Kakigōri, a seasonal image in summer in Japan

Kakigōri is a Japanese shaved ice dessert topped with syrup and condensed milk. It's a seasonal image in summer in Japan. The way of making it includes using a hand cranked machine to spin a block of ice over an ice shaving blade. Lately some shops use ice frozen naturally in cold mountain areas.

Popular syrups are strawberry, melon, lemon and blue hawaii, though most of these syrups don't involve any fruit juice and no fruit pulp is topped unlike Taiwanese one with a lot of fruit pulps.

If you long for the traditional one, I recommend "Ujikintoki", green tea with sweetened red beans.


Eel Kabayaki

In Japan, the popular way of eating an eel is Kabayaki (蒲焼), a grilled eel with a sweet sauce made of soy sauce and sugar after filleted and boned. An eel has been considered as nutritious and stamina-generating food in Japan. Many people eat Kabayaki in summer, especially on a particular day called "doyo-no ushi-no-hi (土用の丑の日). The custom is derived from that an owner of an eel restaurant consulted Hiraga Gennai, a famous herbalist and inventor about the decrease in sales in summer. He suggested him to put an advertisement at the door of the restaurant which catchphrase was "Today is the day of Doyo-ushi ", because people in those days believed in the tradition of eating dishes that began with the letter u on the day of "Ushi-no-hi" was good for the health. By the way, an eel is called Unagi (うなぎ) in Japanese.

Japanese sanshō (山椒) powder is indispensable for Kabayaki. Every elel restaurant has it on each table available and packed Kabayaki are always sold with it and a small bottle of sweet sauce.


Chicken Nanban チキン南蛮

Kyushu (九州) is is the third largest island located in the southewest of Japan. It has 9 prefectures and each has many local specialities. Chikin Nanban (チキン南蛮) is a speciality of Miyazaki prefecture and lately becomes popular in another areas and especially a favorite as a dish for bento. It consists of a deep fried chicken coated with flour and egg, sour souce with soy sauce, sugar and vinegar, and tartar sauce. The dish has both a sourness from vinegar and a mildness from boiled eggs in tartar sauce and they are well suited to the flavor of the chicken.

By the way, Nanban means Portugal narrowly and China and Holland are involved widely. Normally deep fried fish or meat marinated with a vinegar sauce are called Nanban.


A local festival in Japan

I went to a festival in Zushi city, which was supported by a local shrine. Most of Japanese festival are supported by a local shrine or temple, and you can see Mikoshi passing through a street and hear the sound of Taiko drums.
Originally Mikoshi is a portable Shinto shrine and the vehicle of a divine. Only during a festival it is brought from a shrine. people bear the Mikoshi on their shoulders by means of the two or four poles shouting "Wasshoi!".

The vehicle on the left pic is a float with Taiko drums follwing Mikoshi.
Many sightseers wear Yukata,  a casual summer kimono and the participants wear Happi, a coat imprinted with with a family crest.

You can find many stalls selling toys and food at the shirine precincts and the neighboring streets. One of the traditional stalls is a goldfish scooping game. It is said that his game started around 1810. A player scoops goldfish with a thin paper scooper which can be easily torn. The game is over when it is completely broken.
Takoyaki is the traditional food in a festival. It is originated from Osaka Prefecture, but has been taken a firm as a festival food.  It is fried ball-shaped dumprings with a dice of boiled octopus inside, and brushed with takoyaki sauce and topped with Aonori, green laver powder and Katsuobushi, shavings of dried bonito.
Most of local festivals are hold in summer. If you visit Japan in summer, you may as well call at it!


Guess what?

Can you guess what this is? This is deep fried Japanese mountain yam grated and rolled with green perilla. We call this food "Yourouage" in Japan. Grated and deep fried yam has a soft chewy texture like rice cakes.


At a Kaiten Sushi restaurant

Whenever my foreign friends come to Japan, they are ready to go to Conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Last weekend I took my German friend to the restaurant, who has lived in Japan for 2 months.

Conveyor belt sushi is called "Kaiten Sushi" in Japan. It is known as "Sushi Train" in Austrian and you can enjoy it even in Paris and London.

