knits by sachi

Ojiya Japanese risotto

My husband came back from Hong Kong business trip this weekend and brought back these.

Oh, not the cats. I knitted the cats.

He said there were lots of Seven Eleven convenience stores in Hong Kong and they all sell Japanese food. Interesting. We love everything Japanese.

Since my older son moved to London to attend his university, our food bill decreased considerably. It is a bit strange because he is not at all a big eater, but I have noticed that we are spending much less at supermarkets.

Also, whenever I cook rice for dinner, we get leftovers which becomes my younger sons lunch the following day. He much prefers meals with Japanese rice to sandwiches or sausage rolls. He normally fixes his own lunch every day.

Recently, he learned to cook ‘Ojiya’, Japanese risotto.

Some call it porridge with rice and technically, it may be correct because rice is not cooked from grain. However, rice looks and has similar texture to risotto and I think you can picture the dish better if I call it that way.

My son’s version is a super short cut. After all, he is a 18-year-old boy who comes home for lunch between lessons.

Properly, you will make soup base with Dashi, stock made with bonito flakes or kombu seaweed. You would cook vegetables and sometimes light meat as chicken or white fish.
The method is simple; you make miso soup and dump cooked rice into it.

Ojiya risotto, my son’s version
Cooking time: 3 mins?
Serves 1

1 instant miso soup (or left over miso soup if you have)
1 bowl of cooked rice
1 egg, beaten
Cooked meat, crab sticks, small amount of wakame seaweed, etc

1. In a small cooking pan, make miso soup according to the instructions or heat up left over miso soup.
2. Add cooked rice.

3. Cook until the rice absorbs some of the liquid and thickens. Add beaten egg.

4. Remove from heat when the egg is cooked through.
5. Sprinkle a bit of chili powder if desired.

If you could spend a bit more time, you can add all sorts of vegetables. My suggestions are sliced shiitake mushrooms, cubed or julienned carrots, cubed potatoes, mooli daikon, radish, parsnip, wakame seaweed,spinach,finely chopped spring onions.

Because the rice absorbs liquid and becomes thicker, you do not need too much rice. There is no oil, cream or cheese added but surprisingly satisfying. It is great when you are on diet.

Eating cauliflower to curve carbohydrate is popular now. I have never tried it, but may be you can substitute some of rice to cauliflower if you would like.

Mum used to cook me Ojiya when I wasn’t feeling well. It is easy to digest and gentle for your body, but at the same time, very nutritious. I am glad that my son has developed the taste for this dish.

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Tamagoyaki

This is another casual sushi I make at home; sushi with tamago, egg omelette.

I often make them with Inari zushi. They are both savory sweet and my son’s favorites. I made them for his birthday three weeks ago but again this week, to celebrate his success in driving theory test. I know it is only a half way, so it is a petit celebration.

When I serve these egg sushi to my non-Japanese friends, I often get nice compliments. They are not at all exotic, however, my friends all say that they have never had omelette served in this way.

The omelette is called Tamagoyaki which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. These usually are prepared in a rectangular omelette pan.

There are several types of tamagoyaki. It is made by combining eggs, sugar, salt or soy sauce. Additionally, sake and mirin are used in some recipes. If you add Dashi, stock made from bonito flakes, it is called Dashimaki. Dashimaki is moister because of the extra liquid, and so it has a softer texture. The egg flavor is also a little milder.

Tamagoyaki is often served in the form of nigiri sushi, and also appears in many types of sushi rolls. In Japan, it is also served as a breakfast dish and in Bento box. It is children’s favorite, and we always serve it for New Years day.

This is what Mum made for this year’s celebration.

Tamagoyaki
Ingredients
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp soy sauce or 1/2 tsp salt.
1 tsp mirin, sake or white wine

If you do not want to darken the omelette at all, it is better to use plain salt. Alcohol will evaporate, but if children get put off by the smell of Sake, choose mirin or omit wine all together.

What you will need:
Frying pan (non-stick frying pan is easier to use)
spatula
paper towel

In Japan, you can get a square frying pan for Tamagoyaki, but I do not have one. I use common round frying pan.

Method
1. Heat the pan over medium heat and oil the pan. Wait until the pan is hot. You can test with a drop of egg mixture. If it sizzles, pour a thin layer of egg mixture in the pan, tilting to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. After the bottom of the egg has set but still soft on top, start rolling into a log shape from one side to the other.

