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


Dinner, November 28, 2018

When I happened to come across information on an exhibition of lacquerware made in Joboji, Iwate Prefecture, it was clear that dinner that day would feature their bowls. Joboji urushi ware was one of the first lacquer tableware I bought for myself back in Tokyo more than 20 years ago.

  • Gohan / steamed rice
  • Gobo to shimeji, menuke no misoshiru / miso soup with burdock root, shimeji mushrooms and grilled rockfish
  • Koyadofu no ageyaki to ebi no horenso-an-kake / fried freeze-dried tofu and shrimp with light dashi sauce with spinach
  • Hijiki no itameni / braised hijiki seaweed
  • Tomato no amazu oroshi-ae / tomato with grated daikon radish and sweetened vinegar


Dinner, November 11, 2018

Last month, I took the opportunity of an unexpected opening in my work schedule to visit my parents. My parents are in their late 70s and early 80s and have some health issues, and I wanted to see how they are managing their everyday routines. Recently, conversations over the phone often have some blank spots or do not really make sense, requiring some effort and imagination to figure out the real story. Seeing them in person was the fastest way to understand the situation.


Kurumafu no katsudon / gluten cake cutlet rice bowl

While normal katsudon features pork cutlets as the main ingredient, this features cutlets made with gluten cakes. As gluten cake cutlets soak up the broth, they become very juicy and take on the texture of fatty meat, but without the actual fat of pork. This dish is filling even when served with a smaller portion of steamed rice, yet it does not overwhelm your stomach and leaves plenty of room to comfortably enjoy other dishes.

It is quick to prepare, if all ingredients are ready, so have other accompanying dishes or soup almost ready before starting to make katsudon, to ensure the optimal serving temperature.

1/2 of recipe (without steamed rice):
302 calories; 13.7 g protein; 17.0 g fat; 20.6 g carbohydrate; 15.1 g net carbs; 450 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 211 mg cholesterol; 5.5 g fiber; 413 mg potassium

1/2 of recipe (served with 110 g steamed rice [made with 1/3 180-cc cup dry rice]):
386 calories; 15.0 g protein; 17.1 g fat; 39.1 g carbohydrate; 33.4 g net carbs; 450 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 211 mg cholesterol; 5.7 g fiber; 428 mg potassium

1/2 of recipe (served with 170 g steamed rice [made with 1/2 180-cc cup dry rice]):
428 calories; 15.5 g protein; 17.2 g fat; 48.1 g carbohydrate; 42.4 g net carbs; 450 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 211 mg cholesterol; 5.7 g fiber; 435 mg potassium


Shishito to eringi, myoga no miso-itame / stir-fried shishito peppers, king oyster mushroom and Japanese ginger buds with miso sauce

Crispy shishito and myoga stand out in this small side dish, which offers the punch of red miso against the soft and chewy texture of eringi mushroom. To ensure crispiness of shishito and myoga, cook eringi on relatively high heat to prevent it from letting out moisture and making everything soggy.

1/2 of recipe:
36 calories; 2.0 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 5.7 g carbohydrate; 3.1 g net carbs; 81 mg sodium (with shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 2.6 g fiber; 252 mg potassium


Kuzushi-dofu no yakumi sarada / tofu salad with condiments

An easy tofu salad featuring the standard toppings for hiyayakko chilled tofu. This is a very quick dish, except for the time to let out the excess moisture from tofu. If you cannot wait, place large chunks of tofu between your palms and gently press.

I used to make this with tonburi, the boiled seeds of hokigi [Bassia scoparia or Kochia scoparia], in Japan. Since it is not available where we live, I use chia seeds below, but they are optional.

1/2 of recipe:
72 calories; 4.9 g protein; 4.2 g fat; 3.6 g carbohydrate; 2.1 g net carbs; 91 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 1.5 g fiber; 171 mg potassium


Kurumafu no katsu / gluten cake cutlets

Tasty, filling yet light cutlets made with gluten cakes. Compared to more commonly known tonkatsu pork cutlets, this dish is much lower in calories and gentler on your stomach. Gluten cakes are first flavored with dashi stock, shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt and vinegar to get a meaty taste, followed by usual preparation of cutlets, but in a leaner way (below). No shoyukoji available? Balsamic vinegar does a great job in that case.

