February 2008

The three finalists of the BBC's MasterChef 2008 wait anxiously for the winner to be proclaimed...


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Even if I am Japanese, I don't like all Japanese food. And I must confess that I don't like a lot of traditional Japanese sweets that are based on sweetened beans. For the most part they are way too sweet for me, and if I make them for myself I'm always adjusting the sweetness level, as with my ohagi or botamochi.

Mitarashi dango, however, are my absolute favorite traditional sweet. They are not really that sweet really - that shiny caramel colored sauce (which is called mitarashi sauce) is sweet and savory at the same time. It goes perfectly with the bland, slightly chewy dango or dumplings. (Dango is the name for unfilled solid dumplings.)

You may see the dango just plained boiled more often than not. But grilling the dango makes them so much better, in my opinion.

[Update:] There seems to be some confusion about how zakkokumai is cooked and looks like, so I've added some more photos and such.


Rice is such an integral part of a Japanese meal, that the word for 'meal' (gohan, ご飯) also means rice. White rice is the norm, both for taste and for various cultural reasons. But as you probably know, white rice (hakumai, 白米) is rice that has been stripped of most of its nutrients, leaving just the starch.

Brown rice (genmai) is the obvious healthier alternative. But brown rice can take some time to cook, what with the soaking and so on that's needed, and some people simply don't like the taste or texture.

In recent years, something called zakkoku-mai (雑穀米)has become increasingly popular in Japan. Zakkoku just means "mixed grains", and mai is rice. Another name for essentially the same thing is kokumotsu gohan (穀物ご飯).

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Here are the results of the latest poll, which asked the question: Should there be more restaurant authenticity verifiers? The poll results with comments and nifty graphics are here.

  • Yes, I want to know if the food I'm eating is authentic. = 43% (80 votes)
  • No, it's a bad idea - 49% (91 votes)
  • Other - 6% (12 votes)
  • Don't know - 2% (3 votes)


These tasty little savory cakes are made of ground lotus root. The texture is quite surprising - almost like mochi cakes. It's a great vegan, gluten-free savory snack that's high in fiber and packed with flavor.


Look what came in the mail today!

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Usually when I put a recipe up here, it's something that's been fully resolved: that is, I've tried it out for myself (in most cases several times over), and I know that it works. This one is a bit different, but I thought I'd write about it in-progress, as it were, anyway.

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re-ment-girichoco.jpgAs I wrote about last year, Valentine's Day in Japan is fraught with social stress. Somehow, the chocolate manufacturers have managed to convince the whole society that a girl or woman can't just give chocolates to the ones they love. (And it's only the women who give chocolates in Japan on the 14th, not men, unlike other countries.) She must also give giri choco, or 'obligation chocolates', to people she 'owes'; bosses, teachers, and fathers-in-law.

Now you can see this kind of social giving in miniature! Re-ment, the maker of amazingly detailed diecast miniatures which I've also written about before, has this set of two types of chocolates: _Honmei or giri?!_ (Your real target, or obligation?!) The caption says this:


Okonomiyaki is getting slowly more popular outside of Japan. It's often described as a Japanese pizza, but it's more like a savory pancake.

Okonomiyaki was invented, they say, in Osaka, which is a city famous for cheap and good eats. Okonomiyaki is a snack more than a full meal, though it is pretty filling. It's a quintessential yatai or streetside food stand food, though nowadays you're more likely to eat it indoors than sitting at an outside stall. It's a very communal type of food, especially if you cook it on a tabletop griddle.

This is a fairly authentic recipe I think, or as authentic as a Tokyo born-and-bred girl can get.

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Just like it's a good idea to take inventory of your pantry sometimes, I find it useful to take a look back at my sites occasionally and take stock of what I'm doing.

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