Hirokos Blog

Hiroko’s Kitchen made it onto CulinaryPrograms.net’s recently completed list of 100 Magnificent Sites for Chefs.

CulinaryPrograms.net says, “We built the list for the next generation of chefs who will soon be entering culinary programs and will need to stay up to date on the latest trends in cuisine, and know how to leverage the internet and other forms of media to get their work noticed. We think your site is a great example of how culinary professionals can use the web to their advantage.”

Very Creamy and Flavorful – The Japanese Way

Posted on 11:14 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Sign up the Essentials of Japanese Cuisine – August 21-25 – at International Culinary Center, New York City http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/new-york-campus/amateur-classes-ny/essentials-of-japanese-cuisine-with-hiroko-shimbo/. You will learn how to prepare this yummy Japanese summer time eggplant dish, and find out why I pour boiling water over just-deep-fried eggplant.

The dish is called Nasu no Age-ni. It is one of the most popular eggplant dishes in Japan, in which eggplant is cut into pieces, deep-fried, then, quickly simmered in flavored broth and chilled. The resulting eggplant, which retains deep purple color, is flavorful, creamy and cooling our body.

To Ramen Lovers – Authenticity Matters

Posted on 8:13 PM in Hiroko's Blog

If you want everyone to enjoy ramen noodles in the best possible way you can help me by spreading this information and following this advice yourself.  It is all about the best way to enjoy this Japanese noodle dish now sweeping America. Here is my plea: Eat your ramen noodles in its still hot broth quickly while the noodles are al dente in texture and the best in in flavor. This request may be a bit late in the US because I observe that here in America many dinners have become accustomed to eating their ramen very slowly over a period of 20 – 30 minutes or more when the dish has long since degraded in flavor and quality. But I encourage you to push this back on this trend for your own enjoyment of this wonderful dish and implore you to educate your friends on how to best enjoy a steaming bowl of ramen.

In Japan at a ramen restaurant upon receiving our piping hot noodle bowl in front of us we stop our conversation for a little while and tackle the pleasurable task of finishing the bowl while the noodles, broth and other toppings are at their the most delicious state– al dente noodles, hot broth, warm chashu pork, crisp toppings and full flavor in the dish. By the way it is OK to leave some broth behind in the bowl. It is fatty and salty.

In America I observe that lively conversations over the meal at ramen restaurants often prevents diners from consuming ramen noodles quickly as we do in Japan. Thus, I often spot not-yet-finished noodles sitting sadly, limply and idly in the once hot, but now lukewarm ramen broth for some time. In this situation ramen noodles definitely become soggy and mushy.

Ramen restaurants in the US have, however, made changes in the traditional noodle formulation to address this problem. The solution has been to add of starch to the wheat flour used to make the noodles. This addition does somewhat prevent mushy noodles even if they are left in the broth for a long time. But this new version disturbs me.  The starch addition causes the ramen noodles to lose their traditional authentic pleasantly chewy texture. The dish becomes more like eating Italian pasta noodles in ramen broth.

Am I the only person who is noticing this and complaining about it? Anyway, please help me to preserve authentic ramen noodles in America. Eat your bowl of ramen quickly while it is hot and flavorful and the noodles are in top condition.  That is the way ramen is meant to be.

As for eating tradition of slurping your noodles or the more “polite” Western way with no-slurping? That is your choice, not a rule.

Leftover ramen in a doggy bag – I saw this just two nights ago. Unheard of in Japan, but anything is possible in America.  But I cannot at all vouch for the noodle and toppings’ quality for the next day’s breakfast or lunch, and I warn you it is certainly not the way the ramen gods intend this delightful dish to be consumed.



Snack On Healthy Shiokoji+Gochugaru Cucumber

Posted on 7:12 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Shio-koji + Gochugaru

4 hours pickled

Do you have home-made shio-koji in your refrigerator? If not, summer is the time to make it, and enjoy using it to pickle summer vegetables. Here is the link to the shio-koji recipe. https://hirokoskitchen.com/2012/06/shio-koji-recipe/

Recently I have added Korean Gochugaru in my shio-koji pickling base. Gochugaru is hot pepper flakes. It is not just hot. Gochugaru comes with sweet and fruity taste. The pair produces exciting pickles which I cannot stop snacking on.

I made another version with the addition of miso. This was a great hit for the gathering. The miso which I use is made in America. It is Miso Master brand: Non-GMO, gluten-free, organic, kosher. My shio-koji pickling venture continues.


Suribachi is Powerful

Posted on 8:28 AM in Hiroko's Blog

This obsolete Japanese kitchen tools, Suribachi & Surikogi, which requires manual labor,  have been used in Japan for over 300 years. I sometimes choose them over food processor because of several reasons. Here I made avocado dressed with tofu dressing with them.

Mortar & Pestle is ubiquitous culinary tools in the world kitchens. The best guacamole is made in molcajete. To achieve the best texture and flavor of nam prik all necessary herbs, chiles and spices are pound in a heavy stone krok. To enjoy the best aroma and texture of pureed sesame or walnuts dressing I use Suribachi & Surikogi. Simple.

