomes spongy (like koyadofu freeze-dried tofu after rehydration), okara-konnyaku takes on a meaty texture. Among dishes I have tried, it seems to work best when used like ground meat, especially poultry and pork. Because it is basically fiber, it is very filling by itself. Moreover, it does not cause any heartburn or upset stomach in people who are not accustomed to eating meat, such as myself. This would be a great option for those who routinely eat meat and want to cut back to reduce fat or calories or for other health reasons. You would not notice that your hamburger patties or meat loaf contains okara-konnyaku if the proportion is moderate.

You can find a number of preparation methods and ingredient proportions. Below is my current standard way of making okara-konnyaku at home.

100 g okara-konnyaku, boiled:
52 calories; 2.6 g protein; 1.4 g fat; 8.5 g carbohydrate; 2.0 g net carbs; 3 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 6.5 g fiber

100 g okara-konnyaku, defrosted:
63 calories; 3.1 g protein; 1.7 g fat; 10.4 g carbohydrate; 2.5 g net carbs; 3 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 7.9 g fiber

100 g okara-konnyaku, excess water removed:
86 calories; 4.3 g protein; 2.3 g fat; 14.0 g carbohydrate; 3.3 g net carbs; 4 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 10.7 g fiber


Kabocha-dofu no akadashi / Japanese pumpkin tofu with red miso soup

A variation of gomadofu [sesame tofu] featuring kabocha pumpkin. Among the many ways to enjoy this creamy tofu, serving it with blanched kabu Japanese turnip leaves and pungent karashi mustard in red miso soup is my favorite. Kabu leaves retain their spiciness even after blanching, and together with karashi mustard they create an interesting spark in your mouth when paired with mild and sweet kabocha. This dish alone is quite small and is more suitable for a very light meal or as part of a course-type meal.

1/2 of kabocha-dofu no akadashi recipe:
45 calories; 1.6 g protein; 1.0 g fat; 7.8 g carbohydrate; 6.5 g net carbs; 109 mg sodium (with reduced-sodium miso); 0 mg cholesterol; 1.3 g fiber

Kabocha-dofu only (1/6 of kabocha-dofu recipe):
35 calories; 0.7 g protein; 0.8 g fat; 6.5 g carbohydrate; 5.5 g net carbs; 8 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber


Mukago ginnan gohan / steamed rice with mountain yam aerial tubers and gingko nuts

A great combination of fall harvest -- mukago, small marble-size aerial tubers, and ginnan gingko nuts. Ginkgo nuts' slightly chewy texture and bittersweet taste perfectly compliment the somewhat creamy texture and subtle nutty taste of mukago. To bring out the best of both ingredients, the steamed rice below is flavored with salt (shiokoji salted rice malt). Mochigome sweet rice is also mixed in to enhance the aroma. 

1/2 of recipe:
281 calories; 4.8 g protein; 0.8 g fat; 59.1 g carbohydrate; 59.3 g net carbs; 104 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.4 g fiber

1/3 of recipe:
187 calories; 3.2 g protein; 0.5 g fat; 39.4 g carbohydrate; 39.5 g net carbs; 69 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.3 g fiber


Mukago Japanese & Chinese yam aerial tubers

Aerial tubers of jinenjo Japanese yam (Dioscorea japonica)

While mukago technically means vegetative reproduction organs (including lily or allium bulbs), when referring to food it usually indicates the aerial tubers of Dioscoreaceae family yams. Jinenjo Japanese yam (Dioscorea japonica) and nagaimo Chinese yam (Dioscorea batatas) are common Dioscoreaceae family yams.


Dinner, October 4, 2017

A quick trip to Seattle for my passport renewal provided the chance to realize that we have probably been living in a small town (to be more specific, outside of a small town of 20,000 people) a bit too long. Nothing more than a standard modern elevator in an office building looked stunning, and we were actually surprised at our own impression. We did have a couple of occasions to ride in those fast-moving modern elevators in tall buildings while we were visiting Japan a few years ago, and offices in Tokyo where I used to work had multiple elevators at separate sections for lower, middle and upper floors. But today we were like lost tourists from the countryside in one of the tallest buildings in downtown Seattle, where we rode elevators with well-groomed adults who seemed to work somewhere in the building or were visiting for business. Needless to say, we rarely share elevator rides with people in ironed shirts, pressed pants or polished shoes in our town. 

