12 years a Slave - Congratulations Chiwetel

Posted on March 3, 2014 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I didn't realize that the lead actor of 12 Years a Slave was Chiwetel who came to my soba workshop.  This was particularly a fun one.  Congratulations to the beautiful film.  Good job.  Eat more soba.

Onigiri and Miso Soup Workshop at 24th Street Elementary School

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

When it comes to cooking classes, I enjoy working with children the most.  Here is a story on the onigiri and miso soup workshop at 24th Street Elementary School in downtown LA. (here is the link)

Soba workshop with Tortoise Family

Posted on September 9, 2011 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (1)

  Humidity is  67% Good day for making soba!

Keiko and Taku Tsukamoto, the owners of Tortoise in Venice, and their staff have been very supportive of my cooking workshops, which began nearly two years ago.  I used to do them out of my house in Santa Monica but now I do many at  Tortoise' new adjunct gallery/workshop.  It' a beautiful space. 

Gathered here are the Tortoise staff and their families, some who were visiting from Japan.  We decided to make soba on Labor Day.  The store was closed so we had the use of the whole space. 

Soba is meditative.   It's also physical. I call it soba yoga.

Thomas is my workshop assistant.  He looks great with the tenugui wrapped around his head.  He loves food. He brought homemade pickles.  They were very good.

It's hard to believe that nobody had made soba before. Look at Tomoko's knife skills. People make udon noodles by hand but there is a myth that soba is difficult.  They learned that it's not the case.

The ingredients for making soba are just flour and water. Nothing more. You have to pay attention to the humidity factor, and how much water to add. Too much or too little is not good.  

The other trick is to make it quickly and combine the water and flour evenly.  If you take your time, the dough will dry out, and the noodles will fall apart.

Everyone's soba came out  nicely, in all shapes and sizes. Maybe a little on the thicker side, which means, they will take aboutr 4-5 minutes to cook.  We tasted them all.  

Shuko, Sachi and Sumi washing the bowls. This can be an image of a modern day woodblock print.

The head scarfs - tenugui are quite colorfu and attractive.

Tomoko's husband is trying the professional soba knife. No sweat.

Sachi wears her mother's embroidered apron. Her mother wants her to wear more girly clothes but she prefers the funky chick look. 

Someone's soba. Looks pretty good.

We did a pot luck. I made kinpira gobo.  Shuko made eggplant with white paste. Sachi made a plate of crudite with miso dip. Sumi's mother made sushi. I also made hot duck soba.  It was all very good. The best part was that we got to know each other better.   

Edible rosette windows.

And homemade Soba!  It can't get better than this.

Making Soba with Children

Posted on August 5, 2011 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

One thing I enjoy about children is that they have almost no inhibitions about learning something new.  In this situation, making soba.  I had my two nephews and niece stay with me for a few days.  Initially, I was worried that I may not make a good hostess, and these kids would get bored to death. It's not like I have legos and dolls around the house, and my tv doesn't even work.  But children don't necessarily need toys to have fun. They are naturally creative and I soon recalled what it was like to be a young mother again.  I didn't need to keep them busy.  They kept me busy.  For a few days, at least.  

Soba made by Hayato, Mako and Miki

Hayato, the oldest one of the bunch is visiting from Tokyo.  All three love their mother's home cooking and when the visit me,they eat everything I make, so they must like it, too.  They unanimously wanted to eat soba noodles for lunch. Since they know I make my own, they wanted to learn how to make soba - not the dried noodle kind but fresh from scratch.  No sweat.

The three children are ages 8, 10 and 11 so they listen to you for the most part, and follow instructions.  Hayato has already made udon noodles  (here is the link to the blog), and his mother is a pastry chef, so he has some experience dealing with flour and water.  For the other two kids, it was their first noodle making lesson.

WIth kids, it's good to start with smaller portions than adult portions.  I used the regular recipe for beginners soba, and it worked out fine.

Hayato is a natural with flour.  He did a good job of combining the water and flour quickly, scraping the bottom to clean the bowl as he went. 
Miki's first soba!

Miki and Mako participated when the dough was ready to knead.  Even just rolling out the dough is fun for kids. The idea is to flatten the dough evenly and thinly, and as wide as possible. Square is the shape but I told them, it can be round too.  Just be careful not to tear the dough because with soba, it doesn't mend well.

Future Michelin Star Chef!

After flattening the dough to about 1/8 inch, the noodles are cut.  I cut Miki's because the knife, as you can see the soba knife is big and scary looking, even for an adult.  Hayato wanted to cut his own noodles. I trusted Hayato with the knife because he is used to handling a kitchen knife.  Of course, I stood next to him and gave him guidance, and watched him closely.  He did fine.

Mako pays attention.  He is very careful with the knife.

Nice looking noodles.

The best part was eating them. They were absolutely delicious. We had fun. Two days later, we made noodles again!   

Soba Workshop at Tortoise-Venice, CA

Posted on July 13, 2011 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

This is the second summer since I started soba workshops.  I never thought I would be in so deep with soba.  My second refrigerator is full with flour.  I actually get anxious when my soba flour stock begins to run low.  



Student making soba

I used to do the workshops at home but now I am also going out to places likeTortoise in Venice and the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.  Doing these workshops take a lot of work but I love doing them. 

You want your workshop to run smoothly but sometimes you can run into unexpected surprises. Last week, when I did a udon workshop at the museum, a wedding was double booked by mistake and the kitchen was not available. There was a whole crew of chefs and waiters bringing in the food when I got there with my soba making tools.  But it all worked


Soba made by a student

out.  The chef was nice enough to give me one burner on the range to cook the noodles.  I had to conduct most of the workshop in another room, using an electric heating unit to make the stock but we managed.   It was a little bit like camping and the noodles turned out delicious.

