Friday, December 28, 2012

Yoshinoya's Asiana Grill + GIVEAWAY!

I've written about Yoshinoya's donburi before in my donburi recipes, and I'm definitely a fan of their gyudon beef bowls. Recently, however, I got to sample their new fare at the new Asiana Grill.

While their classic beef bowl is still available, along with a chicken pineapple bowl, the Asiana Grill menu is completely different from a regular Yoshinoya. How it works: you pick a meat (or tofu), an entree style, and a sauce. My mother compared it to restaurants like Chipotle, where you pick burrito, taco, or salad and then choose your meat and additions.

So I am sure you are thinking, will this new restaurant style work for Yoshinoya's cheap and healthy Japanese fast food? Let's find out after the jump!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Raya at the Ritz-Carlton

Miss Mochi goes fine dining! No seriously, its a rarity. I need a monocle and a top hat, stat.

For my dad's birthday, we went to Raya at the Laguna Niguel Ritz-Carlton, and I couldn't resist sharing everything with you. In fact, I think our waiter thought my mother was crazy, with her huge camera snapping pictures of everything.

Per the official website, "Raya, named “Restaurant of the Year” by Riviera Orange County in July 2011, is a restaurant concept by acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval. Raya showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meat and Chef Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flavors."

Yes, there were plenty of Latin flavors, but also a lot of Japanese influences too, with togarashi, kabayaki, and even ramen noodles on the menu. The thing that annoyed me the most, being a possibly anal former English major but also a Japanese American was the fact that "shishito peppers" was labeled as "sushito peppers" on the menu. You'd think such a fancy establishment that touts itself as such could afford a fact-checker.

Okay, had to get that off my chest.

Top: Mr. Mochi, Mom, Brother. Bottom: Miss Mochi, Grandma, Dad

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Miso Tamago

The trifecta of my favorite bento hard boiled eggs concludes with this post: Miso Tamago.  Miso marinated hard boiled eggs are like marbled tea eggs and shoyu tamago in that they are portable and seasoned well enough they can be eaten by themselves, unadorned. Not that they aren't delicious mixed into a salad, but I like being able to tuck them into a bento with some rice and tsukemono, furikake and veggies for a quick and light lunch.

Also delicious as a ramen add-on, slice one in half and dunk it in the ramen, miso and all.

Unlike the shoyu tamago which don't store well in the fridge, the miso tamago and marbled tea eggs are fine to sit in the fridge for a couple days. In fact, you want the miso tamago to sit in the fridge at least for a couple hours or overnight, to make sure the miso permeates the egg.

The miso you use will directly affect the taste of the finished product, so it is best to use a good quality fresh white miso. Red miso would probably end up making the egg too salty, but feel free to experiment.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Oden (おでん)

I have been so excited, waiting for the temperature to drop. It's been so hot this fall, that I've been dreaming of sweaters, hot apple cider, and my favorite cool weather Japanese foods while wearing shorts and sandals and bemoaning the overbearing sun.

Apparently Southern California weather has some serious flaws when you love winter.

Around this time of year, oden starts popping up on menus at izakayas and other Japanese restaurants. A hot pot hodgepodge of fish cakes, tofu, daikon, and more simmered in broth, oden is a soul warming comfort food similar to tomato soup and a grilled cheese here in America. When it rains, it's always a toss up between oden and my mom's turkey soup.

My fish cake heavy version
The thing I love best about oden is that everyone does it differently. In the Shizuoka area, the dark heady broth is flavored with beef and dark soy and everything is on skewers. Conversely, Western Japan favors a lighter dashi broth, and in the Nagoya area it is made with miso. Even convenience stores will have oden, and you can get it canned out of vending machines!

Oden is one of those wonderful dishes that everyone makes different depending on what you grew up with.
From wiki, check out this epic oden!

The first time I had oden, I called it "fish cake soup" because I had no clue what it was called.

The nice thing is that everything tastes better the longer it's simmered, and it is even better the next day reheated. So for New Year's my family would have a crockpot with oden warming up on a side board, a perfect dish to make ahead and reheat for the party.

You can add whatever you want to your oden. I have a recipe at the end, but it is really up to you. There are premade oden sets in the Japanese markets, feel free to go with these until you decide which additions you like, then pick out your own! The most common ingredients are daikon radish, hard-boiled eggs, chikuwa and other fish cakes, konnyaku, and tofu- both fried and fresh. The more unusual and regional ingredients include beef tendon, octopus, and pig trotters!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Eggnog Bundt Cake

Mr. Mochi is obsessed with eggnog. As soon as it is available in stores, he will chug that stuff down by the pint. No exaggeration, he probably gets a day's worth of calories by the time he's done with the carton. So I decided I wanted to make him some sort of eggnog baked good. There were several recipes for eggnog bundt cake that I spied recently, notably America's Test Kitchen's version, so I decided that I might as well break out the bundt pan again!

