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.”

Travel Japan – Matsushima and KYUSHU with Hiroko 2018

Posted on 6:53 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, is known for its scenic view so the tourists from all over Japan flocks to the area. But, there is one more reason for the popularity. Check the CNN Travel story below!


Most importantly; Join me Kyushu in November, 2018. You will stay at very unique and 4 star hotels/inns and experience something which you never dreamed of. The first place where we visit is Kunisaki Peninsula, where the Buddhist culture blossomed at early time (7th Century). It is not Kyoto and is more important than Kyoto. This year Kunisaki Peninsula celebrates 1300th anniversary of Rokugo Manzan culture. We are lucky that we receive special memorial service at this very special year at one of the oldest temples, founded in the mid of 7th century. The service is …….priceless. You won’t know what it means until you join me.

Check out the Trip Overview on my website. You will be the last couple to fill the space. Very special group. Contact me. I will send you more detailed information, including tariff.

I cannot wait traveling Kyushu with you this November!



Ashirai Garnish and Grilled Fish in the Japanese Way

Posted on 6:37 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Have you noticed that when you order grilled fish at a Japanese restaurant that the fish is always served with some accompanying condiment: grated daikon and lemon (for oily fish such as mackerel and sardine), pickled turnip, pickled hajikami ginger (ginger with a red stem), pickled cucumber, pickled myoga ginger, sweet simmered broad bean, sweet simmered kumquat to name a few. These garnishes are called ‘ashirai’. All of them serve to refresh your palate while consuming the fish.

The Japanese way of grilling fish does not employ any spices, dairy products or cooking oil. This allows us to produce a dish in which we can taste the very true, natural flavor of the fish. For example, salt grilled mackerel tastes like mackerel – rich, oily and super flavorful. The ashirai for grilled mackerel is grated daikon (and sometimes with lemon). It cleans our palate, making the grilled mackerel dining experience the very best.

Here is a recipe for a classic delicious ashirai that can accompany so many fish simply grilled in the Japanese way

Pickled turnip ashirai:

¼ cup + ½ cup water

¼ cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1 turnip

1 teaspoon salt


In a small saucepan add ¼ cup of the water, rice vinegar and sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and dissolve the sugar. Turn off the mixture and let it cool.

Cut off the top and the bottom of the turnip. Make closely spaced incisions (depth: 2/3 of the way down the turnip) from right to left on top of the turnip. Rotate the turnip 90 degree and again make closely spaced incisions in the turnip. You are making fine checkerboard-like pattern on the top of the turnip. Cut the turnip into 4 pieces from top to bottom. Add the remaining ½ cup of the water to a bowl and add the salt stirring with a spoon until the salt is dissolved.  Add the turnips in the salt water for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the turnip become tender. Remove the turnips from the water and discard it. Squeeze the turnips gently to remove excess water and place them in the vinegar marinade. Pickle the turnips overnight.


Sawara Yuan-yaki

Posted on 6:36 PM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

Sawara can be enjoyed in many preparations including Teri-yaki, shio-yaki (salt grilled), saikyo-miso yaki and yuan-yaki.  All are variations on grilling. “yaki” means grill.

Here is my favorite yuan-yaki recipe:

For yuan marinade mix mirin, sake, usukuchi shoyu (light colored soy sauce), koikuchi shoyu (all-purpose soy sauce) in 1.5 : 0.5: 0.8: 0.1 proportions in a bowl. Add 2 slices of yuzu citrus fruit or lemon if yuzu is unavailable. Marinate the sawara pieces for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the fish pieces from the marinade and put them on skewers. Cook the fish in the salamander or broiler about 10 minutes. Towards the end of cooking paint the fish several times – on both sides – with the remaining Yuan marinad.


Spanish Mackerel, Sawara and Cooking Tips

Posted on 9:19 AM in Hiroko's Blog

You may have had sawara (Spanish mackerel) sashimi or sushi at a Japanese restaurant and remember its rich and sweet flavor. Sawara is a seasonal fish which is wild-caught during winter and early spring. The other day I had the chance to purchase a wild-caught in Florida, very fresh, 3 pound sawara at New York’s Citarella food market.

Sawara in Japanese literally means ‘narrow body’. The long, slender, but round body allows this fish to be one of the fastest swimmers in the ocean – up to 62 miles per hour.

