Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bacon wrapped tofu

Wellll....not really. Wereas the original recipe calls for bacon to be wrapped around a cube of tofu, I used prochutto (sp?) ham instead. I have to say that this substitution was a very tasty one with out having to deal with the excessive grease produced by normal bacon. The very thin ham allowed the heat to warm through even a half inch thick piece of tofu. As for the tofu, I had the extra firm aka cotton style tofu in the house. I'm beginning to favor this type of tofu over the silken style which is softer even in a firm version. For me, the extra firm cotton type is much more versatile that the other type and I'm inventing new dishes (or adapting old ones) to work with this product.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sweet Stewed beans

Found the recipe on and decided to try it. I hoped that my end result would be similar to some that I had eaten in a bento that I had bought. result from their recipe wasn't quite as sweet nor quite so tender. In my defense, it was my first time ever cooking beans from scratch so I'm not familiar with what is considered cooked through for beans. I also found the recipe a bit lacking on clear direction.

This is still a good recipe despite my difficulties with it so I will try it a second time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Found a nice bento site

I must confess that I stumbled across a really nice bento site called: Just Bento. It's affiliated with the Just Hungry website. Oh...boy is it a nice site. I made a ton of pdfs of various recipes so that I can fill my bentos with something different. It also has some very informative descriptions of the various Japanese food stuffs. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seaweed Salad -- an update

Well...Sunday I made a new batch of seaweed salad with some changes that I noted from the last batch. I rehydrated my konbu with hot water and let it set for nearly 30 minutes before working with it. I couldn't say what made the difference. For all I know, it was my chance selection of those particular pieces of kelp that kept the seaweed from becoming slimy. At any rate I'll try the hot water again and hope that was what made the difference.
In addition to making changes to how I prepped my seaweeds, I also added another type of seaweed called hijiki that looks like little black sticks. It has a crispness that contrasts well with that of the flat leaves of wakame and konbu.
The dressing changed a bit as well but I forgot to write down the amounts of sugar, rice wine vinegar and water. I'll figure it all out again the next time I make this salad but I think the amounts were: 1 cup rice wine vinegar; 9 heaping tablespoons sugar, and approximately 1/3 cup of water.
Those amounts seemed to make the pickling liquid lightly sweet and not overpowered by the tartness of the vinegar.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Teriyaki Noodles

This is based on a meal that I once at a local japanese style fast food place.

precooked udon noodles
thin sliced carrots
thin sliced mushrooms
fresh bean sprouts

In a fry pan with a cover or a griddle, place the noodles to heat on a bit of butter or oil. Let the noodles heat for a bit then place the carrots, mushrooms and bean sprouts on top with a bit of water and then cover for steam. After steaming for a few minutes, drizzle some teriyaki sauce on top and stir to warm the sauce. Serve with more teriyaki sauce if desired.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brown Seaweed Salad

Found my local Super H-mart a little while back and had picked up some deli made brown seaweed salad. It tasted pretty good with all of the flavors being light in a lightly sweet pickling brine. I compare the brine close to the recipe that my mom taught me to make sweet dill cucumber pickles but not quite as sweet.
Anyway...after a quick search on the internet, I found out that konbu and wakame are considered brown seaweeds. Since I already had the konbu in the house, I figured it would be a simple matter to pick up the wakame and make this salad myself.
Well...things aren't always what they seem. The wakame rehydrated to a nice lightly crisp green about the color of lightly steamed spinach. I had trouble with the konbu. The konbu leaves tend to rehydrate with a layer of mucus that is hard to separate from the leaves. Also these uncooked leaves are a bit tough and chewy. Not knowing what else to do, I went ahead and made them into the salad. I hoped that the vinegar would neutralize the mucus from the konbu leaves. It really didn't. Now the mucus doesn't take away from the salad's taste but it does make it daunting to want to eat it due to the texture. So back to the internet for more research.
The few recipes that had both the konbu and wakame as salad indgredients don't say specifically what to do about the konbu. These recipes ASSUME that you've used the konbu for making dashi and that means it is already cooked and tender. So...if you want to use konbu in a salad you have to cook it first. I am presuming that this will remove the mucus as well as make the konbu easier to chew. I'll have to look in to dashi recipes as to how long I should cook the konbu.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Home made Pokky