Put simply, we live in what some people might call the boonies.

  • Okara-konnyaku no nikumiso-fu soboro to iritamago no gohan / steamed rice topped with sweet & spicy ground soybean pulp konnyaku and scrambled egg 
  • Renkon to surimi no manju, kinoko to shugiku jitate / lotus root & fish dumplings with mushroom & garland chrysanthemum soup 
  • Kabu to kikka no amazuzuke / Japanese turnip and chrysanthemum flowers in sweetened vinegar 
  • Daikon, ninjin, age no itameni / daikon radish, carrot and thin deep-fried tofu saute simmered in broth 
  • Saishin no gomaae / yu choy sum with sesame dressing


Lunch bento, September 22, 2017

We had a day off due to a sudden job cancellation, and since nice sunny weather was expected, we decided to go up the road to the top of Blue Mountain in the Olympic National Park.


Satsumaimo no taruto / sweet potato tart

A very easy and delicious tart with satsumaimo sweet potato. One of our favorites for fall, it tastes like a rich sweet potato pudding.

Whole tart:
1,114 calories; 12.6 g protein; 66.4 g fat; 96.2 g carbohydrate; 80.7 g net carbs; 47 mg sodium; 131 mg cholesterol; 10.0 g fiber

1/8 slice:
139 calories; 1.6 g protein; 8.3 g fat; 12.0 g carbohydrate; 10.1 g net carbs; 6 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 1.3 g fiber


Guriin oriibu no chuuka-aji / Chinese-flavored green olives

An experiment on simultaneous desalination and flavoring with a Chinese taste. Instead of adding salt to water to draw out the excess sodium of olives, I used shaoxing wine along with a couple of Chinese spices. As hoped, finished olives have very mild saltiness while imparting soft spiciness from Sichuan peppercorns and deep aroma of star anise. They work great as a Chinese pickle substitute.


Tosho chaamen / dao xiao chao mian / fried hand-shaven noodles

A cheater version of hand-shaven noodles made with a peeler, and stir fried with an assortment of goodies. Noodle dough is basically the same as teuchi udon handmade wheat noodles but uses less water, which makes the dough prep a bit more time consuming (dry and wet ingredients need to rest together longer before kneading). Less water in turn ensures easy shaving and cooking at the end. While any goodie works great in this noodle dish, dried shiitake mushrooms with their deep flavor and aroma function like underlying seasoning to bind everything together. Very tasty and satisfying.

1/2 recipe: 
596 calories; 26.6 g protein; 15.0 g fat; 85.8 g carbohydrate; 73.1 g net carbs; 595 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 226 mg cholesterol; 6.1 g fiber


Somen no tsuketsuyu, goma-aji / sesame-flavored dipping sauce for thin wheat noodles

Ground toasted sesame seeds and chili bean sauce make this somen noodle dipping sauce taste richer and more satisfying. Great cold or hot.

1/4 of recipe (dipping sauce only):
54 calories; 2.2 g protein; 3.0 g fat; 3.4 g carbohydrate; 2.4 g net carbs; 228 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 0.7 g fiber

1/3 of recipe (dipping sauce only):
72 calories; 2.9 g protein; 4.0 g fat; 4.5 g carbohydrate; 3.6 g net carbs; 304 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 0.9 g fiber

Whole recipe (dipping sauce only):
216 calories; 8.7 g protein; 11.9 g fat; 13.5 g carbohydrate; 10.7 g net carbs; 913 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 2.8 g fiber


Momo daifuku / soft rice cake with peach and sweetened bean paste

A fruity rice cake with a juicy filling. Pickled ginger added to the bean paste accentuates the sweetness of fresh peach. Best chilled on Day 1. Tom's current favorite (after learning that "momo" meant the fruit, not our cat, which happens to be named "Momo").