Roger is cutting the dough

Torotise is an elegant store on Abbot Kinney in Venice.  I didn't experience any glitches here.  Tortoise added this additional room last spring.  It's a gallery of beautiful objects but they also conduct fun workshops like Japanese coffee making, flower arrangement, woodworking, and soba making by hand.  I am the messy one of the group but I bring my assistant to make sure we don't leave any flour around.  

I love being at Tortoise.  It's hard to walk out without not buying something.  Everything they have is made in Japan.  It makes good sense for me to doing a soba workshop here. I will be doing another one soon.

Kneading the dough

Feasting on the soba 

Soba for beginners recipe can be found here.

Soba Workshop Video

Posted on August 16, 2010 at 4:58 PM Comments comments (1)

;)Our wonderful friends Revis Meeks, Quyen Tran and Mike Tarantino put this video together. 

It was recorded during our first soba workshop in October of 2009.

How time flies!

Breadbar - Pop up soba bar and soba workshop

Posted on August 15, 2010 at 4:39 AM Comments comments (0)

I am in Japan to bring back some fresh buckwheat flour for our upcoming Pop up soba event and soba workshop at Breadbar, West Hollywood.  Here is the link to Breadbar. 

Door to Door- Santa Monica

Posted on May 26, 2010 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (4)

Doing cooking workshops, I learned, takes more than teaching how to cook.  There is so much advance preparation involved, especially since Akila is coming from Japan, and this is the first official workshop we are doing together.  Getting the word out there is the challenge when you are not a famous chef but we got some good publicity. Here and also here. Akila and I also came up with another idea.  How about my neighbors? Would they be interested in making soba, cooking Japanese food? Why not?

We made some flyers. Akila did the graphics. I found some old origami, cut them up into little squares, and used them as stickers. I like the Japanese touch. A flyer needs to stand out to grab people's attention. These are not bad. Akila's tag line, Yes, straight from Tokyo, just for you, makes me laugh.  I spent half the day folding and pasting paper. I was in charge of distributing them, door to door. If any of these people signed up, I will have more friends in my neighborhood.


I figured I could work one block at a time.  I have never been a newspaper boy or a postman or fuller brush salesman or a missionary of  any type, so it took me a little courage to walk up to people's mailboxes at first, especially if you have to open the front gate and step into their property. It's hard work. You feel intrusive.  My dog Ana was with me so I looked like a neighbor walking her dog but still it took a little getting used to. I have lived in this neighborhood for more than 15 years but I have never paid more attention to people's gates and mailboxes, as I did today.  You get a whole new perspective about your neighbors. 

I even started guessing which houses have potential.  When I saw a tree trimmed like a bonsai, for example, I decided this person might be interested in Japanese food. But cooking? Let's hope. I skipped some houses that had weeds growing in front and mean dogs barking. I did three streets today.  I will work on the north side of these streets tomorrow.  I walked a lot today. So did my dog, Ana.  

Soba Pop - The Tasting Table

Posted on May 23, 2010 at 2:29 PM Comments comments (0)

Here is an article that came out from The Tasting Table about our Soba and Homecooking workshops. Check it out.  


Boxes full of Soba Tools - Soba Workshop

Posted on May 22, 2010 at 10:29 AM Comments comments (0)

You really know how far you have taken your passion when you receive 25 boxes worth of soba equipment from the Tsukiji Soba Academy. I have another shipment of flour, sake, soy sauce, bonito flakes, etc. coming. This is all for the sake of  soba and the upcoming soba and homecooking workshop. My house has been rearranged to accomodate everything. The dining room is now a soba studio.  I am not complaining.

Here are the beautiful handmade sieves made by an artisan in Kawagoe                                 who is in his eighties. They arrived safely.   

So did my dried bonito (for making bonito flakes), and handwoven soba dishes.

Fissler (German) pots and Japanese saucepans. 
Two beautiful lackquered finished soba bowl and stainless steel spba bowl

Another sieve and some dishes
Noodle bowls, lots of them

Ana is barking at me.  "What is it with all these sieves and bowls?"

Japanese Grocery Shopping - Los Angeles

Posted on December 16, 2009 at 11:04 AM Comments comments (0)

Labels in English and Labels in Japanese 

It hardly ever rains in California except on the day you plan a Japanese grocery shopping tour. Despite the bad weather, all twelve people who signed up for the tour braved the slippery roads to come shopping with me last Saturday. 

Marukai Mart is a giant Japanese supermarket in Torrance that has everything from housewares to sashimi-grade fish. When I bring people from Japan to this place, they say it's better stocked with Japanese ingredients than many markets in Japan.  Lots of good stuff.  

The Houseware section was our first stop. Everyone got to do a little Chrismas shopping. Agnes bought two nice Japanese  pickle presses for her relatives.  I can't live without a pickle press. Helen, Mel and Sherie were interested in the cast iron Sukiyaki hot pot . I blogged about Sukiyaki just the other day. It's a popular all season nabe. If you don't own a sukiyaki hot pot, any cast iron pot or skillet will do but make sure you have about 3-inches in depth.  The Lodge cast iron skillet is my other sukiyaki pan.

When we got to the produce section, Ian took out his long grocery list. Everyone complimented on his beautiful handwriting.  Ined and Nancy wanted to get the ingredients to make  Kinpira Gobo and Lotus root.  Some produce were clearly marked in English, some were not. This inconsistency can be problematic to shoppers who don't read Japanese or are not familiar with the ingredients. While it was easy to locate the lotus root, the burdock was hiding in the corner, not clearly marked.  One thing that surprised us all was the package of California shitake mushrooms that were labeled product of California, yet they were grown in China. What does that mean? Another mushroom had packaging codes that looked like something NASA would use. I like to get locally grown mushrooms from the farmers market whenever possible but I buy the organic shimeji and enoki mushrooms at the Japanese market where they can always be found fresh.  