In the restaurant there are rotating conveyor belts on which plates with sushi are placed move along every table and counter seat. Customers can pick as many sushi as they want. And they can order a sushi chef what they want directly or through a speaker phone.

Plates with different colours have different prices. But some restaurants have a fix price of 100 yen for all plates.

If you feel hesitant about eating raw sea food, you can find sushi topped with deep fried shrimp or grilled beef at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, though they are never served at a genuine style sushi restaurant.


Nikujaga, Japanese mom's cooking

This is Nikujaga, the typical home cooking in Japan. Once upon a time Japanese men longed for a woman who can cook Nikujaga as well as their mother. But nowaday we can easily get it at supermarket, delicatessen and convenience store.

Nikujaga means meat and potato. Thinly sliced beaf is mainly used in western Japan, though pork is often used in eastern Japan. My family has come from eastern Japan, but only beaf is in general use at my home.

Nikujaga is consisting of sliced meat, potato, carott and Shirataki (noodle-like food made from the konjac yam) simmerd with soysauce, sugar and Sake and put boiled French bean on the top.


Sōmen with Ume paste and Shiso

Sōmen (素麺) is Japanese noodles generally served cold and eaten in summer. It is made of white flour and very thin less than 1.3 mm in diameter. It is usually served with tsuyu(つゆ), Katsuobushi-based sauce, which is dried, fermented, and smoked bonito.

Today I cooked Somen topped with Ume paste and thinly sliced Shiso, not forgetting to dress it with Tyuyu just before eating.


My comments have been blocked since last week and I couldn't leave it on the comment field with my name. All of anonymous ones were written by me.

Japanese condiments, 薬味

We call condiments "yakumi(薬味)" and have Japanese have some traditional and peculiar condiments.

The most famous one is Wasabi(山葵), Japanese horseradish. It has an extremely strong flavor, but indispensable to sushi and sashimi, fresh raw seafood sliced into thin pieces.  Wasabi leaf is edible, but generally it is sold as a root and necessary to be grated very finely before use. And it is possible to get ready-to-use paste in tube like a toothpaste tube. If you wanna get sushi without wasabi, you might as well saying "Sabinukide" to a sushi chef, which means "no wasabi, please".

The condiment on the left pic is Myōga (茗荷).  It is  flavorful edible flower buds available during the rainy season and native to Japan and a part of Korea.  I often put sliced Myoga on Hiyayakko(冷奴), chilled tofu with toppings and soba(蕎麦), a noodle made from buckwheat.

The most favorite one is Shiso(紫蘇), green Perilla. I often put thin-sliced fresh Shiso on Hiyayakko. It gets along so well with Umeboshi that I dress sliced Shiso and Umeboshi paste with pasta and Udon noodle and fry them rolled with sliced pork. In the rainy season, red Shiso(赤紫蘇) arrives on the market. It is indispensable to color Umeboshi red and to make a shiso cordial syrup. I make some cordials from red Shiso, unripe Ume and gingers every year and my daughter mix it with soda water to drink.


Gari, the best companion of Sushi

Today I found young gingers at a vegetable store and cooked "Gari". They are sliced young gingers marinated in sugar and rice vinegar and often served with Sushi to refresh the inside of the mouth after eating something greasy. So to speak, Gari are the best companion of Sushi. Sliced gingers have pale yellow, but turn pink gradually after marinated in hot marinade.


Salad Udon

This is today's lunch, Salad Udon. Udon is a type of thick noodle made from wheat. It is popular especially in western Japan. It is usually served chilled in the summer and hot in the winter. Today it is so wet that I 'd like to eat something cold and flavor with spices. I put several condiments typical for Japanese cuisine; Myouga, Tade, Shiso and Kaiwaredaikon on noodles. I will describe them on the next entry.

There are many kinds of topping and each has proper name. For example, udon topped with Aburaage is called Kitsune-udon. Kitsune means a fox and the name is derived from the Japanese folktale in which a fox likes Aburaage, deep-fried tofu. Udon topped with raw egg is called Tsukiki-udon. Tsukimi means a moon-viewing and the name coms from comparing a raw egg yolk to moon.

