Friday, December 28, 2012

Yoshinoya's Asiana Grill + GIVEAWAY!

I've written about Yoshinoya's donburi before in my donburi recipes, and I'm definitely a fan of their gyudon beef bowls. Recently, however, I got to sample their new fare at the new Asiana Grill.

While their classic beef bowl is still available, along with a chicken pineapple bowl, the Asiana Grill menu is completely different from a regular Yoshinoya. How it works: you pick a meat (or tofu), an entree style, and a sauce. My mother compared it to restaurants like Chipotle, where you pick burrito, taco, or salad and then choose your meat and additions.

So I am sure you are thinking, will this new restaurant style work for Yoshinoya's cheap and healthy Japanese fast food? Let's find out after the jump!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Raya at the Ritz-Carlton

Miss Mochi goes fine dining! No seriously, its a rarity. I need a monocle and a top hat, stat.

For my dad's birthday, we went to Raya at the Laguna Niguel Ritz-Carlton, and I couldn't resist sharing everything with you. In fact, I think our waiter thought my mother was crazy, with her huge camera snapping pictures of everything.

Per the official website, "Raya, named “Restaurant of the Year” by Riviera Orange County in July 2011, is a restaurant concept by acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval. Raya showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meat and Chef Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flavors."

Yes, there were plenty of Latin flavors, but also a lot of Japanese influences too, with togarashi, kabayaki, and even ramen noodles on the menu. The thing that annoyed me the most, being a possibly anal former English major but also a Japanese American was the fact that "shishito peppers" was labeled as "sushito peppers" on the menu. You'd think such a fancy establishment that touts itself as such could afford a fact-checker.

Okay, had to get that off my chest.

Top: Mr. Mochi, Mom, Brother. Bottom: Miss Mochi, Grandma, Dad

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Miso Tamago

The trifecta of my favorite bento hard boiled eggs concludes with this post: Miso Tamago.  Miso marinated hard boiled eggs are like marbled tea eggs and shoyu tamago in that they are portable and seasoned well enough they can be eaten by themselves, unadorned. Not that they aren't delicious mixed into a salad, but I like being able to tuck them into a bento with some rice and tsukemono, furikake and veggies for a quick and light lunch.

Also delicious as a ramen add-on, slice one in half and dunk it in the ramen, miso and all.

Unlike the shoyu tamago which don't store well in the fridge, the miso tamago and marbled tea eggs are fine to sit in the fridge for a couple days. In fact, you want the miso tamago to sit in the fridge at least for a couple hours or overnight, to make sure the miso permeates the egg.

The miso you use will directly affect the taste of the finished product, so it is best to use a good quality fresh white miso. Red miso would probably end up making the egg too salty, but feel free to experiment.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Oden (おでん)

I have been so excited, waiting for the temperature to drop. It's been so hot this fall, that I've been dreaming of sweaters, hot apple cider, and my favorite cool weather Japanese foods while wearing shorts and sandals and bemoaning the overbearing sun.

Apparently Southern California weather has some serious flaws when you love winter.

Around this time of year, oden starts popping up on menus at izakayas and other Japanese restaurants. A hot pot hodgepodge of fish cakes, tofu, daikon, and more simmered in broth, oden is a soul warming comfort food similar to tomato soup and a grilled cheese here in America. When it rains, it's always a toss up between oden and my mom's turkey soup.

My fish cake heavy version
The thing I love best about oden is that everyone does it differently. In the Shizuoka area, the dark heady broth is flavored with beef and dark soy and everything is on skewers. Conversely, Western Japan favors a lighter dashi broth, and in the Nagoya area it is made with miso. Even convenience stores will have oden, and you can get it canned out of vending machines!

Oden is one of those wonderful dishes that everyone makes different depending on what you grew up with.
From wiki, check out this epic oden!

The first time I had oden, I called it "fish cake soup" because I had no clue what it was called.

The nice thing is that everything tastes better the longer it's simmered, and it is even better the next day reheated. So for New Year's my family would have a crockpot with oden warming up on a side board, a perfect dish to make ahead and reheat for the party.

You can add whatever you want to your oden. I have a recipe at the end, but it is really up to you. There are premade oden sets in the Japanese markets, feel free to go with these until you decide which additions you like, then pick out your own! The most common ingredients are daikon radish, hard-boiled eggs, chikuwa and other fish cakes, konnyaku, and tofu- both fried and fresh. The more unusual and regional ingredients include beef tendon, octopus, and pig trotters!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Eggnog Bundt Cake

Mr. Mochi is obsessed with eggnog. As soon as it is available in stores, he will chug that stuff down by the pint. No exaggeration, he probably gets a day's worth of calories by the time he's done with the carton. So I decided I wanted to make him some sort of eggnog baked good. There were several recipes for eggnog bundt cake that I spied recently, notably America's Test Kitchen's version, so I decided that I might as well break out the bundt pan again!

