Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The New Year: Toshikoshi Soba (年越しそば)

I seriously cannot believe it's New Year's Eve. Can I please go back to being a kid again?

Maybe I'm not cut out for the world of food blogging, alongside the multitude of smiling happy women writing their upbeat prose; prose that makes you want to whip out an apron and spatula just to capture some of that bliss, some of that contentment with life that seems to emanate from their words.

I can't do it.

On a good day, I'm endearingly neurotic, making godzilla-worthy messes out of my kitchen, introspective and analytical to a fault. On other days, I'm fickle, wrathful, and dangerously unstable, capable of destroying people in a single spiteful sentence.

I am human, I am imperfect, I am flawed.

Right now, I'm Alice, falling down the rabbit hole. When did the years start to fly by so fast?

There's so much left undone.

I guess, given my mood, that it's ironic that some translate "Toshikoshi" as meaning "killing off the year."

Toshikoshi soba is traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve in Japanese culture as a way of ending the old year and beginning the new year. The long noodles are a prayer for longevity, and traditionally soba is used because it is easier to bite through cleanly than udon, representing a clean cut leaving behind the bad of the last year and going fresh into the new year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Donut Man

Shun (), or seasonality, is paramount to Japanese cuisine. Not just gourmands who are constantly in and out of kaiseki restaurants, but everyone knows when the first crop of rice will hit the supermarkets and will snap up bags. Now imagine if you went to your nearest Kroger supermarket and your Wonderbread advertised that it was made from the first wheat crop of the year. That's what it's like to live in Japan, seasonality is just a part of life.

The same goes for the Donut Man. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, you probably already know about the Donut Man, originally established as a Foster's franchise location in 1972. But for those of you not familiar with the Donut Man, it's a pretty unassuming place. A stand-alone shack on a quiet stretch of the historic Route 66, it looks like every other shop peddling sugary dough in the wee hours of the morning.
Jim Nakano (photo from DM's FB)

Except the crowd around it... and it's open 24/7, so that crowd is present at 10 pm.

So you approach, and the giant hand painted signs on the windows let you know there's more to these donuts than glazed or jelly-filled. Depending on when you make your trek, you might be lucky to score a strawberry or peach-filled donut. These beauties don't resemble doughnuts so much as a treasure chests stuffed with fresh fruit; glazed donuts are sliced and propped open like a clamshell with glazed strawberries or peach slices.

The fervor surround these doughnuts are brought to a higher pitch because they are only available seasonally. Craving a strawberry doughnut in December? Tough luck. The Donut Man will only make these fruit creations during the fruit's peak season here in Southern California. Right now, they have pumpkin doughnuts and blueberry stuffed creme puffs as well as donuts sprinkled red and green for Christmas.

Of course, being a hapa Japanese American food blogger, it is a totally fair argument that my personal worldview biases me on this, but I believe that it's no coincidence that the man behind the Strawberry and Peach Donuts, Jim Nakano, happens to be a fellow Japanese American.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Katsudon (カツ丼)

Katsudon is definitely a great choice for cold weather. It has a rib-sticking comfort food quality that never fails to satisfy. Filling a bowl with piping hot rice, slipping a crispy crackly fried pork cutlet into a broth bursting with umami and onions, and finally covering everything with a luscious blanket of egg- it only takes minutes if you plan ahead and it is one of the best soul-warming foods, right up there for me with biscuits and gravy.

Now I realize I have very disparate tastes in comfort food, with American Southern cooking competing against Japanese American rice bowls for dominance, but I urge you to give this a try. 

I think the combination of salty fried porky goodness and carbs is universally appealing.

Katsudon is one of the most famous pork dishes in Japan. In fact, if I was being sensible it would have been one of my first blog posts, way before my post on Tonkatsu Karē Donburi. Of course, I don't play by the rules, but really it's a big deal in Japanese casual cuisine. It is even a part of popular culture: in Japanese crime shows, the suspect would be given katsudon to eat in order to make the interrogator seem like a nice fair guy in order to weasel the truth from the suspect.

