Sunday, July 31, 2016

Yuzu Kosho Bloody Mary

I love a good Blood Mary. The often spicy tomato juice, the inventive garnishes, the endless variations, the fact it's socially acceptable to drink one any time of the day: there's nothing about it I don't love.

The Bloody Mary in recent years is enjoying a lot of popularity due to the gastropub's love of garnishing it with insanity. These are cocktails meant for Instagram: garnished with burgers, pizza slices, pickles, peppers, cheese, onion rings, french fries, even a whole fried chicken at one establishment. Check out this one from Wisconsin that may be the craziest I've ever seen.

So with a storied history of people fucking around with it, I thought the Bloody Mary could stand if I decided to create my own Bloody Mary with a hapa twist!

Considering that Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and salt are three main ingredients of a classic Bloody Mary, the taste profile isn't too different but still distinctly Japanese American. In my version, the tonkatsu adds a subtle sweetness and twang, the yuzu kosho brings the citrus heat, and of course I had to have some insane garnishes.

In keeping with the hapa theme, I garnished this one with Japanese tsukemono pickles, a SPAM musubi, a chicken katsu musubi, a crab Rangoon, and a celery stick to keep everything healthy.


Shochu is a distilled liquor made in Japan, originating from the Kyushu area. Shochu remains popular in that area, in fact the area is unique in that shochu is more popular than sake unlike the rest of Japan.

Sometimes you may hear it called "Japanese vodka" which is a really simplistic way of getting us to understand what it is, however there are a lot of key differences that make shochu unique. In comparison to vodka and other hard liquror's 45% alcohol, shochu is normally around 25% alcohol. Also, vodka and other hard liquors are normally distilled several times while shochu is often distilled only once. This allows the ingredients the shochu was made with to really shine through and allows for variation of taste. When it is single distilled, the shochu is called honkaku, when it is distilled more, it is called korui.

(L) barley; (R) sweet potato
For instance, Satsuma hokaku shochu (shown above) is made with sweet potatoes and the taste and aroma are stronger than other varieties. The taste can even be described as slightly smokey, like a whiskey. Other types of shochu may be made with rice, barley, sugar, and even soba. When it is made in the korui style, the alcohol level is higher (still lower than vodka) and becomes very clean and light tasting but without the nuances and aroma of honkaku single distilled varieties.

Traditionally, shochu is enjoyed neats, on the rocks, or diluted with hot water to allow the aroma to be enjoyed.

This Takara shochu is korui-style and very smooth
More recently, the Chūhai (チューハイ) cocktail has become a popular use of shochu. Chūhai, which is a portmanteau of "shochu" and "highball," combines shochu with carbonated water and lemon. This cocktail, low in alcohol and high in calories, now has tons of flavors: lychee, white peach, oolong, ume, yuzu, orange, grapefruit, and grape just to name a few that I have come across. I like the fact you can drink them without getting drunk as they are very low alcohol usually. Too bad it has so much sugar!

In my recipes, I usually use korui-style shochu, like shown in my umeshu recipe. I find korui shochu to be way smooth, less harsh tasting than vodka and the lower alcohol content keeps me from getting sick since I am sensitive to alcohol.

Recipes that use shochu:
Yuzu Kosho Bloody Mary

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mizuna, Apple and Jicama Salad with Yuzu Kosho Vinaigrette

I don't post a lot of salad recipes. They generally aren't my favorite thing, especially when the lettuce leaves are huge and they end up slapping me in the chin and I get salad dressing everywhere and look like an idiot. I never claimed to be graceful, in fact I'm pretty much a walking disaster when it comes to food and a lot of other things now that I ponder it.

I've written about the chaos that ensues while making dishes, but I'm also a natural disaster whilst dining as well. Spaghetti and salads made with lettuce are a sure-fire way to ruin a blouse in my book. I rarely disappoint when it comes to this splattering, despite being a slow and careful eater. This trait seems to be genetic, as my father tends to involuntarily decorate his button-downs as well.