We spent a good chunk of our time looking at basic Japanese seasonings  - soysauce, konbu, dried mushrooms and bonito flakes, sweet sake, and miso - ingredients we used at the Hot Pot workshops.  The miso section felt like alien territory to many because very few of the brands were marked in English. Some miso was Dashi Miso, which contains soup stock ingredients - dried konbu and bonito flakes. You don't want that if you are making your own stock. It would be helpful if someone did little notes next to the various types of miso like they do in wine shops.  

We checked all the New Year good luck foods, which symbolize abundance, purity, longevity, etc. - fish cakes, fish eggs, mochi, beans, chestnuts, braised sardines, herring eggs, etc. Many Japanese don't bother making these traditional New Year's dishes any more and buy them instead.  Most contain food colorings and preservatives so I stay away from them.  Why not make one good luck food at home? That should bring plenty of good luck.

The fish section at Marukai is huge. They have everything from sashimi grade tuna, octopus, tai, sea urchin, yellowtail, squid, eel, cod, salmon, etc.  Fish is tricky to buy these days. I love fish but there are certain fish I am not buying at the moment.  Blue fin Tuna being one of them.  It's good to check what is on the Monterey Bay Acquarium green list to be aware of seafood that is good for you and good for the oceans.  Jonathan bought some dried sardines . When I said you can eat them whole from head to tail including the guts, someone in the group turned the other way.  Sardines are good source of calcium.  I usually fry them in a dry frying pan until they get a little toasty. They are chewy and flavorful. Jonathan said the sardines reminded him of the ones he had in Italy. They were deep fried and served wrapped in a newspaper.  Sounded delicious.   

In the rice section, we found a variety of short grain rice both California and Japanese grown. Brown rice, white rice, and some rice that was milled in ways to retain its rice germ - Haiga-mai-type. Everyone wanted to know what type of rice I eat at home.  I fluctuate from brown rice to Haiga mai to white rice but my favorite is brown rice.  Sometimes I add mixed grains to my white rice. 

The final stop was the sake section. Marukai had a good selection of sake and shochu. Revis picked up a bottle of Kurosawa. Again the labels were mostly in Japanese.  What is junmaishu? What is Genshu?  The bottles were placed side by side without enough explanation. We needed a sake steward to help us. 

I learned a lot on this grocery shopping tour.  We have a long ways to go with Japanese foods. The imported food items need better identification and labeling.  The people who work at the Japanese markets could be more informed and helpful.  I am going to do regular shopping tours to help break this barrier. As far as this day was concerned, everyone bought a bagful or two of Japanese groceries. The weather cleared up.  A bunch of us went to get some fresh soba at Otafuku. It was a fun day. For those who missed  my tour, I hope you wil join me next time!

Hot Pot Workshop Part VII - One-on-One

Posted on December 6, 2009 at 12:21 AM Comments comments (0)

  Keith is proud to serve his Chanko nabe.

Holiday season is always a tricky time to plan a workshop. Everybody's busy. Yesterday, I offered a make-up session for those who missed my last two hot pot workshops but Keith was the only one who could make it.  So we did a one-on-one, a new experience for both of us.  Keith was very sore from Aikido practice but he managed fine.  The aching ribs didn't get much in the way of cooking or eating.  

What's great about a one-on-one is that you get to design the class according to the person's needs. Keith was a novice in Japanese cuisine so he wanted to learn the basics. He brought along his pair of shiny new Japanese chef knives, which he carried in a wooden box. He said the knives were an investment.  I could see he was serious about cooking.  It's a good place to start because a dull knife will make a dull cook.  I bought my first good knife from the four hundred year old knifemaker Aritsugu in Tsukiji, Tokyo.  I've had it for more than twenty years, and it is still my favorite kitchen knife.   

One thing some Japanese will say about Nabe is why take a class? It is so easy, you can do it yourself.  It's yes and no. Japanese people can take Nabe for granted because it is the most popular winter dish we make in a single pot.  It appears like any other hearty soup but there are some important steps in nabe making that a cook should know. Nabe is meant to be cooked at the table, and not on the stove.  You can do it on the stove but then, you kind of missed the point - the social occasion for people to participate in building and seasoning the nabe. 

We made two nabes: Chanko nabe and Winter Nabe, and a rice porridge called Ojiya to finish the nabe.  You can go to the previous nabe workshops to access the recipes.

What I talk about first at the nabe workshop is the stock. Good stock leads to good nabe. The chicken stock for the Chanko nabe takes about four to six hours; the Dashi for the Winter nabe takes less than twenty minutes. The chicken stock needs to cook longer to extract the good collagen from the chicken. You can make either stock ahead of time, so there are ways to make life easier for the cook. 

As I walked Keith through all the ingredients and showed him how to prep them, he realized how nabe really differed from making a soup, and why I was being a little fussy about how the uncooked foods should be cut and arranged on the platter. For nabe, you want to start with the freshest seasonal ingredients possible. They should be cut in even pieces to make them cook uniformly. You also want to arrange them on the platter in an appealing way because it is the platter that people see first. If you can win over your eaters before the food is even cooked, you have already accomplished half the task as a nabe maker. 