3.Move the rolled omelette to the side where you started to roll, and apply a drop of oil to the pan. Pour the egg mixture to cover the bottom of the pan again.


4.When the new layer of egg has set and still soft on top, start rolling from one side to the other.

5. Repeat this process until the mixture is all used.

Remove from the pan and wrap it with a paper towel. Shape the egg when it is still hot. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

There is another version of Tamagoyaki with Dashi stock added. It is called Dashi-maki. Dashi is stock comes from bonito flakes (kombu seaweed stock if you are vegetarian).Dashi-maki has more flavour, however, it is a bit more difficult to roll because of the extra liquid. It is best to practice without Dashi until you get the hang of the rolling technique.
If you would like to try, add 1 tbsp of rice wine and 3 tbsp of Dashi stock to egg mixture.

When my boys were young, parents were always asked to blow eggs before Easter. Children would take egg shells to school to paint and decorate them. Each child needed to bring three egg shells so that I needed to blow six eggs! I ended up feeling light headed and dizzy in the end. It is amazing that the whole egg content comes out from such a tiny hole.

With six eggs, I always made, you guessed right, Tamagoyaki.

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A little about Sake

When I go to Japan, I enjoy Japanese Sake rice wine.
I don’t drink much, but I truly love Sake. Its smell and the taste, how it is served, the occasions associated with, I just love everything about it.

As a child, I thought my dad was strict and a bit scary. I always felt distance between us, but when he had a few Sake on a New Year’s Day, he became talkative and looked truly happy. I loved to see my dad happy.

Being Japanese, I grew up with Sake just like French grow up with wine. I sniffed it and even had a drop or two before I reached to the drinking age. I also loved Sake kasu or Sake lees, the by-product of Sake rice wine.

Sake kasu is what is left after the sake has been pressed out of the mash. It is used in home cooking in many ways to create wonderfully complex flavored dishes. It is used as a pickling agent, to stew fish and vegetables, to make Amazake which is a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol drink. Many traditional Japanese confection and snack companies use a lot of kasu to flavor some of their products. You can find ice cream, chocolate, sweets, cakes and bread flavored with Sake kasu these days.

This is one of them: Sake KitKat.

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When you open the package inside the box, you can smell the familiar smell of Sake. The alcohol content is less than 1% so that anyone can enjoy it.

I like this sweets: Amazake chews. This has somewhat stronger taste of Sake than KitKat but has no alcohol.

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Sake Kasu comes in either hand pressed cheese like texture or mechanically pressed firm sheets.
My mum and I used to enjoy cooking Sake kasu sheets on top of a stove. After roasting, we dip it into sugar and eat it. I was still a teenager then, but Mum allowed me to have some secretly.

Sake kasu sheets contains 8% alcohol, so that you will get drunk if you have too much of it.

Doing something naughty with Mum without telling Dad was a lot of fun! I don’t think I really liked the taste and my pieces had more sugar than Sake kasu itself, but I remember loving the smell of Sake.

During the recent stay in Japan, my older son seemed to start developing the taste for Sake. We tried several different kinds and brands together, hot and cold in small quantities. What I love about Sake is that you can enjoy it at different temperatures. I like it warm.

Sake contains ‘Umami’ which became enhanced when it is heated. It is the same kind of Umami in shell fish as clams. Try steaming clams or mussels with Sake. It is a perfect match.

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I like Sake warm because you can really appreciate the aroma before you take a sip. It is also a safe way to drink alcohol since it is absorbed into your body the same pace as you drink it.

To heat Sake, we use porcelain bottle called ‘Tokkuri’. Tokkuri refers to the shape narrowing at the top.
We use the same word for turtleneck. Tokkuri jumper means a jumper with turtleneck.

My Tokkuri is this one my mum bought for me before I got married. It is nicely hand crafted.

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It is certainly another fun element of being a Sake drinker. You can visit shops and craft fairs to look for a Tokkuri and cups for your Sake.

Dad gave my son a set before we left. My son was very happy to receive his first Tokkuri. He will treasure it.

I have this small bottle of Sake in my cupboard now. You can find Sake at Japanese food shop as Japan Centre in London. You can also buy online. I love the cool looking bottle as well as its content.

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I am very interested this one: Sachi

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And this one: Sachi hime (literally meaning Princess Sachi!!)

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Nothing can be any better than this.

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Omurice

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I did not knit these thinking of the Valentine’s day, but when I made the second mouse, I thought the couple was perfect for today.

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They look cute together.