One daifuku cake (1/4 of recipe):
111 calories; 2.2 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 27.7 g carbohydrate; 25.9 g net carbs; 4 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.8 g fiber


Benishoga / red pickled ginger

Unlike the bright red of store-bought pickled ginger, benishoga takes on a pinkish hue when made at home in the traditional way. It is as easy as getting rid of the excess moisture of ginger by salting or drying it, and marinating in brine produced by plums during the umeboshi-making process.

Below, shinshoga [new crop ginger] is sun-dried and soaked in the brine of anzuboshi pickled apricots. The finished benishoga offers a combination of flavors: softly salty, sharp, spicy and even fruity.

Whole recipe (56 g solids)
27 calories; 0.8 g protein; 0.3 g fat; 5.9 g carbohydrate; 4.0 g net carbs; 231 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.9 g fiber


Tomato to myoga no ponzujoyu-ae / tomato and Japanese ginger buds in citrus soy sauce

A quick small salad for summer. Ingredients are flavorful reminders of the season and naturally go well together. This can be made rich, strong or light, depending on when and where oil is added.

1/2 of recipe:
21 calories; 0.7 g protein; 0.6 g fat; 4.0 g carbohydrate; 3.0 g net carbs; 14 mg sodium (with homemade ponzujoyu made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber


Chabukusa, matcha-aji / crepe wrapper cake, matcha flavor

Also called tsuyabukusa or fukusa, this little cake tastes similar to everyday dorayaki or taiyaki. The sea sponge look is not just unique; the air pockets lighten the cake's chewy texture. With this matcha version, the delightful aroma of green tea fills your mouth as you take a bite.

This is fun to make. The batter you spread on the hot pan quickly produces air bubbles, which you gently rub or touch with paper or cloth to open up and make craters.  Keep the heat level relatively high for the best bubbling results.

1 cake (1/5 of recipe):
110 calories; 3.2 g protein; 1.0 g fat; 21.5 g carbohydrate; 19.8 g net carbs; 23 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 1.7 g fiber


Koyadofu to kinoko no raapu-fu / freeze-dried tofu and mushroom larb salad

Zesty, sweet and salty. Commonly made with meat or fish, this is a vegetarian-friendly Thai larb (with fish sauce). Freeze-dried tofu has a sponge-like texture and soaks up the tasty seasoning. Mixed with umami-packed mushrooms, this filling dish works as a starter or even a quick bite when feeling hungry. Cilantro and mint provide a pungent, tangy and fresh note to complete the melody.  

1/6 of recipe:
60 calories; 4.0 g protein; 3.3 g fat; 4.8 g carbohydrate; 3.3 g net carbs; 84 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.5 g fiber

1/4 of recipe:
90 calories; 6.0 g protein; 5.0 g fat; 7.2 g carbohydrate; 5.0 g net carbs; 126 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 2.2 g fiber

Whole recipe:
362 calories; 24.2 g protein; 19.9 g fat; 28.8 g carbohydrate; 20.0 g net carbs; 504 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 8.8 g fiber


Nasu to myoga no misoshiru / miso soup with eggplant and Japanese ginger buds

A summery pairing of eggplant and myoga ginger buds! Eggplant goes really well with miso. In this soup, fresh myoga gives a zesty punch. Eggplant skin tends to become dull when cooked in soup; add eggplant while dashi is vigorously boiling to retain its beautiful purple tone.

1/2 of recipe: 
30 calories; 1.9 g protein; 0.4 g fat; 5.1 g carbohydrate; 3.4 g net carbs; 248 mg sodium (with reduced-sodium miso); 1 mg cholesterol; 1.7 g fiber


Myoga no amazuzuke / Japanese ginger buds marinated in sweetened vinegar

Myoga buds naturally turn pinkish in vinegar. Often served as a colorful little companion to grilled fish in summer, these pickles are also tasty when added to steamed or sushi rice, noodles, and grilled or fried vegetables such as eggplant.

