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


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

Upon our return home, I quickly changed into my rural office outfit (all washer-safe) and took care of job inquiries. The next task was to come up with a dinner that would help Tom recover from his long hours of driving. Something warm, gentle texture yet with some real bite, light on the stomach yet filling enough, tasty, and pleasant to eat.

Japanese turnip and chrysanthemum flowers in sweetened vinegar was already prepared and in the fridge. Fresh kabu turnip remains relatively crunchy even after a few days of marinating, and its spiciness provides a nice pungent punch. Yellow chrysanthemum petals are a seasonal reminder.

The daikon carrot dish was also prepared ahead of time. Shishito was chopped and added for color and taste when heating it up. .

Yu choy sum gomaae is a very quick everyday dish that can be made in no time. Rice is basically taken care by the rice cooker.

Spicy ground soybean pulp konnyaku is something we have been eating with noodles. I used it as a topping for steamed rice along with oil-free microwaved scrambled egg with green onion, and it worked out just like meat soboro (sweet-salty flavored ground meat). Okara-konnyaku is a hybrid konnyaku yam cake that contains okara soybean pulp. I have not yet tried a product from shops but have been making my own and testing various recipes.

For a soup, I mixed ground fish paste, grated renkon and potato starch for dumplings, which were simmered to cook (and also to desalinate) and served in clear soup with shiitake and shimeji mushrooms and blanched shungiku garland chrysanthemum. Shungiku quickly discolors when put in hot soup, and first blanching and cooling in ice or running cold water retains its pretty green. This dish would need some modification, especially with dumpling texture, but it turned out much better than expected as an improvisation.

For this dinner, sodium content per serving is around 550 mg.

We are in the middle of Kikuzuki [lit. chrysanthemum month], an alias for Nagatsuki or September in the lunar calendar (October 20 to November 17 in the modern calendar for 2017). Chrysanthemum is the flower for Nagatsuki, which literally means long month, implying that nights are becoming longer every day. Nagatsuki is also used to refer to September in the modern calendar, but the description suits the lunar calendar's September much better.
Anyhow, for these reasons, many items featuring chrysanthemum appear in fall in Japan or as a part of Japanese sweets and cuisine.

Chrysanthemum trivia. Tom once gave me a bouquet of chrysanthemums in multiple colors -- yellow, white, and purple -- upon my return home in Tokyo years ago. My first reaction was ... "I am not dead."
Tom did not get it.

A chrysanthemum bouquet in those three colors (often in white only or a combination of white and yellow) wrapped in plain white paper or without paper sold at florists or other shops is for altars or tombstones for the deceased.
Not quite the joyful homecoming gift you expect.
Tom gets it now.

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