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eG Foodblog: Helenjp - Well, pickle me!


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Hi Helen. I am really enjoying your blog so far. What an interesting and beautiful way to spend the week! Thank you!

Just these past few posts have got me thinking about my own experience cooking in foreign cultures. The process of learning to cook French dishes (for my husband who appreciates it a great deal and also as one of my normal obscessions) has involved a concerted effort to really understand what I'm doing - probably more than regular French people normally invest. I pay a lot of attention about not taking method short cuts, learning the history behind a dish etc. Results have been generally well received.

Being in Asia was a little different - when I was in China, and learning to cook from my Ayi, I would prepare a dish, and when serving it to Chinese friends, they'd always respond with a suprised "not bad" or a "very close!" with a smile as if they could not really accept that a westerner could actually master the art of Chinese cooking. I know very well that if I make absolutely no substitutions and no changes to method, you could not tell my results from a Chinese, still it was hard for some people to accept. One discussion at the table between some of my Chinese friends over a dish I prepared really stands out in my mind - most thought it was done just the way they would have done it, and one person said it was still not quite. They chalked it up to family differences, and while it really didn't matter to me, I did realize that being a foreign cook called everything into question there.

How do your Japanese friends and family react to the food you prepare or your kitchen methods? You've been in Japan for a long time - have you completely integrated cooking-wise, or do you still hold on to certain habits that are different? Did you take Japanese cooking lessons at any point?

It all looks simply fabulous.


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mugicha (summer staple drink made by boiling teabags of roasted barley kernels)

Quite interesting, especially the fish sausage (chikuwa?) in the miso soup! I'm looking forward to your pickles.

I'm interested in learning more about that fish sausage. (the "stay first in your realms" - approach :smile:) Is there a relationsship to something like "Surimi"? Is there artisanal production of such sausages?

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Now the maddest part of my week is over, maybe I should introduce myself :cool:

I'm a New Zealander who first came to Japan at the age of 20, lived here on and off, and settled here in 1990 with my Hokkaido-born Japanese husband, who was living in NZ when we met.

I first lived in Osaka, so I still have a great affection for the food of west Japan, which is less strongly seasoned (=less soy sauce, basically!) than east Japan food.

How did I get interested in cooking? My mother and grandmother believed without question that everything home-made was better than everything bought. They also believed in knowing how to do things properly, and were confident that THEIR way was the proper way! From them, I inherited a pride in the ability to preserve food, although I make more Japanese-style preserves than western ones now (family tastes, availability of ingredients, and also climate - jam is difficult to store over the warm, humid rainy season).

My mother was too ill when I was young to teach me to cook - my memories are of struggling to get dinner alone in a dark kitchen rather than working side by side with her, so I inherited more of an attitude than actual recipes.

I don't have the skills or the determination to be a professional cook, but I think that family food is worth doing as well as possible. We rarely eat out - partly because there is little incentive to pay good money for bad food in the area where we live - so I like to make some special meals at home for guests or family occasions. An interest in family food leads naturally to an interest in traditional cooking, I think.

To answer questions...unsweetened canned black coffee has been available for a few years (3? 5?) here. It's not a great taste...but it tastes pretty good when changing trains on long, midsummer commmutes!

Is this Tokyo? No - Matsudo city, on the "wrong" side of the Edo River -- up in the northwestern "horn" of Chiba province. Traditional produce, scallions, Japanese dividing onions, and Asian pears (the nijusseiki was developed here), soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), eggplants pickled in mustard.

The area where I live was once a government-approved waystation for official travels from Mito to Tokyo, and before that there was a castle which was razed, probably by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who didn't like to have other warlords too close by! There must be remnants of the wealthier style of Edo cooking somewhere, but I have not found it. Most of the people here came after WWII, when there was a brief push to farm the rather waterlogged floodplain, but soon the area became a factory area, and so the population has never been wealthy - hence the lack of great restaurants or fine foodstuffs. My father in law ended up here by asking his cousin what the cheapest area near Tokyo was!