Whole recipe (solids):
29 calories; 1.3 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 12.0 g carbohydrate; 5.6 g net carbs; 47 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 2.9 g fiber

1 medium-large myoga (1/5 of recipe):
6 calories; 0.3 g protein; 0 g fat; 2.4 g carbohydrate; 1.1 g net carbs; 9 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.6 g fiber


Pootabera no piza pan / portabella pizza pastry

A spin-off from a piroshki-style savory pastry creation. Replacement of all whole wheat flour with oat flour and butter with olive oil for the dough results in a lighter and crispier crust, which can be half-baked and frozen for later use. Below, umami-packed tomato paste is used as an instant sauce, providing a tasty base for sauteed portabellas complimented by aromatic Gorgonzola and crunchy walnuts. Great for a lunch or snack.

1 pastry (1/10 pizza pastry dough recipe and 1/4 of topping recipe):
254 calories; 10.3 g protein; 13.0 g fat; 25.4 g carbohydrate; 21.0 g net carbs; 69 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 4.4 g fiber

1 pizza crust (1/10 dough recipe):
186 calories; 7.3 g protein; 7.7 g fat; 21.6 g carbohydrate; 18.1 g net carbs; 23 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 3.5 g fiber


Okara tamago karee-aji to horenso, komatsuna no bataa-joyu itame / stir-fried spinach, komatsuna and egg with soybean pulp and curry, soy sauce butter flavor

A variation of leafy greens stir-fry with egg and soybean pulp. Flavoring with a small amount of soy sauce alone is not strong enough for some people, including Tom. While adding shiokoji salted rice malt or salt usually takes care of the issue, curry powder, a versatile spice, gives an instant appetizing boost without adding sodium. The spice also results in a meaty taste with the egg + soybean pulp mixture. 

1/2 of recipe:
97 calories; 5.8 g protein; 6.3 g fat; 4.4 g carbohydrate; 0.9 g net carbs; 102 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 120 mg cholesterol; 3.5 g fiber


Endomame no hisui-bitashi / English peas marinated in light broth

Fresh English peas go into this ohitashi. The peas are very softly flavored here, so they work great as a garnish or as an additional ingredient in a number of dishes. When serving as is, add ginger (julienned, grated or juice) for a refreshing note or use a tiny amount of soy sauce.

Whole recipe (solids): 
117 calories; 8.5 g protein; 0.5 g fat; 19.1 g carbohydrate; 9.7 g net carbs; 31 mg sodium (with usukuchi soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 9.4 g fiber


Dinner, July 7, 2017

We had a decent lunch out at an Italian restaurant. Both of our dishes were pleasantly tasty and not heavy. We were able to finish each portion without feeling stuffed to the gills and were still able to think about what to have for dinner when we left the restaurant. Around here, not feeling overfed after a meal out is amazing.

As we had good news from Tom's doctor and a package from my parents, we decided on an experimental dinner to test dried hotaruika firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans).

  • Iri-kurodaizu gohan / steamed rice with roasted black soybeans
  • Endomame to satoimo no surinagashi, hotaruika-dashi-jitate / English pea and baby taro soup with firefly squid broth
  • Okara tamago to horenso no bataa-joyu itame / stir-fried spinach and egg with soybean pulp, soy sauce butter flavor
  • Zukkiini to shiitake, satsumaage, tomato no yakibitashi / grilled zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, deep-fried fishcakes and tomato in light broth

A few days before this year's tanabata Star Festival, one of our wishes came true.


Nasu to soramame, kani no tosazu jure ae / eggplant, fava beans and crab in tosazu jelly dressing

A chilled delight. The jelly dressing provides a cooling, shiny blanket over the mouthwatering combination of eggplant, fava beans and Dungeness crab in season. Prepare goodies ahead of time while the air is still cool if rising temperature is foreseeable -- when feeling exhausted from daytime heat, this refreshing dish will be ready in no time.

1/2 of recipe:
68 calories; 6.8 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 6.9 g carbohydrate; 5.5 g net carbs; 161 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 1.4 g fiber


Tosazu jure / jelly dressing of sweetened soy sauce vinegar infused with bonito flakes

A jelly dressing for summer. A tiny amount of gelatin turns a common sunomono dressing into a shiny crystal coating that clings to the surface of ingredients.

