February 2009

From the archives, originally posted March 2, 2007. These delicately colored sushi are a great way to use __usuyaki tamago__. I know I've been re-posting things from the archives a lot lately, but I hope you'll forgive me - I'm moving tomorrow! In any case, I hope you'll give these delicate sushi a try, especially if you have daughters or granddaughters.


The 3rd of March is Momo no sekku or Peach Day in Japan. Peach blossoms usually start blooming around this time, signifying the coming of spring. It's also the day for _hina matsuri_, the Doll Festival or Girls' Festival. Households with daughters display hina ningyou-, traditional dolls that represent a princess's wedding procession. This is because the ultimate happiness expected for a girl was for her to make a fruitful and comfortable marriage. Nowadays girls may be expected to do other things besides become happy wives, but on this day at least traditions still hold strong.

In Japan there is a long standing stereotype that girls and women like very sweet things, while manly men like less sweet and bitter things. So, for Hina Matsuri the guests are served sweet things like amazake (a very thick non-alcoholic hot drink made from the lees of sake, rather like eggnog in color and cloying sweetness), hishimochi (tri-colored mochi cake) and okoshi (colored sweetened puffed rice). Although there were three girls in our house, none of us liked amazake at all. However, my mother often made some kind of sushi for Hina Matsuri, which we really loved.

Here are two kinds of very pretty, girlie sushi in feminine pink, yellow and white with a touch of green. These colors fit the theme of Hina Matsuri perfectly: the traditional hishimochi is colored white, pink (or light red) and green.

Japanese Basics: How to make Japanese-style plain rice and sushi rice

Update: I've updated this post substantially in these two articles, 10 years later: How to cook great Japanese style rice, and How to make sushi rice (shari). Please take a look there - you'll probably find them a lot clearer. I've learned a lot myself in 10 years! ^_^

This is the first how-to and recipe that I posted on Just Hungry. Properly cooked rice is the foundation of a traditional Japanese meal, and you absolutely cannot skimp on the steps detailed here if you are aiming for anything approaching authenticity. I've edited the text to make some things clearer. Back to basics! Originally published in November 2003.


Rice is the staple of Japanese food, and making it just right can be rather difficult if you don't know how. If you think you will be preparing rice regularly, an electric rice cooker will make your life so much easier. You can cook non-Japanese style rice in it too, though I tend to make those in a regular pan.

Type:  recipe Filed under:  basics japanese rice sushi favorites


How to make moffles or mochi waffles, a relatively new but very popular snack in Japan, in a regular waffle maker.

Keep reading Moffles →

From the archives. The very iffy photo shows that it is from the very early days of Just Hungry! I look back at this with nostalgia, because not only have my photography skills improved somewhat, it reflects a time in my life when I was into a far more complicated kind of cooking than I am now. I no longer bake things like this, but if you want a pretty spectacular chocolate dessert for Valentine's Day, and have the time and patience, I do highly recommend this rich yet feathery light little confection. I've edited it slightly to be more accurate (what the heck did I mean by 'small container of cream' anyhow). Originally published on February 13, 2004.

roulade au chocholat

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Let's pretend that there are no tiresome restrictions like visas and such. If eating well were the only criteria, where in the world would you move to?

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Since last year, there has been a craze for something called nama kyarameru (生キャラメル, raw caramel) in Japan. The demand has been so great that people form long lines to buy it, and at least at the beginning of the fad there were frequent reports of sell-outs and long waiting lists. Raw caramel means meltingly soft caramel candies that have been made with fresh milk, fresh butter, and no additives. It's been a great marketing ploy for some dairy farmers in Hokkaido.

Given that getting nama kyarameru from Hokkaido is not that easy for me, and believing firmly in the superiority of Swiss dairy products, I set about to make my own version. After many attempts, here is my version of raw caramel. They have a very slight fermented-sourness from the crème fraîche, and the pure salt flavor from the fleur de sel. And the sugar component is made richer by using golden syrup.

I have a feeling I will never buy caramel candies again.

ehouzushi-eating.jpgThis year, setsubun no hi (節分の日) falls on the 3rd of February (some years it's on the 4th). It marks the start of the spring season or risshun (立春) in Japan according to the old lunar calendar. It's not an official national holiday, but it is celebrated in ways all meant to drive away bad luck and bring in new, good luck. Most of the traditional rituals revolve around beans, because beans are considered to be very lucky. But there is another way of celebrating setsubun no hi, and that's with a big, long, uncut sushi roll called ehou-maki.

I grew up in and around the Kanto region, which is the area around Tokyo, so I didn't know about ehou-maki ((恵方巻き)growing up, because it's a Kansai region (the area around Osaka and Kyoto) custom for setsubun no hi. Nowadays though the ehou-maki tradition has become popular nationwide. They are sold everywhere, especially at convenience stores, who take this as an opportunity to get people to celebrate, buy and eat in that awkward gap in between New Year's feasting and Valentine's Day chocolate gorging.

[Edit: ehou is pronounced eh-hoe by the way, not ee-h aw.]

So, what makes an ehou-maki different from a regular sushi roll? There are basically three rules:

  • It must contain seven ingredients, because seven is a lucky number.
  • It must not be cut, because it might cut (off) your luck.
  • You have to eat it while facing the lucky direction, which changes every year! This year's lucky directly is hinoe (丙 (ひのえ)), which is a little bit to the south of south-south-east on a regular compass. If you can read kanji, this page has a good chart.
  • Finally, you must eat the whole roll in total silence.

A seven-ingredient sushi roll is basically a futomaki, or fat sushi roll, and that is what the directions are for. I've suggested several filling variations.


Last year, the Superbowl fell right on Setsubun no hi, so there's a New York-Boston filling combo below. This year, I guess the Cardinals were out of luck, ehou-maki wise. (What would have been a good Pittsburgh-themed sushi roll filling?)

You can of course order a regular futomaki from your favorite sushi takeout, and ask them to put in seven ingredients and to not cut it. Then on Sunday, face the right away, and solemnly eat your roll in total silence.


Lotus root (renkon in Japanese) is actually the rhizome of the lotus plant. It's a popular vegetable throughout southern and eastern Asia, but it's still not that well known in the west. Lotus root is full of fiber and various vitamins and other nutrients. In Asia it's believed to have various medicinal qualities, but in macro-nutrient terms it's best to think of it as a starchy vegetable, like potato. Visually of course, it's very appealing with all those little holes. Here I'll explain how it's prepared and eaten in Japan.

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