Posts Tagged seaweed

2013 Soba

I’m having a hard time believing that it’s already time to adieu 2013. Well, I prefer even numbers, so I’m ready to get this show on the road.

To usher out the year properly, and to wish for long (but not thick) life, we followed the Japanese tradition of eating soba on New Year’s Eve.

As usual, the soba was dressed with a nice variety of toppings: natto, mashed avocado, eggs with slightly runny yolks, raw green onions, nori seaweed cut into strips, and of course, wasabi and tsuyu (soba sauce).


[UPDATE: just a note about the eggs: they’re hot springs egg style (i.e., soft yolks). The key to this is to bring water to a boil FIRST, then add the eggs and cook for seven minutes.

Also, this wine.


New Year's Eve rosé

New Year’s Eve rosé

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Wafuu chahan

wafuu chahan

Yuuummmmm, these photos are making me drool. This post gets two for good measure.

I’ve labeled the dish わふうチャーハン, that is, Japanese style fried rice (wafuu chahan).

The first step was to soak dried hijiki, a wondrous thin seaweed, kindly sent to us by my mother-in-law in Japan. (I also love kombu, nori, and wakame, but I think hijiki is my favourite.)

Yusuke began the cooking stage by sauteing shredded cabbage and chopped okra with a bit of sesame oil.

He then added the now-soft drained hijiki to the sizzling pan.

After the veggies were cooked, he pushed them to the side of the pan and poured beaten eggs onto the hot surface. After the eggs stared to cook (like an omelette), he added hot pre-cooked rice and mixed everything together.

At the very end, he added some seasoning to taste:

  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • dashi powder
  • soy sauce

So. Good.


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Five things

This is a beautiful take on ごもくまめ (gomoku-mame), or “5 things and [soy]beans.” Or something like that. Often, the dish includes kombu or hijiki, mushrooms, konnyaku, gobo (burdock root), and renkon (lotus root)—the latter two to contribute a literally earthy taste.

Well, here we had to go with what was in our fridge, and we have five things including soybeans, but I think it still counts:

  • shitake mushrooms
  • kombu (seaweed)
  • carrots
  • snap peas

Yusuke anticipated this meal by soaking the soybeans in water for 24 hours or so. When it was time to start cooking, he drained them and added new water, bringing it to a boil. The beans were cooked for about an hour at low to medium heat, and he periodically scooped out the thin, bitter residue that comes off the beans.

Meanwhile, he soaked dried shitake for about 30 minutes. and then added the mushrooms, along with their soaking water, to the beans—enough water to cover them.

Next he added pieces of kombu that had been chopped into square-shaped pieces.

Then he added 1 tsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of soy sauce. Everything simmered for a while to reduce the water. Midway through the simmering stage, he added chopped carrots, and then almost at the very end came chopped snap peas.

Yummy and very filling.

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Portobello rice burger

My backlog of blog fodder is piling up again, so I thought I should break the posting fast with a particularly nifty dish.

Yusuke’s fantastic work here was inspired by both fast food and fancy cookbook fare.

He began by grilling especially lovely portobello mushrooms on our George Foreman grill. Pan-toasting would also work. He sprinkled a tiny bit of sea salt on the surface of the mushrooms before cooking.

To prepare the rice buns, he made brown rice like normal in our rice cooker. When it was finished, he wrapped a bun-sized amount in plastic wrap and squished it in a little custard bowl, using a second bowl for additional smashing power. Then he flattened the mounds by hand.

Next, he brushed the rice with a very light coating of sauce: equal amounts of sake, mirin, and soy sauce, along with a bit of sesame oil and ginger.

Finally, he toasted the buns on both sides in a frying pan.

To assemble, he added a bit more of the sauce to the mushrooms and added lightly toasted sheets of nori seaweed. Mayonnaise is an optional condiment.

During our last trip to Japan, I was pleased to encounter a hamburger joint at which I could be happy: Mos Burger, a Japanese institution. [N.B. The website includes ridiculously animated hamburgers.] Although the vast majority of their offerings don’t exactly suit my tastes, I discovered the fantabulous kinpira burger on a rice bun. The veggies in that instance were carrots, mushrooms, and gobo.

At Mos Burger

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Kombu-steamed portobello mushrooms

I think this meal represents quite well the epitome of Japanese simplicity.

The first component was steamed portobello mushrooms. Yusuke lined a steamer basket with thick strips of kombu (seaweed), sprinkled a bit of dashi powder, and then steamed the chunks of mushroom. To eat, we sprinkled a tiny bit of crushed sea salt, which was marvelous for bringing out the mushrooms’ flavour.

Yusuke has been using sea salt quite often lately, but he wasn’t sure if he was just imagining the difference in taste. He did a taste test to compare sea salt and table salt, one after the other, and confirmed that the difference was real! There was a post recently on World’s Healthiest Foods about different types of salt for further reading.

I ate the kombu “wrappings,” too, half with the dinner, and half for my lunch the next day. Yusuke thinks my hair might turn black from all the seaweed that I eat…

We also had miso soup with bean sprouts and unusually sweet green onions.

The final component of the meal was sliced avocado with an improvised ponzu sauce. As I’ve mentioned before, ponzu is a citrus-based sauce—often made with yuzu, which isn’t obtainable chez nous. Instead, Yusuke uses a mixture of dashi, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, water, and soy sauce. We had never mixed ponzu and avocado, but it turned out to be quite yummy: very refreshing in contrast with the richness of the avocado.

