Dengaku: Miso Grilling Sauce

dengaku-sauce_7457The characters of the word “dengaku” (田楽) mean rice paddy plus harmony or music or play.

In medieval Japan, public entertainments called dengaku were part of agricultural festivals such as the during new year celebrations or during the rice planting season. The dancers or acrobats were called dengaku hoshi who cavorted on single short stilts. During the festivities, small cakes of tofu were grilled, with miso, on short flat skewers shaped somewhat like the stilts. The tofu dish took its name from the stilts.

Classic Salt Grilled Iwashi

iwashi_7256The only fish I ever learned to clean very well were the smelt that we dipped in the spring—buckets full of small shiny fish. We did this back in the garden with the hose running cold water. Cut off the head, slit the belly and scrape the guts out with your thumb. Spring in Northern Michigan is cold, so we worked fast before our fingers would freeze! Appearance was not the goal of this activity; dipped in egg and seasoned cornmeal and flour, fried in butter, these little fishys were a pleasure to eat.




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!

Foiru-yaki: Mixed Grill in Foil

mixed-grill_6594I chose this recipe in order to “break-in” my birthday gift hibachi. It’s made of cast iron, and though I think it has been pre-seasoned, I wanted to start with something that would not stick and burn on the grate. As it turned out, it was wet and rainy at dinner time, so I used my oven. Never mind, though: this is a really delicious meal no matter the heat source. It’s a simple combination of fish, shrimp, chicken, and mushrooms cooked with a bit of lemon and sake. The flavors marry and become an incredible fusion greater than the sum of its parts.

Sesame Noodles: an old favorite

sesame-chuka-soba_6501This is a recipe I posted almost a year ago, but it’s one that deserves a second look. It is a delicious version of the very popular “sesame noodles” found in many U.S. restaurants and salad bars inside “fancy” food stores, on many food blogs, and from several different cultures. This version is light and spicy—a full meal with vegetables and protein of your choice.

Steamed Ginger-Flavored Snapper

steamed-snapper_6348There is a tale, or fable, that many know, about cutting a ham in half. One variation with a child asking her mom why she cuts the holiday ham in half before putting it into the oven. She asks mom, who says grandma did it that way, and grandma says her mother did it that way, and finally great-grandma who explains that when she was first married she didn’t have a pan large enough to fit a whole ham. And she’d always thought that it dried out the ham.

Tebasaki Take 2

tebasaki_6097Yakitori bars are found all over Japan. Chicken and other foods on skewers are served with drinks. One popular version is tebasaki: chicken wings on skewers. The section of the wing between the tip and the drummette has two bones, a fatty skin, and a little meat. The larger bone might correspond to the radius bone in your forearm (your thumb side), and the smaller to the ulna. This is the section used in this recipe, with a bit of surgery not for the faint-hearted. I converted the pictures above after Mr. Tess commented that I shouldn’t put those gory pictures up on my blog!

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.

Ebi-shinjo: Shrimp Dumplings




Success!!! I posted about ebi-shijo (shrimp quenelles) quite a while ago, but I was very disappointed in the way they turned out. A suggested that she had eaten ebi-shinjo that were much simpler, so I approached the re-make of this recipe with that in mind.
comment on that postshinjo_5946I think the biggest problem with the original recipe is that there is just too much liquid.
I didn’t care for the chewy texture of the mushrooms, so I left them out.
I wanted smaller dumplings, so I didn’t boil them wrapped in parchment, nor did I try to deep-fry them. I think these dumplings would have held together in the hot oil, and I may try that some other time; they would make a nice appetizer! Shizuo Tsuji, in his book :Practical Japanese Cooking, has a recipe for crab balls in a clear soup (with a variation for shrimp) which looks interesting—his technique uses plastic wrap to keep the (large) dumplings smooth while cooking in the boiling water.
The shiso flavoring was overwhelming in the original recipe, so I used some lovely garlic chives from my garden just for color.