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Are you looking for more vegetables to add to your diet? Forget about processed vegetable protein products or other similar items. To me they are just another form of processed foods. Today most people are getting rid of them from their diet. Why don’t we enjoy vegetables as wholesome ingredients, just as they are?
Starting two weeks ago I began to notice at the Farmer’s Market here in Union Square that my favorite winter vegetable, kohlrabi is back. To tell the truth I did not know kohlrabi until I moved to New York 19 years ago, and did not even try it until quite recently. I soon found that Kohlrabi is fantastic in salads, Japanese simmered dishes and kinpira preparation. I am truly enjoying it quite often..
Kinpira is the name of a preparation in which ingredients are julienned or sliced thin, stir-fried in a little oil and flavored with shoyu (soy sauce), sugar and togarashi-chile (red chile) pepper flakes. Since the Edo Period (1600-1868), the traditional vegetable used in kinpira is burdock. The crunchy texture of burdock shines in this preparation. Lotus root, carrot and other vegetable which preserve crunchiness during cooking also fit this preparation. And kohlrabi is a perfect match as well.
When I make Kohlrabi Kinpira I do not add sugar, mirin, maple syrup or other sweetener. The cooking process brings out kohlrabi’s its natural sweetness in this dish. Try this simple and delightful dish.
About 8 ½ ounce peeled and thinly sliced kohlrabi
kohlarbi leaves, julienned
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon shoyu (choose good quality soy sauce)
Shichimi togarashi (seven spices chile powder)
Heat the oil in the wok. Add the kohlarbi and salt, and cook, turning over with a spatula from time to time, for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the leaves and stir several times. Add the shoyu and cook until shoyu is evenly distributed. Add the shichimi togarashi and make several large stirs. The dish tastes better half an hour after cooking or the next day.
Pine needles are not just for use as a cooking material.
The Japanese black pine tree has a very long life span; around several hundred years. Because of this the Japanese black pine tree is a symbol of longevity in Japan. Soon the Japanese people are going to decorate the entrance of their homes with pine tree boughs and pine needles as part of the preparation for welcoming the God of the New Year. It is believed that the God of the New Year arrives at each house toward the end of the year and remains in the pine tree boughs and pine needles while waiting to become the official God of the New Year, emerging from the pine needles and boughs on New Year’s Day.
This was until recently the limit of my knowledge of pine trees and pine needles, until I found the Japanese website which shows how to make a pine needle health-drink. Pine needles surely have many health benefits that they inherit form their old tree hosts. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241895/
This Japanese link shows how to make the drink. https://sutekini-ikiru-cafe.jimdo.com/%E3%83%A9%E3%82%A4%E3%83%96%E3%83%A9%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC/%E6%83%85%E5%A0%B1%E3%83%A9%E3%82%A4%E3%83%96%E3%83%A9%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC/%E6%9D%BE%E8%91%89%E3%82%B8%E3%83%A5%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B9/
The recipe advice says you need about 30 very fresh pine needles (not sprayed with chemicals!) per serving. First, rinse them well under running tap water. Transfer the rinsed needles to a blender along with about ½ cup water and process for 30 seconds. Pour the pine needle juice through a strainer, discarding the pine needle mash. Drink it as it is or add it to carbonated water, yogurt, or anything you might think is right.
My grandma didn’t do this. My mother didn’t do this. I am not doing this. Just some pine needle information on what supposedly health-conscious people are doing in Japan. Does it work? Try it and see how you feel. Let me know the results.
After the harvest when kabocha is stored properly it remains fresh and delicious for the next 2 to 4 months. In order to survive this long kabocha is protected by a hard, green skin. Attacking it raw with a dull knife can cause you injury. The best way to soften it is to heat it in the oven. First rinse the kabocha thoroughly under tap water and clean with a hard scrub brush. The attractive green skin is quite edible so it should be clean. The skin becomes tender when it is cooked unlike the other squash varieties.
