Kimchi Fried Rice

I don’t eat fried rice all that often. At restaurants, if fried rice is on the menu, I usually skip it and order something else. Its not that I dislike fried rice. Actually, I’m a pretty big fan. However, fried rice tends to be a little boring at most restaurants. Or too greasy.

I do love making fried rice at home. Its easy to make, and its an easy way to use up ingredients in your fridge before they turn. Most recipes will note about using leftover rice, because the texture holds up well in the frying process. I actually like using multi grain rice, because the rice is heartier and holds up even when fresh.

My fried rice recipe changes whenever I make it, but I was especially happy with this outcome.

Ssamjang is a korean paste made of korean chile paste, korean fermented bean paste, and other ingredients. You can buy pre-made, or make your own. For the ease of this recipe, I used the pre-made type.

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Kimchi Fried Rice
1-2 servings (depends how hungry you are)

Ingredients:
2 oz pork belly (you can sub with bacon), cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup kimchi, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 thai chile, minced
1 cup wild grain mixed rice, cooked
1 teaspoon ssamjang
1 egg
1 cup bean sprouts
1 stalk green onion, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
red chile threads
sesame seeds
salt
vegetable oil

Method

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, pour a little vegetable oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is heated, add in the pork belly. Cook the pork belly until it starts to change color a little bit, about a minute or two. Then add the kimchi, shallot, garlic, and thai chile. Sautee for three minutes or so, till the ingredients start to soften.
  2. Add the rice. Use your cooking utensil to break up the rice into individual grains if needed. Add the ssamjang and stir fry for a minute or two until incorporated with the other ingredients.
  3. Push everything in the skillet to the side, and add a tiny bit more oil. Add the egg, and use your cooking utensil to break up the egg and slightly scramble. Before the egg is fully scrambled, mix the rest of your ingredients in the skillet with the egg slightly. You want the egg to be combined with the other ingredients, but you want to have chunks of egg visible.
  4. Add the bean sprouts, and stir to combine with the other ingredients in the skillet. Cook for another minute or two, until the bean sprouts start to soften. Turn off the heat and add sesame oil.Taste and add salt if needed.
  5. Serve the rice garnished with the green onion, sesame seeds, and red chile threads.

Shirataki Yakisoba

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In regards to new year’s resolutions, I am not much of a resolution-type of person. However, I try to be the type to continually improve. It doesn’t always work. But sometimes I can develop a new good habit that I stick with.

Every few months I try to re-organize my pantry. When I was a kid, I lived in a household where we had a large pantry, filled with a large variety of food. So when I moved out, I picked up the same habit to always keep a well-stocked pantry. I’m also the type that when I go to a gourmet market, to pick up more products than I can use at one time. So the pantry gets even more full, and becomes more difficult to keep organized.

So for my “resolution”, I told myself that this year I would limit the amount of purchases which bulk up the pantry, except to those that I continually use. It hasn’t been perfect, and things are still disorganized. However, I have noticed that the grocery bill has been going down, any my amount of food waste has gone down. What I’ve discovered, is that its way easier to meal plan when I have a pantry containing less variety, and more consistency. To where I don’t have the random odd ingredient that is only used maybe one time a year.

When looking for recipes to cook, I’ve been looking for those that are easy to reproduce, focus more on fresh produce, and where I can use some of the random ingredients in my pantry. So when I was going through the latest issue of Kyou no Ryouri, I was excited to find a few recipes which fit my criteria above.

When I saw a recipe for yakisoba in the most recent issue of Kyou no Ryouri, I definitely had to try it. Yakisoba is one of my favorite foods. Fried noodles with vegetables, pork, and a tangy sauce; topped with aonori (finely flaked seaweed) and katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes). My favorite way to buy yakisoba in Japan is either from a food truck or food stand. Usually served in a small plastic container, it’s the perfect snack.

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Since January’s issue of KnR had a focus on substituting to make recipes healthier, the yakisoba recipe traded the wheat noodles with shirataki noodles. Shirataki noodles have been gaining exposure here in the U.S. as a gluten free health food, but has been a mainstay in Japanese cuisine. Made of konnyaku (a type of yam), shirataki noodles are also low in calories (in fact, most nutritional labels indicate they have zero calories). Plus, the pre-cooked shirataki noodles are a lot easier to use than wheat noodles. So you can have slightly less guilt if you’re trying to eat healthier, and you can spend less time cooking too!

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I have altered this recipe from how it was originally printed in the magazine. However, if you do want the original recipe, you can find it in the January 2017 KnR issue or on their website. Balsamic vinegar is not typically used, but I liked the balance it gave to the sauce.

