Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Sticky Rice

I made "okowa" with the spring ingredients tonight. Okowa is the name for the mixed sticky rice, which is made with the sweet (mochi) rice. My version is actually the mixture of the regular short-grain rice (I use either white or brown rice, depending on how I feel) and sweet rice. So, it's not too heavy, while the rice retains the nice stickiness.

Tonight's version is Chinese-style, so I used Chinese chicken stock, instead of dashi, and Chinese rice wine, instead of sake.

I posted the recipe on toiro's website. Hope you'll enjoy!

Pork Belly and Asparagus Wok-fry

This is our homy interpretation of Chinese, so I tagged it as "Japanese". I like to make it a little "brothy", so that it goes really well with the plain rice.

Pork Belly and Asparagus Wok-fry

1/2 lb. thinly sliced pork belly, cut into bite-size length.
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 small bunch asparagus, cut into 2" length
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 tablespoon thinly sliced dried red chili pepper (use less if you want to make it less hot)
2/3 cup Chinese chicken stock (or water and 1 teaspoon Chinese chicken stock powder)
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon each katakuriko (potato starch) and water
chopped chives for garnish

In a bowl, combine the pork belly and 1 tbsp. of Chinese rice wine and mix well. Let the meat marinade for 15 minutes.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok over medium-high heat and stir-fry the aspargus for about 1 minute. Transfer the asparagus into a bowl and set aside.

Add the marinated pork belly to the wok and stir-fry over medium-high heat until the meat is almost cooked through. Add the garlic, ginger and sliced dried chili pepper and cook for another minute.

In a small cup, combine the Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and black pepper. Add the mixture to the wok and simmer for 3 minutes over medium-heat.

In a small cup, mix the katakuriko (potato starch) and water, and drizzle the mixture into the wok. Stir well. Add the par-cooked asparagus back to the wok and stir for another minute.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with the chopped chives

English Peas with Dashi and Egg

More spring, more English pea stuff...
This is another dish you can fully enjoy the spring seasonal explosion in your mouth. This is such a delightful dish and I love it so much.

English Peas with Dashi and Egg

about 3/4 cup fresh English peas
1 cup dashi broth
1 tablespoon mirin
1.5 tablespoons light soy sauce
a pinch of salt
2 ea. eggs, beaten until smooth
a small bunch of mitsuba (Japanese parsley), chopped
ground sansho peppers (optional)

In a pan, combine the peas and dashi and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the mirin and soy sauce and a pinch of salt. Add more salt if necessary. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the eggs and let it cook for 1 minute or until the eggs are cooked to your preferred doneness. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a mound of chopped mitsuba.

Serve with ground sansho peppers (optional).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pork Pulkogi and Komatsuna Namul

Last time, I did Korean pulkogi with my donabe, and this time, I made it with a wok and also made it more simple with just cabbage and enoki mushrooms. It was really good, too. I served it with the simple komatsuna namul, which is also a Korean-style dish.

Pork Pulkogi

2 tsps. grated garlic
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 tbsps. hot red chili powder
3 tbsps. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. white sesame seeds
1/4 cup grated apple

2/3 lb. skiyaki-slice pork, cut into smaller pieces if too big

1 tbsp. sesame oil
1.5 cups cabbage, cut into bite-size strips
1/3 to 1/2 lbs. enoki mushrooms

Your choice of herb, such as mitsuba (Japanese parsley), scallion, etc.

Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Add the pork and mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes.

In a wok, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and stir-fry until it's slightly wilted. Add the pork and stir-fry until the meat is cooked through. Add the enoki mushrooms and cook for another 1 minute or until the mushrooms are cooked through.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with your choice of herb.

Komatsuna Namul

1 bunch komatsuna
2 tsps. soy sauce
2 tsps. sesame oil
1 tsp. hot red chili powder
1-2 tsps. sesame seed

In a pot, boil the water and add a pinch of salt. Submerge the komatsuna from the bottom side and cook for 1 minute or until it's wilted.
Transfer the komatsuna into a bowl of ice water to cool down. Drain. Cut it into 2" length.