Now I wanted an eggnog cake with real eggnog in it, not just eggnog spices like the America's Test Kitchen's version, because I knew Mr. Mochi would be delighted for me to bring home a jug of eggnog that he gets to polish off after I've stolen a cup or two.

This is a twist on an eggnog pound cake recipe I found online, and Mr. Mochi was delighted to have a leftover jug of eggnog and a cake that in his words, "tastes just like eggnog, only better!"

 Now, I like eggnog with just a smidge of rum (just enough to thin the consistency a bit) and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, but this is a good way to eat your eggnog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Fresh mochi is best eaten the same day it's made. Never refrigerate or freeze it, unless you want a hard rock to gnaw on. Even tightly sealed in plastic wrap or tupperware, mochi dries out fast. The exception to this is ice cream filled mochi, which is made differently to keep it soft when frozen.

Sometimes though, I need my mochi cravings fulfilled without the trials of steaming some mochiko to make mochi dough. And even that is the lazy man's way: the traditional mochi-making process takes fresh steamed sweet rice and pounds the fuck out of it with a giant mallet until it turns into a smooth glutinous mass. Yes, I know, but that required both a cuss word and some hot bolding action. Traditional mochi making is a serious back breaking multiple-person event.

Thank goodness Miss Mochi lives in this century, where mochi is not reserved just for the rich and royal and doesn't require a team of beefy men to make it. You can get dried mochi cakes at any Japanese market for cheap, as well as delicious fresh wagashi (dessert mochi) both at the markets and at Japanese confectioneries.

Dried mochi
Well... it might actually be better for my waistline if some things weren't so plentiful and cheap, like McDonald's french fries. But that's another topic entirely.

Here's a recipe for yakimochi, or grilled mochi, that is drizzled in brown sugar and soy sauce. My mom would sometime serve this for a toasty breakfast treat! Fun fact: "yakimochi" also means "jealous" in Japanese, because of the way a person puffs up when they are jealous. I think it should be because anyone who doesn't have yakimochi would be super jealous!


Most people are familiar with the squishy fresh mochi that surrounds ice cream. Available at Trader Joe's and every American sushi restaurant, this is usually an American's first introduction to mochi. The first time I brought mochi in for my coworkers, they were puzzled and asked me if it was real mochi, because there was no ice cream! Nowadays, they might experience mochi topping their frozen yogurt at Pinkberry and Yogurtland.

Going into a Japanese confectionery, you will see rows and rows of sweet wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. Lightly sweetened mochi is colorful or resplendent in its natural creamy white sheen, plumped up with fruits or azuki bean paste called anko. Japanese American versions sometimes even have peanut butter in them! My favorite as a kid was the plain mochi with the pink orange and green stripes on them.

As wonderful as dessert mochi is, most of you will be surprised that there is savory mochi! Mochi without any added sweeteners, it is used in a variety of dishes, including soups.

Japanese stores sell savory mochi, dried and hard, called kirimochi and is used in the Eastern/Northern areas in Japan. A round version is called marumochi, which is popular in the Southern parts. Here in Southern California, they stock both version.

To use kirimochi, you can drop it in hot water until softened, boil it, fry it, grill it, deep-fry it, or even microwave it. It is very versatile.
Marumochi and Kirimochi

To substitute for sweet mochi used in recipes like Ichigo Daifuku:
3 kirimochi blocks
3 tbs sugar
3 tbs water

Place mochi, sugar, and water into a small microwave bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap. Heat on medium power for 3 minutes. Stir until the water is completely combined. Tada! Sweet mochi dough.

Recipes that use kirimochi:
Kinako Mochi 
Bacon Wrapped Mochi 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wagashi: Microwave Jello Mochi

You'd think that with the moniker "Miss Mochi" I'd feature a lot more mochi recipes than I currently have. Well, I start craving mochi around the holidays, so watch out for a lot more mochi recipes!

This recipe uses a microwave tube pan specially designed for mochi with a removable bottom. You don't need one, you can just use a square pyrex with an overturned coffee cup in the middle. I do love the microwave tube pan, because the removable bottom makes it easy to remove the mochi. Plus it's less than $6 online!

I was kind of apprehensive to use jello in mochi. As I've made it clear on this blog, I'm not too fond of jello. My mother is the ravenous jello freak that keeps requesting jello for holidays, whereas I find it kind of weird. However, jello does not impart any sort of texture change to the mochi, just the color and flavor.

