Archive for ‘japanese food’

December 10th, 2016

Karaage san!

As much as he hates ambiguous “Asian seasonings,” my husband actually loves karaage, soy flavored Japanese fried chicken.  He probably eats more karaage than regular fried chicken these days, not because he prefers it, but because that’s one of the few dishes he enjoys when we go to an izakaya, which is a tapas style Japanese restaurant.  He has this Cheers-like Norm fantasy of being called by “karaage san” (Mr. Karaage) by the staff of our imaginary neighborhood izakaya upon entering.  In reality, there are no Japanese restaurants in our neighborhood (there are, but none offers good karaage), so I fulfill his fantasies by cooking Japanese Fried Chicken for him…I just won’t call him Karaage-San.

Here’s the recipe:

4 Chicken thighs (skin on; bone off)
2 Cloves of Garlic
Soy sauce (3)
Sake (1)
Mirin (.5)
(3:1: .5 as standard ratio; use more soy sauce if you want saltier, mirin for sweeter)
You can use substitute mirin with sugar or honey.
Potato starch (Katakuriko)
frying oil

1. Skin side up, cut thighs into 4 – 6 bite sizes (depending on the size of thighs)
2. Put all liquid in a ziplock and add grated garlic and grated ginger (a little less than garlic) to the bag, shake it to mix
3. Put cut thighs in the ziplock, remove air as much as possible and marinate at least 30 minutes to overnight in the fridge
4. When you are ready to fry, take out thighs from the bag and put on paper towel to remove excess liquid
5. Put oil in a deep frying pan and turn the heat on (enough to cover pieces of meat)
6. Put potato starch in a bowl and add chicken pieces to coat chicken
7. When the oil reaches high temperature (350F or when you drop a little bit of corn starch, it immediately comes up towards the surface of oil), add a few pieces of chicken at a time.
8. Fry a few minutes each side until golden brown
9. Once chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken from the oil and lay down on paper towel to remove excess oil.
10. Plate them with some greens and lemon.



July 10th, 2014

Bacon, Sushi and Freedom

I love bacon.  That’s definitely one food item that America does best.  No matter how great Japanese, French or Italian cuisines are, no other country can offer a better piece of cured meat than America.  That pride and joy has led to a bacon craze.  Bacon mac n’ cheese, chocolate covered bacon, even bacon cocktail and bacon chapstick.  Some are good, some are… not so much.

Tuna BLT Roll | Blue C Sushi

Tuna BLT Roll | Blue C Sushi

Then I ate a tuna BLT roll at Hollywood’s Blue C Sushi— a classic sandwich favorite turned into sushi.  Bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado wrapped with seaweed and rice, then topped with seared tuna and bacon jam.  Sushi and bacon… It can be the greatest thing, or a total disaster.  Which was this?  It was absolutely delicious.  When you dip it in soy sauce a little (Do NOT over dip! That’s a sushi 101), the sweetness of the bacon jam along with the saltiness, is the best ‘east meets west’ creation since Hello Kitty Give Away nights at Dodger Stadium.  (Not a good example, but hey, they are popular.)  The crispy bacon, tuna, rice with creamy avocado combination makes it fun to eat as well.

Blue C Sushi | Hollywood, CA

America puts its virtue on freedom and being creative.  Japan is a country of tradition and rules.  That’s why Jiro only dreams of sushi, while American chefs can create sushi with bacon jam.  Being Japanese but living in America, I go back and forth between the two cultures as I love traditional sushi as well as the creative and unique version.  You can’t compare those two and judge which is better.  Both serve different purposes.  Blue C Sushi, a Seattle based revolving sushi restaurant, makes good creative sushi.  The interior is bright, pop, and futuristic as you’d imagine Tokyo to be, with a big subway motif on the middle of the wall.  All plates are named for Tokyo’s subway lines.  For example, Salmon is on a light blue plate, which is the color code for the Tozai Line, and goes for $4.75; California rolls are on the orange Ginza Line, all priced at $3.50.  Yes, revolving sushi virgins, plates are all color coded and priced accordingly which makes it easy to see how many plates you’ve eaten as well as how much money you’ve spent.   As an example of pure American freedom of choice, alongside rainbow rolls and octopus, you’ll also see brownies, cookies and  cupcakes. Why not?  (I also overheard there’s a secret dessert… Fried brownie!)

