Archive for January, 2010

Rainbow trout

Yup, that sure is a fish. Trout, to be more precise.

After delicately chopping off the heads, Yusuke spread salt on the scales to get rid of slipperiness and any potential fishy smell. After rinsing the salt, he dusted the skin with flour and mixed Italian seasonings. He grilled each side in a pan with olive oil and then splashed the fish with sake and lime juice.

The fishies are resting on a bed of bean sprouts that were sautéed in olive oil.

Yusuke often says that he’s surprised to see pink flesh in rainbow trout—he’s more used to white—but the taste is the same.

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Pictured here is one of Yusuke’s Christmas gifts: a castella cake sent all the way from Japan. I bravely, or perhaps recklessly, ordered it from a Japanese website (Rakuten). It’s one of his all-time favourite sweets, so I didn’t want to risk some western imitation.

The site generates English-Japanese translations on the fly for product pages, but automatic translations certainly have their limits. The order confirmations were in Japanese only, so I had to rely on Google translate to get the jist. Fortunately, the sweets arrived in tact, on time, and without unexpected shipping charges.

If I recall correctly, I ordered this castella made from special eggs in Nagoya. I quote: “Well enjoy the flavor of eggs, soft sponge cake! Thick dark yolk egg “Nagoya Cochin” and speak out in secret with plenty of grilled honey ~ ~ Ri, a masterpiece of moist! Hermitage is a specialty.” Indeed, “Those who are happy to have lent important. Nagoya Cochin eggs candy gift. Filled eggs taste good with fabric gift.” You can’t get a better testimonial than that.

Castella, clearly, is not a Japanese word. It comes from the Portguese name for this particular type of cake from Castile in Spain. Yup. It’s sort of like a pound cake but much lighter. It’s not very sweet at all and the perfect accompaniment is green tea. It seems to be usually translated as “sponge cake.” This is one of the many foreign foods that has been adopted and become quintessentially Japanese.

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Tilapia and okra

This is eye-candy indeed. And so tasty, too. (N.B. Yusuke is responsible for the excellent photography.)


  • fillet of tilapia
  • white mushrooms
  • okra
  • tomato


Boil everything, Except the tomato, each separately. Chop it all up and combine.

Serve with a sauce made of the following:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • splash of lime juice
  • tiny bit of sugar

Last, sprinkle with shichimi togarashi (seven spices seasoning).

The original recipe that inspired this dish used shimeji mushrooms (we only had boring white ones) and daikon instead of the fish. But I think the substitution was extremely effective. I’m glad that Yusuke has found uses for tilapia: it’s super-duper cheap. On the other hand, this article says that it has a dangerous ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats. Ruh roh. But I think I’ll take my chances for the time being.

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Shrimp and snow pea salad

A simple salad. The shrimp and snow peas were cooked in boiling water; the onions were raw (and spicy!). The dressing has: lime juice, mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, shichimi togarashi, and bonito flakes for garnish.

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Soupy tofu and veggies


There are endless variations to what one can do with fresh vegetables, good tofu, and a few stock ingredients. This is why my food life is so happy.

For this dish, Yusuke boiled firm tofu, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, and bean sprouts in a big frying pan in a “soup” of some Japanese staples:

roughly 1-2 tbsp each…

  • soy sauce
  • water
  • rice vinegar
  • mirin
  • sake

a pinch…

  • dashi
  • sugar
  • salt

After everything was cooked, he lowered the heat and added katakuriko (Japanese potato starch) to thicken the sauce.

To serve, he removed the tofu from the pan so that it could form the bottom layer for the veggies.

(How sad I would be if I had never discovered tofu. I really, really want to visit at least one, and hopefully more, tofu restaurants during our upcoming visit to Japan. Yusuke went to a place called Junsei once in Kyoto and has never forgotten the experience. The restaurant’s site has posted an interesting video of the tofu-making process.)

