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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.”

Learning the Art & Pleasure of Japanese Cooking with Hiroko Shimbo + 2019 THANKS

Posted on 8:07 PM in Hiroko's Blog

 

 

 

Learning the Art & Pleasure of Japanese Cooking with Hiroko Shimbo

2019 THANKS

 

Japanese Cooking Classes and Courses at International Culinary Center, 2019

 

Thank you to those who attended the 5-day Essentials of Japanese Cuisine, one-day Ramen Class and one-day Sushi 101 at International Culinary Center in New York City.

I loved meeting you all, sharing the expertise, cooking together and savoring the results with you!

2020 PLANS & SCHEDULES

Making 2020 the Year for Cooking at Home

 

We talk about caring for family, friends and the earth all the time.  But often we are actually only talking about our own wellness in contrast to that of family, friends and the earth.  Cooking at Home can help to some degree to adjust this attitude and bring ourselves to real wellness and harmony with the world around us.  When we cook at home, it can begin with personally doing some shopping in our neighborhood community. This gives us awareness of all the involved beings in this universe – the people who sell, produce and transport the food we buy and consume.  I know these days many busy people have little time for shopping, but we should make some effort, even a little, to do this. Personally obtaining the food we eat and recognizing those responsible can provide more than a faceless and impersonal online order.

Buying seasonal ingredients locally at farmers markets or at local stores not only support the local economy, but also remind us to offer appreciation towards everyone that helped to bring such ingredients to our shopping bags; nature, farmers, truck drivers, store staff,…..  When we shop locally for ingredients by ourselves, we can also decide to use fewer or no unnecessary plastic bags or containers.  Every time when we shop in this way our awareness of our environment becomes stronger and stronger.

Cooking is truly labor; cooking is time consuming; cooking involves processes without short-cuts.  And cooking is not a competition.  Who wants to consume a meal that has been prepared by someone who dislikes or doesn’t care much about cooking and shopping and rushed to prepare the food through as many short-cut processes as possible with artificial ingredients to speed and simplify the process?  Well, such meal won’t nourish us literally or spiritually.

So, please join me in 2020 to discover the labor and joy of cooking at home.  They are inseparable.  That adds beauty to our lives.

Love,

Hiroko

 

 

Japanese Cooking Classes and Courses at International Culinary Center, 2020

Below is my teaching schedule at the International Culinary Center in New York City for 2020.  Please do not fail to join me for these most enjoyable and educational classes.  Let’s cook together for our enjoyment and well-being.  Register the for the Course and Classes before they are sold out!

 

The Essentials of Japanese Cuisine:             4/13/2020 – 4/17/2020

https://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/new-york-campus/amateur-classes-ny/essentials-of-japanese-cuisine-with-hiroko-shimbo/

This yearly 5-day course is chock-full of essential information and provides the experience of hands-on preparation.  Through this course you will acquire knowledge and mastery of the preparation techniques of Japanese cuisine.

 

  • Philosophy and history of Japanese cooking
  • Basic Japanese ingredients – kombu, katsuobushi, shoyu (soy sauce), mirin, miso, komezu (rice vinegar), sake, sea salt, rice
  • Japanese noodle dish – udon made from scratch
  • Home meals and formal meals
  • Grilling techniques using special bincho-tan charcoal
  • Simmered dishes – fish, vegetables and chicken
  • Rice preparation and dishes – everyday rice table rice, takikomi gohan (rice cooked with seasonal vegetables and/or protein), mixed rice (rice mixed with flavoring ingredients)
  • Sushi 101 – the basics of sushi preparation
  • Advanced sushi – filleting a whole fish, sashimi, making nigirizushi (the familiar block of rice topped with an ingredient)

 

 

RAMEN   1/30/2020 & 9/17/2020

https://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/new-york-campus/one-day-classes-ny/ramen-gyoza-with-hiroko-shimbo/

 

This one-day Ramen class provides the information and hands-on experience for making delicious ramen and gyoza dumplings.  After taking this class you will acquire knowledge and master the techniques of the world of ramen;

 