1/2 of recipe (katsu only; sauce & vegetables not included):
222 calories; 7.9 g protein; 13.0 g fat; 17.3 g carbohydrate; 11.8 g net carbs; 67 mg sodium (with shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 53 mg cholesterol; 5.5 g fiber; 288 mg potassium

1/2 of recipe (katsu & sauce; vegetables not included):
228 calories; 7.9 g protein; 13.1 g fat; 18.7 g carbohydrate; 13.2 g net carbs; 163 mg sodium (with shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 53 mg cholesterol; 5.5 g fiber; 298 mg potassium


Dokudami / fish mint / fishwort

Houttuynia cordata
In the US, a tricolor variegated form called chameleon plant is commonly available for ornamental use (often marketed as a ground cover). When we say dokudami, it usually refers to the original form with green leaves, which are sometimes edged with dark red.

The Japanese name dokudami comes from an old expression that means to control/suppress poison, reflecting the plant's long history of remedy use despite the fact it is largely regarded as a weed that grows in shady sites with moist soil. As its alias juuyaku [lit. ten medicines] suggests, the plant is regarded as a useful home remedy for many purposes, including detoxification and cleansing wounds of infection as well as treating acne, eczema, burns, insect bites, bee stings, and so on. While the entire plant is considered effective, leaves, stems and flowers are often dried to make a tea or more concentrated decoction for routine consumption. The tea works as a diuretic.


Ebi to kabu no misoshiru / miso soup with shrimp and Japanese turnip

This very gentle yet full-flavored miso soup features our local coon shrimp -- baby-size botan ebi spot shrimp -- and kabu turnip. Sweet Saikyo white miso is used for maximum tenderness, which is countered by the nostril-clearing sensation of karashi mustard.

1/2 of recipe:
73 calories; 8.2 g protein; 1.0 g fat; 4.8 g carbohydrate; 3.5 g net carbs; 338 mg sodium; 46 mg cholesterol; 1.3 g fiber; 287 mg potassium


Yakinasu, atsuage to ebi no raisunuudoru sarada / rice noodles with grilled eggplant, deep-fried tofu and shrimp salad

The sweet and sour flavor of a spicy dressing or dipping sauce is a big appeal in warm or hot weather. While grilled eggplant, atsuage deep-fried tofu and shrimp make a great salad individually or in combination, pairing them with rice noodles makes a quick, filling meal. Grill eggplant and atsuage until slightly burnt for a stronger aroma! This is something similar to what I used to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland, Oregon, years ago.

1/2 of recipe:
473 calories; 21.8 g protein; 15.2 g fat; 62.5 g carbohydrate; 57.3 g net carbs; 439 mg sodium; 58 mg cholesterol; 5.2 g fiber; 636 mg potassium

Dressing only (including shami dried shrimp solids; 1/2 of recipe):
25 calories; 1.9 g protein; 0 (0.08) g fat; 4.5 g carbohydrate; 4.2 g net carbs; 375 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 0.3 g fiber; 49 mg potassium


Furaido onion / onion chippu / fried oinion

A handy, toasty and crunchy topping or deep-tasting ingredient for lots of Southeast Asian dishes and more. While widely available at Asian grocery stores, it is very easy to make at home under the sun or in the oven using remaining heat after cooking other dishes. Being homemade translates into flexibility -- using minimum oil and no additional salt in this case. Shallots and garlic can be prepared in the same way.

