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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by helenjp

  1. MasterChef offends Malaysians

    There's a reason why it's popular - my mother got keen on Malaysian and Indonesian cooking long ago, but rendang was the one she was still making a decade later, partly because it is the perfect dish for a crowd. Rich, a bit sour, aromatic... If you want to use desiccated coconut, take a hard look at the quality - it often seems old, dry, and tasteless in western supermarkets.
  2. Potato Puree, Mashed Potatoes, Pommes

    Stampot! When spring greens start to appear in the stores but the weather is still chilly, it's a wonderful combination of mashed potato (sometimes with onion or turnip added, maybe some flecks of carrot) mashed together with the usual seasonings and a generous amount of strong-flavored greens like turnip tops, parsley etc. My potato box had fewer potatoes in it than I thought, so we had a weekend dinner of stampot served with mashed taro (the small Japanese sato-imo type). Most of the greens plus some crispy bits of friend pork and onions went into the taro mash, while the potato mash had more carrot than usual to pretty it up.
  3. Love the springlike greens with white! Since it was raining, I did what should only be done in fine weather - made rakugan (Japanese "dry" sweets - mixture of sugar and any of a variety of cooked flours, with just enough moisture to hold together in a small mold). Powdered sugar + kanbaiko (sticky rice cakes baked at low temp and made into flour) + powdered dried salted cherry blossom = wonderful flavor but too sweet Trad fine brown sugar (not quite wasanbon but close) + kanbaiko + kinako (toasted soybean flour) = really hard to manage because of the fat content of the soybean flour, seemed uninteresting at first bite, but way too more-ish (not too sweet) trad fine brown sugar + jonanko (sticky rice steamed, dried, and made into flour) = the perfect melt in your mouth powdery texture (no photo). I've always used kanbaiko so I was really surprised that jonanko made such a difference. Sorry photos are not so great, I just snapped a couple to annoy absent son!
  4. Rooibos! Because it's good hot, and just as good when it gets cold.
  5. When it's hot I definitely start pickling and stop baking. Pickled/quick fermented salad = good. Or boil at night, marinade overnight for next day's lunch or dinner.
  6. Japanese curry

    Absolutely and utterly Japanese rice. Doesn't mean you can't have whatever rice you prefer, of course.
  7. Ingredient translation request

    Tokyo Tower Peach & Berry Tea (Flavored Black/Indian Tea) Ingredients: Black/Indian tea, sugar?, pink peppercorns, heath-flower, elder flower, flavoring, Monascus purpureus coloring Countries of origin: Vietnam, India, Korea The only doubt I have is that the term "arare" COULD be either tiny balls of toasted rice flour dough, or tiny balls of sugar. The picture I saw on the internet seemed to have only pink peppercorns, so I am guessing "sugar" rather than "toasted crunchy bits", but your friend will be able to confirm by taking a closer look.
  8. I suffer from the small kitchen problem too. I have a very small wooden box with a slotted lid that I store potatoes in. That doubles as a step when needed, but mostly, I keep stuff in high cupboards in plastic bins with grab handles on front, small enough to contain only a moderate amount of stuff, so not too heavy to yank one off a high shelf.$1 store plastic file holders on their sides make good dividers for flat items, and can be slid forward very easily.
  9. If you can't have a cat, you can always ask friends for used kitty litter from time to time and put it in a box where you hear/see mice... Actually, I just remembered that one day many decades ago as I was pointlessly releasing a field mouse that I had caught in my apartment into the garden at the back of the building, a long-term tenant apologized for not keeping up to date with her voodoo. She said that she usually got a chicken and voodooed around the property once every few years to discourage rodents and underwear thieves, but that she felt that her voodoo didn't "stick" quite as effectively as her mother's used to. So that's another option!
  10. Because it costs a lot to run even a small electric oven in Japan, I use my bread machine almost daily. I currently have a Panasonic SD-BMT2000. It is the first Panasonic bread maker I have owned and I love it. Experimenting - go ahead and FAIL!!!!! There is no other way. I use Japanese whole wheat flours a lot, and the protein content, ash content, and granulation size is so different for each manufacturer that I could never give a fail-safe all-purpose formula. The nearest I could get is to recommend looking at the dough during the initial knead, and deciding how wet you like your dough at that stage - then adjusting liquid for new recipes to suit. One thing I like about the Panasonic is the timer setting: it mixes wet and dry immediately and leaves the mix to rest before adding yeast and continuing with the main breadmaking steps. For whole wheat doughs, being able to add this step in is a big plus.
  11. Nukazuke Pickling

