japanese

Steamed eggplants (aubergines) with spicy peanut sauce

[From the archives: This eggplant/aubergine dish is really nice served cold, though it can be served warm too. It doesn’t heat up the kitchen since it’s made in the microwave (yes, the microwave, and it works great!) so it’s great to make on a steamy hot summer evening, with in-season eggplant. Originally published July 2007.]

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Here is another summer dish. I love eggplants (aubergines), but cooking them without using a lot of oil can be a bit tricky. I read about this method of steam-cooking eggplants in the microwave in a Japanese magazine some time ago, and ever since it’s one of my favorite ways of preparing these rather spongy vegetables - they’re done in just 5 minutes without heating up the kitchen, which is hard to beat on a hot summer’s day. The whole dish takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Here they are served cold with a spicy peanut sauce, which makes it a very nice vegetarian/vegan main dish. Serve with rice or cold noodles. continue reading...

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Chilled wintermelon and shrimp soup

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These days, the house generally looks like a warzone because of the packing, and I am not in the mood for involved cooking. So I’m making very simple bentos, and mostly one-dish/one-pot type of things for dinner. A great one-pot meal is soup of course, but it is also summer, when we aren’t always in the mood for a steaming hot bowlful.

The answer is chilled soup that can be made ahead and just taken out at dinnertime. This one is really easy to make too, which is a big plus. Winter melon has a inherently cooling quality according to old (Chinese) medicine, so this is really nice to have on a warm evening. continue reading...

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In Shojo Beat Magazine

I was interviewed recently for Shojo Beat Magazine, an English magazine published in the U.S. dedicated to shojo manga (manga for girls), and the results of whatever I said are in the most recent issue. Unfortunately the articles isn’t online, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the whole issue is dedicated to Japanese food and manga - sounds like fun!

Update: Here is the link to the article (an excerpt I think). (Thanks heatherbug!) continue reading...

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Full Japanese Breakfast, slightly scaled down

Recently, a reader asked in the comments about what I have for breakfast. It is definitely not as elaborate as this one.

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New potatoes with butter and soy sauce (Shinjaga shouyu bataa)

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A very easy way to treat yourself to tiny new potatoes. continue reading...

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Cold noodle time!

I am sort of the road this week, so it’s hard to cook much. When I get settled back at home, the first thing I want to make is cold noodles. What I’m craving most right now:

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That is hiyashi chuuka, or Chinese style cold noodles. It’s a meal in one, as refreshing as a salad. I love the salty-tangy sauce. continue reading...

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Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

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Since watching the ’70s edition of The Supersizers last week, I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick. I was lucky (or unlucky, depending on the perspective) enough to have spend my ’70s childhood in three countries due to my father’s job—England, the U.S. and Japan. I have fond memories of food, especially sweet snacks and candy, from all three places, my tastes have changed so much as and adult that I can’t stand many of them anymore. The one sweet from that era that I still love is Meiji Chelsea butterscotch candy. continue reading...

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Strawberries, tsubuan, ice cream

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There are some food combinations that you think just shouldn’t belong together, but do so well. Strawberries with sweet beans? Surely not, you think, until you taste an ichigo daifuku - a strawberry wrapped in some azuki an and thin gyuuhi, a dough made of rice. I’ve had ichigo daifuku on my mind lately but have been too lazy to make the dumplings. This is a very easy alternative. Arguably it’s even better. continue reading...

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Rice defines me as a Japanese person

2 or 3 times a year, my mother sends me a big care package from Japan. She sends it by seamail, which takes forever, but that’s because she always includes a bag of rice. continue reading...

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Kuzumochi, a cool sweet summer dessert

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I wrote about the use of kuzu powder in the goma dofu (sesame tofu) recipe. This time it’s a very traditional, simple sweet dish using kuzu.

Kuzumochi are sticky ‘mochi’ cakes made with just kuzu powder, sugar and water. The texture is somewhere in between gelatin and mochi made from rice flour - wobbly but not too sticky. It’s traditionally served chilled, so it makes an interesting, gluten free (and vegan) summer dessert. continue reading...

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The role of alcohol, onion and ginger in Japanese meat dishes

One of the most frequently asked questions here is about substituting or leaving out sake or mirin from a dish (most recently to the chicken karaage recipe). This reminds me of how certain ways of thinking exist in Japanese and East Asian cooking, that may not necessarily exist in Western cooking. One of those is the perception of the flavor of meat. continue reading...

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Goma dofu: Sesame tofu that's not tofu

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There are some dishes in Japan that look and have a texture like tofu, but are not tofu in the traditional sense; that is, they’re not made from coagulated soy milk. One of these not-tofu tofus is goma dofu (ごま豆腐)or sesame tofu. Goma dofu is made from three simple ingredients: ground sesame paste, water, and kuzu or kudzu powder. continue reading...

