Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring is here...Sakura Gohan (Cherry blossom rice) with Yellowtail Sashimi

Spring is here. In LA, this past week was actually so hot and it was like a summer.

In any case, my spirit is feeling spring, so I decided to make a rice dish with Sakura no Shio-zuke (salt-pickled cherry blossom flowers). It's not very easy to find salt-pickled cherry blossom flowers in the US, but you can order online from some specialty shops (both imported and domestic made), or you can also make your own salt-pickled cherry blossom flowers if you can get the flowers.

Once you have the salt-pickled cherry blossom flowers, it's so easy to make cherry blossom rice with double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san"!

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Addition of black rice (sometimes called "forbidden rice") made the finished rice become slightly pink and look really pretty with the cherry blossom flowers. The rice has the beautiful floral aroma from the cherry blossoms. The rice is great on it's own or with something else on the side to make it a complete meal. I like to serve with hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi. Tai (sea bream/ also called tai snapper) sashimi is also nice, too.

Sakura Gohan (Cherry blossom rice)
(3 rice-cup donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san")

Ingredients: (3 to 4 servings)
1 rice cup (180 ml) short grain rice, rinsed and drained
2/3 rice cup (120 ml) sweet rice (can be substituted with short grain rice)
1/3 rice cup (60 ml) black rice
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water
2 tablespoons sake
2/3 oz (20 g) sakura no shio-zuke (salt-pickled cherry blossom flowers, stems included)

8 oz (240 g) or more sashimi-grade yellowtail, sliced
gari shoga (pickled ginger; optional)
soy sauce
wasabi paste (optional)

  1. Soak the pickled cherry blossom flowers in cold water in a bowl for 5 minutes. Drain and gently rinse. Pat dry. Reserve a few pieces for garnish, and mince the remaining (including the stems). 
  2. In “Kamado-san”, soak the rinsed rice (all kinds) with the water and sake. Soak for 20 minutes. 
  3. Add the minced cherry blossom flowers. Place both lids of “Kamado-san” so that the holes of the lids are positioned perpendicular to each other. 
  4. Set “Kamado-san” over medium-high heat and cook for 13-15 minutes, or until 2 minutes after the steam starts puffing out of the top lid. 
  5. Turn off the heat and let it stand for 20 minutes. 
  6. Remove both lids of "Kamado-san", and gently fluff with a rice paddle. Garnish with the reserved cherry blossom flowers.
  7. To serve, plate in serving bowls and serve with some yellowtail slices and gari shoga on the side. Lightly dip the fish in soy sauce in a saucer with a dab of wasabi on the side, if you like.
Happy donabe life.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Donabe Sunday Brunch...Smoked Salmon and Egg Salad Plate

On one sunny Sunday, we didn't have any special plans, so I wanted to just relax at home and take a walk to the park in the afternoon. It was a perfect kind of day for a quick donabe smoked dish for lunch. I made quick smoke of salmon, boiled eggs, and macadamia nuts with my donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin", and made a salad dish. It was  so delightful!

Smoked Salmon, Eggs, and Macadamia Nut
(Donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin")

Ingredients: (2 servings)
12 oz (360 g) about 3/4"-inch (2 cm) thick salmon filet (skin on or off), cut into 4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
some freshly ground black pepper
2 boiled eggs (soft runny yolk is preferred), peeled
a good handful raw macadamia nuts
2 lemon wedges

Ohter things you will need:
a piece of aluminum foil
a small handful (about 1/3 oz or 8 g) of smoke chips

  1. Season both sides of the salmon filets with salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes. Pat-dry.
  2. Line the bottom of "Ibushi Gin" with a piece of aluminum foil. Spread the smoke chips so that they make a ring shape. Make sure the foil is tightly attached to the bottom.
  3. Arrange the salmon pieces on the bottom and middle grates. Set the top grate and arrange the boiled eggs (pat-dry first) and macadamia nuts. Set "Ibushi Gin" over high heat.
  4. Once the chips start smoking (about 7-8 minutes), cover with lid and fill the rim with water. Continue to heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and let "Ibushi Gin" stand for 20 minutes (with lid on).
  6. Serve with lemon wedges with tossed green salad (optional).
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Sooo good!
Happy donabe life.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

DONABE Cookbook Update: Fall 2015 Release Catalogue from Ten Speed Press

Here's the very early sneak-peak of our upcoming DONABE Cookbook, from Fall 2015 release catalogue from our publisher, Ten Speed Press. We are finally on the designing stage right now and it's already looking really good! The books co-authored with Chef Kyle Connaughton (upcoming Single Thread Farms) and photographed by Eric Wolfinger. DONABE Cookbook is scheduled to publish in October 2015! 