Shirataki Yakisoba
2 servings

Ingredients:
14 ounces shirataki noodles
2 eggs
1 cup thinly shredded cabbage
2 cups bean sprouts
½ cup onion, thinly sliced
2 ounces sliced pork belly (you can use bacon as a substitute), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ tablespoon sake
½ tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
½ teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
salt
Beni shoga ginger
Aonori (if you can’t find aonori, you can buy nori and crumble into fine pieces)
Dried bonito flakes
Japanese mayonnaise (optional)

Method

  1. Open the package of shirataki noodles and drain the liquid, then rinse in water. Heat a small saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Put the shirataki noodles into the boiling water and reduce heat to medium. Cook for two minutes, then empty out the shirataki into a colander, rinse with cold water, and let drain. This firms up the shirataki a little before frying them.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the Worcestershire sauce, sake, soy sauce, ketchup, balsamic vinegar, oyster sauce, and grated ginger.
  3. In a frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the shirataki noodles and fry for two minutes, constantly stirring. After two minutes, push the noodles to one side of the pan, and add in the pork belly and fry. Fry the pork belly until the color starts to change (see photo below).
  4. When the pork belly starts to change color, add in the cabbage, bean sprouts, onion, and a pinch of salt. Sautee for a couple minutes then toss together the pork belly and shirataki noodles.
  5. Add the sauce into the frying pan, and toss to coat. Cook for a couple minutes to coat the ingredients in the sauce and make sure the pork belly is fully cooked. The vegetables should still have a slight crisp, and the noodles should not be mushy.
  6. Dish up the yakisoba onto two plates, then return the frying pan to the stove. Turn down heat to medium and add the remaining teaspoon of vegetable oil. Fry the two eggs to your preference.
  7. Garnish the yakisoba with the beni shoga, bonito flake, aonori. If using, squeeze a little mayonnaise over the top of the yakisoba. Top with the fried egg.
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During cooking – after step 3

Simple Kimchi Soup

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When I grab my container of cabbage kimchi out of the fridge, and serve myself a little out of the container, I get excited when I take a bite of the kimchi and realize it’s a bit too sour to eat on its own. The reason I get excited, is because I’ve caught the kimchi at a point past its “eating as a side” peak, but before the kimchi becomes a soft, spoiled, mess. When kimchi reaches the sour but not spoiled point, it’s perfect for one of my favorite Korean dishes, kimchi soup.

One of the few things I learned while growing up, is that kimchi soup must, must be made from sour kimchi. Why? When the kimchi hasn’t reached the sourness it needs, kimchi soup is bland. The best way to compare, would be with an incredibly bland chicken noodle soup. We’ve all had chicken noodle soup where you are left unsatisfied. You’re not quite sure why, but there’s a disappointment in the calories you’ve just consumed (and remember kids, when you get older, those calories count!).

No matter how many ingredients you put in, unless your kimchi is sour, the ingredients are not going to make your soup much better. On the other hand, when you have a kimchi that has reached perfect sourness, the number of ingredients you need is minimal to make a satisfying soup. In fact, most of the time I just scrounge up what I have in my kitchen to make kimchi soup. My recipes are never exactly the same, nor the ingredients that I use.

How can you tell if your kimchi is just right for kimchi soup? Take a bite of kimchi. Is there still a little crisp in the kimchi, and has a sharp sourness? That’s what you’re going for. If your kimchi is soft and mushy, there’s slime or mold, don’t even taste it, just throw it out. Some grocery stores will sell “old fermented” kimchi. That will tend to work too. Cabbage kimchi is used for the kimchi soup; radish or turnip kimchi just gets mushy in the soup.

Here’s what I used for my kimchi soup I ate today; just ingredients I already had at hand in my kitchen (yes, seriously, these are ingredients I had at hand). In general, when I’m making kimchi soup, I use ingredients that are quick to cook. Also, the ingredients I have either pair well with kimchi or have neutral flavors.

I like to garnish with Korean Chile pepper threads. Serve with a side of rice.