Sawara belongs to the mackerel and tuna family, but its color and flavor are very different. The flesh is white and the flavor is neither too fishy nor “metallic-tasting” like tuna. Sawara has mild natural sweetness. Sawara is a voracious fish with a larger mouth full of saw-like teeth. The fish loves feasting on sardines and Pacific pike. Oh,… and that’s why sawara tastes so good.

To prepare sawara in the kitchen a chef must have good knowledge of its freshness and of proper handling since it was caught. Sawara loses its freshness soon after being removed from the water. This is why sawara is not a sushi restaurant regular, but only appears occasionally.

For anyone who plans to cook sawara at home, here are some tips;

  1. Purchase the freshest fish (a whole fish, not fillets is recommended) at a reputable fishmonger
  2. Sawara is watery fish and the flesh is very soft; when you fillet the fish please handle it with care.
  3. In order to remove excess water from the flesh and firms it up, after filleting salt it (use a salt quantity equal to 3-5% weight of the fish) and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. You will soon see that the fish is covered with its own exuded water.
  4. After the salting period place the fish on top of paper towel and cover the top with another paper towel while gently pressing to remove the salty water. Or, you may quickly rinse the fish under cold tap water and wipe dry.

I will post the Yuan-yaki recipe next.



Sukiyaki is Our New Favorite

Posted on 2:21 PM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

Here is the preparation of the always popular sukiyaki dish. As I have mentioned before, prepping nabemono dinner (in this case a sukiyaki dinner) in your kitchen is super quick and easy. It requires cutting of certain raw ingredients, and blanching (quick simmering) some ingredients as necessary.

This sukiyaki recipe is Tokyo style. Sliced beef and vegetables are cooked in flavorful ‘warishita’ sauce. The vegetable, including shirataki noodles (made of konnyaku, taro root starch*) used in this recipe, are traditional ones. You may substitute your favorite vegetables. For example, adding broccoli cheers up the color and spirit of a sukiyaki dinner. Shirataki noodles are a bit hard to find if you don’t live close to a Japanese or large Asian food store. Substitute for shirataki with dry mung bean noodles* that are more commonly available.

When you read the below section on cooking at the table, even though the instructions are quite simple, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. But if you repeat the sukiyaki dinner just two or three times it becomes as easy as when you host a barbecue dinner.

*You can find more information about shirataki and mung bean noodles in my book, The Japanese Kitchen.

4 servings

2 cups dashi stock (substitute is low-sodium beef stock)

¼ cup sugar

½ cup sake

½ cup shoyu (soy sauce)

¼ cup mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)

1 bunch chrysanthemum leaves; substitutes are kale or mizuna greens

7 ounces shirataki; substitute is dry mung bean noodles**

2 naganegi long green onions cut it into 1-inch long piecesdiagonally; substitute is 1 bunch scallions

4 fresh shiitake mushrooms cut into halves

1 block firm tofu, cut into half lengthwise; then, cut each half piece into 6 small cubes crosswise

1 ½ pounds well-marbled beef sirloin, sliced thinly (ask your butcher to cut the meat into about 1/10th-inch thick slices, or find the already sliced sukiyaki beef at Japanese food stores)

4 eggs, raw, but shell well washed, broken one each into 4 individual serving bowls


  1. Set up the dining table with the portable gas stove with a gas canister installed. Place a plastic tablecloth over your dining table (optional) to catch any drips. Turn on the gas stove and check if it is working. Then, turn it off.
  2. In a saucepan add the dashi, sugar, sake, shoyu and mirin, and bring it to a simmer over medium heat, stirring with a spoon to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and transfer the sauce to a small pitcher. This is the warishita sauce.
  3. Cut off the hard stem part of chrysanthemum (about 1 inch) and discard. Cut the remainder into half crosswise. When you are using kale, remove the long, stem part from the leaf part. Cut the stems diagonally into thin slices. Cut the leaves into 3-inch wide strips.
  4. Bring plenty of water to a boil; add the shirataki noodles and cook for 1 to 2 minutes; drain.

** If you are using mung bean noodles bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the mung

bean noodles and cook for 3 minutes; drain and rinse under cold tap water; drain.

