POKETO - Soba Workshop April 16, 2016

Posted on April 14, 2016 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (3)

I am looking forward to the soba workshop this Saturday ,April 16 from 2-5pm. It's offered by Poketo, the coolest design shop in Los Angeles. Owers, Ted and Angie, have been so enthusiastic about putting this together. We started planning it months ahead of time. It's their first food event at Poketo. I hope the flour binds and the soba taste good. Here is the link to their website.   The event is SOLD OUT! 


Kimchi Workshop April 25 10 am -1pm

Posted on April 6, 2015 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

This is the first Asian pickling class I will be offering.  My friend Sonya Chun has been treating me to her mother's delicious kimchi for sometime, so one day, I asked her if I can learn how to make that kimchi. She said, of course, let's do a workshop.  That conversation took place last year. I have made kimchi on my own but you really need to work with someone who grew up with it, to understand the depth of flavors.  My research and trial workshop with Sonya started wth a trip to the Korean market and going through the produce section and spice section - you get a whole new perspective on what these ingredients mean to Korean people.  Fascinating. We spent the entire rest of the afternoon and evening making kimchi. It's quite laborious but well worth the trouble. Even the lightly pickled kimchi tastes delicious. Wait till the fermented ones. In our Kimchi workshop, we will try to give you as much information as possible, so you can incorporate what I learned from Sonya.

Class description:

KImchi & Beyond... If you love Korean food but have been timid about cooking it at home, the best place to start is by learning how to make kimchi. Kimchi is rich in vitamins and minerals and fiber. This “soul food” of Korea often appears on “super food” lists. There are over 200 different kinds of kimchi. Sonya Chun, Sonya's mother, and Sonoko Sakai will guide you through three types of kimchi including the classic whole cabbage kimchi, delicious citrus “water” kimchi, and a fresh seasoned kimchi. You will learn to prep, taste, and understand the fermentation time. Your class will be followed by a delicious lunch of Pa-Joen (Korean Chive Pancake with shrimp & pork),Citrus “Water” Kimchi, Nyeng Myun (Cold Korean Buck Wheat Noodle Soup), Freshly Seasoned Kimchi, & Classic Napa Cabbage Kimchi. Dessert of Homemade dried Persimmon, in a ginger and Cinnamon soup. April 25 from 10 -2 pm. $95. You will take home the classic Cabbage Kimchi to complete the fermentation.  To register E mail [email protected]

Kale and Asparagus Soba Salad

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am making soba for Deborah Madison's cookbook promotion at Cooks County tomorrow.  So I thought I would practice a little.  I have to make 80 servings but the portions are small, so it should go pretty quickly.  There is a Kale Soba Salad in Madison's Vegetarian Literacy. This recipe is inspired by that one and the soba noodles are of course, made fresh.  My friend Casey came over with some chicken eggs.  I gave her soba.  What a great trade!

Soba Salad with Kale
Serves 4
1 bunch Tuscan kale, leaves sliced, thinly, crosswise and rubbed with ¼ tsp of salt
1 Tbls lightly roasted sesame oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
½ tsp sea salt
4 Tbls Lightly roasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
1 -2 tsp soy sauce
4 servings of soba noodles, freshly made or cooked, or used dry noodles, cooked
Garnishes: 3 scallions, sliced thinly, crosswise
2 pinches shichimi pepper 2 Tbls roasted sesame seeds

Make the soba noodles and the salad dressing.  

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Taste and make adjustments, as necessary. Rub salt and sesame oil on sliced kale, until leaves soften. Set aside. Boil the noodles, drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shock noodles in ice water. Drain well. In a salad bowl, toss sliced kale and the dressing. Gently combine with the soba.  Sprinkle the garnishes, and serve immediately. 

Common Grains - Soba Salad

Posted on March 17, 2012 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (1)

I don't know who invented the soba salad but it's not the Japanese. Go to Wholefoods, Tavern, Real Food Daily,  M Cafe in LA - Soba salad is on their regular menu.   I can't get used to the idea of pre-seasoned soba noodles though.The Japanees tradition is to eat fresh soba plain and quickly with a dipping sauce before they go limp or eat soba in a hot soup.  The first time someone served me a soba salad, I was horrified.  But I have become more open to fusion. If pasta works, why not soba?  

During the Common Grains event, we decided to put soba salad on the menu, and people went for it.  But we did something slightly different with the dressing to maintain the quality of our fresh, handcut soba.

