japanese

A full review of Supermarket Woman by Juzo Itami

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Looking in-depth at an old favorite. continue reading...

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Ancient mushroom models, plus a recipe for oven-steamed mushrooms

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How ancient Japanese people in the north foraged for mushrooms, plus a super-simple mushroom recipe. continue reading...

Many-flavored Japanese Kit Kats: not really

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The famous flavored Kit Kats sold in Japan are not quite what you'd call delicious treats. continue reading...

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Homemade Umeboshi (Japanese salty pickled plums) - now with troubleshooting notes

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Update: I’ve revised this, possibly the most popular umeboshi recipe in English online, to include some key troubleshooting notes. Originally published June 18, 2009. My mom has been making a batch of umeboshi every year since, and I’ve also added some more notes from her.

My mother came for a visit this week, bringing along a pot of her homemade umeboshi. I asked her to tell me how she makes them; not only did she write it down for me, she even had pictures she’d taken of her attempts in the past couple of years! So, here is my mom’s version of how to make homemade umeboshi. I’ve freely translated her Japanese explanation to English.

My mother [my grandmother - maki] used to make umeboshi every year. When I lived in New York, I was too busy working to do much cooking, let alone umeboshi! But now that I am retired, I’m trying to remember how to do things the old way. Homemade umeboshi is so much more delicious than store bought, so they are worth the effort. continue reading...

Takenoko Miso Potage: Creamy Bamboo Shoot Soup With Miso

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A very simple creamy soup, made with a quintessentially Japanese spring vegetable, bamboo shoot or takenoko. continue reading...

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Spring vegetables article in the Japan Times

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A new article in the Japan Times about spring mountain vegetables, plus a bit more about vegetables. continue reading...

Chicken Karaage: Japanese Fried Chicken

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One of the all-time favorites on this site, revised and updated. continue reading...

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Japanese basics: Nanban sauce or vinegar (Nanbansu)

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Three versions of a versatile Japanese sauce that can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce or dressing. It's called Nanban or "wild southern savage" sauce. continue reading...

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Hinamatsuri (Girl's Festival) article in the Japan Times, plus my aunt's antique hina dolls

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A new article and recipe for Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Festival) in the Japan Times. continue reading...

How to cook perfect rice - in a frying pan

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Here’s how to cook rice quickly and easily using a regular old non-stick frying pan. It’s so easy and foolproof you won’t believe it! continue reading...

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One of these doesn't belong...? (Weekend contest!)

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It’s been another rather hectic week around here. So I’d like to loosen up a bit by closing the week out with a fun giveaway, just for the heck of it. I’m giving away a $25 gift certificate from our friends over at J-list/JBox, where you can find all kinds of cool, cute, and wacky stuff from Japan. continue reading...

Rafute and Rafute Rillettes: Fun with Okinawan pork belly

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For the last month or so, I’ve been obsessing about rafute, simmered Okinawan pork belly. continue reading...

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Not-so-sweet Tsubu-an: Japanese Azuki Bean Paste (revised and updated)

Sweet azuki beans

(Update posted January 2011:) I've updated this recipe for classic tsubu-an or "chunky" style sweet azuki bean paste, originally posted back in June 2006, once again. In March 2010 I added instructions for making it with a pressure cooker - the way I've been making tsubu-an for the last couple of years. Since this was originally posted, I've received a number of comments from people who had trouble with their beans getting soft enough. After some experimentation, I've found that if the beans are fresh you can just add the sugar while cooking without much trouble, but if the beans are a bit old - which is the case more often than not unfortunately - you may run into problems. So, in this latest edit, I've revised the instructions so that people having problems with the (possibly old) beans getting soft enough, will have more success.

A lot of Japanese sweets are based on beans that are cooked with a ton of sugar to a paste-like consistency. Red azuki (adzuki) beans are the most popular kind of beans to use in sweets, and sweet azuki bean paste is called an (餡) or azuki-an (小豆あん).

I've updated this recipe for classic tsubu-an or "chunky" style sweet azuki bean paste, originally posted back in 2006, with instructions for making it with a pressure cooker. continue reading...

