Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Okinawa Purple Yam Blancmange

Cold dessert tastes especially nice in the hot summer. I had a bag of natural purple yam flakes from Okinawa (it was a gift from a friend chef in Kyoto), so I made blancmange dessert with it.

This is a vegan dessert...there is no egg or cream, and it tastes really nice.

Okinawa Purple Yam Blancmange

1-2/3 teaspoons powder gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
2-1/4 cups soymilk
4 tablespoons Okinawa purple yam (sweet potato) flakes
4 tablespoons raw brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum
some coarse red bean paste

1. In a ramekin, combine the cold water and gelatin and let it sit for 5 minutes.
2. In a pot, whisk together the soymilk, yam flakes, sugar, vanilla extract, and soaked gelatin over medium-low heat.
3. Once everything is dissolved and almost boiling, remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl.
4. Add the rum, and cool down the mixture by whisking while keeping the bowl in a ice bath.
5. When the mixture becomes thicker, divide into 5 cups.
6. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until the mixture becomes nicely jiggly. Garnish with a little mound of red bean paste on top to serve.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Spicy Cold Udon

Another summer-style cold noodle dish.

Only with the ingredients I already had in the kitchen, and I came up with the really fantastic spicy cold udon! Red yuzu kosho gave the really refreshing kick.

Spicy Cold Udon

Ingredients (for 2 servings)
1 teaspoon red yuzu kosho
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1.5 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)
2 tablespoons satsuma yam vinegar (or black vinegar)
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1.5 tablespoons almond
1 tablespoon dry baby shrimp
1/2 cup mizuna
1 teaspoon sliced dry red chili pepper
some thinly sliced young ginger
some thinly sliced scallion
some tofu, cut into smaller pieces
some seaweed
some chopped cilantro

2 servings udon noodles

Lemon wedges
Ground roasted sesame seeds

1. Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce. Keep it cold in the refrigerator.
2. In a small pan, heat saute the garlic in 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil until fragrant. Add the almond and dry baby shrimp and continue to saute for a couple more minutes. Add the mizuna and saute until mizuna is wilted. Add the dry chili pepper, stir, and turn off the heat. Set aside.
3. Cook the udon noodles according to the package directions. Rinse in cold running water. Drain and divide into two bowls.
4. Take the sauce out of the refrigerator and drizzle over the noodles.
5. Arrange the young ginger, scallion, tofu, seaweed, and cilantro on top of the noodles. Make a small mound of the sauteed almond mixture in the center.
6. Serve with lemon wedges and ground sesame seeds.

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You can mix the ingredients with the noodles as you eat. It's really tasty.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tagine-roasted "Dirty Miso Corn"

Corn tastes so good right now.

I love simple way of preparing corn, and this is probably my favorite corn recipe (if you call it a "recipe"). It's super-easy and super-delicious.

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The lid of the tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san", was filled with water for 5 minutes and drained (this will give the "steam-roast" effect). Corn was roasted in the Fukkura-san over medium+ heat for about 15 minutes with the lid on. Meanwhile, each corn was rotated every 4-5 minutes. When the corn was ready, I simply spread my homemade "multi-purpose" miso-sauce all over the corn. That's it!

So, here's my "Multi-purpose" miso sauce recipe. I made it with my homemade miso, and it's so delicious and versatile. You can use it as a condiment for rice, or just mix in your stir-fry, etc.

Multi-purpose Miso Sauce

3/4C miso
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
5 tablespoons water

Combine all the ingredients in a small pot. Over medium-heat, whisk the mixture until thickened. Turn down the heat to low once it starts bubbly. When the mixture is shiny and thickened, remove from the heat and let it cool down. The mixture can keep in a tight-sealed container for 3-4 weeks.

Happy donabe life.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Donabe Steam-fried Black Bean Bittermelon and Pork

Another quick summer donabe recipe...

I would say this is a variation of Goya Chanpuru. While Goya chanpuru has the very simple seasoning, this variation is steam-fried with the rich-flavored sauce. There is also no egg in this dish. With the tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san", this dish is made very easy and can be served right over to the patio table from the kitchen!

