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


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

Egg, cabbage and hakusai napa cabbage, when cooked together, would impart a gently sweet note, which is a nice counterpoint to seri water dropwort. Kiriboshi daikon dried radish that went into vegetable dashi stock for noodle soup was sitting in the fridge, and it was added for extra texture and another layer of taste. I usually simply saute everything and finish with lightly beaten egg. This time, after sauteing the vegetables, I transferred them to a container, poured egg, and steamed in the microwave. Other than being a bit too solid, it turned out great. Everything holds together, and this could be an easy-to-pack bento item or handy finger food.

Renkon lotus root and shiitake were both grilled without oil, and made into one of my standard gomaae. This took care of the rich and earthy components of the meal. I have been procrastinating on calculating nutrition values, and this time I burned some renkon and shiitake by error, making each portion much smaller than originally intended; nutrition calculation is postponed once again.

Red onion marinated in sweetened vinegar is very easy to make, virtually sodium-free, and provides vibrant color on the table. Onion slices had marinated only several hours, and their sharp taste stood out among relatively soft-tasting dishes in a nice way.

Yudofu, literally hot water tofu, is a very simple dish for cold seasons. Cut soft tofu is slowly heated in kobudashi (water + kombu kelp), and served with dipping sauce and condiments. I added shungiku garland chrysanthemum this time and served the dish with ponzujoyu citrus soy sauce + dashi mixture and sliced green onions. This plain-looking food does warm you up from inside. Eating something warm from a donabe clay pot also satisfies our food expectations for cold months.

After finishing all the food, I realized two dishes -- a bowl and plate -- had the same animal in their design, a bat. It symbolizes good luck. In Chinese the animal's name sounds similar to a phrase meaning "changing/bringing fortune/good luck." According to the story I was told at the antique store where I bought the little plate, bats come out of darkness bringing good luck.

I continued to ponder the fresh fish situation and tried to find out how much fish people eat here. I didn't find any clear answer, as types, sources and consumption locations of seafood vary significantly. Understandably, government organizations' estimates range widely. Yet the State of Washington a few years ago revised its fish consumption standards in conjunction with water-quality issues. The old 6.5 g/day figure for the consumption rate seems unrealistic, yet the new number (175 g/day, which you are supposed to be able to eat for 70 years without any health problems) seems equally odd. (Oregon Public Broadcasting article of Aug 1, 2016: Washington Asks Feds To Approve New Fish Consumption Standards)

According to a 2017 Washington Post article, canned tuna ranked in the top five seafood consumed in the US. Alaskan pollock (fish sticks) was also one of the top five. Both are processed food. As someone from Toyama, the prefecture in Japan with the highest number of non-supermarket fresh fish retailers per population (3 shops per 10,000 people, triple the national average), the situation is gloomy. The article, by the way, is about health, not seafood consumption rate, and talks about omega-3 fatty acids and mercury concerns, for example. Fish with bluish gray skin, such as sardines and mackerel, are the standard fish species of choice for omega-3 fatty acids in Japan. As for mercury, it does not often seem to be of concern for everyday meals in Japan, possibly because a much smaller portion per serving and a much broader variety of fish and shellfish are consumed.

Sodium content for this meal was approx. 500 mg per serving.

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