Posts tagged ‘bacon’

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.

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

“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.

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.

January 7th, 2012

When size meets taste…

A friend of my husband’s sent him this photo.

It’s a hammered pork sandwich from a restaurant in Las Vegas called Hash House a go go.  What made a mere sandwich so noteworthy?  The plate is as big as 3 adult faces!  On a recent trip to Japan, this one picture helped bridge the language gap as my non-Japanese speaking husband was able to ‘wow’ my Japanese friends and family with it, as they marveled at the sandwich’s size.   Both amused and appalled, Japanese people already think American portion sizes are huge, but this picture was beyond their imaginations.  Immediately, they asked if this was something we ate in the States everyday.  I knew the answer they wanted to hear, was ‘yes’, as that pretty much goes in line with how they already picture America–huge EVERYTHING, but the answer, as you could guess is a realistic ‘no’.  Sure, compared to Japanese food, American portions are usually twice as big, but to find truly huge portions like that, you have to do a bit of searching.

When we were in Las Vegas, my husband suggested we go to Hash House a go go, for breakfast.  I was reluctant because usually the best part of a big portioned meal is its size and not its flavor.  Also, call me a snob, but who’d believe a restaurant found in a dingy casino on the strip would be good?  As we walked over, I was thinking, “There are many, many great places to eat in Vegas, but marriage is a give and take.”  Since he took me to a four star restaurant the day before, I should let the next meal choice be his, right?  My stomach clenched in horror as I realized that my next stop would be home to something I’m still learning to appreciate, big portioned, hearty American food.

Talk about surprises!  Oh my goodness.  Fried Chicken with bacon (!!) waffles, where the waffles and chicken were bigger than an adult male’s enlarged heart.  But what about the taste?  The waffles were delicious; very dense, yet fluffy, and not airy at all.  It tasted great with the fried leek garish that came with it.  The fried chicken was delicious, with a moist inside and crispy outside, and as an added plus, it was kindly de-boned!!  Sure, having actual strips of bacon instead of bits, baked into their waffles and preparing well seasoned fried chicken shows that the chefs cook with care, but serving de-boned chicken demonstrates that bit of extra love that’s so often lacking.  Without a doubt, I can say that this is possibly some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.  I’d never thought I’d say this, but I’m so glad my husband took me to that diner in that run-down casino!    Since we got back, I’ve semi-seriously suggested several times, that we drive to Vegas just for one more taste.  I found there’s the original location in San Diego, which is shorter drive from Los Angeles… totally doable.

Sure, they might laugh at a picture of what I’ve just described, but would Japanese people actually like this dish?  The one hurdle to overcome is the combination of sweet and savory, which Japanese people usually don’t like.  In this case, serving fried chicken alongside maple syrup might seem scary at first, but with a dish like this, I’m confident that this huge plate of food will please their senses of taste as much as it dazzles their senses of sight.  Viva America!

August 31st, 2011

High tech food court

You may remember me saying that the thought of eating at a food court makes me queasy, but the idea of a food court is still something I love. Why? The food court was the setting for almost every crappy American teen movie I saw when I was growing up in Japan, so it made sense that in my young mind, the food court was THE place to be. As an adult, the food court still has its appeal, but surely we can do better than Sbarro and Hot Dog on a Stick, can’t we?  Yes!  FoodParc in New York City is as close to a traditional food court as possible, save for a 21st century twist unrelated to food.  But first things first…how is the food?  It’s not overly gourmet (read: expensive) as Eataly or Food Hall, but that they offer non-chain fast food makes all the difference.
FoodParc serves up the usual suspects: burgers, pizzas, Asian food, cup cakes, coffee and even beer.  So why is this better than what’s found at your local mall?  One word:  Quality.  How much would you pay for delicious food that doesn’t leave your fingers with that greasy, barbecue restaurant feeling?  Instead of a reheated corn dog, FoodParc lets you opt for a tasty treat like grilled salmon with rice noodles.  But surely every food court offers variety, right?  What sets this place apart?  Just look around (and don’t call me Shirley).

It’s the future…or is it?  That FoodParc was designed by a conceptual artist for Hollywood movies like Blade Runner, Aliens, and Mission: Impossible III, means it’s pretty likely that the phrase ‘out of this world’ will be overheard describing more than just the food.  For a Japanese girl who grew up dreaming in Hollywood, eating at FoodParc felt as if I had just arrived on set.  But don’t take my word for it.  Watch for yourself, as even the most jaded New Yorker is taken aback at the scenery.
In the future, will we have to suffer through long waits on line for food?  Not if FoodParc has anything to say about it.  In the digital age, ordering from a cashier is just so passe. At FoodParc, orders are placed via computer, and payments made by credit card.  When your order is ready, you’re notified by text message.  With food of this quality, I suggest upgrading to the unlimited plan, as you’ll probably become a regular.
The future may only be just around the corner, but FoodParc is a few blocks further.  But if you’re looking for a unique place to catch up with friends without putting up with those annoying teenagers hanging out at the mall’s food court, FoodParc is definitely worth a visit.

