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mkayahara

eG Foodblog: mkayahara (2010) - Confessions of a culinary tinker

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Good morning everyone, and welcome to my foodblog! I'm really excited to be here sharing a week in my kitchen with you. Thanks to Prawncrackers for hosting such a great blog last week: you'll be a tough act to follow!

Why don't I start by situating you a little bit in my life? As you saw in the Coming Attractions topic, I would say that two of my biggest interests - and two of the topics on which I've gotten the most help from the eGullet forums - are cocktails and "molecular gastronomy" (or avant-garde cuisine, or whatever you want to call it). I'll be trying to incorporate both of those topics into my blog this week.

I think it's safe to say that both of those interests are symptomatic of a more general desire to "tinker" in the kitchen. When I first learned that there were chemicals you could buy to make spheres out of pea puree, I had to order them. Similarly, when I learned that the whisky I'd spent my whole life calling "rye" was different from an American whiskey that is also called rye, I had to buy a bottle to find out what it tasted like. "Trying it for myself" is my guiding principle when it comes to food.

In the past year, I've also developed a fascination with Japanese cooking. You see, although my family name is Japanese, I'm only one-quarter ethnically Japanese. (The other three quarters are an Anglo-Celtic blend.) Growing up, I didn't eat much Japanese food, but as I've gotten older, I've become interested in exploring that facet of my heritage. So I'll be drawing on that cuisine this week, too.

So thanks to eGullet for asking me to host this week. I hope you enjoy reading along!

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This morning started off like most of my mornings do. I am a daily breakfast eater, but weekday breakfasts are almost always the same (especially lately): oatmeal and a cup of French press coffee.

Breakfast.jpg

For me, oatmeal always has dried fruit (usually raisins; sometimes apples or apricots), and often some cinnamon or a touch of vanilla extract. I don't generally sweeten it, but I was feeling a little indulgent this morning, so there was a drop of maple syrup on it. (Hey, I am Canadian, y'know!)

Although I have an espresso machine (a Saeco Aroma), I prefer French press in the morning. There's just something so comforting about the large mug of warmth, especially as the days are getting colder here. The beans are from a local roaster, whose roast profiles tend to be a little darker than my preference, but I like supporting the local business. Sometimes, though, I'll pick up beans from 49th Parallel, which I can buy in Toronto.

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Good to see you here on the blog, Matthew!! Can't wait to see some of your delicious creations!!

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I had always wondered about your surname and thought it was perhaps just a username you chose for whatever reason. Can't wait to see what you do with Japanese food (and other stuff, of course) this week!

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Yay, it's Matthew! Can't wait for it all to unfold. I'm looking forward to your cooking and also seeing your kitchen and a little of your area of the world! Carry on :wink: !

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Thanks, all, for the warm welcome!

I had always wondered about your surname and thought it was perhaps just a username you chose for whatever reason. Can't wait to see what you do with Japanese food (and other stuff, of course) this week!

I think Japanese food is going to be the theme for today, so you won't have to wait long!

Yay, it's Matthew! Can't wait for it all to unfold. I'm looking forward to your cooking and also seeing your kitchen and a little of your area of the world! Carry on :wink: !

I'll have to take some photos of my kitchen to post. I could use your guys' help redesigning it!

Eager to see more, Matthew. What kind of oatmeal is that?

Err. I was hoping no one would ask that. I always buy quick oats, because when it comes to weekday breakfast, I'm not patient. (Yes, I know that 10 minutes is not much longer than 3 minutes.) Normally, I buy organic oatmeal from President's Choice, but I didn't make it out to the store that carries it when I needed to replenish, so this is just Quaker.

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Hoisted by the eG Foodblog petard!

I ask because I'd love to find some way to have steel-cut Irish oatmeal (like McCann's) ready in the morning, but I've never put my mind to figuring out how to do it. Sounds like a good idea for a topic....

So what sort of chemicals do you have in your MG battery, Matt?

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Very much looking forward to some Japanese cooking.

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I'll have to take some photos of my kitchen to post. I could use your guys' help redesigning it!