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How to cook bamboo shoots (takenoko)

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There are two Japanese vegetables that I can’t get fresh here that I miss very much. One is burdock root or gobo; the other is bamboo shoot or takenoko (竹の子 or 筍). Bamboo shoots are very much a spring-only vegetable, much like asparagus, so around this time of year I always get a craving for the crunch and subtle flavor. continue reading...

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Different types of Japanese tsukemono pickles, and how some may not be worth the hassle to make yourself

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Periodically, someone asks about Japanese pickles - those crunchy, salty, sweet-sour, even spicy bits of goodness that accompany a traditional meal, especially breakfast. There are a big variety of Japanese pickles, and sooner or later you might consider making them.

Some time ago I did a week-long series on making instant, or overnight pickles. These pickles can be made very quickly, usually with ingredients that are easy to get a hold of. If you want to try your hand at Japanese style pickles, I recommend starting there. There are also a couple of cookbooks in English dedicated to quick and easy pickles, both of which are quite good: Quick and Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu, and Easy Japanese Pickling in Five Minutes to One Day: 101 Full-Color Recipes for Authentic Tsukemono by Seiko Ogawa.

However, the type of pickles that you are likely to be served in a high class traditional inn in Japan, or even the type you can buy in vacuum sealed packs at a supermarket, are a bit more complicated to make, especially outside of Japan. Here are some examples. continue reading...

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How to cook taro root or satoimo

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How to prepare that hairy looking beast, the taro root or satoimo. continue reading...

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Wagashi are not some sort of magic Japanese diet food

Someone alerted me to this entry on the Health.com blog which quotes me. (Health.com is a Time Inc. property.) I just wanted to set some things straight, because a couple of the statements there are just not right. continue reading...

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Cooking whole dried soybeans

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Until fairly recently I had a blind spot when it came to the humble soybean. I regularly consume soy products like soy milk, tofu and okara, not to mention fermented soybean products like natto and tempeh. And green soybeans or edamame are always a great snack.

But for some reason, I didn’t really get into eating the whole dried (and cooked) soybean. It’s not that they are that much harder to cook than other dried beans either.

In any case, I’ve rectified that situation and now I cook up a batch of soybeans quite regularly and store them in the freezer. Plain boiled soybeans are amazingly delicious, and just packed with nutrition. The cooking liquid is so rich that it can be used as a very nutritious stock or dashi for making soups and such.

There are a couple of points to watch out for when cooking whole soybeans, which are noted below in copious detail. continue reading...

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A vegan version of nikujaga (Japanese meat and potatoes), plus how to remake Japanese recipes to make them vegan

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Nikujaga, stewed potatoes with meat, is a staple of Japanese home cooking. It’s filling and comforting, and appears quite frequently for dinner at our house. Recently though I’ve been making this vegan version more frequently, which is just as tasty as the meaty version. Thick fried tofu (atsuage) is the protein replacement, but it’s not just there for it’s nutritional benefits - I love the texture in a lot of dishes.

The recipe, plus some ideas on how to reform Japanese non-vegan recipes to make them vegan, after the jump. continue reading...

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Spaghetti Napolitan

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Continuing my yohshoku mini-marathon, here’s the infamous Japan-ized pasta dish called Napolitan or Naporitan. (Japanese doesn’t have an L or R sound, which is why Japanese people often mix them up when speaking Western languages.) As far as I know, there’s nothing remotely Neapolitan about Napolitan, except for the use of spaghetti. It is made with a creamy ketchup-based sauce, and has the salty-sweet flavors that Japanese people love. continue reading...

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Menchikatsu (or Menchi katsu)

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While I make Japanese style hamburgers all the time, I rarely make menchikatsu, its breaded and deep-fried cousin. I guess it’s the breading and deep frying that deters me - it’s a messy process, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. So I made these ones for the blog! Fortunately they were consumed very eagerly. continue reading...

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Hambaagu or hambaagaa: Japanese hamburgers

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As promised, here is my recipe for making Japanese style hamburgers or hamburger steaks, one of the quintessential yohshoku or Japanese Western-style dishes. They are called hanbaagu (though they are sometimes called hambaagaa, but that variation usually refers to the kind that comes sandwiched inside a bun) in Japan, and are very popular for lunch or dinner, and are eaten as a side dish to rice (okazu) in Japanese homes. In fancier restaurants that specialize in yohshoku, they might be eaten with a knife and fork, but at home they’re eaten with chopsticks. Whenever Japanese food magazines have a poll about popular okazu, hamburgers are always in the top three, especially amongst kids.

They don’t have much in common with the American style of hamburger, except for the fact that they both start off with ground meat. A Japanese hamburger has more in common with meatloaf, and a rather similar texture. They are similar to the old TV dinner standby, Salisbury steak, but I think a lot better. continue reading...