Whole recipe (21 g):
97 calories; 2.1 g protein; 2.2 g fat; 18.7 g carbohydrate; 15.3 g net carbs; 4 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 3.4 g fiber; 318 mg potassium


Iri-kuromame gohan / steamed rice with toasted black soybeans

When something crunchy is wanted in steamed rice, how about toasted kuromame black soybeans? Kuromame's dark skin also adds nice color to the rice. Its deeper flavor than regular daizu soybeans is another benefit, ensuring tasty results without seasoning. I mix in some mochigome sweet rice, partly because the uruchimai regular rice I use is medium grain. If you use short-grain regular rice, which is more glutenous than medium-grain regular rice, adding mochigome is optional.

1/3 of recipe:
221 calories; 6.5 g protein; 2.3 g fat; 41.8 g carbohydrate; 39.9 g net carbs; 0 (0.4) mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.9 g fiber; 226 mg potassium

1/2 of recipe:
331 calories; 9.7 g protein; 3.4 g fat; 62.7 g carbohydrate; 59.9 g net carbs; 1 (0.6) mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 2.8 g fiber; 338 mg potassium


Fuki to satsumaage no nimono / Japanese butterbur and deep-fried fishcakes in broth

This is a reduced-sodium version of previously posted fuki to kamaboko no nimono (Japanese butterbur and fishcakes in broth). The process is pretty much the same, other than soaking fishcakes in boiling water to desalinate them in advance. Seasonings are tweaked a bit -- sweet elements (sake and mirin) and the salty ingredient (soy sauce) are both reduced while adding a tiny amount of rice vinegar. The result? It is just as tasty as the older version.

1/2 of recipe:
68 calories; 5.2 g protein; 1.4 g fat; 7.2 g carbohydrate; 6.6 g net carbs; 99 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 0.6 g fiber; 189 mg potassium


Sansai tanuki soba / buckwheat noodles with mountain vegetables and tempura pearls

As a noodle topping, sansai mountain vegetables alone give a refreshing taste but could be a bit too light. Tenkasu tempura pearls add a rich note but could lack texture. They soak up the soup, which could also mean you get more sodium than desired. Combining these two ingredients while reducing the volume of each is one delicious solution. Sliced young myoga stems offer a clean aroma and taste.

For the recipe below, usukuchi pale soy sauce and regular dark soy sauce, not reduced-sodium soy sauce, are used for the soup to achieve stronger umami. Dried enoki mushrooms are also added to enhance the umami effect. The strong soup means more satisfaction with a smaller amount compared to a weaker soup, and this naturally makes us refrain from taking extra sips, preventing excess sodium consumption. This works especially well with unflavored toppings or toppings that contain lots of moisture.

1/2 of recipe: 
425 calories; 17.7 g protein; 3.6 g fat; 78.6 g carbohydrate; 8.4 g net carbs; 479 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 7.2 g fiber; 371 mg potassium


Koyadofu to warabi no misoshiru / miso soup with freeze-dried tofu and bracken

Spongy rehydrated freeze-dried tofu absorbs the delicious flavor medley of the soup, which is released into your mouth as you bite or chew pieces of koyadofu. Its resilient texture contrasts well with succulent warabi bracken. Pale young stems of myoga are sliced for an invigorating garnish for this low-key miso soup.

1/2 of recipe:
64 calories; 5.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat; 2.9 g carbohydrate; 1.9 g net carbs; 250 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber; 181 mg potassium


Lunch, May 13, 2018

Multiple experiments in one meal.

  • Gobo to satsumaage no donburi / burdock root, deep-fried fishcake and enoki mushrooms over steamed rice
  • Kabu to usuage no misoshiru / miso soup with Japanese turnips and thin deep-fried tofu
  • Fuki no amazuzuke / Japanese butterbur in sweetened vinegar
  • Yaki-papurika no shoga-zoe / roasted red bell pepper with grated ginger


Shoyu raamen / ramen with soy sauce flavored soup

One of the standard ramen noodle variations in Japan comes with soy sauce flavored broth. Here is a tasty example topped with asparagus and eringi saute for spring and early summer. A combination of homemade chicken stock with a soft ginger aroma and niboshi-kobu-shiitake dashi (dried young sardine, kelp & dried shiitake stock) provides a flavorful underlying tone.

