Grilled as you like it

A day in Denver February 28, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Travel — laurel @ 7:42 pm
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I found some more photos from our holiday trip to Colorado. Here are some that I took on an afternoon in Denver with my mom. First we went to the Denver Bread company for some bread and cookies. Mmm… I miss good crusty bread here in Japan; just looking at this photo makes me want some.


Next we headed to Urbanistic Tea and Bike Shop. This shop used to be Lily’s on the other side of the street, but they’ve moved and changed their offerings a little bit. If I were to open a retail store, I think this is what I would want it to be: herbs and spices, cool cooking tools, gourmet foods, fine teas, and bike gear (plus a small repair area in the back). How cool is that? I loved their “ride bikes*be fabulous” t-shirt, but they didn’t have my size. zannen.


Urbanistic is right next door to St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop. It’s another great little shop. They don’t just have cheese. They also have spices and gourmet goodies. I picked up a few bags of Le Puy and black caviar lentils to bring back to Japan. I also bought a few pieces of Spanish cheeses. One great thing about St. Kilian’s is that they let you try the cheese before you buy it, so I knew that I was going to like the ones I picked out. One was Zamorano, and unfortunately I forgot the name of the other, but trust me, it was good.


For our last stop, we left the Highlands neighborhood and headed to LoDo. We were hoping to stop in at Wen Chocolates, but they were closed for the first ten days of January. Wen Chocolates is next door to the original Savory Spice shop in Denver. I had already done all of my spice shopping at the Boulder store, so although we stopped in and said hello, I didn’t buy anything there.



Gobo-maki and Teriyaki Chicken Drumettes February 25, 2009

gobo-maki (rear) and teriyaki chicken drumettes (front)

Here are two of my favorite recipes from my family’s New Year’s celebration. They’re my grandma’s recipes and both are big hits with adults and kids alike. Since we use these recipes for New Year’s we often make double, triple, or more to make sure that no one misses out. I don’t just make these yummy chicken wings for New Year’s though; they’re great grilled or baked any time of year. Although my grandma doesn’t do this, I like to boil the marinade while the wings are cooking to make a thick, syrupy sauce to pour on top.

A note about working with gobo: it will brown when exposed to air, so cut it just before you put it in the marinade or cover it with water after you cut it to prevent browning.

Gobo-maki: flank-steak wrapped burdock root
by Grandma Suzie

1 lb piece flank steak
2 or 3 gobo (burdock root)
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup sake or mirin
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger root
1 clove garlic, grated
2 Tbsp distilled vinegar
2 qt water
1 cup dashi
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Have your butcher tenderize the flank steak. Cut the meat into 3 strips each about 1 1/4 inches wide. The meat should be about 1/3 inch thick. Mix the soy sauce, 3/4 cup sugar, sake or mirin, ginger, and garlic. Marinate the steak for 3 hours. Remove the steak from the marinade and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Cut gobo into  strips about 10 to 12 inches long and 1/3  inch square. Combine dashi, salt, and sugar and boil. Remove from heat and soak gobo in this mixture for 2 hours. With a long string, tie 4 or 5 gobo strips at one end. Then secure one end of the meat. Wrap meat and string around burdock and tie string at the other end. Broil 15 minutes, basting with marinade. Cool and slice 1/2 inch thick. Garnish with parsley and dip in soy sauce and mustard.

Teriyaki Chicken Drumettes
adapted from Grandma Suzie’s recipe by Laurel

1 or 2 large packages of chicken drumettes or wings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced

Stir together soy sauce, sugar, mirin, garlic, and ginger until the sugar is dissolved. Cover chicken with marinade. Adjust amount of marinade if needed to cover chicken, or make sure to turn chicken occasionally so that everything gets marinated evenly. Marinate for several hours or overnight.

Drain chicken and bake on foil-lined baking pan at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes.

If you like your wings extra-sticky, reduce the marinade to a thick sauce in a saucepan over low heat while the chicken is cooking.

copyright 2009, Laurel S.


Oshogatsu February 21, 2009

Kakudo-family New Year’s feast

During our holiday trip home, we took a short trip to Los Angeles for New Year’s. As always, we started the day with ozoni: mochi in soup. In Japan, it seems like every family has it’s own unique recipe for ozoni that is informed by the region that you live in. At our house, ozoni is made with dashi broth, just a splash of shoyu for saltiness, blanched mizuna (or spinach), kamaboko fish cake (preferably the pink one), and mochi. It’s simple and so good. Of course, we also like hot mochi with shoyu and sugar too. After that, we helped prepare the foods. Here is our New Year’s feast: inari-zushi, maki-zushi, nigiri, tempura shrimp, kohaku namasu, green beans, tai, gobo-maki, teriyaki chicken drumettes, kuri-kinton, kuromame, kamaboko, kombu-maki, lotus roots, nishime (with Shimonita konyaku that I brought from Gunma), komochi kombu, Kobayashi farm dried sweet potatoes, datemaki, and Chinese chicken salad (not a Japanese tradition, but a tradition in our house). Phew! I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. It didn’t seem like so many things while we were making them…

kurikinton, datemaki, kuromame, and Kobayashi farm dried sweet potatoes

Here is my new lacquered jubako (above) that I bought in Kappabashi in Tokyo. The motif is called sho-chiku-bai, meaning the pine tree, bamboo, and plum tree. I hope this lovely box is at many New Year’s meals to come.