Fresh hand cut tartary soba noodles.
Flour: Anson Mills Tartary Soba blended with Kitawase Soba
Water ration: 48%
We went light on the salad dressing and used two instead on one dressing.  The oil based dressing was used with the leafy vegetables and the oil-less Dowari- sauce for the noodles.  This way, you can taste the noodles before they get masked with the salad dressing.

It's simple to make this salad.  Pour the Dowari dipping sauce over the cold noodles.  In a separate bowl,  toss the leafy greans with the oil based dressing, and serve the salad right on top of the noodles.  This presentation allows you to taste the texture and flavor of the soba before it gets tosed up with the seasoned leafy greens.  I sprinkled some deep fried buckwheat grouts on top on this salad.

Soba salad with leafy greens, avocado, kiwi, red radishes, cilantro
                                               and buckwheat groats.  

Here is a simple sesame dressing that I used for the leafy greens.
Creamy sesame dressing for Soba Salad 
(Makes 2 cups) 
1 cup grape seed oil or canola oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup Mori tsuyu dipping sauce or more to taste or use 1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbls sesame oil 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
3-4 Tbls Atari Goma (Japanese sesame paste)
1 tsp grated ginger juice
1Tsp sugar to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy.

Dowari dressing
Dilute Hongaeshi with 25% Dashi. Bring to a boil in a pot and
simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and
let cool.  Keeps in the fridge for a week.

Asazuke Cucumbers Pickles with Ginger

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

My favorite way of eating fresh vegetables is raw. These persian cucumbers had shinny skin and firm meat - perfect for a lightly seasoned pickle - Asazuke. I ruibbed the bite size pieces of cucumbers with some salt and put them in a Japanese pickling device to apply  pressure. The weight of the pickling device extracts the excess water in the cucumbers and instensifies their flavors. My pickling device is about 25 years old. If you don't have one, you can also use a plate on top of the vegetables and put a stone or factory made pickling weight on top to extract the excess water. That's how it was done traditionally.  With a little sesame oil, sliced ginger and a dash of shichimi peppers, these cucumbers make a nice palate cleansers.

Recipe: Asazuke cucumbers with ginger
Makes 2-3 servings

2-3 Persian or Japanese cucumbers
1.5-2 tsp of salt (kosher or amashio salt)
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 tbls ginger, sliced very thinly
Shichimi pepper or roasted sesame seeds 

Wash and peel the cucumbers and slice vertically in halves.
Rub salt on the cucumbers.  
Put them in a pickling jar or cover with plate and apply pressure with something heavy like a stone (1kg) and let it rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. 

Peel the ginger and soak in water for about 10 minutes.  Slice the root thinly as possible. Soak again in water
to make them crisp.  Drain and serve with the cucumbers.

To serve, discard excess water.  Pour the sesame seed oil and toss lightly. 
Serve with sliced ginger and a dash of shichimi pepper or sesame seeds.

Daikon and Carrot Asazuke Salad - Namasu

Posted on July 19, 2011 at 11:07 AM Comments comments (0)

In Thomas Keller's cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, there is a chapter called Lifesavers where Keller introduces a variety of staples like jams, pickles, infused oils, etc., which you can prepare in advance,  and have them on stand by to add to your dishes when you need that extra something.  If you have not come across Keller's book yet, it's a big book that has an illustration of a pig on the cover.   I bought mine at Costco. The recipes in this cookbook are more accessible and familiar than Keller's other books. The recipes occasionally read like a manual for assembling a model airplane (I could never put all the pieces together as a child), but if you are willing to pay attention, the dishes always come out very good , if not excellent.    

Back to lifesavers.  I have a few staples like Keller's in my pantry.  One is a a lightly pickled dish called Asazuke that can be made ahead with a variety of vegetables - daikon, turnip, carrots, cucumbers and chinese cabbage.  Asazuke is pickled with less salt than the standard Tsukemono, thus their shelf life is shorter - about 3-5 days in the fridge.  The Asazuke pickles are wonderful when I need a palate refreshner to go with my protein based dishes.   

Namasu made with carrots and daikon radish is one of my favorite Asazuke style pickle. It is a mildly sweet and sour pickled salad. Namasu made with carrots (lucky red color) and daikon is primarily eaten during New Year's to bring good fortune, but I eat it all year round.  

To make Namasu, I often use this old Japanese mandoline slicer Benrina to slice vegetables.  But you do have to be careful with your fingers.  Use the plastic guard that comes with the equipment.  You can also slice the vegetables by hand.  It's more work but the uneveness makes for a textural salad.