Proportion of seasonings was figured out backwards, starting from total sodium figures and the salt level needed to ensure tasty results, and it did work like magic after several trials and adjustment. Once you get the right proportion of seasonings, this is pretty simple to make and satisfies your taste buds.

1/2 of recipe:
427 calories; 18.2 g protein; 5.9 g fat; 74.7 g carbohydrate; 8.4 g net carbs; 500 mg sodium (with koikuchi shoyu regular soy sauce & shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 27 mg cholesterol; 5.3 g fiber; 450 mg potassium


Renkon no ebi-hasami-yaki, gin-an-gake / sauteed lotus root with shrimp, with pale thickened dashi sauce

Plump shrimp sandwiched between somewhat crunchy lotus root slices, served with slightly salty thickened dashi sauce. Making the shrimp filling (chopping shrimp, mixing with potato starch and egg white) and putting it between lotus root slices may seem complicated at first, but it is easy when you actually try it. The assembled pieces can be kept in the fridge until ready to cook, and sauteing them does not take much time. Below, the pale thickened dashi sauce is made in the microwave for quick preparation as well.

This dish provides soothing comfort on cooler days. As summer approaches here in the Pacific Northwest it is getting a bit too warm for this dish, but we may still have a few nights cool enough to enjoy it ...

1/2 of recipe:
76 calories; 6.9 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 9.4 g carbohydrate; 8.4 g net carbs; 85 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 45 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber; 289 mg potassium


Enbunkei / salt meters

Here are some very useful tools for a reduced-sodium diet. Aside from measuring spoons and cups and a scale, enbunkei (塩分計) salt meters to check sodium content of food become extremely handy and necessary to come up with best estimates of how much sodium is going into your body. A number of Japanese dishes are accompanied by broth that is not necessarily consumed, so knowing the sodium content of ingredients is often not enough, and measuring what is consumed (or what is left behind) really helps.

Some salt meters are as simple as indicating low, appropriate and high ranges in color codes, and some also give a percentage. I have one in a thick pen shape by Eishin (right) and one by Atago (left) that looks like a fat compact remote control. The Eishin model gives sodium level to one decimal place, whereas the Atago model gives it to two decimal places. Both models (and most salt meters sold in Japan, I suppose) display sodium content as a table-salt converted level. For example, when a salt meter shows 0.9%, an item with a weight of 85 g (approx. 3 oz) contains 301 mg sodium (0.9 [%] x 85 [g] / 100 x 1000 / 2.54). 


Arugura to biitsu, kurumi no sarada, zakuro doresshingu / arugula, beet and walnut salad, with pomegranate dressing

Nutty arugula paired with toasty walnuts, earthy sweet and juicy baked beets, and sweet yet punchy kumquats. A simple dressing made with pomegranate molasses binds these elements amazingly well.

1/2 of recipe:
162 calories; 3.7 g protein; 12.6 g fat; 14.0 g carbohydrate; 10.0 g net carbs; 66 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 4.0 g fiber; 497 mg potassium


Abokado to tomato no sotee / sauteed avocado and tomato

When one more filling yet not too heavy dish is wanted, this quick saute with avocado and tomato is a great addition that also offers an invigorating punch thanks to ground black pepper and lemon juice. Better yet, this is virtually sodium free. Select a ripe avocado and a ripe yet still firm tomato for the best contrast in texture.
Adapted from Chinami Hamauchi's ”Enbun 1/2 demo Konna ni Oishii! [Delicious at Half Sodium Content]," in which only avocado is used.

1/2 of recipe:
117 calories; 1.6 g protein; 11.2 g fat; 5.0 g carbohydrate; 1.8 g net carbs; 5 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 3.2 g fiber; 458 mg potassium


Kyabetsu to hakusai no sakura ebi iri ohitashi / cabbage and napa cabbage in light broth with dried shrimp

The soft green color of cabbage and napa cabbage makes a nice contrast with the pretty pink of sakura ebi. Both vegetables are microwaved for quick preparation, which also minimizes loss of vitamins into water when boiling them. This side dish has a gentle sweet aftertaste with a hint of clear saltiness, and goes well with dishes that have strong flavor or are prepared with oil.