Microwave Tube Pan
Unlike traditional mochi, which must be steamed for a good 30 minutes, this is a very quick recipe because it uses the microwave. While the microwave is not the ideal appliance for a lot of foods, it steams the mochiko quite effectively.

Use any jello flavor that strikes your fancy, I think a lime mochi or fruit punch mochi would be fun and exciting! I used mango and strawberry flavors for these ones. For extra flavor combos, replace the water with fruit juice, like orange jello + mango juice!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Layered Jello

For Thanksgiving this year, I was in charge of a few things. My mother took advantage of my close proximity to borrow my oven for dishes. Everyone know that the turkey takes up a ton of room in the oven, so having access to another oven freed her cooking schedule up quite a bit. I was in charge of heating up the three stuffings, brie en croute, and the seville marmalade glazed sweet potatoes.

However, as detailed in my bacon gravy and biscuits post, my oven is one foot in the grave. I solved the problem of not heating up and I've had good luck recently baking cakes, but apparently shoving in an entire oven full of dishes straight from the fridge was too much for it. The oven temperature plummeted and slowly limped back up to the proper temperature, which means that my dishes took forever to heat up!

I was so frazzled I nearly forgot my jello in the race to the celebration, with around 9 dishes in tow, some very very hot (wrapped in foil, then beach towels to keep warm), as well as a boyfriend and a dog way too interested in this whole festivity. I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head the entire time, she was begging so hard.

This jello recipe definitely takes some time to make, but it is pretty hands off, as most of the time is spent chilling the layers.  This is always requested by my mother, and I knew that her flower arrangements were in fall colors, so I chose red, orange, and yellow to complement them.

Friday, November 23, 2012


In elementary school, the way we learned about Thanksgiving was that people in loincloths and feathers sat down with people with funny buckle shoes and dowdy hats, and had this awesome feast. They were so buddy-buddy, you wanted to be at that first Thanksgiving table! We all made hats out of construction paper in class and sat down as "Indians" and "Pilgrims."

They didn't teach you until later about the genocide of the American Indians. No teacher told us about the idea of Manifest Destiny causing the death of so many that Holocaust expert David Cesarani stated that more were killed during the white settling of this country than the Holocaust. The Trail of Tears led the Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, and Chickasaw on a death march in the middle of freezing cold and famine.

Nothing was mentioned in elementary school that the first Pilgrims would have not survived their first year here if it weren't for the Wampanoag tribe, and that the Pilgrims later fell to cannibalism to survive. That the graves of the Wampanoag were robbed by the pilgrims, their crops were stolen, and the Wampanoag themselves were sold into slavery wouldn't have made for a good national holiday. Thanksgiving would be an untainted holiday if the schools had left American Indian/Pilgrim "friendship" out altogether. Why it became such a part of the curriculum of public schools still makes no sense to me, and miffs me a bit how sugarcoated history can be.

I love my grandma
I'm part Choctaw. What do I do with this holiday, that glosses over most of the nasty parts of our history yet presents it to little kids as such? Do I shun it, like many American Indians? Do I embrace it, like some do? I'm not Christian nor does my family celebrate this as a religious holiday, so I am certainly not thanking a god with this holiday.

I guess I am truly an adult now, when this sort of soul searching occurs.

I do, and will continue to, celebrate Thanksgiving. You will never find any caricatures of smiley feather-wearing natives decorating our table.  I view it simply as a day of thanks and giving gratitude back for family, friends, and health, which is one holiday that makes sense in every culture. No lavish gifts, no rampant spending and commercialization, just comfort food and the comfort of family.

I was especially thankful that almost everyone was able to make it this year. I wish I could freeze time to when I was a kid and everyone was healthy and younger, but my family and loved ones are getting older and older.

And don't worry, recipes will follow. Right now, it's time to reflect and digest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oahu Shave Ice & Ice Cream

Hawaiian shave ice is one of my favorite treats. I was lucky enough to visit Hawaii several times during my youth, and it is still one of my favorite places I've been to. Probably because I loved being able to go to the beach and get a musubi right there on the shore, unlike the uninspired fries and chips here on Southern California beaches. Walk into Costco, and you can pick up Japanese snacks you'd need to hunt down in a specialty store here on the mainland.

Shave ice is not uniquely Hawaiian. It can be traced back to Japan, where it is called kakigori (かき氷). Unlike a snow cone, the ice is not crushed but shaved into fluffy clouds of snow that absorb flavoring rather than being coated in it. Originally it was cut with Japanese swords brought over to Hawaiian plantations, but today it is cut with a machine. It melts in your mouth, instead of being crunchy.

Topped with condensed milk, azuki beans, or even mochi, it often has a scoop of ice cream or anko at the bottom both in Japan and Hawaii. My mother, who loves ice cream and shave ice, would often take us to the local shave ice parlor just down the street from us. Unfortunately, the shave ice place closed when I was still in grade school, and the last time I was able to enjoy shave ice was then.

