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