  • History of ramen
  • All about ramen
  • Preparation of basic broth
  • Ramen noodles from scratch
  • Chashu pork
  • Miso-tare and shoyu-tare (two ramen stock flavoring sauces)
  • Assembling a ramen dish
  • Ramen accompaniment: Traditional pork and cabbage gyoza dumplings

 

 

SUSHI 101   6/25/2020

https://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/new-york-campus/one-day-classes-ny/basics-sushi-hiroko-shimbo/

 

This one-day Sushi 101 class provides the information and hands-on experience for making delicious sushi rolls, including both traditional and modern inside-out rolls.  After taking this class you will acquire knowledge and master the techniques of basic sushi-making:

 

  • History of sushi
  • How to perfect the making of sushi rice
  • Sweet simmered shiitake mushrooms
  • Sweet pickled ginger
  • Making Japanese rolled omelet (tamago)
  • Making thin rolls
  • Making inside-out rolls

Everything is Impermanent and The Life of The Japanese Kitchen

Posted on 1:30 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Thank you for loving my first and most widely selling book “The Japanese Kitchen’ for over 21 years.  As a definitive work on the art of Japanese cuisine and its preparation, “The Japanese Kitchen” has received many awards.  But most importantly, it was cherished by many of you who love Japanese foods and culture.  A few weeks ago, I received unexpected information from the Quarto Knows the current publisher and rights owner who purchased the original publisher, Harvard Common Press, when I attempted to re-order my book in the face of continuing orders for “The Japanese Kitchen”.  “The Japanese Kitchen” is now sold out and won’t be reprinted by the current publisher.

“The Japanese Kitchen” is the first of my three cookbooks.  It took more than four years for me to write the book.  From the beginning I was aiming to publish it in America even though at that time I was not living in the US. I wanted to convey the art and pleasure of Japanese cooking to an American audience, which, until my book appeared was largely ignored.  I did much field research to write this book and I enormously enjoyed learning so much especially about the production side of Japanese ingredients.  I selected excellent food producers and visited many of them. They welcomed me and taught me with their generous open minds.  All of them are small-scale, family owned and respectful artisanal producers.  The knowledge shared with me by them became the backbone of this book and my future career.  My thanks never stop being extended to these generous, sincere and lovely people: Mr. Iio, Mr. Sumiya, Mr. Kitani, Mr. Nemoto, and others.

I began writing the manuscript of “The Japanese Kitchen” in English during the research period in Japan.  Back then my English skills in both writing and speaking was terrible.  Buzz, my husband, who was in-house editor in addition to his own non-food related business, edited my words, grammar and sometimes strange sentences.  This editing continued until I finally completed my research and first draft.  There was no more update necessary in the manuscript.  Though he jokingly complained about my poor writing, he never gave up the editing task as I continued to revise the manuscript.  My thanks never stop being extended to Buzz.

Publishing a book in what seem the distance past but is only 20 some years ago was completely different from today’s practices.  I visited New York City, the hub of the publishing houses, several times just to knock the publishers’ doors.  All such visits ended in rejections.  “The Japanese cookbook has very small market and we are not planning to publish a Japanese cookbook.” was always the answer to my cold-call visits.  But through this experience I soon learned that I must have an agent who could find a home for my manuscript.  It sounded easy and straightforward but finding the right cookbook agent was nearly as tough as finding a publisher.  One literary agent agreed to take the manuscript, but after months of failed attempts, she gave up and the manuscript was returned to me with a bite marks by her dog; another desappointment.  By this time my book had already received over 30-40 rejections from across all level of the publishers.

I was desperate; I was younger then; and I was determined to publish my baby.  One day I attended a lecture offered by Lisa Ekus, a well-known person in the food industry. Her topic was “How to publish your book!”  At the end of the lecture I approached Lisa and told her the whole story of my book’s creation and history of rejections. I begged her to help me.  She did so by later introducing me to Bruce Shaw, the owner of Harvard Common Press, based in Boston.  Bruce accepted my manuscript for publication. My agent returned to take care of the business matters with the publisher and in 2000 “The Japanese Kitchen” was born.  So, my thanks to Lisa, Bruce and my agent never cease to be extended.