  1. Arrange all of the vegetables, shirataki noodles and tofu, beautifully on a large platter or two. Arrange sliced beef on a large platter. Ask a family member or friend to do this task. Transfer the bowls with eggs, warishita sauce, plates with vegetables and beef, and chopsticks to the dining room table.
  2. Place the iron sukiyaki pot or your skillet on top of the gas stove. Turn on the heat. When it is hot, add the beef slices flat on the bottom of the skillet. If your beef is not well marbled (fatty) enough apply thin layer of canola oil over the bottom of the skillet before adding the beef. You may first add 2 slices of the beef. The beef quickly shrinks, allowing you to add 2 additional slices. Then quickly add the warishita sauce until the slices are barely submerged. Check the heat of the gas stove. Keep it at medium heat. When the beef starts to dance in the warishita sauce, turn it over quickly. Have the diners stir the egg in the bowl with chop sticks to mix the yolk and white. Soon the beef is ready to be picked up by each dinner. Dip the beef in the egg and consume while hot.
  3. The warishita sauce in the pot is now flavored with delicious beef. This is the perfect time to cook a batch of vegetables that is sufficient for one serving to the diners. After adding the vegetables add little more warishita sauce so that the vegetables are barely submerged in it. Vegetables require more cooking time than the beef, so while they cook have a glass of your favorite beverage and enjoy the conversation. When the vegetables are done, divide and distribute all of them into each diners’ bowls. Enjoy.
  4. You then cook the second round of beef and vegetables, and repeat this process until all vegetables and beef is enthusiastically consumed.

EXTRA: At the end of cooking you will find very flavorful cooking liquid in the pot. I always add leftover cold rice (or it can be freshly cooked rice) to the pot and cook it until rice is fully heated and flavored with the leftover sauce. You may add additional warishita if needed during the cooking. The rice is heavenly delicious. If you and your fellow diners are egg people, crack one or two eggs over the cooked rice and toss the eggs with the rice gently. When the egg is still soft, about 80 percent cooked, serve this tasty treat to your fellow diners and enjoy your own portion.


Tips of Enjoyable Nabemono Dinner

Posted on 2:19 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Here are some tips for enjoyable nabemono dinners at your home. By the way the attendees of my Kyushu with Hiroko 2018 (November 11-23) will have Fugu (blowfish!) nabemono experience in Oita Prefecture. This is surely one of the many excitements which you experience during the tour.  You can find Trip Overview and Photos on my Tour Page. Send me an e-mail to Hiroko if you want to join the tour. Hiroko also run the same tour in 2018, November 3-14.

  • Everyone should share cooking the dish during the meal
  • When you are adding multiple ingredients to the pot, add those which takes longer to cook first
  • Cook enough of each ingredients at one time in the pot to share with all diners as a one batch of the meal; we do not want to have dinners fight over a missed sliced of beef or even a piece of mushroom
  • Cook in batches; after cooking one batch divide and distribute all of the cooked items into the diners individual bowls; do not leave any items in the pot. After confirming that the pot is empty, add the next batch and continue cooking. Any ingredients left in the pot form the previous round will be overcooked in the next batch, becoming mushy and degrade the quality of your nabemono dinner
  • While watching ingredients as they are being cooked, because no one is looking at their phones this is the time to engage in conversation with your family and friends.
  • And adults, of course, have the pleasurable right to enjoy a glass of beer, sake, shochu or wine with this fun meal

I will post the recipe sukiyaki following this post.

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy a perfect sukiyaki or other nabemono dinner while the outdoors is brisk and chilly.  And I hope sukiyaki and other nabemono will become regulars on your dinner table.


P.S. I found out that Single thread Inn, CA, is offering Nabemono dinner right now. Another way to get involved in Nabemono!

Nabemono Is a Wonderful Problem Solver

Posted on 9:51 AM in Hiroko's Blog

<If you have not checked the Trip Overview Kyushu with Hiroko 2018, please jump to my homepage or Tour page to check the Overview and Photos!>

Now…..here are some questions for you: Would you like to adopt all of or some of the following concepts in your daily life?

  1. Produce and enjoy a delicious body and soul warming dinner;
  2. Create a meal and delightful experience that unites all of your family or friends at the table and brings back conversation without the invasion of mobile devices;
  3. Create a dinner that can reflect your specific dietary choices such as vegetable, vegan or gluten-free;
  4. Provide a wholesome and balanced meal in which protein, vegetables and carbohydrates are all incorporated;
  5. Don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen to prepare a complicated dinner.

Nabemono dishes answer all of these questions. Nabemono is a dish in which varieties of ingredients are cooked in broth – flavored or non-flavored – in a ceramic or metal pot usually prepared by the diners at the table. Cooked items are usually dipped in flavored sauces before consumption. Nabemono is a winter specialty, but some of the popular types such as sukiyaki (thinly sliced marbled beef cooked along with vegetables in flavored sauce) and shabushabu (super thinly sliced marbled beef cooked along with vegetables in kombu [kelp] stock) are enjoyed throughout the year. A nabemono dish is easy to adjust in order to cater to any particular dietary choices. Only vegetables; fish and vegetables; meat and vegetables or all types of ingredients mixed together in a single pot such as in the sumo wrestlers’ favorite hot pot called Chanko-nabe.