1/2 of recipe: 19 calories; 1.7 g protein; 0.4 g fat; 3.4 g carbohydrate; 2.3 g net carbs; 119 mg sodium; 9 mg cholesterol; 1.1 g fiber; 183 mg potassium


Sakuraba-yaki / grilled fish in cherry leaves

A grilled fish dish for spring. The fish is wrapped with salted cherry leaves for some time before grilling, so that it takes on an aroma that reminds of the season. That said, this would seem awkward outside the cherry blossom season if served as part of Japanese cuisine.

As with many other grilled fish dishes in old-style Japanese cooking, preparation does not use oil, and this works best with very fresh, somewhat fatty white-fleshed fish. Below is an example with lingcod. Lean fish tends to be too dry with this method, but if that is the only kind available, serving with gin-an thickened dashi sauce can be a tasty solution.


Miso yasai raamen / vegetable ramen noodles with miso-flavored soup

Finally, a sodium-savvy ramen with plenty of vegetables and great-tasting soup! More toppings mean more soup going into your mouth, especially when toppings are cut or sliced into small sizes, as a greater surface area is likely to carry more soup into your mouth. So for a reduced-sodium version, having lots of toppings is counter-intuitive, yet we opted for julienned vegetables for the extra flavor they add.

After being on a reduced-sodium diet for more than three and a half years, this is quite salty for us and definitely tasty. The recipe below is at the low end of the sodium content spectrum (soup has a salt level of 0.8% whereas soup at ramen shops averages 1.5%). Feel free to add more seasonings to taste, at your own risk ...

1/2 of recipe (approx. half of soup left in bowl): 
515 calories; 17.0 g protein; 9.3 g fat; 88.1 g carbohydrate; 15.8 g net carbs; 781 mg sodium* (with reduced-sodium miso and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 11 mg cholesterol; 7.5 g fiber; 706 mg potassium 
*Stir-fried vegetable toppings alone contain 100 mg sodium per serving.


Dinner, April 17, 2018

The furled fronds of seiyo meshida [Western lady fern] are already up. Harvesting is as easy as snapping their stems, but they do take some time to clean. Still, they are one of the freshest harvests we can hope for, as they are growing right next to the creek in our field.


Tanpopo no shiraae / dandelions with tofu dressing

The bitter greens of dandelions paired with the faint sweetness of tofu dressing. Tanpopo dandelions may be your enemy when it comes to lawns, but could become an endless supply of leafy greens ... well, maybe not. Still, let's enjoy the stimulating bitterness of spring and get our share of burgeoning energy.

As the leaves are quite bitter, they are soaked in water for 1-2 hours after boiling for 1-2 minutes, and then coated with oil before mixing with the tofu dressing below.

1/2 of recipe:
84 calories; 4.3 g protein; 5.1 g fat; 6.2 g carbohydrate; 3.7 g net carbs; 90 mg sodium; 53 mg cholesterol; 2.5 g fiber; 183 mg potassium


Koyadofu-iri seri to koebi no chijimi / jijigmae Korean savory pancake with freeze-dried tofu, water dropwort and bay shrimp

An easy fix when feeling like eating lots of vegetables, especially strong-tasting greens. For the batter below, koyadofu freeze-dried tofu along with ground okara soybean pulp are added to partially replace wheat flour and lower net carbs. Koyadofu's fat content contributes to a rich taste, while at the same time grating the freeze-dried tofu makes the batter light and airy. It also makes pancake surfaces toastier. But be patient when cooking -- wait to flip pancakes until their bottom surface has turned opaque and shows some golden color at edges, otherwise they tend to crumble in the air.

