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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beni Imo Daifuku (紅いも大福)

The Okinawan purple sweet potato could not be resisted when I went to the market. After going to Mitsuwa's Okinawan food fair last week where Mr. Mochi and I had amazing beni imo ice cream, I was ready for another purple tuber recipe! I decided to make some mochi for my grandmother, since I had all the ingredients on hand and I haven't made any wagashi in a while.
At Mitsuwa, Mr. Mochi poses

I talked a little about beni imo in my Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie post, but today I would like to tackle the difference between beni imo and ube.

Ube, purple yam
Beni imo, as we know, is a white skinned purple fleshed sweet potato, which originated from the Americas but is embraced by the Japanese. Ube is a dark skinned purple fleshed yam which originated from Africa and is popular in the Philippines.  Ube is quite rare if not impossible to find here in America, unless it is frozen or powdered, and is more fibrous and less sweet than beni imo with a shaggier outside similar to other yams and taro.

This murasaki is yellow inside
beni imo cross-section
Now, if you see a picture of a purple sweet potato that is purple both in flesh and skin, you have neither beni imo or ube. You have.... *drum roll* a purple sweet potato. Sometimes called a murasaki imo ("murasaki" = purple) but usually a murasaki imo refers to a sweet potato with purple skin and white flesh.  Purple sweet potatoes exist here in America and are sometimes easier to find than beni imo, and will substitute flawlessly in both ube and beni imo recipes.

Confused? Don't worry, as long as it's purple fleshed, it will make great purple mochi!

Bacon Corn Chowder

This recipe has no exotic Japanese American ingredients. It's all American. As I've said in my Southern biscuits and gravy post, I am heavily influenced by the way the women who raised me cooked, which was my Japanese American grandmother and mother. However, I do switch it up and cook Southern, New Mexican, and American Indian once in a while.

While traditional American Indian food is for another post, it is funny to think about the American Indian influences on modern cuisine today.  Already pish-poshing?  How you liking your popcorn at the movies?  Corn cultivation and domestication is all thanks to the indigenous people of the Americas. We tend to forget when we sit down to beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry, and turkey every year, but American Indian influences go beyond Thanksgiving.

And let's not forget the potato, which may seem like an old European staple, was brought back from the Americas by the Spanish.

In fact, according to What's Cooking America, the first chowders in America were eaten by American Indians. However, you cannot necessarily say that they introduced Europeans to chowder, because chowders are in every culture.

Bacon and pigs, however, was introduced to the Americas, and made it a better place. hehe!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hapa Bubble Pizza

Back in May, I made Bubble Up Pizza, where refrigerated biscuit dough and jarred pasta sauce is used to make a delicious pull apart pizza dinner in a trice. Well, like all good recipes, I couldn't resist tinkering it a bit and sharing it with you.

Now I think most hapa things come about by chance. The spam musubi wasn't cleverly designed, but born of a need: to use this weird foreign meat in the most comfortable way Japanese Americans knew how, in a rice ball.

The same goes for this recipe. I wasn't looking for a clever hapa version of a classic, I just didn't have any pepperoni or basil. What I did have were some Japanese market ingredients, so a new twist on bubble pizza was born. Instead of pepperoni and basil, I used Japanese kurobuta sausages and fresh shiso from my patio. More info on kurobuta after the jump:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grandpa's Pickled Beet Eggs

It's time for another canning recipe! This one is super easy because it requires no water bath or any fancy ingredients like pectin, because these go in the refrigerator to mature. But first, let me tell you a story about what inspired this post.

My maternal grandpa is the most important person in my life. He and my grandmother raised me in elementary school while my parents worked full time and often went on long business trips.  They visited twice weekly even when my mom started telecommuting and working part time, picking us up from school and going to every single school function K through 12. My grandparents even gave my brother and I the money for our college educations.

Now, I know everyone claims their grandfathers were the strongest, smartest, coolest person they knew, walking 5 miles uphill both ways in the snow to school every day.

