Archive by Author

That Daikon. Aww yeah.

23 Nov

Remember how we harvested some veggies today? Here’s my favorite one:

Weezer Green Album Bento

11 Nov

Loving this bento series on album covers:

Weezer – Green Album: Cabbage, nori, ham, kamaboko, paprika, rice.

Weezer Bento
The rest can be seen here.

Hana ni Kuru

9 Nov

Whenever I have soba noodles, I am brought back to being a child at my grandpa’s summer cabin in the mountains of Nagano. We used to walk down the curvy roads until we reached the main town in Karuizawa, where we would we would have (in my opinion) the best soba in the world. This restaurant was a local legend: Japanese style with everything made out of wood (most of which painted black), and each table had smalls jar of diced green onions, tōgarashi, and ground daikon. Recently, I’ve heard that they have become so successful, they’ve expanded to another location. Good for them.

Before serving the food, we would receive a small plate, a grater, and a newly picked stick of green horseradish, with which we would grind our own fresh wasabi to be dumped in the broth in large amounts because it was so good.

When the noodles arrived seasoned with shredded nori on their bamboo boxes, I would  immediately dig in, grabbing huge clumps with my chopsticks and practically baptizing them in my perfectly mixed broth before consumption. Once we had finished, my grandpa would request the soba yu, the hot water that the buckwheat was boiled in, and we would pour it from a ceramic kettle into our broth to dilute and heat it. We would then drink it like tea.

Whenever the wasabi was too strong for me to bear and I found myself clutching the top of my head, my grandpa used to say, “Hana ni kuru. Sore ga ii.” (It’s a good thing it comes to the nose). He was convinced soba yu had medicinal properties, and still is to this day. Because of these memories of carefree summers in a beautiful place, soba is my favorite food.

Saru Kani Kassen

18 Oct

Growing up, there were two tales I remember the most from my book of Japanese folk stories. The first was Momotaro and his quest to rescue treasures and women from Oni Island. The second was called “Saru Kani Kassen,” and was about a crab, a monkey, and a series of anthropomorphized inanimate objects.

Once upon a time a crab was happily walking along eating his onigiri (rice ball). His neighbor, a hungry monkey who only had a persimmon seed, didn’t want to wait for it to grow so he asked the crab if he wanted to trade items. The crab thought it was unfair, but the clever monkey told him that once the crab ate the onigiri, it would be gone permanently, but if he planted the seed, he will have persimmon fruit forever. Then the crab agreed and planted the seed in his garden, where he told it to sprout, or he’d dig it up and throw it away. Scared, the tree quickly sprouted. He told it to grow tall and bear fruit or he’d cut it down with his claws, and the persimmon tree quickly obeyed.

But then the crab noticed it couldn’t reach the fruit, so he asked the monkey to get for him. The monkey ran up the tree and began eating the fruit himself. Angrily, the crab yelled at him, to which the monkey threw a persimmon at the crab, cracking its shell and crushing it to death. The crab’s children swore blood vengeance on the monkey and enlisted the aide of a chestnut, bee, cow dung, and mortar. They all went to the monkey’s house while he was away and hid in different places. When the monkey came home, he was warming his hands by the fire when suddenly the chestnut sprang out of the fireplace, burning him. He ran to the water to douse his burns when an army of baby crabs began pinching him. Panicking, he pulled out his hands and placed them in a jar of miso paste instead, to which a bee flew out and began stinging him. The monkey ran out of his house, slipped on the cow dung, and landed on his back. Then the giant stone mortar leapt off the roof and crushed the monkey to death. The end.

Asian Kitchen : Ginza Corridor

27 Sep

Six years ago my family moved to Japan for several months, during which I recall a surreal experience that arguably bordered on the magical. It began with my dad’s simple craving for spicy food––particularly Thai food. Having begun to miss the Thai restaurants from my Californian hometown, I too felt the craving and we set off on a quest to find the spiciest Thai restaurant in Tokyo.

Over the course of several weeks, we sampled a variety of Thai places. Although we left each place happy and full, they did little to stem our craving and only increase our curiosity on what the city had to offer. My dad learned from a colleague of a low-profile spot in Ginza, a couple blocks south of Yurakucho Station, and we decided to check it out.

We walked up and down the busy street for twenty minutes looking for the place but couldn’t find it. Then, all of a sudden, we could smell the sweet aroma of boiling coconut curry coming from the nondescript stairs leading down to an outdoor basement entrance. As we descended the staircase, we automatically noticed how bizarre it was; towards the bottom, someone had decorated the room with paint and plaster so that it looked like a cave, complete with mine lamps strung along the ceiling. There was a large wooden wall at the end of the room and an elephant mask on the adjacent cave wall with the words “押す” or push under it. So I did.

Immediately the soundproof wooden wall slid back revealing the a loud bustling Thai restaurant with wispy drapes forming canopy-like tents around diners and tables. We ordered up a little bit of everything on the menu. It was very spicy and very tasty––an experience that extended beyond taste and into my other senses as well. Similarly, through Tanizaki’s detailed depiction of sights, sounds, and textures, I view Count G’s episode as extending beyond the mere sense of taste, making his dining experience that much more memorable.