Since it was only the two of us when we started cooking the nabe ingredients, we used half of the ingredients on the platter. You don't want leftovers in the pot.  Nabe is slow food. Take your time and stretch the evening for good conversation. Replenish the pot with more food and stock when the pot looks low. Between the two of us, we ate most of the Winter Nabe. The cod added a really nice flavor to the Saikyo miso based stock.  Later in the afternoon, we had more people join us, as we were making the Chanko nabe. My artist friends Bob and Kathy, and Sakai came for tastings. We opened a bottle of chilled Onigarashi - a smooth dry sake. It paired nicely with Chanko nabe.  Keith cleared the pot and made a fresh batch of nabe. By the second nabe, he was in control and built the nabe on his own.  The initial one-on-one session turned into a little gathering of friends but that's what happens when you set the hot pot on the table top. It creates a convivial atmostphere. Nabe is a living pot.

Miyagi's famous quote in The Karate Kid:


First learn stand...then learn fly...nature's rule..

Mushroom Nabe - Nabe workshop V1

Posted on November 29, 2009 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

A medley of mushrooms - shimeji, shitake, chanterelles, oysters,
enoki and maitake 

There are some foods that take time, sometime years, for the palate to appreciate. That's how mushrooms have been for me.  As a child, I hated them.  I had this preconceived idea that mushrooms were more medicine than food, and found their appearance, flavor and smell utterly unappealing.  My mother had a lot to do with it.  She cultivated slimy medicinal mushrooms under the kitchen sink. I got goose pimples every time I saw her brew tea with them. My grandmother had smiliar interests in mushrooms. She often visited the Chinese herbs shop in town and I would tag along for the thrill. Dried mushrooms could be found next to the dusty bins of dried rattle snake skins, shark fins and ginseng roots. The medicine man would come up with a cure for whatever ailment my grandmother was complaining about that day. Mushrooms were high on his list of recommendations. How I eventually came to appreciate mushrooms was my encounter with matsutake mushroom in a delicate dobinmushi - soup that my mother made. The scent of matsutake was fragrant and lovely, and it was served in a clay pot like tea. I suddenly felt like a grown up when I had my first sip. Since matsutake is so expensive, all I got was a sliver but that was enough to enjoy its essence.  Now, I enjoy mushrooms of all kinds for their scent, flavor, and medicinal properties. I discovered that many edilble mushrooms contain lots of minerals, fiber and protein - not bad for a fungus.  My mother and grandmother weren't just practicing some follklore medicine after all. At the workshop, we made a mushroom nabe with tofu and salmon.  It was a healthy combination of foods in one pot.

Alexandra smelling the fragrant Maitake

Serves 4-6

You can use a variety of edible mushrooms. I used both Japanese and western mushrooms. Besides mushrooms, you can mix other vegetables like napa cabbage, mizuna, or shungiku.  If you like a totally vegetarian nabe, you can substitute the salmon tofu tsumire for plain tofu.

On the platter are shitake, shimeji, enoki, maitake, chanterelles
and negi. 

The Dashi:
2 tbls sake
1 tbls Mirin, optional

The Vegetables:
1 package of enoki mushrooms, ends removed
1 package of maitake mushrooms, ends removed
1 package of shimeji mushrooms,ends removed 6-8 shitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 Negi or 3 scallions, ends removed

The Tofu Salmon Tsumire: **
8 oz salmon fillets, skin and bones removed
2 pinches of salt (about ¼ teaspoon)
4 oz firm tofu 1.5 tbls potato starch (Katakuriko) or all purpose flour
1 tsp ginger juice
1 tsp sake
1/2 egg
½ negi or 1 scallion, chopped
¼ tsp salt
Dash of pepper

Garnishes and Condiments:
1-2 Yuzu or lemon sliced rind into thin slivers
1/3 cup grated ginger
Optional garnishes: Grated daikon, sansho pepper,
ground roasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions

** For vegans, you can substitute Tofu Salmon Tsumire with medium firm tofu. Cut the tofu into 8 cubes.  Do not over cook the tofu in the nabe.  Just keep it in the dashi long enough to heat it, about five minutes.

Ian and Missy slicing the vegetables.

Make the Dashi broth. Season 6 cups of the broth with sake, mirin, usukuchi soysauce. Reserve the remaining 2 cups of plain broth to replenish the hot pot.

Prep the Tofu Salmon Tsumire: Take the tofu out of the package, and drain water. Wrap drained tofu in a clean cloth to remove excess water. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Place the skinless, boneless salmon on a cutting board. Cut the salmon in small cubes, about ½ inch in size. Take a couple pinches of salt (around ¼ teaspoon or a little more) and sprinkle it all over the cubed salmon. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Mince the salted salmon cubes, using a knife. It’s should have some texture like a steak tartare. In a medium size bowl, combine the tofu, minced salmon, sake, ginger, egg, negi, salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to mix the ingredients.  Crumble the tofu with your hand.  Transfer the tsumire mixture to a clean bowl. Refrigerate. (Note: Don’t make this more than 1 hour ahead of time or it will get watery).

Clean the mushrooms. Separate the shimeji, maitake and enoki mushrooms, so they are easy to eat. The enoki mushrooms can be cut in half. Arrange everything on a platter. Keep each ingredient in separate piles.

Slice Negi or scallions crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange negi on the mushroom platter.

Prepare the Garnishes.

Rebecca mincing the salmon by hand.

Set the table with chopsticks, spoons, and serving bowls for each person. Bring out the condiments and garnishes and set them on the table.

Bring the seasoned dashi, the plain dashi (in a little pitcher or cup) the mushrooms and the negi, and the bowl of tsumire to the table. Turn on the portable burner. Pour the seasoned dashi in the Donabe, Hot pot, and heat the dashi over medium heat.

When the seasoned dashi starts to gently boil, turn heat to low, and add all the mushrooms except for the enoki. Close lid and cook the mushrooms in the simmering broth for 4-5 minutes.