A daikon radish is long and big vegetable..  If you haven't used a daikon radish before, you might wonder how you can possibly use up the gigantic root.  Don't worry. Daikon is mostly water. You will see it transform when grated or rubbed with salt.  To store daikon, wrap it in damp paper towels or newspaper and store in the fridge.

For my salads, I use half of a big radish for 4 -6 servings.  Daikon by the way is full of vitamin C.   


1 lbs daikon (look for one that is unblemished and firm), peeled

1 large carrot, peeled

1 tbls salt 

1-2 Tbls sugar

2 tbls rice vinegar

1 tbls yuzu or lemon juice

Garnish:  1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds

Julienne the peeled daikon and carrots into 2 inch pieces. 

Rub the julienned vegetables with salt.  Massage the vegetables for a a minute or two until they become limp.  Drain the brine.  

Combine the sugar and vinegar, and mix well until dissolved.  Sprinkle the vinegar mixture and yuzu or lemon juice onto the vegetables, mix to combine, and chill.  Let the Namasu rest for 1 hour and up to overnight.  

Before serving, sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds.

Best eaten within 2-3 days. 

Soba Salads at Tavern and Real Food Daily

Posted on November 24, 2010 at 12:42 AM Comments comments (0)

Soba Salad served at Tavern, Brentwood 

Soba seems to be coming up in the world as the healthy new pasta. served mostly in "salad" form.   Real Food Daily in Santa Monica and Tavern in Brentwood both have it on their menus.   

The first time I had soba salad was at Mrs. Hoffman house. She was my mother's friend from Chatswood, CA.  I called her Hoffman-san because she was Japanese. But when lunchtime came,  both my mother and I realized Hoffman san was quite Americanized. It was the way she served soba.  She sliced up some of her garden tomatoes, lettuce and put them in a large salad bowl with soba noodles.  We were a little culture shocked to see Hoffman-san generously pouring salad dressing over soba.

Traditionally, soba is eaten plain with a dipping sauce or served in a broth with toppings.  Never as a salad.  We ate the soba salad, as we heard Hoffman-san talked about her vegetable garden.  I didn't dislike the salad but back then,  I could never imagine serving soba that way.  It was my first encounter with fusion food.  Then years went by, and I started to see more people do it.  Perhaps, for the American palate, the plain way Japanese serve soba tastes bland and feels incomplete as a meal.  Dried soba noodles can do that to you, especially since it is made with mostly wheat, and doesn't have much buckwheat flavor.

There is nothing bland about pure soba.  Soba which is the Japanese word for buckwehat, is a complete protein, higher in content than any wheat or rice, and it is full of vitamins, fiber and minerals.  In ancient times, Buddhist mocks would go into the mountains for meditation and take just soba to eat.  

Soba Salad at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica

This week, I ate two soba salads.  I took pictures of them with my i-Phone. I ordered them from the menu of these two restaurants because I was curious to see how they tasted.  The soba salad at Tavern was made with soba, red peppers, red onions, parsely, napa cabbage and served with a rice vinegar dressing.  I liked the sweet red peppers with soba but unfortunately, the noodles were limp and too oily.   It might have tasted better if they had served the dressing on the side.   

At Real Food Daily, the soba salad was served with the dressing on the side. I liked that part. The salad contained a big portion of soba, napa cabbage, carrots, green onions, peanuts, red cabbage and served with a spicy peanut butter dressing sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with cayenne pepper. This dressing was a little too sweet and the soba was over cooked. I ate the vegetables but left most of the soba untouched. 

The idea of putting oil on soba will probably never totally agree with my palate but I am happy that soba is on the menu of western style restaurants.  Soba should always be freshly cooked and served right away. Fresh soba would taste even better but we have a long ways to go for that to happen in western style restaurants.  Soba is tooted for its wholesome nutrition. That's the right place to start in America.

Point Mugu - Fall Camping - Soba Noodle Salad

Posted on September 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

  Joe's fish kebabs on the bbq
Shrimp with mushrooms and red pepper.

Every year we go camping in the fall.  It's a tradition that's lasted for more than twenty years.  Some years we've skipped but our hardcore camper friends Ed, Rick and Terry never do. The camping site is not far from LA.  We go either to  Pt. Mugu (Sycamore Canyon) or Leo Carrillo Beach.  They are both north of Malibu, just an hour drive from Santa Monica so we don't even need to spend the night if we don't want to, and can still call it camping.  Love it.  Last year was Leo Carrillo (here is the l link last's year's camping experience).  This year we chose Pt. Mugu.  You have to book about six months in advance to get a camping spot.  They are that popular with campers.