Another funny anecedote about katsudon is that "katsu" sounds exactly the same as the verb "katsu" (勝つ) which means "to win." This makes this dish popular for sporting teams and students about to take an important test. For example, Hideki Matsui, former World Series MVP for the Yankees, stated in interviews that this was one of his favorite dishes.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chai Persimmon Sorbert

My great uncle grows the crisp variety of persimmons ("kaki" 柿), called fuyu. Every year, I am entrusted with a giant Trader Joe's bag full of the beautiful orange fruit. I should have weighed the bag to find out exactly how many pounds, but trust me when I say it's way too many for one Miss Mochi to eat.

I stuffed them into bundt cakes for Thanksgiving. I chopped them over Greek yogurt and granola, sprinkled with cinnamon for breakfast. I served them as an appetizer with brie and crackers. I made bowls and bowls of fruit salad.

They were still ripening too fast for me to consume or cook them all fresh. I had some so ripe they were jiggly custard bombs ready to explode. I needed to do something, stat.
Betty has a new attachment!

And then I found this recipe, and swooned immediately. I knew exactly what I would do to salvage all the overripe persimmons crowding my counters. I knew this was what I was looking for, and I couldn't wait to play up the natural spiciness of the persimmon with strong chai tea rather than plain black tea. I also couldn't resist using a gift card to get myself an ice cream maker for my tangerine-colored mixer, "Betty."

This recipe can be made with either the hachiya, which is astringent until it is ripened to jelly-level, or the fuyu, which normally you would eat when it is as firm as a pear or apple, but the fuyu is perfect for this if you let them ripen past that.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey and Hominy Soup

This recipe is legend among our family and family friends. Every fall and winter, my mother makes several giant batches to dole out with crusty bread on cold nights. My mother refers to it simply as "Turkey Soup," but in reality it is so stuffed with ingredients it's hardly a soup anymore. The way my mother cooks is to generally clear out her fridge, chucking things in until she thinks it "smells right" so this isn't exactly a recipe that was easy to write down, but it is certainly one that it is tailor-made for alterations.

Don't like hominy? Well I think you're nuts, but feel free to replace them with some kidney beans, or whatever strikes your fancy (or you have in your cupboard).

I happen to love hominy in a big way, it's always been my favorite part of this soup. For those of you not familiar with hominy, it is corn that has been treated with lye making it puffy and delicious in a process called nixtamalization. It is the precursor to masa, the ground corn dough that makes up tortillas, tamales, and papusas. The name "hominy" comes from the Powhatan tribe of American Indians, and many traditional American Indian diets included hominy.

Look how big that can is! IPhone for size comparison.
This recipe is very typical of my mother's cooking, almost spartan in its preparation. No added salt, no added fats, no giant mess of spices. While the stock is made in a French manner, with the classic mirepoux of celery, onion, and carrots, one could see a lot of Japanese American influences even in her Western-style cooking. The mottainai "waste-nothing" attitude behind using the leftover turkey bones to make her own stock and clearing out the cupboards and fridge for a soup that is always changing depending not only on the season but the very day she cooks it, for example.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Green Tea Pomegranate Popsicles

That's it. I totally jinxed myself by posting an ode to fall weather. It was 94°F last week and I've got the air conditioning back on. 

Last week I was studying for my veterinary technician licensing exam, and I decided I would pop out for a break and get a hot tea and a bit of a change of scenery at Starbucks. My pooch loves hanging outside Starbucks, I could get some fresh air and some studying tackled, it'll be great right?

Yeah, no. Sweating is not conducive to studying.

So I took the pooch for a short walk, and came back inside to make myself a cool treat. With a bunch of pomegranates on my counter courtesy of my grandmother's tree, I was envisioning the pomegranate juice ice pops that my grandfather would make for us every year. But then I realized that I have no way of extracting the juice besides the old-fashioned and very messy way. 

