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eG Foodblog: Helenjp (teamed with Marlena) - The New Year's here -


helenjp
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OK...I'll see what I can do! My favorite way to make omuraisu is characteristically lazy. In a magazine somewhere, I read about making a "han-juku" omelet (still a bit runny inside), then splitting it and opening it out so that the not-quite-cooked inside spread out nearly flat. Then pile the hot ketchup-flavored chicken fried rice on, neaten it up, and INVERT onto the serving plate, tucking its skirts under a little - voila - omuraisu without the dry, rubbery omelet that often holds the dish back.

Are you referring to the Taimeiken-style omuraisu?

http://www.geocities.jp/backen_records/tra...kyo/taimei.html

Access the site and position the cursor on the omuraisu to see what happens.

Omuraisu thread on eGullet:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...ndpost&p=711025

The intersection on the east side of Kita-Kogane station, with the entrance to the SATY supermarket complex on the right, and the Picotee shops on the left. Downstairs is mostly junk, upstairs is a sourdough bread shop and a few cafes and noodle shops. The noodle shops have been there for ever, the cafes change hands alarmingly often. Does this tell you something about the Kogane dining-out culture?! Oh yes, son1 insisted that you would want to see that tangle of green wire in the foreground - it's one of the "Kogane Illumination" items. Local kids make wire frames with tiny lights on them in various shapes, and these are illuminated over Christmas and New Year. Son1's festive airplane is somewhere on the hedge you can see in the next photo.

Thank you for the photos!! No, the landscape has changed so much... SATY was still under construction when I moved from Matsudo.

And the guy at Kuromonya... Yeah, I know him, I know him!!! In fact, he is the very person I wanted to see! He was a lovable man and a nodding acquaintance of mine. And I really liked Kuromonya's 'daikon no tamari zuke', 350 yen at that time, a little pricey but very tasty. After I moved to Shiozawa, I once craved it so much I phone the shop and ordered some. I got new year's cards from them for a few years. Never expected to see the man... on eGullet!! Thank you so much, Helen. YOU MADE MY DAY.

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There is steambread "mushipan" (a homophone for "insect bread" to the delight of children and foreigners...).

Desserts here are not eaten after meal but as "oyatsu" or the 8th-hour snack (4pm). The traditional thick, sticky, and filling sweets are things like

* grandma's bota-mochi (a ball of plain rice covered in sticky bean-jam,

* mochi rice cakes stretched with other ingredients blended in (sweet potato, pumpkin, etc.)

* dried out mochi rice-cakes deepfried

* sweet bean soups with grilled mochi or rice-flour dumplings...

* rice-flour dumplings steamed then grilled (if you're lucky) and served with a clear sweetened soy-sauce topping (or bean-jam)

* one of the few cakey items I can think of are dorayaki - a type of pancake, sandwiched together with beanjam (big favorite of my husband's)

Prasantrin, I think you're right - "chef au saucier" or something along those lines. Transliterating katakana is a profession in itself. My husband's company got one of their automobile specialists to translate a fashion mag feature...and had to redo it themselves after he translated the "vents" in a tight kick-pleat skirt as "Benz"...

Must get on - I really just came to look up a recipe I thought I had for oysters in miso, to go with tonight's rice congee (okayu). Kids have put the Christmas tree away, and are getting hungry...

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That was a nice, warming dinner!

We had okayu (a fairly thick "zengayu") or rice congee, topped with chopped up leftovers from a dish of mixed greens dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic.

The small fish are semi-dried sardines. On the plate at right is mizuna wrapped in bachi-maguro (bigeye tuna) dressed with soy sauce and wasabi, and a few sesame seeds. Also some oysters which sat in soy sauce and sake for about 20 minutes before being grilled, then served with crumbled nori and shreds of yuzu (citron) peel and a drizzle of soy sauce.

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My boys took several mikans into the bath (already fragrant with a big bag of dried mikan peel), while my husband and eye are sneakily eating strawberry Pocky with a big cup of green tea.