The poverty and the small distance from the sea mean that good fish is hard to buy here (there is an area called "Funabashi" or "boat-wharf" nearby, but that was reserved for the emperor's use when he came hunting on the Matsudo uplands, thus preventing fishermen from using it as a port AFAIK).

...getting back on topic...Chinese friends dismissive of cooking. To be bluntly honest, my Chinese friends locally are incredibly rude about Japanese cooking, and I doubt if they think much of each other's cooking either! One of them is always saying "Japanese cooking - boil it and bang it on a plate, that's not cooking!". My husband likes this saying so much that he uses it to describe a translation job done without revisions or corrections!

Do my Japanese friends think I can't "really" cook? To be honest, I think they've fallen over all the pickle containers in my corridor so often that they believe I *do* cook, whether I *can* or not.

Fish sausage -- a deep, dark area! The kind in the soup was "satsuma-age", which originates in Kyushu. It is usually made from surimi (white fish paste) and various flavorings, and includes eggs and maybe tofu. Chikuwa is just seasoned white fish paste (from memory) shaped around bamboo, hence the tube shape. Hanpen is white fish paste with yama-imo (a kind of taro), steamed into fluffy, mild cakes.

Good satsuma-age is excellent stuff - and is proudly served sashimi-style in western Japan, with soy sauce and wasabi. Even in Tokyo, good quality satsuma-age is expensive.

I'm just off to put some pickle recipes on recipe gullet, before I post about pickles.

Meanwhile, this is what happened at dinner...Last night I put chicken wing drumlets, soy sauce, vinegar, and seasonings into my insulated saucepan, and left them to cook overnight. This morning, I simmered them until the stock was reduced, and put them in the fridge - ready for tonight's dinner, plus a few day's lunches. Photos and recipe...

Chicken Simmered with Soy Sauce and Vinegar


I also fried some pork liver with Chinese chives for son1 and myself (the others don't like it). Son1 has just finished exams, and is also growing rapidly...and this is known as "stamina cooking" in Japanese!

Pork Liver Panfried with Chinese Chives

The meats were served with a salad of komatsu-na (a green leafy veg) seedlings and lettuce with a mustardy vinaigrette, rice (of course), cucumbers pickled in cultured rice and salt (sa-go-hachi), and miso-soup with wakame (sea-lettuce), shreds of Japanese dividing onion (naga-negi), and yama-imo of uncertain age kindly (?) donated by my ageing mother in law.

The menu was designed so that I could prepare it after returning from work and before taking sons to lessons, and so that it would be edible from 7:30 until 10:30pm, as on Wednesday, only son2 and I eat together, and that only barely, as I have to walk Mr. Lonelyhearts son1 home from cram school. He eats either before or after cram school.

Off to recipe gullet I go...

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Roughly, pickles in Japan fall into these groups.

Basic salt pickles - either dry salt or brine. Usually intended for long storage, and often for vegetables which will be re-pickled in other forms, e.g. most of the popular commercial pickles such as fukujin-zuke, shiba-zuke, etc. Varying amounts of fermentation are permitted, depending on the type of vegetable.

Cultured seasonings - soy sauce, miso, sake, natto, vinegar, etc. usually involve basic ingredients, and usually salt, and always some kind of culture starter.

Condiment pickles - miso pickles, soy sauce pickles etc. Usually the pickles are enjoyed as snacks, and the pickling medium is used as a seasoning or condiment.

Other cultured pickling mediums - bettara zuke, karashi-zuke etc depend on cultured rice.

Rice-bran pickles - a mixture of rice bran, water, and salt, which is permitted to develop lactic acid-producing cultures.

Semi-preserves -- foods simmered for a long time in soy sauce, such as tsuku-dani.

Quick pickles -- food marinaded in a sour/salty mix, but not fermented. Expected to be eaten within 24-36 hours.