No bullshit, my grandpa is the strongest, smartest, coolest person I know.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hurricane Popcorn: Hapa Food

Hurricane popcorn is like SPAM musubi and butter mochi: classic delicious hapa food. They also share the common connection of all being invented in Hawaii, arguably the biggest hapa community around. After all, they did invent and popularize the very term "hapa."

This amazingly addicting snack combines Japanese flavors with American popcorn. Furikake and kakimochi (rice crackers) are sprinkled over buttery popcorn for something that is simultaneously sweet and salty, rich and airy, with an umami punch.

Furikake, a Japanese condiment made of dried nori seaweed mixed with salt, sesame seeds, and sometimes even eggs or dried fish flakes, is usually sprinkled over rice but instead is used to great effect over popcorn. I last used it in another hapa snack food: furikake chex mix.

Kakimochi, also known as arare (あられ) are more well known here in America. Any gas station probably has a very bland and maybe stale "oriental snack mix" which is primarily rice crackers. Believe me when I tell you that most kakimochi is worlds above this travesty; soy sauce and nori make for an assertively flavored sweet crunchy cracker that seems to be both melt-in-your-mouth and snappy. You could say that the furikake chex mix was really a kakimochi mix made with western crackers, with the same flavor principles of sweet and salty.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mirin (味醂)

Mirin is another essential in Japanese cooking, and part of any hapa's pantry. A sweet rice wine with a relatively low alcohol, mirin is sometimes with almost 50% sugar.  Mirin was first produced in the 16th century as a sweet drinking wine from a mixture of fermented rice grains. Nowadays it is much sweeter and thicker than what was first used for drinking.  I've taken a swig, and I can't imagine lingering over a glass of modern mirin. Today it is used exclusively for cooking.

Pale golden yellow, mirin is used to provide sheen and sweetness to seafood as well as remove the overt fishy odor.  It is essential in homemade teriyaki sauce, where its sweetness and sugar content make for a perfect glaze. A facsimile can be made with sugar and sake, which also gives you an idea of what it tastes like. Mirin can be confusing when it is labeled as "cooking sake" because in some dishes you use both sake and mirin.

If you have mirin at home, go grab it and look at the ingredient list. Chances are you don't have mirin at all, but mirin-fu chomiryo which means "mirin-like seasoning." The usual suspect's ingredient list: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, fermented rice seasoning, vinegar, and less than 1% of sodium benzoate as a preservative.

I'll pause to let you get your Munch on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marbled Tea Eggs (Cha Ye Dan)

Tea eggs are perhaps the prettiest eggs you are ever going to see besides those painted for Easter, and tea eggs taste better.

Usually found as a street food in China, tea eggs are cracked hard boiled eggs that are heated in a mixture of spices, tea, and soy sauce for a period of time until the egg white gets infused with flavor. The pretty marbled pattern is the by-product of the shell being left on and the flavoring seeping through the cracks. You can completely peel the eggs and therefore bypass some of the steeping time, but I love the look of the marbled eggs.

The best thing about this recipe is you can let them steep as long as you like. The Chinese American bakery near my school has a crockpot of these simmering nonstop, and nothing is tastier than walking to class munching on one. The longer you simmer, the more deeply the flavor will penetrate. I know cooks that will let the eggs steep overnight in the cooking liquid, and who knows how long they simmer in that crockpot at the bakery to achieve such deliciousness!

I like these tucked into a bento, or chopped and mixed with a bit of mayo for an interesting egg salad. Try them warm and cold, I like both.

Hot Hawaiian Burgers

I've mentioned Serious Eats as being one of my favorite food websites, and yesterday their Burger Lab posted a mouthwatering recipe I had to try, like now. A burger topped with sriracha mayo, spam, and grilled pineapple: sounds like the perfect burger for a spam and sriracha aficionado like me.

Only problem is that everything was grilled in the original recipe. I don't have a grill pan, let alone a grill! So I decided to adapt the recipe for cooking on stove top, as well as cutting it down for just Mr. Mochi and I. While Tiara would object, I am usually cooking for two.