Whole recipe:
61 calories; 2.8 g protein; 0.0 g fat; 9.1 g carbohydrate; 9.1 g net carbs; 545 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 0.0 g fiber

1/4 of recipe (for one small side dish serving):
15 calories; 0.7 g protein; 0.0 g fat; 2.3 g carbohydrate; 2.3 g net carbs; 141 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.0 g fiber


Zukkiini no shami-itameni / braized zucchini with dried shrimp

Very aromatic and flavorful, shami dried shrimp instantly transform a simple saute. Soaking shami in water ahead of time as below ensures that zucchini is softly and thoroughly seasoned. If you don't have time to soak or want to enjoy the contrast between tender zucchini and crunchy shami, they can simply be chopped and sauteed. The dish is equally tasty either way. Great with plain steamed rice, and can be served as one of starter dishes with drinks.

1/2 of recipe:
34 calories; 3.7 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 2.7 g carbohydrate; 1.6 g net carbs; 132 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 24 mg cholesterol; 1.1 g fiber


Dinner, June 16, 2017

One day our friends gave us very crisp, chicory-like mizuna called Mizuna Green Streak, and Tom put some in an omelet the next morning. But we still had plenty, so we got super fresh rockfish from a local fish store and lots of fava beans from another local shop. My menu plan naturally was to enjoy this great food!

  • Soramame to sakura ebi no gohan / steamed rice with fava beans and dried shrimp
  • Tofu, wakame, usuage no misoshiru / miso soup with tofu, wakame seaweed, thin deep-fried tofu, with daikon radish sprouts
  • Menuke no karashiage to mizuna, serori no okaka-ae / deep-fried mustard-marinated rockfish with mustard greens and celery
  • Tomato to okura no amazu oroshi-ae / tomatoes and okra in grated radish with sweetened vinegar
429 calories, 515 mg sodium (items on front tray, for me; 566 calories, 612 mg sodium after eating half of remaining fish karashiage)

For Tom, after having another serving of rice and finishing up half of remaining fish karashiage in the serving bowl, the dinner had 778 calories and 731 mg sodium. I knew the number wouldn't be low, as I made takikomi gohan rice cooked with goodies instead of plain rice (virtually zero sodium), but going above 700 mg gave me a minor shock.


Kanso asari gohan / steamed rice with dried clams

Just like dried scallops, dried clams make an aromatic broth by simply soaking them in water. When the rehydrated clams and rehydration water are used to cook rice, you have a very tasty steamed rice. Dried clams have a mellower note compared to fresh, boiled or steamed clams, and it can be a bit overwhelming if you use too many, depending on other ingredients to pair. Below, julienned ginger is added for a refreshing taste to contrast the mellow aroma of clams.

1/2 of recipe:
290 calories; 6.7 g protein; 1.0 g fat; 59.0 g carbohydrate; 58.5 g net carbs; 112 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 5 mg cholesterol; 0.5 g fiber

1/3 of recipe:
194 calories; 4.4 g protein; 0.7 g fat; 39.4 g carbohydrate; 39.1 g net carbs; 75 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 4 mg cholesterol; 0.3 g fiber


Oriibu no shionuki / desalination of olives

Finding olives with lower sodium content at stores is nice, but they still contain quite a bit of salt. Tom tends to end up eating more than he probably should, thinking each fruit is small ... one more is OK ... another is still OK ... maybe one more ...

Soaking olives in water with a tiny amount of salt can take care of desalination. 

According to my kitchen tests, when olives are soaked in cold water (50F/10C), their sodium content is reduced by approximately 30% after 1 hour, 40-50% after 2 hours, and 60+% after 3 hours.


Zukkini to tamago, feta chiizu no pan / zucchini, egg and feta cheese pastry

This is another savory pastry we like. Sauteed zucchini is paired with fluffy fried or microwaved egg and feta cheese. Dill makes this combination truly savory.

1 pastry (1/9 piroshki-style dough recipe and 1/3 of filling recipe):
266 calories; 12.9 g protein; 12.8 g fat; 25.5 g carbohydrate; 20.9 g net carbs; 151 mg sodium; 89 mg cholesterol; 4.6 g fiber


Eringi to shimeji no namuru / namul saute with king oyster and shimeji mushrooms

A quick saute of mushrooms with sesame oil. Fresno pepper adds colorful contrast and soft crunch. Great as a filler in a bento box, too.