Then my mother recently tipped me off to the new shave ice in town: Oahu Shave Ice! Of course, being the icy treat obsessed lady that she is, it already had her stamp of approval. I had to check it out.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Renkon Chips

Renkon (蓮根), also called lotus root, is the rhizome of the lotus plant. It is eaten boiled, steamed, deep fried, stir fried, and even raw if it's young. Lotus root is very popular in a lot of Asian cuisines for its crunchy texture and and aesthetic appearance. The lacy holes in lotus root make it a showstopper in many dishes, giving visual appeal with no extra work besides slicing the root. Traditionally it is peeled before cooking, but for this recipe you can leave the skin on. The skin is kind of tannic, but the frying largely eliminates that, but I peeled mine just in case.

And while it's a starchy root, lotus root has a lot less carbohydrates and calories than potatoes, while being a good source of dietary fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese, as well as a great source of vitamin C.
Lotus root and cross-section

It also makes a pretty damn good chip for snacking.

While looking at izakaya food while writing my introduction to my review of Izakaya Honda-ya I fell upon pictures of lotus root that had been sliced thin and fried to a crisp like potato chips.

Hello? Why does my local izakaya not have these?

Since Mr. Mochi bought me a deep fryer for my birthday, I figured I'd make my own. (Why he bought me a deep fryer is beyond me... not a lot of room in this apartment. I think he wants katsu kare that isn't from KFC)

Don't worry if you don't have a deep fryer, an inch or so of oil in the bottom of a saucepan will work fine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kaki Kohaku Namasu (柿 紅白なます)

Kohaku Namasu (紅白なます) is a traditional celebration food in Japanese culture, most prominent around the New Years festivities. Usually it is made with julienned carrots and daikon radish that is soaked in a rice vinegar mixture. Red and white (kohaku) are considered lucky colors together, and even though this dish is actually orange and white, it's close enough.

And while New Year's is still a couple months away, I can't help but get wrapped up in the excitement before Thanksgiving. This is both a party dish and a quintessential fall dish, thanks to the persimmon, so I could see it at our table this Thanksgiving.

I decided to make this version because I still have quite the haul of fuyu kaki leftover despite my bundt cake. The persimmon takes place of the carrot, and substitutes well since both have a nice sweetness that plays off the bitter daikon and salty vinegar dressing. Some recipes include citrus juice, to play up the acidity.

Some people like to serve kohaku namasu immediately, other suggest letting it settle in the fridge for several hours or overnight to let the daikon and vinegar mellow.

Took forever, still huge pieces!
Every recipe also varies on the ratio of white to orange, so feel free to have more or less than I suggest based on your fancy. I kept eating the fresh persimmon and the freshly salted daikon before they ever made it into the vinegar mix!

When making this, I realized I am terrible at cutting things. Julienning the daikon and persimmon took forever, and I wasted a lot of the persimmon just because I didn't know how to properly make a squat round shape into matchsticks. Even then, the julienne pieces ended up being like 1/4" big. Oh well, maybe it's time to invest in a mandoline.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mexican Candy: Chile Mango Candies

Growing up in southern California, I was fortunate enough to be able to experience a myriad of different cultures. Not to mention the best thing about being a self proclaimed mutt is that growing up with so many tastes and textures means that rarely was I squeamish about a new food or cuisine.

So when the ice cream truck rolled down my grandmother's street, my brother and I were just as likely to pick a Mexican sweet as a popsicle. In fact, I was pretty obsessed with the Lucas Acidito Chili Powder, a salty tangy slightly hot powder that came in a little shaker with a duck on it. (Unfortunately, it was tested high for lead content in the late 2000s and subsequently pulled from the U.S. market. Lucas powders have been reformulated, and I bought some for my birthday in September and I can vouch that they are still delicious.)

My inspiration (pic credit Village Voice)
My tastebuds got a flashback when my coworker brought some Mexicandy back from her recent trip to Mexico. She plopped down a big ziplock of Vero Mango chili lollipops, tamarind pulp candy, and mazapan, and I was in heaven. The first lick of the lollipop brought me back to sitting on the curb outside Grandma's house. It's funny how food can do that to you.

So after my most recent foray into Mexicandy appreciation, I decided I had to make my own version. As tasty as those lollipops are, I happen to be lollipop challenged. I either somehow stab myself in the mouth or drool on myself while trying to do something two-handed with a sucker in my mouth. Therefore I wanted to make them without the stupid paper stick.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Japanese Curry Turnovers

When talking about my blog, my mother wanted to know if my blog followers were aware I was "The white girl version of a Japanese person," and I assured her that anyone who clicks on the About page would know I am very Caucasian in appearance, jokingly telling her, "Don't worry, they know I'm Jet Puffed Japanese!"

