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Everything posted by smallworld

  1. I actually think that Chinese rice wine and sake can be used interchangeably, at least if there is no intention of keeping a recipe purely Japanese (or purely Chinese). A Chinese stir-fry can change into a Japanese itamemono if the alcohol is switched. I have a few recipes that can go from Chinese to Japanese to Italian by changing the alcohol (and usually a few other seasonings), liked steamed clams or sauteed rapini. I also have a feeling that sake that comes in a glass bottle with the advice to use it up within a few days is too good to use for cooking. I do prefer to cook with drinking sake, but not the really good stuff, and if given the choice between cheap cooking sake and expensive drinking sake I'd choose the cooking sake (unless it was for a really special dish). Or I'd just use a light dry white wine, which in my opinion is the best sake substitute.
  2. I've always been a klutz in the kitchen: I will forever carry the scar incurred when I was sixteen and sliced the flesh off of the base thumb knuckle on my right hand while operating the slicer at the supermarket deli I worked at (and still fume when I remember the store manager dissuaded me from going to the doctor or calling my parents). There was a point several years back where a few times I week I would cut or burn myself, break a dish, or drop a pot/jug/tupperware container full of stuff. It became such a problem that I made it my new year's resolution to cut down on kitchen mishaps, and in so doing realized the accidents happened when I was rushed, daydreaming or otherwise not paying attention. I was able to learn how to slow down and focus and cut way down on the accidents, and turned out to be my only successful resolution ever. After a few wonderful years of being almost accident free it's been happening again for a few years. I still have a scar on my stomach from burning myself with a hot pan I was pulling out of the oven last year (counter top convection oven, not wearing much at the time) and have started getting minor burns and cuts on my hands again. My husband apparently didn't notice I was returning to my old habits and got me a wonderful Japanese knife for Christmas (or maybe he did notice and this is part of a plot to kill me ). I cut myself the first time I used it, and a few weeks later I did it again, quite badly. It seems I have bad form for the claw cutting technique, and with my old knife I'd nick my left index fingernail quite often, never doing more harm than leaving a little dent. Which always made me think "Thank god for fingernails, I'd hate to think what would have happened if my fingertips weren't protected". Well, I found out, because this new knife doesn't know the difference between nail and flesh and it just went right through my fingernail and into my finger. It was the first knife cut that actually made me cry out with pain (and holy mother of god was that ever a lot of pain), but it was brief, as was the bleeding: I think the nail helped stop the flow (so I haven't lost my appreciation for fingernails). I eventually lost half the nail, in an odd V pattern that is going to take some time to grow out. Guess what my new year's resolution for 2009 is (other than wearing an apron when I decide to cook in my undies)?
  3. Yum, that sounds great! In spring I often make mame-gohan with shirasu but it involves cooking fresh peas and shirasu with the rice. It's wonderful when the peas are good but more often than not the peas, though they looked fresh, turn out to be tough and starchy. I like the idea of mixing in frozen peas, which are guaranteed to be tender (not to mention cheaper and much less work). Variations include using dried sakura-ebi instead of shirasu, which turns the rice pink (shockingly pink if artificially coloured sakura-ebi are used), or mixing sliced shiso and chopped umeboshi into the rice before serving. Nakji, I don't know the exact season, but I seem to recall May and June as being the months they are most plentiful in supermarkets. But like I mentioned above, I've been really disappointed with them in the past. If anyone has any tips on how to choose really fresh peas, I'd love to hear them!
  4. Thanks Helen! So you keep it outside just while it matures, or all the time? And can the spigot be opened and closed, or is it constantly open and dripping? This could be a concern, as what the beasties are after is water more than food and I bet they'd really really like compost juice.
  5. Isn't farmed salmon worse, in terms of both health and quality, than wild salmon? A lot of studies "prove" that farmed salmon has a greater prevalence of mercury and other industrial chemicals than wild salmon. I'd cite a source, but there has been so much research done that I think this is common knowledge. ← I don't know if I'd call it "common knowledge", but most studies I've read about show that farmed salmon has slightly lower levels of mercury than wild salmon, and that where the salmon comes from is a bigger indicator of mercury levels than whether or not it was farmed. As for quality, that's a question of individual taste. I rather like the sweetness and high fat level of farmed salmon, and if the original poster does to, then great. In any case, the question here is about the safety of eating unfrozen and uncooked salmon, and mercury has nothing to do with that, since freezing or cooking salmon won't change the mercury level.
