Monday, December 5, 2016

Curried Persimmon Ham

My mom is a mad scientist when it comes to cooking. She is constantly opening up her cupboards and fridge, giving them all a good look, pulling out a motley crew of items, and slapping together something that may never be replicated. Her Turkey and Hominy Soup that I've written about is a great example, because it is really never the same batch twice. She throws in so many different things and in different quantities, it's hard to keep up, let alone write the recipe down.

She also has a gift for making mass quantities of food. If the recipe serves more than 1-2, it's a fair bet it was originally my mother's recipe. I don't have much occasion to cook for a small army, but around the holidays is the best time to cook for a crowd because you never know what sort of get-together you'll host or be invited to! My mother brings this ham to potlucks, and even gives it away as holiday gifts, that's how popular it is!

I don't think even she could come up for a thought process for this recipe, besides noting she had a lot of persimmons, and a stray block of Japanese curry roux rattling around her pantry. She moves on instinct, a trait that I did not inherit. I spend a lot of my time thinking, not just about food.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Kamaboko Dip

It's officially the holidays! Parties, potlucks, girlfriend get-togethers: I've got all that and more planned for the coming weeks, so you'll see a bit of a shift in the recipes I feature here.

There's a distinct lack of baking projects, recipes for parties, or appetizers for a crowd. I like small dishes, and this blog started as a way to feature what I cook on weeknights for myself and Mr. Mochi, and I don't deviate too often unless it is to make sure I write down one of my mother's recipe.

But with the holidays upon us, please look forward to some party dishes! First up: Kamaboko Dip!

I've made several dishes on this blog that feature kamaboko, but all of them have been pretty traditional Japanese recipes. So I wanted to showcase how we utilize it differently it as hapas and Japanese Americans here in the states. Of course I am sure you can think of plenty examples of where imitation crab (kanikama) is substituted for real crab. But here's an entirely new presentation for kamaboko.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) and Other Surimi Products

Kamaboko (蒲鉾) is a Japanese ingredient made from white fish that have been pureed, mixed with flavorings, and then steamed to form a steamed fish cake.

Traditionally, kamaboko was formed on a wooden board for steaming which produces the hallmark half-moon shape you see it in.

Nowadays you can find kamaboko without the wood, but most varieties will still be steamed on wood.
Imitation crab sticks work great for cheap sushi

Does this sound totally weird? I wish I could have described it more appetizingly. However, the pu
reed white fish, called surimi, is the same process that is used to make imitation crab (called kanikama, which is short for kani-kamaboko). So if you've enjoyed a california roll, you've had surimi. The biggest difference between imitation crab and kamaboko is just the texture as kamaboko is chewier and firmer.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Turkey Mole Stacked Enchiladas

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. I can't really pinpoint why it has always been my favorite holiday, even as a kid. It has always been more relaxing than other holidays, even now that help prepare a lot of the meal.

I guess now that I'm grown, I can say I love the fact that it's not religious and therefore very inclusive, not overly commercialized like Christmas or Valentine's Day, and finally I just love to cook.

And possible more than cooking, I love leftovers. It's serious business in my family. My mom hosts Thanksgiving just to get her hands on leftovers.

Sometimes however, you need a little variety in your leftovers. You need a little spice. Most of all, you need something quick and easy because you just did a marathon of cooking and you need a quick meal.

Enter in these leftover turkey mole stacked enchiladas. The flavor of these enchiladas is radically different from most traditional Thanksgiving fare, so it helps break the monotony of leftovers. You could make the mole sauce from scratch, but you just cooked a giant meal for your friends and family, so I think you deserve a tasty and easy meal by buying premade sauce.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Persimmon Pudding

It's persimmon season! Every year, my great uncle's trees bless us with more fuyu persimmons than we know what to do with. I've shared lots of recipes over the years and suggestions for what do with the fruits besides eating them plain, and it's become a Thanksgiving tradition to whip up something with persimmons.

I asked my mom what she wanted to see this year, and her answer was persimmon pudding!