Happy campers

I  don't like sleeping in tents. I've suffered through enough sleepless nights so after my son Sakae left for college,  I became a once-a-year day camper.  But I am sure in this modern age, camping has improved, as far as comfort is concerned. Maybe no more stiff backs when you get up in the morning.  Near our campsite, we saw a restored vintage tear drop camper. It was bright as a lemon. beautiful design.  Terry was talking about getting one. I would spend the night in something cool like that.  
The moon was still nearly full. There were a couple of sweet news - Rick and Terry's daughter Alexis got engaged to a young man from Lompoc.  Ed's daughter Kimberly had a healthy baby son.
 It was a lovely night with old friends!

Terry's guacamole   

This year Ed said we are doing fish.  Annie and I protested because we have always done tri-tip (Check out our tri tip from last's year camping trip - here is the link). But Ed kept saying not this year. So we gave up and went lean.  Annie brought her famous enchiladas (the picture came out blurry so it didn't make the blog but it was delicious!).  Terri made guacamole and stir fried snow peas. Rick made his special chocolate chip cookies.  Ed asked me to bring a salad and dessert but he ended up bringing a big fruit tart too, so we duplicated our effort. Still, we had no trouble finishing the desserts.  I made a tart tatin but have no pictures to show you.  I used the recipe in Zester Daily.  It was not too sweet nor heavy. The granny smith apples fell apart but they still tasted good .The crust was perfect. 

I am not a big fan of soba salad but I decided that I should give it another chance. Many soba salads use soy sesame based dressings, which is fine if you are using dried soba noodles. But if you make them fresh, like I do, sesame seed oil overwhelms and masks the flavor and aroma of the soba. I find that a light extra virgin olive oil or canola oil works better. I made a citrus salad dressing, using Yuzu juice.  The soba salad needed more salt... but noone brought salt to the campsite.  Can you believe it? Ed thought he had picked up some when he stopped by at McDonald's earlier.  McDonalds!  Any salt would have done the job but we did fine without it. 

Red radishes for the salad

Keep slicing! 

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables
Serves 8

1 lbs soba noodles, fresh or dried, cooked and shocked in cold water
2 Persian cucumbers, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 yellow pepper, julienned
1 box assorted cherry tomatoes
1 cup sweet peas, deveined and blanched
 Chopped herbs such as dil, chives, cilantro

1 yuzu,  lemon or lime
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp ginger juice
1 tbls miso paste
1 tsp sugar or honey
1/3 cup canola oil or light olive oil
1 tsp light sesame oil (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Ground cracked red pepper (optional)
Salt to taste

Make the salad dressing. Squeeze the lemon or limes ot make juice. Combine all the ingredients to make the dressing. Adjust taste to your liking.

Prepare the vegetables. 

Cook the soba noodles in a large pot of boiling water, until al dente.  Drain and shock in cold ice water.
Drain well.

In a large bowl, gently toss the soba noodles with the vegetables and 1/ 4 cup of the dressing.  Add the remaining dressing. Garnish with herbs.

Didn't have time to take a picture of the soba salad except
what's left in this bowl!  

Point Mugu

Tunnel to beach, Point Mugu

  Catch me if you can

Ana watching the waves

Time to get back to the campsite.

Braised Kabocha Squash

Posted on July 1, 2010 at 1:56 AM Comments comments (0)

If I get to choose one vegetable to have in the fridge to munch on, it is not a carrot or celery but kabocha squash.  I cook the cut pieces of Kabocha in a light syrup, just long enough to give them a hint of sweetness.  The syrup is drained so the kabocha is never sugary sweet or mushy.  I often serve this dish with soba to supplement the Vitamin A.  Soba offers the rest of the good stuff.


1/4 of small to medium size Kabocha squash

2 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

Cut the kabocha squash in bite size pieces.  Bevel the corners.

Bring the water and sugar in a medium size saucepan.  Add the Kabocha

and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Then lower heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the meat is cooked.  Test with toothpick.

Drain the syrup.  Serve in a bowl.  

Keeps for a week in the fridge.

Handmade Dattan Soba with Heirloom Tomatoes, Avocado and Enoki Mushrooms

Posted on May 3, 2010 at 3:51 PM Comments comments (0)


Flour ratio: 40% Dattan Flour, 40% Buckwheat Flour  20% All-Purpose

I finally got around to making Dattan Soba at home.  Of the 50kg of buckwheat flour that I brought back from Japan, I had 5 kg of Dattan buckwheat from China.  I didn't expect to like Dattan when I was first introduced to it.  People warned me that Dattan tastes bitter and medicinal. But it did not hit my tastes buds in that way at all.  I love the grassy flavor and the mustardy color of this buckwheat. You feel healthy just looking at it.  