Harvard Common Press was absorbed by Quarto Knows publishing house.  Bruce Shaw while owning and operating Harvard Common Press promised that the printing of “The Japanese Kitchen” would continue indefinitely.  I, for a short time, thought of contacting Dan Rosenberg at Quarto Knows, but I decided to let it go.  Life is impermanent.  Everything has beginning and end.  Birth and death.

In this letter I celebrate the life of “The Japanese Kitchen”.  It brought me relationships with many people with whom I never would have imagined I could connect.  It brought me confidence, pleasure and an appreciation of life.  If you own “The Japanese Kitchen”, no matter where you are, please continue to use, enjoy and take care of it.

I am planting a small seed for my fourth book. It is still in the research and study phase.  I hope this new baby will be welcomed to your home and kitchen when it is born.

Thank you,

Hiroko

JAPANESE CUISINE TRAINING PROGRAM

Posted on 2:57 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Here is a great opportunity for those non-Japanese chefs living abroad who want to commit 8 months to study the Japanese cuisine – seriously – here is a program: Japanese Cuisine Training Program, subsidized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan.

Those who can apply:

  • Non-Japanese living in Japan or abroad
  • Over 18 years old
  • Having language proficiency (both written and spoken) in English and/or Japanese
  • Having financial ability to support own living in Japan during the program, outside what are supported by the program
  • Conducting courtesy, integrity, good manners, good discipline and respect for the needs of others
  • Having physical/spiritual health
  • Having basic knowledge and skills of cooking and strong motivation to learn Japanese cuisine
  • Having responsibility of participating and completing all courses of the program
  • Contributes to promoting Japanese cuisine, food culture and Japan-produced ingredients after participating in the program
  • Tattoo – not recommended

Program contains:

  1. July 1 Opening Ceremony
  2. Japanese Language School study from July 3 – July 19, 2019
  3. Group training of basic Japanese cuisine at Japanese cooking school July 24 – August 30, 2019
  4. Individual training at restaurant  September 2, 2019 – February 23, 2020
  5. Final Examination  February 26, 2020
  6. Graduation  February 27, 2020

Expenses supported by the Program:

  • Round trip air ticket
  • Tuition for the Japanese language course
  • Tuition for the Japanese culinary school
  • Accommodation during the stay in Japan
  • National Health Insurance expense during the stay in Japan

Note: If you quit the Program at any time during the Program Term you will be asked to pay your airfare, language course, culinary school, etc.

Submission of application and screening:

Send e-mail to TOW (below) to request application form.

nihonshoku@tow.co.jp

  • Application form
  • Graduate certificate of culinary school (if graduated from culinary school)
  • Copy of passport
  • Recommendation letter from the present employer
  • Pledge form
  • Medical examination report

Those who passed the first document screening will be notified to have a Skype interview.  Final result will be announced by mid of May, 2019.

‘Learn as if you were to live forever’ M. Gandhi

Best regards,

Hiroko

The 7th Japanese Culinary Arts Competition

Posted on 1:12 PM in Hiroko's Blog

COMPETITION

Click above to see the complete information.

Compete in The 7th Japanese Culinary Arts Competition;

The theme of the 7th Japanese Culinary Arts Competition is SHOKU NO HANAYAGI.  The objective of SHOKU NO HAYANAGI is the achievement of a beautiful and exciting presentation for each prepared dish.  The harmonious display of the five colors, red, green, orange, white and black in the prepared food itself including its container is essential to achieving this goal.  Chefs utilize these five basic colors to create presentations that appeal to the diner’s eye and entertain other senses to maximize the dining experience.

The competition is conducted in two phases.  The contestants first compete at a regional level at one of the four world-wide regions outside Japan.  The winners of the regional competitions are invited to Japan, expenses paid, for the final competition to be held in Kyoto.

Regional Competition Cash Prize: Winner 50,000 yen, 2nd prize 30,000 yen, 3rd prize 20,000 yen

Koto Final Competition Cash Prize: Winner 1,000,000 yen

How to apply and compete in North America Competition:

  1. Create three recipes for four serving portions with focus on SHOKU NO HANAYAGI, including the use of the five basic colors to create exciting and appealing presentations.  The dishes much be produced using three classical Japanese preparation techniques.  Takimono (simmered dish), Yakimono (grilled dish), and Agemono (deep-fried dish).  One dish from each category is required.  The total food cost for four portions of the three dishes should be 8,000 yen (around $73). Photos of the created dishes should be taken, selecting the best photo of each for submission.
  2. Visit https://www.culinary-academy.jp/jpn/compe/form/entry/ and register by filing in the ENTRY FORM. Submit three recipes with accompanying photos.  The deadline of the submission is September 30, 2019.  The screening process will select six contestants in North America Region.
  3. North America Regional Qualifying Competition is held on January 13, 2020 at Institute of Culinary Education, New York.