Quick and simple kimchi soup
2 servings

Ingredients:
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 oz pork belly, cut into thin 1-inch slices
¼ cup onion (yellow, white, or red works; I used red this time), sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 thai chile (red if possible), minced
1 tsp gochujang (Korean chile paste)
1 tsp gochugaru (Korean chile flakes)
2 cups of sour cabbage kimchi with its liquid
1 cup chicken stock
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp fish sauce
4 oz firm tofu, in ½ inch slices
1 cup bean sprouts
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Korean chile pepper threads
sesame oil

Method:

  1. Heat up the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the pork belly and onion. Sautee the pork belly and onion for a minute or two, until fragrant and the pork belly starts rendering. Add in the garlic and stir for another minute; making sure the garlic does not burn.
  2. Once the pork belly has browned slightly, add in the thai chile, gochujang, and gochugaru. Stir to combine and cook for a minute to let the ingredients combine.
  3. Turn the heat to high, and add in the kimchi with liquid, stock, sugar, and fish sauce. Stir to combine. Let the soup come to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  4. After the soup has simmered for 3-5 minutes, add the tofu and bean sprouts. Simmer for another couple minutes, until the bean sprouts become slightly limp. Taste and add additional salt if needed.
  5. Turn off heat and add the green onion. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the chile pepper threads and a small drizzle of sesame oil.

 

My Drinking Culture: Spicy Bean Sprout Salad

Last week, I started talking about how much I love to have a wide variety of dishes to eat, when drinking. But sometimes the amount of cooking required is cumbersome. Sometimes, I’m not looking for a full meal, but instead am wanting to have a small snack to go with whatever it may be I’m drinking.

Today I’m going to introduce another easy recipe, a spicy bean sprout salad. The fresh thai chile adds a nice heat to the bean sprouts. You can make this dish as a small salad to eat alone with a cocktail, or as a side dish to a larger meal. I personally love to pair vinegary side salad dishes with heavier, oily fried foods as a nice complement.

When you buy bean sprouts, keep in mind they are extremely perishable. However, this salad is not extremely perishable. Use the bean sprouts the day you buy them. The salad will keep in your refrigerator a few days and still taste delicious.

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Spicy Bean Sprout Salad
Adapted from Kyou no Ryouri, August 2016 issue
2 small servings, or as a side to a larger meal

Ingredients:
1/2 pound bean sprouts (mung or soy)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (unsweetened rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 thai chili
Sesame seeds

Prep Work:

Fill a pot of water and place on the stove on high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add one tablespoon of vinegar, and the bean sprouts. Cook the bean sprouts for a couple of minutes. The bean sprouts should be slightly cooked, but still have texture in them. When they are fully cooked, drain the bean sprouts. Put the bean sprouts into a cold water bath to stop the cooking, then drain again, using a colander. Allow the bean sprouts to drain the excess water.

In a bowl, combine the other tablespoon of vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Mix until the sugar has dissolved.

With the thai chili, cut off the stem. Remove the seeds if you want, then cut crosswise into very thin slices. Add as much of the thai chili as you want to the mixture in the bowl. Alternatively, you can use a milder chili pepper if you do not like the heat from the thai chili.

Once the bean sprouts are drained, and you have mixed the vinegar dressing, add the bean sprouts into the bowl and toss to combine. Mound the salad into small serving bowls and serve.

 

My Drinking Culture: Wrapped Green Onions

I always like to have something to snack on when I drink. In fact, I’m not a big fan of going out to drink, unless there is something to snack on. The primary reasons are 1.) if I don’t have food to shove in my face, it means I have to talk more (I’m a pretty quiet person and am not good at small talk); and 2.) if I don’t have food to pace the drinking and have something in my stomach, the alcohol affects me at lightning speed. But honestly, I don’t like snacking on most of the options available at bars or happy hours; and in almost every case, I’m not able to eat the majority of items on a bar menu due to my casein food allergy.

My ideal drinking scenario involves lots of different types of drinks, and an even larger assortment of things to snack on. I love being able to pick out four, five, six, seven dishes to eat while drinking. The smaller the dish, the better. Because it means I get to eat more. But the majority of restaurants/bars which focus on “small plates”  that I’ve come across in the U.S. are overpriced, overcomplicated, fail in execution, and are made to go with the wine flight the restaurant is trying to shove onto you. Thats not drinking to me.

Okay, I do sound a bit like a curmudgeon. In truth, I still have fun no matter the drinking situation I am in. Especially going out and spending time with friends. But recently on nights where its just the two of us, we’ve been spending them at home. So I’ve been exploring the world of drinking snacks at home. On a plus, we get to make whatever we want; on the minus, cooking = having to clean up. To minimize on the time spent on cooking, and the amount of cleanup, I’ve been looking for recipes to make that are simple.

August 2016 of Kyou no Ryouri (KnR) was a great resource to find some tasty looking dishes. The main feature within this issue was a focus on different summer dishes from different regions in Japan. Featuring summery ingredients, or dishes that are nice and refreshing, the feature had a mix of main and side dishes.

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The dish featured on the cover iscalled keihan; a chicken rice dish that is a specialty in Kagoshima prefecture.