Dattan soba is prized in China and Japan for its medicinal properties. Dattan is grown by the Yi tribes inhabiting in the highlands of Sichuan and Yennan province. This soba has almost 100 times more Rutin than normal buckwheat. The popularity of Dattan has slightly cooled off in Japan but there are people who eat this soba and drink its tea regularly to stay healthy. The Yi tribe who eat Dattan everyday is said to have no adult lifestyle related diseases.    

I make a mild Dattan soba by mixing the flour with standard Japanese buckwheat and all purpose flour. You don't taste the bitterness but there is a hint of grass in the flavor.  It is best eaten cold or as a salad.  I used vegetables I found in my fridge - tomato, avocado, enoki mushrooms and scallions.  Any salad vegetable goes with soba.


Makes 4

4 servings of fresh soba noodles  but recipe calls for a ratio of 40% dattan flour, 40% Japanese soba flour and 20% all-purpose flour.  See instructions below.  Or use1 bag dried soba noodles, and cook them according to package instructions.

1 avocado peeled, pitted and sliced vertically, about 1/4 inch wide

1 tomato, sliced thinly, 1/4 inch wide

1 bag of enoki mushrooms, ends removed

Yuzu or lemon rind,  a small sliver for each person

Wasabi to serve at the table (optional)

 Dipping sauce  (here is the link to a quick dipping sauce)

1-2 tsps olive oil or sesame oil to taste (optional)

Make the dipping sauce first and keep it chilled.  

To make Dattan soba noodles by hand, use boiling water, instead of water , as called for in the standard recipe I provided.  Use a paddle to mix the hot flour.  When the water is incorporated into the flour and cooled down, then use your hands to mix the flour and proceed according to the soba recipe. Cook the noodles just before serving the dish. Add some oil to the noodles. (optional). 

Slice the vegetables.

Arrange the soba noodles on a plate and arrange the vegetables  and Yuzu on top.  Pour the sauce at the table,  just before serving.  Serve with wasabi (optional).

Option: You can use other vegetables of your choice - sauteed shitake mushrooms, asparagus, lettuce, spinach, etc.

Quick Mizuna with Konbu Pickles - Asazuke

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (1)

Mizuna no Kizami Konbu zuke - Mizuna and cut Konbu pickles

Mizuna and cut Konbu asazuke.

Everyday, I try to make something with seaweed and vegetables.  When I was growing up, my mother used to tell us that if we ate Konbu, we would have beautiful black hair like konbu but maybe it was just her tactic to get us to eat more seaweed.  I am glad she got me into the habit.  Now I appreciate Konbu even more, for its vitamins, minerals and fiber. Both sea and land vegetables make me feel good. 

I made a quick pickle-Asazuke with Mizuna and cut Konbu. Mizuna has a nice piquant peppery flavor.  The texture of this pickle is crunchy and slightly slimy. The sliminess comes from the extracts of the kombu. It is something you might have to get used to. I love it.

The pre-cut dried konbu is great for making pickles and sauted dishes.  Best if you hydrate them before you put them in the pickle press. Don't soak the konbu too long because you want to use the extract, especially the iodine to season the pickle. The amount of salt to use is between 1-2% of the total weight of the vegetables.  For this recipe, I use 1-1.5 teaspoons of salt for about a pound of vegetables.  Some dried kombu are saltier than others, so you need to make the adjustment accordingly.  I don't like to oversalt so I try to stay at the lower end of the ratio.

Serves 4-6
1 lbs Mizuna
1/2 cup Kizami Konbu, hyadrated, or slice wider konbu into thin matchstick pieces, about 2 inches long and 1/16 inch wide, and hydrate.
1-1.5 tsp salt

Kizami-Konbu - Cut dried Kombu 

Wash the Mizuna and cut off root ends.  Cut crosswise into 2 inch wide pieces.
Hydrate the cut dried konbu in water for 5-10 minutes.  Drain,

In a pickling container, combine the cut Mizuna and Konbu.  Add the salt and mix it into the mizuna.  Add the kombu to the mizuna and mix together.

Press the Mizuna and Konbu, using the pickling press and let stand in the fridge for 2-3 hours.  Here is the link to the Pickling Press with screw top.
To serve, remove from pickling press, gently squeeze out excess water and serve.
Best eaten on the same day.

Note: If the pickle comes out too salty, give it a quick rinse under cold water.  Squeeze out excess water and serve.  

Mix the salt into the Mizuna and Kombu mixture.