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Helen, the box of Arcadia cookies from Morozoff brought back memories - I brought back an oblong tin of these and two tins of other Morozoff cookies from my first trip to Japan 18 years ago. The tin now contains my teaching essentials - stickers and stamps.

BTW I still often see the spelling schnapper.

Keep up the great work.

Edited by Cadbury (log)
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That was a nice, warming dinner!

We had okayu (a fairly thick "zengayu") or rice congee, topped with chopped up leftovers from a dish of mixed greens dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic.

The small fish are semi-dried sardines. On the plate at right is mizuna wrapped in bachi-maguro (bigeye tuna) dressed with soy sauce and wasabi, and a few sesame seeds. Also some oysters which sat in soy sauce and sake for about 20 minutes before being grilled, then served with crumbled nori and shreds of yuzu (citron) peel and a drizzle of soy sauce.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the blog and on the other side of the world, my husband just pointed to your dinner photo in your blog and said: I WANT THAT!!!!!

x marlena

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Nearly 1 am here, time for bath and bed for me - I just finished cooking most of breakfast and lunch, and had a giggle when I read the discussion on Marlena's blog. But I'm not telling, until we've eaten it!

My translation work started yesterday, but my teaching starts tomorrow...and I leave the house before 7am, so I'll be back on line in about 15 hours time!

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Helen, why would people avoid the free sweet potatoes? Why does he give them away, anyway? It's completely endearing and incomprehensible, to me.

As soon as you said an, thought an pan. I know it's really junk food, at least the version I can get here, but it's so yummy.

Edited by Abra (log)
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Helenjp,

You may not think your box is anything special but I think it's elegant.

My son ended up making udon noodles cooked in a miso broth with an egg poached on top, then futo maki with beef as a nod to his fish hating sister and a compressed sushi with salmon, and a shredded daikon/carrot salad. We finished with persimmons and vanilla ice cream. He folded little origami for everyone's place.

Can you tell us something about the structure of japanese meals?

And, is there a season of greater cold and one of lesser cold? How do the foods vary in each season?

Great photos!

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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I've been thinking about what I might like to see you make. I don't know if it's been done before, but I'd love to see sukiyaki--you could even do it with lamb!

Or I'd love to see your kabocha croquette. Mine are still not very good--don't know what I'm doing wrong!

And I think you mentioned once that you had a cream croquette recipe that called for cooking the roux for a very long time....

edited to add: And maybe you could show us what you might do with a can of demi-glace sauce. I must admit, I've never used it, but I feel I should. Especially after my friend complained about not being able to find it in Canada. But what would I do with it other than use it as a sort of gravy?

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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CHINESE CABBAGE PICKLES

I brought in the Chinese cabbage that had been drying on the balcony in the cold wind, and used some of it for the Mongolian noodles yesterday. Late last night, I salted the rest...

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...using coarse, moist Japanese pickling salt, at a rate of 3% by weight.

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I'll start this out with a weight double that of the vegetables, until the moisture covers the Chinese cabbage. As the vegetable has been partly dried, it will take a while, and I will need to watch out for mold...I'll toss in a couple of red chili peppers before I cover it.

OMURAISU BENTO

I was planning on chicken fried rice for our bento, so I made omuraisu instead.

I used rice from the freezer, and there wasn't quite enough for the quantity of vegetables (1/2 onion sauteed, about 50g chopped ham, a good handful of chicken pieces left over from ozouni, small handful of shimeji mushrooms, 2 small Japanese green peppers, lots of pepper, salt, and finally about 2 tab ketchup.

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Then I made the omelet...here you see the monkey fall from the tree!! :biggrin:

No excuse - the texture was fine, which is why I included the photo, but the pan was too big and maybe not hot enough. Texture: the key thing is not to overbeat the raw eggs, and to take it off the heat while the inside is still a little liquid. Some people add the tiniest amount of grated garlic to the raw egg mixture. This ketchup is on the UNDERSIDE of the finished omelet, between the omelet and the rice. The omelet I made for my husband's bento turned out better - he even phoned me to tell me how good it tasted at lunchtime :wub:

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His 'n hers bento - mine has a handy container for chopsticks, but it only takes baby-size chopsticks which are all but impossible to use. At right is husband's favorite bento box, minus the drop-in plastic compartments I usually use. There is a side of katsuo flakes and spinach, and a few slices of bettara-zuke daikon pickles at the back.