Out of this issue, I chose a dish called “hitomoji no guruguru”. Hitomoji is a term used in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu, referring to a type of green onion. Guruguru means going around in circles; in this case, being wrapped around. So “wrapped green onions”. According to rumor, this dish was created in the late 1700s-ish at request of the 6th Hosokawa Lord of Kumamoto. He was looking for a dish a tasty dish that would go with sake, and that was cheap to make. The result, are green onions that are briefly blanched which are wrapped up. Typically eaten with a vinegary miso sauce (sumiso). This dish continues to be consumed today.

Hitomoji no Guruguru
Adapted from Kyou no Ryouri, August 2016 issue
2 Servings

Ingredients:
1 bunch green onions (around 8)
1 Tb miso paste
1 Tb rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp water
butcher’s twine

Prep Work:

With the bunch of green onions, cut off the bottom root area, and chop off the very top of the green onions to get rid of any brown and dried out green part on the top. To prevent the white stalk of green onions from bursting in the boiling water, run your knife lengthwise in the white stalk of the onion, not cutting all the way through, or to the end of the onion. This allows the green onion to expand in the water, but not burst the white part. Then, bundle the green onions together with a piece of butcher’s twine.

Fill a pot large enough to fit the green onions, and fill with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, you can prepare the vinegary miso sauce. In a bowl, combine the miso paste and water. This allows the miso paste to thin out, and easier to incorporate the other ingredients. Then add to the miso-water mixture the vinegar and sugar. Stir to combine. Pour into a small dish for dipping.

When the water is boiling, it’s ready to blanch the green onions. Using a pair of tongs, place the bundle, white side down into the pot. Holding with the tongs, cook the white part for about 45 seconds. Then submerge the green part of the green onion, and cook until the green part is wilted. You’ll be blanching for no more than about a minute and a half. Once the green onions are cooked, place them into a mixing bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. After the green onions are cold, take them out of the water and let drain, or pat dry with paper towels. Be really careful with the green onions once they are cooked, they are pretty delicate.

Now for the wrapping part! Its a little tricky, so don’t be surprised if you mess up the first few times. You might have another technique, but the photos show what worked for me.

Lay out your green onion, and bend half of the green part over the white stem, while the other half hangs out on the other side. Use the green stalk piece in the back and wrap around the white stalk and green part of the onion. Once you use the first green stalk, (see photo 3), then use the larger green part to finish wrapping around. The bottom photo is how mine ended up.

Continue with the rest of the green onions.

Place the bundles on a small serving dish, with the vinegary miso sauce.

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Don’t forget something to accompany the snack!

Ginger and Bitter Melon Frittata

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August is really a great time of year. Not necessarily the weather; I hate hot weather! But I have to have an appreciation for the heat, as many of my favorite foods are currently in season. So many of my favorite fruits and vegetables are in their peak season right now. Tomatoes in particular are one of my favorite things to eat.

When I was a kid, my Dad and I would go to the local vegetable stand and buy giant boxes full of tomatoes. Our dinners some nights would be sliced tomatoes with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar. My Grandmother couldn’t eat anything with vinegar due to her sensitive teeth. So instead she would cut tomatoes in thin slices and season with salt, pepper, and some sliced onion. She didn’t really eat tomatoes other ways, and she refused to eat tomatoes with mayonnaise. She told me a story about how when she was a kid, she took a giant jar of mayonnaise to her parents tomato garden and just started eating tomatoes with mayonnaise. She ended up getting so sick that it turned her off to mixing tomatoes and mayonnaise forever. When she told me that story, I remember getting a plate full of sliced tomatoes and dumping mayonnaise on them; immediately becoming hooked! Now I’m drooling just thinking about a giant mixing bowl full of tomatoes! I’m pretty tomato obsessed. Can’t you tell?

But enough about tomatoes, I want to get to talking about the latest issue of KnR Beginners. Remember how I had said that I haven’t been all that impressed this year? It seems like KnR and KnR Beginners are finally hitting their stride this year. Maybe it’s because many vegetables are going into season in Japan as well; so the focus of topics for August matches my interests. I also have fortunately been able to make more time for myself as well, so I can finally take the time to peruse in depth in the issues. My goal someday is to be able to read a whole entire issue. Maybe in another few years!

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Kyou no Ryouri Beginners – August 2016

For those of you who are studying Japanese, I cannot suggest getting a subscription to a magazine enough. Its a huge learning curve, but your reading skills will shoot through the roof quickly. Also, if you find a topic you really like, then you’ll be inspired to read the material. For me, I love cooking. So not only am I learning about food/cooking, but I’m also practicing my Japanese.

