Tag Archives: cooking

That Daikon. Aww yeah.

23 Nov

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

Soba Class Notes

12 Oct

Apologies for the late posting from the soba class! If there’s anything I missed or noted incorrectly, please do comment and let me know! I’ll correct it promptly.

Cutting the soba noodles

What we saw Inouge-san make during the soba class was apparently only about 39% of the total amount of flour he usually makes. He used

  • 800 g of buckwheat
  • 390 g of water
  • 200g of flour
  • mirin (does anyone remember the amount?)
  1. Smooth the surface of the dough with your palms
  2. Use rolling pin(s) to flatten the dough to 5 mm **keep turning the soba dough to flatten evenly and in a circular shape!**
  3. Create 2 corners in the dough by rolling the dough around the pin, rather than just under
  4. Unroll the dough sideways to create the other 2 corners **make sure to flour the board, dough, and rolling pin thoroughly**
  5. Unroll the dough at a 45 degree angle to create an almost rectangular shape
  6. Correct the shape to more rectangular slowly with a short pin to the final 1.5 mm thickness
  7. Roll over pin once, turn around, and unroll the dough halfway
  8. Put a thin layer of flour over the unrolled half
  9. Unroll the rest over and put a layer of flour over that too
  10. Fold the second half over the first half and flour half of the top of the folded dough
  11. Repeat until the dough has been folded into a good cutting size for the length of your knife
  12. Put a thin layer of flour over cutting board and layer over top of flour
  13. Use a board over the flour to cut in straight lines **a 1.3 mm width cut is the most traditional size**
  14. Cook the noodles, drain the water, and eat

This is Inouge-san’s own recipe, which uses less water than usual. This keeps the ingredients’ characteristics, creates a stronger taste, and keeps the noodles not too soft.

Condiments used with the soba noodles were:

  • Okinawa brown sugar syrup (dessert style)
  • Sliced green onion
  • Wasabi
  • Daikon oroshi (grated daikon)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tosa joyu (seasoned with bonito)

The broth was made from: a soy sauce base, granulated sugar, bonito dashi, and mirin.

The softer soba dumplings that were made after the soba noodles were made with 2.5x water by weight with the buckwheat flour. To make these, just stir while heating on stovetop until the water and buckwheat mixture has a dough-y consistency!

According to Inouge-san, since soba has 92% more protein than eggs, eating soba with foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium is the perfect meal.

You Never Have the Ingredients You Need

15 Sep

I was cooking an Indian vegetable dish last night, and the recipe called for peas, tomatoes, whole milk cheese, and an array of spices. I made the decision, perhaps unwise, to not shop for the ingredients, I knew I had peas at home, and just use whatever I could find in my kitchen.

Once I had cut everything and began to cook I realized that there was no ginger in my fridge, an essential part of the spices. Instead I found a can of ready-made curry sauce, which contained ginger, and decided to add that over the top at the end. The next problem arose when I realized there also wasn’t any whole milk cheese available, so I decided to use tofu instead, because it has almost the same consistency. Soon after, the next hurdle arose because I remembered that tomatoes release water when cooked, and while this would be fine if I cooked according to the recipe, I wasn’t. I was adding curry sauce at the end, and the water from the tomatoes would make the dish too watery.

Finally after the peas had cooked and I had added the sauce, there still just wasn’t something right. The dish wasn’t as rich and creamy as it was supposed to be. I had no cream to add, so I added a little milk instead and let it cook on low heat for a while. All in all, the dish turned out to be a success and my improvisation had worked.

Folding dumplings

9 Sep

Every meal that Mother makes I would consider personal and “customized.”  She just has a way of predicting what our family’s taste buds are craving at the moment.  So it follows that the cultural foods that our family gather ‘roudn the dinner table to prepare together form an even deeper bond between us; a truly personal and familial experience.

Forgive me but I must say that of all the dishes we have shared and “customized”, I choose to speak of dumplings not only because the public is fairly familiar with them but also because I have no clue as to how to explain or romanize the names of other foods.

Whereas dumplings made by the recipe follow a strict set of instructions, Mother gathered my sisters and I around the table and gave us a hands on experience with dumpling folding.  While our technical skill never matched hers, we sought to push the boundaries of dumpling folding given the 3 basic steps:
1) spread egg white onto the wrapping
2) place filling on the wrapping
3) and fold.

What we got from this experience was the fun of not only eating good dumplings, but dumplings that were different, not store-bought nor manufactured; and each dumpling had a fingerprint.  For example I could tell a certain dumpling was mine if it was folded in the form of an envelope, a letter filled with meat addressed to myself.

And every time we would encounter the inevitable “omg more meat than wrappings” problem, resulting in a lot of fat dumplings, that actually don’t taste that bad!  Whereas the community or company may have a  notion of an “ideal” dumpling, the ideal is not necessarily the best tasting or the most enjoyable.  A lot of the thought behind the food counts, too even if it may be the simple exclusion of a food someone has an allergy against.

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.

Family Weakness

6 Sep

Cupcake cravings. My family has them all the time. Whether it’s making a stop at Sprinkles when we’re in Newport or stopping at Crumbs in LA or Magnolia in NY—we always need our cupcake fix. We’ve become cupcake connoisseurs of some sort. That’s why we decided it was time to take cupcake baking in our own hands and decided to combine the specific tastes we like in the various brands of cupcakes and create a cupcake masterpiece.

My sister and I searched online for cupcake recipes of our favorite cupcake stores and printed them out. We combined the ingredients and checked to see which ones overlapped and which ones were constant. This made it easy to spot the ingredients that made the cupcakes unique to their brands. In the end, we had a list of secret ingredients and cupcake must haves. We made sure to use all of the ingredients in the cupcake must haves and then depending on our preferences, we used the secret ingredients.

For the frosting, we wanted a Red Velvet frosting taste, and so we combined that of Sprinkles and Magnolia and created a perfectly whipped cream cheese taste. The end result was a batch of scrumptious cupcakes with a homemade twist.

Unfortunately, the homemade cupcake days did not last. The first batch was our last batch. Somehow, we were never able to re-create the scrumptious cupcakes we made the first time. Now that I think about it, it might have been because we never wrote down what we were doing and were cooking off of memory, which, sad to say, failed us.