Archive for ‘things banned from house’

July 16th, 2011

Salmon belly

By now, we’ve all heard of pork belly, and if you are a sushi enthusiast, you may have even tried yellowtail belly and tuna belly.  Bellies are fatty delicious meat.   As long as they’re not ours, bellies are great.
Last month, I took a cooking class and learned to fillet a salmon.  The instructor was busily removing the fins, head, and bones when something horrifying happened.  He said, “Cut off the belly meat and discard it.” He did exactly that.  Right then and there, I felt like leaving the kitchen.  Throwing away salmon belly?!  I suffer through ridiculous traffic just to drive across town just to buy it.

If you have a Japanese neighbor, you’ve probably experienced the smell of grilled fish wafting in through your window. I can admit it–it’s not pleasant. It’s different from smelling a burger or a steak being grilled.  When you smell that grilled beef aroma, you’re already mentally debating the pros and cons of each local steakhouse. But smelling grilled fish?  It just stinks.  It must be horrible for my  seafood loathing American husband.  I try to be strategic, waiting until he leaves for work before I cook it, but no luck–even after a breezy afternoon with the windows open, he can smell that fish.  So I made a change; I started grilling using the BBQ grill in our backyard. I figured, if the grilling is the worst part, let my neighbors suffer. See, I’m half considerate, half selfish especially when cooking salmon belly; since it’s VERY fatty, there’ll be extra smoke coming out of the grill.

Just like pork belly, which  was only available at Asian grocery stores 10 years ago, salmon belly too, has not hit the American grocery scene.  But if you want to try this amazing dish, venture to your nearest Asian grocery store, then wash the bellies, soak them in salt water overnight, and grill them.  When fish is fresh enough, you really don’t need much preparation.  I usually put a little bit of ponzu sauce (a citrus based soy sauce) over the grilled belly.  If ponzu isn’t available, squeeze a bit of lemon and you are really in for a treat!  I suggest grilling the belly until it’s well done.  Because some parts are pure fat, it tastes better when it’s crispier.

Grilled salmon belly is an essential component to my perfect Japanese breakfast, along with rice, tofu with ginger and soy sauce, and miso soup.  You can’t tell from this picture, but my husband is next to me, eating his bagel, saying “I’ve got the better breakfast.” My simple reply?  “You’re wrong”.   This argument happens a lot at our breakfast table.


June 7th, 2011

Banned from the house

We were hosting a Sunday family dinner at our house. Everybody was enjoying food; roast chicken with pancetta and olives, creamy polenta (recipe at bottom) and grilled asparagus. Nice, right?  My husband went to the kitchen to get drinks from fridge and came back and whispered to me “there’s something rotten in there.”

Keeping a meticulously clean kitchen, I knew nothing was rotten in our fridge.  What was he smelling?  The culprit was kimchi, Korean fermented pickles.  The ‘rotten’ quality comes from the fermentation; garlic, chili, onion…, all the healthy stuff that’s good for your body, but bad for the nose, if you’re not used to it.  That night, it was decided: kimchi is officially banned from our fridge, along with natto, the other fermented product that I love, but that can also really stink up your place.  The way my husband explains it, “The smell makes it too hard to notice if the other food has gone bad.”

Smell, maybe more than sight,  is such a big part of the culinary experience.  When I was a kid, I smelled every food that came my way.   My parents were embarrassed by my behavior, and scolded me a million times, “Do not smell that, you are not a pig!” But, no matter how many times they said it, I never listened.  I have a very keen sense of smell.  I can smell things that are far away or things that are very subtle; it  is my superpower; ESP or invisibility might have been more useful for fighting crime, but my gift serves me well in the culinary world.  I was having dinner with my best friend last week, and as soon as my plate came, I unconsciously smelled my dish.  “You still smell everything, don’t you?” she casually mentioned.  I didn’t realize anybody noticed my habit, but looking back, I have to rephrase my previous statement from “When I was a kid…,” to “Since I was a kid, I’ve always smelled every food that comes my way.”

There is a brand of natto (Japanese fermented beans dish) that smells less offensive. The manufacture’s website mentions since they are freshly made in United States and never frozen, the smell stays mild.  In other words, most of natto in the states are imported from Japan, so due to temperature changes, its fermentation is accelerated and that may lead to a stronger smell.  So natto has started to sneak into our fridge.  Here’s my favorite breakfast and lunch menu.  Kimchi and natto over rice with seaweed.  While there’s no single word in this menu that appeals to my husband besides ‘and’, for me, it’s heaven.

Creamy Polenta recipe:

1C polenta

2C chicken stock (this is what I use and think is the BEST)

1C water

1TS butter

1/2 C low fat or regular milk

salt & black pepper to taste

Boil chix stock & water, add polenta, stir medium heat for a few minutes

steam in low heat 20 min with lid on

add milk stir, salt & pepper low heat for 5 min

add butter stir for a minute or so and serve.