Garden Update for 9/22

22 Sep

Garden was looking good today! Most likely due to the strange pseudo-rainy weather we had this morning. Plants are definitely ready for transplanting. I gave a little less water because the soil was already damp and am glad I didn’t hold back too much because it became quite sunny again in the afternoon.

Service, Ambiance, and Decor

16 Sep

There is a high-end restaurant called Evia that specializes in classical Greek cuisine. A couple of years ago, my family made reservations for a late evening dinner. Although I do not recall the exact circumstance of our reservation, I vividly remember Evia’s delicate candlelit ambiance to be quite beautiful, though I suppose humbler than the feast of the Japanese dignitaries Cwiertka mentions in Western Food, Politics, and Fashion. Nevertheless, this restaurant unsurprisingly had courses ranging from $50 to $100 a plate, so it was by no means a mere food joint. As there were plenty of striking parallels between the two food experiences I recall an epiphany I had that evening after finishing my meal.

First of all, food arguably in itself––its taste––maximizes its physical sensory pleasure without having to be upper-class culinary masterpieces. Cwiertka mentions this with the overarching Japanese ideology of washoku as “tasty,” beautiful, yet less classy sustenance compared to the more nutritious and expensive yoshoku. Today, perhaps the tastiest foods out there are from noodle stands along streets in Bangkok or at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria in east LA with burritos to die for. However, what does differ between these types of eateries in terms of “class,” “quality,” and cultural “taste” is use of––as mentioned––service, ambience, and decor. The Seiyoken’s managers understood this, as did our sharply dressed waiter at Evia whose simple actions––describing the evening’s specials in salivating detail, making suggestions with warmth and professionalism, and taking orders through memory without the use of a notepad––elevated my dining experience to that of “taste.”

Ironically, I ordered the roasted wild boar with vegetable-filled parchment as my main course that evening. The waiter complimented my choice, saying, “It is a most exquisite meat. Once you try wild boar, you can never go back to pork or beef again.” (This is true, he actually did say that.)

Garden Update for 9/14

15 Sep

The plants look healthy! It seems that the portion of the garden that is closest to the house is thriving better, perhaps due to shade and moisture (it is lower in hight as well). Nevertheless, we are getting sprouting from all plots on the garden, which is exciting.

Shishito looked healthy, the Bok Choy looked a little dry so I gave it extra water. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we built reservoirs around the Shishitos but didn’t for the Bok Choy, which also probably absorbs a lot more water. Speaking of water, that faucet sprays everywhere when turned on and takes a while to stop spraying after it is turned off but that isn’t really a huge problem.


The Summer of Steak

6 Sep

“Pass the barbecue sauce,” said my brother. “The flavor is a little bland.”

I cut out a meaty cube my steak knife and surveyed its consistency.

“It’s the cut––it’s too thin. The grill dries it up too quickly. Last time I’m buying carne asada.” Jonathan nodded in agreement, carefully shaking the sauce bottle. Unfortunately, it was a failed effort; the entire contents of the bottle emptied itself onto his plate in a big, gloopy puddle.

“Well,” he grinned. “Still an improvement.”

It was summer vacation and in preparation for apartment living, I had spent every weekend perfecting my steak-grilling technique. Beginning with a couple trips to the local grocer to select a cut––rib-eye one week and tri-tip the next––I then experimented with marinades and temperatures on our backyard grill. I was the cook and my brother was the taster and critic.

Looking back, I’m not sure why I chose steak aside from the fact that one day I suddenly felt like learning how to cook steak. I announced it to my family, bought, cooked, and served the steaks, to which my mother commented that steak is not a meal in itself and that I need to make bake potatoes or something else to go with it. I have managed to ignore her advice to this very day.

My father, on the other hand, didn’t eat red meat, so I usually waited until he was out of town to cook steak. On the days that I didn’t wait, it became routine for him to stand next to me at the grill, laying slabs of salmon or cajun chicken on it, along with an assortment of corn, zucchini, and bell peppers. I had no interest in any of those; all I cared about was red, juicy steak; the way it sizzled when placed on the grill for the first time; the way flipping it always yielded stark, flavorful streaks of color from the grill metal; the fragrant pools of juices that simmered atop the steak’s surface as it swiftly cooked over a violent heat; a hellish heat that blasts you in the face whenever you open the grill lid…


Some weeks I used a Texan barbecue marinade. Others, a Korean sauce made from ginger and chili. Clutching a marinating brush, I often felt like an artist. A meaty, steaky artist.

The school year was fast approaching when I decided to cook my last supper. It was months after eating Carne Asada with Jonathan and I was determined to make this my best steak yet. I went to the grocer and selected the priciest cut they had––New York, and marinaded it with a self-invented dry rub of sea salt, cracked pepper, rosemary, and basil.

It was a cool summer evening so we ate outside at the patio table. The steaks came out perfectly. My mother––a tiny Japanese woman about half my size who never finishes her portions––devoured her entire steak. That was quite a memorable spectacle. Immediately afterwards, my father reached across the table, cut off a piece and sampled it for himself. He then proceeded to stand up, enter the house, and reemerge holding an unopened bottle of red wine.

Two days later, I moved into my apartment and realized that I have no balcony to barbecue steaks on. The end.