In another bowl, combine the drained komatsuna, and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Ahi Poke

This is my very simple Ahi Poke. I love eating it by wrapping it with the nori seaweed (and also with the butter lettuce).

Ahi Poke

1/2 lb. Ahi tuna for sashimi, cut into bite-size cubes.
2 tsps. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsps. hot red chili powder
2 tbsps. sliced scallions
1/4 cups rehydrated seaweed mix
wasabi (optional)
nori seaweed (optional)
butter lettuce (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the tuna, soy sauce, sesame oil, red chili powder, scallions, and seaweed. Serve with wasabi, nori, and/ or butter lettuce (optional).

Thai-style Steamed Mussles, and Ahi Poke

I picked up the fresh mussels at the Sunday Hollywood farmer's market.

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We also had the freshly shucked oysters (3 kinds) to savor during shopping.

Just like the clams I cooked last week, I pan-steamed the mussles tonight. It's a slightly different recipe than the last week, and the taste is equally nice.

Thai-style Pan-steamed Mussels

2 lb. mussels, cleaned
1 cup broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
7-8 ea. cherry tomatoes, cut into half if too big
2 tbsps. Chinese rice wine
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsps. nanpla (fish sauce)
1 tsp. sugar
3 ea. dried red chili peppers, sliced thinly (use less if you want to make it less hot)
2 cloves. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
juice from 1 meyer lemon

a small bunch of basils

In a pan, place the mussels, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the Chinese rice wine and sesame oil over the ingredients. Cover with the lid and cook over medium heat. Cook until the shells open (about 5 minutes).

While the mussels are cooking, make the sauce by combining the sugar, chili peppers, garlic, giner, and meyer lemon juice.

Once the mussels are cooked, pour the sauce over the mussels. Tear the basil leaves and add to them. Then, shake all the ingredients together.

Transfer to a serving bowl.

Mame Gohan (Pea Rice)...Another Spring Favorite

Last Sunday, our morning started later than usual (too much partying on Saturday), but luckily, I got to find the fresh and beautiful English peas which are in season now at the farmers' market. So I made the pea rice. This seasonal rice dish is so simple to make (basically, it's just cooked with rice and salt), and the taste is really outstanding. This is definitely one of my favorite dishes of the spring time!!

I posted the recipe on toiro's website. Hope you will enjoy.

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I also made 4 other dishes on Sunday night (just for two of us). The theme turned out to be "pan-Asian", as we had the pea rice (very Japanese), Thai-style steamed mussles, ahi poke (Asian-influenced Hawaiian), komatsuna namul (Korean), and pork pulukogi (Korean).

The recipes for these dishes will be posted soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Torio Soboro Gohan (Ground Chicken Topping Over Rice)

Tori Soboro has been one of my favorite rice dishes since I was a little child. I still think my mom makes the best tori soboro. She never measures anything when she cooks, but the result is always the same wonderful taste. I think my tori soboro is close to my mom's...the only difference is that I add a little amount of dashi stock when cooking the rice, to add the subtle layer in the flavor, but it's totally optional.

Also, when I get the beautiful daikon with the leaves at the farmers' market, I use the daikon leaves to add to the dish as another topping.  Daikon leaves give the nice slight bitterness and the natural crunchy texture to the dish.  Topping the dish with the egg yolk is for those who love the fresh egg, so it's also optional.  

I posted the recipe in toiro's website, so please check it out!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ginger Pork Sukiyaki for Sake Lovers

For those who love sake and/or wine (like myself), regular style sukiyaki could taste too sweet. So, when I make sukiyaki at home, I use less sugar or no sugar at all. This version doesn't use any sugar and I think it's a perfect pairing with the dry sake.

Ginger Pork Sukiyaki

1.5 tablespoon sesame oil
1 lb. sukiyaki-slice pork
1/3 to 1/2 lb. onion, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. konnyaku shirataki (devil's yam jelly noodle)
1/3 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons ginger, cut into shreds
3/4 cup dashi stock
1/3 cup sake
1/3 cup soy sauce

chopped chives
your choice of condiments such as shichimi, yuzu kosho, and/ or sansho epper
fresh eggs for dipping, optional

In a pan, heat the sesame oil and saute the pork over medium heat. Once the meat is almost cooked through, add the onion and saute for a couple of minutes.