Here's what I came up with instead.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall Fruit Salad

I love fall. I love finally getting to put on a sweater, drink hot tea, and slurp ramen without the aid of air conditioning. Hailing from Southern California, our seasons aren't as distinct as other places. Especially these days, the seasonal drinks from Starbucks seem to guide people through the year more than anything; coconut frappuccino in the summer, pumpkin spice latte for fall, and peppermint mocha in the winter.

I never grew up with explosions of sunset-colored leaves falling from the trees, stepping out in a pea-coat with a hot cocoa and my breath showing in the crisp frosty air. I've never experienced a snow day; I don't own a scarf.

I wear flip-flops year round.

Okay, so maybe fall weather is a little boring here.

Thankfully, our fall fruit is far from boring. Persimmons from my great uncle, pomegranates from my grandmother, fall is hailed here in my family by the arrival of some of our favorite fruits.

I really enjoy this fruit salad because it has a lot of different textures, from the crunch of the Asian pear, the pop of the pomegranate arils, and the persimmon with a softer bite. With a bit of lemon and mint to keep everything bright, it's a very refreshing fruit salad perfect for fall.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tonkatsu Karē Donburi (トンカツカレー丼)

I seriously cannot believe that I haven't blogged about this recipe before. I've talked about it numerous times, so I have no clue why I haven't shared this recipe with you yet.

Actually, scratch that. I know exactly why I haven't: I hate frying.

I hate frying because I am great at creating epic messes when I cook. My dog hovers outside the kitchen hoping something will drop, and Mr. Mochi usually retreats a safe distance to avoid the Willy Wonka atmosphere I tend to create, complete with weird noises and puffs of smoke and flour.

So when you throw in hot oil and breadcrumbs, I basically destroy my kitchen.

Eggshells in the sink. Flour on my shirt. The dog bursting forth into the kitchen and frantically licking up breading that was flung off into space. Even the bowls for mise-en-place when I'm not frying end up stacked hap-hazardously on all counters like the tea cups of Alice in Wonderland. 

I am a world-class culinary mess maker. A lot of people tend to downplay their faults, strive to make their lives seem perfect from the outside. I can tell you that most food bloggers don't start their posts by telling their readers their faults.

Whatever. I can't pretend that I'm anything more than chaos and entropy, blonde hair and boobs. I don't even know how anyone puts up with me.

Don't fret, I'm sure you will manage to cook this without any of the daikaiju wasteland side-effects. It's actually a really simple recipe with only a handful of ingredients, and shallow frying makes the tonkatsu a breeze to prepare. And if I'm in good company and you're a fellow Godzilla of the kitchen, one bite of this will convince your own Mr. Mochi to help you clean up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

I was a weird little kid. I loved all sorts of sour or bitter things, like kumquats and coffee. I definitely still loved sweet things, but even then my favorite candies would be the sour ones like warheads or sour patch kids. The waitresses used to think I was very strange to order coffee (decaf of course) and drink it just like my dad with cream and sugar.

This is all funny, because I didn't immediately love green tea, which has definitely eclipsed coffee in my book. It wasn't until I was probably around ten years old that I really appreciated green tea.

I love the popped rice in genmaicha!
I love pretty much all green tea, from toasty-roasty hojicha to mellow and sweet genmaicha. I love a hot cup of tea with a rowdy group of friends at Honda-ya, and I also love it curled up with a good book on a night in.

Of course, I also love to cook with it.

Most recipes you see that say "green tea this-or-that" are made with matcha. Matcha is made by taking the finest tea leaves that are grown in the shade and then drying and grinding them into a powder. It is much sweeter than normal green tea, and is a beautiful vibrant shade of green. Traditionally it is used primarily for tea ceremony, but nowadays I happen to think more people make sweets and baked good with it than actually drinking it with hot water.

This recipe is no exception, I borrow the sweet and bitter taste of matcha along with its gorgeous color. I also use genmaicha as a decorative garnish, and the roasted grains of rice add a pleasant crunch.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken

If you follow me on Pinterest, you might have come to the conclusion that recently I've become obsessed with slow cooker recipes. There's so many recipes on Pinterest for slow cookers, but until my birthday I didn't have one. So now that I have one, I must admit I'm obsessed.