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Yohshoku in the New York Times (but it's not Hambagoo!!!!!)

The New York Times has an article today about yohshoku, Japanese-style western food. Long time readers of Just Hungry will know that I’ve been slowly introducing you all to yohshoku for some years now. continue reading...

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Time-tested vegan proteins

More and more these days I’m getting requests for vegan and vegetarian recipes. While I’m not a vegetarian as I’ve stated here before, I like to eat a daily menu that’s light on meat, and am always interested in vegan and vegetarian protein options.

There are several what I’d call factory-manufactured vegan protein products out there, from TVP to quorn. I’m sure they are safe and wholesome to eat, but I’m more interested in traditional, or time-tested, vegan/vegetarian protein alternatives.

This is the list I’ve come up with so far. They are Japanese-centric, since that’s what I’m most familiar with. Do you have any others to add? continue reading...

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Fu, the mother of seitan

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Vegetarians are probably familiar with seitan as a meat substitute. Seitan is wheat gluten that has been kneaded in such a way that the gluten threads align themselves to resemble meat. It was invented by advocates of the macrobiotic food movement in Japan, specifically as a meat substitute, in the 1960s. (Fairly accurate (from what I’ve read elsewhere) Wikipedia entry.)

But way before there was a macrobiotic movement, let alone seitan, people in Japan were already eating a wheat protein product called fu (麩). Like seitan, fu is made from the gluten that is extracted from wheat flour. Sometimes the gluten is mixed with other ingredients. There are two kinds of fu: raw (namafu 生麩), which is basically fresh fu; and grilled and dried (yakifu or yakibu 焼き麩). Here I’d like to focus on the dried kind which is much easier to get a hold of for people outside of Japan. It’s also a great pantry item, since it keeps for a long time. continue reading...

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Mitarashi dango, rice dough dumplings with sweet-salty sauce

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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. continue reading...

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Zakkokumai: Rice with seeds and grains and bits

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

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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). continue reading...

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Japanese Valentine's Day chocolate giving customs in miniature

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: continue reading...

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Okonomiyaki, Osaka style

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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. continue reading...

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The Japanese restaurant authentifiers start moving

Early last year, a movement to set up an authentification program for Japanese restaurant was proposed, to mixed reactions. Now it seems the people behind it are getting going: the inspectors are already in Bangkok, Shanghai and Taipei, and this year they’ll be invading, er researching London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris. continue reading...

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Cod marinated in miso and kochujang

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I have not featured many fish recipes here on Just Hungry. This is because at the moment I live in a landlocked country, where sea fish must be shipped in, and is expensive to boot. When I do buy some fish, I savor it as a treat. (I may be preparing myself for something that all fish eating people might have to endure soon, given the problems of overfishing.)

This is a classic miso marinade with a spicy twist. Instead of using just miso, I’ve added a little bit of kochujang, spicy Korean bean paste. I’ve used cod for this, but you could use any firm, flaky white fish instead - or even an oily fish such as salmon or swordfish. The pieces of fish should have a certain thickness, so thin fish like flounder won’t do. continue reading...

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Japanese grocery stores in Germany

General notes on Germany: The biggest Japanese expat community is in the Düsseldorf area. continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in France

Japanese grocery stores and Asian stores that carry Japanese products in France. continue reading...

Uh..uh...beetle larvae shaped chocolates

Chocolate. It’s such a lovely, malleable substance. It can be shaped into anything really. Anything.

But, one wonders what kind of twisted mind came up with this idea…chocolate truffles shaped like kabutomushi (rhinocerous beetle) larvae!

Avert your eyes if you are squeamish. You may not want to read this while you’re eating.

(If you’re getting here from the front page, pause and breathe in deeply before clicking that ‘continue reading’. continue reading...

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Japanese grocery stores in the UK and Ireland

Listings for the UK and Ireland. continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in the New York - New Jersey - Connecticut area

This page lists stores in New York, North New Jersey and Connecticut - the NYC Tristate area, plus upstate New York. South NJ area stores are listed on the main page.

(some formatting problems remain - please ignore)

Family Market 29-15 Broadway, Astoria Tel: 718-956-7925 10:00am〜1:00am (7 Days)

生鮮食品、一般食料品、雑貨、レンタルビデオ

JAS Mart 35 St. Marks Pl. (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.) Tel: 212-420-6370 11:00am〜11:00pm (Sun - Thu) continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in California

General notes on California: Due to the large Asian-American population and sizeable expat communities, Japanese grocery stores are quite plentiful, especially in the Los Angeles area, but throughout the state generally, and there are even more Asian groceries.

I’ve tried to organize the listings by general area, but if I put a town in the totally wrong location let me know! continue reading...

Mailorder merchants that ship Japanese goods worldwide

Merchants that ship worldwide, plus shipping services. continue reading...