I think she was worried people would be deluded into thinking I'm some sort of wannabe Harumi Kurihara of the States. (Harumi Kurihara is like the Japanese Martha Stewart, and her cookbooks are awesome by the way). Just because I resemble my nickname (white, squishy, and sweet describes both me and mochi) doesn't mean I don't love sharing my hapa Japanese dishes with you all.

Even in high school, kids would look at me and tell me I don't look Asian enough to call myself part Japanese. Funnily enough, with his dark hair and more olive complexion, my brother would pass their test.

The best thing about being white-as-a-marshmallow yet also Japanese American, is that I am free to mix my cultures as you see fit. Especially since my mother and grandmother were bit of rebels when it comes to cooking, we all blur the lines a lot. Tuna sandwich with a side of ramen? Check. Tsukemono and deviled eggs at Thanksgiving? Every year!

So when I decided to bust out the puff pastry dough to make some meat pies (I love pasties) and instead ended up with a Japanese American version, I don't think either of those cooks would be surprised.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fuyu Kaki Bundt

It's kaki season again! Kaki (柿) is the Japanese word for persimmon. According to the Tokyo Foundation, kaki are one of the few fruits native to Japan, however more sources state that China is where it originated from. Either way, kaki have been cultivated in Japan since at least the 7th century. Before modern sugar, honey and kaki were the main sources of sweets in Japan, and kaki are omnipresent in Japanese art and ancient culture. The dried persimmon, hoshigaki, is a very rare treat from Japan that was presented to the Edo shogunate, as well as later foreign visitors such as Herman Hesse. Even to this day, hoshigaki are a rare treat only available in small quantities in the fall, due to the labor-intensive production.

Three fuyu and one hachiya
There are two basic types of kakis: the squat Fuyu that can be eaten crisp like an apple or the heart-shaped Hachiya type that is ripened until jelly-like inside. The Hachiya cannot be eaten hard because it is very astringent unless fully ripe.

My family is fortunate enough to have access to home grown persimmons. My great uncle John has a fuyu kaki tree, and around this time giant bags make their way from my grandmother filled with persimmons. As a kid, my mom would cut one up to accompany oatmeal for breakfast. Their natural spicy sweet flavor combined with their juicy crispness will always remind me of fall.

Once, my mom gave us an unripe persimmon. I will tell you right now, it is a life-scarring experience. They are inedible, with the astringency pulling every drop of moisture from your mouth. The closest experience that I can think of is getting the wind knocked out of you. Just like that, you are left gasping and gaping like a fish out of water.

I wanted to make something with my share of kaki this year, besides just eating them sliced like apples.  Despite not being a very seasoned baker, the Food Librarian's bundt recipe just spoke to me. I HAD to make this bundt, despite having to raid my mother's pantry for all her baking spices and going out to buy a bundt pan. Adapted from a 70's recipe from Sunset Magazine, I hope you will love this spice bread with the nuggets of kaki melted into it and walnuts providing a nice contrast.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yuen Yeung

Yuen yeung, also known as yuanyang, yinyong, or yinyeung, is a super tasty and easy to make drink. Yuen yeung, named after the opposites-attract nature of Mandarin ducks, is milk tea and coffee mixed together, and can be served either hot or cold. This drink hails from Hong Kong, where it was originally served with street food, then at cafes. This drink has become so popular that Starbucks in Hong Kong had a Yuen Yeung Frappuccino!

To me, nothing is better before class than grabbing my favorite pineapple bun warm and toasty from the Chinese bakery next to my college and swiping a yuen yeung milk tea from the boba cafe next door. Fortunately for my waistline, I don't indulge in that combination as often as I'd like, but it is one that I suggest everyone try at least once.
Starbucks Ad!

I've made milk tea for this blog before, but traditionally yuen yeung is made with Hong Kong style milk tea, which is made with evaporated milk and sugar. This obviously will make the milk tea even creamier, so for this recipe I made it with condensed milk. There is some contention on using condensed milk versus evaporated milk and sugar, but I happen to have condensed milk in my cupboard so that's what I always use and I'm not too ruffled if I am not completely authentic.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Site Updates

I've had a stressful and busy time, these last couple of weeks. You wouldn't believe the weird and zany world that is used car dealerships. I'm glad I only had to speak to a handful of them.

Then came the challenge of learning to drive a stick shift.

I thought I was set, I mean I played plenty of video games growing up; I've got excellent hand-eye coordination. I rode horses competitively for over a decade, I can handle having my feet doing nuanced actions independent of each other.