    Rakuten seems to offer it - I just searched for "Yamazen rice". And Amazon.de sells rice bran all ready for making nukazuke! I have no way to tell how well a rice polisher could handle other grains - I have never seen husked but unpolished wheat or barley for sale here.
  12. Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean the scale of the dairy market, I meant to say that the number of primary sector producers of dairy products is small!
  13. I agree, it's da economy. As East Asian countries consume more meat and dairy, opportunities for PROCESSED dairy products (preferably made from cheap imported milk powder, milk fats, or whey) also increase. Dairy imports - China Soft cheeses like camembert are especially lucrative, and certainly Japan has been keen to find reasons to reduce imports of those soft cheeses, while encouraging domestic brands to take up the slack. Tariffs all over 20%, with some ready-to-eat products like flavored yogurts and soft cheeses attracting 45% in import duties. Maybe in China too, the dairy producers tend to be (ex?) public or semi-public corporations that are big enough to exert political pressure to gain red-blooded protection for the tinsy tiny domestic dairy industry. For a few years, this situation made it almost impossible to buy retail butter - imports seemed to have disappeared from ordinary supermarkets, while domestic butter supplies were either funneled into the big cake and confectionery manufacturers, or released only as "butter-added" spreads and margarines. Japanese camembert has certainly improved, just as well, as imported soft cheese is too rich for my budget. I don't anticipate seeing anything more adventurous than fresh mozzarella and camembert though. The "bacteria" thing is a biggie though - natto in Japan or stinky tofu in China is fine, fermented milk products suspicious, and fresh meat sausages and salami obviously part of a fiendish western plot...
  14. Strawberry Spinach - that's a relative of Lamb's Quarters/Fat Hen. Although in Japan it seems to die back in winter, I think Tetragon (warrigal greens) is a real southern hemisphere perennial vegetable if ever there were one. The stems can be very fibrous, so I just use the leaves and tips, but it grows everywhere, and insects rarely do more than nibble. I have it growing in a very narrow, dry strip of dirt running along the shady side of my house. It's less than 30 cm wide, in a trench between the concrete foundations of the house and a concrete retaining wall, and beneath it run all the plumbing and gas pipes. It's so dry that even geraniums struggle for a toe-hold, but rosemary and tetragon are quite undaunted. While not perennial, I love Malabar Spinach (basella alba) for similar reasons. It is one of those slightly slimy Asian greens that are considered cooling in summer. It self seeds yearly and thrives on neglect. Between the two, there are always enough green vegetables in my sad little garden to pad out a lunch box.
  15. Kitchen Sink and Faucet

    Maybe slightly off-topic...I recently re-installed Sketchup, years after using it to design backgrounds for a graphic project. Woah! There are lots of different brands represented these days, so if you are toying with kitchen layouts, you can probably build a realistic layout with units from the manufacturer of your choice. Personally, I think it's kind of funny that I can not only equip my real-life kitchen with Ikea, I can set up my fantasy life kitchen with Ikea too if I want to!
  16. Road food

    Road food - it is it's own thing. I'm no expressway queen in Japan, but about 10 years ago in New Zealand, I noticed that the best roadside food was very different from its city cousins. We pulled in to a roadside bakery, and found a queue. The food cabinets were immaculate, and there were plenty of staff on the cash register. The "restaurant" floor was poured concrete, decidedly lacking in atmosphere, and nobody was in a hurry to clear and wipe the tables, but those who bought food to go were getting fresh, imaginative food well priced and well packaged for the road.
  17. All About Gin, Generally