Quick Napa Cabbage and Apple Pickles - Asazuke

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Napa cabbage and apple pickles

I have not blogged too much about Japanese pickles, Tsukemono, but I have them almost everyday with my meals -  breakfast, lunch, dinner and even as a snack with tea.  It is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they are light, delicious and balances out the meal nutritiously. During the course of a meal, Tsukemono is usually served at the end to clear the palate, and gives the bowl of rice a zing.  Since Tsukemono can be strong in flavor and salty, it is eaten in small quantities. One outstanding character of Tsukemono is its seasonality.  If you visit the Tsukemono section of a Depachika, (Japanese department store's food shop in the basement), you can always see what vegetables are in peak season. Winter vegetables such as napa cabbage, carrots, Mizuna, daikon radish, komatsuna, turnips make great winter pickles. I make Asazuke, a quick Tsukemono that is put together by rubbing salt on the vegetables, adding kombu seaweed for flavor, a spice such as red chili pepper, and applying some pressure to the vegetables with a Japanese pickle press. (see pictures below - my pickle device is very old!). The Napa cabbage and Apple pickles were made in just three hours. All I used was salt and pepper. The salt extracts the excess liquid from the napa cabbage, intensifying the flavor and improving the texture. Asazuke can be served in the place of a salad.  Since it contains no oil or creams, it is light and very refreshing. The leaves of napa cabbage become sweeter and denser when they are in season.  The apple adds a nice crispy texture and tart  flavor
Serves 2-4

8 oz napa cabbage, ends cut and leaves washed
1/2 apple - apple of your choice such as Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper or sansho pepper
Soysauce for the table (optional)

Cut the white part of the napa cabbage into 2.5 inch wide pieces.  Cut the leafy part
of the napa cabbage into bite size pieces.  Put the napa cabbage into the empty pickling container.  Rub salt on the napa cabbage, making sure that the salt is distributed evenly
and massanged into all the leaves.  Put weight on the vegetables, using a pickle device. Let stand in the fridge for about 3 hours.

After 3 hours, unscrew the press or remove the weight. Squeeze out the brine.  If the Napa cabbage is too salty for your palate, you can give it a quick rinse under water.  Gently squeeze out excess brine but the napa cabbage should not be dry.  Slice the apples into 1/4 inch wedges, and the slice them crosswise into smaller pieces, about 1/4 thick.  Combine with the napa cabbage.  Serve with pepper.   You can also put serve some soysauce on the side.

Put the cut white and green Napa cabbage into the pickling press.  Rubb with  salt until water is extracted.  About 1 minute.

Put the weight on top to press the pickles. This pickle press is more than 20 years old.
It comes with a lid, and goes straight into my fridge.  It's not the prettiest piece of 
kitchen equipment but I can't live without it.

If you have a pickling press with a screw top (See picture below).  Rotate the screw until the press is in contact with the vegetables.  Apply weight to press down on the vegetables.
 Here is a pickling device that has a screw top. 

Taking flight with Ginger - Sunomono

Posted on October 5, 2009 at 6:53 PM Comments comments (0)

When one of my films premiered in Tokyo a few years ago, my friend Yumiko whom I have known since I was 13 years old gave me this handmade grater in the shape of a crane as a present.  In Japan, the crane, along with the turtle, is the symbol of longevity and good luck. At first I regarded this grater as something to admire and not as a tool for my kitchen. I kept it in the original box and it sat in my closet next to the jewelry box, as if waiting for its turn to be worn one day.  But no, that's not what this metal crane was born to do. I finally let the bird out of the box the other day and put it to use in my kitchen. This tin plated copper crane works very well as a grater, especially with ginger. If you look at the surface of the grater, you can see its rows of sharp teeth.  They are individually cut by hand.  Unlike the plastic and stainless steel graters that I have, this artisinal grater makes a smoother and creamier grated ginger.  The grater is also lovely to look at so you can bring it right to the table. Today, I made a wakame and cucumber sunomo with grated ginger.   

Cucumbers soaking in salt water

Wakame and Cucumber Sunomono 


Serves 4

1 medium European cucumber or 2 persian cucumbers, peeled and sliced thinly, 1/8 inch thick pieces

2 tbls dried and cut wakame seaweed, reconstituted in water

1 tsp peeled and grated ginger

1 tsp salt

Rice Vinegar Dressing

3 tbls rice vinegar

1 tbls Yuzu or any citrus juice (lime, orange, lemon)

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tbls soy sauce

3 tbls dashi (here is the link) or Dried Maitake Mushroom dashi (here is the link to the vegan recipe)

Dried wakame can be found in cut size pieces or larger

pieces which you will have to cut up. 

