japanese

What Japanese kids like to eat, now and then

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Japanese kids like western style food a lot it. continue reading...

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Kanten vs. agar plus tokoroten in the Japan Times, plus a sweet version

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About the difference between kanten and agar, plus cool, slippery glassy noodles. continue reading...

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All about mirin in The Japan Times

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Did you know that mirin used to a a high class, expensive beverage rather than a cooking ingredient? continue reading...

Bamboo shoot (takenoko) article in the Japan Times

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A new article in the Japan Times about bamboo shoots, a quintessential springtime vegetable. continue reading...

Washoku, Japanese citrus and yuzu-cha (yuzu 'tea')

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Catching up on various things, plus a not-really-a-recipe for yuzu tea or yuzu-cha. continue reading...

Pepper-Lemon Chicken Karaage: Wheat, gluten and soy-free

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This is a gluten and soy-free version of a classic recipe, that's just as tasty as the original. continue reading...

Washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

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Japanese cuisine is now a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. continue reading...

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Artisanal rice and "ancient" heirloom rice in The Japan Times

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About a trend in Japan towards growing delicious artisanal rice - article in The Japan Times. continue reading...

Dried veggies and more (kanbutsu) in The Japan Times

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This month's Japanese Kitchen column in the Japan Times is about "kanbutsu", traditional dried food products. continue reading...

The Mystery of Japanese "Sauce"

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About that ingredient in Japanese recipes that’s just called “sauce”. continue reading...

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The guilt trip on the way to Japanese shokupan (it's just sliced bread...)

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The moral of the story is probably - don’t go shopping on Amazon at 2 in the morning. continue reading...

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Japanese rice, grown in Europe or the United States

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While it is possible to substitute other types of rice for Japanese rice (see: Looking at rice) sometimes a Japanese dish just isn’t right unless you use Japanese-type or japonica rice.

Whenever I write about Japanese rice, I always get asked about the best brands to get, whether rice grown in Japan is worth the extra cost, and so on. Here’s what I recommend, depending on where you live. continue reading...

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What's so healthy about Japanese food?

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A lot of people who come to this site or JustBento are here because they think Japanese cooking is very healthy. By and large it is, but, like any cuisine it’s not 100% healthy by any means. I’ve been thinking about what parts of Japanese cuisine are indeed healthy, and what aren’t, following up on my previous posts about sushi here and here. Here’s what I have come up with. continue reading...

Goya Chanpuru or Champuru - Okinawan Stir Fry With Bitter Gourd

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About bitter gourd or bitter melon, called nigauri in Japanese and goya or go-ya- in Okinawan. Plus, a recipe for the most homey of Okinawan dishes, goya chanpuru or champuru. continue reading...

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Fresh shiso leaf tea

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Fresh shiso leaf tea for hot summer days. continue reading...

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Is sushi "healthy"?

Food model: Sushi (about 500 calories)

More about sushi. continue reading...

Japanese-style cucumber salad with a very versatile sesame dressing

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The weather has finally gotten warm around these parts after a very cold spring, and we're eating more summertime food now. This is one of our favorite salad-type dishes. The sesame dressing is very versatile, and you can use it for any manner of things, but here I've just used it with cucumber.

Tip: the longer you let it rest before serving, the saltier the cucumber will get, so if you want to serve it as a salad you'd want to combine the cucumber with the dressing just before serving. On the other hand, if you let it marinate in the refrigerator the cucumber becomes assertive enough to eat with plain rice as part of a Japanese meal. continue reading...

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Mugicha (barley tea) is the flavor of summer in Japan

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From the archives: We apparently had the coldest spring on record in this area. It’s finally getting warm again, and today I started my first batch of mugicha this year. Here is a slightly updated article about mugicha, or toasted barley tea, my favorite non-alcoholic summer drink. This was originally published on May 10, 2007, and updated on June 10, 2008. I’ve added another update at the end.

When we were growing up, my mother frowned upon most sugary drinks for us kids. So things like sodas were generally not stocked in the house - an ice-filled cup of Coke was a great treat whenever we went out to eat. Things like Calpis, or when we lived in the U.S. Kool-Aid, were strictly rationed. The cool drink we always had in the refrigerator was mugicha, or barley tea. Even when we lived in White Plains, New York, there were always a couple of jugs of mugicha in the large American refrigerator.

Mugicha is traditionally made by briefly simmering roasted barley grains. It has a toasty taste, with slight bitter undertones, but much less so than tea made from tea leaves. To me, it’s much more refreshing to drink than plain water.

My anti-sugar mother always made sugarless mugicha, but my younger self craved the sweetened mugicha that most of my friends’ mothers seemed to make. I always begged my mother to make sweet mugicha, but she always refused. Some day, when I am the one making mugicha, I’ll put all the sugar I want in it, I used to think. So, when I reached my teen years, and my mother was back working full time, I used to pour rivers of sugar into the mugicha. My little sisters loved it. I’m not sure if it made them more hyper than usual, though I have vague memories of my younger sister sitting on my head when she got bored.