I should warn...I have made a number of pickles to show you, but I would not normally have all these going at once, because of the danger of contamination from the "wrong" cultures. At least, I am careful not to open one cultured pickle when I have recently had another one open! I also don't touch my umeboshi-in-progress with hands that have touched miso or nuka-zuke recently.

We make a number of pickles every year - sauerkraut or hakusai-zuke (salted Chinese cabbage), but not in large quantities as the winters are so warm recently. For that reason I prefer to make sauerkraut, which requires a slightly warmer temperature (daytime temps around 17deg C, 65degF). I still make miso, though it gets harder to keep it in good condition over the summer. I occasionally make takuan, which is basically a sweet variation of nukazuke ricebran pickles, but again, this pickle does best at lower temperatures.

Without fail, we make umeboshi (salt-pickled and dried Japanese apricots, prunus mume) every year, harvesting 15-20kg of fruit or more from our trees. I will deal with umeboshi in a separate post...

This year, we started a ricebran pickle bed, after a long hiatus. My purpose was to increase our vegetable intake without increasing my time in the kitchen! The supermarkets no longer stock raw rice bran, and I don't go past the rice shop so often, so I bought a ready-matured pickling bed in a plastic box. Surprisingly good! It is now at the stage where it will get sour if I am not careful to replace salt and use a little mustard (a great anti-microbial!) from time to time, and add extra rice brain as it gets sloppy.

Cucumbers normally take half a day, eggplants up to a day to pickle. Fortunately the boys regard the pickle barrel as a type of pet, and mix it three times a day, removing the soft pickles and adding fresh vegetables.


Ricebran pickled cucumbers are slightly yellower-fleshed than fresh cucumber (Think takuan...)


how to make ricebran pickles

Howver, probably the easiest pickles of all are miso pickles -- put almost anything into miso! I peeled 2 heads of garlic and stuck the cloves into around 1lb of red medium-flavored miso. I don't expect to eat this until winter, though it could be ready earlier...the usual rule of thumb for longterm pickles is to leave them through one change of season at least.


Here are two pickles prepared to the "shita-zuke" or "pre-pickling" stage, ready for the final pickling tomorrow.

Cucumbers pickled in brine. Normally this process is repeated with fresh brine (or the old brine boiled and re-salted) every time the cucumbers develop white spots, until autumn. At this point they are "furu-zuke" or old pickles, and will be used in things like shiba-zuke or fuujin-zuke. The photo shows the cucumbers immediately after putting them into the brine. I then added a plate, a weight twice as heavy as the cucumbers, and covered them.


Young ginger and myouga buds can be salted under a weight before being pickled in red salty umesu - the liquor exuded by umeboshi in the salt-pickling stage.

These have been blanched and are about to be salted and weighed down.


Well, nearly 1 am again...tomorrow I will talk about umeboshi, and also pickles which use byproducts of umeboshi production such as the salt-pickled red shiso leaves, or the clear or red umesu "vinegar".

Good night!

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Helen, how much "western" food do you make and what do the kids think of it?

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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how much "western" food do you make and what do the kids think of it?

I'm never sure how far the kids distinguish between western and nonwestern food!

Son2 has always been the pickier eater, but recently he talks about food and menus in very specific ways, and is cautiously interested in most things.

Probably the hardest taste for them is strongly herbal seasonings.

Their tastes are pretty pleb - they think instant gravy is nectar! :laugh:

I usually cook rice at night, because I need it for husband's lunch box. I've also seen husband pour soy sauce over delicately flavored western dishes once too often...but I suppose most meals involve some mismatch of cultures.

How about cheese toast...with mustard and nori seaweed, for example? We often have it for breakfast.


One of my students swears that the perfect breakfast food is natto (fermented soybeans) flavored with ketchup...grilled on toast!

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Helen, I have 5 different varieties of oshinko in my fridge now :smile: Your blog is inspiring me to do some Japanese cooking. Or my version anyway.