There are two basic types of persimmon, or kaki (柿): the squat Fuyu that can be eaten crisp like an apple or the heart-shaped Hachiya type that is ripened until jelly-like inside. The Hachiya cannot be eaten hard because it is very astringent unless fully ripe.

Now persimmon pudding is traditionally made with the Hachiya type (or the wild American native persimmon which is similar in texture to the Hachiya), however it can be made with fuyu. You just need to let them over-ripen to a jiggly state. Generally speaking, there's always some of our fuyu that manage to overripe before we get through our bunker crop!

No matter what variety you have on hand, make sure they are jiggly-about-to-burst ripe. We want to highlight that custardy texture of the pulp in this recipe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Julia's Korroke

All I wanted for my birthday was to learn how to make Julia's amazing korokke. Julia is one of my mother's very best friends and someone I consider to be part of my family. They've known each other since before I was born, and I grew up going over to their house, going on road trips together, and spending holidays with them.

I learned to ride horses with Julia's instruction, while her husband introduced my brother and I to the awesome world of computer games. I was too young to notice it at the time, but they were very influential in my life, encouraging me in my academics but also my hobbies as well. I'm thankful every Thanksgiving I've had so many amazing role models in my life. I know that sounds super cheesy, but you haven't met them! Our families go camping together, horse trail riding together, and even thrift shopping with one another! I especially like playing board games at their house, and wish my work hours didn't prevent me from seeing them as often as I'd like.

Julia's son got me set on this idea when he mentioned that his favorite part of Thanksgiving was his mom's croquettes, which is served with the traditional okonomi sauce (sosu), but also ranch dip. It just wasn't Thanksgiving without it, in his opinion.

Ranch dip? On korokke? I had to see this. And then Julia brought some over to my parent's house, and I was hooked. I would have never in a million years thought that ranch would work with croquettes, but it is delicious. I personally liked to alternate between the okonomi sauce and the ranch dip, so each bite sings.

Korokke, or Japanese croquettes, are very similar to the French croquettes, but are usually made with a higher ratio of potatoes to meat and served with the same family of tangy sauces that tonkatsu and a lot of fried foods is served with.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Adventures in Japan: 2014

In 2014, I took an epic trip to Japan during the cherry blossom season, and I haven't had a chance to write about it. I wanted to make sure I did the trip justice, and I fell into a funk of nothing but business, career, and job. Now that I've got my priorities more settled, it's time to share my amazing Japan trip with you!

It was a whirlwind fifteen days. I visited cousins, gave my respects to my ancestors at our temple, visited our ancestral house, and trekked up a cliff to visit our family grave surrounded by citrus trees. I dressed up as a geisha (maiko to be specific) in Kyoto, hugged deer near Hiroshima, got lost on the Tokyo train system more than once, and explored the enchanting Ghibli Museum. Most of all, I ate tons of amazing Japanese cuisine, and I can't wait to share it with you.

Yawatahama's many graves on the hillside
I thought a bit about how I wanted to present all the information and pictures without turning this blog into a travel blog, but also not leaving you with the impression all I did was stuff my face (to be fair, it was a main feature). So for each city or province I visited, I will have a short post with some history, pictures of what I did besides eat. This regional post will be followed by a review of a restaurant if possible, or perhaps an overview of the regional food will be worked into the first post if not. Lastly, I will have a recipe for each place inspired by my visit. I hope you enjoy sharing my adventures, and I hope that my recipes will allow you to experience a little bit of what I enjoyed on my travels!

This post will stay on top until I complete my Adventures in Japan series so that you can skip to places at your leisure! Each region page will have a list of all the ingredients and recipes associated with it linked at the bottom!

Miss Mochi at Miwajima Island
Fukuoka, Fukuoka prefecture, Kyushu region

Yawatahama, Ehime prefecture, Shikoku region

Beppu and Yuifin, Oita prefecture, Kyushu region

Hiroshima and Miyajima, Hiroshima prefecture, Chogoku region

Kyoto, Kyoto prefecture, Kansai region

Tokyo, Tokyo prefecture, Kanto region