Donabe Steam-fried Black Bean Bittermelon and Pork

1/2 lb. thinly-sliced pork butt or pork belly, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons sake
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
1 medium-size bitter melon, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and thinly sliced crosswise (about 1/8"-thick)
7-8 oz medium-firm tofu, drained

(sauce mixture)
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, minced
1.5 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon Chinese hot bean paste (doubanjiang)
2 teaspoons miso
1 teaspoon mirin
1/4 cup Chinese chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Some mizuna leaves
Chopped cilantro
lemon wedges

1. Marinate the pork in sake and soy sauce for 15-30 minutes.
2. Heat the sesame oil in the skillet of Fukkura-san over medium+ heat. Saute the pork until almost cooked through. Transfer the pork to a bowl. Set aside.
3. (Add more sesame oil if necessary) Saute the garlic, ginger and bitter melon for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the tofu and roughly break by the wooden spatula. Continue to saute until the tofu is lightly browned.
5. Combine the ingredients for the sauce. Add the sauce mixture to the skillet. Stir.
6. Add the pork back to the skillet. Stir, and cover with the lid.
7. Steam-fry for 3 minutes. Uncover, add the mizuna, cover again.
8. Turn off the heat and let it stand for 2-3 minutes.
9. Uncover at the table and garnish with a mound of chopped cilantro in the center. Serve with lemon wedges.

The dish was rich but so refreshing and summery.

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It was served with the donabe rice (half brown/ half white), and simple daikon & mizuna miso soup made with our homemade miso. Miso soup tastes just so special with our own miso!!

Happy donabe life (with my "dirty miso corn").

Friday, August 27, 2010

Okara sweet...Okara Madeleine

Now, I can't stop cooking with okara (soy pulp). There are nothing but benefits about using okara in my cooking. 1. It costs almost nothing, because it's basically the leftover of making soymilk for homemade tofu. 2. Okara retains more than 20% of the protein from whole soybeans and it's also rich in fiber. 3. It tastes good!

I made madeleines with okara, and they were so delicious. Here's my recipe. These are much lower in calories and healthier than regular madeleines.

Okara Madeleine

Ingredients (for 12 shell-shaped Madeleines)
5 oz okara
3 oz butter, room temperature
2 oz raw brown sugar
2 medium-size eggs, whisked
1/4 cup soy milk (un-sweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 oz whole wheat flour
1 oz almond meal

1. Saute the okara in the pan to make the excess moisture evaporate for about 5 minutes. Set aside to let it cool down.
2. In the KitchenAid, whip the butter. Add the sugar in 2 times and continue to whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Slowly add the eggs and whisk together. Add the soy milk and vanilla extract.
4. Add the okara and continue to whisk until smooth. Turn off the KitchenAid.
5. Sift together the baking powder, whole wheat flour, and almond meal. Add the flour mixture to the okara batter in 2 times and gently fold with a spatula until fully incorporated.
6. Pour the batter into the madeleine mold (oiled and dusted with flour). Bake in 350F degrees oven for 30-35 minutes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More cold noodles

The weather has been so hot these past days, and it makes me want to eat more cold noodles.

Our tagine-style donabe is not only a wonderfully versatile cookware, but it also works super as a "mini fridge" because of its remarkable insulation ability. I simply spread the ice cubes in the skillet and arrange the somen noodles on top. Once I cover it with the lid, the noodles stay very cold for a long time while the ice melts slowly.

I served the somen noodles with various condiments including soft tofu, crab meat, scallion, shiso leaves, young ginger, etc. etc. The dipping sauce was made in the morning and chilled in the fridge. It was the dashi stock, mirin, and soy sauce, and the ratio is 5:1:1. I prefer my dipping sauce this way more than 4:1:1 ratio, which is a little too salty to my taste and I get thirsty quickly.

Because my sauce is not too strong, it's good to just pour over the noodles, too. So, with the leftover cold sauce, I made a "bukkake" (pour-over) style cold udon with the simple toppings including tororo konbu (vinegard shaved kelp), tofu, etc.

I love summer noodles.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Santa Barbara Sea Bass on Santa Barbara BBQ Grill

I got the wild-caught sashimi-grade sea bass from Santa Barbara. So, we decided to do a cedar plank grill with it on our Santa Barbara BBQ Grill.

The sea bass filets were seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence. Then, I also sprinkled some raw brown sugar on top, so that the fish could absorb the smokey aroma from the mesquite better.

Cedar plank was lightly oiled and grilled before the fish was placed, and the fish on the plank was put on the grill (with the cover on) for about 15 minutes over medium-heat. It came out exactly the way I wanted! The aroma was so beautiful.

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The fish was served with my homemade hummus, cold corn "surinagashi" soup, donabe rice salad with edamame and roasted almonds, and steam-fried donabe tagine snap peas with enoki mushrooms. We had a nice "eclectic" outdoor dinner!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Donabe cooking class report...Summer "Izakaya" Dishes

Last Saturday, we hosted summer version of "Izakaya" class. We were excited to have those enthusiastic Japanese/ Izakaya food lovers and had a wonderful time together.