Forgetting to say, I sometimes prepare Salad udon for bento. I put sauce for udon on it just before eating.


The rainy season and Umeshu (梅酒)

The rainy season in Japan is called Tsuyu (梅雨) which means the rain of ume, Japanese apricot. Surely Japanese apricots are sold in this season and we make Umeboshi (梅干し), Umeshu (梅酒) and Ume juice (梅ジュース).

Today I made Umeshu and Ume juice. Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made by steeping ume in alcohol and sugar. Usually we steep ume in shouchu, which is a distilled beverage from barley, sweet potatoes or brown sugar. I use shouchu made from brown sugar which has a faint sweet fregrance.

Ume juice is a kind of cordial and made by tiering ume with some boreholes and sugar. I love it mixed with soda water.

This umeshu and ume juice will be finished in this summer and I am looking forward to drinking them with my family and friends.


Aspic of Chinese softshell turtle

We call Chinese softshell turtle "Suppon スッポン" in Japanese and it is known as a luxury food. This is an aspic of the soup made from the meat, skin and innards of the turtle.

The aspic of the turtle soup in Japan looks clear and whitish and has an elegant taste however Guilinggao in China is black that is originated from mesona and tastes bitter and medicinal.

This is one of the representative food letting us feel cool in hot summer in Japan.


Onigiri with elaborate ingredients at a specialized store.

Onigiri, rice ball is a traditional homely food in Japan, but lately it is sold at convenience stores (konbini コンビニ) and the food market in a department store basement(depachika デパ地下) . I was very surprised to see it come outo the market at first in my childhood, but now I sometimes buy it on a busy morning and when I get the munchies.

Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with common ingredients, for example pickled ume (umeboshi 梅干し), salted salmon (sake 鮭) cod's roe (tarako 鱈子) and small pieces of sliced dried bonito (okaka おかか) and such common onigiri can be easy to get at convenience stores. But stores specialized in Onigiri stock ones filled with various elaborately cooked ingredients.

Today I bought a Onigiri filled with soft-boiled egg with a taste, with Shrimp Tempura and wrapped with sliced pork at the food market in a department store basement in Shinjuku. They are so troublesome to cook with many processes that I hardly do them at home and simply buy them.


How to cook Tsubu-an

 Last weekend was my day off and baked Taiyaki, Japanese fish-shaped cake filled with sweetened red bean paste with my daighter, as she had her left little toe's bone broken and could go nowhere.

This is an iron plate for Taiyaki attached to Vitantonio Belgian Waffler. I bought it machine with 5 kinds of iron plate and  now am looking forward to using them one by one.

This is Yude-Azuki, boiled red bean with sugar and sugar syrop. It is difined as Tsubu-an because it was not strained and remains a chunky texture with whole beans. On the contrary, Koshi-an is a smooth strained paste. Generally it is said that Tsubu-an is rustic and Koshi-an is elegant with soft and pleasant touch on the tongue. Tsubu-an is very easy to cook, but Koshi-an is so difficult that it belongs to the professional territory. So I sometimes cook Tshubu-an, but as for Koshi-an only buy it at a Japanese confectionery.





How to cook Tsubu-an

200 red beans
250 sugar
5g salt
  • Wash the beans and soak it in 1500ml cold water for 24 hours.
  • Bring them to a boil for 20 minutes and drain the beans.
  • Put them and 1000ml cold water into the pot again. Then boil them at high heat until the skin of some beans is burst .
  • Turn down the heat and boil them for about 1 hour to burst the skin of all beans.
  • Taste several beans to check that they are cooked well to the core.
  • Pour cold water into the pot from a tap gently and little by little to make the water entirely clear.
  • Drain and put them into the pot to coat with sugar and salt.
  • Cook them at megium heat stiring constantly with a wooden spatula not to burn them until the moisture comes to be lost. Please only stir them, not knead them.

They are just finished.
The cake hot from the machine is best! They made my family smile sweetly.

I will introduce how to cook Koshi-an soon.


An exotic lunch at my baking class

I had a yeallow Tajine by Emile Henry, but it was broken last week while cooked Moroccan chicken with preserved Lemons and olives. I rushed to remove all of the dish to a silicon pot available in a microwave oven as I found a little soup sheeping out the crack.