Are you planning a remodel? And will we get a fridge shot? :smile:

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Hoisted by the eG Foodblog petard!

I ask because I'd love to find some way to have steel-cut Irish oatmeal (like McCann's) ready in the morning, but I've never put my mind to figuring out how to do it. Sounds like a good idea for a topic....

I've been known to cook the oatmeal from Bob's Red Mill, but I find that I don't like the texture. Maybe I'll have to see if I can find proper steel-cut oats somewhere and give them a try this week... no promises, though. :wink:

So what sort of chemicals do you have in your MG battery, Matt?

You mean apart from sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate, I assume. :P As I said in my intro, I like to try things out for myself... what I didn't say was that once I've tried them out, the chemicals often go into a cupboard, never to be seen again. (Or, at least, not very often.) So I have amassed a pretty good collection: sodium alginate, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, tapioca maltodextrin, two kinds of methylcellulose, sodium citrate, isomalt, agar, ultra-tex 3, calcium lactate, sodium hexametaphosphate, low-acyl gellan, locust bean gum... uh... I think that's about it. Some of those arrived just the other day, and I haven't gotten a chance to play with them yet, so I'm looking forward to that.

Edit: Extraneous, comma.


Edited by mkayahara (log)

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Are you planning a remodel? And will we get a fridge shot? :smile:

We've been planning a remodel ever since we bought the house over 2 years ago; we just haven't gotten around to it yet, in part because the kitchen is so awkwardly laid out. And yes, I'm sure I can do a fridge shot!

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I'm in what I think is a highly enviable situation for anyone who loves to cook: I work from home. Better still, my office is on the ground floor, right next to the kitchen. This means I can have a hot lunch whenever I want. Often this means reheated leftovers in the microwave, but sometimes it means cooking something from scratch. And what better opportunity than when you're blogging your week of cooking for eG?

I realized the other day that, despite all the Japanese cooking I've been doing for the past 11 months, I've never made oyakodon. So, since I had some leftover dashi from the weekend, and a spare chicken breast hanging around, and eggs - I always have eggs; I get twitchy when the carton drops below half a dozen - it would be a good lunch to make today.

Oyako-don.jpg

I added nori strips after taking the photo. Nori wilts so quickly in steam that I don't like the way it photographs. I'm convinced you can make any dish taste Japanese by garnishing with nori, pickled ginger and bonito flakes, though.

The recipe was from Andoh's Washoku. The dashi didn't reduce as quickly as I would have liked, so I ended up draining some of it off before topping the rice. Delicious, and easy!

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Hmm that's a nice comforting dish to start the week. Looking forward to seeing more, I suspect it's going to be totally different to my week. Which is the great thing about the eG foodblogs and members in general, we all have such varied tastes and talents. Are you going to combine some MG with Japanese cuisine this week?

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Is the red garnish a type of pickled ginger? I've had that a couple times served on top of okonomiyaki and loved it, but wasn't sure if it was actually ginger or if it was some other root that was flavored with ginger. Is it just sold in jars?

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Are you going to combine some MG with Japanese cuisine this week?

Oddly, I don't feel sufficiently conversant with Japanese flavours and points of reference to play around with them in the way that avant-garde technique allows (demands?). It's something I think about every now and then, but since I've only been seriously exploring Japanese food for a few months, I'm just not convinced I'm there yet.

Is the red garnish a type of pickled ginger? I've had that a couple times served on top of okonomiyaki and loved it, but wasn't sure if it was actually ginger or if it was some other root that was flavored with ginger. Is it just sold in jars?

Yup, that's all it is! It's called beni-shoga, and is like the pickled ginger you get with sushi, but far less sweet.

Off to prep dinner shortly...

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The recipe was from Andoh's Washoku. The dashi didn't reduce as quickly as I would have liked, so I ended up draining some of it off before topping the rice. Delicious, and easy!

That book was my friend in Japan! Have you tried any other recipes out of it that you enjoyed? I am a big fan of her pickled lotus root.