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Sakekasu (sake lees) article and recipe in The Japan Times, plus amazake recipe

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My latest Japan Times article and recipe are about sakekasu, the lees left over after sake is pressed. Plus: a bonus recipe for amazake, aka “Japanese eggnog”. continue reading...

Everything in osechi ryouri (Japanese New Year's feast food) has a meaning. (And a confession..)

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Take a look at some homemade osechi ryouri, or traditional New Year’s Day feast food. continue reading...

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Homemade mochi (pounded rice) the modern way

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How to make fresh mochi, or pounded rice, at home, with ease, and without a mochi making machine. continue reading...

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Toshikoshi Soba (year-end soba) article in The Japan Times, plus a bit about my niece and nephew

img: a hot and steamy bowl of soba noodles to end the year

A new article in The Japan Times about toshikoshi soba. Plus, a little about my favorite food-eating model, Lena-chan, and her brother Lyoh. continue reading...

Taimeiken, Nihonbashi, Tokyo - home of Tampopo Omuraisu (rice omelette)

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I finally made it to Taimeiken, an old time yoshoku restaurant in Nihonbashi, to indulge in the original Tampopo Omuraisu (rice omelette). Yes, that Tampopo. continue reading...

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Winter fish article in the Japan Times and an evening meal at my mom's

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A new article in The Japan Times about winter fish, and how fish fits into a typical Japanese meal. continue reading...

Basics: How to sasagaki cut burdock root (gobo)

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Step-by-step instructions for making very thin shavings or doing the sasagaki cut on fibrous root vegetables like the burdock root or gobo. continue reading...

A visit to Obana, a traditional Edo-mae unagi-ya (old Tokyo style eel restaurant)

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A little slice of old Tokyo in an out-of-the-way area of Tokyo, Obana is an unagi-ya (eel restaurant) that even someone who’s not an unagi fan can love. continue reading...

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Double satoimo (taro root) with miso, sesame and honey

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This is a traditional satoimo or taro root recipe, where some of the root is used in the nutty sweet-savory sauce. It’s a very ‘fall’ dish. continue reading...

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A visit to the Shin Yokohama Raumen (Ramen) Museum

Scenes from the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum (新横浜ラーメン博物館)

A museum that pays homage to a single type of dish? Why not - this is Japan after all. continue reading...

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Shinmai (new harvest rice) and onigiri article in the Japan Times

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I have a new article in today’s edition of The Japan Times, available online here, or in the print edition. continue reading...

Tororo Soba (Slimy soba noodles with grated nagaimo)

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Here’s a rather unusual (to Western tastes anyway) way to enjoy cold soba noodles - with slimy grated nagaimo root. continue reading...

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Holy Matsutake!

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It’s matsutake season! Let’s see just how much you pay for one of the most expensive foodstuffs on earth. continue reading...

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Squid and vegetable ohitashi, plus some Japanese home meals

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A simple side dish or salad to serve as part of a Japanese meal, or on its own. Plus, take a look at a couple of real Japanese home meals! continue reading...

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Perfect fried rice in a frying pan - even on an electric range or hotplate

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So you love fried rice, but don’t have a wok, or even a gas range? Here’s how to make great fried rice with a frying pan, even if it’s on an electric hotplate. (Note: this is not a low carb dish.) continue reading...

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Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers (Konnyaku aglio olie e peperoncino)

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Konnyaku is a wonderful food for anyone on any kind of diet - provided, of course, that you like it. I do like it - it has a very unique chewy-bouncy texture. I have described konnyaku and its noodle-shaped cousin, sharataki, before, but briefly, konnyaku is a grey to white colored, gelatinous mass which basically consists of water and fiber. It has almost no calories. Right out of the package, konnyaku and shirataki have an odd smell, but if you treat it properly (directions given below) you can get rid of that and just have the flavorless yet curiously interesting mass of goo that is going to fill up your belly in a very useful way.

This is something very easy to make in a jiffy. It’s basically taking a classic Italian spaghetti recipe and applying it to konnyaku. You could make this with shirataki too, in which case it will actually look like noodles, but I rather prefer the chewier texture of konnyaku. The only thing to watch for if you are on a diet is the amount of olive oil and optional cheese you use. continue reading...