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New Year’s dishes

Yusuke and I shared a quiet New Year’s Eve at home, and he made us a lovely feast for the occasion. He said that the components of the menu didn’t really match, as it turned out to be a combination of stuff that we wanted to finish off from the fridge. Oh, well.


The most important part was the soba—thin buckwheat noodles. Soba is traditionally eaten in Japan for New Year’s, with the noodles symbolizing good luck for long life. This batch was a gift from my mother-in-law. It can be eaten in many different ways, but in this case, Yusuke boiled the noodles without sauce and then arranged them on a plate. We each had a bowl of dipping sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sake, dashi, and a tiny bit of salt. We mixed in fresh green onions and either wasabi or ginger.

The eating procedure is to take a good amount of noodles from the plate, dip them into the bowl briefly (being sure to catch some green onions), and then slurp them into your mouth. I’m still working on my slurping technique.

Note also the lovely small white dish and blue bowl: Christmas presents from my mom.

tako salad

Earlier in the day, Yusuke had said that pickled tako (octopus) was a typical food eaten at New Year’s. I saw some at the grocery store, so I bought it, sort of as a joke. But then we had to use it! Hmm. Yusuke made this beautiful salad, inspired by a recipe found online.

First he chopped the tako, rubbed the surface with salt, and rinsed it. Then he boiled the pieces in water and a bit of ginger ale. The latter was in lieu of club soda, which he had read helps to tenderize the octopus. The cooked tako was mixed with chopped raw vegetables: white onions, celery, and cherry tomatoes. I believe that his recipe called for parsley instead of celery, but we wanted to use the monster stalk left over from our Christmas dinner. The salad dressing was 55 mL of rice wine vinegar, a bit of olive oil, and salt & pepper.

The final dish for New Year’s Eve was very simple: boiled pieces of cabbage with some of the sauce used for the soba, garnished with bonito flakes. I had been craving cabbage and ate about 5 servings.

On New Year’s Day, the special foods continued. The first dish was mashed sweet potatoes with sugar. Yusuke thinks he used about half a cup of superfine sugar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite match the sugar that would be used in Japan, which to all accounts gives a greater depth of flavour. This represented the New Year’s dish kurikinton, which should be made with either mashed chestnuts or a combination of sweet potatoes and chestnuts.

The main attraction was ozōni (お雑煮), which is essential to Japanese New Year’s. The soup had spinach, daikon, carrots, shitake mushrooms, and chicken. The broth consisted of sake, soy sauce, salt, and dashi. It was so flavourful that it was hard to believe that it was that simple. The mochi was added last, wonderfully sticky and filling.

We also had leftover tako for lunch, which was dipped in wasabi and soy sauce. Yum.

All-in-all, these were meals to promote a healthy and lucky start to 2010.

Yusuke also broke open his Christmas/birthday package of dorayaki on New Year’s Eve. So. Good.

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Jun-i report

In honour of Yusuke’s birthday, my parents treated us to a lovely (as always) lunch at Jun-i. Here is the documentation. My previous recaps are here.

Tea was first needed to warm us up, especially my dad, who had trekked to the restaurant on foot. Warm sake followed shortly thereafter.

For our first course, Yusuke had miso soup (so beautiful), I had the kaiso (seaweed) salad, and my parents both had the house salad (above).

My parents both ordered the fish of the day, the genre of which, unfortunately, I can’t recall. I think it was black cod? Anyway, it had a very nice, light tomato sauce along with mussels.

Yusuke and I were boring and ordered the chef’s selection of sashimi and nigiri sushi. My favourite was the very, very pale pink fish (fourth nigiri sushi from the left, above). I can’t remember what is was, though. Perhaps striped sea bass.

We made sure that each of the three desserts of the day were ordered so that we could sample all of them: chocolate ginger cake with ice cream, green tea tiramisu, and some type of apple compote-custard thing that was absolutely marvelous.

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