We don’t do much to celebrate the occasion, but I may be cooking this dish tonight, Omurice. I saw this photo online and it inspired me.

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Omurice is Japanese home style dish consisting of an omelette made with ketchup flavoured fried rice. It is a Western-influenced Japanese food which is developed in early 1900. You may find it a bit odd to use ketchup for cooking, but we often do in our country. Omurice is one of the most popular dish among children and for some reason, grown-up men, too.

My husband and my boys are not exception. My son in London called me up the other day asked for the recipe.
What is great about it is that my younger son eats all minced veggies in the rice without complaining. You can use up left-over rice, a bit of cooked or uncooked meat. You do not need any exotic ingredients. It is versatile and wallet friendly.

Recipe for one
Ingredients
1/4 medium onion
small amounts of chopped bell pepper, carrot
40g chopped chicken meat
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 bowl of Japanese rice
1 Tbsp. ketchup and more for decoration

For 1 omelette
1 large egg
pinch salt, sugar and pepper

1.Chop the onion finely.
2.Cut the chicken into ½” (1 cm) pieces.
3.Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the onion until softened.
4,Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.
5.Add the mixed vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
6.Add the rice and stir fry.
7.Add seasoning and ketchup.
Set aside.

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Make a thin egg pancake in another pan, place cooked rice on top and roll the rice with the pancake. I used a square pan but you may find it easy to use a round frying pan.

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If you cannot roll too well, don’t worry. Take a sheet of paper towel and shape.

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Many put more ketchup on top to garnish.

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If you want to cut down on sugar and salt, you can use tomato paste to cook rice instead of ketchup. Some like to top with Demi-glace sauce or curry sauce. There are plenty of room to improvise and make your very own Omurice.

I have also found these cute ones.

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Kids will love these.

I am very curious how my son’s Omurice turned out. He said it went well. He has to take a photo and send it to me next time.

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Sweet and sour pork/chicken

Harvest time

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For this dish, I received a full mark. My family said it was ‘outstanding’ and I don’t get that everyday.
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It comes from my own Subuta, sweet and sour pork recipe, using chicken instead of pork.
Sweet and Sour Pork is a popular Chinese recipe and is very common in Japan. I believe it is also very popular in North America.

There are many different versions of this dish and I find majority are a little too sweet. Quite often the sauce include ketchup and ingredients pineapple. My family does not tolerate fruits in savory dishes and prefer the sauce without too much sugar.

Here is our Sweet and Sour Pork recipe. You can get all ingredients very easily from a local supermarket.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes
200-250g pork or chicken, cut into roughly 1cm thick, 2x3cm pieces
a few tablespoons cornstarch
1 large onion, cut into bite sizes
1 carrot, sliced
1 large green bell pepper, sliced

You can add any vegetable of your choice, green beans, mangetout, baby corn, mushrooms, bamboo shoots etc.

Sauce Ingredients:
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tsp soy sauce
2 Tsp rice wine
150 cc cup chicken broth or water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place all sauce ingredients in a cup and stir. Set aside until the end.
2. Coat sliced pork or chicken with cornstarch. Shallow-fry until browned and crisp on the outside. Remove from the pan and drain excess oil.

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3. In a wok or large frying pan, heat a little oil and stir-fry the vegetables.
4. Give the cup of sauce ingredients another stir, then add it to the vegetables, continue stirring over medium heat until the sauce thickens.

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5. Add the cooked pork/chicken and stir to combine.

Some recipe tell you to add cornstarch to the sauce ingredients, but since the meat is cooked with cornstarch, I found it unnecessary.

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Sweet and sour flavour is universally popular. We all find the good balance of sweet, sour, salty and spiciness tasty. When I first arrived to the UK, I was very surprised to see people pouring generous amount of vinegar over chips. It is very English, I think. I didn’t see that in the States.

If you are in a hurry or want less calories in Subuta, you can cook the meat in the Wok, add vegetables and sauce. For this method, one tbsp of cornstarch dissolved in the same amount of water should be added at the end.

Stir fry is so easy and quick. You can include lots of vegetables without much effort. It is perfect for busy people like us.

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Japanese comfort food, Oden

It is getting chilly every day and in the cold weather, we think of comfort food.

comfort food
noun
food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.

Yes, that is right, it tends to be calorific, but it doesn’t have to be.

You can name a few Japanese comfort food; Miso soup, Okonomi-yaki, noodles and Onigiri rice balls. Many Japanese comfort foods are quite healthy. There are sweets as redbean soup and roasted sweet potatoes.