Open the lid. With two spoons or clean wet hands, make tsumire balls, using about 1.5 tbls of the mixture, and drop the balls gently into the broth. Repeat until you have used up half or all of the mixture. Closed lid to continue cooking for a couple of minutes.  (Note: If you plan to serve the nabe in two stages, reserve half for the second round.)  Open the lid and taste the soup. If the soup tastes a little salty after you added the Tsumire, you can adjust the flavor by adding plain dashi. If the soup tastes bland, you can adjust it by adding a ½ teaspoon of soysauce or usukuchi soysauce. For a rounder, sweeter taste, sake and sweet sake can be added sparingly.

Add the enoki and the negi.  Close the lid and continue cooking until the tsumire floats freely, about 3-5 minutes more.  Serve one tsumire and the mushrooms with ½ cup of soup per serving to start with. Garnish with sliced yuzu.

Let everyone help themselves to the condiments and garnishes on the table. Note: If you plan to do a second round, try to clear the first round of ingredients out of the nabe.

Have a bowl ready to scoop out the leftovers, which gets eaten or discarded. One of the things a host does during the nabe dinner is to encourage the guests to have more, so you have no left over’s. You don’t want to mix overcooked ingredients with the fresh ones. The left over broth can be used to make a porridge or used as a broth for noodles.

The mushrooms will shrink as they cook.

When the Tsumire floats freely, they are cooked and the
nabe is ready.  Garnish with yuzu rind.

Ojiya with Egg and Yuzu - Hot Pot Work Shop Part V

Posted on November 21, 2009 at 3:01 PM Comments comments (0)
Ojiya - porridge with egg and yuzu rind

There was some leftover rice from last night, so I made Ojiya for breakfast.  This porridgy rice dish is often served at the end of Nabe but I made it in the place of my breakfast miso soup.  I always have a good appetite in the morning.  Plus there is the sculptor to feed. Sakai always needs something solid to get his engine going. At the start of each week, he usually buys two fresh bagels, one for him and one for me, and another bag of day old bagels to last him for a week; and with it, he has rice, pancakes, soup, porridge, fruit, whatever I put on the table. Making art is physical.

Ojiya resembles a risotto in its consistency but unlike the Italian counterpart, there is no need to stir. Ojiya likes to be left alone in the pot to cook.  At the workshop, we used the rich chicken broth that was left over in the Chanko nabe to season the Ojiya.  For additional flavor, we added eggs and yuzu, and some leftover pork from the nabe.  Chopped scallions would work nicely too.  My morning Ojiya came out a little bit on the soupy side.  If you go to Rosanjin nabe, you will see a much thicker version. 

Fragrant Yuzu 

Serves 4
2 cups cooked medium or short grain rice
4 cups dashi, broth (dried bonito/kombu dashi or Japanese chicken broth) *
2 eggs
Salt or Usukuchi soysauce or regular soysauce to taste
1/4 Yuzu rind, sliced thinly (if you can't find yuzu, try sudachi, lemon or lime)
1/2 scallions, sliced thinly (optional)

Serving suggestions: Pickles go nicely with Ojiya.
How to make Ojiya:
If you are making Ojiya as a "Shime" or finish for the nabe, make sure to clear any leftover food so all you are left is the rich broth.  Taste the broth.  If it tastes bland, add 1/2 teaspoon of soysauce or salt.  You may need a little more if you like a stronger flavor.  

Close the pot and cook the rice in the seasoned broth over medium heat until the rice absorbs most of the broth and taken on the consistency of a thin porridge. This will take about 5 minutes.  

Break an egg or two in a bowl and mix lightly.  Pour the egg into the pot, using a slow circular clockwise motion, so it gets evenly distributed.  Close the pot and turn off the heat.  Let the rice and eggs cook in the remaining heat for a couple of minutes.  The porridge will turn thicker, as it absorbs the broth. 

Now open the pot,  sprinkle some yuzu rind and serve in individual rice bowls.
Pickles go nicely with the rice.

Ojiya ready to be served.   Notice sprinkles of Yuzu rind.

Winter Nabe with Yuzu - Hot Pot Workshop Part IV

Posted on November 20, 2009 at 11:01 AM Comments comments (1)

Of the miso based Nabes, one of my favorite is Winter Nabe seasoned with Saikyo Miso. I made it in the patio this morning for breakfast. I call it winter nabe because the white winter vegetables -  napa cabbage, Japanese turnip, white shimeji mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, negi, abura-age and tofu inspire a snowy landscape. The greens in this nabe don't really belong in this nabe but my body wanted some this morning so I threw mizuna in the pot at the end. It's never too cold to eat outdoors in Los Angeles. I put on an extra sweatshirt, and I am fine because the nabe will warm me up. I also know I can count on the sun.  Before noon, I will probably be in a t-shirt. This nabe was also a hit at the Nabe workshop.

Outdoor Nabe - the vegetables, tofu and fish are ready to
be cooked in the pot.


Serves 4 -6
The Ingredients:
½ Napa Cabbage, leaves washed,
1 negi
1 package enoki mushrooms, ends removed
1 tofu, soft type (kinogoshi)
1/2 bunch Mizuna or Shungiku or Spinach (optional)
4 cod fillets, about 1 lbs (with skin and bones - optional)
2 abura-ages (deep fried tofu poutches)

- continue below.

Saikyo Miso (white miso) -- Dissolve the paste with some
broth before you put it into the Nabe. A mortar and pestle 
works well.

