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.”


Posted on 12:05 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Professional chefs! Professional chefs with some Japanese Cuisine knowledge! Here is a fun and rewarding competition information for you!

Please apply for the 6th ANNUAL JAPANESE CULINARY ART COMPETITION organized by Nihon Ryori Academy, Kyoto, Japan. First Prize, 2nd Prize and 3rd Prize at the final competition held in Kyhoto, Japan, are Y1,000,000, Y300,000 and Y100,000. http://culinary-academy.jp/eng/usa/

There is a regional Pre-competition, held at International Culinary Center, NYC, USA. https://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/blog/icc-to-host-upcoming-japanese-cuisine-competitions/ First Prize, 2nd Prize and 3rd Prize at the regional pre-competition held in NYC are Y50,000, Y30,000 and Y20,000.

A chef who recieved the First Prize in NYC will get a chance to be flown to Kyoto, Japan, and compete at the Kyoto Final.

Great opportunity to show your skills to the Japanese professional community.
Submission deadline is Friday June 30, 2017.
Follow the link http://culinary-academy.jp/eng/usa/, submit the application for a grand opportunity!!!


Construction is Over

Posted on 9:19 AM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

News from Hiroko;

1. New website construction is over; new, clean, updated site is up; Please visit www.hirokoskitchen.com

2. Summer has come in New York area after long weeks of cold spring; I have been enjoying early spring delicacies such as ramps, fiddle-head fern, rhubarb and asparagus. If you live in the area where season changes do not miss consuming spring vegetables now.

Each vegetable growing in specific season offers us specific nutritional benefits which we need during such season. Spring vegetables, including the ones which are noted with bitter flavor, helps us to detox our body and strengthen our immune system.

Gyoja-ninniku (ramps) is favorite spring delicacy in northern part of Japan

Ramps (Allium Tricoccum), whose season will be finishing soon at local farmers market, is one of my favorite in this season. This North America plant comes with a bulb, a slender stem and a long, fairly wide deep green leaf. The plant has slight garlicky flavor. In Japan we call it Gyoja-ninniku The plant is known to help to improve the metabolism and strengthen our immune system.

How I enjoy Gyoja-ninniku/ ramps in the Japanese way are;

– Ohitashi (parboiled ramps, marinate in flavored dashi: The Japanese Kitchen Page, 237)
– goma-ae (parboiled ramps, toss with dry sesame sauce: The Japanese Kitchen, Page 252)
– sumiso (parboiled ramps, draped with vinegar-miso sauce: Hiroko’s American Kitchen, page 77)

Then, here is one more recipe which I want to share with you. This is a quick version of Ohitashi and uses a little olive oil. Addition of little dashi boosts umami in this very simple dish.

ramps/gyoja-ninniku in modern, quick Ohitashi way

7 ounces ramps; cut off the bottom bulbs (about 3-4 inches) from the leafy parts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
¼ cup prepared dashi (Japanese fish stock)
½ teaspoon shoyu (soy sauce)

1. Bring plenty of water in a medium pot to a boil and cook the bulb parts for 1 minute. Drain and air dry them.

2. In a skillet heat the oil and add the bulb parts with a pinch of salt. Cook until lightly golden here and there, for 2 minutes. Add the leaf parts and cook 1 minute, tossing the leaves so that they are evenly wilted.

4. Add the dashi and cook 30 seconds, stirring all the time. Add the shoyu and cook about 20 seconds. Turn off the heat. Divide the ramps and cooking liquid into two small serving bowls. As I write a bunch of ramps in the refrigerator is waiting for me to cook for this supper.


Posted on 12:10 PM in Hiroko's Blog

After learning how to make clean, natural shio-koji, attendees savored pre-marinated shio-koji chicken. Delicious smell permeated at MOFAD

Shio-koji made everyone happy at Shio-koji event at MOFAD.

So many articles have been written about shio-koji. You may have made it in your kitchen, and have been using it to cook up delicious meals. Shio-koji is a seasoning, which makes everything taste delicious and everyone happy. If you don’t know about it, or haven’t made or used it before, I will show you how to do.

Two weeks ago I did Shio-koji workshop at MOFAD, Brooklyn. All attendees prepared their shio-koji from scratch. After 10 days of nursing them, by now, everyone is enjoying their delicious babies in their kitchen.

Commercially-made shio-koji is available at Japanese food stores, but, I urge you to make your own. The process of making it is simple and great fun, and the end product is 100% natural – nothing more than koj-rice, sea salt and water. Koji-rice is easily available at Japanese food stores or online stores.

A bit of history of Shio-koji:

Let me introduce you to my people back in the 18th and 19th century (Edo period). This woodblock print depicts people crossing over the Nihonbashi bridge, the original site of the Tsukiji fish market. It was during this time that Shio-koji was a popular seasoning. Shio-koji fell out of favor when Japan marched for modernization.