I have a few questions. First, about the cucumber/eggplant picture. What is it sitting in? When did you start the pickling process. How do you know if it is done?

With the garlic in miso, does the garlic flavor soften? Does the miso take on a garlic taste? Can you use it again? What do you do with the garlic?

Natto on toast sounds like a brilliant breakfast to me, although I don't know about the ketchup!

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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Wow, this is all so fascinating and such a different world! I'm really enjoying your blog so far, Helen.

My husband just went to Japan at the beginning of May for his shodan test in iaido, which he's been studying for about a year and a half/two years. I couldn't go due to the expense, but he brought back many pictures and stories. When I started reading your blog yesterday, I forwarded the link to him, thinking he might find it interesting. He wrote back:

Your Japanese egullet blogger is in Matsudo, which is where we went on Sundays to practice! You can recommend her to Woody Oak, the café/restaurant (Outlook added that accent mark all by itself...) run by one of the students I became friends with. I'll have to look in my notebook to see where it is.

Small world, I guess! :smile:

When he returned, I asked him if he were tired of Japanese food. He said, not really, except that hewas kind of tired of pickles!

Seeing what a large variety of types there are, in Japanese cuisine, it's no wonder it's such a big part of the diet.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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Iaido...that's a variant of sword-fighting (kendo)?

I do know there is a sumo stable nearby, as I occasionally see the young rikishi shopping at the supermarket in their cotton yukata kimono, with their hair in topknots.

Woody Oak...I'll check it out. Most of the restaurants in Matsudo are clustered in about 3 areas, none close to us. The '70s tower-blocks have quite a few good bars around them, but husband is not a bar type of guy.

I guess the taste for pickles is like most cultured foods -- you either love them or hate them! Do you think it is harder to acquire a taste for cultured foods from another country (I was going to say culture...) than fresh foods?

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Hooray for another fascinating blog! Thank you for spending the time and effort for us.

I am glad you've been talking specially about the rice bran style of pickles. I've read about them but had trouble imagining what the setup could possibly be like. In that one photo, the bran looks positively rosy -- is that just a funny thing with the light in the picture, or is the bran actually pink? If so, what causes that?

(Edited because I can't punctuate!)

Edited by redfox (log)

"went together easy, but I did not like the taste of the bacon and orange tang together"

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The rice bran pickle bed isn't actually pink - I tried to alter the color of the photo, but that was the closest. It starts out a sort of light tan, but the color tends to be absorbed by pickles and also changes as the pickle bed becomes more acidic - a mature pickle bed will be a dull brown.

Yellow takuan is not dyed if made properly - it turns yellow as it pickles.

I forgot to say that the photos show the ingredients BEFORE they were all covered up by the ricebran or the miso!

Miso pickles can be kept at room temperature in most cases (fish and meat pickles should go in the fridge, and garlic miso is certainly fine just sitting in a cupboard. Unlike softer vegetables, I will leave the garlic in the miso until I plan to use it. As the garlic is used, I will also use the flavored miso to season meats for grilling, etc. I could use the same miso for other pickles for a while, but not indefinitely, as the miso is gradually losing salt to the pickles.

Garlic pickled in soy sauce can also be left in the soy sauce as it is used. This is an excellent time of year to pickle new crop garlic, while it is young and soft.

For meat and fish, a miso bed is more of a marinade than a true preserve. Miso which has been used for other pickles is often used for meat and fish, because it cannot then be used for vegetables. It is normally used two or three times for mild-tasting fish, and then once or twice for meat or stronger tasting fish such as sardines, before being discarded. The pickled meats or fish are normally grilled, but they burn much more easily than salted fish.

Miso for meat and fish "pickles" is often mixed with sake lees (sake is fermented using the same type of cultured rice as is used for miso, and after the sake is made, the sake is pressed and the lees used for pickling) in varying proportions.

