Okonomiyaki

Grilled as you like it

Is seafood sustainable? January 31, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Eating,Japan — laurel @ 10:51 pm
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sushi
sushi

Living in Japan, there is a wide variety of seafood available and the prices are much lower than they were at home. Naturally, we’ve been eating less meat and more chicken. Even when we lived in America I was interested in whether the seafood we ate was sustainable, but it’s even more important now that we’re eating more of it. Here’s an interesting series of articles about seafood sustainability that the Japan Times online ran last weekend:

What future for fish as Japan’s daily fare?

Can farmers keep tuna on the menu?

A herring fishery shows that the big picture can be elusive

 

Cook this Hot Pot! January 30, 2009

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A while back I was browsing some of my favorite Japanese food blogs when I came across a call for recipe testers for an upcoming book on nabe, or Japanese hot pots, titled Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals at Japanese Food Report. Well, I love nabe, I think it’s a great winter meal that allows everyone to gather around the kotatsu and enjoy a simple meal from a communal pot, so I couldn’t resist.

Usually a nabe dinner at my house is an overflowing hodgepodge of meats and vegetables (the more the merrier) cooked in a broth of dashi, soy sauce, and mild kimchi. I love our kimchi nabe, but I was definitely looking forward to trying out some new recipes.

Here are some pictures of the recipes we tested:

lamb-shabu-shabu-finished

Our favorite recipe was definitely this Korean influenced lamb shabu-shabu served with a spicy black sesame dipping sauce.

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Next we made Negima Nabe – or Old Tokyo Tuna Belly Hotpot. At first I was intimidated by the recipe, which called for a pound of toro (fatty tuna belly). Luckily, I found a small fish monger near my house who sold me the cubed chu-toro that was too small or sinewy to be sold as toro for sushi. He even gave me a little extra discount, so I got about two-thirds of a pound of tuna for just 400 yen!

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Finally we made Momiji Nabe, which was venison and vegetables in a wine and miso broth. Getting the ingredients for this nabe was a little challenging, since venison isn’t sold at most grocery stores in Japan. In the end we had to go to Tokyo to find the meat, but I was able to discover two great international markets there. I highly recommend Nissin supermarket in the Azabu-Juban neighborhood of Tokyo; they had an amazing selection of meats along with lots of other international groceries. We were also impressed with National Azabu in the Hiroo neighborhood.

Check out Harris Salat’s Japanese Food Report to learn more about nabe or Japanese food and ingredients. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for his hot pot cookbook too.

 

C’est Bon January 29, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 9:53 pm
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On our last night in Taipei, we had dinner at C’est Bon, which had received a great review in the New York Times a while ago. The staff there mentioned that they’ve had a big boost in the number of foreign guests since the article was published. In any case, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Lunch is congee with a set of side dishes. Dinner is a set menu. Both menus are updated monthly. In addition to having wonderful food, I really enjoyed the beautiful atmosphere – it was quiet and relaxing instead of having the noise and bustle that you find in so many modern restaurants.

We began our meal with a cup of Eastern Beauty tea, which is a specialty oolong tea of the Pinglin tea growing area, where we had been earlier that day. The flavor was like black tea, but with a mildly spicy character that reminded me of cinnamon or cloves. When the tea became too strong or cooled, the waitress refilled our cups with more hot water. Even after being brewed several times, the leaves still produced a delicious and flavorful tea.

Our first course was chilled free-range chicken with sliced cucumber and lightly pickled napa cabbage garnished with cilantro. The cucumber was better for looking at than eating, but it was certainly beautiful. The cabbage was fantastic.

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Next came naturally raised shrimp wrapped around a small tomato and garnished tableside with flakes of coconut ice followed by goya (bitter melon) stuffed with meat and then braised. This may have been my favorite dish; the coconut, tomato and shrimp were a surprising and delicious combinations, while the stuffed goya had just a hing of bitterness that contrasted nicely with the coconut’s sweetness.

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Our next dish was a shrimp fritter layered with cilantro, wrapped in ham and coated with a batter made from lotus roots. The fritter was garnished with green pea sauce and lily bulb.

This was followed by abalone mushrooms with mashed potatoes and xing tsai (green amaranth leaves). The greens were very delicious, but overall this was my least favorite dish – it was a bit too salty and heavily seasoned with pepper for my taste.

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The fish course was a saltwater white fish that had been stuffed with 1-year salt cured winter melon. The salty melon stuffing was the only seasoning that was used, but after having been steamed, but the fish and winter melon were nicely seasoned, with neither having too much or too little seasoning.

The meat course was a pigs foot braised in pineapple and tofu sauce garnished with a thin slice of dried fresh pineapple and cippolini onion. The pig’s foot was tender throughout with all of the fat rendered nicely. This dish was very tasty, but quite rich in comparison to the lightness of the fish dish that had come before.

Our final savory course was a broth of free range chicken with baby napa cabbage. The chicken was very flavorful and refreshing after the rich pig’s foot.

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For dessert we had a sweet potato stuffed with sweet green pea filling with spiced plum sauce. The sauce was quite lovely and I couldn’t help but try to scoop up every last bit of it from the plate.

Our meal at C’est Bon was a bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend it, and wouldn’t hesitate to eat there again.

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Taiwan Trip January 19, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 11:03 pm
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wine bottle and a table at C’est Bon, Taipei

Way back in November we took a trip to Taiwan with our friends. Alex has posted lots of photos on his photoblog (page 1 and 2), and here are some of our trip’s edible highlights.

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xialongbao – pork soup dumplings

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shrimp shumai | eight treasures sticky rice

First, we stopped at Din Tai Fung for lunch. We really enjoyed the dumplings, especially the xialongbao – pork soup dumplings. After many many plates of dumplings and other delights, we finished with the eigth treasures sticky rice – unfortunately, it looks better than it tastes, unless you are a big fan of very sweet beans and rice for dessert. While we were waiting for our table, we were able to peek into the kitchen area, where a small army of cooks were busily preparing what must have been thousands of dumplings. There is a large window that you can watch through on the first floor. (more…)