Monday, December 30, 2013

Homemade Konnyaku

Homemade konnyaku, served sashimi style with vinegar-seasoned Saikyo miso

Konnyaku is one of the staple foods in Japanese culture. It's a jelly-like food, made from konnyaku yam root (also called devil's tongue). There are so many different varieties of shapes and types of konnyaku sold in Japan. It's rich in dietary fiber and extremely low in calories (almost none), so konnyaku is also a very popular health food in our culture.

When konnyaku is extremely fresh, we enjoy it sashimi style without cooking it. I brought back ingredients for homemade konnyaku from Japan, so I made my own konnyaku to serve as sashimi! For homemade konnyaku, you can normally find already powdered dry konnyaku yam root, so that's what I got. The ingredients are only the konnyaku yam root (powdered), water, and calcium hydroxide as a coagulator.

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In a pot, you combine 850 ml water and 25 g powdered konnyaku yam root. Set over high heat, then as soon as the mixture starts bubbling, turn down to medium. Continue to stir for 7-8 minutes. The mixture will thicken like glue.

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Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool down to 42C - 43C degrees. Add 1.5 g calcium hydroxide and mix by hand until the mixture forms into one piece. Transfer to a mold and push the surface to make it smooth and let the air out from inside. Let it set for a couple of minutes.

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Remove the mixture from the mold and put in water in a pot. Set over high heat. As soon as the water starts boiling, reduce to simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, filled with cold water. Let it soak in the water for more than 1 hour to remove bitterness.

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The homemade konnyaku was ready and so bouncy! As soon as I was ready, I cut a few slices for myself to try. Both the flavor and texture were superb and heavenly. Homemade konnyaku is the best!

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The other day, I made a different variation of konnyaku. I made "ao-nori" (aromatic seaweed flakes) konnyaku. It came out wonderful!

I gotta get more konnyaku ingredients next time I return to Japan. Until then, I will suffer real konnyaku withdrawals.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Donabe and Sushi Nights

We've been enjoying sunny and warm holiday season in LA this year.

The other night, I hosted a donabe Bonenkai (Japanese "end of the year party") at home.

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Miso-marinated tofu and cream cheese with wasabi. Homemade konnyaku with ao-nori seaweed. I will write about my homemade konnyaku in the next blog post!

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Roasted vegetable salad with carrot sesame dressing (I will post this recipe soon, too). Spinach, lotus root, and chrysanthemum flower petals in seasoned dashi ("ohitashi"). Smoked jumbo shrimp, calamari, and sweet roasted chestnuts were made in my donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin".

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Main course was chicken wings & daikon hot pot (you can find my similar recipe in toiro kitchen's website here). And, the rice course was salted kombu, ginger, and baby shrimp rice, cooked in double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san".

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Dessert was made by my friend Yuko, who is an exceptionally talented pastry chef. She made a kabocha paris-brest. Amazing!

We had a wonderful happy donabe night.

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Christmas Eve was a dinner party at my friend's house.

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My friend, Chef Morihiro Onodera, came to make sashimi and sushi for us! Mori-san's sushi is simply magical, especially when he makes it with his own harvest Koshihikari rice from Uruguay.

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I got to take home some leftover "kobujime tai" (sea bream, cured in kelp), which Mori-san made, so I shared it with friends on Christmas Day by making it carpaccio style. It made a perfect appetizer for Christmas dinner.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Donabe-steamed Matcha Steam Cake

Donabe-steamed Matcha (Green Tea) Cake

Steamed cake, steamed buns, steamed manju (sweet bean paste filled dumplings)…I like steamed desserts and my donabe steamer, "Mushi Nabe", does the wonderful steaming job and makes it more fun to make them.

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Steamed matcha cake, right out of the donabe steamer smelled so nice! You can enjoy while it's warm, or after it's completely cooled down. The cake can be stored in a tight-sealed container at a cool place for a few days.

The recipe is really easy!

Matcha Steam Cake
(for large donabe steamer, "Mushi Nabe")

(I used 5 1/2" x 6 " or 13 cm x 15 cm mold, but you can use different size/ shape of heat-resistant mold which can fit the donabe steamer)
3 oz (90 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 tablespoon matcha (green tea powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
2 oz (60 g) raw brown sugar
1 1/2 oz (45 g) butter, melted and cooled down
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
a pinch of salt

  1. Get Mushi Nabe ready and steaming.
  2. Sift together the flour, matcha powder, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until smooth.
  4. Stir in the butter and heavy cream. Add the salt and whisk further until all the ingredients are well blended and smooth.
  5. Line the mold with parchment paper and pour the batter. Smooth the surface with a spatula.
  6. Set the mold in steaming Mushi Nabe. Cover with lid and steam for 13-15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in to the cake comes out clean, over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes.
  7. Remove the mold from Mushi Nabe. Once the cake has cooled down enough to handle, remove the cake from the mold. Slice and serve. You can enjoy the cake while it's still warm or after it's completely cooled down.
The delicate and spongy donabe-steamed cake is simply so gorgeous and hard to stop eating!
The recipe is also available on toiro kitchen's website.