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These dishes went especially well with the chilled junmai sake.
We've received many requests for this class from those who couldn't come last Saturday, so we plan to offer the "encore" summer izakaya class in September. As soon as we have the schedule confirmed, you can sign up from toiro's website. So, please check back on our website soon.

Here's the menu...


Cucumber and wakame “sunomono”


Cold somen noodles with sesame dipping sauce and condiments


Donabe braised spicy kabocha


Steam-fry Kurobuta pork hamburg in daikon sauce


Donabe rice

Sake Selection

Kikusui Shuzo, “Ryoma” Junmai-shu (Kochi, Japan)


Happy donabe life.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Matcha & Okara Sweets...power of soy

I've been baking a lot lately. Here are some of the matcha desserts I made this past week. I've been making more desserts by using okara (soy pulp), which I have so much from making homemade tofu. Okara is not only protein-rich and healthy, it also tastes very nice and make the cake very moist texture.

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Pound cake of matcha (green tea powder from Kyoto), soy milk, wholewheat flour, okara (soy pulp), black sugar (from Okinawa), butter, roasted almonds and amanatto (sweet beans). Jason and I finished more than half of the loaf after dinner, because it was so good.

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I also made the simple Matcha & Okara muffins. Because of the addition of the okara, you can make the same amount of muffins by using much less flour and butter, and it's actually more moist than regular muffins. The flavor was incredible, too.

I don't have time today, but I will post the recipes for these cakes sometimes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making dashi stock with Donabe

I make dashi stock in the morning. I normally soak the dashi konbu (dry kelp) in a bowl overnight, transfer the konbu with the soaking water into the donabe (classic-style all-purpose donabe), and immediately start heating it when I get up. You can, of course, make the dashi stock by using a regular pot. But to me (and to most of serious Japanese chefs), donabe can make the best dashi stock. It's the way this traditional clay pot distribute the heat inside to infuse the konbu flavors...donabe does the even distribution of the heat and makes the really nice "complete" flavor of dashi stock. (Sorry, it's really hard to explain by words, but I know so by the aroma and taste.)

Over medium+ heat, konbu is infused and removed before the water starts boiling.

Shaved dry fish mix (from Kyoto) is added. (For a different version, I also use my special "Hongare-bushi" dry bonito by hand-shaving it right before adding to the broth. In this case, I add the shaved bonito right before turning off the heat and let it sit for about 2-3 minutes - until the shaved bonito sink in the bottom - then strain.)

After 3-4 minutes of simmering (shaved fix mix is good for simmering to infuse), I turned off the heat and strained the broth into a bowl. This is the pure dashi stock. You can find the full recipe of basic dashi stock making on toiro's website.

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The used konbu and shaved fish are never wasted in my kitchen. I thinly sliced the konbu and minced the shaved fish, then simmered them together in a small amount of water (to make the konbu softer and also to infuse more flavors). Once the water is reduced to almost nothing, I added some Japanese sea salt, black sesame seeds and drizzled some sesame oil and stirred with the mixture. After cooking down, the mixture is transferred to a container. This is my homemade "furikake" (seasoned topping) for rice. It tastes really nice with a freshly cooked donabe rice. You can keep it in the fridge for a few weeks.

Happy donabe rice.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hand-shaved bonito with homemade tofu

I enjoy humble luxury of eating simple food made with cared ingredients and process.

This is my precious "Katsuobushi Kezuri-ki" (bonito shaver). It's a hand-made traditional artisan kind with the special blade. It's extremely sharp.

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This is also my precious "Katsuobushi" (dry bonito). Dry bonito has different kinds and grades. This premium katsuobushi is called, "Hongare-bushi" (from Kagoshima, Japan), which was dusted with mold and aged for longer time (so that the mold takes away the moisture and concentrate the umami flavors inside of the bonito). Hongare-bushi is the hardest kind of dry bonito also, and in fact, it's the hardest "food" you can find in the world! Seriously, it's so hard that you can use it as a weapon. It looks like a piece of hard dry wood. And, of course, the flavor of this bonito is incredible. It's so deep and lingers in your palate. Regular bonito flakes would taste so bland once you experience Hongare-bushi.

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I carefully shaved the bonito into flakes. Then, I topped my homemade tofu (made with the homemade tofu kit) with some scallion and bonito flakes, and drizzled some dashi-soy broth with grated ginger. The dish was sublime...as many Japanese people say often, I feel so lucky that I was born as Japanese so I can really appreciate a dish like this.