Hama Chili | Blue C Sushi

Hama Chili | Blue C Sushi

Creativity doesn’t stop at bacon.  Take for example, Hama Chili, fresh, melt in the mouth yellowtail with citrus soy chili, and  serrano chili and cilantro on top.  Also shigoku oyster with pungent fish sauce mignonette.  Shigoku oyster is known for its round, plump and firm flesh and a deep cup.  Ocean tides tumble them a few times a day results in that special texture.  For a non fish eater, there’s potato katsu on the menu.  That’s a Japanese answer to tater tots, deep fried panko breaded potato comes with tonkatsu sauce.  It’s not really Japanese, but who cares, it’s fun!  That’s probably the best word to describe eating at Blue C Sushi, fun… and delicious.

May 26th, 2014

Bread and Chawanmushi

Everybody has a favorite carb.  Depending on my mood, my favorite carbohydrate is either Japanese rice or noodles.  My husband?  His choice is predictably, bread.  One time, I left him to fend for himself for his meals, and found out later, that he ate two baguettes by himself in a day. I like the smell of freshly baked bread and eat it at restaurants, but I never brought a baguette or any bread home before I started dating my husband.  One of our first dates, we went to a restaurant which name contains bread and bar for lunch.  Two of his favorite words.  We ordered a bread basket, expecting lots of freshly made warm bread.  Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver anything close to our expectations as we got scraps of bread pieces.  Right there, we established the unspoken code of “NEVER ORDER THE BREAD BASKET”.


Bread Plate | Faith & Flower

Fast forward five years to the current day where we just realized that we’ve ordered a bread basket twice in a few week…and even more surprising, one was my idea.  Faith & Flower, a rustic Californian restaurant opened near our home, and a few weeks ago, they started offering brunch.  The menu offers a variety of interesting selections.  You can get something familiar like twice cooked potatoes or something exotic, like “Chawanmushi”, which is coincidentally my favorite dish of all time.  It’s a traditional Japanese savory egg custard made with eggs and seafood stocks, but at Faith & Flower, it’s made with lemon dashi and chicken confit.  The brunch also offers their signature dishes,  “Eggs Benedict Pizza,” and “Oxtail Agnolotti.” Both are available on their lunch and dinner menus as well.  I usually order something interesting so I was deciding between their handmade ramen or their Chawanmushi, but since my husband ordered the potato, fried egg and a bread plate, I picked a protein instead of a carb.  Western style Chawanmushi.


Chawanmushi | Faith & Flower

The bread plate came with a couple of slices of chewy and hazel nutty oatmeal bread, right out of the oven (with the proof being a slight burn on top) croissants, and a pistachio bun with butter and homemade berry preserves on a pretty French antique looking plate.  Very pretty. Even prettier: the bread.  All three kinds of unique, fresh and warm bread made me happy, but the highlight was the pistachio bun.  It was soft, moist and had the perfect density, with a pistachio creme and citrus zest on top.  We were hooked.  Everything that came after was good, but my husband and I were already discussing how we could come back the next day and get this bread plate again. Fortunately or unfortunately, one of us has to work on weekends for while, so we didn’t get to revisit this gorgeous plate of bread for a couple of weeks, but we did talk about it a few times, so that counts.  All that changed this Sunday while I was making us brunch.  I made a call to the restaurant and ordered the bread plate to go.  I had to, because now, I understand the beauty of good bread.


Pistachio Bun | Faith & Flower


Crispy Egg | Faith & Flower



Crispy Twice Cooked Potato | Faith & flower



March 25th, 2013

Spaghetti Napolitan

It started with a simple request: “I want spaghetti tonight.”  I didn’t have any sauce precooked, and the thought of pasta sauce in a jar? No way.  I refuse to use those from the grocery shelf since my first taste back in college.  What spaghetti dish could I make with limited time and ingredients?  The answer? Spaghetti Napolitan!