We don’t usually have datemaki, a sweet rolled egg cake, but I wanted to try it and found an easy looking recipe in December’s Kyou-no-Ryouri magazine. I didn’t have a square omelet pan, so I baked it in the oven instead. After it was baked, I wrapped it in the oni-sudare rolling mat (see above) to give it ridges and held it shut with rubberbands while it cooled.

I also made the kuromame, but they were much less successful. I’ll have to work on my Japanese-reading ability before next year, because I left the beans in the syrup overnight and it sucked all of the moisture right out of the beans. 😦


Gobo-maki and teriyaki chicken drumettes are definitely a New Year’s tradition in our family. They’re really a favorite among the “kids.”


I made the nigiri sushi while Alex, Jackie, Jenn, Kacy, and EB made the maki-zushi.


adapted from Kyou-no-Ryouri

4 eggs
80-100 grams hampen (steamed fish cake)
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons dashi
1 tablespoon mirin
pinch of salt
vegetable oil

Blend hampen to a paste in a food processor. Add eggs, sugar, dashi, mirin and salt; mix well.

Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer.

Oil a square omelet pan (or square or rectangular baking dish) and cook the egg mixture until cooked through and lightly browned on both sides (if you’re using an omelet pan you will need to flip the eggs). (Depending on the size of your pan you may need to reduce the quantities or cook the eggs in batches because you don’t want it to be so thick that it’s difficult to roll.)

Place the cooked egg cake on the pointed side of an oni-sudare. Roll the mat and egg cake together at first to give it a basic, round shape. Then unroll and roll again, wrapping the mat just outside of the egg cake (like making sushi) to make a pretty, round roll. Fasten the mat closed with rubberbands and allow to cool.

When cool, slice into 1/2 inch slices.


Tofu time February 17, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Japan — laurel @ 10:41 pm
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While we were home for the holidays, I made tofu for the first time with Alex’s mom. I used the directions that came with a tofu press that I bought recently (see below).

tofu1 tofu2

Here are the soaked soybeans. Step one, grind the soaked beans in a blender or food processor until they are really smooth. When you think they’re done, keep grinding for a few minutes more. Step two, cook the ground-up beans. The mix became very foamy when it was heated, so I had to add some water to keep the foaming under control. You should recognize the smell of soymilk while it’s heating.

tofu3 tofu4

Next strain the mixture through sarashi or layered cheesecloth. The pulp is okara. If it looks like there are still bits of beans in the pulp, add some more liquid and blend some more. On the right you can see the finished soymilk

tofu5 tofu6

Next add the nigari to curdle the soymilk. Strain the curds through sarashi cloth, wrap in the cloth, and press in a strainer or a box like above. In case you are wondering, the box came from Rakuten.co.jp, though wooden ones are easier to find. Weight the lid with a glass of water and wait about 15 minutes. Remove the tofu and soak in water for about 30 minutes. Finally, unwrap your tofu and enjoy.


The finished tofu. Mmm… better than store-bought.


And here is your obligatory chocolate… February 16, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Four seasons in Japan,Japan — laurel @ 10:49 pm
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Here is an interesting article from the Asahi Shimbun on Valentine’s day in Japan. With the souring economy and Valentine’s falling on Saturday this year, chocolate makers are expecting low sales of giri-choko, or obligation chocolate for bosses and male coworkers. Some Valentine’s haiku from the article follow.

A bittersweet Valentine’s Day expected

“I got e-mail
telling me
the giri-choko offer was cancelled.”

“What I would get this year
will surely be
a chocolate handout.”

“I buy hobi-choko
trying to look
as if it were for my boyfriend.”


Home for the holidays

The Kitchen, Boulder, Colorado

We went home for 17 days over the winter holidays. What a great trip it was. Of course, we tried our best to fill up on all of the things we can’t get in Japan. Mexican food was at the top of our list. Here are some highlights from our trip. We had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Boulder, The Kitchen. I love that they have great local ingredients and that they’re not afraid to share their recipes on their website. They know that a great restaurant is more than just the recipes.


We picked up lots of bulk spices at great prices at Savory Spice Shop. This was the first time that I had been to their new(ish) Boulder store. It’s much brighter and more spacious than the adorable Denver shop. It seems like they are always improving their selection, and everything that I’ve gotten from there has been great. This time we picked up all of the spices that we thought we might need in the next year-and-a-half. We stocked up on spices for making Mexican food in particular, and more of our favorite locally inspired blend, Lodo Red Adobo.


After visiting Savory Spice we headed to Pekoe Sip House for our favorite teas. Although there is plenty of green tea in Japan, the selection of black tea is not as good and it’s expensive too. So we stocked up on our favorite teas like Herbal Madras, Evening in Missoula, Forbidden Fruits, Ceylon, and Lilioukalani.


Later in the week we had brunch at Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder. Alex has declared their burger to be the best in town. (more…)


Alex and Laurel’s Photoblog has moved! February 11, 2009

Filed under: Eating,Four seasons in Japan,Japan,Maebashi,Travel — laurel @ 8:25 pm
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If you’re a fan of our Photoblog, Maebashi Eki, you may want to update your links. Due to some changes at photoblog.com, Alex has moved the photoblog to wordpress. You can find us now at alexanderlaws.wordpress.com. Enjoy more photos of our adventures in Japan and abroad. Although I call it Alex and Laurel’s photoblog, credit really goes to Alex for creating and maintaining the photoblog, so please check out his hard work!