The dish was for the lunch at my baking class. I like Maghrebian and Middle Eastern food very much, but it was the first time to serve it as the lunch at my class. Some of students had never experienced it before, but looked they loved it very much.

This is Hummus, mushed chickpea with garlic, cumin, sesame paste, lemon juice and olive oil. I love Hummus so much that whenever I visited Paris, I eat Falafel and Hummus at a Jewish restaurant in Le Marais.


"Ichigo Daifuku" Rice Cake with Strawberry

Daifuku 大福 is a representative Japanese confection consisting of a small round mochi (glutinous rice cake) stuffed with red bean paste.

There are some variations. Mame Daifuku 豆大福 is consisting of red marrowfat peas mixed into mochi and Yomogi Daifuku 蓬大福 is consisting of mochi  flavored with mugwort.


This is Anzu Daifuku consisting of semi dried apricot mixed into mochi.  The flavor of apricot matches with sweet red bean paste, though you can't believe it.

Ichigo Daifku いちご大福 is a variation containing strawberry and sweetened white kidney bean paste inside a small round mochi. It tells you that spring has come.

By the way, Ichigo means strawberry in Japanese.


小鯛焼き Kotaiyaki

It is well known that fish-shaped chocolates are sold  around Poisson d'Avril in France. On the other hand, we can always get fish-shaped sweets in Japan.

The most reprensentative one is 鯛焼き Taiyaki consisting of batter made from flour, sugar, egg and milk like pancake and sweetened red bean paste. People mainly get it at a shop equipped with a specialized iron plate, but it is possible to get a small plate for home use.

The sweets on pic is also fish-shaped, but rather refined , however Taiyaki is a folksy and nostaligic food. This is 小鯛焼き Kotaiyaki which means a small Taiyaki and sold at 桃林堂 Tourindou in Aoyama, Tokyo. The shop doubles as a gallery for Japanese pottery. There are some other good shops specialized in it around Aoyama. If you are interested in it, you would better visit there.

桃林堂 Tourindou (only Japanese)


White raddish salad with Umeboshi dressing

Ohama beach, Hayama
The imperial villa on the right side
Now in the middle of consecutive holidays called "Golden Week". Hayama, my town are crowded with people by car from neighbor cities and prefectures to drive along the coast and eat out at a restaurant with the ocean view. I am proud of my village, at the same time dissatisfied with the traffic jam during the period which prevent my daily life.

I prepared Daikon salad. Can you get Daikon easily? Daikon can be described as a white raddish and a staple vegetable in Japan. It is used as raw pickled, dried or cooked to eat. I often make a salad with its root raw and stir-fry its leaves with meat and fried tofu.

Umeboshi dressing is best for the salad. Umeboshi are pickled Japanese apricot and typical stuffing for rice balls inside. Furthermore we simmer sardines with it to remove the distinctive smell and to make their bones tender with its acid.  

Umeboshi is our traditional food and symbolises the taste of each famiy. But the more people easily get Umeboshi at supermarket, the less pickle them unfortunately. My aunt pickles them every year for herself and me. Her Umeboshi are very salty, but they remind me of my grandmother as they come to resemble grandma's one in flavour. By the way, Umeboshi on the pic were pickled 10 years ago.

I often use organic Umeboshi paste which are easy to use but healthy. Umeboshi dressing is to be mixed 15ml Umeboshi paste with 100ml rice vinegar and 30ml olive oil. Don't forget Sprinkle the teared nori on top !


日本酒風呂 Japanese Sake bath

Today's topic is related to Japanese food, but it does not mean that I show something to eat and drink.

Why not try Sake bath when you get Japanese Sake cheap? You can enjoy it filling bathtub with 14 liters of  hot water at around 38 degrees Celcius and 1 liter of Japanese Sake. It improves the circulation and the perspiration, and keeps your body warm after a bath.Furthermore it makes your skin smooth. I soak myself in the bath every night and do it only once a week. So always look for the cheaper Sake at supermarket!