Avocado courtesy of Flickr user Island Vittles. Photo license: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

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Shitake soup

This is a bit of a filler pic, but the soup was just so pretty. The soup ingredients are:

in a broth of

  • dashi
  • soy sauce
  • sake
  • salt.

That’s all, and so tasty.

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Moyashi domburi

A few weeks ago, Yusuke was positively salivating over pictures of food that one of his sisters had taken during a trip to Hokkaido. In particular, he really drooled over the various ramen dishes. Alas, we didn’t have any ramen on hand, but he made a substitute.

To start, he sautéed a tiny bit of spicy tobanjan sauce with sesame oil and then added asparagus, leeks, and bean sprouts. For additional seasoning, he added a tiny of bit of salt—to be precise—and 1 tbsp of soy sauce.

This mixture was dumped onto a healthy portion of rice.

Next came the broth spooned over all: made of soy sauce, water, black pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, and bonito powder. Last, strips of nori were arranged to garnish.

This is nothing like ramen at all, but for Yusuke it evoked the taste of shoyu (soy sauce) ramen and made him less jealous of his sister.

(To help with my search results: domburi is also transliterated as donburi. Easier: 丼 or どんぶり)

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Modified wafuu quinoa

This meal was inspired from a post on the always-fabulous Just Bento blog.

We followed the principles in the original recipe:

First, a cup of quinoa was cooked in our rice cooker (normal rice setting) with a cup of water and a sprinkling of dashi.

While the quinoa was cooking, Yusuke stir fried a selection of veggies in sesame oil and ginger:

  • daikon
  • shitake
  • white onions
  • dried wakame (soaked first)
  • green onions (added very last)

He added the cooked quinoa to the frying pan, and then flavoured everything with soy sauce, dashi, sake, and sea salt.

The truly excellent results were accompanied by asparagus miso soup on the side.

Here are some choice excerpts from the original post:

…Quinoa is one of my grains (as an alternative to rice) for bentos, since it maintains its distinct, poppy texture even when cooled. As it happens, quinoa (written キヌア and pronounced as ki-nu-wa) is getting quite popular in Japan as it seems to be all over the world, and it’s sold at regular supermarkets…

…You could just pack this alone in a bento box, and you’ll get all the major nutrition groups – carbs, protein, a little fat and vegetables, plus fiber – in one go.

…“Wafuu” means “traditional Japanese style” by the way. Quinoa is not at all Japanese, but the flavors in this are.

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Jun-i encore une fois

Per tradition, here is documentation of our latest Jun-i feast (see previously here, here, and here).

kaiso salad


I opted to start with a tasty kaiso salad. In English, we really only have one word for “seaweed,” which is kind of inadequate. This salad shows the huge variety of plants in this family, with all manner of colour, texture, and taste. I particular like the light green crunchy one on the far right. N.B. the white stuff is thinly sliced daikon (radish). The dressing, which is used sparingly so as not to ruin the unique tastes of the seaweed, was a vinaigrette with ponzu (similar to lemon).

Yusuke went with the wonderful miso soup. So perfect. They make it with enoki mushrooms, tiny cubes of tofu, and sliver of green onions. Fortunately, both the salad and soup were large enough for two to share.

Next came the main course:



Yusuke went with the usual: the chef’s selection of sushi (above). I decided to be creative, though, and select some of my favourites from the sushi menu: tako (octopus), ikura (salmon caviar), salmon sashimi (VERY good organic), and unagi (sweetly barbecued eel). I also tried uni (sea urchin) for the first time. Extremely delectable. The texture, I was surprised to find, is wonderfully creamy. I really like taste of the nori with the ikura and uni, which are known as gunkan sushi due to the “battleship” shape.

On the topic of sushi, I found a nifty web page with sushi tips for people in North American and Europe. The uninitiated should especially check out “Warning signs that you probably won’t get good sushi.” I would add that in many cases, restaurants with “fuji” in the name (e.g., Fujiyama) are not likely to be authentic. Although written by a gaijin, Yusuke verified that the advice is accurate (despite some strange choices in romaji/transliteration).

Anyway, back to Jun-i: last was dessert. I was too stuffed to have my own, but I tasted Yusuke’s selection of a modified tiramisu with matcha (green tea) powder. Ooomm.


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Random veggies and soba

Two soba meals. (I wrote more about soba here.)

Soba bowl

Soba bowl

The first bowl shows cold soba for summer. The sauce consists of dashi, mirin, salt, soy sauce, sake, and kombu (seaweed) broth. The toppings are green beans, wakame, shrimp, bean sprouts, and green onions. Fresh and crunchy. Chili flakes are sprinkled on top for extra spice.

I’m pretty sure that both of these meals had matcha soba, which are made with green tea mixed in with the buckwheat. Yum yum.

I tried my very best to make the proper slurping noises while eating my soba, but this is difficult when quiet eating is so ingrained.

Hot soba: eating in progress

Hot soba: eating in progress

And this is hot soba for the fall. The sauce is the same, but the toppings are shrimp, carrots, egg, white onions, green onions, and pork (for Yusuke).

Note: the ingredients always begin in a tidy arrangement on top of the noodles, but I took this picture after Yusuke had mixed it up and begun to dig in.

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