1/2 of recipe:
24 calories; 1.7 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 3.6 g carbohydrate; 0 g net carbs; 31 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 3.6 g fiber


Burokkorii to mini tomato no gomaae / broccoli and grape tomatoes in sesame dressing

A little side dish to add green and red to your plate. It is very quick to make, as chopping and microwaving broccoli are basically all you need to do (other than preparing dressing, which is also very easy). Fresh tomatoes ensure a light taste for this gomaae, which sometimes can be a bit heavy.

1/2 of recipe:
93 calories; 3.9 g protein; 6.3 g fat; 6.3 g carbohydrate; 3.2 g net carbs; 27 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 8 mg cholesterol; 3.1 g fiber


Feta chiizu no shionuki / desalinating feta cheese

Long before we started reduced-sodium cooking, I learned to avoid feta cheese at restaurants and delis in this country, as feta makes dishes uncomfortably salty (partly because way too much cheese is used). At home, you can choose feta cheese with lower sodium content (although still high compared to most other cheese) and use the amount you need. Better yet, desalinating can easily solve the issue.

Test results from my kitchen experiments show that soaking feta cheese in a mixture of milk and water for 3-4 hours lowers sodium content by 35-50%.

Desalination speed mainly depends on the proportion of cheese and liquid as well as on the size of cheese chunks, The more liquid (milk + water) you use, the faster cheese desalinates. Also, when cheese chunks are smaller, they desalinate faster than when soaking a larger block.


Karifurawaa to masshuruumu no karee pan / curried cauliflower and mushroom pastry

Great for breakfast and lunch! This savory pastry is intended to be eaten with other dishes, and only a moderate amount of spices are used to flavor the filling. It freezes well too, making it a handy, virtually ready-to-eat snack.

1 pastry (1/9 piroshki-style dough recipe and 1/3 of filling recipe):
239 calories; 10.9 g protein; 9.8 g fat; 28.7 g carbohydrate; 22.2 g net carbs; 60 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 6.5 g fiber


Piroshiki-fu pan no kiji / piroshki-style pastry dough

Okazu pan, osozai pan or sozai pan -- savory bread or pastry -- are common bakery or home-baked goods in Japan. Savory sounds good, but may raise concern if you watch your sodium intake, as bread is a top source of sodium in Western diets (in the US at least). So why not make your own? When you do, you can lower sodium, cholesterol and net-carbs of the dough itself, giving you more options for toppings or fillings, accompanying items, and dishes to enjoy the rest of the day. Below you'll find a leaner, lighter dough. Using ingredients closer to the regular version makes the dough fluffier and richer.

Whole recipe:
1800 calories; 73.3 g protein; 72.3 g fat; 214.5 g carbohydrate; 178.8 g net carbs; 199 mg sodium; 42 mg cholesterol; 35.7 g fiber

Dough for 1 pastry (1/9 of recipe):
200 calories; 8.1 g protein; 8.0 g fat; 23.8 g carbohydrate; 19.8 g net carbs; 22 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 4.0 g fiber


Umeboshi (anzuboshi) / pickled plums (pickled apricots)

Salty and sour umeboshi pickled plums are the standard pickles that often sit in the center of plain steamed rice in bento or in the middle of onigiri rice balls. It is, or once was, one of the staples that each family made itself, especially in the countryside. For us, it was one of many things my grandmother made. My mom eventually started to make her own, and at some point she also started to use ripe apricots (but we continued to call them umeboshi). By the time I was graduating high school, our umeboshi were all apricots. Many years later, I learned that the apricot idea came from our piano teacher, who had a lovely garden filled with all sorts of ornamental and edible plants.

Anzuboshi pickled apricots are fruitier than umeboshi, but they basically taste the same, and people wouldn't notice the difference unless you tell them.