Now that I am nominally an adult, I much prefer unsweetened mugicha. I’m growing more like my mother as I get older, a rather scary thought. continue reading...

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Food packaging labeling for allergy-causing substances in Japan

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Last year I uploaded a series of printable cards for communicating dietary restrictions in Japan. This is a follow-up of sorts to this, with some information about food package labelling and allergy-causing products.

There are seven substances that must, by law, be indicated as being present on packaged foods that contain them in Japan. I’ve listed them below in this order: English: kanji: hiragana or katakana: roma-ji. continue reading...

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Shiraae or shiraae (白和え): A classic all-purpose tofu paste

Shiraae (白和え)

There are several Japanese recipes that I take so much for granted that I'm sure I've uploaded to this site already...but I haven't. Shira-ae or shiraae, a classic tofu paste that was born from the Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine called shojin ryouri, is one such recipe.

It's often described as a 'dressing', but that doesn't adequately describe its thick, rich texture. It's usually mixed with various shredded vegetables, but there's nothing stopping you from mixing it with poached and shredded chicken, or ham, or toasted pine nuts, or anything you like. The rich taste comes from ground sesame seeds and a touch of miso. The key to the texture is to drain the tofu very well. continue reading...

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Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 6: Putting It All Together

Components of a typical Japanese meal

Welcome to the last lesson in Japanese 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. I hope you’ve enjoyed the course and learned a few things along the way.

In this last lesson we’ll take a look back at what we’ve learned, and also see how to put it all together to great an authentic traditional Japanese meal at home. continue reading...

How to grow shiso (perilla)

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I posted a photo of my sprouted shiso seeds on Instagram this morning, which led to several people asking how to grow it. Although I’ve written about growing shiso a couple of times before, I have never described the procedure. So, here it is! continue reading...

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Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 5 extra: Fish bone crackers (hone-senbei) with shoestring potatoes

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There's no need to throw away the bits of fish that you cut off when you filet them and so forth. Fish bones and heads can be kept for making soup. Or, if the bones are tender enough they can be made into delicious fish-bone crackers.

At the sushi restaurant in New York I worked at many years ago, the chefs used to serve these as extra treats to favored customers. One of those was a lovely little girl, who used to come regularly with her father. She just loved those fish bone crackers. So, one year the chefs made a big batch of them and gave her a takeout box full for her birthday. She was so happy I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head.

I've paired these with shoestring potatoes, which taste surprisingly sweet next to the umami-rich fish bones. The type of potato is important - choose a nice firm waxy type, not a floury type like Idaho baking potatoes. Alternatively you can use sweet potatoes. continue reading...

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 5 extra: Iwashi no Tsumire-jiru (イワシのつみれ汁) - Sardine balls in clear soup

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Now that you know how to gut, bone and clean sardines, one of the nicest ways to eat the sardines is to turn them into little fish balls which can be floated in a hot pot, pan-fried, and so on - or most classically, served in a clear soup. The ginger and onion takes away any kind of 'fishy' taste. You can even serve this in cold soup for a refreshing change. (Warning: Not many fish guts below but there is a lot of raw fish!) continue reading...

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Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 5 - Fish, Part 1: Salmon Teriyaki

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We are starting Lesson 5, Fish, with an easy bit of salmon cooking. continue reading...

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How to take care of your rice cooker (video)

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A handy video from a top rice cooker maker shows how to take care of your rice cooker. continue reading...

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 4, Part 2: Prepping Vegetables For Sunomono

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In Part 2 of the sunomono lesson we’ll take a look at some way of prepping the vegetables. continue reading...

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 3 extra: Nimono without dashi

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Not all nimono dishes need to be made with dashi. If one of the ingredients has plenty of umami on its own, you can make a dashi or broth from it without having to add any more. One such ingredient is squid (ika) or calamari. If you live in an area with a sizeable Italian, Greek or other Mediterranean immigrant population, as well as us Asians, chances are you can get a hold of good quality squid. If you can, get a nice one and try this quick and simple nimono. continue reading...

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Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 3: Nimono (simmered dish) basics

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This is Lesson 3 of Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. This lesson is about making nimono (煮物) or stewed dishes, while we make a simple stewed or simmered winter vegetable dish. continue reading...

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 2 Bonus: Sushi Rice (Shari) plus Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Chirashizushi

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Once you know how to cook perfect Japanese style rice, sushi rice is a snap. continue reading...

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Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 1: How to make dashi stock, the foundation of Japanese cooking

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Welcome to the first lesson of Japanese Cooking 101! Throughout this course I hope to teach you about the foundations of traditional Japanese cooking or washoku, as well as how to cook some Japanese dishes. We’ll start with that most critical of Japanese cooking components, properly made dashi. continue reading...

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Answering Questions: Sake/mirin redux, bulk buying Japanese rice, and storing Japanese ingredients

Sake and other beverages

Answering Questions is a very sporadic series where I attempt to answer some of the backlog of questions I receive via email, via Facebook, or in comments to unrelated posts, the answers for which may be of interest to a broader audience. I’ve taken out any personal details and so on in the questions. Today I am answering some questions about Japanese ingredients, especially as they relate to the upcoming Japanese Cooking 101 course. continue reading...

