Happy accidents. I had leftover napa cabbage after making a batch of gyoza and I found this simple recipe in the back of the vegetable section of one of my favorite cookbooks. I wasn’t expecting much—I just needed something easy to use up the remaining cabbage—so I was surprised at how much I loved it.
Japanese food has a lot of sweet notes, so this was a welcomed break from that. The ginger perfumes the dish, but what makes this addictive is the splash of vinegar. This was a perfect combination of sour and salty, with a hint of sweetness coming from the cabbage itself. I’m endlessly amazed at how a few simple ingredients can transform into something so delicious.
I stop at the Little Tokyo Public Library from time to time and go through stacks and stacks of food magazines and cookbooks. And this recipe keeps popping up. Harumi Kurihara’s books are my favorite and I noticed this carrot and tuna salad recipe making an appearance in a couple of her books, some Japanese, some in English. She says she created this recipe 20 years ago and still receives letters from readers about it. Must be good.
I can’t say enough good things about this oshiruko. Oshiruko is a sweet porridge traditionally made with azuki beans and a few pieces of shiratama (dumplings made of shiratamako—glutinous rice flour). This recipe uses kabocha instead, blending it with creamy coconut milk and condensed milk to allow the natural, earthy sweetness of the kabocha to shine. Add the chewy shiratama into the equation and it’s perfection.
Posted in Contemporary Recipes, Favorites, Sweets
Tagged coconut milk, condensed milk, dessert, kabocha, mochi, pumpkin, shiratama, steam, sweet
Japanese love mayonnaise. They bake it on toast, on pizza, toss it straight up with sliced cabbage, and mix it with mentaiko (spicy cod roe). Here, it’s combined with shoyu and wasabi, poured over sliced avocados and tomatoes, and baked. Maybe it sounds strange, but I was immediately drawn to this recipe.
Posted in Contemporary Recipes, Vegetables
Tagged avocado, bake, gratin, japan, japanese, lemon, mayonnaise, panko, shoyu, tomato, vegetarian, wafu, wasabi
It was a busy summer with the move and I overlooked a big thank you I wanted to send to Heather at FOOD & WINE Magazine in Ireland. Their May issue focused on Japanese cuisine and they were kind enough to mention Humble Bean as a part of their “10 Foodie Facts You Didn’t Know About Japan.” Thank you!
Chewy udon noodles blanketed in thick curry and topped with a pan-fried tomato seemed just the right thing to welcome the cool autumn weather… except that we’re still experiencing 90+ degrees, here in Los Angeles. No matter. Hot weather calls for hot food. My dad would tell me that after sweating over a steaming bowl of ramen or spicy curry rice, you’ll feel cooler. It’s all relative, after all. My dad also said you only feel hot because you think it’s hot. I can appreciate the depth of his thinking now, but it made no sense to me at the time. Japan’s humid summers were hot-hot-hot—and I was sure it wasn’t because I imagined it that way.
I had the most unexpected epiphany while eating the Arturo pizza at Folliero’s in Highland Park, CA. I love this pizza. It’s mozzarella, eggplant, and garlic—that’s it. No sauce. Imagine crunchy, chewy dough with ribbons of roasted sweet eggplant, salty melted mozzarella, and an occasional bite of garlic. I love it so much, it’s pretty much the only thing I order. But every time I eat it, my thought is… this needs nori. Would it be weird to sneak some in to the restaurant?
Posted in Contemporary Recipes, Favorites
Tagged bake, dough, eggplant, italian, mozzarella, nasu, nori, pizza, ricotta, roast, seaweed
We moved to a new house over the summer. My mom visited, carefully carrying 2 small green Japanese shiso plants with her on the plane. She planted them in our yard and they’ve thrived all summer, exploding with leaves—almost to the point where I can barely keep up. My mom suggested making preserved shiso or shiso miso, but instead I went with something sweet: lemonade with shiso infused simple syrup. Fresh shiso is pungent and beautifully bright but steeping them in boiled syrup mellows those flavors out.
Now, what to do with the simple syrup? After a quick survey on Facebook (out of which came some fantastic ideas like strawberry shiso sorbet!), I went with my friend Gena’s suggestion of shiso lemonade. Using lemons is brilliant because it brings back some of the brightness the steeped shiso had lost.
Back in February, I collaborated with Chris from Freshly Diced on a piece that’s featured on their site: a recipe for Goma Ozoni. Ozoni is typically eaten for New Year’s and yes… I know it’s June. Keep it in mind for next year, or make it anyway! It’s a lovely soup—nutty, salty, and punctuated with kamaboko, mochi, and spinach—a welcome alternative to misoshiru.
Freshly Diced is dedicated to the cross sections of design, food, and music. Chris moved to Japan from Canada earlier this year and was documenting fantastic eats when the earthquake hit. He’s now in Hong Kong, but still doing his thing with that perceptive eye of his. Go check out his beautiful photography, mouth-watering food documents, and while your at it, familiarize with his great music selections.
Above photos by Freshly Diced
This is a classic Japanese recipe. It’s one of those sides you see tucked into a corner of a bento. Easily overlooked, but one of my favorites. You could also use black sesame, which also is delicious and looks more dramatic. I used a Japanese mortar and pestle to grind the sesame, but I’ve seen pre-ground sesame in the Japanese market—or even an instant packet that you just mix with the cooked green beans. If you want a non-MSG version, try the one below!
Sesame Green Beans | さやいんげんのごまあえ
Adapted from ぜひ覚えたいおかず
Makes 2 servings
2 oz. green beans, washed and ends trimmed
1 1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. shoyu
Place the toasted sesame seeds in a Japanese mortar and grind. Add the sugar and shoyu and grind. Set aside.
Boil the green beans over moderately high heat in 3/4 cups of water for 2 minutes. Strain, then put the green beans in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Strain again and cut the green beans in half, roughly into 2 inch pieces. It’s better to cut the green beans after cooking so they don’t get watery. Put them in the mortar with the ground sesame and mix well.