Suribachi is a ceramic bowl with a rough, combed pattern in its unglazed interior; the size of the bowl varies from 5 to 12 inches in diameter. Surikogi is a wooden pestle about 10-inches in length. Most Surikogi pestles are made of Japanese cypress wood. My Surikogi is a bit different. This one, which is easily recognized by its bumpy, bark-covered upper surface, is made of the sansho pepper tree, whose edible berries and young leaves are treasured for their pungent (a sort of numbing sensation), delicious flavor and fragrant aroma. At the time of the purchase I was convinced by the store staff that a pestle made from this tree imparts some flavor to the ground materials. My own experience indicates that such flavor enhancement, if it exists at all, is quite negligible. After 20 years of using it there is no trace of it. (Excerpt from The Japanese Kitchen.)

What is good about Suribachi & Surikogi?

  • It does not require electricity
  • No high-pitched electric noise in the kitchen
  • Fun and therapeutic process
  • Produce better flavor and texture of the prepared items than the ones made by food processor
  • Easy to control the texture of the dressing which we are creating – creamy, rough, crunchy,…
  • Easy cleaning up

5 Days Japanese Cooking Class Vacation in NYC

Posted on 7:32 AM in Hiroko's Blog


Do you love Japanese meals? Do you love fun cooking? Do you love learning something new? Udon noodles from scratch, perfect dashi stock, yakitori over Bincho-tan charcoal, filleting whole fluke for sushi and sashimi, sparerib in the Japanese way,  varieties of sushi rolls, vegetable cutting into neat flower shape before simmering and savoring healthy meals. Everything is in the upcoming Essentials of Japanese Cooking Course at International Culinary Center, New York City. Please join me to spend 5 days informative, delicious and fun Japanese cooking course. Sign up at http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/new-york-campus/amateur-classes-ny/essentials-of-japanese-cuisine-with-hiroko-shimbo/

Look forward to cooking with you! Hiroko

Suribachi & Dirty-Looking Delicious Dandelion Salad

Posted on 1:29 PM in Hiroko's Blog

My 20 years old Suribachi mortar and Surikogi pestle rest at the hardest-to-reach location in my kitchen; high up on the shelf. They are brought down and kept on the stainless steel working table when summer time arrives. I tend to use them frequently to prepare sauces/dressings for my simple summer dishes.

If you are not familiar with Suribachi and Surikogi refer to page 17, The Japanese Kitchen. They are Japanese grinding instruments, powered by manpower. I will come back to them in my next post.

Dirty-Looking Delicious Dandelion Salad is one of the dishes which I enjoy preparing with Suribachi and Surikogi. The Japanese name of the dish is (Dandelion) Goma-Yogoshi. Direct translation is ‘(vegetables), tossed with ground, moist, flavored sesame seeds dressing, presenting dirty appearance on the surface of the vegetables’. Dandelion replaces kale, Swiss chard, spinach, mizuna, collard green….in my kitchen. I will try this dressing with avocado sometime soon. Sounds like a good combination.

Here are step-by-step preparations. If you can find the Japanese sesame seeds, use them. They are more plump and tastier than the other varieties.

7 ounce dandelion leaves

2 tablespoons Japanese white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons Japanese black sesame seeds

1 to 2 teaspoons white sesame paste

1 teaspoon mirin

½ teaspoon and additional shoyu

Squeeze of lemon juice


Toasted sesame seeds in the Suribashi with Surikogi

Ground sesame seeds, my favorite mirin, shoyu and sesame paste

Cook the dandelion leaves in salt added boiling water for about 2 minutes or until it is firmly cooked. Plunge them in a large bowl of cold water with ice cubes to cool them quickly.

Before tossing

Drain and tightly squeeze the leaves to remove excess water. Drop ¼ teaspoon shoyu over the squeezed leaves and massage them. Cut the leaves into about 2-inch long pieces.

Dressed dandilion


Heat a small skillet. Add the sesame seeds and toast them over medium-low heat until they are plump and fully warmed up. Transfer the seeds to a Suribachi mortar and grind them with a Surikogi pestle. After 2 to 3 minutes or so of grinding add the sesame paste, mirin and shoyu to the Suribachi mortar; continue grinding until all is incorporated. At this stage the dressing looks quite dry. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons dashi and lemon juice to taste. Add the dandelion and toss it with the dressing.

my favorites seasonings

Limit to 4-5 Bulbs a Day

Posted on 8:01 AM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

Two powers which this bulb possesses:

  1. It is aphrodisiac. It was banned to be consumed at Buddhism temples.
  2. Consumption should be limited to 4-5 bulbs a day. Overeating causes minor, unpleasant health problems.

Have you eaten sweet pickled, extremely crunchy, little garlic like bulbs, which are served with thick, stew-like Japanese curry dish? A little bulb is neither garlic nor shallot. It is rakkyo.

Rakkyo, belongs to the Lily family, Allium. Onion, scallion and shallot also belong to this family. Like other family members rakkyo has noted, unique taste and fragrance.