Japanese Cooking 101: List of required ingredients and equipment

Food package from Japan (2)

As promised, here is the list of ingredients and equipment you will need for the Japanese Cooking 101 course. continue reading...

Announcing Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku

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Announcing a new, free, online course that will teach you the fundamentals of Japanese cooking, conducted right here on JustHungry. Your teacher? Me! continue reading...

Recipe for Dorayaki, Doraemon's favorite snack

Doraemon's favorite snack

When I wrote about dorayaki, the sweet pancake-sandwich that is cat-robot Doraemon’s favorite snack for the Japan Times back in October, I promised to post a recipe for making the little pancakes. Well finally here it is! continue reading...

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Kamaboko, the Star of Year-End and New Year's Feasting

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About kamaboko, the humble, rubbery fish cake that is ubiquitous at this time of year, but is also eaten year-round. continue reading...

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Shusse-uo (fish that get promoted) plus yellowtail teriyaki

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Fish that get on in life, plus a super-simple recipe for teriyaki fish made in the oven. continue reading...

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Answering Questions: Aged white miso, plus Japanese for beginners

I get asked a lot of questions by email, Twitter and on Facebook (as well as on Quora, although I am taking an extended break from that at the moment). Sometimes the answers may be of interest to a broader audience, like two I received recently. I’ve taken out any personal details and so on in the questions. This week’s questions are about miso and learning Japanese. continue reading...

Basics: Japanese soy sauce - all you need to know (and then some)

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I’m still working on getting my sites organized in the background, not to mention my kitchen operational. In the meantime, please enjoy this updated and revised look at Japanese soy sauce. An exhaustive look at Japanese soy sauce. Originally published in December 2011. continue reading...

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Takoyaki, the great street snack that's fun to make at home

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[Note: I am reposting this article from the archives because of this paragraph. Several people have said in the comments that a Danish Æbleskiver or ebleskiver pan would be a good substitute for a takoyaki pan. You also see this mentioned on other sites. I finally got a chance to hold a real ebleskiver pan in my hands, and the bad news is that I am not sure it really would make a good substitute. The pan makes round cakes shaped similarly to takoyaki, for sure, but they are maybe 5 to 6 times the size of a takoyaki. So what you’d end up with are huge dumplings, which would need to be cooked a lot longer than takoyaki do. One of the main features of a takoyaki is the contrast between the slightly crispy outside which gradually softens under the sauce, and the just-cooked, piping hot creamy interior. I really don’t think you can get that with a huge er, ball. But if you have tried it for yourself, please let me know.

Another note: The video I mention below that was so great has been withdrawn due to copyright violation from YouTube. I’ll replace it with more complete instructions as soon as I can, but in the meantime you can still make takoyaki from the recipe.

This was originally published in July 2007.] continue reading...

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All about dashi in The Japan Times

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Back to basics. continue reading...

Umeboshi (pickled 'plum') article in The Japan Times

Different kinds of umeboshi

This month’s Japan Times article is about umeboshi, the sour-salty pickled fruit (usually called a pickled plum, though it’s actually more related to an apricot) that’s practically a national symbol.

I’ve written quite a lot about umeboshi on these pages before of course, including how to make your own if you can get a hold of the fresh ume fruit, following my mother’s instructions. continue reading...

Sashimi, raw eggs and more in The Japan Times, plus raw proteins elsewhere

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This month’s Japan Times article is about all the raw-protein foods that are eaten in Japan, and consuming them safely, plus how to make a great plate of sashimi. More on both topics below. continue reading...

Shio-kōji (salt kōji) article in The Japan Times

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It may look just like rice porridge, but this flavor packed, allergen-free flavoring ingredient is much more than that. I think it deserves a worldwide audience. continue reading...

Setsubun and beans article in the Japan Times and food superstitions

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This month’s Japan Times article is about the traditions and superstitions surrounding Setsubun, which is coming up on February 3rd. continue reading...

Mochi and New Year's article in the Japan Times, plus a very rich buttery mochi dish

Mochi with brown butter, green onions and nori

All about mochi and New Year’s in the Japan Times, plus a ruinous-to-your-waistline buttery mochi recipe. continue reading...

Monday photos: Coffee break in Japan

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In Japan, coffee is just as ingrained in everyday life as tea. continue reading...

A recipe for katsudon, plus tonkatsu and pork in The Japan Times

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A recipe for katsudon (a fried pork cutlet on rice topped with scrambled egg), and the history of pork in Japan. continue reading...

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Spring rolls (harumaki), Japanese style

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These crispy spring rolls or harumaki are authentically Japanese-Chinese (chuuka) style. continue reading...

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Monday photos: Sanma (pacific saury) is the quintessential fall fish

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The favorite fish of the fall season in Japan. continue reading...

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