 

ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI

Posted on 3:57 PM in Hiroko's Blog

I have been posting photos on my Instagram of some ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI presentations, a Japanese technique for achieving balanced, nutritious dining.  If you are new to ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI, it is an ideal meal structure for everyday home meals that has been conceived and tested in Japan by centuries of experience with nutrition and dining satisfaction. ICHI-JUU ??means ‘one soup dish’; SAN-SAI means ‘three side dishes’.  You may find that something is missing from this basic Japanese meal structure.  There is no bowl of rice.  Rice is so indispensable and important in our diet that it is not counted in this menu prescription.  A plate of pickles and bowl of rice is assumed to be part of the meal.  So, when you make a complete count for an ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI meal, you will find six dishes in total.

The origin of ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI can go back to the simple meal in Japan that was served back in the 9th century, and some historian links it to HONZEN RYORI, the first elaborate banquet meal style developed in the 15th century.  In any case, it is an ancient construction for a complete nutritious and appealing meal in Japan

ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI includes all necessary nutrients; carbohydrate from rice, protein from fish, chicken, meat or shellfish, and micro-nutrients from all other sources including vegetables and seaweeds.  Every dish served in the ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI structure is presented in rather small and proper portion size.  The meal is made more diverse through the use of seasonal ingredients.  Because of this ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI can serve as an ideal meal structure model for all of us employing any cuisine, year-round.

When you are having thoughts about what to eat and how much to eat, think of creating your own ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI meal.  This means that you are filling 6 bowls and/or plates with protein, carbohydrate and vegetables.  Choosing 6 bowls and/or plates sounds easy, but there is one additional rule.  To conform to the Japanese way, each piece should be in small enough so that all six of them can be placed inside 15 -16-inch square space on the table.  Place six of your chosen bowls and plates on the square to check.  Now you know how much food should be plated for each dish.  Don’t be concerned if you have no small bowls and plates.  You can, of course use one large dish to serve the three side dishes.  One problem which you may face in this presentation is that something which contains liquid (for example, a salad dressed with a loose, runny dressing) will contaminate other dishes served on the same plate; well, this is not a big worry; perhaps you have one small bowl for that item.  From the preparation point of view, it is a good idea to use minimally processed, good quality food product. I like items such as such as tofu, cheese and canned wild fish.  Using such convenient food items makes preparation quick, easy and effortless.

My latest Instagram posts of ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI lunch and dinner sets include:

  1. Rice (I love cooking brown rice with red rice), miso soup, pickles; steamed fish, simmered deep-fried tofu and kale, daikon and persimmon salad
  2. Rice, miso soup, pickles; simmered fish, Chinese broccoli with sesame sauce, tofu salad
  3. Steamed fish with rice (2 dishes in 1), miso soup, pickles; mustard greens with sesame-kale sauce, duck prosciutto
  4. Onigiri rice ball, miso soup, pickles; “tamago” Japanese rolled egg omelet, tofu with scallion and ginger, collard greens with sesame sauce
  5. Rice, “tonjiru” pork broth miso soup (2 dishes in 1); tofu with sesame sauce, Chinese broccoli with ponzu sauce
  6. Onigiri rice ball, miso soup, pickles; tofu steak with grated daikon, green peas and ham, mustard leaves with sesame sauce

Enjoy these posts and construct your own ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI set from Japanese or any other cuisine. Be creative!

