Tokyo Bandwagon: this book saved my life

Tokyo Bandwagon:  this book saved my life

That was only one book I was able to read and comprehend.  It was the only book that woke up my brain and all my senses.  I was able to cry and I felt the pain for the first time since he passed.

There are 2 things I can’t live without, good food and good books.  Sometime in 2007, I was struggling hard.  I could not eat and could not read.  I tried and tried to open many books and read but my brain was not processing any letters, words, and sentences.  But finally I found one that I could read and feel and it is called “Tokyo Bandwagon” written by Yukiya Shoji, Japanese author.  I still haven’t figured out why this book was the only one I could read but it really does not matter.  The important thing is that this book made me realize that I was alive.  I just heard news about the brand new book (8th book of ongoing series) will be published this coming April and my heart jumped for joy.  Only 3 more months to go.

I am forever thankful.  This book saved my life.

My kind of meditation: Nurturing my root

My kind of meditation:  Nurturing my root

Food takes time to prepare in general.  Any kind of food really but I have to say Japanese food is one of those foods that takes lots of time to prep.  If you want something quick and easy, you might want to be reconsider about becoming a Japanese cook.  However, Japanese food is the one if you enjoy process, experience and of course, eating Japanese food.

I heard that most people are born with 4 taste palettes, sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and sourness.  Asian people are usually born with one more, umami.  What is umami anyway?

“Umami is an appetitive taste and is described as a savory or meaty taste. It can be tasted in cheese and soy sauce, and while also found in many other fermented and aged foods, this taste is also present in tomatoes, grains, and beans.  A loanword from Japanese meaning “good flavor” or “good taste”,[46] umami (旨味?) is considered fundamental to many Eastern cuisines and was first described in 1908, although it was only recently recognized in the West as a basic taste. Some umami taste buds respond specifically to glutamate in the same way that “sweet” ones respond to sugar. Glutamate binds to a variant of G protein coupled glutamate receptors. (source-Wikipedia)”

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This is “sumashi-jiru” (clear soup).  Today, I made this soup with snow peas, lotus roots and scallops.  This looks quite simple but this requires time, dedication, and love.  This soup is packed with umami.  I did not have to add gobs of condiments, I only added tiny bit of salt and just a splash of shoyu (soy sauce).  It took about 90 minutes total to prepare this soup.

First, you simmer 3′ x 3′ kelp piece for 1 hour, then add handful shaved dried bonito (you can buy shaved bonito flakes at grocery stores, but I shave them myself) and bring to boil, leave it about 1 minute.  Then you filter the stock to make it super clear, golden color tasty dashi.  Then you put separately prepared snow peas and lotus root in to a bowl and pour this deliciousness over them.  THIS soup is my main course for lunch today.  Shaving bonito takes time, cooking dashi takes time but these “times” are my weekend rituals. Makes me feel proud and I am thankful that my mom taught me Japanese traditional way of cooking.

I look forward to every weekend because of this.  This is my way of meditating through preparing meals, appreciating meals and being gracious for my Japanese roots.  Sunday is always a great day.

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Flan and Simple Minds: perfect rainy day in Seattle

Flan and Simple Minds: perfect rainy day in Seattle

I remember the smell of burnt sugar spreading throughout the whole house.  For some reason, that always happened on rainy days in Tokyo.  My mom made this simple, classic and non-flashy kind of flan when I was a little kid.  It was not always consistent. Sometimes it was dense and sometimes it was kind of runny.  It was not perfect, that is why I adore her flan even today.

It is raining in Seattle today (or 182 days of the year) and it is Saturday.  Pandora is playing Simple Minds and rain keeps falling down, down and down so it is perfect day for making some imperfect flans.

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I will tell you all about it: Uni Ikura Donburi

I will tell you all about it:  Uni Ikura Donburi

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How does this look like to you?  Gross? Weird?  To me, this looks just gorgeous.

If you let Japanese mom or grandma cook, you’d be surprised how much they do NOT waste ingredients.  For example, let’s talk about chicken.  They cook thigh, breast, wings, inner-fillet, liver, heart, tale, gizzard, feet, (we eat some parts raw…I know.  But they are delicious!), and bones and neck for soup stock.  Fish, same thing.  They will use everything even fish roes.

So, in this photo, red pearl-ish looking thing is Ikura, salmon roes.  Yellow slimy looking thing is Uni, sea urchin.  You put these 2 things on a bed of rice, Donburi, then add little amount of Shoyu (good quality soy sauce, I recommend Ohsawa Brand.  You can buy it natural food stores or online http://shop.goldminenaturalfoods.com/Nama-Shoyu/products/58/), you would feel like you are in heaven.

I don’t believe many sushi restaurants have this dish on the menu in the U.S. but if you order by saying “hey, I’d like to order Uni Ikura Donburi” in Japanese, you would impress the hell out of sushi chef.  I guarantee it.

Japanese (mom’s) curry? Yeah, I think so.

Japanese (mom’s) curry?  Yeah, I think so.

