Stir-Fried Rice with Okra

This Japanese stir-fry is one of my favorites because I enjoy the sweet smoky rich flavor of chōzume.
Years ago, during a visit to San Francisco we bought a bag of hot steamed buns with an intriguing flavor. The filling included lop cheong (la chang: 臘腸): Chinese sausage.

Ozoni: Happy New Year 2010
In Japan, the new year holiday is called Oshogatsu. Auspicious foods play a role in the festivities. On December 31 people eat toshikoshi soba—long noodles for crossing over to the next year. Traditionally, ozoni ( お雑煮 ) is the first meal of the year. ‘O’ is an honorific, ‘zo’ means “this and that,” and ‘ni’ refers to boiling (nimono). The boiled things include vegetables, and chicken, or seafood. The broth can be made with chicken or pork bones, or dashi, or even a vegetarian with shiitake and konbu. Some people include miso, some add light soy sauce.
No matter what is added, or left out of an ozoni recipe, the one constant thing which makes it ozoni is mochi. The various morsels in the soup are chosen because they symbolize good fortune in the coming year.

Classic Rice with Chestnuts

Castanea dentata! Chestnuts! I’m in love. Like anyone in love I’m greedy, yearning for the exotic darlings from France, Spain, Italy, or China. Oh so far away. My desire led me to wonder if I could find the lovelies near-by. Who would have thought chestnuts grow in Michigan?

Oh, but wonderful: they do grow here. This classic recipe reveals chestnuts at their most enticing.

A Stir-Fry: dry curry!


I kept catching a whiff of curry all morning, and I was afraid that my clothes were perfumed with the scent. I was a bit apprehensive about how strong the smell would be after heating the curry. My co-workers don’t have adventurous tastes, and mild as Japanese curry is, it does smell exotic. L. announced she brought in pumpkin cake for dessert and I realized that I didn’t smell like leftovers; it was the dessert! And no one complained about the stinky lunch. The Japanese spice mix has undertones of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice!
(or maybe they were too polite to complain?)

Currying Flavor: Karei Raisu

chicken-curry-rice_9144Curry on rice is almost a national dish of Japan—many eat it at least once a week. And why not: it’s delicious, easy to make with the widely available instant curry roux, can be made with a variety of ingredients, keeps well (even improves) as leftovers, and is inexpensive. It’s a meal I am fond of.

From The New York Times, 23 October, 2008
japanese-curry_9131“Indian curry came to Japan from England,” explained Hiroko Shimbo, the Japanese chef and cookbook author. “Roux of course came from France.” It was only natural that someone would put them in the same dish, she added, then paused for a moment and laughed. “It’s perfect for Americans,” she said. “It’s a very American impulse to mix.”

a recipe from Hiroko Shimbo

Mabo Tofu Japanese Style
mapo-tofu_8482Chinese food is popular in Japan. The seasonings are adjusted to Japanese tastes: sweeter and less spicy. The Chinese use oyster sauce and lots of garlic to make sauces for fish and meats. The Japanese use only rice and soy products: sake, mirin, soy sauce, and just a hint of garlic.

This recipe is composed from several recipes for Japanese-style mabo tofu. I haven’t tried Chinese mabo tofu, but this version was spicy enough for me! I’d say that mabo tofu is like American chili: everyone has a favorite interpretation—there are no mabo tofu police standing by to determine if your recipe is authentic or not!

Unagi Don Donburi is not quite a recipe, but more a method of serving a bowl of rice with a topping and a sauce. The most common toppings are tendon, katsudon, and oyakodon. Note that “donburi” is frequently shortened to “don.” Gyu Donburi: Sweet Simmered Beef and Onion over Rice Gyuniku, Gobo, Porucini Gohan: Rice with…




Chirashi zushi is simply sushi rice in a bowl, decorated with toppings—chirashi means “to scatter things.” Tokyo-style chirashi zushi takes advantage of the abundant fish and seafood of available because of its closeness to the sea. You can thinly slice sashimi-quality fish such as tuna, flounder, salmon, sea bream, squid, octopus, or scallops. If you order this in a restaurant, you are likely to get a lot of fish because chefs will generally use abnormally-shaped fish that aren’t right for nigiri in the chirashi. A bargain tip for sampling a lot of different kinds of fish!

Stir-Fried Hijiki Rice

hijiki-rice_6007This is another post using hijiki sea vegetable and brown rice. Ms. Shimbo uses a number of Western ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator: anchovy paste, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. She also suggests adding sun-dried tomatoes. The rice could be left-over and refrigerated, or make it fresh in the morning and refrigerate until dinner-time. I loved the combination of flavors in this recipe, and I’m sure you will too! I pan-fried some tilapia, blanched a bit of spinach, and cut some yellow tomatoes to make the meal more hardy.

Cooking Japanese Rice on a Stove

daffodils2_5615However many dishes are served at a meal, the meal is not complete without rice. The most basic meal is rice, miso soup, and pickles. Japanese rice is a short-grain variety, plump and tender, but firm enough to get your teeth into and sticky enough to eat in with chopsticks. Kome is the word for uncooked rice, usually spoken of with the honoricfic “o”—okome. As soon as the rice is cooked, it becomes either meshi, gohan, or raisu.