Add the konnyaku, shiitake, and ginger and saute another couple of minutes.

Combine dashi stock, sake and soysauce, and pour this mixture over the pan.
Cook for 5-6 more minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped chives.

Enjoy with your choice of condiments. I like dipping the meat in the raw egg.

I had the dish with a bowl of rice and daikon miso soup.

Pan-steamed Clams with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

One of my favorite things to do in LA is going to Sunday Farmers' Market in Hollywood and cook dinner with the fresh ingredients from the market on Sunday night.

There is this great vender who sells fresh oysters and clams from California. They shuck fresh oysters to order. It's $2 each. We tried two kinds today. Fantaaastic!

I got 2 pounds of clams to take home, and came up with this simple pan-steamed dish. It's kind of Thai-style with nanpla (fish sauce) and red peppers. All the vegetables and herbs were also from the farmers' market. The dish is absolutely simple and the result is wonderful.

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You basically just put most of the ingredients in a pan and heat it.

Steamed Clams with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

2 lb clams, cleaned
1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 5" length
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons nanpla (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 tablespoon thinly sliced dried red chili pepper (use less if you like it less hot)
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
juice from 1 meyer lemon
cilantro for garnish

In a pan, spread the clams and cover with the asparagus and cherry tomatoes.

Mix the nanpla, sake, sugar, garlic ginger and dried red chili pepper, and pour the mixture over the clams and vegetables in the pan. Drizzle the sesame oil.

Cover the pan with the lid and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until all the clams are open. Discard any unopen clams.

Pour the meyer lemon juice to the clam mixture.

Transfer the cooked clam mixture into a serving bowl and garnish with the cilantro.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Steamed Sanma...Out-of-season, but still so good

Fall is the peak season for Sanma fish (Pacific saury). When it's in season, sanma is really oily, juicy and taste so wonderful.

In recent years, thanks to the improvement of the frozen technologoy, sanma can be found at stores all-year-round, and the quality is mostly decent. Last weekend, I found frozen sanma (imported from Japan) at a Japanese market in LA, so I picked them up to cook for dinner.

The most common way of cooking sanma is grilling, but steaming worked so well with this fish, and the fish tasted even more delicate than grilled sanma.


Steamed Sanma (cooked with Donabe Steamer)

Clean the fish by removing the gut and rinsing throughly. Pat dry both inside out. Cut each fish into half.

Place the cut sanma pieces over a few pieces of scallions (green part only) over the steamer. Steam for 4-5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

Serve with ponzu sauce, grated daikon, and other condiments of your choice, such as grated ginger, sliced scallion, yuzu kosho, etc.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Homemade Tofu

Tofu is so popular in the US now, but unfortunately, the kinds of tofu most American people know are not the real premium kinds which we (Japanese people) are familiar with.

The real tofu is made only with the natural soy milk (made only from soy beans and water), and nigari. Nigari is derived from the sea water, and it's extracted during the making of the sea salt.

Nigari (literally means, "bitterness") is used to coagulate the tofu. Nigari is also praised for its health benefits, so I carry a little bottle of nigari (liquid form) with me and add a few drops when I drink water, tea, etc (too much is harmful to your body). Nigari is supposed to help your metabolism and also keep your skin healthy. So I love it! You can find liquid nigari at some Japanese grocery stores here in Los Angeles.

Back to tofu. It's hard to find the real tofu sold in the US. Meiji Tofu (introduced in my previous posting) in Gardena makes the authentic kind.
If you have access to the pure "straight" soy milk, it's very easy to make tofu at home. Here's how I make it.

Zaru Tofu (free-shape tofu)
1.2 litter pure soy milk
2 tbsps nigari liquid

In a large ceramic bowl (heat-resistent), combine the soy milk and nigari and mix well.
Place the bowl in a steamer and steam at medium-heat for about 30 minutes or until the center part is jiggly when the bowl is lightly shaken. Cool down for 15 minutes or so.