Myoho Asari was born as a first child of Kojiya Honten in Ohita Prefecture, Japan. Kojiya Honten is a 320 years old company, which makes and sells koji-rice. One day she began to dig deep about the history of Shio-koji. She wanted to contribute to the expansion of her traditional family business. Her passion became the product of shio-koji. She appeared on television and radio programs, and traveled extensively to teach people about this ancient seasoning. Soon after, large and small food companies jumped on the same bandwagon and began producing Shio-koji products. Myoho Asari is known today in Japan as a ‘koji woman’.

Koji is a fungal microorganism, which has been commercially used in Japan since 13th century to produce fermented products such as sake (rice wine), miso, shoyu (soy sauce), mirin and rice vinegar. Koji-rice is the steamed rice which was malted/inoculated with koji, and is the foundation of fermentation.

Home-made shio-koji; not much labor; just 5 or 10 days of waiting.

How to make shio-koji:

100g sea salt

300g koji rice (I recommend Cold Mountain Brand koji-rice: Japanese food store or on-line store)

500g water (soft water; NYC water is ideal!)

  1. Rub the shio-koji between your hands. Warm them up.
  2. Rub the shio-koji with the sea salt.
  3. Add 400g water and stir. After 15 to 20 minutes later add the remaining water and stir. Transfer the mixture to a sterilized jar with a lid. Keep the jar, covered, at room temperature.
  4. Next 5 days (during warm and hot climate) or 10 days (during cold winter time) once a day open the lid and stir the koji with a spoon for about 50 times. Treat shio-koji as your new baby. Needs proper care, or it goes sour or rebel!
  5. After 5 days or 10 days your shio-koji is ready to use. Firs 2 days koj-rice remains firm and voluminous. On the 3rd and 4th days the mixture becomes looser. Make sure that koji-rice is always covered with water (barely). Do not add additional water. At the end of maturation koji-rice becomes looser and develops faint sweetness.


My winter life-line – colorful radishes are just tossed with shio-koji; next day it is deliciously pickled

HOW TO USE Shio-koji:


There is only one rule. Use 10% of shio-koji to the weight of the ingredient which you are pickling or cooking.


Example 1: 7 ounces (200g) chicken thigh needs 20g shio-koji to marinate for 20 minutes to overnight


Example 2: 7 ounces (200g) radishes, cut into slices, needs 20g shio-koji to pickle for 20 minutes to overnight


Shio-koji works for chicken, duck, pork, beef, fish, vegetables,…..everything. Good luck.

Hokkaido is A Gem

Posted on 3:52 PM in Hiroko's Blog

This is the ski season, and everyone in Japan is enjoying skiing in Hokkaido. Niseko is one of the most popular skiing sites and lots of Australians come to enjoy the powder snow. Today’s temperature at Niseko is max. at 15F and minimum at 10F. The snow fall from this morning was 3.5 inches. In January it received so far 3.8 feet of snow. The 2016/2017 season accumulation by now is 13 feet. Great accomplishment.

IMG_1730 Hokkaido Intro photo

canoe cofeeIMG_1730

fish lunch making





Shiretoko 5 lake waling





Need a good vacation in early summer? Do you like Japan? Do you like nature? Do you like hot spring? Do you like good food from ramen to soba noodles, Kaiseki (formal meal), good sushi and wagyu barbecue? Would you like to challenge on soba (backwheat noodle) making in the heart of the backwheat growing region? Do like to canoe early in the morning at quiet and beautiful lake? Do you like to walk in the UNESCO registered National Park which is a home to a Japanese brown bear, the largest bear in the world, and active volcano? Do you like to visit a local fish market to see just caught very fresh regional fish which you have never seen before? Do you want to listen to the music and story of Ainu people – the indigenous population of Hokkaido?

There are many more wonderful experiences you will have in Hokkaido with Hiroko, 2017. Join me Hokkaido with Hiroko: May 25 – June 6, 2017. It is a unique tour combining the best of natural, cultural and culinary worlds of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. This is the second year of Hokkaido with Hiroko operation. The group that joined Hokkaido with Hiroko 2016 enjoyed it thoroughly as you can see from the photos. Contact: Hiroko Shimbo: hiroko@hirokoskitchen.com/ 212-727-3085. There are 2 spaces left.


Discover Osechi Ryori (5) Kazunoko – Family Prosperity

Posted on 9:08 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Are you still with me in the preparation of Osechi Ryori? Hope that you are not put off with too much superstitious ideas. Kazunoko is a salt-cured herring roe consists of hundreds of tiny eggs grouped together in one piece, encased in a very thin membrane. The size of dried herring roe is about 5 inches long. We hydrate it and marinate it in the mixture of shoyu and mirin overnight. Kazunoko symbolizes family prosperity. Properly prepared kazunoko presents golden yellow color, and on biting it, it creates pleasant crunchiness in the mouth. Everyone at the table can tell that you are eating kazunoko from the sound which you make.