  6. An issue near and dear to my heart, and I asked a similar question here. The issues of overfishing and high mercury levels in fish (and cetaceans) are shockingly under-reported in Japan, and I think you'd have to search long and hard to find a Japanese person who has starting reducing their consumption of questionable species (except for the indirect reason of cost, as tuna prices are higher; and for pregnant women, who do seem to be made aware of the dangers). As Hiroyuki says, moderate consumption of fish shouldn't pose a huge risk for mercury poisoning, but I'm quite sure that there are plenty of people who eat more than a moderate amount of tuna. A visit to a Japanese supermarket's fish section shows that tuna is by far the most popular fish, with an amazing amount of space devoted to selling it. At all of my local supermarkets the tuna section takes up about a fifth or a quarter of all fish sold, which is incredible considering the dozens of species sold alongside. I've seen people at kaitenzushi restaurants order plate after plate of tuna, all but ignoring the other fish. I've been eating less tuna for a few years due to concerns about overfishing, but now that I'm aware of the mercury levels I almost completely avoid it. Yes, I know that I'd have to eat a lot of tuna to harm myself, and I know the levels reported in last year's NYT article might have been wrong or not applicable to the tuna available in Japan. But there are so many other fish out there, fish that are cheaper, healthier, and (in my opinion) tastier, that avoiding tuna is a big deal. And a few times a year, when I can afford really good tuna, I indulge. I also shun swordfish (due to overfishing) and eat hijiki only occasionally (I love it and used to eat it often, but I have concerns about the arsenic level). I do eat cod because most of it sold here is Alaskan or other Pacific cod, which does not seem to be in danger of overfishing.
  7. Helen, can you tell us a bit more about this method of composting? An electric composter has been on my wish list for years but meanwhile I've been reluctant to try bucket-style composting on my balcony. With a DIY compost bucket set-up I'd be afraid of attracting a certain ghastly pest (that I don't need to name as I'm sure anyone in Japan is familiar with the beasts), while electric composters seem so nicely hygienic and tightly sealed. From what I've read so far about bokashi composting it seems like i might be the answer, but I'm just wondering how it works in practice. Does it really stay tightly sealed and odour-free?
  8. February is a nice time to come: winter cuisine still reigns but spring-time food will be starting to appear. Winter must-eats are oysters, kan-buri (the winter variety of yellowtail), monkfish, and most types of crab; spring food includes asari and hamaguri clams, vegetables like takenoko, fukinoto, fuki, udo, and taranome. And strawberries. You'll find one of the most popular wagashi to be ichigo daifuku. The best winter yatai treat? Amazake! Some regional foods I'd add to your list would be kushi-katsu in Osaka, yudofu in Kyoto and monjayaki in Tokyo. A monjayaki lunch in Tsukishima might be a good way to follow a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji.
  9. Is "docket" Australianese for receipt? In recent years I've been seeing coupons printed on the back of Ito Yokado receipts. That and Costco are the only times I've seen coupons for food here. I despise point cards. If I carried around all the cards that shops have tried to give me in the past few years, I'd need five wallets. I have a few that I use, but otherwise consider them a waste of time and space as I'm never able to fill them up before they expire. Does anyone have better luck?
  10. My favourite citrus, dekopon, is explained in this Japan Times article.this Japan Times article.
  11. Yup, it's difficult to turn fish over on the grill without damaging it. I don't have any fool-proof method, but one thing that helps prevent the fish from sticking is pre-greasing the grill. As for cleanup, I learned a neat tip on TV several years ago. Eat a clementine (or other citrus fruit), then tear up the peel into little pieces and put them into the pan under the grill. Pour water into the pan (enough to cover the peels but not enough to reach the grill). Then grill and eat your fish as usual. When it comes time to clean up just pour the water and peels out of the pan and give it a rinse: the citrus oil will have kept any grease from the fish from adhering to the pan. You'll still have to clean the grill, and the trick only works if the pan is clean to begin with. But it really does work. Used tea leaves can also be used this way, but I find that citrus peels work better.
  12. I thought that was the right way too (only I usually add butter when I toast the oats). I've read that stirring makes the oats mushy and in my experience soaking doesn't shave that much time off the cooking, and it also prevents the pre-toasting, which adds so much flavour. The only thing I dislike about stove top oatmeal is that it needs to be watched, as I've burnt my pot more than once by not paying enough attention. That's where the rice cooker comes in--it never burns.
  13. I usually cook my oatmeal in rice cooker and agree it's not as good as on the stove top (especially when the oats are toasted in butter first ) but they're still better than quick cooking oatmeal. One thing that I find makes it a little better is to open the lid of the cooker after about 10 minutes and let it finish cooking uncovered. It will still need an occasional stir and it takes a bit longer that way, but it does make a difference. I also tend to dress up rice cooker oatmeal and that goes a long way in making up for the slightly inferior flavour and texture. Then when I do stove top oatmeal I have it plain, in order to fully enjoy the oatmealyness of it.
  14. That's it that's it! It's gamjatang, the soup I was asking about upthread. The version I had wasn't served as a nabe with all those fresh vegetables on top--it was pretty much just pork bones and a few potatoes. Thanks Hiroyuki, it's great to know that it exists here in Japan. It just has a different name than I expected. "Jagaimo nabe" or "potato nabe" would be a direct translation of the Korean name, which strikes me as a bit misleading as pork is definitely the star of this dish. Nakji you're right, Shin-Okubo would definitely have it, but now that I think about it a trip out thyere probably won't be necessary: I've seen a jagaimo nabe on the menu of a local Korean place. And to think I've been passing it up all these years because of the dull name!