Vegetables pickled entirely in sake lees become Nara-zuke - the translucent, amber, sweetish pickles, usually made with gourds, but also carrot or daikon radish (firm vegetables). In this case, the vegetables are not left in the same pickling bed - every few months, the sake lees are replaced, sometimes repeatedly over 1-2 years - one reason why handmade Nara pickles are so expensive.

I will post more on this later, but today I want to finish some umeboshi-related pickles and also get some actual work done! Lunch will therefore be leftoverama.

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Thank you Helen! I'll get right to work pickling garlic, since these are a favourite of my husband's (I wonder if botulism is a concern though...).

Using the garlic-infused miso as a marinade is a great idea- I bet pork chops would be amazing. Months ago you gave directions for saikyo-zuke on another board, and I've been doing it ever since. It is always a hit and a very economical too, since I can use whatever fish or pork is cheapest.

Thanks for all the ideas!

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Enjoy your pickling, smallworld...I can't think of another branch of cooking that offers so much for relatively little work!

Now that the fresh garlic is in season, you can pickle it in soy sauce or honey too. In miso or soy sauce, the salt and/or other acid-loving cultures keep botulism at bay. I don't preserve garlic in oil any more, but in salt, soy sauce, or miso. (Vinegar turns the starch in the garlic bulb blue, always interesting to see!). When making honey-garlic preserves, most people seem to blanch the peeled garlic and/or rub it with about 4% of the weight of garlic in coarse salt, and put it under a weight and pickle for 2-3 days, turning over once a day. If the garlic is not really fresh and juicy, you could add a tablespoon or so of water to get the salt penetrating the garlic as fast as possible. Take the salt-pickled garlic, drain, wipe, place in a jar, and top up with soy sauce. You can get fancy and add sansho, chiles, etc.

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Every year in late February, our two prunus mume trees flower. They are a pink-flowered variety, and soon the tiny, furry ume are growing. I watch the weather in case it is too cold or rainy for them to ripen well, or so dry that the tiny fruit falls off, but usually by mid-late June, the fruit are beginning to turn from intense apple green to a faintly white-green. I pick some then for umeshu (Japanese plum wine) and also for plum vinegar drink.

I'll upload the recipe later - recipe gullet seems to be in a bad mood right now.

This morning I had an ice-cold ume vinegar drink with water, a just reward for hours of slaving over cool pickle pots.


This is what my no-sugar umeshu looks like about a fortnight into pickling...I was a bit mean with the ume, should be closer to 1 part ume to 2 parts white liquor.


Snack cake filled with an ume taken from umeshu.


So...time passes, and in late June, the ume are a yellowish-green. I like umeboshi to be large, fragrant, and soft, so I make them with almost-ripe ume. I can do this because the ume are in my garden, not bouncing around on a truck. However, riper ume do burst during the pickling process more easily.

I tried to take photos of this, but the ume ripened on a very busy weekend this year, so it was all we could do to get them harvested. We laid plastic sheets under the trees, son1 took the long extendable clippers upstairs and clipped fruit off the top branches, I climbed a ladder and picked, and son2 put on his bicycle helmet to guard against falling fruit, and shook the lower branches with a stick, while husband raced around picking up the fruit and sorting it.

The riper fruit were immediately put to soak in cold water. Very ripe fruit will only need a few hours, not more than 5-6 hours. Barely ripe fruit may need 12 hours. It seems that in old times, people soaked ume up to 3 days, but nowadays, it is more common to lay not quite ripe ume out on newspaper, or layered between newspaper in a box, and leave them for 1-2 days before soaking.

The soaked ume are carefully wiped to remove gum, dust, etc, and the stem end flicked out. Wiping with white liquor will help prevent mold problems and dissolve any sticky urban sootydust, but over liberal use may prevent the ume from softening when pickled. Let the ume dry, but don't be fanatic, a little moisture may help the salt penetrate.

Now weigh out your coarse salt. I use 20%, which is old-fashioned, but I think appropriate for Tokyo's heat (especially because it doesn't get cooler at night). Those who are willing to use more white liquor may use 10-15% salt, those who want to do things the way great-grandma did can try using 30%!