The amount of salt used as the first step varies from 10% and 20% of fruit weight, which assures years of storage at room temperature or cooler. Using less salt is possible when refrigerated during pickling and storage. Salt content of the recipe below is 8% of apricot/plum weight, an easy starting point for a reduced-sodium version. Alcohol (vodka) and rice vinegar are added as extra protection against mold.

1 anzuboshi (16 g with seed, 12 g without seed):
189 mg sodium/12 g flesh


Meshida to satsumaage no nibitashi / Western lady fern fiddleheads and deep-fried fishcakes in light broth

An everyday comfort side dish featuring fiddleheads in season. The faint bitterness of meshida lady fern with its succulent texture tastes great with gently mellow fishcakes.

1/2 of recipe:
73 calories; 6.5 g protein; 1.5 g fat; 8.7 g carbohydrate; 6.1 g net carbs; 67 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 2.7 g fiber 


Teuchi udon / handmade wheat noodles

Udon noodles made without adding salt! Using boiling water for dough appears to be a common technique with commercially available salt-free udon. But they don't share other secrets to achieve a chewy yet sticky texture. Some people suggest using milk or tofu as a (partial) replacement for water, while others say water alone gives satisfactory results. Below is my best attempt so far, based on a bread-making technique using yudane water roux (flour gelatinization).

1/2 recipe (average to large 1-person portion):
385 calories; 10.5 g protein; 2.8 g fat; 75.2 g carbohydrate; 73.1 g net carbs; 14 mg sodium (basically 0 mg after boiling); 3 mg cholesterol; 2.1 g fiber

Whole recipe:
770 calories; 21.1 g protein; 5.5 g fat; 150.4 g carbohydrate; 146.2 g net carbs; 28 mg sodium (basically 0 mg after boiling); 6 mg cholesterol; 4.2 g fiber


Gomadashi udon / wheat noodles with fish sesame paste

Gomadashi udon is simply wheat noodles, fish sesame paste, a garnish and plenty of hot water. It is amazingly simple to prepare, as it was originally developed as a quick warm dish for fishermen coming back from the ocean. To satisfy our taste buds with a smaller amount of reduced-sodium version gomadashi, I use a small amount of dashi instead of hot water and add other goodies for overall umami enhancement and color to stimulate the appetite. This is one of Tom's recent favorites.

1 serving (with 150 g fresh low-sodium udon noodles):
575 calories; 22.6 g protein; 13.6 g fat; 87.9 g carbohydrate; 80.8 g net carbs; 460 mg sodium (with reduced-sodium gomadashi); 118 mg cholesterol; 7.1 g fiber 

1 serving (without udon noodles):
191 calories; 12.8 g protein; 11.0 g fat; 11.6 g carbohydrate; 7.3 g net carbs; 450 mg sodium (with reduced-sodium gomadashi); 115 mg cholesterol; 4.3 g fiber


Gomadashi / fish sesame paste

I first encountered the expression gomadashi on a website introducing regional udon specialties. It is a paste made of grilled fish, sesame seeds, soy sauce and sweetener. The paste's name does not intuitively convey how tasty it is. It is typically served with udon wheat noodles. It is also good with rice and as an addition to a number of dips and dressings. When making the paste, grilling the fish takes the longest, and once it is done, the paste should keep in the fridge for a relatively long time -- 4 weeks when made with regular soy sauce is what people say, so probably 2+ weeks with the reduced sodium version below.

1 tbsp (20g):
56 calories; 3.8 g protein; 3.4 g fat; 2.8 g carbohydrate; 2.0 g net carbs; 190 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce & shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 5 mg cholesterol; 0.8 g fiber

Whole recipe (approx. 170g):
476 calories; 32.5 g protein; 28.8 g fat; 23.7 g carbohydrate; 16.7 g net carbs; 1,601 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce & shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 42 mg cholesterol; 7.0 g fiber


Dinner, May 13, 2017

My father's birthday marks the end of a rash of spring birthdays among our friends and family. Thinking of a warabi bracken dish he made while visiting us here years ago, I took the opportunity to cook something using warabi and a couple of other things he hopefully would like to eat. Then I realized I do not really know what he likes, other than miso soup, tofu, usuage, sashimi, pork, beef, and strong-flavored dishes in general. Following ubiquitous advice, he tries to eat lots of vegetables for his health.