Oh yes - this is the main purpose of our (grubby) microwave - the door folds down into probably the most useful preparation surface in my kitchen :shock:

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I put oatmeal and a grated apple to cook on the "congee" setting of my rice cooker last night, and had a quick bowl of that this morning. My husband got the boys out of their pajamas (reluctantly) and to the table (eagerly), but no photos of all that.

Our bentos went in the microwave briefly, and off I went to university. SOrry, I forgot my camera...

HOT DOGS

Before I went to bed last night, I made a batch of son2's hot dog sauce - the recipe I showed him for his home economics "homework". While I was at university, they heated the sausages in the microwave...

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...and put relish and dogs into rolls. I see they don't use plates when Mum's not around...

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DORAYAKI

I bought these pancakes filled with beanjam home for their snack. Cheap, but pretty tasty (I swiped a bite, one from each to be fair!). Note the almost-crumpetlike cellular structure. I think it's probably hartshorn-leavened.

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TAKOYAKI

No okonomiyaki, but TAKOYAKI!!!! Octopus balls - and here you thought they didn't have them! There's a great fish-shop under the train tracks near university, and there I got two boiled octopus heads - about 1/4 the price of legs, and just fine for this recipe.

We made two batches of 30 from this recipe, and made a few experiements. Here'S the conclusive recipe!

Batter: 200g weak-gluten cake flour (use stronger flour if you want a more manageable batter) 2 tsp baking powder, 800cc dashi stock or water, pinch sugar, dash soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar if desired, 1 beaten egg. Beat wet into dry.

Ingredients: Chop up 1 big octopus leg or 1-2 heads (preboiled) into chunks about 1/2 to 1cm square. Chop up about 50-70g net weight of red pickled ginger shreds (or use less fresh ginger), finely chop 1 bunch of scallions, get a 100g bag of tenkasu (tempura scraps - note that if you use homemade ones, they'll probably weigh more).

The photo shows 40g finely grated Japanese yam, but experiment shows that takoyaki is MUCH better without it! Keep the yam for okonomiyaki, where it will more than earn its keep.

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Unorthodox but yummy - preheat the grill, oil (use a kitchen towel soaked in oil), and then quickly drop in the ingredients so that they sizzle just a bit before being covered with batter.

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No need to be neat and tidy with batter, as you gather the overflow into the ball as you go.

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When the batter is still liquid in the middle, sprinkle a little more soy sauce on if you want, and a few more ten-kasu (both these are optional).

Once the batter is noticeably dry round the edges (like pancake) but sloppy in the middle, use one or two bamboo skewers to quickly loosen round the edge, then make a circular motion and flip it over. Don't do this too early, or you'll end up repeating the task, and the ball will collapse.

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Turned over by me and 2 boys - not very professional, but serviceable.

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Eat while hot! Still gooey in the middle - Osaka style.

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To serve, add thick Japanese worcestershire sauce, and top with ao-nori laver flakes, katsuo flakes, and if you must, aberrations like mayonnaise or ketchup.

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We've made these with whole-kernel sweetcorn and chopped up wiener sausage too...so don't be put off if you don't have octopus available. Dutch poffertje irons work well, though they are much smaller.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Those brown bits are the ten-kasu - the scraps that float up when you deepfry tempura. Drained, they keep well in the freezer, and add richness and lightness to takoyaki and okonomiyaki.

Ahh! I knew that was familiar looking. I didn't realize that they sold them in packages, though, or that you could add them to takoyaki, etc. I've only had them as "garnish" in noodle dishes.

And, spanning over from your post in Marlena's blog about mac and cheese... your husband eats it with rice?! That sounds like how people here eat there spaghetti - with 2 scoops of rice on the side. I'll ask the same question that I asked Marlena - do your husband and sons have any foods that they must have? Or that you make for them but that you cannot stand?