Your pickling container should be clean, well-sunned (sunshine is really the best protective against mold), and wiped out with alcohol. It will need a lid.

Toss in a handful of your salt, and swish it around the bottom. Now start layering ume and salt, keeping layers even (helps the weight stay on evenly, which prevents rotten or floating ume on one side and squashed ones on the other!).

Dust the last of the salt over the top, cover with a neat layer of plastic wrap, add a drop lid or plate to even out the weight, and then add your weight, twice the weight of your ume (roughly). You won't need quite such a heavy weight if you are using riper ume, or large quantities - they will weigh each other down!

Cover with a plastic bag and a lid or cloth. In a few days, the liquid should have risen to the drop lid. Replace the wrap if necessary, and reduce the weight to about 1/2 of what it was.

One of my current tubs of ume after about 2 weeks. Sorry, the color shows more green than the bright apricot-tan the ume really are.


At this point, I add the salt-pickled red shiso (perilla) leaves, like so...


Now I replace the droplid and weight...in this case a plastic bag full of water, in a plastic container.


Now the fun begins -- keeping mold at bay while the pickling is in progress. Rounded white "salt-mold" is considered harmless, but it can also invite more noxious mold, so it needs to be picked off, liquid and container sprayed with alcohol, plastic wrap replaced, weights sterilized, etc.

When the rainy season ends, or whenever you think you have 3 days' fine weather, the ume should be removed from the pickling liquor and placed on trays to dry. I normally use a multi-tiered hanging net shelf, like a camping pantry. My ume are very soft, so I use perforated silicon paper to avoid sticking. Here are a few which I dried early to show you...these are the ripest and squishiest of all those I pickled this year! They are now out in the sun drying.


At night, I will put half of those into red umesu (the brine which rises from the salt-pickled ume, colored red by the shiso leaves), and put them out again to dry tomorrow. It is this which makes red umeboshi so red -- simply steeping them as they pickle will not create an intense color.

When they are thoroughly dry, normally 3 days, sometimes longer for ripe ume, I will store them in pottery pickle jars. Here are my favorites. The brown one is the usual type, the green one I won from a cookery magazine. The deep groove around the top is supposed to hold a little water, creating a seal when the lid is in place. The umeboshi inside are 1-2 years old.



Finally, a line-up of umeboshi-related products...all made at home except for the red umesu and salt-pickled shiso, which I buy ready made these days.

From top to bottom...salt-pickled red shiso (perilla leaves) used in this state in umeboshi and other pickles such as shiba-zuke). 2nd row, ume paste made by chopping blemished ume and mixing with salt, pickling under a weight, drying the whole containerful in the sun, and storing in the fridge - useful for sauces and marinades. On the right,natural color umeboshi. 3rd row, red umeboshi, and (hard to see) very small umeboshi. Bottom row, white and red ume brine.


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Thanks for the ume story. I loved umeboshi from the first minute, when I had it in a rice ball rolled in a nori leaf.

Is the sisho mainly to add colour or does it add distinct flavour as well?

Is the ume vinegar drink in the morning a common Japanese habit?

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Boris, the non-alcoholic ume drinks are all intended for kids...and therefore made with heaps of sugar. In fact, they are very pleasant drinks if you make them less sweet. (While umeshu or plum wine, made with white spirits, is wonderful stuff, the alcohol does extract the harsher almond tastes as well as the milder fruit taste from the ume...and umeshu is always considered a ladies' evening tipple in Japan, presumably because it is traditionally made very sweet.

Apparently well-brought up ladies used to drink a sip or two of mirin (sweet rice wine), but never sake, in times gone by...

Anyway, I realize that I haven't blogged what we actually ate today.

Breakfast was our usual..bread (today muffin rounds toasted with green scallions, canned tuna, and grated cheese and black pepper), home-made yogurt with bananas or kiwifruit, English tea for us, milk for the boys, who occasionally venture to have a cambric tea.