I was at my local euro-style market and noticed some thin, lightly salted breadsticks. It occured to me that these sticks were about the same diameter as a pokky stick. So the light bulb came on and I purchased the package after realizing that I had a package of unopened chocolate chips at home.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A call for an old time tradition revival

In talking about bentos to my mother, she was reminded of an event in her youth. You see when she was young, some rural towns would arrange a box lunch social. The young ladies would make a box lunch for the event. These lunches would be bid upon by the attending gentlemen and the winner of the lunch would also spend the time eating it with the lady who made it. I know in those older times it was a way for each lady to show off her cooking skills and perhaps gain a husband (or at least a boyfriend) out of the event.

Perhaps with all this interest in bentos, which are effectively box lunches, why not try to arrange to do something like this again. Surely there is some way that it can be done in this day and age.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bento Lunch update

I can see why bento lunches are becoming so popular. For one...they can save you money as you try to use up your leftovers. Secondly, I found it fun trying to make something look pretty.

Here's some of the things I used to make my first few bentos.

Here I cut up a couple of apples. One was a macintosh and the other was a granny smith. I planned to switch the cutouts together and did so as I ate the finished products.

Then I sliced up some cucumbers and cheese

And here is some other ingredients I planned to use.

And's the finished products.

In the small box, I've made some shaped rice balls since I already had the molds and there is a left over hunk of steak under the pickles. As you might notice...I like pickles so I used a fair amount of them in these two boxes. ('s only 2 but I sliced them so it looks like more than that. Just call me a pickle puss ;D )

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Post-AWA cooking experiment

Well...Anime Weekend Atlanta had a very informative seminar on bento making with what you've got on hand in equipment. I missed the one on Friday that talked about the food selections due to lack of information. But that's neither here nor there. The one I did attend on Saturday got me fired up enough to do more than just think of crafting a bento. So today's the day and I will craft my lunch for Monday out of the leftovers tonight.

Well...I kinda have already gone overboard in purchasing fresh fruits/veggies to make this thing. At any rate, I started prepping my meal items as soon as I've gotten home. I took a few quick digital photos of the items and will post them soon. (just as soon as I can figure out how this blog handles photos and the like.) the meantime, here's the link to all of the photos I shot at AWA. I proudly note that the most important part of my husband's costume (the guy in the red outfit with the shades...yes, the Visitor  ;>D) I sewed up myself and it turned out pretty well.
AWA-2009 Picture Album

Monday, September 14, 2009

Parchment Paper

If you like to bake, then this is the gadget for you. Parchment paper can be used to line baking pans and cookie sheet. It's meant to keep the food from sticking to the bottom of the pans. And that it does. But the biggest benefit of using parchment paper comes from the clean up time. It saves you from soaking and scrubbing baked on anything since it's stuck to the paper and not the pan. You can find rolls of this stuff in the household goods aisles of your local Wal-mart. Some big chain supermarkets may also carry it but usually at higher prices than the Wal-mart.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Assemble your own Rice Noodle Soup

1-2 packages Spring Roll Wraps or rice or bean thread noodles.
2 large or 1/2 lb baby carrots julienne
1-2 packages Noki mushrooms
2-3 boneless chicken breast, shredded
1-2 cans whole water chestnuts, julienne
1-2 can bamboo shoots
3-4 stalks green onions julienne
fresh bean sprouts
Chicken broth

Prep the vegetables and place them in separate containers. Heat up the chicken broth. Cook the chicken breasts and let cool enough to handle. Shred the chicken breasts. Once ready to assemble, lightly damped the spring roll skin then chop the skin into strips. Place strips into your bowl. Add chicken and chosen vegetable in to your bowl and cover with chicken broth. For using rice or bean thread noodles, cook according to the directions on the package.
First attempt: cut up the vegetables while I had chicken tenderloins cooking in boiling water. Once the tenderloins had cooked through, I fished them out and put aside to cool. Using the same water I’d cooked the chicken in, I blanched my chopped vegetables separately and placed them in microwave safe containers. Now with the chicken and veggies out of the way, it was time to cook the bean thread noodles. I added chicken and vegetable base to the water I still had left over from blanching the chicken and veggies. Bean thread noodles have no flavor of their own and so take up the flavor of the water they are cooked in. It took about 6-7 minutes to cook a small bundle of noodles. I had to add more water and bases to the pot while cooking the 8 batches of the bean thread noodles. Each batch of noodles were placed in individual containers. I made the final stock with the remaining cooking water added to more water and soup bases. Now back to the chicken and veggies. With the chicken cooled, I chopped it into strips. I used the microwave to reheat all the veggies and chicken before serving.

