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


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):
87 calories; 2.4 g protein; 0.3 g fat; 18.5 g carbohydrate; 18.6 g net carbs; 5 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 2.0 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


Kuri chakin / mashed steamed chestnut cakes

These little sweets are a personal experiment that I made as a substitute for kuri kinton, a chestnut dish for financial luck that is often part of the New Year's Day meal. While standard ingredients for kuri chakin are only chestnuts and sugar, I mixed chestnuts with shiroan bean paste and roasted satsumaimo. These sweets are not as yellow as typical kuri kinton, so they might not have the Midas touch, but they can provide a gently sweet reward and relaxing moment.

One chakin cake (1/10 of recipe):
50 calories; 1.1 g protein; 0.2 g fat; 11.1 g carbohydrate; 9.7 g net carbs; 1 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.4 g fiber


Furofuki daikon / soft simmered daikon radish with sweet miso sauce

One of the standard cold-season daikon dishes that is very simple to make -- simmering is all it needs. Daikon is simmered until it is very soft, soft enough that one chopstick sinks to the center as you cut with the other. Typically served with aromatic miso-based sauce for a delightful experience. Below is an example served with yuzu miso citrus sauce.

1/2 of recipe:
35 calories; 0.9 g protein; 0.3 g fat; 7.2 g carbohydrate; 5.4 g net carbs; 111 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.8 g fiber


Yuzu miso / sweet miso with yuzu citrus

Yuzu, a winter citrus, instantly adds an intriguing aroma and transforms any miso paste into an amazing sauce.

Whole recipe:
216 calories; 7.2 g protein; 2.2 g fat; 36.5 g carbohydrate; 31.7 g net carbs; 1,369 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 4.8 g fiber

1 tablespoon (18 g):
34 calories; 1.1 g protein; 0.4 g fat; 5.8 g carbohydrate; 5.0 g net carbs; 218 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.8 g fiber

Seriyaki / water dropwort with konnyaku noodles and thin deep-fried tofu

Although the name literally means "roasted/grilled" seri, seri in this dish is usually blanched and mixed with other ingredients, at least with the regional seriyaki in Akita Prefecture. A past simple version, possibly in a different region, used a roasting or grilling technique to prepare seri. So why not grill seri to intensify its flavor and then cook it as Akita people do?
Seri roots are probably the tastiest part, as the roots get rave reviews with seri grown in the Mitsuseki region in Akita. While store-bought seri here does not come with yummy roots (and my own seri is impossible to dig in the hard-frozen ground outside), you can still enjoy the toasty note and sweet juiciness of the vegetable from grilling.

1/2 of recipe:
70 calories; 4.0 g protein; 2.9 g fat; 6.0 g carbohydrate; 3.2 g net carbs; 145 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 2.8 g fiber

1/3 of recipe:
93 calories; 2.7 g protein; 2.0 g fat; 4.0 g carbohydrate; 2.1 g net carbs; 93 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 1.9 g fiber


Karashi renkon /deep-fried lotus root with mustard-flavored miso

A regional specialty with 400 years of history from Kumamoto in southern Japan. It makes a great appetizer, as the dish was originally designed to stimulate the appetite and improve the health of a great lord. Sweet miso blended with spicy karashi mustard releases a soft yet pungent aroma as you bite into the crunchy lotus root, making you want to take another sip of sake or bite of plain rice ...
Actual cooking time is not particularly long, but preparation does take some time to let the lotus root and filling work on their own to stabilize the karashi-miso mixture, so plan ahead.

Whole recipe:
419 calories; 7.1 g protein; 26.3 g fat; 38.3 g carbohydrate; 32.0 g net carbs; 444 mg sodium; 14 mg cholesterol; 6.3 g fiber

1/2 of recipe:
210 calories; 3.6 g protein; 13.2 g fat; 19.2 g carbohydrate; 16.0 g net carbs; 222 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 3.2 g fiber

1/3 of recipe:
140 calories; 2.4 g protein; 8.8 g fat; 12.8 g carbohydrate; 10.7 g net carbs; 148 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 2.1 g fiber


Satsumaimo no ukishima / steamed bean paste cake with roasted sweet potato

This moist and gently sweet sponge cake is another great teatime companion. While it contains sweet bean paste, its egg and flour content lets it also complement Western meals when served as a dessert.  Below, I replaced some shiroan white bean paste with yakiimo roasted satsumaimo sweet potato, and threw in some apple bits cooked with mikan tangerine and cinnamon.

Whole recipe:
376 calories; 16.8 g protein; 5.9 g fat; 63.4 g carbohydrate; 52.6 g net carbs; 86 mg sodium; 196 mg cholesterol; 10.8 g fiber


Suigyoza no chige-fu nabe / jjigae-style hotpot with shui jiao dumplings

A spicy red hotpot for chilly days, very filling yet gentle on your stomach. Have lots of fresh lemon wedges ready -- they will work some amazing magic at the end.
As with any nabe hotpot, any ingredients in the fridge or on the kitchen counter can go in. Explore with what you have, and find your favorite combinations.

1/2 of recipe (when taking a few sips of broth): 
436 calories; 25.8 g protein; 10.2 g fat; 58.2 g carbohydrate; 47.2 g net carbs; 366 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 38 mg cholesterol; 11.0 g fiber


Osechi New Year's Day meal, 2017

Finally, I was able to make a tasty reduced-sodium version of ozoni soup, ganmodoki to warabi no nimono tofu patties and bracken simmered in broth, and ebi no umani shrimp in broth. This marks a big step forward from previous years' osechi.

I skipped making chrysanthemum flower-cut kabu Japanese turnip marinated in sweetened vinegar as we could not find the vegetable, but I missed the sweet and fresh taste of kabu, which provides a nice contrast to other dishes and works great to refresh your mouth. The appearance of plates and bowls when placed on each tray seemed to lack something as well. The bright green camellia leaves that accompany chrysanthemum flower-cut kabu usually tighten the overall scene, and without the leaves, the picture looked a bit fuzzy. You notice how important something is only when it is not there.