However, here's a salad that I'd be willing to wear white silk around because mizuna isn't nearly as ungainly on a fork as romaine or butter lettuce, especially when you chop it down to size. I mean, don't get me wrong, if anyone can make a mess of things it's me, but I'd at least take that challenge. My only other beef about salads: their names are often unwieldy as hell!

Yuzu Kosho

Yuzu Kosho is a powerhouse condiment and another specialty of Kyushu I wanted to share with you. A simple but inspired paste of yuzu zest, chili peppers, and salt, there are two types depending on whether red or green chili peppers were used.

My mother, who by the way I just realized doesn't have a nickname (Mama Mochi?), really fell in love with this condiment when we were served it with a hot pot dish. Being served as a condiment for nabemono, or hot pot cooking, is definitely the most traditional usage for yuzu kosho, but it is versatile and especially delicious as an ingredient in sauces for grilled meats or even salads.

As stated above, there are two types of yuzu kosho: green (ao) and red (aka). I happen to think the green is a bit sharper than the red, but I urge you to try them both and draw your own conclusions, as there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the difference between the two besides color. Both of them are a magical mixture of floral, spicy, citrusy notes that make wonder why every culture doesn't have a chili citrus paste in its repertoire.

Yuzu kosho is sold in very tiny quantities normally
This is a condiment that still isn't widely seen outside of hot pot restaurants, but it is having its moment, with publications like Bon Appetit and Saveur both publishing articles extolling its virtues with recipes in tow.

You'll find it at any well-stocked Japanese market, but it might take a bit of searching as it is generally purchased in a tiny little jar the photo on the right. This paste is normally dabbed on pieces of simmered hot pot ingredients, however it can be thinned and used to brighten up sauces or included in a marinade.

Marinate and grill a steak with it, make a spicy fresh vinaigrette, top fresh grilled seafood with it, spice up your noodles dishes, this condiment is so enlivening to so many dishes apparently it has even made its way into the arena of desserts!

Here's a list of recipes that include yuzu kosho on this site:
Mizuna, Apple, and Jicama salad with Yuzu Kosho Vinaigrette
Negima Nabe
Yuzu Kosho Bloody Mary

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mizuna (水菜)

Mizuna (水菜) is a green that you will see called by a lot of different names here in the states: Japanese mustard, potherb mustard, even California peppergrass or the wildly ambiguous "Japanese greens." I like sticking to the name Mizuna because I think those other names are a bit misleading. Mizuna isn't that peppery and it's certainly not mustardy despite being in the mustard family. The name "mizuna" literally means "water greens" which refers to its juicy stems.

I'd peg the taste of mizuna as plesantly crisp, very mildly peppery (much less than arugula), with a bit of earthiness in the leaves. I'm not a fan of frisee or arugula because they tend to overwhelm so many other flavors, but I find mizuna to have just enough kick and bitterness for me. I also love that you can use the stems just as well as the leaves in most dishes without trimming as they are just as mild as the leaves.

Actually, you've probably already eaten mizuna and just not realized it! Baby mizuna is a popular green to be in a mesclun or spring salad mixture. Especially here in California, you can often find baby mizuna alongside other greens in a mixed salad.

Feel free to use those juicy stems! They aren't overly bitter at all!
In Japanese cooking, you will find mizuna most commonly pickled, simmered, or added to a hot pot dish rather than a salad. Now if you ever come across a recipe for a cooked mizuna dish and it seems like they got the amount wrong--they couldn't possibly mean to add that much in--don't worry as it cooks down quite a bit.

It is a very cool weather friendly plant, which is why you will see it added to a lot of hot pots. Especially in the winter months when you crave a hot pot, traditionally there weren't a lot of leafy greens to choose from.

How to use mizuna? Any way you would use arugula you can substitute mizuna (especially if you're like me and think arugula is a little too feisty sometimes). Try some tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, strawberries, crumbled feta and walnuts for a salad, or sauteed like spinach next to a roast. My mother likes to sneak all sorts of homegrown greens into her sandwiches, so I often stuff some into my Caprese Sandwich recipe. I think a BMT (bacon, mizuna, tomato) would be equally delicious!