Mr. Mochi got me a very colorful Crock-Pot for my birthday, and I must say he did a great job. Everyone who has seen the slow cooker says that it is definitely a perfect fit to my tastes. I love bright colors and it goes well with my kitchen.

After unwrapping, I immediately demanded that my mother hand over her recipe for lemon chicken. She even surprised me and picked me up some chicken thighs from Sprouts to get me started.

I'm not a huge meat fan. In fact, I've never even cooked chicken in this apartment we've been in for going on 3 years. I'm the type that likes popcorn chicken because there's little to no chicken in it. Crazy, I know. If Mr. Mochi is craving chicken, he is in charge of picking up a rotisserie chicken from the market or heading out to eat for wings.

I love it! The only crock-pot with orange hehe!
But this chicken is delicious. The chicken is slow cooked until it is almost shred-able, and the sauce is made for spooning over rice. It tastes like cheap take-out Chinese. And I mean that in the best way possible. Definitely not authentic, but has that comfortable sticky sweet-and-sour combination that is so crave-able!

This recipe is a little more work than some slow cooker recipes, where you literally just dump ingredients in a slow cooker, but the little bit of extra prep really makes the chicken better.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Baked Brie with Figs

Certain foods can take your brain on a trip down memory lane. Your grandmother's chocolate chip cookies, your mom's pot roast, everyone has some meal that triggers a happy nostalgic time in your life.

A lot of my happy nostalgic foods are straight from the earth. My grandparents have always had a garden filled with fresh veggies: sweet peas and their beautiful flowers, giant heirloom tomatoes, and peppery radishes with dirt still clinging to the roots. My parents have citrus, avocados, and even cherimoyas hanging from trees throughout the year. Biting into a fresh summer peach, still warm from the sun as it ripened on the tree, takes me back to running around in my parent's orchard where my brother and I used to throw oranges that had been knocked down by the Santa Ana winds at each other.

One fruit that I almost never eat nowadays is figs. They have a short season, don't ripen well off the tree, spoil relatively easy, and I work on the weekends which makes the local farmer's market off-limits. So when I visited my grandparent's house, it was a delight to have a bag full of ridiculously ripe figs to enjoy. My grandmother has a fig tree in her front yard for as long as I could remember, but as a kid I was wary of figs. They were weird, in my youthful opinion, too many contrasting textures and too honey-sweet. I liked sour plums and zesty kumquats; I was one of those weird kids that liked grapefruit with no brown sugar or broiling needed.

It's a funny thing, to take a bite of this dish and wax nostalgic about a fruit you didn't like as a kid.

One thing I can confidently say is that I have always liked brie, rind and all.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Zaru Soba (笊蕎麦)

The Japanese have some pretty creative ways to deal with the heat. Many Americans probably have never tried a cold noodle, with the possible exception of cold pasta salad at picnics. So this dish may seem novel to you, but I urge you to give cold noodles a day in court. Zaru soba combines cold noodles with a zesty dipping sauce that is easy to make and easy to eat in the summer's heat. The name "zaru" refers to the bamboo baskets that the noodles are traditionally served in.

Since Southern California pretty much is always hot, I love this dish year-round but it is especially refreshing during the tail-end of summer. Last week seemed like fall was upon us; the weather was the epitome of autumn sweater weather. So naturally, as soon as I start dreaming of hot cocoa, this week is back to sweltering. Sounds like a great time for some zesty and cool zaru soba!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tsukimi Ramen (月見ラーメン)

Last night was the Harvest Moon! That means it's time for moon-viewing festivals and the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival!

The Japanese version of the Mid-Autumn Festival is called Tsukimi (月見), or the honorific Otsukimi, which literally means "moon-viewing." It's definitely toned down compared to the Chinese festival, but both are celebrated around the same day: the 15th day of the 8th month according to the lunar calendar, also known as the full moon that occurs closest to the equinox.