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To see the enlarged catalogue page, click here for the link to the PDF version.

Happy donabe life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Aromatic Ikura Rice (Part 2)

Here's another version of Ikura rice, with double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san". This time, I made sushi rice and topped with smoked salmon and ikura. It's so easy! Here's the recipe.

Smoked Salmon and Ikura Chirashi Sushi
(3 rice-cup size double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san")

Ingredients: (4 - 5 servings)
2 rice cups (360 ml) short grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) minus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sake
1 piece (2” x 2” or 5 cm x 5 cm) dry kelp ("dashi kombu") (optional)

(vinegar seasoning "sushi-zu" for the rice)
3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon (50 ml) rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (120 ml) or so micro greens (Asian kind is preferred)
6 oz (180 g) smoked salmon (pre-sliced, if available)
4 oz (120 g) ikura (salmon roe)
lemon wedges
wasabi paste (optional)

  1. In “Kamado-san”, soak the rinsed rice with the water and sake and put the dry kelp on top of the rice. Soak for 20 minutes. 
  2. Place both lids of “Kamado-san” so that the holes of the lids are positioned perpendicular to each other. 
  3. Set “Kamado-san” over medium-high heat and cook for 13-15 minutes, or until 2 minutes after the steam starts puffing out of the top lid. 
  4. Turn off the heat and let it stand for 20 minutes. 
  5. Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for “sushi-zu” and mix until the sugar and salt are dissolved. (You can heat it in the microwave for 25-30 seconds first to make it easier to dissolve.) 
  6. Remove both lids of "Kamado-san". Remove the kelp and quickly add the “sushi-zu” to the rice and fluff with a rice paddle.
  7. To decorate, spread the micro greens (save a few pieces for garnish) over the rice, followed by the smoked salmon and ikura. Garnish with a few sprigs of remaining micro greens.
  8. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and some wasabi paste.
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Happy donabe life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Aromatic Ikura Rice (Part 1)

Ikura (salmon roe, or often called as "salmon caviar" in English) is regularly sold all year round at Japanese markets or specialty stores in the US. The already seasoned kind is convenient to use as a topping for your appetizer or rice. Yes, it tastes fantastic over freshly-made rice in double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san"!

This is a very simple ikura rice dish and tastes fantastic. You make plain rice with Kamado-san, and top with some roasted nori seaweed (break by hand first), chopped mitsuba (Japanese parsley) or your choice of aromatic herbs, ikura (salmon roe), and chopped yuzu (or meyer lemon) rind.

That's it! Serve immediately with a little soy sauce, if you like.

Happy donabe life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Donabe recipe...Dashi-flavored Fish and Napa Cabbage

I've been making so many new donabe dishes, but it's been too busy and I haven't been able to update my blog with recipes past months. So, starting today, hopefully I can post donabe recipes more often!

I have been enjoying seafood from Kai Gourmet past months, and they provide such high quality seafood. They deliver to anywhere in the US, so I highly recommend! Many of the seafood come from New Zealand (both wild-caught and sustainably farmed kinds) and is delivered within 36 hours from the waters. I order different kinds of seafood every week, and my donabe life has been even happier.

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They offer the best quality barramundi (of course, never been frozen) you can get in the US. It's a white flesh fish like sea bass or snapper. But, I think barramundi has more buttery texture, which I really like. I made a simple steam-fry dish with barramundi and napa cabbage in my tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san". You can substitute barramundi with sea bass, snapper, grouper, or even salmon, if you like.

The dish takes no time to prepare, and the flavor is so wonderful.

Dashi-flavored Barramundi and Napa Cabbage
(Tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san")

Ingredients: (3 - 4 servings)
1/2 cup (120 ml) dashi stock
2 tablespoon sake
2 tablespoon usukuchi shoyu (light color soy sauce)
1 tablespoon mirin

1 pound (450 g) barramundi filet (skin on or off), cut into 6 to 8 pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 small knob ginger, sliced into very fine threads
6 to 8 medium napa cabbage leaves, cut the bottom half into strips, then cut the leafy half into large bite-size pieces
5 oz (150 g) shimeji mushrooms, bottom trimmed
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 scallion, thinly-sliced

  1. Combine the ingredients for the broth. Set aside.
  2. Sprinkle the salt all over the fish and set aside for 15 - 30 minutes. Pat dry.
  3. In the skillet of "Fukkura-san", heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Sauté the ginger for 1 minute. Add the bottom half of the napa cabbage and sauté for another 1 - 2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the broth. Break apart the shimeji and add, then spread the fish pieces on the surface.
  5. Cover with lid and cook for 7 - 8 minutes or until everything is cooked through.
  6. Garnish with scallion slices, and serve into individual bowls at the table.