I usually make turkey burgers and had some patties on hand, and honestly there is so much going on in this recipe I don't think you'll miss the beef. Don't let the turkey fool you into thinking this is a healthy burger, however, because with two slices of spam, two slices of cheese, and a hefty dose of mayo, it is still a monster.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Slutty Brownies with a Twist

Now, if you read my Mosaic Jello and Chocolate Berry Jam posts, you know I often take issue with names that people call dishes. So you would think I would dislike the name "slutty brownies" which is the coined term for a dessert that consists of layers of chocolate chip cookie and brownies sandwiched around Oreo cookies, but I kinda love the name.

Slutty brownies, originally created by the Londoner, are called so because they are "they're oh so easy, and more than a little bit filthy," which I think really fits. After all, "chocolate chip cookie oreo brownie bars" is a little cumbersome. If you dislike the name slutty brownies, call em "Working Girl Brownies" because not only is that an old school term for a prostitute, but I can tell you my coworkers loved these after a particularly grueling weekend at the vet office.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July: A BBQ and Festive Jello

There are some people suffering under the delusion that I am a good cook. Just because one likes to cook doesn't mean they are fabulous at it. Posts like these help shed some light on how helpless I am. I mean seriously, who messes up jello? Especially with a recipe that the cook has been working with for over a decade. It's skill, baby, pure skill.

Right above us, lit up by neighbors
Putting aside my ineptitude, Happy Independence Day! Every Fourth of July, we go over to my maternal grandparent's house for a barbeque and family. When I was a little kid, the fireworks were the most important part. Since they live in Buena Park, it is legal to light the "safe and sane" kind, and when I was a little kid nothing was more fun than throwing poppers at each other, getting burned waving sparklers around, and watching Grandpa rig up fantastic displays of light and sound.

Nowadays, I like it more for the family time. While most kids my age are throwing boozy blowouts or going to Havasu with their friends, I look forward to going over to my grandparents for a quiet outdoor sit-down. Which means I am probably growing old at an alarming rate, but I love it nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mizuyōkan: Traditional Wagashi

I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to food. I recently made some yōkan for the first time adapting Roti N Rice's recipe. It turned out delish, but not very pretty or traditional. So I had to make it again. Just like when making my Sriracha Bar Clone recipe, which I made three times before I was satisfied, I wasn't going to stop with yōkan until I mastered it. Instead of following someone's recipe for yōkan, I decided just to wing it and see how it turns out.

Yōkan (羊羹) is a Japanese confection made with agar agar, a seaweed gelatin, called kanten in Japanese cooking.  My mother loves the stuff, but I never was as fond of it as the mochi.  It is usually made with anko, azuki bean paste, or matcha, ground green tea, and can have things like persimmons, gingko nuts, or chestnuts suspended in it. Unlike jello, it can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time, so it is perfect for gift giving.  It is commonly served with tea, just like daifuku.

Chikuwa Teriyaki Donburi

I cannot deny my donburi love. Donburi isn't a dish, it's a concept. Anything poured or placed over rice in a deep bowl becomes a donburi. Of course, there are classics like una-tama don, egg eel bowl, and katsu karē don, curry cutlet bowl, but I will cook up just about anything, plop it on top of a rice bowl, and serve it.

Donburi have even invaded the United States, and most people have enjoyed donburi without even realizing it. Flame Broiler's beef and chicken bowls are prime examples of delicious fast food donburis.

The star players of easy teriyaki
Yoshinoya, another donburi restaurant here, has been around since 1899! They are most famous for their beef bowl, called gyūdon. Their motto "tasty, low-priced, and quick" embodies what I love most about donburi.

This donburi may not be the most famous, but it is pretty tasty and a good basis to work your own donburi magic. The liquids reduce down to a classic teriyaki, so the chikuwa can be replaced with beef or chicken for a different teriyaki bowl.