For me, the ultimate comfort food is this; Oden.

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Oden is a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon raddish, potatoes, konnyaku yam cake, and fishcakes stewed in a light, soy-flavored dashi broth. Ingredients vary according to region and between each household. Mustard is often used as a condiment.

Oden is often sold from food carts, and most Japanese convenience stores have simmering oden pots in winter. I often cook it at home.

The cooking method is super easy. You can cook it in advance, which is convenient for some occasions.

Ingredients serves 4
For broth

1200cc water
1-2 strips (4cm x 10cm) Kombu sheets
1tsp Dashi granules if you have
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp Mirin sweet wine

Oden
4 hard boiled eggs
4-6 medium sized potatoes
6 fish balls
Mooli daikon raddish

I cannot get a variety of ingredients for the pot like I used to in Japan, but I manage with whatever available in supermarkets and Asian food shops. It is a bit unconventional, but sometimes I add carrot,shallots, mini sausages and meatballs. In Japan, we cook fried bean curd, yam cakes, octopus, beef tendons etc.

You can be creative and cook pretty much anything you fancy, but the crucial ingredients are Daikon raddish and konbu sheets which give the broth distinctive flavour.

Cooking method
1. Prepare broth.
2. Slice daikon into 1 inch pieces and remove the skin.
3.Remove the corners so that there are no sharp edges. This will prevent daikon from breaking into pieces. I also make cross incisions on both sides so that flavour penetrates.

If you prepare rice to serve with Oden, preserve the white water from cleaning rice. Put daikon and the white water in another pot and cook, uncovered, until a skewer goes through. It is believed that the rice water gets rid of bitterness from daikon.

4. Peel potatoes and place them in the broth. Start heating the pot.
5. Add boiled eggs, daikon raddish, fish cakes and other ingredients you are using. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it for 2-3 hours.

When I don’t have fish cakes, I use crab sticks. Add them just before you serve since they get too soft and fall apart if you cook them too long.

This is our version.
I know we don’t get much selection, but daikon cooked in this way tastes utterly fantastic and the broth has deep Umami from kombu sheets. I always keep the left over broth and make vegetable soup or miso soup the following day.

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Oden can be prepared a day before so that all the ingredients absorb Oden broth. It actually tastes much better the following day.

Cover and re-heat when you are ready to serve. Oden is often served with Karashi (hot mustard).

Here is my little knitted chef. Happy cooking!
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Mapo Tofu cooking lesson

We should have done more of these cooking lessons at home.

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My son has just started university this autumn.

We had have been told that student accommodation was completely full and had to wait until the waiting list opens.
We spent hours discussing other possibilities and looking for alternatives, but did not find a solution. We came to a conclusion of him commuting from home for a while. It is not entirely impossible to do so although the train journey takes an hour and 30 minutes one way.

Just 5 days before the school starts, the school sent him an e-mail to notify him that there was a room available.
It is three minutes away from the campus and reasonably priced. He jumped on the opportunity of course.

We went to shopping in a hurry and got him the basics to start the uni life; bed linens, toiletaries, storage boxes and underwear. We left the cooking stuff since we didn’t know how well their kitchen was equipped.

He moved in last weekend.

This week, I received a long list of kitchen essentials he said he needed. I placed orders online. They should be arriving to him in no time.

I wish I had taught him more about shopping, meal planning, food safety and cooking. He can cook a little, but his repatoire is rather limited.

Just before he took off, he had a go at cooking this dish; Mabo-doufu

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Mabo doufu or Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It consists of tofu set in a spicy red chili and bean based sauce. It is very popular in Japan, too. The sauce usually cooked with minced pork meat,spring onion, ginger and garlic. It is very easy to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 packet Tofu
100g minced pork meat
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp grated ginger

sauce
300cc chicken stock
1 Tbsp miso paste
1.5 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp red bean paste
1 Tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place tofu in a sieve or colander to extract excess water. Alternatively, heat tofu in a microwave for one minute.

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2. Heat wok with 1 tbsp oil and cook ginger and garlic until fragrant. Cook meat until brown.
3. Dice tofu and add to the wok.
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4. Add sauce and cook, covered for 15 minutes.
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5. Add spring onion and cook another minute. Add corn starch and cook until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
Done!

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Some recipe has Douchi or black bean sauce, Chinese five spices and other ingredients. You can experiment with whatever you like. A little unconventional, but I sometimes add baby spinach leaves at the end.