Happy donabe life.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chicken Wing & Sansho Pepper Rice ("Teba Sansho Gohan")

Chicken Wing & Sansho Pepper Rice in Donabe

It's been a while since my last blog post. December has been the busiest month of the year, so I've been away from any social media past week, but I'm back again!

I got some nice looking chicken wings, so I separated the drummets and mid parts and made two chicken wing dishes the other night.

With the mid part, I carefully took out the bones and made a rice dish with it by double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san". Boning of chicken wings easily requires some tricks, I use both scissors and hand. You can find some different ways if you google.

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Rice, soy & sake marinated boneless chicken wings, sansho pepper berries, and ginger, were set on the rice with vegetable broth. If you can't find sansho pepper berries, it's okay to omit them.

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Aromatic boneless chicken wing rice was ready. The meat turns so round super juicy.

Chicken Wing & Sansho Pepper Rice ("Teba Sansho Gohan")
(for double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san")

Ingredients: (4 servings)
8 pieces (240 g) medium-size chicken wing (mid part only), deboned
2 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons light-color soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon raw brown sugar
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 rice-cups (360 ml) short grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) vegetable stock or dashi stock peeled
2 teaspoons, fresh or blanched sansho pepper berries (Japanese mountain pepper), optional*
1 knob ginger, sliced into needle thin (1″ or 2.5 cm long)
2 teaspoons high quality aromatic sesame oil, optional
1 scallion, thinly-sliced crosswise
*If you don't have sansho berries, you can use powdered sansho pepper to serve on the side and sprinkle over the rice

  1. In a bowl, combine the chicken, sake, soy sauce, sugar, and smashed garlic. Mix well by hand. Cover tightly with a plastic and let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator for overnight to 24 hours. Discard the garlic.
  2. In “Kamado-san”, combine the rice and vegetable stock. Let the rice soak for 20-30 minutes. 
  3. Spread the sansho berries and ginger over the rice. Add the chicken wings with the marinade liquid and spread on the top.
  4. Cover “Kamado-san” with both lids and cook over medium-high heat for 13-15 minutes, or until 2-3 minutes after the steam starts puffing out of the top lid. If you want the nice crust (“okoge”) on the bottom cook for extra 1-2 minutes. 
  5. Turn off the heat and let Kamado-san rest (with both lids on) for 20-30 minutes. 
  6. Uncover and quickly drizzle the sesame oil. Serve into individual bowls and garnish with some scallion.

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And, even though I've been so busy, I have been enjoying many wonderful wines lately.

Happy donabe life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Donabe-steamed Whole Sea Bream ("Tai Sugata-mushi")

Donabe-steamed whole sea bream with meyer lemon and enoki mushroom

I got two beautiful whole sea bream (also called "tai snapper", but technically it's not snapper) from a neighbor fish market, so I made sashimi dish with one and decided to use the other for steaming.

This dish is extremely easy to make, thanks to my donabe steamer, "Mushi Nabe", and I can cook and serve it right at the table.
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On the donabe steamer's grate, spread some wakame seaweed and place the seasoned fish (with some meyer lemon slices inside) on top.

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After steaming for about 7-8 minutes, I added the rest of the lemon slices and enoki mushrooms and steamed for additional 2-3 minutes. That's it, and it tasted amazing with a little drizzle of ponzu sauce!

You can check out the full recipe of Donabe-steamed Whole Sea Bream on toiro kitchen's website.

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The fish made a wonderful pairing with 2012 Gritsch Mauritiushof, 1000-Eimerberg, Riesling - Federspiel. It's from Spitz, Wachau (of Austria), where I visited several years ago and also met Franz-Josef, the young winemaker.

Happy donabe life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Donabe-Smoked Trio…Shrimp, Scallop, and Chestnut

Donabe-smoked shrimp, chestnut, and scallop

After back to back Europe and Japan trips, I came back to LA to spend even busier weeks with consecutive donabe catering jobs etc.

So, it feels like I've been behind of updating my blog, but I've been doing almost non-stop donabe cooking past weeks and I just haven't had time to post or sometimes even take photos!

One evening, I was feeling like doing some smoking with my donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin". Donabe smoking is so easy and it never gets old.

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One of my favorite combination for donabe smoking…shrimp and scallop. I also did boiled octopus and roasted chestnuts on the top tier.

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After a short time, they were nicely smoked and ready.

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Here's another serving suggestion. With just a little drizzle of nice olive oil. You can really taste the wonderful aroma of the smoke and ingredients.

You can find the recipe in toiro kitchen's website, here. For the simple oil-drizzled shrimp and scallops, you can follow the recipe until the step 6, and drizzle the olive oil at the end.

Power of donabe cooking.
Happy donabe life.