Traditionally it is celebrated with seasonal autumn food such as chestnuts, green soybeans, taro, and sweet potatoes. Another important tsukimi food is tsukimi dango (sweet rice balls), which are often placed on an altar along with sprigs of susuki (pampas grass) and sake as an offering to the moon to pray for an abundant harvest.
The Tsukimi Burger looks pretty good!

While the full moon has come and gone, there's still plenty of moon out for you to party under! My one Japanese professor at UCLA told the class really, the whole week is an excuse to drink sake outdoors under the moon.

You can make your own moon-viewing treats at home, just by putting an egg on it. Tsukimi udon and soba are two traditional bowls of noodles that feature an egg that gets poached in the hot broth. The yellow egg yolk is supposed to resemble the moon, hence the name. McDonalds in Japan even gets into the spirit of the occasion and has their tsukimi burgers, which feature a fried egg.

Here's a quick and easy recipe for your own moon viewing party. You can definitely use soba or udon instead, I just chose ramen because it is by far the easiest Japanese noodle to find here in America. Plus I love ramen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Yuen Yeung Popsicles

I wasn't kidding when I told you I was obsessed with popsicles recently! I've been trying to create fun flavors that I can't buy in the supermarket. My latest brainwave was taking the drink Yuen Yeung and turning it into a dessert!

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 it graduated to being served in tea cafes. In fact, this drink has become so popular that Starbucks in Hong Kong had a Yuen Yeung Frappuccino!
I so want to try one!

Since the coffee/tea hybrid is usually made with Hong Kong-style milk tea, it can be very rich because it is made with evaporated or condensed milk. I usually prefer frothier and lighter bubble milk tea when served chilled because that uses milk instead, but I knew that Hong Kong-style milk tea was totally the way to go in this case because it would make the end result totally creamy like a fudgesicle!

Of course, I couldn't resist throwing in a twist and adding in some spice just for a little stronger tasting ice pop. I threw in a couple star anise in with my tea, but I think cinnamon or even cocoa powder would be a great addition!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Karē Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯のカレー)

I promised you that I would have a curry tamago kake gohan variation this month! I've written many times about how much I love Japanese curry, known as karē, so it only make sense to make a TKG version.

Early this month, I introduced you to tamago kake gohan, which literally means "egg over rice": a very simple dish were a raw egg gets mixed into steaming hot rice for a quick tasty rice bowl. The raw egg cooks a little in the hot rice, for a creamy luscious sauce that coats the grains of rice. It may sound weird, but once you try it, you'll love it too.

As I mentioned last time, since this uses raw eggs, you need to be able to trust your egg source. After all, the heat from the rice does not cook it enough to kill anything creepy. If you don't have parents with heirloom breed chickens in their backyard whose husbandry you trust, there are pasteurized eggs available. However, if the idea of raw egg still makes you queasy even if they are pasteurized, consider how many times you have eaten raw cookie dough without a second thought to the origin of the eggs, or the last time you ordered sunny-side up at your local greasy spoon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hatch Chile Pepperoni Pizza

Check it out: my first time making pizza from scratch! I've been wanting to dive into the pizza-making world for the longest time, but anyone who follows this blog regularly knows my oven is capricious on a good day, homicidal on its worst. The oven doesn't even go up to 500°F that is usually recommended. I even bought a Boboli pre-made crust as emergency backup, that's how much I feared this endeavor.

But I had to try this combination of toppings. I have heard so much about delicious green chile pizzas in New Mexico I knew that it was worth a try to create at home, even with zero pizza skills. With Hatch chile season going strong, it was a man-up moment.

Of course, I had a little bit of trepidation with the dough. I obviously did not use nearly enough flour, made the rookie mistake of not picking the dough up and loosening it after spreading and before applying toppings, and as a result my pizza stuck rather badly to the sheet and my nice thin round pizza ended up being thick and crumpled because I needed a spatula to pry it off onto the pizza stone.