Recipes that feature mizuna:
Mizuna, Apple, and Jicama salad with Yuzu Kosho Vinaigrette 
Caprese Sandwich

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fries with Mentaiko Mayo Dipping Sauce

Karashi Mentaiko (or usually just called mentaiko) is spicy marinated fermented fish roe (normally cod or pollock) that is a specialty of Kyushu that I introduced as part of my chronicle on my 2014 visit to Japan. Now you may be thinking that there's no way in hell I can marry American tastes with a Japanese product that is as funky, spicy, and fishy as mentaiko. Let me introduce you to my secret weapon: mentaiko mayo.

Mentaiko mayo takes the assertive fish roe and turns it into something creamy and delicious while still maintaining that zing and pop.

photo cred: Creamy Steaks
Mentaiko mayo is so popular there's even a mentaiko mayo Cheetos flavor in Japan, and I'm absurdly disappointed I have not seen or tried it (see here for a review) I love mentaiko mayo's versatility and I believe you will too. It's super easy to whip up, and once you do I think you'll find yourself spreading it on everything.

Some easy ways to enjoy it: spread it on top of baked salmon and broil to finish, mix it in with canned tuna instead of plain mayo for more of a pop, even smear it in a sandwich. But my favorite has to be as a dipping sauce for fries.


Mentaiko, especially spicy karashi mentaiko, is a specialty of the Hakata ward in Fukuoka City. Mentaiko is fish roe (normally pollock) that is marinated in chili, sake, konbu and yuzu citrus, and then slightly fermented for several hours.

Karashi mentaiko is so popular that usually the term "mentaiko" refers to the type that is spicy, while "tarako" is the regular marinated roe.

Mentaiko is actually originally Korean, as is a lot of the ingredients and dishes that Kyushu is famous for as they are very close to Korea there in the southern regions of Japan.

Mentaiko can be seen traditionally served by itself as a side dish to sake.  It can be eaten raw or cooked (it turns a lighter pink when cooked) and either in its egg sac or removed.

This is how the eggs look removed from the egg sac membrane
One of the more traditional ways you will see it served is over rice with the egg sac intact, where it is often cooked with a bit of oil first. Another traditional use is as a filling for onigiri rice balls or topping sushi, however these days this flavor powerhouse isn't limited to just rice.

You'll find mentaiko incorporated with cream as a delicious pasta sauce, used as way to spice up egg omelettes, baked on top of french bread, mixed into potato salad, spread on top of skewers of chicken, and even as a topping for Japanese pizza! One crazy concoction I love is mochi baked with cheese and mentaiko for a gooey chewy savory-spicy mess.

Here in the states, you can find mentaiko at Japanese grocery stores like Mitsuwa and Marukai. It freezes fairly well, which is good because it's not cheap!

Recipes that use mentaiko:
Fries with Mentaiko Mayo Dipping Sauce

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Uomoto Style Kare: An Updated Post!

I'm guessing people who don't know me in real life probably wonder if I've died, based on the last time I posted. I've had quite the whirlwind adventure since my last post, but that's a story for another time.

Here's a pretty old recipe by this blog's standards: the original post was over four years ago! The picture was so bad it didn't even look like the finished product! So I made it again, and made sure to snap some better photos. Check it out here.

One thing I forgot to mention in the original post about the ingredients: not only are frozen peas faster than having to peel, dice, and boil potatoes, but they are much lower on the glycemic index! According to Harvard Health, russett potatoes have over eight times the glycemic load than peas per average serving. So not only is my version resourceful, but healthier!

Note on the pictures: Japanese curry seems to drink up light, and I probably should have had the curry facing the indirect sunlight rather than the rice to help lighten it up. Japanese curry just isn't the most attractive dish and I'm no expert photog. And no, a clumsy editing process did not turn that rice golden. It's haiga-mai, or half-milled rice. It cooks up similar to white rice, but it's supposedly healthier. I like its delicate sweet nutty flavor that doesn't overwhelm like brown rice can.