“Napolitan” sounds Italian, doesn’t it?  Then why you haven’t heard of it?  Because it isn’t real Italian, that’s why.   (Spaghetti) Napolitan is a Japanese kids’ favorite that you can find on the menu at most of Japanese cafes.  It’s spaghetti with onion, green pepper and mushroom with some kind of processed meat (such as bacon or ham) and ketchup.   The Japanese created this dish after World War II.  Japanese chefs at the Hotel New Grand, which GHQ requisitioned for a while, got the idea from observing American soldiers eating spaghetti with ketchup as their regular meal.  So those hotel chefs probably thought why not, right?   My exact thoughts: my husband loves ketchup, he puts that on everything, so why not?

I was so wrong.  My husband said he didn’t like spaghetti with the flavor of ketchup.  “But”, I said, “You like ketchup!”  “Not with pasta!”  But again, I said, “This is almost like omerice that you like.” Instead of answering, he quoted GoodFellas.  “I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup.”  *Sigh* I can’t argue with one of the greatest movies ever, but still, all these Japanese kids grow up eating it and loving it!  Are they schnooks?   Why doesn’t  my ketchup loving husband like it?

Adding insult to injury, he even said he’d rather have spaghetti with sauce from a jar.  Although I doubt he’ll eat jarred pasta sauce, I guess he was expecting “real Italian” spaghetti, so receiving “ketchup” tasting pasta was disappointing.  I thought this was ironic because ketchup was invented by Americans, and Napolitan was invented by the Japanese, so in theory, it’s a perfect “fusion” dish, right?  Oh well, cook and learn!

P.S. He didn’t hate it; he finished the plate.

April 18th, 2012

Breakfast in America

Could we have kippers for breakfast

Mummy dear, Mummy dear Supertramp may have inspired me to try kippers, but my husband’s love of deli breakfasts made it all possible…

You have no idea of my joy and excitement when I found out what kippers were and how frequently they were on the menu at local Jewish delis.  You see, I grew up eating kippers.  My mother cooks a really good kipper dish, which I always asks her to make when I go home to visit. In Japanese, kippers are called nishin.  My absolute favorite way to have it is by soaking dried kippers in water overnight, then cooking them in a soy sauce based broth until they’re tender.

When you travel to Japan, check the menu for migaki nishin.  It’s not as popular as sushi, still, I highly recommend that you try it. It’s usually served on warm soba noodles, but at home, I just eat it with rice.
“Boy, you are courageous”.  a veteran waitress told me when I ordered kippers at a Jewish deli in L.A..  I guess it’s not the most popular item for breakfast in America, but those like me, who do enjoy them, experience a delicious buttery, salty sensation.

My kippers were served alongside sauteed onions, potatoes, and eggs.   If they had come with a side of rice, I may had experienced the perfect breakfast.  Finally, it pays off to be married to a Jewish guy with an unhealthy obsession with breakfast.

January 26th, 2012

Fish bits

My husband doesn’t like seafood, but at least, he always tries.  He finds a few things here and there that he doesn’t mind , with ‘doesn’t mind’ meaning he wouldn’t go as far as saying he likes it nor would he order it by choice.

I noticed that most American fish dishes are fillets, so not only my husband, but also many of my sushi loving American friends are not big fans of seeing an entire fish on a plate, head and all! For Japanese people, ordering fish and receiving an actual, entire ‘swim ready’ fish is as normal as getting a pizza with pepperoni on it.I have news for you.  If you think an entire fish is disgusting, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Let’s take a look at what I ate lately.
Mentaiko, spicy cod roe, is a Japanese favorite. As a matter of fact this is always on top of our “what do you want to eat with rice?” list.  It’s kind of like cod roe kimchi without the pungent smell, and it makes both a great pasta sauce and fantastic drinking food.We don’t discriminate when it comes to odd fish parts.  Besides eggs, we’ll gladly eat fish milt as well.  Even better is cod milt, shirako grilled on a bamboo leaf.  Its cheese-like, creamy texture melts in your mouth and can be better than foie gras.