Turn the oven to 400°F. Wrap the kabocha in aluminum foil and cook it whole for about 40-50 minutes. Remove the kabocha from the oven. After cooling it a while carve out and remove the little remaining stem part in the center on top of the squash. Then, cut the kabocha into evenly into halves with a sharp knife. Remove the seeds with a spoon. It is now ready for you to make several different dishes.
Quick to enjoy: Cut the kabocha into 1-inch thick wedges. Cook them in an olive oil-coated skillet with sprinkles of sea salt until the bottom of each piece is lightly golden. Turn it over and cook the other side is golden. The flesh is creamy-tender and salt brings the sweetness of Kabocha to the highest point. You may bake it in the oven, if you wish.
For a kabocha soup: Remove the skin so that the soup is an attractive orange color; cut up the flesh into chunks and cook them with cut up onion or leek in water or kelp stock until they are tender; Process them with the cooking liquid in a blender until smooth; Season the soup with sea salt or mellow-sweet miso. You can find an excellent recipe in Hiroko’s American Kitchen .
For simmering kabocha: Cut up kabocha into bite sized pieces; in an lightly oiled cooking pot brown the Kabocha pieces on every side; add dashi stock or vegetable stock, and cook the pieces until tender. Flavor the Kabocha with shoyu. If you need additional sweetness add mirin or maple syrup. Kabocha has natural sweetness, so you can usually omit the sweetener. If you have some sesame oil in your pantry, add a splash of it. You will find this recipe in The Japanese Kitchen.
Did you enjoy carving a large pumpkin for your Halloween party? Now it is time to venture into cooking it, but not the same orange decorative pumpkin. I recommend you select the smaller, pumpkin-shaped, green kabocha squash.
Kabocha squash sounds to many ears that it originated in Japan. ‘Kabocha’, is now a genuine Japanese word. But kabocha came to Japan from South America by way of the Portuguese who transported it to Japan. How it was named might have come from a language misunderstanding between the Japanese and the Portuguese. It seems that the Portuguese who brought the kabocha to Japan brought it by way of Kampuchea, present-day Cambodia, during the sixteenth century.
It is said that when the Japanese asked what this vegetable was, the Portuguese misunderstood, thinking the Japanese were asking, “Where is the vegetable from?” They replied “Kampuchea”, which to the Japanese sounded like ‘kabo-cha’ – or so the story goes.
Kabocha is harvested from the middle of summer in the autumn and when they are stored properly they will last until the end of the year. There is a reason why we should cook and eat more kabocha from this time through winter. Kabocha offers important nutrients that other winter vegetables lack. Kabocha is rich in carotene and vitamins E and C. Good amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B1 and B2 are also present.
There is an old traditional Japanese saying; “Eat Kabocha on Toji, the winter solstice (this year it is December 22nd). This prevents you from catching a cold during the cold winter time.” Well, I can tell you that this magic does not seem to work all the time, but it is worth a try.
On my next blog I will show you how to enjoy kabocha. You are going to cook it!
KYUSHU WITH HIROKO
Here is a piece of important hottest news from Hiroko’s Kitchen about Hiroko’s Japan Culinary & Cultural Tour in 2018.
Hiroko will take you to the third largest island of Japan, Kyushu in November of 2018. Hiroko will be conducting a research trip to Japan to scout all aspects of the tour beginning on December 13th, 2017 in Japan. During this trip follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Hiroko’s blog. Everyplace I go, every experience I enjoy, every bit of history I explore, all the people whom I meet and every meal, snacks, sake, shochu and wine I enjoy will be yours when you join me next November, 2018. The final dates of the tour will be announced very soon. Block your November right now!
