Archive for January, 2014

Black bean patties


I’m usually supremely uninspired when it comes to cooking, but I actually tried preparing something out of the ordinary for dinner recently. Inspiration must be attributed to “pattzukis” on the lovely blog Gourmande in Osaka. Lacking azuki beans, though, I made my patties with black beans instead.

The Ingredients

  • Black beans, maybe 2 cups dry?
  • Sesame seeds, a few sprinkles
  • Ginger (1 tsbp minced)
  • Garlic (1.5 tsp minced)
  • Finely chopped green onions (1 bunch, raw)
  • Katakuriko, 2 tbsp dissolved in 2 tbsp

Step 1: Soak the beans for as long as possible (I managed about 5-6 hours), then boil them until soft. I simmered mine for about 1 hour.

Step 2: Mash the beans with whatever implement seems fit for purpose.

Step 3: Well, this actually happens concurrently with step 2: add in all of the other ingredients, adding the katakuriko (Japanese potato starch) last.

Step 4: Continue mixing and mashing until the mixture is “pasty” enough to form patties.

Step 5: Eat the patties as is. Or, for added tastiness, saute the patties in olive oil until slightly browned.

Very, very tasty and filling. I will DEFINITELY make these again and experiment with other types of beans and flavourings. Check out the Gourmand in Osaka link above for many great ideas involving, for example, miso, chili paste, oatmeal, and more.

A green salad with tomatoes made a complementary side dish, plus veggie-based soup with mushrooms, white onions, and wakame (seaweed).

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Grilled veg

grilled veg

After about 3 new posts, I’ve now lapsed into forgetfulness re taking dinner photos.

Instead, though, here is an oldish snap of some lovely grilled veg tapas from a Spanish-style street food stall. Very tasty, although a bit heavy on the salt. The mushrooms were vinegary, too, but that suits my tastes. Can’t beat freshly grilled on a wood-fueled fire!

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Eggplant salad with wasabi dressing


This is a super-simple salad with just mixed greens and steamed eggplant. But I wanted to blog about the dressing. I usually don’t really like salad dressing (why ruin the veggies’ own flavours?), but this one is quite tasty. It’s special, too; apparently only available for purchase from a town called Odawara, near where my grandmother-in-law lived. Yusuke’s mom gave us a couple of bottles during a recent trip.

It’s very slightly creamy, but much less so than a ranch dressing. Other items on the ingredient list include: vinegar, sugar, oil, egg yolk, soy, green and white onions, spices, garlic, salt. Most importantly, though, the wasabi kick is delightful with raw greens—only a few drops are needed.



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Shio-koji stir fry numero uno


Shio-kōji is a popular item in Japanese kitchens of late, and hence in “western” ones as well. Yusuke and I had wanted to try it for a while, so he brought back a jar on a recent trip to Japan. We subsequently found it at a local Japanese grocery; restocking will not be too arduous!

So, what is shio-kōji? Short answer: kōji with salt.

So, what is kōji? Short answer: fungus.

Here is a longer answer from Makiko Itoh in the Japan Times. (Visit the rest of the article to read more.)

Kōji (Aspergillus oryzae) was probably domesticated at least 2,000 years ago. It is used to make sake, mirin, shōchū, awamori (an Okinawan beverage), rice vinegar, soy sauce and miso – all ingredients that define Japanese food. No wonder that it was declared the kokkin (national fungus) by the Brewing Society of Japan, and the genome was closely protected until 2005. Besides Japan, it is also used extensively in China and Korea to ferment and mature various foods.

To use kōji, spores are mixed into steamed rice (potatoes, wheat and soybeans are also used, depending on the purpose), then allowed to mature for a period of time in a warm environment, about 50 degrees Celsius. The kōji turns the starch in the rice into sugar (a process called saccharification) and releases a variety of fatty acids and amino acids including glutamate, the basis for the “fifth taste,” umami. This kōji-rice mixture is called kome-kōji.

When mixed with salt (shio, in Japanese), kōji is a very tasty cooking seasoning. It can be used for a variety of purposes, but among the most popular is marinating meat, fish, tofu, or veggies.

So far, we’ve used it to marinate salmon, as well as in a few veggie stir fries. Pictured above is the first attempt.

Yusuke began by stir frying the following in sesame oil:

  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Shrimp

When the veggies were nearly cooked, he stirred in about 2 tsp of shio-kōji and a sprinkling of black pepper. That’s it!

The concept of umami can be explained in many ways, but for me, it has to do with layers of taste and enhancing the natural flavours of the fresh veggies.

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