Food related shopping places in Japan you should visit

Please limit your suggestions to stores and places that are food-related: edibles, supplies, equipment, etc. continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in other places

Middle East, Africa, and other places.

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Japanese grocery stores in Asia (other than Japan)

I need to update this section soon! In the meantime, take a look through the addresses listed in the comments.

Japanese grocery stores in Australia, New Zealand, Pacific

(placeholder for the moment) Japanese grocery stores (or stores that stock Japanese food products) in Australia and New Zealand. If your favorite stores aren’t listed, let us know the details in the comments! continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in Europe

So far we have listings for Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in Central/South America/Caribbean

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Japanese grocery stores in Canada

Listings in the great nation of Canada. continue reading...

Japanese grocery stores in the United States and territories

Japanese grocery stores and stores selling food-related items in the United States. Note that California and the New York-New Jersey - Connecticut areas have their own pages. continue reading...

Help me to assemble a comprehensive Japanese grocery store list!

I should have done this a long time ago, but hey, better late than ever. I’m going to try to assemble a list of Japanese grocery stores worldwide, that people can refer to. Obviously I cannot do this without your help! I can list info for places I’ve lived, and there have been some great comment posts in the past here that have included such info, but I’ll try to put it all in one place.

So, please head on over to to this constantly updated page and add any information you have about in the comments!

I’ve added the categories Food related shopping places you shouldn’t miss in Japan and Places that ship Japanese food-related things worldwide.

[Update:] Of course this turned out to be a way bigger job than I thought :) But I’ll try to add as much as possible over the weekend. I’ve found that there are quite a lot of Japanese pages that list stores and so on, for expats obviously. I’m collecting those and adding them, together with your suggestions in the comments. continue reading...

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Japanese grocery store list

This is an attempt to put together a set of lists of Japanese grocery stores around the world. Ambitious but with the help of Just Hungry readers, we hope to put together a definitive list. This is definitely a work in progress - please bookmark it and check back often. Note that Korean and Chinese groceries are also listed sometimes, since they often carry a lot of Japanese ingredients. continue reading...

Bacon wrapped tofu

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Bacon. Tofu. Two proteins on the opposite ends of the food social scale. One is revered, serenaded, hailed as the food of the Gods. The other is reviled, sneered at, as being bland, boring, even disgusting.

When I saw this conflict depicted as bendable figurines (via Serious Eats) I had to do something to end this conflict.

The only reason why tofu is put down is because of its mishandling by well meaning but unskilled cooks who focused only on its healthy benefits. There are plenty of Westerners who hate tofu, but you’d be hard put to find many Asians who do. That is becase in eastern Asian cuisines, tofu is infused with other flavors, as it should be.

So, back to the bacon and tofu. This is actually not an uncommon dish in Japanese households. It’s called either just bacon tofu (or tofu bacon) or even bacon tofu steak. The salty bacon-ness of the bacon infuses the bland tofu, and the two marry together to become a tasty morsel that’s good hot or cold. It’s salty-crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. (Yes, it’s good for bento, and it will feature in one shortly.) continue reading...

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Vegan miso tahini walnut carrots on Just Bento

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I know that a lot more people read Just Hungry than read Just Bento (and I know a lot read both - thank you!) Most recipes are posted here, but when there is a recipe that works especially well in a bento lunch, I post it on the bento site.

These miso-tahini-walnut topped baked carrots are great for bento, but are really even nicer warm out of the oven. And I think the world needs more tasty vegan protein recipes. So in case you don’t read Just Bento, but you are vegetarian/vegan (and this is dairy free and all that, could be made gluten-free quite easily by choosing the right miso…only nut allergy people wouldn’t benefit) head on over to Just Bento and check it out. Another one that is very bento-suitable that you might like is shio kombu or kombu no tsukudani, kombu seaweed cooked in soy sauce…I know several people have asked me for a recipe…well, there it is, right there!

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Brown rice and green tea porridge (genmai chagayu)

genmai-chagayu.jpgA traditional custom in Japan is to eat nanakusa gayu, or seven greens rice porridge, after the New Year’s feasting period, to rest the stomach and bring the body back into balance. At any time of the year, kayu or okayu are eaten when the body is weakened by sickness, fatigue or overeating.

Chagayu or tea rice porridge is a speciality of the ancient city of Nara and the surrounding area. (Nara was briefly the capital of Japan in the 7th century, and is one of the most historical cities in the country). Chagayu is usually made with white rice, but I used brown rice (genmai) instead, plus a small amount of firm green puy lentils from France. The lentils are not traditional, but I like the contrasting texture.

This has been my breakfast for about a week now. It’s not in the same category as eggs and bacon or a stack of pancakes, but I find my body needs something like this sometimes to bring it back into balance. It’s filling and warming, yet feels very cleansing to the body. A cup of this has less than 100 calories, and is high in fiber. continue reading...

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