Now I wanted an eggnog cake with real eggnog in it, not just eggnog spices like the America's Test Kitchen's version, because I knew Mr. Mochi would be delighted for me to bring home a jug of eggnog that he gets to polish off after I've stolen a cup or two.

This is a twist on an eggnog pound cake recipe I found online, and Mr. Mochi was delighted to have a leftover jug of eggnog and a cake that in his words, "tastes just like eggnog, only better!"

 Now, I like eggnog with just a smidge of rum (just enough to thin the consistency a bit) and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, but this is a good way to eat your eggnog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Yakimochi

Fresh mochi is best eaten the same day it's made. Never refrigerate or freeze it, unless you want a hard rock to gnaw on. Even tightly sealed in plastic wrap or tupperware, mochi dries out fast. The exception to this is ice cream filled mochi, which is made differently to keep it soft when frozen.

Sometimes though, I need my mochi cravings fulfilled without the trials of steaming some mochiko to make mochi dough. And even that is the lazy man's way: the traditional mochi-making process takes fresh steamed sweet rice and pounds the fuck out of it with a giant mallet until it turns into a smooth glutinous mass. Yes, I know, but that required both a cuss word and some hot bolding action. Traditional mochi making is a serious back breaking multiple-person event.

Thank goodness Miss Mochi lives in this century, where mochi is not reserved just for the rich and royal and doesn't require a team of beefy men to make it. You can get dried mochi cakes at any Japanese market for cheap, as well as delicious fresh wagashi (dessert mochi) both at the markets and at Japanese confectioneries.

Dried mochi
Well... it might actually be better for my waistline if some things weren't so plentiful and cheap, like McDonald's french fries. But that's another topic entirely.

Here's a recipe for yakimochi, or grilled mochi, that is drizzled in brown sugar and soy sauce. My mom would sometime serve this for a toasty breakfast treat! Fun fact: "yakimochi" also means "jealous" in Japanese, because of the way a person puffs up when they are jealous. I think it should be because anyone who doesn't have yakimochi would be super jealous!

Kirimochi/Marumochi

Most people are familiar with the squishy fresh mochi that surrounds ice cream. Available at Trader Joe's and every American sushi restaurant, this is usually an American's first introduction to mochi. The first time I brought mochi in for my coworkers, they were puzzled and asked me if it was real mochi, because there was no ice cream! Nowadays, they might experience mochi topping their frozen yogurt at Pinkberry and Yogurtland.

Going into a Japanese confectionery, you will see rows and rows of sweet wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. Lightly sweetened mochi is colorful or resplendent in its natural creamy white sheen, plumped up with fruits or azuki bean paste called anko. Japanese American versions sometimes even have peanut butter in them! My favorite as a kid was the plain mochi with the pink orange and green stripes on them.

As wonderful as dessert mochi is, most of you will be surprised that there is savory mochi! Mochi without any added sweeteners, it is used in a variety of dishes, including soups.

Japanese stores sell savory mochi, dried and hard, called kirimochi and is used in the Eastern/Northern areas in Japan. A round version is called marumochi, which is popular in the Southern parts. Here in Southern California, they stock both version.

To use kirimochi, you can drop it in hot water until softened, boil it, fry it, grill it, deep-fry it, or even microwave it. It is very versatile.
Marumochi and Kirimochi

To substitute for sweet mochi used in recipes like Ichigo Daifuku:
3 kirimochi blocks
3 tbs sugar
3 tbs water

Place mochi, sugar, and water into a small microwave bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap. Heat on medium power for 3 minutes. Stir until the water is completely combined. Tada! Sweet mochi dough.

Recipes that use kirimochi:
Yakimochi 
Ozoni 
Kinako Mochi 
Bacon Wrapped Mochi 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wagashi: Microwave Jello Mochi

You'd think that with the moniker "Miss Mochi" I'd feature a lot more mochi recipes than I currently have. Well, I start craving mochi around the holidays, so watch out for a lot more mochi recipes!

This recipe uses a microwave tube pan specially designed for mochi with a removable bottom. You don't need one, you can just use a square pyrex with an overturned coffee cup in the middle. I do love the microwave tube pan, because the removable bottom makes it easy to remove the mochi. Plus it's less than $6 online!

I was kind of apprehensive to use jello in mochi. As I've made it clear on this blog, I'm not too fond of jello. My mother is the ravenous jello freak that keeps requesting jello for holidays, whereas I find it kind of weird. However, jello does not impart any sort of texture change to the mochi, just the color and flavor.

Microwave Tube Pan
Unlike traditional mochi, which must be steamed for a good 30 minutes, this is a very quick recipe because it uses the microwave. While the microwave is not the ideal appliance for a lot of foods, it steams the mochiko quite effectively.

Use any jello flavor that strikes your fancy, I think a lime mochi or fruit punch mochi would be fun and exciting! I used mango and strawberry flavors for these ones. For extra flavor combos, replace the water with fruit juice, like orange jello + mango juice!