1/2 recipe (pancake only; dipping sauce not included)
496 calories per serving; 32.2 g protein; 22.4 g fat; 40.5 g carbohydrate; 33.6 g net carbs; 198 mg sodium; 307 mg cholesterol; 6.9 g fiber; 962 mg potassium


Kaminaridofu / pan-fried tofu with soy sauce and katsuobushi

With the literal meaning of "thunder tofu," this dish is well named; the water from these small cubes of firm tofu makes a rumbling sound when fried at high heat. For the sodium-savvy version below, I use less oil so that the amount of seasoning (soy sauce in this case) can be reduced. As a result, the tofu cubes only make a tame roar, if any. While the dish is now less entertaining to cook in an audio-visual sense, it has the advantage of requiring less cleanup of spattered oil. Taste-wise, this is quite strong thanks to the intense flavor of katsuobushi bonito flakes, and the strong flavor is highlighted by refreshing green onion slices. A small yet satisfying dish.

1/2 of recipe:
99 calories; 7.7 g protein; 6.4 g fat; 2.2 g carbohydrate; 15.8 g net carbs; 100 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 1 mg cholesterol; 0.5 g fiber


Biitsu to ninjin no akadashi / red miso soup with beets and carrots

Butter-sauteed carrots are paired with baked beets for red miso soup, creating a deep melody of flavors. When carrot slices are lightly cooked and allowed to retain their crispness, the taste of the two vegetables is more clearly noticed. When carrot slices are cooked until very tender and beets are cooked a bit longer, the two vegetables mingle together in the soup and produce a complex taste, although cooking beet chunks longer makes beets themselves lighter in color while the soup becomes darker. Below, beet chunks are added toward the end of the cooking process to retain their vivid color, but cooking them longer is well worth trying. This soup may not be a typical Japanese dish but does go well with any Japanese or other Asian food.

1/2 of recipe:
66 calories; 2.8 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 11.6 g carbohydrate; 8.5 g net carbs; 296 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 3.1 g fiber


Chawanmushi / steamed savory custard

Heavenly soft custard that quickly disappears on your tongue after releasing its umami-packed flavor. When serving only a small number of people, chawanmushi is easy to make in a regular pot or deeper pan with lid. Finishing with a smooth surface and no obvious holes is the sign of extra silky texture; for this, cook at low heat once water starts to bubble and the pot is filled with steam! While all solid ingredients can be immersed in the egg-dashi mixture, shrimp is placed after custard has basically solidified so that it stays on top along with mitsuba leaves and yuzu peel, the aromatic garnishes.

1/2 of recipe:
66 calories; 7.7 g protein; 2.7 g fat; 2.2 g carbohydrate; 1.8 g net carbs; 210 mg sodium; 125 mg cholesterol; 0.4 g fiber


Takenoko no tsukeyaki / sauteed bamboo shoots in citrus soy sauce

This saute can be either strongly or softly flavored by adding or not adding marinade to the frying pan toward the end. Simply sauteing marinated bamboo shoots would naturally result in a soft flavor where their sweet yet tangy taste comes through. When a stronger flavor with punch is desired, continue sauteing bamboo shoots with some of the leftover marinade. In either case, eringi king oyster mushrooms compliment bamboo shoots really well.

1/2 of recipe (bamboo shoots & eringi mushrooms):
89 calories; 2.3 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 18.3 g carbohydrate; 15.8 g net carbs; 166 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce & ponzujoyu made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 2.5 g fiber

1/2 of recipe (bamboo shoots, eringi mushrooms & vegetables):
95 calories; 3.0 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 19.1 g carbohydrate; 16.0 g net carbs; 172 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce & ponzujoyu made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 1 mg cholesterol; 3.1g fiber


Tofu no hoshi-ebi itame / stir-fried tofu with shami dried shrimp

An easy tofu stir-fry where extra minutes spent sauteing ensure a pleasantly tender outcome. To match and maximize tofu's silky texture, garlic, ginger and shami dried shrimp are slowly sauteed for a gentler aroma, and tofu is allowed to absorb their flavor along with other seasonings. Tasty and comforting.