My lesson in confectionety

I gave a lesson in confectionery yesterday, at which I instructed how to make pâte brisée and bake "tarte aux poires" and "tarte aux 3 fromages" with the pastry.

The tarte on the pic is a variation of " tarte aux 3 fromages" that topped with Griottes de Lorraine au Kirsch, Lorraine cherries preserved with cherry brandy and caramelised pine nuts.


Dinner at the biggest Korean town in Tokyo

Shinokubo is the biggest Korean town in Tokyo. There are many Korean restaurants and markets crowded with women who are crazy about South Korean pop culture, especially actors and singers. The boom of Hanryu, Korean Wave isn't temporary, but has taken a firm hold on the Japanese society.The Korean food is no exception. It's so popular that every Korean resutaurant is always full.

You can have dinner here for lower price than in another area in Tokyo. Most of Korean resutaurants here serve some dishes for nothing. The style is traditionally typical in South Korea where people think it a virtue to serve too many dishes for guests to eat. This small dishes on the pic above are naturally free to get.

Whenever I have dinner here, I drink Makkori, the traditional Korean rice wine. It is about 6.5–7% alcohol by volume and tastes faintly sweet originated from rice.

This hot pot is Bulgogi consisting of vegetables, legs of octopus, sliced beef marinated with soy sauce, sugar, honey, Korean Sake and sesame seed oil. It literally means "fire meat" in Korean and certainly cooked over an open flame.

This is Jijim. It is pancake-like dish consisting of meats, seafood and vegetables mixed with flour or rice flour batter and fried on pan with oil.
Korean food is no longer strange for the Japanese today, but so familiar that permeated among our daily table. I hope people in the two countries get on well with them each other through the cultural exchange.


Snail-shaped sausage and pig's faced chopped steak in Bento

Today my daughter took the bento to school, that consists of pig's face-shaped salisbury steak(chopped steak), snail-shaped sausages, Tamagoyaki(Japanese sweet omelette) and 3 small rice balls.

We call salisbury steak "Hanbāgu steak in Japan. It is a popular homely dish and a standard one on the list of family restaurant chains. It usually consists of mincemeat, sautéed onions, egg, bread crumb and a pinch of nutmeg powder.

How to make a snail-shaped sausage

Cut one side of sausage in 1 cm off and the longer one in half lengthwise. Then cut the one at 2mm halved between two chopsticks to prevent from cuting all the way through. Wind it onto the piece in 1cm and fix it on the uncut longer piece with fried pasta. Finally grill it on pan.


Traditional sweets in Kamakura

Kamakura is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture, less than an hour from Tokyo by train and 15 minutes from my house by car.
Kamakura became the political center of Japan, when Minamoto Yoritomo chose the city for his new government, Kamakura Shogunate in 1192.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amitābha Buddha located at the Kōtoku-in Temple in Kamakura and dates from 1252. The bronze statue has survived over 700 years from wars, tsunamis and earthquakes, however the hall was destroyed by storms many times and it has stood in the open air. It is approximately 13.35 meters tall and weighs 93 tons. The statue is so hollow that you can enter inside. Honestly saying, there is nothing to see, just empty!
I often go to kamakura by train or car to shopping and having a lunch with my friends living there, not sightseeing. There are good resutaurants and shops selling Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets in Kamakura. One of my favorite sweets is Gengorou Chikara-mochi,  rice cake with yomogi (Artemisia princeps)  topped with sweetened red bean paste. The shop established in 1690 and stood around Goryo Shrine.
Why don't you call at the shop when you visit Daibutsu in Kamakura?


Sunflower shaped sausage in Bento

Today my daughter went to hiking in Hiroyama mountain, Zushi city on a school excursion, where is a 40-minute walk from her school. So I made a bento for her.

It is consisting of...
2 rice balls with Mentaiko, marinated roe of pollock in hot pepper
Tamagoyaki, Japanese rolled omelette
Grilled beaf with soysauce and garlic
Cherry tomatoes
Sunflower-shaped sausages.

It is neccessary to make a cut into sausage being halved between two chopsticks to prevent from cuting all the way through. Then make it round and fix the both ends of it with fried pasta. Finally grill it on pan and boiled quail's egg cut in half into the center.