Then I remembered I live in Southern California, where drivers think anyone who isn't capable of going from a total stop to 10 miles over the speed limit in 2.5 seconds must be drawn and quartered. I've never paid attention to how close drivers get to the car in front of them at red lights until I had to worry about rolling back on hills.

I'm proud to say I've never grinded the gears, and no longer stall out after the first couple drives. My main problem is giving it a little too much gas while the clutch is still disengaged, so it sounds like I want to race, or revv my engine oh-so-sexily to attract the ladies. Nothing is sexier than finally finding the clutch point and having your car wheels literally squeal with acceleration.

Couple this with incidents like the boys accidentally leaving out a pound of candy corn for Tiara to eat, and somehow your energy gets drained. Note to readers: candy corn vomit is bright orange and will not come out of carpet due to the stomach acid and artificial coloring combo burning into the carpet fibers, even if you try to clean it up immediately. No matter what you try, your beige carpet will now have giant orange patches that scream "lost security deposit" every time you look at them.

So don't worry, I've got tons of posts started and lined up for November. In the meantime, enjoy my updated pictures for Ichigo Daifuku Mochi! I'm slowly going through my less-than-stellar pictures of when I first started this blog and replacing it with better pictures and more step by step ones as well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Coco Ichibanya Curry House

Recently I've been pretty stressed out and not wanting to cook a thing. Fast food wasn't doing anything but making me more sluggish and more uninspired. I needed some comfort food, stat! And nothing is more tasty and simple than kare raisu (カレーライス), or curry rice. So Mr. Mochi and I went to check out Coco Ichibanya Curry House, located at the Diamond Jamboree in Irvine, which is chock-full of all sorts of Asian American stores and restaurants.

Reading this blog, you know that Mr. Mochi is a huge fan of Japanese curry. For a white boy, he is quite the connoisseur of fried foods and rice smothered in gravy-like curry sauce. He was very keen on trying out a new curry place.

Coco Inchibanya first started in Nagoya, Japan, in 1978 and now has over 1200 restaurants in Japan, as well as many more internationally in places like China, Korea, and Thailand. Their first U.S. restaurant didn't open until 2011, and now there's three of them. Funnily enough, all three are in Southern California, all within 45 minutes of me!
Keema curry with naan bread

Coco Ichibanya has a unique menu, in that you can choose the quantity of rice and the level of spiciness in increasing levels. Unless you are super hungry, the normal amount of rice I think would satisfy (I had leftover with the normal portion), but you can order any quantity you want! Also fun is the mind-boggling array of topping choices, everything from the classic tonkatsu or beef/carrots/potatoes, to cream chicken, fried squid, or even sausages.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Shaved dried bonito is one of the main ingredients of dashi*
Dashi is one of the pillars of Japanese cooking, rubbing shoulders with shoyu and mirin as an essential of the Japanese pantry. It is a stock made from dried bonito tuna and sea kelp that helps infuse Japanese cuisine with umami, and forms the base for almost all Japanese broths and soups.

It is used in miso soup, simmered dishes, noodle dipping sauces, even omelets, to impart a simple savoriness. Dashi is one of the foundations of Japanese cusine, like béchamel to the French and salsa to Latino cooking. To me, it is like homemade poultry stock; so simple yet nuanced in flavor. And unlike homemade chicken stock, it is super easy and fast to make from scratch.

I've got the little jar of Hondashi in my fridge*
The most common type of dashi is the aforementioned kombu (sea kelp) and katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna flakes) combination, but there are also vegetarian version that use kombu or shiitake mushrooms, as well as versions using dried baby sardines.

Nowadays, even in Japan, it is more common to use dashi granules than making it from scratch. These granules are usually stronger flavored than traditional dashi, and depending on the quality, can have harsh tastes of salt and MSG.

I won't lie and say that I always make my dashi from scratch. We all know by now that I am hilariously to-a-fault lazy. Come on, I made the KFC Katsu Kare Donburi and even blogged about it. But really, making dashi is easy and cheap, and the best thing is the ingredients to make it last a long time if stored properly and it is really simple to make.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hatch Chile Jelly

One last New Mexican green chile recipe

I made this quick and easy jelly at the end of Hatch chile season, so I either have to wait until next year or use Anaheim chiles to make another batch.

In the last hatch chile pepper jelly I made, I found some red chiles to give some interesting color, but this time I made sure to get the classic green for a monochromatic tribute. In addition, this jelly is nothing but hatch; no apricot, no onion, just chiles! The short cooking time allows the pepper to retain their crunch in the jelly.