KYUSHU WITH HIROKO 2018: THE LAND OF ONSEN HOT SPRINGS, VOLCANIC MOUNTAINS AND SPECTACULAR GORGES, THE UNIQUE FOREIGN-INFLUENCED CUISINE OF KYUSHU, KATSUOBUSHI (dried skipjack tuna) PRODUCTION, HOT SAND BATHS, SHOCHU MANUFACTURING, WORLD-REKNOWNED POTTERY, THE TANGELED HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN, THE 250-YEAR DUTCH SETTLEMENT AT THE DEJIMA TRADING POST, ATOMIC BOMB MUSEUM IN NAGASAKI and MUCH MORE
Recent eruption of active volcano mountains, Aso and Sakuragima, with a huge number of vents, releasing earth’s heat into so many famous onsen hot spring towns, such as Beppu; skipjack tuna factories in Makurazaki where the caught fish is processed into fine quality katsuobushi – an indispensable ingredient in Japanese cooking; outdoor geothermal sand bath; fun, traditional-boat ride in a river rapids; visit to a shochu (Japanese distilled alcohol) distillery that produces alcohol from local sweet potatoes; the “very spot” where the creation of Japan took place (oh, by the way, it is mythology); history of Christian penetration into Japan – a short period of prosperity, followed by horrible persecution and eventual revival; visit to a seminary and churches in Amakusa and Nagasaki; Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum, Dejima island – the detached island where the Dutch were allowed to live and engage in trade with Japan for 250 years while the country was closed to all other foreigners; history of fine porcelain and ceramic art technologies brought to Japan by Korean potters; pleasant hiking and walking; Chinese cooking class; famous local wagyu beef; finest quality local pork and chicken incorporated into local cuisine; experience Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch influenced unique Kyushu cuisine. All of these experiences and more will be features of the tour. .
Kyushu is Japan’s third largest island, situated in the southwest of the main island of Honshu. It covers 326,782 square kilometers (14,202 square miles). There are 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Ohita, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Fukuoka and Okinawa. The population is 12.9 million. Fukuoka City is 7th largest in Japan.
We will meet in Beppu, Oita prefecture. A special private coach will take us to our daily destinations. In total the tour is comprised of 12-3 days in Japan. For more than half of our tour we stay at the same hotel for two days to offer you a relaxed journey with time for local exploration. All of the hotels chosen are first class quality and each has its own unique character.
After my research tour I will disclose the final itinerary to you at the beginning of New Year. Please sign up for Kyushu with Hiroko 2018 early to reserve your space.
Hope you have a fine Thanksgiving.
Kieth Farm’s Japanese Hakurei turnips sold by the farm itself at the Union Square Green Market in New York City are the very best quality turnips I know of. The flesh is smooth, juicy and is never rough or stringy. I buy one or two bunches (usually 5 medium bulbs with leaves in a bunch) every week for a traditional simmering dish and as part of a quick salad.
I cook turnips in a traditional way that will be of interest to you. By cooking the turnips in this way we can taste the ‘true’ flavor of the turnips.
Peel the bulbs removing the thick skin, reserving the skin for Kinpira dish (see my previous blog). When peeling, make the bulb into a hexagonal shape. Then cut each turnip into quarter wedges lengthwise. The wedges will have attractive surfaces because of the previous hexagonal preparation. Place the turnips and water in a pot and bring it to a simmer. Cook the turnips for about 4 minutes or until it is firm-tender. With a slotted spoon transfer the cooked turnips to an ice cold water bath to stop cooking. When the pieces are cold rinse them in the new water to remove any harshness. Prepare the turnips marinating liquid – a mixture of dashi, usukuchi shoyu (light color shoyu) and sea salt. Transfer the cooled and rinsed turnip to a new pot of simmering water to warm them up. Gently remove the turnip from the water, drain and add it to the prepared flavored dashi stock.
QUESTION for you: Why do we plunge the cooled turnips in simmering water to warm them before adding them in the heated flavored dashi? Why don’t we simply add the cold, rinsed turnips directly to the simmering flavored dashi stock?
Send your answer to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by December 4th. The first person who gave me the correct answer will receive a small gift from Hiroko’s Kitchen. I will announce it in the future blog.
I foraged for pine needles in upstate New York two weeks ago to try a delightful, traditional autumn dish: Matsuba-yaki. Matsuba-yaki is a dish in which seafood and/or mushrooms and vegetables such as Matsutake mushrooms are placed on fresh pine needles and cooked together in a stove-top pot or in the oven.