  15. Has anyone seen gamjatang (pork bone soup) in Tokyo? I tried it for the first time on a visit back home this summer and now I'm craving it really badly. I've never seen it before in Japan, and while it could be available all over (it would be easy for me to have overlooked it, having only just discovered it) I kind of suspect it's not all that popular here. After all, Korean restaurants in Japan are all about beef.
  16. Oh yeah, dango! I'm not a fan of mitarashi dango, as the sauce is usually way too sweet and the sticky texture is kind of gross. I prefer plain shoyu-dango, but as it's not sweet at all I guess it doesn't count. So what's this soy sauce sugar mochi? We do isobe with soy sauce and nori (and sometimes cheese ) and kinako mochi with kinako and sugar, and there's no mixing of the two. Never even considered it. Am I missing out?
  17. A natural extension of the recent popularity of salty sweets? Actually, it might not be so new, as one of my all-time favourite wagashi, kurumi yubeshi, is flavoured with soy sauce. I wonder what other traditional sweets use soy sauce?
  18. I am loving this travelogue, Peter. Just one question: was the sake tour conducted in English?
  19. Next time take pictures! But thank you so much for finally posting your report. Lots of great details and you mentioned several places I've been to or am interested in, which was a nice reminder that I need to eat out more. I've heard so many good things about Tofuya Ukai and your review just moved it to the top of my list of places to try. Sad to hear that you didn't like your shabu shabu-- it's one of my favourite meals. Usually Japanese restaurants don't allow two or more people to just share one order, so I wonder if maybe they were a bit pissed off and served you inferior beef (and tried to give you a pepper overdose) as revenge? It could also be that you over cooked the meat, because shabu shabu beef should definitely not be rubbery-- it just needs a few swishes in the broth until it's just barely cooked. It's interesting that you liked the mugitoro at Ukai Toriyama, as it's hard to think of a food less appealing to non-Japenese than grated yamaimo! Takao's "meibutsu" (famous product) is actually yamaimo, usually in the form of tororo soba but also as mugitoro. It's great that you were able to try a local product while you were here. Looking forward to your next visit and report!
  20. Yes ma'am! But all my meals for the next few days are fully planned, so if someone beats me to it please post the results! I think nasu dengaku uses red miso and that would work fine with the potatoes. Definitely better than white. If you're worried about using it up, red miso is great for miso soup, dips and marinades-- and dengaku, of course!
  21. FISH SAUCE and BUTTER???!!!?? ← Why YES indeed Maybe you should give it a try and get back to me (I don't want to be the first)? ← I guess I'm the only one whose first reaction to that idea was "yum!" Fish sauce and butter could so totally work! I think shiromiso (white miso) would be a poor choice for the miso soup but might work for the broiled potatoes. Regular miso (I use mugi-miso, a chunky kind with barley added) would be best for both and is versatile enough to be worth buying a tub of.
  22. I was surprised at how much butter is used in Japan since I'd always believed Asians don't do dairy. But it's used quite a bit here, and not just with western style cooking. Butter is a great match with not only soy sauce but ponzu and miso as well. The soy sauce-butter combination works very nicely with steamed clams: steam them in sake or white wine and add just a tiny bit of soy sauce and butter, along with finely sliced negi, at the very end. There's no better way to eat clams, in my opinion. As for the miso-butter combination, it's especially nice with potatoes. You'll see steamed potatoes on sale at festivals, served drowned in butter (well, margarine) and topped with a dollop of miso. I do a home version that involves steaming halved potatoes then smearing the cut half with a butter and miso mix and then broiling it until the miso just starts to darken. And one of my favourite miso soups is made by sauteing onion in plenty of butter, adding water (not dashi) with potatoes and other vegetables (asparagus or kabocha are good, simmering until potatoes are tender and then mixing in miso. The combination of butter, onion and miso is wonderful. Bacon is added on special occasions.
  23. I think Shinsekai might be more fun--more food, and more transvestites. How can transvestites not be fun? Just watch your pockets or they may be picked. ← And with the average price of a night's stay about 500 yen, he'll have more money to spend on food...
  24. I highly recommend trying kushikatsu (deep fried stuff on skewers) in Osaka, specifically in the seedy Shinsekai area. Daruma is my favourite place but the area is filled with kushikatsu restauarants. For extra fun you could have kushi-age, kushikatsu's refined cousin, while in Tokyo. Hantei in Nezu (will shortly be posting about a recent lunch there) is tops for atmosphere and fanciness of food; Kushinobo (chain) is almost as nice and better value; Kushiya (chain) is the least fancy: you have to cook it yourself, in little vats of oil that are built into the table. Let me know if any place interests; will provide addresses/directions.
  25. What a great idea. I've heard of making kombu dashi this way; the technique is called "mizu dashi". I don't know if there is any reason why it's only used for kombu dashi, but maybe spoilage is an issue? Even with kombu alone I think one week would be pushing it, and wouldn't most of the flavour be extracted after a day or two anyway? I think I'll give this a try (as soon as I can make room in my fridge) but take out the kombu and katsuobushi after a few days. If it works I will buy myself one of those mizu dashi ice tea makers.
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