Notes: The enoki mushrooms didn’t seem to work real well for this recipe. They turned slimy. Will try sliced white button mushrooms for the next attempt. Green onions too, didn’t fair real well with the blanching and reheating. Perhaps I should just julienne them and not blanch them. Overall, this first attempt went over pretty well. I offered plain egg noodles in addition to the bean thread noodles. I had plenty of bean thread noodles left since I forgot to announce their availability to the late comers.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tofu Noodles

House Foods produce a new product that combines yam starch and tofu to create noodles. These noodles are real easy to fix; you just rinse them thoroughly and microwave them for 2 minutes. Once you’ve done that and pat them dry, the noodles are ready to be tossed into any dish you would use noodles. I happened to eat them lightly seasoned with the soup base from a package of ramen noodles. Even with the inital heating, if you eat them the way I did, you’ll have to heat them for an additional 2 minutes or so. They have 3 different noodle types availble, angel hair, spaghetti and linguini

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rice ball (onigiri) press

To speed up the process of making rice balls, the Japanese have developed several molds in varying sizes and designs. I currently have one that's about 6 inches long and is triangle shaped. I have seen diamond and heart-shaped ones at my local Japanese grocery store.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another rice topper

Rice Seasonings
There are literally dozens of different kinds available. Many of them have some sort of fish to flavor to them. If you’re not too keen on fish, look for the ones that are aimed at kids. Often the kid varieties are made from dried vegetables. (It seems that children's aversion to vegetables is universal.) I look for the ones that have ‘ume’ as one of the first indgredients. I can tolerate dried pickled plums better than dried fish.

Rice add on

Shiso Pickled Plum
This is the salty red plum that you find on some rice dishes. It can be eaten as a accompaniment to rice. It has a tart taste that, in my opinion, is overwhelmed by the pickling salt. The red color comes from the herb called shiso, more correctly, red shiso. A small container will keep in the fridge for approximately 2 months.

Rice has multiple uses

Onigiri aka Rice Balls
3 cups rice, cooked

The trick with this receipe is how you wash your rice. Short grain rice has a lot of starch that should be washed out before you cook it. If the wash water remain just a little bit milky, the rice will be stickier than normal. Cook the rice whatever way you have available. You will be making your rice ball while the rice is still warm from cooking. If you rinse your hands in salty water, you can mold the rice balls without having it stick to your hands. You scoop up an amount that you can comfortable compress in your hands. While squeezing the rice together, you can mold it into whatever shape suits your fancy, like disks, barrels, or triangles. If you are using a filling, make a cavity in the rice you've just pulled from your cooking pot and stick a small amount of filling inside. You don't want too much filling for several reasons, it will escape as you compress it or the rice ball won't stay together because of too much filling. You can just season the rice before making your ball. There are several available at your local Japanese supermarket, many of them fish flavoured. Personally, I looking for the ones that has the word "Ume" among the first few ingredients. That means it's a pickled plum flavored seasoning.

For Fillings try: tuna, pickled plum, pickled diakon radish, leftover chinese food (without the rice, obviously), leftover beef stew, leftover stir fry, etc.

Note: Rice balls can be eaten hot or cold. I warm them up by steaming them but microwaving them should work just as well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The kitchen is open for business

Welcome to Otakuza Kitchen. Here I will continue digitally what I had started in print and sold at local Chicago conventions. This blog will act as a log of my attempts to cook the foods one sees in Japanese animes. I will also review various kitchen gadgets, tools and helpful extras as I come across them.

Thus I will make the mistakes so you don't and guide those of you who are interested into cooking Japanese foods.