At the beginning of summer when the rainy season begins hitting Japanese islands fresh rakkyo bulbs appear at food market. Some of us pickle them at home. By doing so we can enjoy their fresher and better texture and taste of the bulbs, compared to commercially available counterparts. Home pickled rakkyo is also free from unnecessary synthetic chemical additives, which are always found in the commercial products.

The rakkyo plant was introduced from China as early as 3rd century AD. At early centuries it was used as medicinal plant. Chemical Allyl compound is said to help digestion, prevent blood from clotting and assist our body to absorb vitamin B1 efficiently. Rakkyo is also rich in water-soluble dietary fiber.

The most popular pickled rakkyo is AMAZU-ZUKE (sweet vinegar pickled) variety, in which we can enjoy a balanced (not overpowering) sweet, tart and salty flavor. Here is the recipe for you.



7 ounces rakkyo bulbs, thoroughly rinsed and cleaned, thin paper like film removed, and the very bottom root part and the top stem part cut off

1 ounce sea salt

½ cup vinegar

3 ounces sugar

Italian chili pepper flakes


  1. Place the rakkyo bulbs in a medium bowl and toss with the sea salt. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 days.
  2. Briefly rinse the rakkyo bulbs under cold running water. Blanch the rakkyo bulbs in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain, spread them in a large strainer and cool. Transfer the cooled bulbs into a sterilized glass jar.
  3. In a small pot add the vinegar, sugar and ½ cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and add about ¼ teaspoon of the Italian chili pepper flakes.
  4. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the cooled rakkyo bulbs in the jar. Cool and cover the jar with a fitting lid. Store it in the refrigerator. After 3 to 4 days of pickling you can enjoy the very crisp, sweet and tart pickled rakkyo. It is good for next several months. Remember to limit to the 4-5 bulbs a day!

Rained Out/Cancelled Out

Posted on 4:30 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Some day is hard to swallow. My teruteru bozu (which should have brought fine weather….) is not cooperating….

Rain and winds prevented two cruises from operating in the morning in Shiretoko and in the afternoon in Abashiri. Plan B was to walk to Fall Fureppe. Fall Fureppe is one of the three falls running down over the cliff (200 meter high) along the peninsula. The amount of water running down (ground water) is little, making very fine line of waterfalls. Hence it got a nickname as ‘women’s weep’. According to the locals less snow fall in the past couple of years are making the water line even thinner and thinner. Eventually there won’t be much weeping… After the walk & lunch we headed to our next destination Abashiri City and our hotel.

After checking in we made our way to Abashiri Prison to learn the history of Japan at the beginning of Meiji Period. We then visited the local glass store to have a hands-on glass making.

Local dinner in the town at the very popular spots, Sakanatei Kihachi, was a treasure. We fully savored Okhotsk seafood in variety of preparations: blue whelk, teriyaki style ‘Hokkaido hamo’, arctic char, chum salmon, octopus, squid, scallop, tuna, Okhotsk flounder.

Rausu & Early Fish Market Visit

Posted on 4:13 AM in Hiroko's Blog

We drove Shiretoko Crossing Highway from Utoro(Okhotsk side) to Rausu (Pacific side). From the top of the Highway we saw Kunashiri island, the nearest Europe/Russia/Disputed island. We visited early morning fish market in Rausu. Rausu is a fishing town with about 5,300 populations. Between Knashiri Island Rausu is mere 25 kilometer in distance and is one of the most richest sea. Complex floor bed formations with different depths are an ideal habitat for many varieties of fish and shellfish. Chum salmon harvested this water is ranked No. 1 in Japan. Other fish caught in the water are trout, cod, arctic char, flounder, rock fish, crab, sea urchin and octopus. We then visited to Rausu kombu storage and learned how the kelp is harvested, dried and processed. Lunch was an educational activity. Everyone removed sea urchin (live!) and scallop (live!) from the shells; cut fish into sashimi slices; presented them beautifully/properly on a sashimi platter.

After return to Utoro we joined the Shiretoko Five Lake walk in the area where there is a highest brown bear population in Hokkaido. Beautiful Shiretoko Mountain ranges reflected on calm water, creating a mirror immage. The tour continues.

Morning Canoe and Lake Mashu

Posted on 3:53 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Morning Canoe! and Lake Mashu

What was a pleasure experience again to join Gaku-san for his canoe tour in Lake Akan in the early morning! The water was very calm and he let us venture on many areas in the lake. We spotted herron, ducks, white tailed eagle,…Serenity. We witnessed Marimo in three different groups.

Gaku made a cup of coffee for us by the water. We watched him grinding coffee and completing it with zen-like calmness. His home-made chocolate scones was a perfect pair with the brew.

After checking out the hotel we headed to Shiretoko, UNESCO National Heritage site with a stop at Lake Mashu, a creation of massive volcanic eruption 32,000 years ago. Unlike other caldera lake, Lake Mashu is surrounded by steep crater walls 200 meter high. The water is very blue and has high transparency (41 meter). Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Lake Akan and Lake Toya; we accomplished to visit must-see caldera lakes in Hokkaido.