1/2 of recipe:
73 calories; 7.4 g protein; 3.4 g fat; 2.6 g carbohydrate; 2.2 g net carbs; 122 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 20 mg cholesterol; 0.4 g fiber


Mineoka-dofu / Mineoka-tofu / milk kudzu pudding

Often made today with cream and sugar as a dessert, this milk pudding originally was improvised as a quasi-tofu dish about 300 years ago when the Shogun, during a visit to the pastures of Mineoka, simply mentioned his desire to eat tofu. Upon hearing the Shogun's words, a cook accompanying the Shogun made the pudding using cow's milk and kudzu found at the pastures. Traditionally, milk is the only dairy ingredient that goes into the pudding; I mixed it with additive-free tonyu soy milk to cut back on sodium in the recipe below. This pudding contains no sweetener, but its milky taste and creamy texture are quite gratifying.      

1 serving (1/4 of Mineoka-dofu recipe, 1/2 of sauce recipe, shrimp & arugula):
113 calories; 5.7 g protein; 5.3 g fat; 10.8 g carbohydrate; 9.9 g net carbs; 105 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 0.9 g fiber

Whole recipe of Mineoka-dofu only:
388 calories; 14.4 g protein; 20.6 g fat; 37.8 g carbohydrate; 10.8 g net carbs; 85 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 2.4 g fiber


Seri okowa / steamed sweet rice with water dropwort

The mellow aroma that wafts up from okowa steamed sweet rice is comforting in cold seasons. Seri water dropwort acts as a counterpoint even when a smaller amount is used, as seri's slightly bitter taste and vibrant color provide just enough punch.

1/2 of recipe:
277 calories; 5.4 g protein; 0.9 g fat; 59.3 g carbohydrate; 58.3 g net carbs; 96 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber

1/3 of recipe:
185 calories; 3.6 g protein; 0.6 g fat; 39.6 g carbohydrate; 38.9 g net carbs; 64 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.7 g fiber


Ebi no nikogori suigyoza / shrimp shui jiao dumplings

Delightful and tasty dumplings featuring shrimp. I used to use coconut oil as a pork fat substitute, but I could not fully get used to its clingy taste. Other oil or fat seemed to lack something. Then I realized that juiciness does not have to come from fat or oil. For example, with xiao long bao steamed soup buns/dumplings, the juiciness of the filling comes from the soup. Below I applied the technique of making nikogori jelly with the water used to rehydrate dried scallops, and mixed it in with the shrimp filling.

1/2 recipe (dumplings only; yu choy sum on top and dipping sauce not included):
251 calories; 15.0 g protein; 2.1 g fat; 40.3 g carbohydrate; 38.2 g net carbs; 149 mg sodium; 80 mg cholesterol; 2.1 g fiber


Kabu to satoimo no surinagashi / Japanese turnip and baby taro root potage soup

A gentle, creamy soup for cold days. This takes full advantage of the sweet yet refreshing taste of kabu turnips. Satoimo baby taro provides subtle depth in terms of both taste and aroma, and its thickening effect creates a potage consistency that is appreciated when the weather is chilly. Mitsuba's crisp, invigorating aroma highlights the mellowness of the soup.   

1/2 recipe:
37 calories; 1.4 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 7.7 g carbohydrate; 5.9 g net carbs; 175 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.8 g fiber


Dinner, January 31, 2018

Living on the coast does not necessarily mean easy access to fresh fish here. Simple grilled or steamed fish was what I wanted to pair with seri okowa bitter greens mixed in mellow steamed sweet rice. For some weeks, however, we have been out of luck finding very fresh fish from local stores. Rather than compromising on fish quality, I decided to change my menu plan.