Scoop the tofu over a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Drai the excess water until your desired softness.
Serve with your choice of condiments, such as sashimi soy sauce with wasabi, yuzu-kosho, ponzu with grated daikon, etc.

Abura-age & Komatsuna "Ni-bitashi"

Mmmm...I picked up the home-made abura-age from Meiji Tofu last Saturday, and Komatsuna (Japanese spinach) from Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sunday, so it was natural that I made this dish.

Beautiful Agura-age by Meiji Tofu.

Ni-bitashi is basically a dish which is "lightly stewed" with a broth.
This is such a simple dish with lots of nutrients and great light flavor.

Abura-age & Komatsuna "Ni-bitashi"

5 pieces small square abura-age
1/2 to 2/3 bunch Komatsuna, rinsed and the very bottom part removed

1-1/3 cup dashi broth
1 tbsp. sake
2 tbsps. mirin
2 tbsps. light soy sauce
1/2 tbsps. dark (regular) soy sauce
a pinch salt, optional

Place the abura-age (so that they don't overlap each other) on a strainer and pour very hot water over them to drain the excess grease from them. Be careful not to splash the hot water to your skin. Make sure the abura-age are cool enough, then squeeze out the water from each abura-age. Cut each piece into half.

Cut the komatsuna into 2" to 3" length. Separate the leafy parts from the stalk parts.

In a pot, heat the dashi broth over medium-heat. Add the following 4 ingredients. Add a little salt if necessary. Once the broth mixture is heated, add the abura-age and the stalk parts of the komatsuna. Cook for 1 minute. Add the leafy parts of the komatsuna and cook for another 1 minute or so.
Great as a side dish.
This is a shojin-style (Buddhist monk's style vegan) dish if you make sure to use the dashi made from konbu and/or dry shiitake.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oyster and Shiitake Mushroom Rice (Kaki Shiitake Gohan)

In Japan, we call oysters "milk of the ocean", because the oysters are filled with so much of nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin B2, iron, etc.  And, I think oysters can taste like the milk too, especially when it's served with rice.  I cooked Oyster and Shiitake Mushroom Rice ("Kaki Shiitake Gohan) with my donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san".

I posted the recipe on toiro's website.

The procedure is really simple and easy, but the result is so gorgeous!

Shumai...cooked with Donabe Steamer

Tonight, I made Shumai (or shaomai...pork dumplings) by using this fabulous new product, Donabe Steamer by Nagatani-en (from Iga, Japan).

I really can't wait to introduce this product on my online shop, toiro (, but I have to ask the donabe lovers to be patient for a while. Because it's an hand-crafted artisan donabe, just like the donabe rice cooker "Kamado-san", it's taking time for the production. I was told their production is currently behind all the orders in Japan. I can hopefully import them within a couple of month.

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The first course was simple-steamed cabbage wedges, cherry tomatoes and asparagus (from Hollywood farmers' market), served with ginger-miso sauce.

Then, I made shumai with the organic pork which I also got from the farmers' market.
Here's the recipe.

Pork Shumai


(For the Shumai)
1 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tsps. juice from grated ginger
3-4 ea. medium size dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stems removed, and cut into small cubes.
1 ea. large egg
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or sake
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. potato starch
1 tbsp. lard
a pinch of each salt and pepper
30 or more shumai wrappers

(For the Sauce)
Soy sauce and black vinegar (ratio is 2:1 or to your preference).
Karashi (Japanese mustard)

Optional: Komatsu-na (Japanese spinach), or other leafy vegetables to make a bed on the steamer.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the shumai except for the shumai wrappers. Knead the ingredients until they are well combined and nicely shiny and sticky. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

(To make the dumplings) With a butter knife, take a small amount (about 1 - 1.5 tbsps) of the meat mixture and wrap with a shumai wrapper. Once all the shumai dumplings are made, cook them in the donabe steamer for 6-8 minutes, or until they are done.