Speaking of liver, this is ankimo, which is a monk fish liver, salted, steamed, cut and served in ponzu.  American sushi places started serving this over the last few years or so.  Believe it or not, it’s actually a seasonal thing and best between November and February when water is cold and livers gets fat.  Just like foie gras, it’s basically fat…creamy, delicious fat.

If my husband reads this, I think he’ll dislike seafood even more.  He’s barely past fish and chips.  Oh well, one step forward, ten steps back.

January 24th, 2012

Japanese comfort food

“Eat as much seafood as you can!”  That, and “I love you,” were my husband’s parting words, when I left for Tokyo. What thoughts led to his advice? At least one, but probably all of these: if she eats lots of seafood in the land of seafood,
1) she won’t come home craving more.
2) I don’t have to hear her say “Let’s go for Japanese tonight!”
3) I don’t have to see/smell strange fish products in the house like this;
4) While she’s eating all of her favorites, I’ll eat as much American food as possible!

He’s wrong on 1), 2) and 3), but after seeing a breakfast picture he sent, looks like he’s right on the money for 4).
We all enjoy our comfort foods, but what do you imagine when you hear ‘Japanese comfort food’? It may be ramen, curry rice or macaroni gratins (Google it! It’s the Japanese answer to mac & cheese). Contrary to what you might guess, not all Japanese foods are healthy and based around seafood. Japanese cuisine does include some heartier dishes that people grow up with, that are as delicious as their American counterparts. But today, when looking for my comfort food, I wanted salt, not heavy.  So what was on the menu?Here’s what my mother prepared: from bottom left-counterclockwise: a bowl of perfectly cooked white rice; miso soup with daikon; squid in salted fish guts; spicy cod roe; and Japanese pickles.  It doesn’t look like much, but it’s truly an art to cook rice perfectly. You don’t just throw grains into water and boil.  You have to start with good quality rice that’s washed carefully. Then, the quantity and quality of the water and the method you cook and steam it comes in to play. Granted, the last two parts depend largely on how good your rice cooker is, but I’ve never had rice half good as this in America.

I’ll tell you more about awful sounding fish dishes tomorrow.  Until then, have another bowl of rice!

PS: PS: Do you remember what Iron Chef Morimoto requested for his last supper on episode 15 of Top Chef All-Stars?   If Antonia cooked something like my mother prepared for me, she would have won the competition.

December 24th, 2011

Christmas in Japan

I wrote to Santa every year with a simple, easy gift request: a 5 bedroom house.  It looks like my letter was lost somewhere between Tokyo and the North Pole, but even still, that didn’t stop me from enjoying Christmas, growing up in Japan.  What better to decorate a small fake tree with, than fake snow?  Christmas dinner was special too.  Besides the excitement over my mother’s homemade strawberry short cake, there was something even better to look forward to: picking up a traditional Christmas dinner– Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, you read it right, KFC.  For Japanese people, Colonel Sanders may be the bearded man that brings the most Christmas joy, as KFC has been THE Christmas dish for Japanese people for many, many years.

My recent trip to Tokyo confirmed this trend.  At the Aoyama location of KFC, where they allegedly started the “fried chicken on Christmas” tradition, there were signs for Christmas dinner reservations everywhere.  According to KFC Japan website, foreigners came to this location about 40 years ago to buy fried chicken because there was no turkey (and apparently no whole chicken) available.  Capitalizing on this, the store manager came up with the “eat fried chicken on Christmas” advertising campaign, which apparently, became one of the most successful ones in recent memory.

This is the Christmas menu from a Japanese KFC:

Combo of 8 chicken pieces, a bowl of salad and a “glocage chocolate” cake.  All for 3940 yen (approx. $50)!  There was also the Premium Roast Chicken ($70) — a roasted whole chicken called Gokoku Ajidori, which is raised on a special diet consisting of a combination of 5 different grains including soy and brown rice.  In addition, no KFC meal would be complete without raisin bread with liver paste.  Is it me, or do these ‘fast food’ menu items sound like they belong in a fancy restaurant?