To enjoy nabemono dishes at home there are a few ‘must-have’ pieces of equipment. I recommend you purchase a small gas cassette powered portable table-top gas stove. It is not expensive and by owning it nabemono can become a regular meal at your table. The stove is fueled by small butane gas canisters. Each canister is good for about 6 – 8 nabemono cooking sessions.  Next is the cooking pot. An earthenware “donabe” pot works for most of nabemono dishes, except for sukiyaki. The earthenware donabe can be replaced by a shallow, medium-sized pot from your kitchen. One warning about using your shallow pot is that, if the pot has a long handle, place it a position where no one can hit it during fun of preparing the nabemono dinner. For sukiyaki, we use a small, shallow cast iron pot. This can be replaced by your medium-sized, deep skillet.

The very unique and wonderful aspect of a nabemono dinner is that it calls for everyone’s attention and assistance in the cooking process.  No one can play with a mobile device at the table; real conversation and human interaction is likely to ensue. All cooking is done at the table and you can encourage your family members and friends to participate.

Next blog is some tips for enjoyable nabemono dinners at your home. Then, I will post you delightful SUKIYAKI recipe and procedure.


Announcement: Kyushu with Hiroko 2018

Posted on 10:11 AM in Hiroko's Blog


CLICKE the above to find out some of the photos and videos. Do click the videos!

Hiroko’s annual trip to Japan is coming up this November. This year Hiroko will take a small, exclusive group (9 participants) to Kyushu, the southernmost large island of Japan. Kyushu with Hiroko, 2018, will run from November 11 through November 22, 2018. The tour begins and ends in Japan allowing participants to make their own arrangements (with my help if you so request) for additional time in Japan or elsewhere in Asia. Please contact me if you are interested in joining the tour ASAP. 60% of the space is sold at this time.

To those who express interest in the tour I will send the detailed, final tour information toward the end of January, 2018. But, here is a little peak at what awaits you. Again, please click the link above to see some of the photos and videos.

The tour was created based on my nearly month long research trip to Kyushu just completed this past December. If you followed me on Instagram (@hirokoshimbo) you might have enjoyed the virtual tour of Kyushu with me. If you haven’t visited my Instagram, please do so. Kyushu is chockfull of incredible interests and revealing discoveries and here are some.

  • Kyushu has a rich history of foreign influence. It sits close to China and Southeast Asia. It was the window for the introduction of Asian culture and religion in the earliest years of the first millennium. Kyushu also the closest sea access to Europe, and it became the window to European civilization, including Christianity, beginning in the early 16th The strong influences of these early international contacts remain present everywhere in the island to this day.
  • Seafood (I mean wild, not farmed!), pork, wagyu beef and vegetables are fantastic in quality. We will find the reason behind it and enjoy eating a variety of unique local Kyushu products during our tour. And the early foreign influences on the cuisine are visible and present. We will continually encounter them.
  • Japan is known as hot spring heaven. Because of its unique geography at the intersection of two tectonic plates, Kyushu’s hot springs are the best and most ubiquitous in Japan. By the end of the tour you will find your skin rejuvenated and your spirits high in the sky because of this….Well. that’s how I felt after my recent exploration.
  • Active volcanos, Mt. Aso and Mt. Sakurajima tells us the history of the changing natural and geographic environment of Kyushu. Both the beneficial and the causes of disaster, these volcanos determine much of Kyushu’s human and natural history. A particular consequence of their presence is natural glory.
  • Kyushu’s Christian history is a story of introduction, prosperity, suppression, persecution and rebirth. We will see this miracle first-hand and explore this complex story at many locations and from many perspectives. What happened in Kyushu is unique in world history.
  • The Nagasaki Atomic Peace Park and Museum will remind us of the horror of atomic weapons and the need for maintaining world peace to preclude their use.
  • You may know that for 250 years Japan was closed to the outside world with only the Dutch occupying a tiny man-made island, Dejima (“separated island”), just off of Nagasaki. That island compound has been faithfully recreated. It is not Disneyland, but is a living, fascinating and accessible historical site replete with Japanese and Dutch history.
  • Kyushu is the land of shochu, the distilled liquor made variously from rice, barley, sweet potato, potato, brown sugar and more. During the tour we will taste different varieties of shochu as we move from one area to another; the tour will make you a shochu expert.
  • Japanese cuisine cannot exist without katsuobushi, dried skipjacktuna flakes, used to make dashi stock. That stock is a foundation stone of Japanese cooking. A visit to a factory that produces this indispensable material will reveal the fascinating traditional, artisanal production of katsuobushi.
  • And….more