Serve with the sauce and mustard.

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So that the shumai skins won't stick to the steamer tray, I made a bed of Komatsu-na (Japanese spinach) to put all the shumai dumplings on it. After they are cooked, I also enjoyed eating the Komatsu-na leaves. Shumai cooked with the donabe steamer was so juicy and exceptional.

Jacques Selosse and Some Treats Traveled Back from Cannes

During my very short free time in my stay in Cannes, I picked up some goodies to bring back home.

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Macarons from Jean-Luc Pele. Heavenly!

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Cheese and bread (I picked up bread on the morning I left Cannes, so it was still very good). Chevre Fermier de Paymenande, Mont d'Or, Camembert, Tomme Noir de Pyrenee...and I brought back more cheeses.

Aaaand...the wine store I always check out carried Jacques Selosse this time! He is, to me, God of Champagne producers, and his wines are just so hard to find, because the production is so small. So, I got "Initial" (Anselm's classic Blanc de Blanc), and "Substance" (made from a solera system, since 1987). The prices were much higher than the last time I found them there (now Initial is 83 euros and Substance is 165 euros), but they are still "bargains" compared to the prices (if you luckily find any) in Japan. I can't wait to find a good occasion to open these bottles.

Keisuke Matsushima in Nice...and other photos from my trip to Cannes, France

I was in Cannes, France last week on a business trip again (this was my 6th time there). I spent such a hectic week, but go to taste some really nice food, too.
The weather was not very welcoming this time. It rained almost every day and it was cold, too.

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On Sunday (my only freetime), I went to the farmers market to pick up some cheese, etc.
This vendor is a local cheese producer. I picked up some of their homemade goat cheese.

I visited my favorite macaron shop, Jean-Luc Pele a couple of times during my stay. Their marron (chestnut) macaron is a killer.

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Local oysters and prawns (a la plancha) for lunch.

Seabass and Vegetable Tagine at Fouquet's at Majestic Hotel. Instead of cous-cous, I requested a side of rice (it was jasmine rice).

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Armenian dinner with colleagues. They bring dozens of dishes to the table.

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LENOTRE has really nice lunch menu. One day, I had the curry prawns with spiced rice (the rice was very good!), and the other day, I had duck confit with foie gras, with lentil salad and mushroom cream soup. Both were really excellent.

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The highlight of this trip was definitely the dinner at KEISUKE MATSUSHIMA in Nice!!

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We drove all the way to Nice just for this dinner. Keisuke-san is a super-talented chef from Japan. He moved to France 11 years ago and he worked his way out to become one of the top young French chefs. He was awarded with Michelin 1 star when he was only 27 years old. He is now 31 and is scheduled to open his new French restaurant in Tokyo in May. He is also opening a home-style Japanese restaurant in Nice this year. We chatted a while and he said with the new Japanese restaurant, he wants to serve Oyako-don (chicken and egg rice bowl) with the chicken from Bresse and eggs from the local premium farm!! I really want to experience it.

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The dinner at Keisuke Matsushima was the best dining experience I had in my all last trips Cannes/ Nice. We did his "omakase" dinner and with the wine pairing, it was only about 110 euros. His dishes were so sincere and every bite was magical. They are beautifully crafted modern-style French dishes with the premium quality local ingredients. My favorite was the tai snapper carpaccio!!

The restaurant was packed the night (it was Tuesday) we went there. The place was so unpretentious and the service was very personal. It made me almost feel like I was in California!

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I thought Keisuke-san was such a charismatic person, yet he is so down-to-earth and soft-spoken. It should be nothing but his talent and hard work which brought him to this great success. I was really inspired by him and felt like gained so much energy from him, too.

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Back in Cannes, the sky got finally clear on the last day.

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Ha Gao and Duck Curry from Jade (Vietnamese restaurant).

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Beef Carpaccio, Calamari Fries, and Seafood Stew.

Airplane meal...perch with red wine sauce, with romanesco and rice.

So, I got to eat rice a few times in this trip, but I really missed my donabe rice cooked with Kamado-san!!