  • Seri okowa / steamed sweet rice with water dropwort
  • Yudofu / hot tofu in kelp stock, served with citrus soy sauce
  • Kyabetsu to hakusai, kiriboshi daikon no tamago-mushi / steamed egg with cabbage, napa cabbage and dried radish
  • Yaki renkon to shiitake no gomaae / grilled lotus root and shiitake in sesame dressing
  • Murasaki tamanegi no amazuzuke / red onion in sweetened vinegar


Bakuraba / baklava

This satisfies Tom's new habit of eating sweets without increasing sodium intake. But when I made these baklava earlier last year, he blamed me for him gaining weight, as I repeatedly experimented to figure out a good proportion of ingredients, especially erythritol (calorie- & net-carbs-free sugar substitute) so it does not re-crystallize when completely cool and does not trigger any noticeable cooling sensation in the mouth.

My original thought was, if I made 28 small pieces in one batch, they should last for 28 days or at least a few weeks. Making baklava from scratch is time consuming, but it would be not bad if each batch lasted that long ... So far I have been proven ridiculously wrong. Tom cannot stop reaching for more pieces. Although the recipe below is not heavily sweet, as with other sweets I make, it could be addictive. 

Whole recipe:
2,396 calories; 37.5 g protein; 175.1 g fat; 225.9 g carbohydrate; 165.9 g net carbs; 44 mg sodium; 158 mg cholesterol; 15.3 g fiber

1 piece (1/28 recipe):
86 calories; 1.3 g protein; 6.3 g fat; 8.1 g carbohydrate; 5.9 g net carbs; 1.6 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 0.5 g fiber


Ninjin no shirishiri / stir-fried shredded carrot with eggs

A tasty everyday dish from Okinawa that has been gaining popularity across Japan in recent years. Slowly sauteing carrots with a small amount of oil enhances the sweetness of the vegetable, and eggs add a gentle, rich taste. Among a number of variations, canned tuna is often mentioned as an addition. The recipe below features okara-konnyaku (soybean pulp yam cakes) to make the dish more filling as well as snow peas for color.

1/2 recipe:
115 calories; 6.1 g protein; 5.4 g fat; 11.2 g carbohydrate; 5.1 g net carbs; 128 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 106 mg cholesterol; 6.1 g fiber


Satsumaimo to ebi no tai reddo karee / Thai red curry noodles with sweet potatoes and shrimp

Once ingredients are prepped or chopped, it takes less than 30 minutes to cook this tasty, warm and filling dish served with noodles of your choice. Shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt and kurozu brown rice vinegar work their magic yet again here to minimize the amount of nampla as well as sodium-loaded red curry paste.

1/2 recipe (curry only, noodles are excluded):
311 calories; 16.2 g protein; 14.7 g fat; 30.0 g carbohydrate; 24.3 g net carbs; 622 mg sodium (with shoyukoji made of 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 99 mg cholesterol; 5.7 g fiber


Horenso to kani, shiitake no shiraae / spinach, crab and shiitake in tofu dressing

A small handful of crabmeat is transformed into a pleasantly light yet complex side dish. Shiitake is slowly roasted to intensify its taste and aroma, while blanched spinach is flavored with a tiny amount of soy sauce and dashi to give just enough underlying taste to ensure its presence as part of the melody of flavors in creamy tofu dressing.

1/2 recipe:
78 calories; 10.3 g protein; 2.8 g fat; 3.8 g carbohydrate; 1.5 g net carbs; 180 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 2.3 g fiber

Shiraae dressing only (1/2 recipe):
33 calories; 2.3 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 2.5 g carbohydrate; 1.5 g net carbs; 75 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.7 g fiber


Osechi New Year's Day meal, 2018

Our New Year's Day meal was smaller than in other years, yet consisted of all of our favorites.

People say that holiday seasons are uplifting. For me, it is the last week of December. The feverish mood at grocery stores and shopping arcades in Japan toward the end of the year is infectious. Both sellers and shoppers are in high spirits, all hoping for an auspicious start to the coming year. Here in the US, a somewhat similar ambiance is seen at Japanese grocery stores that often carry better quality ingredients and special items for the New Year's Day celebration.