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Eggplant article and eggplant-beef-miso recipe in The Japan Times

A new article and recipe by yours truly is now available on The Japan Times web site, as well as in its print edition if you’re in Japan. The subject this time is eggplants (aubergines). It also includes a recipe of course! The recipe combines delicious fall eggplants with a miso-meat sauce or sorts.

Incidentally, although the original recipe calls for thinly sliced beef, it works well with ground beef too. This is a shot of a version I made using ground beef.

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This dish is great hot or cold, so make some for dinner and save a little for your bento the next day. Really yum!

Negimiso or Misonegi - Japanese onion-miso sauce or paste

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This is one of those really useful and versatile sauces or pastes (the consistency just depends on how long you cook it down to evaporate the moisture) that is so easy to make that it’s really barely a recipe. It’s a basic standby in Japanese kitchens. continue reading...

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Low-key iridofu or scrambled tofu with vegetables - a low-carb foil for a Japanese (or other) meal

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A low-carb, low-key tofu dish that serves as a background element to a meal, serving the role that rice usually plays. continue reading...

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Japanese food and beverages for diabetics and low-carb eaters

Since I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, I’ve been doing a lot of research into what is recommended for diabetics in Japan to eat. There are several issues to keep in mind when eating or making Japanese style dishes, so I thought I’d share these here. Whether you’re planning to travel to Japan or are just a fan of Japanese cooking and restaurants, I hope you’ll find this useful. continue reading...

Tomatoes, at what temperature? Plus a super-easy tomato recipe

Heirloom tomatoes for lunch

Ahh, tomatoes. What temperature is right for them? continue reading...

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Combatting Summer Fatigue article in The Japan Times

Chicken and shrimp soba salad with sesame sauce

There’s a new recipe from me, on another site - take a look! And a bit about the, uh, photo shoot… continue reading...

Tamago dofu: Cold savory egg custard

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(From the archives - something cool and easy, perfect for the summer. Originally published in July 2008.)

Previously, I explained how some dishes that are not tofu are called -tofu, because of the shape, texture or both. This is the case with tamago dofu, a smooth savory egg custard that’s served cold.

You can make it in a square mold, to make it look tofu-like. But I prefer to keep it a lot simpler by cooking the tamago dofu in the serving container it will be served in. This can be anything as long as it’s heat-proof. Here I have used some sturdy glass cups made of pressed glass, but I’ve also used little pudding molds, tiny glass bowls made for holding ingredients while you’re cooking, and even coffee cups.

There are very few ingredients in a tamago dofu: dashi or soup stock, eggs, and a few flavorings. Because of this, each component should be of top quality, because you’ll taste each one quite clearly. Traditionally the soup component is dashi, but I don’t really like the fish flavor of dashi when it’s cold. So I prefer to make a simple vegetable stock instead.

Tamago dofu should be served ice cold. It’s a great appetizer for a summer meal, or an interesting and soothing snack. I have been guilty of making 4 cups and ‘hiding’ them so I can eat them all by myself. continue reading...

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French natto!

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As I slowly settle in to my new life here in France, I’m finding out about quite a lot of interesting local suppliers of the things that I want to eat, wear, sit on, or otherwise use. But I never thought that I’d find this: French natto, as in natto made right here in my region of France! continue reading...

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Gyoza Quesadilla

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A quickie, deconstructed version of gyoza dumplings. continue reading...

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Instant ramen and cup noodles are very, very bad for you

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(Edit note, May 2010. I have revived this piece from the deep archives. I wrote this originally written back in 2007, and since then the popularity of instant ramen has continued to grow.

To reiterate: Although it’s often marketed as a quick and easy meal, instant ramen is junk food It should be regarded on the same level, nutritionally speaking, as a bag of potato chips. I’m not saying you should totally avoid instant ramen, or for that matter potato chips. I indulge in both myself. However, making cheap instant ramen an everyday staple, as some college kids and low-income families do, is about the equivalent nutritionally speaking of serving corn chips as your staple carb with meals. (Hmm, I guess there are people who do that…)

Incidentally, I’ve gotten a fair number of angry emails and comments to this post over the years, as though I’m attacking a fundamental right of people or something. I find this very interesting.) continue reading...