For August, the main focus was on dishes featuring ginger. Even though ginger is available throughout the year, August tends to be the peak time for ginger. Some specialty asian grocery stores will have young ginger. If you’re lucky to have a grocery store with multiple varieties, purchase each variety so you can see the subtle differences in ginger. Additionally, if you can, try to find baby ginger, which is a bit more mellow in taste.

When I wanted to find something to cook, there were so many recipes that interested me in this issue. The one I chose was a bit unique, and featured a fun way to use ginger. I am not a big frittata fan, but when I saw the recipe with ginger and bitter melon, I had get the ingredients and try it.

Bitter melon (or gourd) is pretty popular in Asia. In Japan; particularly in Okinawa, bitter melon is commonly used in cooking. Its considered a health food, and supposedly contributes to the long health of people who live in Okinawa. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Okinawa, definitely seek it out and try it! But be prepared for an intense bitterness.

I first learned of bitter melon years ago, but was always afraid because of the fear of how bitter it was. I love bitter foods, the exception being IPA. I actually really hate IPA because of the bitterness. So I was definitely intimidated by what I’ve heard from others about bitter melon. I think I first tried it earlier this year by taking the plunge and buying some to put in a stir fry. I can’t lie, it is INCREDIBLY bitter. But I found myself more and more addicted to the bitter taste, especially accompanied by really salty food. Now my mouth waters when I think about bitter melon. I have strange food addictions!

My local asian market has two varieties of bitter melon. One variety somewhat resembles a really wrinkly squash. Then there is what they call Indian bitter melon. Which are 4-6 inches long and are very knobby and jagged. I believe the Indian bitter melon is similar to the Japanese variety, but a bit shorter.

if you find bitter melon, make sure you use it quickly. It begins to soften and go bad very quickly. So if possible, use within one to two days after buying. In regards to ginger, try to find ginger that does not look dried out. It should feel somewhat heavy. Ginger will last for a couple weeks, but starts drying out and becomes more fibrous.

In the recipe, it calls for “pizza cheese”. I used Daiya shredded mozzarella because I am allergic to milk products. You could probably use cheddar, or any salty melting cheese.

Ok, I did say that bitter melon is really good for you. I’m sure the cheese and eggs and whatever else probably negates the healthfulness of bitter melon, but the flavor is really what I’m going for here. I’m not a health food blog haha.

Ginger and Bitter Melon Frittata
Adapted from Kyou no Ryouri Beginners, August 2016 issue
2 servings

Ingredients:
1- 2in piece of ginger
2 bitter melons; each about 5-6 inches long
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
4 eggs
1/4 cup shredded melting cheese
Olive Oil
Salt

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Prep Work:

With the ginger, peel the skin using a spoon or knife. Everyone swears by the spoon method; I end up always hurting myself with a spoon. Okay…that sounds pretty pathetic. Anyway, once you’ve peeled the ginger, slice the piece of ginger lengthwise (with the grain), into paper thin slices.

With the bitter melon, first slice each melon into half, lengthwise. When you cut lengthwise, the first thing you’re going to see is the core and seeds. This part you’ll remove by scooping out with a spoon. Be careful, apparently in my world spoons are dangerous! Once you’ve cleaned out the insides of the bitter melon, then cut lengthwise into thin slices (little less than 1/4 inch, you want them pretty thin).

 

When you are done with the bitter melon and ginger, combine into a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt over them and massage the with your hands for a few seconds. Why are we salting the bitter melon and ginger? Remember how I said that bitter melon is incredibly well…bitter? letting the bitter melon sit for a while with the salt will release some of the water trapped in the melon, and also reduce the bitterness. For the ginger, the salt helps soften the ginger slightly so its easier to cook. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, at least. When the bitter melon/ginger combo have sit for 10 min, there will be some liquid in your bowl. drain the liquid out and squeeze out excess by placing the bitter melon and ginger into a paper towel and squeezing. Pick out a few pieces of the ginger and set aside separately from the rest of the bitter melon and ginger.

While you’re waiting on the bitter melon and ginger, slice your tomatoes lengthwise and sit aside. Then in another bowl, crack the eggs into the bowl. Beat the eggs just enough to combine the yolk and white. Add a couple pinches of salt, and the cheese.

Cooking:

I used an 8-inch round nonstick skillet to make my frittata. You’re also going to need a plate, larger than the skillet to help flip the frittata. Place the skillet on the stove and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Heat the skillet on medium heat. Once its hot, make sure the oil has coated not only the bottom, but the sides of the pan. Add a little more olive oil if you need to.