If you are not at all keen on spicy food, you can omit red bean sauce entirely and cook it with miso and soy sauce only. We usually go easy on chili. You can cook it in a deep frying pan instead of a wok.

You can buy a smaller Tofu in a paper packet at a supermarket if you are cooking for 1-2 portions.

It is easy and quick. This is one of my son’s favorites and he wanted to learn how to make it. He likes serving it over steamed rice in ‘Bonburi (bowl) style’.

Happy cooking and good luck to all freshers.

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Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake

I was looking through my boys’ photo albums and found this photo the other day; My boy enjoying cooking (?) Okonomiyaki at my parents’ house.

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What a precious memory.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” and yaki meaning “grill”. Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country.

I am from the south west of Japan, so that I am more familiar with Osaka-style okonomiyaki which is the predominant version of the dish found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, thin pork belly, seafood and vegetables. Some like to add mochi rice cake or even cheese.

There are restaurants that specialize in the dish.
Some okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself establishments, where the customer mixes and grills at tables fitted with teppan hotplate. They may also have a diner-style counter where the cook prepares the dish in front of the customers.

However, it is not at all complicated dish and my mum always cooked it at home.

Ingredients (for one pancake)

100g all purpose flour
1 tsp Bonito Dashi granules
1 tsp baking powder
100ml water
1 egg
2 pointed cabbage leaves

This is the basic dough. Cabbage always goes in the mixture in Osaka style.
Dashi granules are available at Asian supermarkets or online shops.

When I first arrived in the UK, I couldn’t find the right cabbage to make okonomiyaki. White cabbage is too hard and tightly wrapped and savoy cabbage is too different from what we have in Japan. Pointed cabbage is similar in taste and texture to Japanese cabbage.

Suggestion for additional ingredients

1 spring onion, finely chopped
prawn, squid or octopus
crab sticks
ham
pork meat, finely sliced
bean sprouts
bell pepper
pickled ginger
cooked egg noodles

This is “How you like” pancake and you can add what ever you fancy.

topping
1 tbsp Okonomiyaki sauce
dried bonito flakes/powder
Aonori seaweed powder
Some like adding Japanese mayonnaise, too

Okonomiyaki sauce is a Japanese BBQ sauce. If you cannot find it, you can substitute it with ketchap and soy sauce mix (1:1). I also found that the popular Caribean BBQ sauce works.

How To Prepare

1. Shred cabbage leaves finely. Mix flour, dashi granules, egg and water. Add cabbage leaves and set aside.
You can add your additional filling at this stage except raw meat if you are using some. Take care not to overwork the dough.

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2. Heat up a frying pan with a little oil. Pour okonomiyaki mixture into a round pancake shape. If using meat, start cooking your meat strips separate from the pancake.

3. Once the underside of the pancake is done, add the cooked meat to the top and flip over to finish cooking.

I am making two at a time for my boys here. I am making one with egg noodles. Strange? but it works.

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When both sides are golden brown and cooked through, spread sauce and sprinkle with bonito flakes or powder and Aonori seaweed powder. Cut the pancake into 4-5 pieces.

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If you are nervous about flipping over the pancake, slide it off from the pan onto a large plate with the uncooked side up and then, flip it over.

I cook in frying pan like this, but we use our electric hotplate sometimes, especially when we need to serve many people. Place the hotplate in the centre of the dining table, and we all cook Okonomiyaki together. We can have a Okonomiyaki party! It is fun!

There are many celebrities who are converted Okonomiyaki lovers. I have seen Jonathan Ross cooks it on one of Gordon Ramsey show. There is also interesting series presented by Ainsley Harriott on Channel 4. He visits Japan and enjoys his first Okonomiyaki (served in Hiroshima style). It is called ‘Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food‘.

Fillings are not mixed in the batter in Hiroshima style. Thin pancake is spread on a pan and fillings are added on top of it.

It is so inexpensive and nutritious. You can be creative and make your own version. Basically, it is a savory pancake with filling topped with sauce. Have a go.

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Celebration treats

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(Writing thank you cards for his grand parents in Japanese. He spent more than an hour practicing. Some characters are quite complicated!)

After receiving good results on A-levels last week, I have been wondering how we should celebrate this happy moment of my son’s life.

If his grand parents were here, we would have a big get together. We would absolutely love that.

But unfortunately, all our relatives are in Japan and what is more, my husband was away on his business trip, again, in Japan.