Some Japanese corporations dealing in hams and sausages offer the recipes to make animals and other items with a sausage on web. Please check them if you like.


New-style Japanese Sake

Sake is an alcoholic beverage with a long history that have been mentioned in the 3rd century. It is mainly made from rice and water.
Nowaday beer is most popular in Japan and wine is also popular among women, though less drink it.

On the contrary Sake is gradually getting popular all over the world as the Japanese cuisine has come to be accepted. Some bars in Paris and London serve several types of Sake and hold a tasting party. Western people enjoyed Japanese dishes with white wine when it was introduced initially. But they realized that the stimulating taste of wasabi and Japanese mustard, the flavor unique to raw fish and the delicate scent of  Japanese soup stock made from fish and kelp lurking behind the taste of soysauce could not be sensed with wine from grape. Sake is different from wine in the amount of sugar and a kind of acid involved and naturally each of them has its own suitable food.

The tendency influenced some Sake brewers to produce it suitable to Western food. These Sake on the pic are made at Ichinokura Sake Brewery in Miyagi prefecture which is famous for production of Sake and suffered from the quake on 11 March 2011. The one on the left is Himezen with lower alcohol (8%) and the flavor of citrus fruits. The other on the right is Suzune, a sparkling Sake with comfortable sweetness and mellow acid. You'd be better to drink it chilled at around the same temperature to white wine. We usually use ochoko, small cylindrical cup to drink Sake, but you can taste it with wine glass or tumbler.

Please don't forget that you can help the damade areas by means of drinking Sake.

Ichinokura Co.,Ltd.


Kabu with Dengaku miso

This is Kabu, Japanese spring turnip available in April and May. It is often pickled with salt, kombu and grated peel of yuzu. Furthermore it is a common ingredient in soups and simmered dishes. There are over 100 traditional and local species in Japan and it proves that Japanese have loved it for a long time. By the way, I often simmer it with slices of pork and gochujang (Korean red chili paste) and soysauce.

Today I cook Dengaku by way of trial. Dengaku is one of Japanese traditioanl cuisine, which consists of simmered vegetable, tofu and konnyaku topped with sweetened miso called "Dengaku-miso". Mainly white miso made in Kyoto and red miso in Nagoya are used for it. Soybeans are the main material for any kind of miso, but the difference of each miso is produced by the malt which is used.  Rice-malt is often used in eastern Japan, barley-malt in Kyushu and soybean-malt in Nagoya. It is not too much to say that 49 prefectures of Japan have each local miso.

The green dengaku-miso is sweetened white miso with rubbed leaves bud of Japanese pepper which smell frech green. The brown one is sweetened red miso with a little ground Japanese pepper. The yellow one smells very aromatic with a pinch of Yuzu peel. Please don't forget to peel the Kabu in hexagon as Japanese cuisine values the appearance.


Quiche aux légumes japonais dans un pain de campagne creusé.

I sometimes bake a quiche with pâte brisée of my own making kept in a freezer. But I wanna eat it particularly when the pastry is out of stock. On such a case I use a bread with hard crust like pain de campange.

At first I hollow out bread and then fill with quiche filling. Today I use several Japanese vegetables for it. One is a canola flower and the other is Udo. Both are typical spiring vegetables in Japan.


Bento with spring vegetable

Here is the today's bento consisting of Onigiri, simmered bamboo shoot(takenoko) and deep‐fried tofu(aburaage) with soy sauce and sugar, sweet cherry tomato, 2 chicks made of sausages, Sesame seeds, carrots and quail's egg.

Onigiri is a rice ball. Today I formed it into triangular and wrapped in laver.

Bamboo shoot is an ingredient symbolizing spring and actually the fresh one is gettable only in spring. We cook it in various ways, but "Takenoko gohan" is most popular. It is a kind of mixed rice, "Takikomi gohan" that various ingredients and rice are cooked together in the rice cooker. This bamboo shoot was dug by my mother yesterday and she preparatory boiled it with rice bran to remove harshness.

I put 2 chicks  in the box with the intention of letting them symbolize spring.