Today it is hard to find a good quality kazunoko. It should come from Hokkaido and dried in the sun (not in the dryer). This year I am using the true kazunoko. Sixteen pieces of roes cost about $200. Family, friends and colleagues who come to the Japanese New Year Open House at our home on January 2nd are very lucky ones. I can assure of their Family Prosperity in the New Year…..

No more kids??? Kazunoko for Family Prosperity.

Discover Osechi Ryori (4) Kobumaki – Longevity

Posted on 9:07 PM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

kobumaki kuromame-cooked








Kelp, which is an indispensable ingredient in Japanese cooking, plays an important role to bring longevity and good luck to the people who consume it at the beginning of the New Year. Kobumaki is a dish in which hydrated dried herring is wrapped and rolled in a piece of hydrated kelp sheet, and simmered tender. Here is the old post of the dish where you find the recipe. Since dried herring is not available here, I use smoked fish. The smoked fish needs to be soaked overnight to remove much salt. This year I used kanpyo gourd strips to tie the rolled fish and kelp, so everything is edible!

Kobumaki for Longevity.

Discover Osechi Ryori (3) Kinton: Money

Posted on 9:07 PM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

kinton-kuri kinton








Kinton means gold bar or lump of gold. Kinton is a dish in which mashed, sweetened sweet potato is tossed with candied chestnuts. The sweet potato is usually cooked with dried gardenia flower pod to make the dish to acquire bright golden yellow color. I have changed my mother’s recipe in 3 areas. I cook the sweet potato in the oven for stronger flavor of sweet potato; I reduced the amount of sugar added to the sweet potato mash; I added little orange and yuzu juice to cook the sweet potato.

Here is the preparation. Bake the sweet potato in the oven (400F) for 50 to 60 minutes. Peel the skin and press it through a fine strainer. In a saucepan add ½ cup orange juice and one gardenia pod. Cook the mixture over low heat until the orange juice acquire a bright golden yellow color. Add the strained sweet potato to a pot and mix with the orange juice. Add the sugar and cook until the sweet potato is no longer watery. The amount of sugar is to your preference.  Toss the sweet potato with the candid chestnut.

Consuming Kinton at the New Year implies that you will have a good luck to making  money.


Discover Osechi Ryori (2) Tazukuri – Baby Fish for Building Wealth

Posted on 7:13 AM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

tazukuri tazukuri-cooked








How to make wealth with baby fish? Tazukuri is a dish in which tiny dried baby sardines are roasted in a skillet until crispy and fragrant (I mean fish fragrant), and flavored with sugar, shoyu and sake (rice wine). The direct translation of Tazukuri is to build nutritious and healthy soil. In the past baby sardines were used as a fertilizer in the rice paddies and vegetable fields. Eating these tiny fish at the beginning of New Year, therefore, implies to bring good harvest, which turns to a good money. How does Tazukuri taste? I cannot deny that it has a unique taste. It is pleasantly fishy, slightly bitter and mellow sweet. By the way these tiny fish are rich in calcium!

When you go to Japanese food store towards the end of the year you can find dried baby sardine for Tazukuri preparation. I got the one at Outside Market of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo this year, so the quality is excellent.

Now the preparation; Dry roast the baby fishes (7 ounces) in a heated skillet over low heat until they are crisp and fish-fragrant. Prepare the sauce for the fish. In a small pot mix ¼ cup of water, ¼ cup of sake, 2 tablespoons shoyu and 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the pot over medium heat and dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook the sauce until it is reduced to half. At the end of cooking add 1 teaspoon of the sliced akatogarashi red chile pepper. Toss the roasted fish with the reduced sauce.

Every home has different recipe for Tazukuri. Some are cooked much sweeter – a sort of candied baby fish. My mother’s recipe, which is less sweet, tastes acceptably good with a little glass of sake (rice wine). By the way this year I added freshly ground black pepper powder.

Baby Fish Building Wealth.

Discvoer Osechi Ryori (1) Kuromame for Health

Posted on 7:12 AM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

kuromame-cooked kuromame









Every Japanese citizen starts a New Year with auspicious Osechi Ryori meal. Osechi Ryori is a celebration meal like the one enjoyed at Thanksgiving dinner. There is a whole set of rule of what to be served for the celebration. Osechi Ryori has many dishes in the meal. Each ingredient used is related to something which bring us luck, prosperity, health and happiness in the New Year.

I have begun making Osechi Ryori dish preparation on December 27th. At the beginning of next year we are holding a Japanese New Year Open House. Follow me what I am going to prepare. You may try it at the end of next year for the following New Year’s celebration.