If you've ever found yourself pondering what you could possibly do with a hot and sweet pepper spread besides over toast, I have some suggestions below:

Interesting twist on a quesadilla: spread some jelly on the inside of a tortilla, top with shredded cheese and meat of your choice, and grill until melted. I did this for my habanero gold jelly and made a quesadilla with leftover rotisserie chicken and cheddar.

Heat it up and swipe it over grilled meats right at the end of cooking: Grilled fish, poultry, and red meats will all benefit. Great when making grilled fish tacos!

Quick and easy appetitizer: Top crackers or toast with goat cheese and pepper jelly. Also good with cream cheese.

Fired up? Let's make some hatch chile jelly!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gyudon (牛丼)

Gyudon is a relative newcomer to the donburi scene. Because of the era of Nara Buddhist rule, beef was outlawed from being consumed for over a thousand years until the Meiji Restoration. In fact, all four legged creatures were illegal to slaughter for food, partly because of Buddhist beliefs, but also to protect necessary draught animals during famine.

But with the push for more Western ideas, the Meiji Restoration lifted the ban on beef and pork consumption. Even then, beef was a bit of a luxury, due to the lack of land in Japan and the need for the cattle to help with rice cultivation. After rice cultivation was mechanized in the 1950s, cattle were no longer needed and beef consumption picked up along with the price becoming more affordable for the common man.

Still, even today, Americans consume a lot more beef than Japanese. Over in Japan, it's just more expensive, usually needs to be imported, and not as traditional as fish or even pork.

Doesn't mean that they can't cook a mean piece of cow though!

Now that you are all either asleep or bored with history lessons, let's talk a little more about gyudon. Gyudon is traditionally beef and onions cooked in a salty-sweet dashi and soy stock and poured over a bowl of rice. Additions like eggs and shirataki noodles are common, as well as a garnish of pickled ginger called beni shoga. This is Japanese fast food at its best!

Gyudon is one of the best selling donburi in Japan, and in my chikuwa teriyaki donburi recipe where I talk about the donburi in general terms, I mentioned that gyudon is what put donburi establishment Yoshinoya on the map.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Roasted Shiitake "Bacon"

Funny story: As I was writing this blog post, I was munching on some delicious fresh shiitake mushrooms my mom and I just scored at the farmer's market. They smelled so good, I couldn't resist. I decided to google "shiitake" just to make sure I wasn't doing anything dumb like spelling it wrong. The wikipedia page confirmed I'm not as dumb as I think I am, and had some cool trivia on shiitakes that I enjoyed scrolling through as I happily snacked on these fragrant and earthy mushrooms.

Shiitake Dermatitis: "Consumption of raw or slightly cooked shiitake mushrooms can cause 'an erythematous, micro-papular, streaky, extremely pruriginous rash' that occurs all over the body including face and scalp, which appears about 48 hours after consumption and disappears after 10 days."

Seriously?  Spit-takes are not just for comedic effect.

Now I am beyond itchy, even though literal seconds after ingestion. Obviously it's just psychological, but I can't help but imagine I am going to be dying a horrible fiery and itchy death as I claw through my own skin.

I've got 48 hours to wonder if I am one of the unlucky ones, about 2 in 500. Apparently cooked shiitake have no itchy perils, so with this recipe you are all safe!

This roasted shiitake recipe is tasty, but I don't think it tastes like bacon, it tastes like crunchy delicious addictive amazingness. Which sounds a lot like bacon actually. I'll let you be the judge.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Umami Burger

Another Dog Days of Summer post! For my birthday, my brother took me to Umami Burger. I had heard so many good things about this chain, you might say I walked in with a simultaneously excited and jaded outlook.

You know things are never as good as the hype. Everyone told me that the original Paranormal Activity was the scariest movie ever; grown men were telling me they slept with the lights on after viewing, and I walked into that movie theater already quaking in my boots. At the curtain close, I had one word: underwhelmed. I've had Tupperware left too long in the fridge scarier than that movie. It was a classic case of where I would have thought it better if it had not been so lauded, but hype ruined my expectations.
They had an impressive list of drinks: beer, wine, cocktails

So when we went to Umami Burger in Anaheim, we were excited and hungry, but also a little bit curmudgeonly. We joked about hipster havens, and how essential exposed rafters, Japanese words, and naked light bulbs were to burgers.

We sat out on the patio, which was split and shared with the craft brewery that occupied the same building as Umami Burger. I was pleased to see a very well mannered blue pit sitting outside and vowed to bring Tiara next time, and was less pleased at the volume of noisy earsplittingly loud crying babies. We sat outside chiefly to avoid this one baby, who best be an opera singer in adulthood, cause she had lungs. Unfortunately, there were just as many outside, but at least less annoying. I had no idea it was suddenly hip to have babies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

10,000 views and the future of Mochiland

Miss Mochi's Adventures, which seriously started in May 2012, has received over 10,000 views to date.