Add the bitter melon and ginger; with exception to the few pieces you set aside earlier, into the pan, and sauté. Sauté for a few minutes, until the bitter melon has cooked through. The bitter melon will still be chewy-ish, but not crunchy. Pour in the egg mixture evenly throughout the skillet. Your cheese will probably end up in a mound in the center, so use a spoon or chopsticks to even out the cheese. Then top with the tomatoes and rest of the ginger.

When everything is in the skillet, lower the heat to medium low, and cover the pan. We don’t want the bottom to burn. While it will take 10 min or so for the eggs to cook, keep an eye out every few minutes to see how the frittata is cooking. When you see the top has almost completely cooked, its ready to flip. That’s right! Its time to use that plate I told you to get a while ago. You will also need an oven mitt to prevent burning yourself. Take the plate and flip it over, put the top of the plate over the top of the skillet. Then lift the skillet, and very quickly, flip over the skillet. The frittata will dump onto the plate. Yeah, it will be a bit runny on the plate, that’s fine. Put the skillet back on the stove and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Then slide the frittata back into the skillet, with the raw-ish side down. Turn your heat up back to medium, and cook for a few more minutes, then checking to see if the other side is done by lifting using a spatula. You don’t want to overcook, so take off the heat when you can lift the frittata and there is no more runny egg.

Take out of the skillet, and serve immediately.

 

 

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

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Life seems to pass by quicker and quicker as you get older. You’re always told this as a kid. Because life goes by so slowly as a kid; with lulls and boredom, its hard to believe adults. I’m just starting to see my life passing by quicker. I think it may be because as adults, we just have so much going on at any given point of time. Work, commuting, after-work activities, keeping up with errands.

What I’m trying to say, is I can’t believe it’s already July. I haven’t spent any time writing here. I procrastinated for too long to discuss my last trip to Japan (though, I could still write about some of the things I did). I also have not been sharing my latest acquisitions throughout the year (they’re all filed away, so I forgot what I’ve purchased throughout the year). Honestly I’ve been wasting time, consuming and buying instead of enjoying. Being distracted as opposed to focusing.

Truthfully, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about many things this year. The magazines I subscribe to, have not been appealing to me as in the past. I don’t know if it’s because I now have over three years of Kyou no Ryouri and Kyou no Ryouri beginners to browse through, but the issues of both magazines have not produced as many new and interesting things for me. In fact, I may cancel both magazines. They’re still great magazines (and if you’re looking for a magazine in Japanese to subscribe to, I highly recommend them). But I’ve been wanting to narrow down my interests a bit more to singular topics.

Speaking of singular topics, I am very happy on an couple of recent purchases. I’ve been really disappointed in my local Kinokuniya lately. One of my favorite sections at Kinokuniya used to be the Japanese literature, and Japanese history section. However, my Kinokuniya is almost exclusively devoted to manga and anime; and on gift like items. So the once large selections of history/fiction have become one shared shelf of these items. I get it, a Sherlock coloring book probably has a higher sell rate/profit margin. But its no longer fun to peruse through the aisles like I used to be able to.

I’ve also been very disappointed in the Japanese cookbooks in Japanese section. The section used to be larger, but its now in a forgotten, low volume area of the store. I’ve completely combed over every single cookbook in the section, and have picked it clean of the books interesting to me. But it seems like the rate of books that come in, and the topics of those cookbooks have been dwindling. So I simply don’t have the interest or enthusiasm I once had going to my local store. Many of the cookbooks I picked up in Japan earlier this year have yet to make it over, so I know there are continuously new and interesting books, but there isn’t enough interest to bring them here.

Okay, enough complaining, because as I mentioned, I have found many new interesting purchases. Lets start from the top left:

  • Pug manga me go (パグまんが めー語), by Yoshiko – Pug manga; I’m not too sure what this is about, as I bought it for the Pug on the cover and it was a gift. But I found the person who wrote the manga and it looks like it’s about a pug and you get to hear his thoughts.
  • Planetes, by Yukimura Makoto, Volume 2 – I haven’t started volume one…but the art looked interesting and takes place in outer space
  • Sokosoko Eko, Hajimemashita – Shingle Mother no Hanjikyuu Jisoku Nyuumon (そこそこエコ、はじめました。 -シングルマザーの半自給自足入門-), by Takagi Chieko – I picked this one up because its something about cooking and ecology. I have not had time to read through this one yet (sorry, none of my descriptions have been useful, but maybe the titles may spark others to look into them).
  • Somen, The recipe book(そうめん), by Mitsudome Kuniko – I have looked through this one! This cookbook has really excited me. It’s a cookbook that is devoted to learning about and making Somen, a type of noodle dish that is typically served in the summer in Japan. I will try to write about this one more in detail sometime. Her website is here.
  • KnR and KnR Beginners July issues – Not much to comment on here, but there was an interesting pun in the KnR beginners issue. Basically there was a recipe for a vinegar based smoothie. Because vinegar in Japanese is su (酢), the title of the recipe is 「酢」ムージー, otherwise “sumuujii:, Smoothie. Get it? I thought that was pretty clever.
  • Tegaru ni tsukurete, kirei ni kiku! Miso maru (手軽に作れて、キレイに効く! みそまる), by Fujimoto Tomoko –  I was really interested in this cookbook. Basically this cookbook shows you how to make a compact ball with miso and other dehydrated ingredients so all you have to do is drop the ball into some water to create miso soup. There’s some other creative recipes as well. I thought this was really cool, because you can just make a bunch of these, and instead of carrying around a container full of soup, take the ball with you in a small container and just add water during lunch. I definitely will talk about this again in the future. Note – I found her blog here!  Also the website for the book here.

I’ve been working on my Japanese, to hopefully be a bit more useful in discussing these more in detail in the future. While I can do a pretty good job of translating recipes for me, its harder to read the larger bodies of text. Even harder, is to take the Japanese names and put them into english. So apologies for the crappy translations for the titles (or lack thereof).

 

Food I Was Self-Conscious About

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Ms. Marvel – Trade Paper Back 1

Have you ever been self-conscious about something? When I was in high school, I was self-conscious about everything. What I looked like, what I wore, how I smelled, the answers I would give when a teacher picked on me; these are just a few of my thoughts that would run through my head. In some cases, it decreased my confidence; in others it gave me the motivation to change something about myself to give confidence. Some things still make me self-conscious as an adult. But one thing I’ve grown out of, is being self-conscious about the food I eat.

I grew up in a very small rural town. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try to show how much I disliked living in that town. It really is a bit unfair to the town I lived in, me picking on it so much. Because i wouldn’t be who I am without living there. But I can say there’s some deep seeded scars going on from living there. The food options where I lived were a couple crappy Italian restaurants, and a couple crappy Mexican restaurants. When a Chinese restaurant opened up when I was in high school, one of the teachers made a comment to keep an eye out for your dogs, lest they end up being served to you at the restaurant. Yeeeeeahh…its okay, I don’t think he teaches anymore.

I was incredibly lucky, and unlucky. You see, since forever, I was the odd one out. I looked different, had a different religion, and ate different food than everyone else. I was told I was going to hell when I was five years old, was picked on for having squinty eyes, and was into some unusual hobbies (like comic books, wtf is that all about). For the most part I didn’t mind though. I loved having a grandfather that forced me to eat all sorts of “strange” things, a Dad that wouldn’t allow me to be a picky eater, and a grandmother that cooked for me every single day. Every free moment my Dad and I would have, it would be spent somewhere outside where we lived.

Most of the time I wasn’t self-conscious about the food I would eat, but there are a few times I can still remember clear as day. One of those memories popped into my mind when I was reading one of my new favorite finds, Ms. Marvel. If there was one thing I could take back with me if I could go back into the past, it would be this comic book series. In the panel above, Kamala Khan is lamenting about bringing pakoras to lunch, wanting to be a normal girl. When I read that panel, I can remember the day where I felt the exact same way.

After having a 10 year or so break from going to the Korean grocery store after the one my Dad and I would go to closed, we found a new market to go to by searching online. Craving the food I had as a young child, I was super stoked (yeah, stoked) to go to a Korean market. I’m pretty sure my Dad and I bought every type of kimchi offered at the market. A couple days after going to the Korean market, I was going on a field trip. We all had to bring our own lunches. Not a big fan of sandwiches, I decided to bring some rice, kim (roasted seaweed), and some banchan (korean side dishes). I was so excited to be eating something interesting at school for a change. But when lunchtime came around, and I popped open my lunch container, everyone made comments on how bad my food smelled. The “eeew gross” and other comments were so horrible that I couldn’t even eat more than a couple bites before feeling like a total asshole and not eating for the rest of the day. On top of that I developed a fever and had in general a really crappy trip back from the field trip.

When I got home that day, I was really bummed. It was yet another drop in my self-esteem. I never took Korean food to my high school again. Actually, I really stopped eating much at school after that incident. I would eat enough to get me through the end of the day, and when I got home would escape into the flavors that I loved. But it was at that time I was starting to realize, finally realize how much it didn’t matter what people thought about me. I still was self-conscious, but I went on with the hobbies and things that interested me. I also was in my junior year, and could start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It gave me enough courage to make it through. Even though I was putting on a mask of sorts at school, I at least could escape to my sanctuary at home in the afternoons.