Also, I don't have a pizza peel, or even an rimless baking sheet. In fact, I have one baking sheet to my name, and I'm pretty sure it's older than me. So I flipped it over and used the bottom to spread my dough out. Which in retrospect was a dumb idea, because the 1" sides made it elevated above the pizza stone and my dough crumpled even more when transferring because of it, and the toppings fell off a bit.

I possibly shouldn't go on and on about my lack of pizza-making skills on my own blog. I should pretend that I wanted my pizza to look rustically handmade/asymmetrical and I wanted my pizza to have a thick crust.

Whatever. It still tasted amazing, and both the Bro-chi and Mr. Mochi were very impressed with my first attempt. The pizza was gobbled up in seconds, and I plan on stealing a rimless from my mother to perfect my technique. Just goes to show you can make a great tasting pizza that isn't very pretty, so don't fret if yours doesn't look perfect. If you're serving guests, just pretend that's what you were going for.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arnold Palmer Popsicles

It is blazing here in Southern California, with lots more humidity than we are used to. It's 103ºF here, and feels much hotter due to the sticky swamp-like humidity.

Like eat-ice-cream-for-dinner, sweating in front of the computer hot. So hot that my local grocery store was out of big stick popsicles. So hot my coworkers and I wasted like 10 minutes at work giggling over the innuendo involved in professing our undying love for big sticks.

Much love!

To get myself out of morbidly considering whether or not Miss Mochies can actually melt in a puddle, I busied myself making popsicles with the Zoku quick pop maker Mr. Mochi gave me for Christmas. I never had enough room in the freezer before this, so this is actually the debut recipe of the Zoku Quick Pop Maker for this blog.

Which I can totally say I'm now thoroughly addicted to. I made 4 radically different pops in one day, and we are in danger of this becoming a popsicle blog if this heat doesn't quit.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hatch Chile and Smoked Cheddar Cornsticks

We're taking my Oklahoma Modern Choctaw Cornsticks a little Southwest! Hatch chile season is in full swing, just in time for grilling during this heat wave we've been getting here in Southern California. (My birthday was on Labor Day, and it was sweltering here!)

 Here's a little back story on Hatch chiles if you're not sure what the hype is about: Hatch chiles and New Mexican peppers, usually green, are actually the same as the Anaheim pepper found here in Southern California, but they are usually much hotter.  Hatch chiles are not actually a type of pepper, but simply named for being grown in the Hatch Valley, New Mexico. The hot days and cool nights make for a famously delicious group of chiles, but anyone in New Mexico will tell you that New Mexican peppers in general are special.

Most commonly, the peppers you see in the market are several different varieties of New Mexican green chile, which is how farmers can sell Hatch chiles by grouping them "hot, medium, and mild." Watch out, the hot varieties are hotter than jalapenos! Here's a list of cultivars developed by New Mexico State University.

You can google a list of roasting locations in your area, or pick them up fresh from the market. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful aunt that gave me two vacuum packs of freshly roasted flash frozen Hatch chiles!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Caprese Sandwich

Like I mentioned in my caprese skewers post, I am wild about caprese. Insalata Caprese is my  favorite Italian dish, and I especially love the versions with balsamic vinegar. Actually, I'm really just a rabid cheese fan (a Wallace-style obsession) as well as a lover of vinegar and fresh tomatoes. I'm prone to eating any of the key ingredients plain by themselves, so this dish that combines them all was made for a person like me.

I have to say that the success of this dish hinges on having fantastic tomatoes. And since right now the farmer's markets have the end of season's tomatoes, I recommend you start assembling this sandwich before summer's end.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Modern Choctaw Cornsticks

None of the women in my family are pushovers. They are firebrands, fighters both feisty and ferocious. They are engineers, businesswomen, nurses. Above all: they are, without exception, beautiful and intelligent women who know what they want in life. Naysayers could try and call them headstrong, but no one ever doubts their strength.

It's a big legacy to live up to.

