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


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.