First dish which I completed is Kuromame. It is a dish in which dried black soybeans are simmered tender and flavored with sugar, salt and little shoyu. Beans in Japanese is ‘mame’. Mame’s another interpretation is health. Eating kuromame (black soybeans), thus, brings us health throughout the year. Too superstitious? It is delicious!

I use my mother’s recipe for this preparation, in which the skin of cooked soybeans develops shrinkage on the surface of the beans towards the end of cooking. This, according to my mother, reminds us of old age (wrinkles on the face!), and teach us to appreciate and celebrate old ages. Today kuromame cooked smooth on the skin has become main stream, as more people worry about one’s own wrinkles on the face.

Rinse and soak dried soybeans overnight in water. Next morning remove broken beans (discarding) and transfer other beans to a large pot with the soaking water. I add my iron egg in the pot (see the below for an iron egg). Bring the soaking water and beans to a simmer and cook the beans over low heat until beans are tender. This year I purchased the very good quality beans at Outside Market of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. The beans are larger than the ones which I cooked before. Usually 5 hours is enough for them to become tender, but these large beans took 10 hours to cook! During cooking remember to keep adding additional water, so that the beans are always submerged in cooking liquid. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid. Separate the beans and cooking liquid. Add sugar to the cooking liquid and bring it to a simmer. The beans and sugar rates are: 2 cups dried beans and 2 cups sugar. You can reduce sugar if you want it not too sweet. Return the beans to the cooking liquid and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes.

For those who want to cook the beans smooth on the surface, here is the recipe and the secret of using an egg;

Kuromame for Health.

Latest News From Japan

Posted on 9:00 AM in Hiroko's Blog

giftHere is some news from Japan on my latest stay just before the Christmas this year.


Christmas has become a popular annual event. It is a necessity. No religious connection. Christmas-featured pastry, goods, gifts, Christmas tree, street light illuminations, songs related Christmas is everywhere. Christmas Eve Dinner has decided to be chicken thanks to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s decades long campaign. Restaurants (eat-in and take-out) feature and promote chicken Christmas dinner. Who is promoting and benefiting from this new culture? Business. Not a surprise.

1. Oseibo: Japan once was a gift-giving country and one of the biggest gifts-giving was practiced at the end of the year in the form of Oseibo (the end of the year gift). I was raised during which this system worked at full capacity. My father as a doctor at the end of every year received over 200 gifts from his patients, neighbors, friends, colleagues and family members. A gift was diverse – from a pair of finest quality men’s sock and handkerchief, to quality bottle of shoyu, a bottle of fine sake, an assorted premier mixture of hams, sausages and cheese, a box of foreign chocolates, a box of French soap and so on. The practice of giving gift to doctors was abolished some time ago. Business corporations followed suit and banned the gift-giving practice inside the company. Gift-fiving at the end of the year has almost diminished to none. The companies depended on Oseibo practice – food and good producers and department stores & other stores – were hit hard. So, they came up with a good solution. They now promote the population a gift-giving to oneself……

2. Mu-kacho-ramen: I have tried many ramen in Japan in the past. To tell the truth this time I had the true ramen in Tokyo. Eating ramen is tricky anyplace. Some stores use already prepared, concentrated stock which may have chemical additives, including MSG. Look into the ramen shops’ garbage bins (well, it is hard to do so). If you don’t find any discarded bones in the bins, they are not making the stock from scratch. Do not worth a visit to such places. Here in America the food has becoming cleaner and cleaner (dropping chemical additives) and I appreciate that. I do not know how clean the ramen stores in America, though. My mission to find no-chemical added ramen shops in Tokyo was easy, but to my surprise the numbers are few. They call such places ‘Mu-kacho-ramen-ya’. I tried two fantastic places. Interestingly, both places do not advertise inside the shop how clean their ramen is. By doing so will they be harassed by other competitors? Mu-kacho-ramen tastes really great. After a bowl of ramen my body/stomach was very happy for long time. On your next visit to Tokyo, check out the below;



3. KitKat!: Why the Japanese are such obsessed with KitKat? This is the photo which I took at a souvenior shop at Haneda airport, Japan, before my departure. KitKat with diverse flavors – wasabi, sake (limited season), matcha tea, plum blossom, rum raisin, Hokkaido melon,…KitKat was introduced to Japan in 1980s. This January KitKat was the bestselling chocolate snacks in Japan. KitKat success story is only possible in Japan. Another interpretation – slightly tortured version – of KitKat is ‘Kitto-Katsu’. Kitto-Katsu means ‘ I/You surely win’. KitKat has become a good fortune item/snack to someone who is wishing a good luck.

I am preparing Osechi Ryori. Please come back to read the posts in the next 3 days.

Happy Holidays!