My paternal grandmother is no exception. She's half Choctaw and Caucasian and hails originally from Southeastern Oklahoma in the heart of the Choctaw Nation before moving to New Mexico. Her American Indian mother died when she was young, and when her father remarried she was sent away to Indian boarding school.

A normal little girl would have probably raised less hell, but you probably know where this story was going. I don't have an exact number for the amount of times she ran away from the Goodland Indian Orphanage, but enough that it became obvious she wasn't going to stay at a place if she didn't want to. She was going to carve her own existence the way she viewed it, even as a child.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯)

I love sharing recipes on my blog that aren't even really recipes, but more of an introduction to an idea. This dish can barely be called a recipe, but definitely will introduce you to a fabulous was to enjoy eggs and rice that is truly a snap to prepare.

Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯) literally means "egg over rice" and it may look strange to a western audience, but it is actually very popular in Japan for breakfast. The raw egg gets mixed into the steaming hot rice, emulsifying the egg into a rich creamy sauce that is amazing with the hot rice.

The best thing about tamago kake gohan (or TKG for short) is that there are limitless variations to employ. I think I could do a tamago kake gohan recipe every day this month and still just be getting started on all the tasty varieties. This classic version has shoyu and green onions, but feel free to try adding some furikake, wasabi, or even some canned tuna. Later next month I have a garlic and curry version to share with you!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Everyone who eats with me, chiefly Mr. Mochi and the Bro-chi, knows I am a bit obsessed with finding Hapa food. Nothing makes me happier than getting to try some hole-in-the-wall Hawaiian place, or trying the crazy Japanese curry hot dog at the food truck (review coming soon, it was totally delish). Sometimes silly, sometimes glorious, I'm totally there. It's my passion; I love seeing how cultures adapt cuisine into a giant melting pot of influences and flavors.

So when I heard about the Ogura Bruxie, I already had my flip-flops on and purse in hand.

I mean seriously, I had to try this! A Japanese ingredient, azuki bean paste, in a restaurant that serves patty melts on waffles?

Ogura Bruxie!!!
Bruxie is a small chain here in Southern California that offers sandwiches exclusively on waffles. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, there is a waffle sandwich for you. Not only do they offer unique waffle sandwich creations, waffle fries and salads, they also have some unique floats and shakes made with frozen custard.

They also are interesting because they are a chain that is focusing on using more organic ingredients, as well as things like compostable drink containers, real maple syrup, and sodas without high-frustose corn syrup.

I did indeed try the Ogura Bruxie ($4.95), but also was delighted that there were tons more tasty treats to be found.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kouri Zatou (氷砂糖)

Here's a short post for The Hapa Pantry: Kouri Zatou (氷砂糖)!

Kouri zatou, "rock sugar" is an ingredient used in making infused liqueurs in Japan, like umeshu. Rock sugar is ideal for this because it dissolves slowly; if the sugar dissolved too fast, it would take longer for the fruit to infuse into the liquor.

Kouri zatou is also a pretty neutral sweetener that allows for the flavor of the fruit to shine through. More assertive sweeteners like honey and black sugar will obviously make the finished product taste different.

Ichigoshu (いちご酒)

Last month, I shared a recipe on how to make your own umeshu! However, I realize that unripe ume or ao-ume (青梅 literally "green/blue ume") might be hard to find in some areas. So since strawberries are in abundance here in the states, here's an easier recipe to do: Ichigoshu.

Another bonus besides strawberries being easier to find and cheaper here: this drink is ready to drink in 2 weeks! Of course, I like to let it to sit and mature, but the freshly made ichigoshu is such a pretty color, a bright red. As it ages, it will turn a beautiful deep orange. In the above picture, I mixed it with sparkling water so the diluted color is a pretty soft orange.

If you can't get a hold of shochu, vodka or brandy will also work. And remember, just like umeshu, just because it can be roughly translated as "strawberry wine" doesn't mean that ichigoshu has a low alcohol percentage! It is actually more of a cordial or infused liqueur.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Itawasa (板わさ)

It's been so hot recently, I need a break from cooking. Everything becomes an unwanted source of heat: the oven, the stove, even the toaster. So I decreed it was time to bust out some easy eats that were sans-heat.