It is a fundamental principle that Japanese cuisine respects and honors the seasonal changes in nature. Chefs and home cooks alike try to bridge nature and dining room experiences by numerous methods. In addition to the use of seasonal ingredients, chefs utilize materials from nature such as leaves, wood, and pine needles as part of the cooking tools during dish preparation. These natural objects along with edible flowers are also utilized to garnish the prepared dishes and/or to decorate the dining room.
My Matsuba-yaki dish ingredients consist of locally-caught tile fish from the Blue Moon fisherman who sells exclusively at the Green Markets of New York City, gingko nuts foraged from trees on city streets near my home in New York City, and kabocha squash, shiitake mushrooms and carrots all from local farms within a 250 mile radius of New York City. Individually prepped items including the pine needles are wrapped together in parchment paper and baked in the oven. The climax comes at the dinner table, when subtle but distinctive fragrance of pine needles mixed with sweet fish aromas hits our nose. It is wonderful, once again to be in the beautiful and delicious autumn time!
Did you follow my cooking class photos on Instagram? Join me to find the deliciousness, healthfulness, wellness promoting and the enjoyment and happiness of Japanese cooking in 2018:
Here are the Japanese cooking classes and courses that I am will teach in 2018 at the International Culinary Center in New York City.
- Essentials of Japanese Cooking April 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 5:45pm – 10:45pm
- Essentials of Japanese Cooking September 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 9:30am – 2:30pm
- Ramen & Gyoza with Hiroko Shimbo April 19 5:45pm – 9:45pm
- Basics of Sushi with Hiroko Shimbo July 19 5:45pm – 9:45pm
Japanese cuisine is delighted to be part of your daily life! It brings health, wellness, happiness and fun to your life. At my classes you will learn the basics, philosophy and delicious preparations of wonderful classic Japanese dishes. Whichever class or classes you choose to attend will enrich your life in 2018.
Essentials of Japanese Cooking Course (see the Instagram photos of students cooking and learning a great deal at this course @hirokoshimbo) is a five day intensive Japanese cooking classes for those – both avocational and professional – who wants to discover, learn and enjoy Japanese cooking including its history, philosophy, ingredients, presentation and preparations. You will learn many dishes will surely become your favorites, and the favorites of those who enjoy your cooking. What you will learn can be used in for frequent daily meals with your family and friends, as well as for special occasions.
Ramen & Gyoza with Hiroko Shimbo is a one day class dedicated to those who love to slurp ramen noodle soup and want to know how to reproduce this classic in your own kitchen. You will learn the history, ingredients and preparations of ramen, including hand-making the ramen noodles themselves. Every ramen restaurant always offers gyoza dumplings. At the class you will also learn how to make classic pork and cabbage gyoza dumplings. Prepare ramen and gyoza with your friends and family. It will become a loved tradition in your in your kitchen!
Basics of Sushi with Hiroko Shimbo is a one day class for those who want to learn the basics of sushi preparation – perfect sushi rice, tangy pickled ginger, sweet rolled tamago omelet, simmered shiitake mushroom and special sushi shoyu dipping sauce. Using the these ingredients you will learn how to make your favorite maki-style rolls – thin roll, thick roll and inside-out roll. You can begin a monthly maki night tradition for friends and family at your own kitchen. Bring your fellow diners in on the fun, by showing them what you have learned from Hiroko and inviting them to make maki, too.
Contact Hiroko @212-727-3085 if you have any questions.
Oh, Boy! What fruitful and successful separate Japanese cuisine competitions, sponsored by two different Japanese entities, were held here in New York on October 29th and 30th, 2017.
The winners of the both New York Pre-Competitions are invited to compete in final rounds in Japan, and the winners of those competitions in Japan receive a monetary award as well as broad recognition in the US and Japan of their skills and accomplishments. Please check-out my Instagram photos (@hirokoshimbo) of the recent Pre-Competitions. If you missed participating in these exciting Pre-Competitions as a participant chef, the photos will help you understand these events. Please do not fail to apply for these competitions when they return to New York City in the next and following years. Let me know of your interest and I will keep you posted.