July 26th, 2011

PB & J 3

Most of my Japanese friends love American culture with one glaring exception: PB&J.  Whenever I mention that my favorite snack is celery with peanut butter, I’m greeted with the comment that I’m way too Americanized.  They are probably right about that. But regaining my Japanese identity is as easy as grossing out my anti-fish loving husband by eating dried anchovies as a snack.

The variations on the traditional PB&J would confuse my friends even more.  Mendocino Farms, a gourmet sandwich shop in Los Angeles, offers a Bacon & Housemade Peanut Butter Sandwich on grilled panini.  Based on its price of $8.75, I’d have to say that this is one of the more sophisticated versions of this sandwich that I’ve encountered.  Along with applewood smoked bacon & homemade PB, it has caramelized bananas, crushed honey roasted almonds and green apples.  I actually do love this sandwich, mostly because I love the bacon, whose saltiness paired with the sweetness of the banana compliment the rather bland PB.  Maybe if I start out by stating that PB&J with bacon was Elvis’ favorite, I might get a few of my Japanese friends to take a bite.

PB&J has come a long way from the kid’s sandwich of choice.  There are PB&J ice creams, donuts, and cookies, but a PB&J burger?  Sounds strange, but what could be more American than combining these two signature classics?  It would never happen, you say? Apparently, you’ve never been to Mo’s restaurant in Burbank where the “Foggybottom Burger” sits prominently on the menu.  At first, it seems like a traditional burger with its nicely cooked patty and fresh buns, but the addition of peanut butter and sour plum jam set it apart from the rest.

When you assemble these ingredients and take your first bite, you taste nothing but the peanut butter, however, by adding sliced pickles, somehow it works (surprisingly).   Our waiter said all his customers are skeptical before they order, but once they’ve tried it, his feedback is 100% positive.  Love it or hate it, it’s an experience, to say the least.

While the thought would surely turn off the typical Japanese palate, it’s worth a try.  After all, turnabout is fair play: to most Americans, the thought of eating raw fish seemed crazy thirty years ago, and today, there’s a sushi restaurant on virtually every corner of Main Street U.S.A.

July 2nd, 2011

Wedge “salad”

Before we met, the vegetable intake in my husband life was limited to tiny bit of celery in the tuna salad he bought at Gelson’s supermarket along with the cabbage found drenched in mayonnaise in their creamy coleslaw (which is pretty good, by the way).  Vegetables played a much bigger role in my life, growing up in Japan, where vegetables most often referred to strange root vegetables.  Like every girl on the planet, I love salad, but I find my definition of what makes up a salad is much different than my American husband’s.  When I say ‘salad’, I’m referring to the dish made of actual vegetables, as opposed to the caloric concoctions that are labelled salad, but could feed a tiny village for a week.So does my husband really think his favorite salad, The “Wedge of iceberg lettuce” from Stefan’s L.A. Farm in Santa Monica is a health food?  Probably, as Stefan’s staff does give you a healthy amount of bacon and blue cheese.  How can you miss with mountains of crispy bacon and blue cheese crumbled on a bed of iceberg lettuce?   Crunchy and refreshing, and did I mention bacony?  Yes, my husband IS Jewish, but he has the utmost respect for the traditions and meat of all cultures.

One of the biggest shockers when I moved to the U.S. was seeing raw spinach being the basis for a salad.  We NEVER ate spinach raw in Japan.  Instead, the lettuce in a salad was usually iceberg.  At my parents’ house, the foundation of lettuce was usually topped with some kind of seafood or ham plus cucumbers, tomatoes, and asparagus or broccoli (never raw).  It’s probably not a surprise for you to hear that Japanese portions are smaller than those in America, with a regular Japanese salad being about a size of side salad here.  Now, from this frame of reference, imagine my joy and confusion when I saw Stefan’s iceberg wedge for the first time.  It’s huge.  Almost half a head of lettuce, and enough bacon to satisfy a lumberjack.  The lettuce is more like a garnish than anything resembling a salad.  On top of that, a creamy dressing.  But before you head for your cholesterol medicine, remember, it’s a salad, and by definition, salads are healthy, right?  Marketing genius!

I found an early Wedge Salad recipe from early 20th century, and through this research, I found out, unfortunately for my husband, that the ingredient that gives a wedge salad its identity is NOT the bacon.  It’s actually the creamy dressing with other toppings being optional–such as diced tomatoes, onions or some nuts and even a boiled egg.   The dressing must be blue cheese mainly roquefort.  But throw away the rulebook, because for us, bacon makes or breaks this salad.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask the poor waitress at a well known Hawaiian restaurant chain who had the nerve of bringing my husband a piece of lettuce sprinckled with Bacos, after the menu promised a wedge salad covered in crispy bacon.