Also, sometimes my blog amazes me, in that some of the simplest stuff I haven't shared with you. Itawasa has to be one of the simplest dishes to try and make at home!

Itawasa is slices of kamaboko served in the same fashion as sashimi-- very simply with shoyu and wasabi.

I have way too much fun with wasabi
I'm infamous for these food ideas that you can barely call a recipe, but I still wanted to bring this idea to you as it is a great way to experience kamaboko.

This is also a fantastic way to experience and experiment with different soy sauces. Because kamaboko is sweet and mild flavored, this is the time to really try out all those funky artisanal soy sauces you've seen but haven't had a chance to try.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

O.C. Buddhist Church Obon 2013!

Obon season is upon us! Dancing, drumming, food and festival games, let me paint a picture for you:

Japanese lanterns sway gently above us, silhouetted by a beautiful sunset: fiery red that roars across the horizon before extinguishing into a riot of pink and purple.

 Gold and silver, glitter and sparkle.

Nothing is as beautiful as a woman in a colorful kimono. In the sweltering heat, the thin cotton yukata allows one to stay above it all and the women here are glamorous despite the temperature. An elderly woman in a purple one patterned with white and silver epitomizes grace and refinement as she dances. Swirling and twirling to the steady beat of a taiko drum, these dancers circle around a center tower strung with lanterns, people watching and clapping along on the sidelines.

A little girl darts out amid the dancers, giggling madly in her flip flops and waving a clacking noise-maker gleefully. Soon enough, an older gentleman in a colorful orange happi coat scoops her up and brings her back to family. Little girls in their first yukata rush toward each other to compare obi, then break apart to have a furious war of waving uchiwa fans at each other.

People are shouting over the heads of others, recognizing friends from church. Backs are clapped, a bite of dango is offered, and then both parties swivel to smile at a child walking by with a precious bag of water containing one goldfish sparkling like a jewel at the bottom.

Above the beat of the drum, winding its way around the happy chatter, is the unmistakable aroma of Japanese festival food. It smells like coming home.

And then there's me, the perennial wallflower.

Not dancing, not talking, just watching this happy spectacle. There must have been skinned knees, lost fans, dead goldfish--but I never saw it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Strawberry Bing Tanghulu (冰糖葫芦)

I mentioned in my 626 night market post that I had tried a street sweet from China that I was dying to share with you all, bing tanghulu (冰糖葫芦). When I first saw this sweet-on-a-stick, I was mesmerized by it. It looked like a person took fruit and made them into jewels, the way they glistened!

I've seen it spelled various different ways in English, from bing tanghulu, bingtang hulu to just tanghulu, or sometimes even bing tang hu lu (apparently just insert spaces according to your fancy). Any which way, fruit on a skewer that has been coating in a thin layer of hard candy is deliciously craveable. The conflicting textures of the hard candy and ripe fruit, crunchy/soft, and the opposing flavors, sweet/tangy, make it a delicious treat!

My twist on Bing Tanghulu, not dipped whole but drizzled!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Umeshu (梅酒)

Umeshu is an infused liqueur made by steeping unripe ume in shochu with sugar. When it has matured, it is easy to drink without a lot of bite to it, especially when mixed with carbonated water. At home, it is made by combining ao-ume (青梅 literally "green/blue ume"), kouri zatou (氷砂糖 rock sugar), and shochu (焼酎white distilled Japanese liquor).

It is also super easy to make, so when ao-ume is in season around May/June, you can walk into any Japanese market and see bags of ao-ume, kouri zatou, and big bottles of shochu.

Most of the time umeshu is translated as "plum wine" but that isn't really correct. The fruit called "ume" is really a type of apricot, and the drink really is an infused liqueur rather than a wine. But just like "umeboshi" gets translated as "pickled plum," no one will fault you for calling umeshu "plum wine" but don't drink this like it is wine, because it is much higher proof!