The Dashi - Basic Broth:
6 cups Dashi (see recipe attached)
1—2 Yuzu rind, sliced thinly

Other recommended garnishes and condiments:
Ground roasted sesame seeds

Winter vegetables - napa cabbage, daikon radish, Japanese
Make the dashi and season 6 cups with usukuchi soysauce. Take a couple cups of the liquid and use it to dissolve the miso. Pour the miso liquid into the dashi. Set aside.

Slice each cod fillets crosswise, at an angle, about 1.5 inches wide.

Cut Napa cabbage into bite size pieces.

Slice Negi at an angle, about 2 inches long.

Slice turnip thinly, about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut tofu into 8 squares. Arrange everything on a platter.

Keep each ingredient in its own pile.

Sarah, Nicole and Rebecca at the Hot pot workshop

Set the table with chopsticks, spoons, and serving bowls for each person.
Bring out the condiments and garnishes and set it on the table. Bring the seasoned dashi, the plain dashi (in a little pitcher or cup) the vegetables, tofu and the fish platter.

Turn on the portable burner. Pour the seasoned dashi in the Donabe, Hot pot, and heat the dashi over medium heat.

When the seasoned dashi starts to gently boil, turn heat to low, and add the turnips first and the white part of the napa cabbage.  Cover the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Don't over cook the tofu and enoki mushrooms.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the tofu and enoki mushrooms.  Cover the pot and cook for another 4- 5 minutes over simmering heat.

Add the negi, tofu and enoki mushrooms. Cover the pot and simmer for for a couple of minutes. Add the Mizuna and cook briefly for a minute.  Now open the donabe and serve the nabe in individual bowls with the soup. Since the fish contain bones, warn people to be careful.

Garnish with sliced yuzu.

Let everyone help themselves to the condiments and garnishes on the table.

Note: If you plan to do a second round, try to clear the first round of ingredients out of the nabe. Have a bowl ready to scoop out the leftovers, which gets eaten or discarded. One of the things a host does during the nabe dinner is to encourage the guests to have more, so you have no leftovers. You don’t want to mix overcooked ingredients with the fresh ones. The leftover broth can be used to make a porridge.

Tofu Nabe - Yudofu - Hot Pot Workshop Part II

Posted on November 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

My grandmother's donabe

Nabe or Nabe-mono means "food cooked in a pot". It is a soupy Japanese dish eaten especially during the cold weather.  Even though my apple tree thinks spring is already here and is giving off blooms,  I think we are about to enter winter.  So it's perfect nabe season, and it couldn't not have been more timely to do the two Japanese hot pot Nabe workshops last weekend. To those who participated, I hope you enjoyed the workshop, and will incorporate nabe into your repetoire of dishes.  A few people could not make it for baby matters and other emergencies.  One couple couldn't find my house. They were driving up and down the alley way looking for the house but gave up and went to work instead (on a Sunday!)  I am so sorry that happened.  I will do a make up class after Thanksgiving.  

  November 14 Workshop

Thanks to Tortoise for their support, especially Keiko Shinomoto for sending me e-mails from Tokyo to make sure I had everything I needed for the workshop. To Naoko Moore for helping and sharing her knowledge in hot pot cooking; Marissa Roth for taking the beautiful pictures; and Jason Moore for volunteering in the kitchen. What a team!


Nabe begins with a good dashi.  Dried Kombu
seaweed hydrating in water.

I began the Nabe workshop by telling the story of my grandmother's clay pot -donabe (see above picture).  At about age fifty three (roughly my age), my grandmother became a widow and lived mostly alone in Kamakura.  Many of her one-person meals were cooked in this small donabe.  The underside of her donabe is pitch black from the years of use.  I found her old donabe when I went to visit her house after she had passed away at the age of 102. The donabe was cracked in places, and ready to be put into the trash bin. I rescued the donabe, brought it back to the U.S., cooked some porridge in it to seal the cracks. It was at this hot pot work shop that I used my grandmother's restored donabe for the first time to demonstrate the tofu nabe - Yudofu. It was one of her favorite dishes. She would make yudofu her entire meal but if I was visiting her, the nabe was served as an appetizer, and she would get sashimi from the fishmonger.  I felt Grandmother's spirit near me during the workshop.

Yudofu - I love the simplicity of this tofu nabe.  Kyoto is its birthplace. Tofu is the main ingredient of this nabe and dried kombu seaweed is used to make the broth, dashi.  Other ingredients such as daikon, napa cabbage can join the pot, but the one I demonstrated was just tofu.  I like to make Yudofu with artisinal tofu, which can be found in a few places in Los Angeles. My favorite one is  Meiji Tofu, which you can find at Granada Market on Sawtelle in West Los Angeles.  Get their Silken tofu.  The basic broth is made with Kombu seaweed, which is full of umami - savoriness and thus, makes a good nabe starter.  We usually don't eat the kombu in the Yudofu but you can slice it up later and munch on it.  It's good fiber. Have it with a little miso.  Enjoy the heated tofu with the condiments.  

Set a piece of dried Konbu into the pot of water. Let stand for
30 minutes to extract the Kombu's umami, savory flavor.

Gently put the tofu on top of the kombu.

Serve the heated tofu with grated ginger, sliced scallions,  dried bonito flakes and soysauce.

Serves 4 as an appetizer 

1 piece of Kombu seaweed, about 6 inches long
6 -8  cups water 
2 packages of silken tofu, preferrably artisinal like Meiji Tofu
6 oz daikon radish, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, about 2.5 inches long (optional)

Daikon makes a nice match with Tofu.

1 negi or 3 scallions, sliced thinly
Dried bonito flakes (fine shavings)
Shichimi pepper

From top: hydrated kombu seaweed, dried bonito flakes (fine shavings) Grated ginger, soysauce and dried kombu seaweed.   They brighten and give flavor to the bland tofu.