These Pre-Competitions are held for non-Japanese citizens who are working as chefs at restaurants producing Japanese cuisine or those who are pursuing an in-depth knowledge of Japanese cooking for its own sake. If you believe you qualify and wish to participate, please send me your name and contact info. I will keep you on the list for contact and send you the next competitions’ information when they are available.
Today the number of restaurants producing Japanese cuisine outside Japan has reached more than 85,000. In 2015 Japanese cuisine was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Japanese cuisine is now enjoying great popularity. I and the operators of these competitions believe that this worldwide popularity owes its status to hardworking chefs at Japanese restaurants all over the world. The organizations who sponsor these competitions, sincerely thank all of YOU.
The two competitions are:
- Japan Culinary Arts Competition (JCAC)
Japan Culinary Arts Competition is organized by NPO Japanese Culinary Academy (the Japanese equivalent of the James Beard Foundation in the US). The purpose of this competition is to offer chefs like you a chance to demonstrate the true depth of your knowledge and skills in the preparation of Japanese cuisine. The winner of the New York Pre-Competition is invited to Japan (expenses paid) the following March to compete at the Final Competition. Fourteen Pre-Competition winners will compete in the Final Competition.. The next round Pre- Competition will be held in 2019 in New York
The winner of JCAC New York Pre-Competition this year, 2017 is Marc Spitzer, Executive Chef of BondST in New York City
- Washoku World Challenge (WWC)
Washoku World Challenge is sponsored and organized by Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The purpose of WWC is to nurture the knowledge and cooking skills for producing excellent Japanese cuisine outside of Japan. The competition offers an opportunity for you demonstrate your passion, knowledge and skills. This leads to a better world-wide understanding of Japanese cuisine and its required cooking skills. The winner of this New York Pre-Competition is invited (expenses paid) to Japan early the next year for the Final Competition. The winner of the New York Pre-Competition is invited to Japan (expenses paid) early the following year following to compete at the Final Competition. For the recent Pre-Competition, the final round will take place this February in Kyoto, Japan among the six Pre-Competition winners. The next round Pre-Competition will be held in New York in 2018
The winner of WWC Pre-Competition this year, 2017 is David Israelow, a catering chef based in New York City.
Stay tuned for future information!
When something is delicious it is hard for us to stop eating. When it comes to gingko nuts, we should limit consumption to about ten nuts at a sitting. Over-eating can bring a reaction to methyl pyridoxine, a chemical found in the nuts. This can cause a stomach ache and, in extreme, vomiting. On other hand, gingko nuts has been used as a constituent of Chinese medicine to cure some illness for centuries, so limiting to about ten nuts a day seems to be a good idea. This way you can enjoy the delicious flavor without risking stomach distress.
When you break the shell to reveal the inside nuts – there is a special tool to do it (see the photo) – a whitish beige nuts appears. When you cook the nuts they turn bright, deep green color in few minutes. The texture of cooked nuts is slight soft and the flavor, sweet-nutty and pleasantly bitter. Have you ever tasted gingko nuts? This is the season to try it!
Here are two ways to cook them:
- Salt roasting: In this preparation half-shelled nuts are cooked in salt added skillet (no oil), leaving thin skin of the nuts attached to the surface of the nuts.
- Crack the nuts with the tool and break off the top half of the shell, exposing the top half part of the nuts with thin skin, discarding the removed shells.
- Heat the skillet (no oil) with some salt. When the salt is heated, add the nuts and cook, shaking the skillet from time to time and rolling the nuts over. When the exposed part of the nuts turns deep, bright green, turn off the heat. Serve them as they are with a glass of beer!
- Boiling: In this preparation fully shelled nuts are cooked in salted water that removes the thin skins attached to the nuts
- Crack the nuts with a tool and remove the nuts from the shells.
- Bring shallow water in a pot to a boil and add the gingko nuts. While cooking the nuts, with a flat spatula gently press and roll the surface of gingko nuts so that the thin skin detaches from the nuts. When the nuts turns deep, bright green, turn off the heat. Drain and rinse the beans, discarding thin skins. Serve them as they are, toss them with cooked rice, or use them as a garnish for prepared dishes.
Remember about ten nuts a day and don’t eat them raw!