What I’ve Learned So Far About Cooking in Japan

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted! As you can probably surmise from the title of the post, my husband and I moved from Denver, Colorado to Tokyo, Japan last summer and the transition to a new job/country/way of life has been all-consuming.

To jump back into the fray, however, I thought I would first post the many lessons I’ve learned in cooking/dining during our first six months here. The food in Tokyo is AMAZING to say the least. I have discovered so many new techniques, veggies, and creative substitutions.

  1. Dark miso is an excellent replacement for beef broth; light miso for chicken broth.
  2. Fresh artichokes are a rare and wonderful treasure. (Sigh.)
  3. A ¥30000 convection oven from Ito Yokado can change everything.
  4. When eating locally and seasonally is the norm, you can’t imagine cooking any other way. We have had some of the most flavorful vegetables and fruits here that almost explode with taste.
  5. Slightly firm tofu, the type I like to use, is called “momen tofu” or “cotton tofu.” (I had to learn to recognize these symbols in order to buy the correct type in the grocery store: 木綿豆腐). The more delicate type is called “silk.”
  6. Miso soup with tofu and a sprinkling of scallions with a cup of green tea make an excellent breakfast.
  7. Sharp cheddar cheese can be difficult to find, but in the process, I have discovered mimolette from France and it is delightful!
  8. Chopsticks are beautiful cooking utensils. Whisking grits with two chopsticks as soon as they hit the water releases the starches, resulting in creamier grits (and won’t scratch your enamel-lined pots in the process.)
  9. Speaking of which, there are NO GRITS in Japan (except perhaps at the Smokehouse…they did have BBQ and fried green tomatoes, after all.) Gourmet grits are the one thing for which I’ve asked for my birthday from my mother. (Anson Mills…thank you! And you’re welcome.)
  10. Tiny kitchens and one cook are no excuse to not be able to provide a gourmet meal to 10 people. Some of the best restaurants I’ve been to so far operated within these constraints and the results were legendary.
  11. The Japanese are really into French cuisine. My knowledge of French cooking techniques has actually improved since moving here, especially since the “kitchens” are often on the other side of the counter so you can watch & take notes.
  12. A carton decorated with silly cartoon characters can sometimes actually contain an decent sake.
  13. And on that note…my Peruvian chicken recipe was vastly improved by adding a half-cup of said cartoon sake to the usual soy sauce and lime juice.
cookbook Sean Brock’s Heritage cookbook and The Miso Book have been wonderful inspirations since moving here. My favorite quotes of Brock’s:
“The ingredients that thrive in your part of the world are the ingredients that you should seek out and make the focus of your cuisine. The rest will fall into place.” (p. 19)
“Be proud of your roots, be proud of your home, be proud of your family and its culture. That’s your inspiration.” (p. 22)
More soon…I’m still learning…
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Summer Bangle

I had my eye on this cute KEP Designs bangle for so long, that it sold out.

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So I decided to create my own. I already had this horn bracelet from a trip to Vietnam several years ago and these tiny sand dollars that were souvenirs from St. Simons Island on one of my trips home.

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Purchased a $5 bottle of gold nail polish and a little super glue…

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…and voila!

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Happy Easter!

ImageHope you are enjoying a pleasant Sunday! This seemed like a good day to post my favorite deviled egg recipe, a modified version of Southern Living’s Triple Pickle. I especially love serving these on a classic Fire King milk glass deviled egg platter.

Boil a dozen (plus a couple extra) eggs for ten minutes. Put into cold water and peel immediately. Cut the eggs in half and remove the yolks, putting them into a bowl. To the bowl, add:

  • 2-3 heaping spoonfuls mayonnaise
  • 2 T Dijon mustard (I prefer Maille Old Style Whole Grain)
  • Salt & pepper
  • finely chopped cornichons
  • capers
  • dash of cayenne pepper

Mix together in a bowl, adjusting the mustard & mayonnaise until the consistency is creamy and to taste. With a spoon, dallop the mixture onto the egg whites. Top with a dash of paprika and garnish with a slice of pickled okra. Enjoy!

Eureka!

Several years ago, (prior to 2008) I went shopping along Denver’s Antique Row and bought several little silver spoons for $10 each. I was stunned a few years later to find out that many of those spoons had greatly appreciated, following the recession. Among my find was a Whiting Louis XV (a favorite pattern), a rare Louis XIV by Gorham, and one mystery spoon by Gorham. For years, I searched books and websites trying to find the name of the pretty pattern with climbing roses.

This morning, on a whim, I decided to search using the patent date of 1910. Eureka! The pattern is Montclair and it seems to be a rarity, selling for $45 and up on eBay. Score! 🙂

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Blue and White

Just a few pictures from the archives for The Pink Pagoda’s Blue & White Bash

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Chinoiserie Kitty

 

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macaroons paella2 living room entrance napkins notecard centerpiece picnic

Going Plastic-Free

plasticAfter months of procrastinating, I finally decided to get serious about omitting many of the plastic items we regularly use in our kitchen. Though most of them are BPA-free, I still think we are only just beginning to understand the negative effects of plastic on our health.

Most daunting to me was replacing our plastic storage containers, which get almost daily use. I was happy to find two sets of Pyrex glass containers that just about replaced everything. Though the lids still contain plastic, they are less in contact with the food.

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Next, we replaced our plastic and plastic-lined coffee mugs with ceramic and stainless steel. We also bought a small stainless steel box for Sam’s lunches.

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Though I really like this Nara Bento box from Bento & Co.

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Finally, I’m going to have to stop purchasing my super-cheap 6-pack of sparkling water and opt instead for something that comes in glass bottles. Whole Foods had San Pellegrino on sale today for 3/$5.

waterIt’s a slow process, but we definitely made some headway this weekend! Next – replacing plastic cooking utensils with wooden, bamboo, & metal.

 

Wanted: Blue Hydrangeas

We spent the early afternoon walking through the lovely Denver Botanic Gardens. I snapped a few photos of pansies that have the most extraordinary color. I especially love anything with even a hint of blue.

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I was so inspired, that I spent several hours looking for blue potted hydrangeas at various stores. To no avail, I purchased these pink ones.

hydrangea

They’re pretty, but I really want blue. So…I’ll use my grandmothers’ technique of putting coffee grounds in the soil and see if I can change them over.