Here is a list of just some of the experiences we will enjoy, dining and otherwise:

  • Once in-a-life-time Buddhist experience conducted at a venerable, 1300 year old mountain temple to pray for health and family happiness (and for good weather throughout of our tour)
  • Chinese cooking class taught by a Taiwanese native
  • Walking through a hot spring town where hundreds of vents of steam come from simple holes in the ground and even out of the town sewer drains
  • Enjoy a seasonal and safe fugu blow fish dinner prepared by a certified chef
  • Visiting the the No.1 onsen hot spring town in Japan, enjoy the hot springs and a local sake/shochu-tasting bar-hopping tour
  • Visit to the Mt. Aso museum and enjoy a nature walk nearby
  • A man-poled boat ride down the Kuma River in the historic town of Hitoyoshi; the same ride in the same kind of craft the local Daimyo lord took in feudal days to go down-river
  • Hiking through beautiful woods to Onami Pond in Kirishima district
  • Visit to katsuobushi, dried skipjack tuna, factory
  • Visit to shochu, distilled alcohol, factory
  • Soak in the famous natural hot sand bath at Ibutski on the black sandy beach to let the comforting warmth penetrate your body.
  • Ride the Kyushu Shinkansen bullet train and enjoy a local ekiben, the famous style of box lunch of the kind sold at railway stations all over Japan
  • Board a boat to transfer the Kysushu mainland to an island of Amakusa
  • Visit churches and historical buildings to discover the amazing history of Japanese Christianity
  • Visit one of the finest porcelain factories in Japan, and design and decorate your own coffee mug; a fantastic souvenir for you
  • High speed passenger ferry ride to Nagasaki from the island of Amakusa
  • Enjoy an exclusive vegetarian meal at Kofukuji temple, the most famous temple in Nagasaki, and have chat with the head priest who, by the way, has colleagues in the US and lived in the state for a few years as a high school student
  • Spend a day with an expert guide in Nagasaki to learn the history of this great and rejuvenated international city: Atomic Bomb Park & Museum, Christian history in the city, Chinese and Dutch influences, more…
  • Enjoy the yatai, street food stalls, in Fukuoka city, home of tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen
  • And much more…

Again, to those who are interested in securing the remaining limited space, please send me an e-mail ASAP to receive the final information and pricing. If you have any questions about the tour, just pick up your phone and call me at 212-727-3085 (this landline is always the best) or my mobile 646-346-3991.


December 31, 2017/My mother & Beer/Kyushu with Hiroko 2018

Posted on 5:09 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Finished owl mug from Amakusa was safely sent to and met me at Tokyo hotel where I am staying right now. I will enjoy my morning tea in this cup starting New Year!

2017 is closing very soon. I am in Tokyo and enjoying very short but quality time with my mother, who has become this month 90 years and 7 months old.

Thank you very much for visiting my blog during this year. I am grateful to have shared my passion and expertise on Japanese food with you. Every country’s cuisine has formed to its present decisive state through continuously changing history, culture, people, geology, geography, society and arts of its country. As other cuisine do, Japanese cuisine has been experiencing transformation on and off over the years and centuries in order to suit to the palate of its audience. However, the philosophy of Japanese cuisine, which is defined as ‘fire & water based cooking’ as opposed to ‘fire & oil cooking’ to which majority of world cuisine belongs, remains to be the pillar philosophy of Japanese cuisine. ‘Fire & water based cooking’ techniques have also helped to shape French cuisine in Japan bringing to a new level of  the art – lighter flavors and respect to preserve the natural flavor of each ingredient. According to the just announced 2018 Michelin Guide report Tokyo restaurants have acquired over 530 stars and many of these restaurants present French cuisine based on ‘Fire & water based cooking techniques”. These techniques also have been influencing chefs working in French and American kitchens in America. In the New Year I will keep learning, discovering and sharing more aspects of Japanese cuisine with you. My 2018 goal is to share the ideas from Japanese cuisine with all of the people in the world for the creating and sustaining of our physical and mental strength.