In water, Wakame is back to its happy self.

Make the vinegar dressing by combing the vinegar, soysauce, sugar, citrus juice and dashi. You can make the dashi 2-3 days in advance and use the dashi for making Miso Soup if you like.

Reconstitute the dried wakame in a bowl of water.  It will expand to about triple in size.This will take about 2 - 5 minutes, depending on the size of the seaweed.  If you have uncut wakame seaweed, cut them in 1/2 inch pieces before you dehydrate them.  Squeeze out excess water and set aside. (Note: You don't want to let the wakame dry out so if you are not planning to make the sunomo right away, leave the wakame in the bowl of water and keep it in the fridge for up to a couple hours.)

Peel and slice the cucumbers into 1/8 inch thick pieces.  Rub 1 teaspoon of salt and transfer the salted cucumbers to a bowl. Fill with enough water to cover.  Let stand in the brine for 5-10 minutes in the fridge.  Drain water and squeeze out excess water.

When you are ready to serve the sunomono, take the wakame out of the water and squeeze out excess water.  Combine wakame and cucumbers in a serving bowl.  Toss together.  Make a nice mound.  Season with the vinegar dressing and garnish with grated ginger. Serve immediately.

Additonal garnish: You can sprinkle roasted sesame seeds if you like.

Shrimp, Wakame and Cucumbers in a Rice Vinaigrette

Posted on August 23, 2009 at 1:22 AM Comments comments (0)


Shrimp is one of the most popular and easy to find seafood in the world but I have had my set of hit and misses, especially with boiled shrimp. The texture of boiled shrimp can often be rubbery and the flavor blah. I would avoid ordering shrimp coctails at restaurants because they almost always disappoint.  I think shrimp deserves better.

Recently, I found a way to boil shrimp and make it come out with a lot of flavor and texture. What I do is coat the shrimp in a little potato starch (katakuriko) before boiling it. You can use other starches like kuzu or cornstarch.  The Chinese have used this technique for centuries.. They coat cornstarch on both meat and seafood. You don't need a lot. In fact, you need to use just enough to put a thin coat.  I did it with this vinegared shrimp.  My shrimp looks a little prettier on the plate and the shrimp has much better flavor and texture.

I used a benrina to slice the cucumbers thin.


Makes 4 servings

4 large shrimp or 8 medium size shrimp
1 cup of reconsitituted dried wakame seaweed, cut in 2-inch pieces
1-2 cucumbers, sliced thinly,  1/8 inch or thinner crosswise
1 Tbls Potato starch (katakuriko)

Vinegared dressing:
2/3 Cup Dashi Broth (See Basics dashi recipe)
1/8 cup Rice vinegar
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 Tbls sugar 

Make the vinegar dressing.  Chill in the fridge.  

Rub the sliced cucumbers with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt until water starts to come out
from the cucumbers.  Squeeze gently.  Set aside in the fridge.

Clean and devein the shrimp.  Sprinkle potato starch on the shrimp.
Bring a small saucepan with water to a boil over medium heat.  
Prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes and set in the sink.
Now cook the shrimp in the boiling water for about 30 seconds or until it is 
cooked. Turn off heat.  Transfer cooked shrimp to the bowl of ice water and

Rinse and drain the wakame seaweed.  Squeeze out excess water.

Assemble the shrimp, cucumbers and wakame seaweed.  
Pour the dressing over the salad.  Serve immediately.

Note: The dressing will keep in the fridge for a week.

Quick Turnip and Dried Peaches Pickles - a Salad alternative

Posted on August 19, 2009 at 4:57 PM Comments comments (0)


A Japanese meal normally finishes with some kind of pickle and a bowl of rice. It's nice to save the pickles to the end because the saltiness ties the whole meal together.  Pickles can be made with many vegetables - both root and leafy types.  Some pickles can be quite salty for the western palate.  Some can be rather sweet. This ways vegetables are pickled differ from region to region and from family to family.  As for the pickles I made tonight, I wanted to see how dried peaches which I bought at the Farmers Market will work with turnips.  It was a fun experiment.  These were quick pickles that stayed in a vinegar mildly sweet dressing for about 1 hour. The dried peaches softened and added a lovely sweetness to the turnips.  I enjoyed them.  You can call these pickles, salad too.  It's hard to draw a line between what is a pickle and what is a salad in Japan because salads were introduced to the country much later.  I would call this one a hybrid.

Dried peaches from the Farmers Market.  

Dried apricots will work with this recipe, too.