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I can tell you're only 1/4 Japanese because you used chicken breast and not thigh. :laugh:

Still, that oyakodon looked delicious, and I wish I could have had some! I've not had oyakodon in several years, I think. Not even in Japan!

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The recipe was from Andoh's Washoku. The dashi didn't reduce as quickly as I would have liked, so I ended up draining some of it off before topping the rice. Delicious, and easy!

That book was my friend in Japan! Have you tried any other recipes out of it that you enjoyed? I am a big fan of her pickled lotus root.

I haven't cooked out of it as much as I would like, but I've enjoyed everything I have made, with the notable exception of the soy-simmered kabocha with adzuki beans. The beans just never got tender! (Not the cookbook's fault, obviously.) Favourites include the sesame-miso sauce and the kitsune udon. I'll have to try the pickled lotus root.

I can tell you're only 1/4 Japanese because you used chicken breast and not thigh. :laugh:

Ha! It's true, I did use breast, mostly because it's what I had on hand. In general, I do prefer thigh.

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Nice, another Oatmeal blog and maybe some cocktails!


Edited by eje (log)

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I know Guelph as a fun summer place and also as a major research site with Agricultural and Veterinary Colleges, plus lots of Biotech. Does this have any impact on your cooking?

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Three afternoons a week, I go to the gym, and by the time I get home, my body is yelling at me to throw calories at it. As a result, Monday, Wednesday and Friday dinners tend to be quick and reliable. Tonight was no exception.

In keeping with the theme that has emerged for today, I made okonomiyaki. I first had this dish at Okonomi House restaurant in Toronto; in general, I get tired of people thinking that Japanese food starts and ends with sushi, so I made a point fairly early on of seeking out other Japanese dishes. We also ate lots of okonomiyaki while we were in Japan in May, both Osaka and Hiroshima style. Despite having family roots in Hiroshima, I preferred Osaka style, so that's what I made tonight.

We start with the mise en place: batter (flour, eggs, baking powder, salt and dashi, though usually I use water), sliced cabbage, shiitake and green onions, and pork belly. (Prasantrin, does that make up for the chicken breast I ate at lunch? :raz: )

Okonomiyaki MEP.jpg

Mixing the vegetables and batter:

Okonomiyaki batter.jpg

The belly goes into the pan first...

Frying belly.jpg

...then it gets flipped, and some of the batter mixture patted down on top of it. (There was enough mise en place for three okonomiyaki in total.)

Frying okonomiyaki.jpg

The whole deal gets flipped to cook the other side.

Flipped okonomiyaki.jpg

Then, it slides onto a plate, and gets garnished with okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, ao-noriko seaweed flakes, bonito flakes and more red pickled ginger. (Funny, davidkeay, that you mentioned okonomiyaki when asking about it earlier!)

Finished okonomiyaki.jpg

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I know Guelph as a fun summer place and also as a major research site with Agricultural and Veterinary Colleges, plus lots of Biotech. Does this have any impact on your cooking?

Yeah, the University of Guelph is one of the most important agri-food research centres in Canada. In fact, if you'll all turn to the Book of McGee (2004 edition) and check the credit for the whipped cream photo on page 31 (the credit is on p. 884), you'll see our name there in black and white.

Unfortunately, although my husband does work for the university, it's in the history department, so I haven't made any real connections in the food sciences area yet. So it doesn't really have any impact on my cooking.

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That pork does look good! Buta-chiizu okonomiyaki is my favourite! Where do you get your pork sliced so thinly? I've only seen that kind of thinness at Japanese markets in the TO area, but I haven't seen it in Winnipeg yet.

Have you been able to find nagaimo in your area? I've heard it's becoming easier to find in Canada, and I would definitely recommend using it rather than baking powder. The woman who taught me to make okonomiyaki said if I couldn't get nagaimo, then just leave it out. You don't want the batter to rise, the nagaimo just makes a more tender product. Your recipe is about the same as mine, except I always add instant dashi granules, and I never add additional water. It makes the batter to watery (but the nagaimo adds moisture, so if I don't have nagaimo, I guess water would be necessary). MSG is delicious!

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