    Nikka's Coffey Gin came out this summer, so I bought a bottle recently. Gin is not that well known in Japan, so it's a good day when I can find my favorite, The Botanist Islay Dry Gin. The Botanist is very herbal, but I think well balanced, neither rankly green nor with contours blanketed under mounds of sugar. So, given that The Botanist is definitely the gin for gardeners and hedge witches, I hesitated for a month or two before trying the Nikka gin There's a good review on theginisin.com, and I agree that the hot spirit flavor is well to the fore, with peppery somethings (pepper, or maybe green szechuan pepper berries or leaf, I am not sure). Then comes a whack of traditional Japanese citrus and peels (especially green citrus), and that is surely responsible for the considerable and lasting bitterness. The bitterness is good, and the fresh and I think quite astringent citrus is a better match for the rather hot spirit than more herbs would be. This whole approach makes me think more of herb/citrus-infused shochu spirits than of other gins...it would be interesting to see how a shochu gin with the same aromatics tasted. To test that theory, I mixed it with a lot of ice and fresh lemon juice, a la shochu, and also with a little dokudami-infused shochu (dokudami = houttynia cordata) and a drop of lemon. The gin and lemon, but the astringency and the bitterness of the Nikka gin just killed the aromatics of the dokudami, leaving only an extra dose of bitterness. Nup. Dokudami shochu is sometimes a good switchout for vermouth with other gins, but not in this case! Interesting yes; and maybe overpriced?
  18. Johnsonville Sausages

    Packages available here mostly look like these ones available on Amazon.jp, but there is sure to be wholesale packaging too.
  19. Johnsonville Sausages

    We get the same type you are seeing in China - "fresh" sausages cannot be sold here. I buy them occasionally, and you can have fun playing house with them, but they are not the kind of sausage an expat dreams of.
  20. Nukazuke Pickling

    I use a Yamazen pressure-type rice polisher. I think the current model is YRP-51, and it is available in some countries outside Japan. This type allows you to set the desired amount of polish and the time separately. Some very cheap models just have a timer, so if you want whiter rice, you polish it for longer. That's a great theory, but it tends to result in badly broken rice grains. We use our rice bran for nuka-zuke, but it is also incredibly useful in the compost heap! It acts as a very good starter.
  21. In places with lots of foreign tourists (Asakusa, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shibuya) restaurants are likely to have encountered vegetarian (say "bejitahrian") - for example, you could try Ninja Akasaka which has a ninja show and reputedly offers vegetarian dish(es) 〒100-0014 Tokyo, Chiyoda, Nagatacho, 2−14−3 Tel: 03-5157-3936 You will have to be patient - although Tokyo is trying to become more tourist-friendly, the majority of tourists are from other Asian countries with similar food cultures. The usual image of vegetarianism here is macrobiotics (brown rice, fish, tofu, vegetables...), so it's natural for people to assume that you may eat fish. My vegetarian (more of a cake-atarian!) friend actually started eating fish, because it was just too hard to eat out, otherwise she heads for an Indian restaurant. Tofu restaurants . I've eaten at Ukai, but it's a bit off the beaten track. Because halal concerns overlap with some vegetarian requirements, halal websites are a good place to look. However, it's a niche market, so places don't always stay in business. T's Tantan vegetarian noodle place now has a shop inside Tokyo station. Kaemon's Akihabara shop is (I think...) still in business. Instant ramen in Japan is not very likely to be even slightly vegetarian, sorry.
  22. What do you like about it, and what type of oolong tea do you usually buy? What I like best about tea is the huge variety of flavors that one plant produces! I drink an Assam blend Indian tea in the mornings, but recently a local Nepali shop has started stocking a cut-tear-curl pellet form Assam that I enjoy a lot. It's a little milder than the blend I usually buy. I don't buy Chinese tea regularly, because most of the day we drink Japanese tea. I like a blend of leaf tips and stems. Stem tea (kuki-cha) is expensive and hard to find, so I buy a blend that has just enough stems to make the tea a little sweet. The modern trend is to blend powdered matcha into leaf tip sencha teas, but I prefer a lighter taste. Biggest recent surprise is rooibos, especially if it has a little orange peel added. I thought I hated rooibos, but the tea I remember from years back must have been stale. Nowadays I love it, especially as cold tea in summer.
  23. Fruit

    Dragonfruit - it's true, they don't have a lot of flavor of their own. I like them sliced in a small composed salad with green kiwifruit and cucumber slices. They are a natural bridge between the freshness of the cucumber and the sweetness of the kiwifruit. Tiny bit of vinaigrette and a few mint leaves to finish.
  24. 4, unless you are engraving, in which case 8!
  25. Well, yes, in character count, but what about in stroke count?!! English would often win there