Very tender baby turnips


Makes 4 servings

4 small baby turnips

1 tsp salt

3 dried peaches or apricots

Vinegar dressing:

2 Tbls water

2 Tbls Rice vinegar

1 Tbls Sugar (or maple sugar)

1/2 Tsp Salt

Peel the turnips and slice them lengthwise in halves. Then slice each half crosswise into 1/8 inch thick pieces.  Rub in the salt until the turnip slices become tender.  Rinse under water.

Set aside.

Slice the peaches or apricots thinly, about 1/4 inch thick pieces.  

In a medium size bowl, mix the vinegar dressing ingredients.  Squeeze out the excess water from the turnips and then add to the bowl.  Also add the sliced peaches.   Leave in the vinegar dressing for at least an hour.  Keeps in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.

My Garden Tomatoes

Posted on August 12, 2009 at 4:38 PM Comments comments (0)

Faithful Fish Cake (Kamaboko)

Posted on June 16, 2009 at 2:17 AM Comments comments (0)

No, this is not an eraser or a piece of conceptual art.  Though there is a lot of thought that goes into making Japanese fishcake - Kamaboko.  The shape alone is a work of art that has withstood the test of time.   

I was hungry when I got back from Portland so I went to the fridge to see what I can snack on. Of course, most of the fridge looks pretty barren.  But in the meat compartment, I find kamaboko (fish cake). Like salami or cheese, I can always count on this fellow. I also found some Persian cucumbers in the vegetable compartment that I picked up from Teheran Market.   With a piece of ginger, which I always have,  I could fix a little Sunomono - vinegared salad. That with a glass of wine will comfort me.

If you wonder what Kamaboko is made out of, it is mostly of cod or sea bass.  The fish paste is placed on a piece of wood and shaped into a half moon and steamed like a sausage . There are many ways to eat kamaboko. Straight like cheese.  You sliced it up.  It's chewy and on the bland side in flavor. If you find kamaboko bland in flavor, you can dip it in soy sauce or even have it with soy sauce and wasabi like sashimi.  Chinese and Vietnamese also make steamed fish sausages but the color, texture and seasonings are quite different.   

Here, Kamaboko is served with sliced cucumbers to become a refreshing salad. It is a simple variation of vinegared Cucumber and Octopus I blogged about on June 7. This dish is really a no-brainer. Kamaboko keeps in the fridge for about a month, so it's good to have a block around.  I said, the cucumbers should be sliced thin, about 1/8-inch but they definitely look thicker in my photograph, don't they.  Doesn't make a good picture so be careful.  Slice them thinner than mine! 




Vinegared Cucumber and Kamaboko





Serves 2-4

  • 1 Japanese cucumber, peeled
  • 4 1/4 inch thick slices of kamaoko
  • 1 tbls ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp salt for the cucumber

  • Vinegar dressing:
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbls water or Dashi broth (see  Basics - for Dashi Broth - optional)
  1. Make the Vinegared drsss
  2. Rub cucumber with 1t sp of salt. Slice thinly, 1/8-inch thick. Soak the salted cucumber pieces in a bowl of water (2 cups) for about 15 minutes. Drain.
  3. Slice the kamaboko pieces into small triangles. First cut the 1/4 inch thick piece vertically in half. Then cut the triangle in half again to make two triangles. You will have 4 triangles out of each kamaboko slice.
  4. Grate the ginger.
  5. Assemble the cucumbers and Kamaboko in a bowl. Pour the dressing and serve with grated ginger.





Octopus as still life

Posted on June 7, 2009 at 11:22 AM Comments comments (0)

Octopus and Cucumber Salad (tako no sunomono)

Posted on June 7, 2009 at 11:17 AM Comments comments (1)


Octopus and ginger.  This combination is wonderfully refreshing.  The photograph I took of the Octopus arms made them look huge but in reality they were rather small.  Just enough to make two of t hese salads. 



  • 1 Japanese cucumber, peeled
  • 1 medium size leg of cooked Octopus
  • 1 tbls ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp salt for the cucumber


Vinegar dressing:

  1. Make the Vinegared dressing
  2. Rub cucumber with 1t sp of salt.  Slice thinly, 1/8-inch thick.  Soak the salted cucumber pieces in a bowl of water  (2 cups) for about 15minutes.  Drain.
  3. Slice the octopus at a diagonal, about 1/8 inch thick.  Put a small incision in each piece to make chewing easy.   
  4. Grate the ginger.
  5. Assemble the cucumbers and octopus in a bowl. Pour the dressing and serve with grated ginger.