When I got into college, it was liberating. I was finally able to eat the things I wanted, all of the time. I was able to start exploring new flavors, and new cuisines. Since then, I haven’t stopped searching for the next new and interesting thing. I am no longer self-conscious about what I eat. Instead, I have an incredible pride in the food I love the most. Living through what I did sucked. It really really sucked. But, it gave me a motivation to continue to be adventurous, and to be open to new experiences and ideas. For me, my gateway to learning about a place, culture, or a person, is through the food that I want to eat.

Cherry Bombe Magazine

 

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Issues 4, 5, 6

Occasionally for lunch I go to this  French café not too far away. When I enter the café, the first thing you’re greeted with is a display of a variety of magazines and newspapers; in English and French. The first time I saw Cherry Bombe was on the display in the café; however I passed it by, not really paying attention.

Issue 3 was the first time the magazine sparked my interest. On the cover (left) was culinary badass and Top Chef winner Kristen Kish. But would you believe that I still didn’t buy the issue? I was kind of an idiot. The next time I went to the café, the issue was gone! But I wasn’t all that disappointed, the next issue featured another favorite chef of mine, Christina Tosi.

When I finally committed to buying Cherry Bombe, I was completely drawn in. After buying issue 5, I knew I had to search for the previous issue, with Kristen Kish. Why was I suddenly sucked in?

The focus of Cherry Bombe is women. Mainly women in the food scene, with a sprinkle of fashion mixed in. Featured in the magazine are articles, interviews, and some recipes. It’s like Lucky Peach, except without the bros. There’s even mini-games; the last page of issue 6 has a drinking game for Chopped (you probably shouldn’t play on a weeknight unless you want a hangover in the morning). Issue 6 also features an interview with another great chef, Dominique Crenn. Featured within her interview is a teaser of her book, Metamorphosis of Taste; the recipe for “The Sea”, one of the most beautiful constructions of seafood I’ve ever seen (that’s a horrible description, it does not justify the beauty of her creations).

You can purchase Cherry Bombe online, or find it at one of their stockists. It’s not easy to find, which is very unfortunate. Please support this great magazine so it can become more popular! Cherry Bombe also has a podcast, which features interviews with chefs, and others in the food scene. You can check out their podcasts on Heritage Radio Network.

Also, if anyone is looking to offload their issue 1 of Cherry Bombe, let me know!

Môko Tanmen Nakamoto Ramen : Shinjuku

Ever since finding this ramen joint, I make a trip every time I go to Japan. This year I didn’t think I was going to go, but who am I kidding. I can’t pass up the heat. I’m talking body throbbing because its so spicy type of heat. Unfortunately for me, my body is starting to get older. After eating at Nakamoto this go around, I wanted to cry like a child.

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If you’re coming for some good food photography, you’ll be disappointed.

First of all, if you are trying to find this joint, I thought i’d provide some direction.

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To get there, go to Shinjuku. Once you get to Shinjuku, find the West Entrance. You’ll know that you exited the right entrance when you walk out. If you don’t see a giant Uniqlo sign on a building outside, you’re in the wrong location. Cross the street and turn right. You’re going to keep walking until you see a Tully’s coffee. Go past the Tully’s coffee shop, looking for a short stairwell. Above is an image of the storefront. Note! The location in Shinjuku is not the only location! On the official website you can find other locations.

Here is a link to the menu page of the official website. Their spicy scale ranges from 0-10. I got the spicy miso ramen with egg, that one was an 8 on the spice scale. I think its really hard to gauge a spice scale as everyone has different tolerances. However, if you can eat a habanero (plain) and not die in pain, but feel your head throbbing, you can handle an 8. If it’s not spicy enough for you, well you can at least add more chili as there are jars of chili pepper flakes at each seat. Thats what I always do. Thus the feeling like death afterward.

This ramen is really really spicy, but it’s not just spicy but flavorful too. I love spicy miso ramen, its one of my favorite foods in existence, and this delivers. In addition to all the heat, is miso, and garlic flavor. Because of the miso, the broth is also a little thick (but not like puree thick). Tons of slivers of garlic, bean sprouts, and other toppings as well.

If you can’t speak Japanese, well you’re in luck as you purchase your tickets from a vending machine as you walk in. So as long as you can remember what you want to order on the menu, then you can punch the button and give your ticket to one of the waiters. Additionally, each item on the vending machine has how hot it is, so if you’re just going for the sake of spicy food, then you can just order by the number written next to the item.