Oh, and the rice cooker question. You made oatmeal in your rice cooker! Do you use your rice cooker for any other cooking purposes other than rice (and oatmeal)?

ps - the next time I eat passion fruit, I shall also think of you! :D

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Time to answer some questions:

Why do people avoid free sweet potatoes? I think that what used to be strictly a tourist route to the temple has become a main access route to the station, so regular commuters are immune to their charms - also, the charcoal roasting makes them dry and floury - very sweet that way, but also dry on days when the wind is cold and dry. Not to mention the gas-inducing properties...

I think he gives them away to encourage sales, but also just for old times' sake - the vegetable shop also gives away sweet potatoes, and mochi grilled over their heater. Sweet potatoes grilled over charcoal are a forgotten taste now that everybody grills their fish under a gas broiler.

Hiroyuki, you probably remember this road as lined with vegetable fields and patches of irises - it's all new housing now.

Abra - anpan - I hear you, but I'm not sure if I'll obey!! I have made anpan in the past - it was very difficult to get a nice, pillowy bread dough that rises without creating a big gap between the an filling and the bread dough. Any tips?

Sukiyaki - my husband has been muttering "sukiyaki" since before Christmas, but I have been hanging out for 1) cheaper post-New Year prices and 2) Australian beed. We'll see what's in the supermarket this weekend - the other necessity is nice, fat doro-negi (long onions sold with the dirt still on them). Bad weather in the autumn has really affected price and availability of winter vegetables recently.

Fou de Bassan, your son did a wonderful job! My sons have not become as interested in cooking as I had hoped. They say they are afraid that things won't taste good, but I think that son1 is not greatly interested, and son2's music practice eats up too much of his time.

The "lesser cold" is in some ways the colder season and the more risky to health, as we get the cold, dry continental winds which dry the nose and throat and make it so easy to catch colds and flu. The idea is that in the lesser cold you should eat light, warming dishes with plenty of carbs and dried fruits/dried vegetables to warm up and help retain fluids, and then move to more nourishing dishes as the "great cold" approaches. The "dog days" of summer apparently come in winter too - in summer, people traditionally eat eel then, but in winter (the dog days this year fall from Jan 17 - Feb 3, peaking on Jan 24), a time to eat nourishing winter meats and nabe.

Japanese meal structure - the basics are rice, soup, pickles, salt/dried fish. More formally, there should be something with a dressing, something grillled etc. In primitive times, it was boiled rice or congee plus stone-baked or fire-grilled meats or nutmeat patties, and I think that old feeling that there should be something boiled and something grilled still prevails.

I keep turning that over in my mind - the old "puddings" that Marlena talks of remind me of the old cauldron-based cooking - the slice off the ham boiled with the pot-herbs, the dumpling (sweetened or not) or porridge. Japanese love to talk about how unhealthy western food is, but they are talking about a particular subset of Victorian and Edwardian dishes which became popular in Japan because they didn't need an oven, and because they were based on cheap starch rather than expensive protein - croquettes, curry and rice, etc. I don't think that the vegetable soup + slice of meat + dumpling or potato western basic meal is essentially more unhealthy than the basic Japanese counterpart!

Bean jam tomorrow, then...though I now recall that I tossed my horsehair sieve last year as it was a bit insect-eaten, thinking that I might never make sarashi-an ( a type of fine bean jam) again, so I will have to make do.

Photos of markets...may be difficult - the supermarkets are not welcoming of photos, and the local shops are still closed. But tomorrow I plan to buy some millet at the health shop near my son2's violin teacher, and hope to get some photos there.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Must have foods - I think that would be miso soup for my husband. Occasionally he gets up and makes it himself if I haven't made any!

And yes, he does cook...partly because he was 40 when we married, partly becauase he grew up in a household with an alcoholic father and a tubercular stepmother - he decided that if he didn't make himself handy, things might get too much for his stepmother, and she might leave.

My kids, of course, have eaten a mixture of foods since they were little, so they think it's normal to sometimes have miso soup and sometimes not. However, they miss their rice if we don't eat it in when in New Zealand.