Slice the negi or scallions thinly and soak them in water for about 10 minutes. Drain water and wring lightly.  Serve in a bowl.  

Put the dried kombu seaweed and the soaking water in the pot, and let the Kombu hydrate for 30 minutes.

Cut the tofu into 8 squares.  Serve the tofu on a plate.

Peel the daikon radish and cut it into 2.5 inch long matchsticks.  Serve the daikon matchsticks on a plate.

Bring the tofu and daikon matchsticks to the table.  

Bring the pot  to the table and set it on the portable burner.  Turn on the heat and boil over medium heat. Bring heat down to low, uncover the pot, and gently put the tofu and daikon matchsticks into the pot. Leave it in until the tofu is warmed through, between 4-5 minutes.  Do not over cook the tofu.

Scoop out the heated tofu and daikon radish matchsticks, and serve in individuall bowls with the condiments of your choice: dried bonito flakes, sliced scallions, shichimi pepper, negi and soysauce.

Table top cooking: Use only half the amount of tofu and daikon radishes or the amount that will be eaten in one round. Reserve the other half for the second round.  Every person should have a spoon to scoop out the tofu.

Handmade Soba Noodles - Tokyo Style Teuchi Soba

Posted on November 17, 2009 at 2:39 AM Comments comments (1)



Akila Inouye

I am posting the handmade soba noodle recipe from Akila Inouye's Soba

Workshop. The Soba dipping sauce recipe is also available (here is the link). 

Please also check out the Los Angeles Times Food Section's feature stories on Soba making, which includes step by step photosgraphs, recipes for making Soba, walnut and regular dipping sauces, and Soba side dishes. (Here is the link)

HOW TO MAKE SOBA NOODLES BY HAND (using a plastic bag)

2 servings

The basic measurement for the flour was provided in grams.

If you plan to use more or less flour, remember to keep the 8:2 ratio of

buckwheat flour to all purpose flour, and the

water at 40% of the total weight of the two flours. 

5.5 oz stone milled buckwheat flour (160 grams) (Cold Mountain brand or Japanese soba flour)

1.3 oz all purpose flour (40 grams)

2.8 oz (or 40% of clear cold water to total weight of buckwheat flour and all purpose flour (80 grams)

Uchiko flour for dusting (if you can't find Uchiko,use Cornstarch)

1 plastic bag (small trash bag)


Weigh the buckwheat flour and all purpose flour. Set aside 1 % of water (about 1/2 tsp of water) for kneading. Put the two flours and rest of the water in the plastic bag.  Using both hands, lump together the flour mixture through the plastic bag.

Now take the dough out of the plastic bag, and put it on a cutting board or kneading sheet.  

Shape the dough into a disc.  Make holes on top of the dough with your thumbs.  Pour the reserved water (1/2 teaspoon)  into the holes, and knead the dough untl the water is incorporated completely.  Apply pressure to the dough with your palm, and shape the dough into a ball.

Sprinkle uchiko on the kneading sheet/board. Place the ball on the sheet/board, and sprinkle uchiko on top.  Using your palm, flatten the ball into a disc, about 15mm or 1/2 inches thick.

With a rolling pin, continue flattening the dough in diagonal directions until the disc is 8mm or 1/18 inch thick, and rectangle in shape.  Use Uchiko sparingly while flattening the dough.

Fold the dough in four layers. Use "generous" amounts of uchiko in between the layers. Slice the dough into noodles, about 1.3mm wide.


In a large pot, boil about 2 gallons or more water over high heat.

Gently drop the soba noodles into the boiling water. The water should be boiling vigorously to prevent the soba noodles from sticking to each other.  Try not to use chopsticks or tools to separate the noodles while cooking. 

Cover the pot and bring the water to a full, rolling boil again. The noodles will

take about 90 seconds to cook. If the soba noodles are thinner or thicker,

you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Scoop out the noodles with a colander or strainer, and immediately soak the noodles in a large bowl of cold water.  

Prepare another bowl of ice water with ice cubes.  Transfer the noodles into the ice cold water for a second to give the noodles a final shock treatment.  Drain the noodles.

Serve the noodles on a dish ( zaru - Japanese style bamboo colnader or seiro -Japanese steaming mat), with the dipping sauce and Yakumi flavors - sliced negi (Tokyo style green onions),  grated daikon, and shichimi pepper.


Note: Reserve some of the cooking liquid that is left in the pot. You can use it for cooking more noodles, and as "sobayu" - dipping sauce thinner.

Soba Work Shop - 2009

Posted on October 30, 2009 at 7:24 PM Comments comments (5)

Akila Inouye and his son Yusuke left for Tokyo this morning.  We were up packing and celebrating the completion of our four workshops till 2am last night. Thanks to everyone who participated in the workshop.  I am planning to do another workshop in April with Akila, so please mark your calendars.  I will keep you all posted. Here is the link to Akila Inouye's Tsukiji Soba Academy. If you are planning a trip to Tokyo, do visit the Academy.  

On a personal note, this was the first soba workshop I produced out of my house. I learned a lot about what it takes to organize one; it's a little bit like producing films, only you get covered in buckwheat flour. What am I getting myself into...? was the question that kept popping up in my head, as the workshop grew from one to two, two to three, and three to four.  I wasn't even sure we could even fill up one workshop.  But we managed to pull them all off.  We sold out all four!  Thank you!

Thanks to my friends Keiko and Taku Shinomoto of Tortoise for all their support. Keiko took most of these photos. 

Many people say that soba is a hard craft to learn but Akila made it so accessible

and fun for all of us. I enjoyed making soba by hand, ate lots of it, and still want more. That's the beauty of soba. One nevers seems to tire of it. The best part of doing the workshop at home was making new friends, and hanging out with my dear old ones in my kitchen.  