You can also find the recipe in toiro kitchen's website.

Happy donabe life.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Family time, then back to LA

Regular amount(?) of shopping

As always, I also enjoyed some local dining.

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There is an extremely popular hole-in-the-wall ramen joint near my mom's place. People make a long line to get in there. Their very rustic ramen is always very good. Then, at another Chinese (but a little more sophisticated) place, I like to order shrimp in chili sauce whenever I go there. The shrimp are so big and plump.

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My mom turned 75! So, we had a birthday dinner for her at her favorite bistro near home.

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It was a short but productive stay back in Japan this time. Before I headed to the airport, we had tempura lunch together. My nephew, Wataru, was so bummed that I had never watched Heroes 6 movie, as he was crazy about the movie. (He said, "I can't believe you live in America and you've never watched the movie!"). Then, I found it in the returning flight's on-demand movies. So, I chose it, of course, and enjoyed it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Lemon Nabe...Hiroshima-style donabe hot pot dish

In Ginza, I met another old friend from high school.

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We went to a Hiroshima cuisine restaurant in Ginza. Hiroshima is famous for oysters and seafood. Sashimi course was super fresh. Fried oysters and oyster rice were sublime. Those large oysters were so plump and rich.

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Then, each of us were served an individual size donabe hot pot dish. It's called Lemon Nabe (lemon hot pot), which has become a local specialty of Hiroshima past years. Hiroshima is also known as the largest lemon producing region in Japan. In a small donabe, sea bream head, pork belly, oysters, and vegetables were cooked in a lemon-dashi broth, then to finish, the dish was topped with slices of lemon and green onion and cooked (covered) for extra minute or so. Hiroshima lemons are quite delicate and mild, so we were encouraged to eat the lemon slices, too. The dish was really delicious! it was rich in all the flavors and somewhat refreshing at the same time.

Once I return to LA, I want to recreate a lemon hot pot with California meyer lemon in my classic-style donabe!

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We talked and laughed over wonderful meal. Happy donabe time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Zen dinner in Tokyo

A course of seasonal dishes at Sosaibo

Back in Tokyo, I got together with two of my best friends from high school.

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We met at Sosaibo. It's a hidden tiny restaurant called, Sosaibo, in Meguro. My friend, Rie, is a frequent diner there. Sosaibo has been run by a husband and wife team for 31 years! Once you enter, there is a tiny kitchen in the front and a tatami room with just two tables in the back.

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They specialize in Zen (Buddhist) cooking. So, they make mostly vegan shojin dishes, but they also serve fish and meat, if you request. The dishes are served in multiple courses, so we requested a meal including shojin hot pot as well as non vegetarian dishes. They also offer a wide selection of sake! Every dish was so carefully prepared with such details. They represented philosophy of zen, the harmony, and also the season.

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The main course was a shojin-style hot pot. It was amazing. The "shime" finishing course was soba, cooked in the remaining broth.

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We had a wonderful time with great spiritual dishes!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Relaxation in Hakone

Time to relax in Hakone

A day after coming back from snowy Niigata, I packed again and went on another trip. This time, to our regular resort in Hakone.

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Because we were worried about the snow, we decided to take a train this time. It's just a little over 1 hour from Tokyo to Odawara. After nice soba lunch, we were picked up by the resort's shuttle.

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It took about 40 minutes from Odawara to the resort. The resort is in Gora district of Hakone, and it's a historic retreat area in the mountain. From our room, we can see a big Chinese character, "大" (meaning "big" or "great") in the mountain. Every summer, in the "Daimonji-yaki" Festival, torches are lit to form this character. So, that's what's left after the festival. Contrary to our worry, it was a beautiful sunny day in Hakone, and we found only a little residue of the snow on the ground.

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After the relaxing onsen (hot spring) time, we enjoyed aperitif time with Champagne and raclette in their lounge.

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We enjoyed dinner and more relaxation. My nephew, Wataru, is now taller than me! He is turning 14 this May.

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The next morning was another gorgeous day. I alway look forward to their breakfast including freshly baked bread and pastries. Can't wait to come back next time.