For those who have been following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you found me traveling in Kyushu, the southern-most large island of Japan. I spent 12 days before coming to Tokyo to do a research trip for my next year’s tour – Kyushu with Hiroko, 2018! I have discovered so much fun and had awe inspiring experiences in Kyushu. Kyushu is chockfull of amazing stories of history, foreign influence (science, technology, food, and religion), geography, geology, the history of Christianity in Japan and art.  And, of course, its cuisine has been influenced by all of these factors.  Remember that Kyushu is the place where Japan had its first encounters with the outside world – the Chinese from nearby and the Portuguese from Europe.  And there is the Dutch influence during the long years of Japan’s near total government mandated isolation from the world and the event in Nagasaki during the war. The island is tectonically squeezed, possessing several active (spewing smoke, ash, fire) volcanoes such as Mt. Aso, Mt. Sakurajima and Mt. Unzen and offers locals and travelers natural blessings including gorgeous scenery and abundant hot springs (of course, together with their associated marvelous country inns). I am looking forward to sharing the best of Kyushu that I have discovered with you in November 2018. If you are interested in joining the tour please do contact me by e-mail for further information on Kyushu with Hiroko 2018! at hiroko@hirokoskitchen.com. I am going to take only 10 enthusiasts for this very special experience. Kyushu with Hiroko 2018 will be a memorable, delicious, educational and nourishing (physically and mentally) experience. All of the accommodations I have selected are unique, comfortable and first class, and that sites and culture you will encounter are unique in the world.  I’ll be posting more information soon on www.hirokoskitchen.com .


And now a short, but fascinating story about my mother…

After experiencing three (3!) cancer treatments in her 80s, my mother today is as strong and sharp as she was 20 years ago. Yesterday I visited her at her apartment, prepared udon lunch for us and listened to her stories, all of which happened to her in the distant past. Some of the stories were repeated ones that I had heard before, but others were totally new for me even after all these years. Here I want to share with you one of the new story.

Tasting of beer at age 3 and loving it:

My mother was not blessed with good health when she was born. At her early ages she did not have much appetite. This is completely opposite to who she is today. My mother is known for having the most insatiable, strong appetite in the family.  This includes Buzz and me. My grandfather (her father), who was a pediatrician, tried everything to keep her well-nourished during this difficult time. According to my mother my grandfather introduced her to the taste of beer when she was around 3 years old. At that time his daily schedule went like this. He saw his patients at his clinic in the morning. Then he spent the afternoon visiting his patients in the town where they lived. Every day when he came back to his home clinic an assistant arranged for a large mug of chilled beer to be delivered to him from a nearby restaurant. Back then, no Japanese house owned a refrigerator, so chilled beer ready for drinking was delivered to every home on demand.  My mother was the fourth daughter for him and was his favorite, so when my grandpa came home, my mother rushed to him and sat next to him. While listening to her father’s stories, she watched him gulping down and enjoying the mug of beer. One day after learning from his wife that my mother has not been eating much, my grandpa asked my mother if she wanted to taste the beer. My mother nodded, tried it and exclaimed to him that she loved the taste of bitter hops. After this episode it became a daily ritual for my mother to have just a little sip of beer from her father’s beer mug.

My mother did not develop a love for the alcohol in beer. There was too little alcohol in a very little sip. What my mother loved in beer was the bitterness of the hops that her body somehow asked for.  Over the years both her health and appetite improved dramatically.   Was her daily sip of beer part of her “cure”?

My mother married my father (a surgeon) and they opened the clinic in Tokyo. My mother became an indispensable part of my father’s business operation. She managed the clinic physically and financially. She cooked the meals for the patients who stayed at our clinic quarters after their surgery. She also prepared our family meals with huge love. My mother worked almost 17 hours a day for many long years. I remember that at the end of the day after the meal and cleaning up, and confirming that everyone had retired to their own bedroom for the night, my mother sat in the dining room with a small can of beer reading the daily newspapers. This was the only time when she could fully disengage from everything. I am sure that she was thinking of her father a lot.

About 15 years ago she announced to my sister who lives with my mother that she quit beer. There was no doctor’s command to stop drinking alcohol. The reason was that the beer of today does not taste as good as what she enjoyed in the past. When something does not taste good there is no value to consume it.

Today is December 31. I wish you the very best in the New Year!



Wholesome Vegetables: Welcome Kohlarbi!

Posted on 9:36 AM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

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.