What is Japanese curry (kare-raisu: curry and rice) anyways?  It is a little bit thicker, more like stew-ish texture than Indian curry.  I heard that curry and rice was introduced to Japan in late 1800’s for the first time from England.  But does it matter?  Not really.  Most importantly, I know this thing is delicious and that’s actually all that matters.  It is one of Japanese soul foods if you ask me “what the hell is Japanese curry?”  Today I used sweet onion, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomato sauce, cumin, curry power, cinnamon, Theo chocolate (85% dark) and super finely ground Starbucks Kenya coffee beans.  I think chocolate and coffee add rich body to the curry.

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Every time I make Japanese style curry and rice, vivid memory of my mom cooking curry flashes back in my head.  Cold and windy day in Tokyo, I come home from school, and as soon as I open the door, this warm, spicy and familiar smell drifts out from the kitchen.  I love any kind of curry, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Pakistani, Java, Indonesian…but my mom’s curry is simply the best.

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Tomato…so cheerful

I am hungry.  Actually I am starving.  After spending 10 hours or so at work, I want to eat fast.  My choices are 1) to suck it up and cook 2) to go straight to the couch.  OK, I choose 1) tonight but it needs to quick and delicious.  It cannot be one those ready-made crap.  No.  It MUST have my love in it and be yummy in my tummy.  On cold and gloomy night in Seattle, I thought tomato red would cheer my heart up and my stomach up.  One big can of San Marzano and dried spaghetti box in my pantry.  Ok.  One Walla Walla sweet onion and brown mushroom in my veggie bin.  Cool, I don’t have to go to store.  In my Staub, I start cooking chopped onion with Lorenzo No.1 olive oil then add some mushroom, then whole can of tomato and Eden sea Salt.  Shimmer while I take shower.

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Then above becomes this with accompaniment.

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Baby, it’s cold outside.  Let’s eat spaghetti with simple tomato sauce so this will take us to under Italian sun and cold night blues are done immediately.

Friday Night-out: feeding my soul

This is how I spend my Friday night, hanging out at ice cream shop.  And no, I am not ashamed of it especially when I found my dear friend, Ayako (she is BEAUTIFUL inside and out just to mention, and an artisan jam maker & florist)’s jam is featured at Molly Moon’s Ice cream (http://www.mollymoonicecream.com/) which is my favorite ice cream shop in entire world.  Yes, better ice cream shops might exist, like Salt & Straw in PDX and LA or any gelato stores in Italy , but Molly Moon’s had me at hello and I don’t have any intention changing my love for that place.  Anyway, after watching this quirky, weird, and yet fantastic movie called “Ruby Sparks,” we were on a way to get a slice of Marion berry pie at High 5 Pie. Thank goodness, it was closed and here is why I said “Thank goodness.”  Well, we shifted a gear quickly and were headed to Molly Moon’s.  Then, what did I find there.  Ayako’s jam and even sundae called “Ayako Sundae.”  My heart swelled with the pride.

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This gorgeous sundae made with Theo Chocolate ice cream ream, Chukah cherries, Theo Chocolate crumbs, and of course Ayako’s jam.  All ingredients are made in Washington State.  How cool (literally) is that.  This is one of awesome ways to spend freezing Friday night, I tell you.

http://ayakoandfamily.com/pages/about-us                                                                                                                               http://www.marigoldandmint.com/

「はなきん」の過ごし方には色々あると思いますが、私の金曜の夜の過ごし方をご紹介。クラブやバーに行くのではありません。アイスクリームを食べに出かけるのです。このさっむーい夜にわざわざ。でも、お店に到着してからが、すごかった。シアトルで最も愛されている、「モリムーンズ」は地元で採れる材料だけを使ってアイスクリームを作っています。そこで、私が愛してやまない、あやこさん(ジャム職人+フローリスト。私の結婚式のお花を全部担当してくれた)のジャムがフィーチャーされているではありませんか。しかもメニューボードには「アヤコサンデー」の文字が。大好きなお友達の名前が、大好きなアイスクリーム屋さんのメニューになってる!こんなうれしい事って、クラブやバーでは起こらないですもん。はじめは、パイ屋さんで、マリオンベリーパイを食べようと思ったんだけれど、閉まってたので、モリムーンズにしたんです。今夜に限っては、パイ屋さん、閉まってくれてよかったー。

Pacific Northwest Wild Mushroom Risotto

First dinner of 2015 is risotto using Pacific Northwest wild mushroom that I bought at University district farmers market vendor called Foraged & Found Edibles.

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Various kinds of dried mushroom in 2oz bag so I soaked a whole bag in water for a couple hours, then used the water as risotto stock.

Then handsome risotto (a bit salt, Parmesan cheese)

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First pie of 2015

My first pie this year is Almond Cherry Pie from High 5 Pie with hot chocolate using Theo’s 85% dark chocolate with almond milk.
風邪を引いて寝込んだ私に、ジェフがHigh5 Pieで買ってきてくれたのは、アーモンドチェリーパイ。今年初パイです。お供はTheoのチョコレートで作った、チョコラショー。甘 x 甘 かと思ったけれど、85%のダークを使ったので、以外と美味しかったです。

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