  • Asari to gobo no takikomi gohan / steamed rice with clams and burdock root, topped with mitsuba and nori seaweed
  • Satoimo to shiitake no misoshiru / miso soup with baby taro root and shiitake mushrooms
  • Gomadofu / sesame tofu
  • Kabu to usuage no nimono / braised Japanese turnips and thin deep-fried tofu
  • Fu champuruu / Okinawan-style stir-fry with gluten cakes

My warabi dish idea was a miso soup with gomadofu, but the gomadofu became too soft to maintain its form in soup ... Instead, it became a small side dish with wasabi.


Tom Cooks 20. Soondupu tofu stew and spinach namul

This is the best soondupu Tom has made so far. He even made the yangyeom seasoning mix for the soup. Incredibly, a small spinach side dish also appeared on the table.

Before cooking, Tom showed me how much spinach he was going to use. While it seemed like as much as half a bunch to him, it was only half a bunch to me, and clearly not enough. But I kept my mouth shut, as Tom wouldn't have listened to me anyway. He learns best from his own trial and error, not from other people's advice. My words are noise to him, especially after he has made up his mind.


Okara-iritamago no okaka mazegohan / steamed rice with scrambled soybean pulp, egg and bonito flakes

An easy makeover of plain steamed rice into a tasty comfort meal. Scrambled eggs fluffed up with fiber-rich okara increase the overall volume of rice, so even one-third of the entire recipe is quite filling. Mild okara-egg is balanced with the strong taste and aroma of okaka or katsuobushi bonito flakes. Although forms are totally different, onigiri rice balls came to mind when I first tasted this rice. Yummy!

1/3 of recipe:
229 calories; 6.6 g protein; 3.5 g fat; 40.4 g carbohydrate; 38.9 g net carbs; 41 mg sodium; 72 mg cholesterol; 1.5 g fiber

1/2 of recipe:
343 calories; 9.9 g protein; 5.2 g fat; 60.6 g carbohydrate; 58.4 g net carbs; 61 mg sodium; 108 mg cholesterol; 2.2 g fiber


Tomuyamukun / tom yum goong

Here is the tom yum goong I longed for. I finally was able to make this simple soup that indeed reminds me of what I routinely had from a locally popular Isan restaurant near my apartment in Bangkok. There is no secret. As with any cuisine, all you need is good ingredients. What I learned from my trials and errors over the years is not to add too much of aromatic ingredients and make a good stock.

1/4 of recipe:
111 calories; 14.9 g protein; 2.0 g fat; 10.3 g carbohydrate; 8.1 g net carbs; 427 mg sodium; 93 mg cholesterol; 2.3 g fiber


Yuzu daifuku / soft rice cake with sweetened bean paste and candied yuzu citrus peel

This sweet rice cake will send your senses into overdrive as you bite into the soft rice cake envelope that surrounds silky sweet bean paste and candied yuzu peel. The shiroan below straightforwardly delivers invigorating yuzu aroma. If you prefer a deeper taste, try pairing yuzu peel with azuki koshian, or strained tsubuan for a slightly more complex taste. All taste a bit different but are equally good. Great with unsweetened Japanese or Chinese tea.

One daifuku cake (1/4 of recipe; figures for granulated sugar for yuzu peel excluded):
104 calories; 2.1 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 26.1 g carbohydrate; 24.5 g net carbs; 0 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.6 g fiber


Nanbanzuke / deep-fried fish marinated in sweet and sour broth

One of our standard dishes for get-togethers. This is on the mild end, as broth is prepared with rice vinegar and plenty of dashi, making it go well with meals or drinks as well as with both Japanese and non-Japanese dishes. Because of high dashi content, it tastes better from Day 2. Makes a great bento item as well.

1/4 of recipe: 124 calories; 11.9 g protein; 5.9 g fat; 4.5 g carbohydrate; 3.8 g net carbs; 148 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium regular soy sauce); 33 mg cholesterol; 0.7 g fiber