Lunch - husband's lunch was an absolute standard...rice with umeboshi, cold Chinese chive omelet, grilled salt salmon, and komatsu-na with soy sauce.

Komatsu-na is a standard green in the Tokyo area, and in rural places, maybe more so than spinach. It is more fibrous, but also sweeter.

Komatsuna - Japanese mustard spinach

I had (what did I have??)...a square of home-made whole-wheat flatbread, and yesterday's wilted salad. I SAID leftovers...

Dinner had to be put on to cook while son2 went to classical guitar lesson, so out came my trusty insulated pot. I scored a half-dozen eggplants from the infamous vegetable shack and deepfried them plus some green beans from the same source, rinsed them in hot water, and put them in a soy sauce/mirin/dashi stock plus some green bell peppers and the remaining Chicken Simmered in Soy Sauce and Vinegar from last night. When we got home, the eggplant was juicy and flavorful, and the beans were sweet rather than grassy flavoring (a quick "blanch" in hot oil often gets rid of harsh flavors).


I left a "teabag" of dashi soaking in water while we were out, and made miso soup with Chinese chives and egg when I returned.


Finally, chilled tofu with a dressing of ume paste (in the "ume pyramid" photo in a previous post) with a few coriander leaves and a light dressing of mirin and soy sauce.


With that, I had some "Kretikos White Wine of Crete" from Boutari, a wine I bought out of curiosity (and cheapness) the other day. It turned out to taste...of nothing at all! Slightly sour, but I guess simple and inoffensive is better than a rich and complex confection of off flavors? :shock:

Husband is yet to eat his, but!!! some is left over for lunchboxes tomorrow, so I congratulate myself on a successful meal! :raz:

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Fast and speedy post here...

Breakfast was our normal yogurt/fruit/toast/boiled egg/pickles routine. Nothing new to add there...but, as I rush out the door to work, I'd like to pause and raise a cheer for all the men who support family cooking by helping prepare and clean up, and making it obvious that they think it's an important part of family life. Couldn't cook 60-70 servings a week AND teach AND translate (and blog!) without that support.

Gotta go...husband's nearly fnished the dishes :wink:

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My parents, who now live in a rural area of Kimitsu city, Chiba prefecture, make miso from scratch, but I'm sure that such people are now rare.

I lived in Matsudo city for one and a half years from 1990 to 1992 before moving to Shiozawa. I highly recommend the pickle shops, Kuromon-ya and Akamon-ya, near Hondoji Temple. Daikon "tamari" pickles of Kuromon-ya were superb.

Hondoji Temple:




Have you ever been to Hondoji Temple, Helen?

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Iaido...that's a variant of sword-fighting (kendo)?

Yes, iaido is a sword art, but is usually practiced alone. The basic premise is that you're sitting having tea, or walking along the street, when an invisible assailant attacks you. How do you draw your sword and prepare for attack? Very esoteric, and apparently run by very traditional Japanese, such that you can test for ranks in Canada (but nowhere in the US), but your rank won't be recognized until you reach something like 5th or 6th dan. But you can test in Japan, which is why my husband was in Tokyo in May.

Fascinating blog, Helen. The ume look kind of like plums or apricots. Are they related to either? Or is the name "plum wine" a westernized misnomer, made in an attempt to entice westerners to imbibe?

After Mongo, Boris, and now you, the next blogger has quite a big pair of zori to fill. "I had grilled cheese for lunch" isn't going to cut it! :laugh:

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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After Mongo, Boris, and now you, the next blogger has quite a big pair of zori to fill. "I had grilled cheese for lunch" isn't going to cut it! :laugh:

Depends upon the cheese, doesn't it ? :laugh:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Helen, this is just so interesting. I suspect you're a much better Japanese cook than most women who grew up there. How did you learn to....make all the pickles, make your own mixo (!), create a bento box?

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