As you can probably see, as I’m finally getting used to turkey on the holidays, I’m now fascinated by non-turkey people.  Fried chicken in Japan makes sense, having no other options, but what’s with the holiday ham culture here in America.  I love it in a sandwich, but as the star of a holiday meal?  Why not holiday bacon?  Chew on that…until part 2, tomorrow…

October 22nd, 2011

Chicken Milanese

When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, my husband quickly replied, “Homemade Chicken Milanese with Mashed Potatoes.”

Not a bad choice.  In fact, I’m guessing his menu pick is a popular selection around the world, as it seems every culture has developed some version of fried, breaded meat.  Japan is no exception.  One of our classic dishes is called katsu (derived from the word ‘cutlet’), and inside the crisp breading, you’ll usually find pork.  Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and breaded in panko before it’s deep fried, Katsu is my husband’s go-to meal when we are in Japan.  For him, this is one of very few Japanese dishes that he finds not only tasty, but satisfying.  It usually comes with side of sliced cabbage, rice and soup, and all these components are designed to compliment each other.  So imagine my father’s surprise when he first saw my husband eat katsu and skip the rice!  Unheard of!

Growing up with only pork katsu, chicken or beef versions of the dish are relatively new to me, but as they say, the more the  merrier!  With or without rice, I love them all.

So how did I make his birthday meal?  I brined the pounded chicken breasts in cold chicken stock with garlic, salt, black pepper and chili flakes for a couple of hours. Next, I dipped the chicken in egg and coated it with parsley and Panko (yes, I know it sounds exotic, but the trendy Panko is just the Japanese word for bread crumbs–sorry to burst your bubble) and fried it in canola oil.  Instead of rice and cabbage, my side dishes were mashed potatoes, boiled broccoli rabe, and arugula and tomato in lemon and olive oil dressing.  Normally, I would’ve put the arugula salad on top of the Chicken Milanese, but after pounding the chicken breast, it acquired the shape of a perfect heart that I didn’t want to hide with vegetables.
Why Chicken Milanese in the first place?  Was it a craving for fried food?  Maybe, but I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact that he ordered it on our very first date!  Happy Birthday indeed!

October 15th, 2011

Omerice (omelette + rice)

When I first realized that my husband REALLY didn’t like typical Japanese food, like grilled fish, root vegetables and everything in soy sauce, I was saddened.  I really wanted to be able to share the cuisine of my culture with him, but he just doesn’t enjoy it, and claims there’s some taste that’s in everything, that he dislikes.  Sushi?  Forget it… seafood is already a red flag with him, and wrapping it in seaweed is no selling point. But, whether out of luck or out of necessity, I came to realize that not all Japanese foods are seasoned with soy sauce and loaded with fish!!
Take Omerice, for example.  It’s pronounced “omu-raisu”, but don’t worry if you mispronounce it, as it’s a made up word.  Can you guess what two foods give it its name?  If you said omelette and rice, then you are not only a good guesser, but you’ve practically named the entire recipe.  This simple combo is hands-down, every Japanese kid’s favorite meal.  From the outside, it looks exactly like a regular omelette, but inside, you’ll find fried rice seasoned with ketchup!!   Intrigued?   My picky husband doesn’t like rice, but he does love eggs and ketchup, and since he eats like a kid, I thought I’d give it a try.  Would he like it?  Would omerice sneak through the picky filter?  Believe it or not, this was the first Japanese dish I cooked that he liked.

Generally speaking, you can divide Japanese food into two categories.  Washoku is a traditional Japanese style food with very little oil, but heavy on salt and soy sauce.  It contains virtually no butter or cream. Yoshoku, on the other hand, can be considered to be  western influenced Japanese food, and is often characterized by its heavy usage of butter, cream and gravy.  Yoshoku, came into being while cooking for westerners in Japan in the mid 19th century. Omerice, using rice as a filling for an omelette, is a typical family meal at a yoshoku restaurant in Tokyo.  Want to mix a little history in with your ketchup?  Eat omerice at the original restaurant that claims to have created this dish in Tokyo for a reasonable 15 dollars (1,300 yen).  I can tell you from personal experience that the restaurant truly has the feel of 1895 Japan, but with, unfortunately, modern day pricing.  Don’t have $15?  Well, you’re in luck, as you’ll find the recipe for omerice posted here.