I felt like this should be addressed. Not only is it surprising and awesome, but I want to let everyone know how this blog is going forward. Think of it as a "State of the Blog Address."

Miss Mochi's Adventures is definitely a pet project that I am enjoying a lot. But it became clear to me that I was going to have to involve myself in the blogging process a little bit more. I will always be considered a writer first, then possibly a passable amateur cook. Photography and computer smarts are somewhat down my ability list, resting right below shoelace tying and babysitting.

To put that in perspective, my only babysitting job involved the children accidentally locking us out of the house, carrying a shoeless toddler several blocks to my parent's house, and the older child getting a migraine and vomiting spectacularly everywhere.

And my shoelaces never stay tied. My mother used to outfit me in velco sneakers for a reason. I keep telling myself that having dog paws scrambling over my sneaks all day long is the cause, but in my heart I know better.

Setting aside my other inadequacies, I've been seriously working on my photography skills. Sometimes I will delay posting a recipe because I want to wait for my day off to be able to use natural light. Most of these recipes are made around nine to midnight, but even during the day I have to bring the food outside because my kitchen is so dark. My apartment is like a cave or maybe a nice adobe house. Great for keeping the air conditioning in, but not the best for food photography.

So for my Hatch Chile Apricot Jelly recipe, I actually waited a whole week to post it because I wanted to get good light. I set my alarm on a day off. This is sacrifice, people.

So I have been posting less frequently, because I want the quality of my posts to outweigh the quantity. It also doesn't help that my oven was either dead or vacationing in an exotic locale, but it managed to pull itself together for a recent plum cake. Then, I somehow managed to bug out my camera and the pictures of bubble tea took almost a week to make it on here, saved from a corrupted doom by my dear brother.

Speaking of which, I am also working on my computer savvy brother, to help elevate this blog away from its very generic stock template. I want this blog to express my love of cooking, love of mixing cultures, and love of food. I want to have the best navigation, the best look, the best damn blog experience ever for you guys.

Most of all, I just wanted to thank everyone who takes a look! Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like a nice comment. Feel free to contact me via email at if there are any suggestions for this site, or feel free to comment below.

Bubble Tea

I cannot write a post about milk toast without a follow up on how to make its partner in crime, bubble tea. Bubble tea, also known as pearl tea or boba tea, is traditionally a frothy cold drink made with large tapioca balls at the bottom. A large straw is usually used to be able to suck up the boba tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink, which are a pleasant chewy addition to the drinks. The drinks themselves are usually variants of sweetened milk tea, such as black, green, Earl Grey, and even Thai.

That doesn't mean that you are limited to tea! Boba tea shops usually have tons of flavors: taro, honeydew, strawberry, and other fruits are all fair game. One of my favorite boba drinks at my fave high school hang was actually a sour green apple slushie with boba!

Dry boba
I'd have to say that boba tea shops are a pretty important part of growing up Asian American for a certain generation in America, a place to socialize and sip. I certainly went to a lot of them in high school! Originally Taiwanese, this class of drinks have been embraced by the Asian community and beyond here in the States.

Boba isn't exactly the fastest drink to whip up at home, but if you store the tapioca pearls in simple syrup, you can refrigerate them for a couple days. However once they lose their chewiness and get brittle, they are done for.

The tea itself is easy. You can make it from a powdered mix, or for better tea flavor, make it by mixing sweetened tea and milk. In my pictures, I have milk tea as well as Thai iced tea that is from a mix.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake

My mother is a big fan of the local farmer's market. Almost every Saturday she is there bright and early, usually picking up fruit and veggies with her pooch. Not only are there seasonal vegetables, but also other goods like amazing tamales and fresh bread. She even picks up her fresh honey from a vendor there.

This past Saturday, she brought home some goodies for me to experiment with! Some fresh oyster mushrooms which might appear on this blog on a later date, some peaches which were promptly devoured as is (don't leave a good peach alone with Miss Mochi), and some french plums.

French plums are also known as sugar plums or french prunes, and are the small variety of plums that are usually cooked with or dried as prunes. They are about the size of a large walnut, and are much sweeter and less tart than a regular plum.

I bit into one excitedly, still on my fresh peach rampage and thirsting for plum, and was brought up short by the lack of acidity. Tasted like a weird plum to me! My mother later texted me and asked what I was planning on cooking with the fruit.

Ahh! Cooking! Didn't even think to cook peaches or plums, seeing as I usually just eat them at once, but apparently that's what you do with these plums if they aren't your thing raw. Once cooked, I had a better appreciation for the french plum, as the cooking concentrated its sweetness and brought out the little bit of tartness they have.