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Looking at tofu

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(Periodically I like to dust off an article from the vast Just Hungry archives, give it a little facelift, and present it on the front page again. I wrote this guide to tofu back in September 2008. I think it will answer most, if not all, your questions about Japanese-style tofu and related products. Enjoy!

There are several tofu recipes both here in Just Hungry as well as on Just Bento, and I’ve even shown you how to make your own tofu from scratch. However, up until now I have never really tried to explain the differences between types of tofu, when to use them and how to store them. Well now is the time to fix that. continue reading...

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My mother's glazed sardines (Iwashi no kanroni)

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One thing I’m really enjoying here in Japan is cooking simple things at home with my mother. To me, quintessential Japanese home cooking is a dish like this. Sardines, which happen to be quite inexpensive (and sustainable too), are slowly cooked until they are well flavored, meltingly soft, and glossy with a typically Japanese sweet-salty sauce. (The ‘kanroni’ (甘露煮) in the name refers to the method of simmering something in this sweet-salty sauce.) It uses just a few basic ingredients, so please give it a try if you can get a hold of very fresh sardines or similar oily fish. (The fish do have to be very fresh for this to be really good and not-fishy.)

I had a bit of a job working out this recipe, which comes from my mother, since she really doesn’t measure anything when she makes this! After some trial and error, I think these ingredient amounts work well. continue reading...

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A tour through a fabulous Japanese department store food hall - Yokohama Takashimaya

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One must-do in Japan for anyone interested even remotely interested in food is a visit to a depachika(see footnotes), or department store basement food hall. One of the more impressive food halls that I have seen is in the Yokohama branch of the Takashimaya department store. I recently had a chance to tour of the Yokohama Takashimaya food halls.

Warning: Lots of mouth-watering pictures to follow! continue reading...

Cool stuff from Japan: Beautiful traditional candies

Sugar candies from Kyoto

Jewel-like candies are a long time tradition in Japan, and reflects the country’s love of small, beautiful and cute things. continue reading...

Cool stuff from Japan: Soy milk that's an instant tofu 'kit'

Soy milk bottle with nigari packet

During my stay in Japan, I thought I’d feature some cool stuff (or things that you all may find cool) that I’ve seen. Here is a bottle of soy milk or tounyuu (豆乳) that I got at a shop in the local Tokyuu line train station (or in other words, it’s not like a special brand or anything). continue reading...

Nanakusagayu: Seven greens rice porridge to rest the feast-weary belly

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The more I study old Japanese customs, the more I am impressed by the logical thinking behind many of them, even when examined with modern eyes. One of these the custom of partaking of a bowl of nanakusagayu on the seventh day of the New Year, which supposedly started in the Heian Period (around the 12th century), in the refined court of Kyoto. Nanakusa means seven greens, and kayu (or to use the honorific term, okayu (お粥)), is rice porridge. The Imperial Court, now in Tokyo, still has a nanakusagayu ceremony on the morning of January 7th. continue reading...

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Kenchinjiru, Japanese Zen Buddhist vegetable soup

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It’s been a cold and snowy winter so far around these parts, which usually means soups and stews for dinner. This classic Japanese soup is hearty yet low in calories, full of fiber, and just all around good for you. It helps to counteract all the cookies and sweets you might be indulging in at this time of year.

The name kenchinjiru (けんちん汁)derives from the Zen Buddhist temple where it was first made (or so it’s claimed), Kencho-ji (建長寺)in Kamakura. (Kamakura (鎌倉) was, for a brief while, the capital of Japan in the 12th and 13th centuries. Nowadays it’s a major historical tourist attraction, and a fairly easy day trip from central Tokyo.) Since kenchinjiru is a shojin ryouri or temple cuisine dish, the basic version given here is vegan. It’s still very filling because of all the high fiber vegetables used. You could make a very satisfying vegan meal just from this soup and some brown rice. continue reading...

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Fugu (puffer fish): Would you or wouldn't you?