I tried my best and made his favorite sweets; choux puffs filled with homemade custard and whipped cream.

I also made ‘Mitarashi dango’, Japanese treat made with rice flour.
My family loves Mochi and dango. They are both Japanese traditional rice cakes made from rice flour. Our absolute favorite is Mitarashi dango. It is rather humble snack, but I made some for this occasion. I get cravings for them sometimes.

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Mitarashi dango is a type of dumpling skewered onto sticks in groups of 3–5 (traditionally 5) and covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze. It is characterized by its glassy glaze and burnt fragrance.

In the past, I have tried to make some at home following a recipe I found on internet. The instruction said to cook the flour and water mixture in a microwave, so I did. Disaster! Thick, sticky mixture got stuck to the bowl and I didn’t know what to do with it. I managed to roll some of it into balls, wetting hands time to time, but it was such a nightmare. I struggled to clean the bowl afterwards, too, and decided not to try it ever again!

But recently, I found another recipe in a Japanese cooking magazine. The instruction said to add Tofu to rice flour, knead, and make them into balls. Then, you boil them in hot water. This sounded much easier and promising.

So, here I go again.

Recipe makes about 20
100g rice flour, ‘shiratama-ko’
100g tofu

for sauce,
1tbsp Mirin, sweet rice wine
1Tbsp soy sayce
2tsp corn flour dissolved in the same amount of water

1. In a bowl, mix rice flour and tofu and and knead. Add water to achieve earlobe softness. Roll it into small balls of about 1 inch.

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2. in a small sauce pan, add ingredients for sauce and heat it until it thickens. Set it aside.

3. Boil water in a large pan and cook dumplings until they come up to the surface. Cook further 2 minutes or so. It is just like cooking Gnocchi.

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4. Drain water.
5. Place the dumplings on a plate and pour sauce over them.

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Traditionally, the dango are skewered and sometimes grilled, but I was too afraid to mess them up. Maybe next time.

Mitarashi dango made with only rice flour hardens whey they are cooled, but these ones with tofu do not. It was another reason I wanted to try.

My husband just came back from Japan with loads of souvenirs!

Rice cakes, Matcha chocolates and cooking ingredients!

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He got a mini rice cooker for my son, too. My son didn’t want a toaster or a kettle for Uni, he wanted a rice cooker. Fair enough.

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Summer holidays

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I have lots of happy childhood memories of summer holidays. Every year around this time, I think about them.

Japanese academic year starts in April so that the summer holidays come between the first and second terms.It starts around 20th of July and ends at the end of August. It is the longest time off from school during the year. Homework is often given, however, kids have plenty of time to play outdoors, go camping or travel with family.

When I was in school, we had a couple of assembly mornings to attend so that the teachers could check on us. It was a bit of a nuisance, but it wasn’t exactly compulsory and often, it came with a swimming session which I loved.

Most schools in Japan, public or private have their own pool. It may not come with a roof and only available in summer, but it is fantastic to have one. I spent more time in the ocean, but that was out of necessity. Swimming in clear water was a treat.

After swimming, we were offered ‘Shogayu’ served by dinner ladies.

‘Shogayu’ is a Japanese version of ginger tea. More consumed in winter, it is used as a home remedy to treat sore throat and the common cold. I enjoyed it in summer. It is thick and syrupy since cornstarch is added at the end of cooking.

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Receipe
Ingredients

Serves one
1 Tbsp ginger juice
300ml water
1-2 Tbsp honey or sugar
2 tsp Katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch plus 2 tsp water
Instructions

Grate ginger, squeeze the juice.

In a pot, add water, ginger juice and honey, and put on medium heat until just before boiling.

Mix Katakuriko and 2 tsp of water well in a small bowl. Add the slurry to the tea and stir well. Heat for a couple of minutes until it has thickened a little.

When your body is cooled from swimming, having this ginger tea was so nice and comforting.

I am utterly amazed at the achievements of Japanese swimming team at the Olympics. They have been doing so well.
Those swimmers spend 5-6 hours or even more in a pool every day, swimming over the black lines. What a determination and commitment!

And behind every athletes, there are Mums and dads, carers and siblings who have been supporting them. When the athletes are still young, parents accompany to training sessions and galas. There are teachers and coaches and volunteers. It is a team effort, and I have done that myself.

I spent long enough hours waiting around at leisure centres to be able to publish knitting books!

So, well done to Olympians, well done, mums and dads!

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