They miss NZ sausages while in Japan.

I'm really racking my brains over the question of what NZ foods I cook in Japan - so much is determined by 1) meal style - the old macaroni cheese as a side-dish to rice issue, and 2) availability of ingredients, and 3) cooking styles - it's so expensive to fire up the oven here.

Since stewing cuts of meat are VERY rare here, I don't cook the stews etc that I might otherwise. I do cook stove-top dishes like soups, or stews plumped up with dumplings though. I also cook desserts, and serve them for breakfast, since a rice-based Japanese dinner is not really conducive to a starchy dessert. I also make NZ-style preserves such as vinegar pickles, or the kiwifruit jam that appeared earlier in the blog.

I suppose I also cook things that I didn't cook in NZ, but which satisfy my desire for more varied tastes but also go well with rice - middle eastern and south american foods, Korean and Chinese food, in particular.

And porridge!! My husband won't eat it, but the boys and I eat it all winter.

Rice-cooker multi-purposing...it doesn't work exactly like a slow-cooker, as the heat is varied rather than constant, but near enough. People used to cook cakes in rice cookers, but now that the ricecookers measure weight, cake batter is too light to cook properly in a rice cooker.

I regularly steam/bake potatoes and sweet potatoes in the rice-cooker. I also sometimes slow-cook large chunks of meat. I also cooked the New Year black beans in the rice cooker. It doesn't reduce the liquid enough, so I boil up the liquid until syrupy and pour it over the cooked beans. All these do best on the slower "congee" setting, but potatoes etc will do fine on the normal rice setting. You can add butter or a splash of sake, but it doesn't seem to be necessary.

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This isn't about food, but have you ever mentioned whether your kids are bilingual? I can't remember...

Have you ever tried the breakfast sausages from Costco? I can't remember the brand off-hand, but they're pretty good. Unless your kids miss the smoked kind of sausage, then they won't do at all!

edited to add:

Did you mention you had a recipe for kinkan marmalade? I wouldn't seeing that, if you do. I've been craving kinkan but I'm too poor to buy some right now!

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Thank you for those takoyaki! I never have a good plan for the octopus head, and I have an aebleskiver pan, which I think would work fine. The ten-kasu might be a problem, but I've never looked for it specifically. Now I will.

Really, I didn't mean that you have to make anpan, just that I love it. I've never made it myself, only had the bought version. However, if you should happen to make it, I'll be glued to the screen. What am I saying, I'm already glued to your blog!

Do the Japanese do anything with quince? I have a big bowlful that need to be transformed in some new way.

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OMURAISU BENTO

[snip!]

Then I made the omelet...here you see the monkey fall from the tree!! :biggrin:

Yes!

I read your posts a couple of times (and I forgot about the canned demi-glace since they showed those in the drama) about filling the near-ready omelette with the omuraisu. Seems to be the right way to go, except that I haven't gotten the hang of it. First attempt looked like a haggis that exploded during cooking, so I'll just have to keep at it.

Takoyaki was another great surprise to see in your blog; I'll have to give your recipe a go as a different type of hors-d'oeuvre. It's a great way to use the octopus head though that means that I can't reserve it as a snack while prepping the tentacles.

By the way, are cauntelopes still available? I was in Taiwan in November and Sogo had imports from Japan for about $68 USD.

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I had my first taste of dorayaki and takoyaki at the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco last spring. Dorayaki was interesting but i think would take a bit of getting used to.

I think the takoyaki was made with ground beef but it was very good with the ao-nori. They used the ao-nori to top yakisoba, too.

Great blog. Japanese food and life style fascinates me.

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I won't claim to be a great bread-baker, but as far as the anpan goes... my understanding (and experience) indicates that if you allow filled yeast breads to rise a little longer on the counter before you bake them, there's less "oven spring" and so less chance of the big gap between filling (which doesn't rise) and dough (which does). Also, I don't know if anpan calls for it, but some eggwash seems to serve as a binder between the filling and the dough, at least during rising.

These two hints combined (can't recall where I picked them up) seem to make for a tighter swirl-type bread when I make it.

Jennie

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