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(Note: Your responses to the question posed below may be translated for a Japanese blog! Read on…)

Even though I’m Japanese, I do think that we eat an awful lot of food that could be considered to be odd. One of them is the infamous fugu, or puffer fish. Fugu’s main claim to fame, besides its extraordinary appearance (it puffs itself up to make itself look a lot bigger to predators), is that its skin and organs are highly poisonous. Nevertheless, it’s considered to be a great delicacy in Japan. It’s now fugu season in fact, so many people are tucking in to fugu sashi (fugu sashimi), fugu nabe (fugu hotpot), and so on. continue reading...

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Miso Basics: A Japanese miso primer, looking at different types of miso

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[From the archives. This miso primer was published here last September (2008). I’ve added some notes about miso-based blends, especially sumiso or miso with vinegar.]

This is a post that has been a long time coming. I kept on holding it off until I had a good variety of miso on hand to show photos of. I can’t say I have a comprehensive selection to show you, but I hope you will find this article useful anyway.

Miso (味噌、みそ), as you probably know already, is a naturally fermented paste made by combining cooked soy beans, salt, and often some other ingredient such as white or brown rice, barley, and so on. The texture can range from smooth to chunky, and the color from a light yellow-brown to reddish brown to dark chocolate brown, and the flavor ranges from mildly salty and sweet to strong and very salty. It is packed with umami and protein, not to mention all sorts of nutrients.

Miso-like fermented bean products and pastes exist all over Asia, but here I will mainly limit myself to the most commonly used Japanese misos. continue reading...

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Leaf shaped black sesame cookies with matcha tea icing

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[From the archives. These sesame cookies with matcha icing look and taste quite dramatic. In leaf shapes they are rather spring-like, but try simple rounds or squares for year-round appeal. Originally published in April 2007.]

Flavor wise black sesame seeds aren’t that different, if at all, from white or brown sesame seeds. But there is something about their dramatic black-to-grey color that is quite exciting. At the moment I’m quite enamored with black sesame seeds, and have been using them instead of the regular brown ones in everything from sauces to salads.

These leaf shaped cookies contain toasted and ground black sesame seeds, dark brown muscovado sugar, and whole wheat flour, and are decorated with matcha (powdered tea) royal icing. The sweetness is quite restrained, both in the cookie and in the icing. You are first hit by the tea-flavored, very slightly bitter icing, followed by the nutty darkness of the cookie. It’s an intriguing combination. They are a wonderful accompaniment to tea, black or green, hot or iced. If the ultimate cookie to you means something very sweet and gooey you may not like these. They are quite adult cookies.

I had to shoot the pictures in a hurry, because they were disappearing faster than almost any other cookie I’ve made recently.

Since I don’t have a leaf shaped cookie cutter, I just made a simple paper template and cut the leaves out with a knife. You can cut them out into any shape you’d like of course, though given the coloring leaves seem appropriate. Quite spring-like, in fact. continue reading...

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Black bean vegan mini-burgers

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From the archives. This is terrific freshy made and hot, but is even better cold, so it’s great for bentos. Originally published in November 2007.

Over the past couple of years as I’ve pursued largely vegetarian eating, I’ve gradually accumulated a small arsenal of small, round bean patties or balls, which are great as snacks, for bento boxes, and just for dinner, in my regular rotation. This one was inspired by one of the first beany-round thing I made, the samosa-like lentil snacks from The Hungry Tiger, and a Japanese vegan cooking book called Saisai Gohan (Vegetable Meals) by Yumiko Kano. (Yumiko Kano is currently my favorite cookbook author in any language, and I’ll talk more about her down the line.) I’ve adjusted a few things to make them gluten-free.

These have the earthy, deep flavor of the black beans that is enhanced by the spices and the sauce, and they are delicious hot or at room temperature. Even diehard carnivores like them. They’re really perfect for bento lunches, and I’ve used it in the all-vegan Bento no. 5 on Just Bento. I also used them as a pita-sandwich filling in Bento no. 6.

I have described two methods of cooking these: in the oven, which is good for making them in quantity, and in a frying pan, which is perfect for making a few at a time. continue reading...

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