Oh, and I must not forget to thank Yusuke, Akila's son. This was his first visit to the U.S. but instead of sightseeing, he spent most of his time grating daikon radish in my kitchen, and doing the dishes. Next time he comes to LA, I will take him to Amoeba and some other cool places.


For those of you that ordered Uchiko, the cost is $4 for 200grams.  This is the amount you will need for 1000 grams of buckwheat / wheat flour.  I will follow up with you by e mail.

I have extra Uchiko flour, premium stone milled fresh buckwheat flour from Japan and Canada so if you would like to buy some, please give me a call.

Please go tot he photo gallery to view more pictures from the workshop. Please feel free to post your photos.  In the meantime, here is the recipe for the Dipping Broth. Please call me or e mail me if you have any questions. The recipe for the Hongaeshi (dipping sauce base) serves sixty but this keeps for a month in a cool place and can be adjusted to suit your needs. Same with the Morizuyu (dipping sauce).

During this soba tour, Akila did a soba demonstration and interview for the Los Angeles Times Food Section.  I also contributed a soba story on soba side dishes. These stories and recipes are scheduled to appear in the Times in December.

Finally, please posts comments and suggestions about the workshop.




Please also check out the Los Angeles Times feature story on Akila Inouye, Making soba at home, with step by step photographs, recipes for dipping sauces and side dishes. (Here is the link) 

How to make Morizuyu (Dipping sauce for cold soba noodles)


[Summary] by Akila Inouye


To make morizuyu, prepare the Hongaeshi (dipping sauce base) first.

Add the hongaeshi to dashi stock to finalize it.

Hongaeshi will keep for a month in a cool and dry place, or in the fridge.

The dashi should be prepared each time.


[How to prepare Hon-gaeshi  (Dipping sauce base)


60 servings

1.0L Soy sauce (Koikuchi/regular type)

200ml Hon Mirin (Must use a real thing made from rice, rice sprit and rice malt)

133g Sugar (Reccommend Japanese white coarse sugar but generic sugar

in US should be okay)



Put the sugar and mirin into a pot.

Dissolve the sugar completely with medium heat.

Add the soy sauce and heat until the temperature reaches 70 degrees (centigrade).

Cover the pot with a clean cloth or other material instead of hard lid.

Set aside the pot until it is no longer steaming

and the liquid cools to room temperature. 

Store the liquid in a cool and dry place, or refrigerate.

You can keep the base for a couple of months.


[How to finish Morizuyu]


17 servings


1.2 L Clear water (soft type should be great)

70 g Sliced bonito

350 ml Hongaeshi

Dash of Mirin (Optional)

Dash of Sake (Optional)

Boil the water for making the dashi.

Put dried bonito flakes into the boiling hot water.

Lower heat and continue cooking for a minute.

Strain the dashi liquid with kitchen paper.

(The dashi liquid's amount comes to about 1,000 ml because  

10 percent of the water will evaporate during the cooking, and the dried bonito will

absorb another 10 percent).

Add the hongaeshi to the dashi and then heat it to 70 degrees (centigrade).

Add dash of Mirin and Sake, but this is optional.

Cool down the pot with a plenty of ice.

Serve 80 ml for each serving.

The Morizuyu will keep in a refrdgerator for 3 days.

Dipping Sauce for Soba - Soba Workshop

Posted on April 30, 2009 at 3:39 PM Comments comments (4)
Here is the dipping sauce recipe that Akila Inouye from the Tsukiji Soba Academy
provided to us for our 2009 Soba Workshop, which was held in Santa Monica, California.


How to make Morizuyu (Dipping sauce for cold soba noodles)


[Summary] by Akila Inouye


To make morizuyu, prepare the Hongaeshi (dipping sauce base) first.

Add the hongaeshi to dashi stock to finalize it.

Hongaeshi will keep for a month in a cool and dry place

but dashi should be prepared each time.



[How to prepare Hon-gaeshi  (Dipping sauce base)


60 servings


1.0L Soy sauce (Koikuchi/regular type)

200ml Hon Mirin (Must use a real thing made from rice, rice sprit and rice malt)

133g Sugar (Reccommend Japanese white coarse sugar but generic granulated sugar

in US should be okay)


Put the sugar and mirin in a pot.

Dissolve the sugar completely with medium heat.

Add the soy sauce and heat until 70 degrees (centigrade).

Cover the pot with a clean cloth or other material instead of using the hard lid.

Set aside the pot until the viporated steam will completely escaped

and the liquid cools to room temperature.

Store the liquid in a cool and dry place.

You can keep it for a month.



[How to finish Morizuyu]


17 servings


1200 ml Clear water (soft type should be great)

70 g Dried Bonito flakes (Katsuobushi)

350 ml Hongaeshi

Dash of Mirin (Optional)

Dash of Sake (Optional)



Boil the water for making dashi.

Put bonito flakes into the boiling hot water.

Lower heat to a simmer and cook the dashi liquid for a minute.

Strain the dashi liquid with kitchen paper into another pot.

(The dashi liquid comes to about 1,000 ml;

10 percent of the water is evaporated during cooking, and the dried bonito will

absorb another 10 percent).

Add the Hongaeshi to the dashi.  Heat the liquid to 70 degrees (centigrade).

Add a dash of Mirin and Sake ( optional).

Cool down the pot with plenty of ice. To do this, have a big bowl of ice water with ice.

Rest the pot containing the dipping sauce on top to cool down.

Serve 80 ml for each serving.

This Morizuyu will keep in the refrdgerator for 3 days.