 

READ more about ICHI-JUU SAN-SAI:

https://allabout-japan.com/en/article/1508/

https://www.sushisushi.co.uk/blogs/education/why-is-japanese-food-considered-healthy

http://tsukiji-cooking.com/whatswashoku/

GINGER AND GINGERBREAD

Posted on 6:16 PM in Hiroko's Blog

 

Is there anyone out there who has cold feet, hands or body; anyone who desperately wants to warm up? Make this simple hot drink. You need only three items. They are fresh ginger, honey and hot water. Grate 1 teaspoon of peeled ginger and add to your coffee or tea mug; add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of honey (if it is available get the locally produced honey); carefully pour in about 1 cup very hot water; stir the mixture; let it cool off a bit and then enjoy! Have this hot sip once or twice in the morning and perhaps before going to bed. It warms up your body and your mind.

The very first time I ate gingerbread happened just several days ago on Christmas eve at our friend’s house.  Growing up in Japan I had no connection to or affection for gingerbread even after living in New York City for 19 years. The taste of ginger which is so familiar in my Japanese cuisine actually tasted quite different in this new-for-me cake. Dried ginger powder as is used in gingerbread is not a Japanese kitchen staple, but the fresh rhizome certainly is.

Ginger, shoga, is one of the most representative spice used in the Japanese kitchen throughout the year.  Shoga has been cultivated in China since antiquity and was introduced to Japan around the 2nd or 3rd century AD.  The Japanese climate is a good fit for growing shoga and the cultivation of the rhizome began in the 7th century. In the Japanese kitchen shoga is always used fresh.  To cook strongly flavored fish or meat we add sliced shoga to the pot. Shoga cuts off any overly strong flavors of the ingredients and produces an appealing and balanced flavor in the prepared dish.  Shoga in Japan is used fresh – grated, finely julienned, sliced thin or pickled –  to become a garnish for prepared dishes. It may be served as a condiment with a prepared dish. The fresh fragrance and spiciness of the rhizome awakens and entertains diners’ senses and is a very characteristic feature of the Japanese meal.

How was ginger chosen as the primary flavor in the cake or cookie that is called “gingerbread”?  Ginger root traveled from China to Europe via the Silk Road during Middle Age giving the spice great value.  Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread blog says that, “The legend of the Gingerbread Man has a long-established provenance in mainland Europe. It is thought to have first appeared at the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st who presented courtiers with gingerbread likeness of themselves at Christmas.”  Sara also mentions that, “For the Chinese and Romans ginger was a symbol of wealth and fertility.”  These may be some of the reasons why gingerbread came into being.

Ginger has long been known in China, India and Arab countries as a traditional herbal medicine. Those medicinal-use teachings were also introduced to Japan. We use ginger in Japanese preparations not just to awaken and entertains the diners’ senses, because of ginger’s many medicinal properties. One of them is that it is said to warm our bodies including our intestines and organs. Ginger also aids digestion, and as you may have heard, ginger calms nausea and vomiting.  In the Japanese kitchen ginger is also known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Grated ginger always accompanies oily fish sashimi such as aji (horse mackerel), sanma (Pacific pike) and iwashi (sardines) because these delicious, but oily fish are known to spoil rather quickly. The grated ginger helps to deal with any bacteria that might be multiplying in these fish.

Next year I will introduce you to more information about medicinal foods in the Japanese culinary tradition. Until then, let’s eat local and seasonal to maintain the health of both human beings and the earth. And no processed food by any means. Eat what nature gives us, not what the factory supplies.

Happy New Year!!! Dozo Yoi-Otoshi-O! and Akemashite-Omedeto!!!

HIROKO

SUPER-QUICK SHIO-KOJI and EAT LOCAL AND SEASONAL VEGETABLES

Posted on 10:11 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Super-quick Shio-koji

 

 

 

Super-Quick Shio-koji chicken

You may have tried shio-koji recipe which I have posted on June 12, 2012. I have been making it in this way until one day I found the fantastic short-cut way of making of this version from a Japanese cookbook written by Takako Nakamura. She has developed a super quick shio-koji recipe, which I call it Super-quick Shio-koji.

Super-quick Shio-koji takes only 1 hour to make; the old technique takes, as you have done it, for 10 days during winter time. It takes too long. So, here is how you make the Super-quick version.

You need an electric rice cooker. I use Zojirushi brand rice cooker, which is the best among many others. You need 1 tub of koji rice (576g), the same weight of lukewarm water (158F) and 190g sea salt.

Transfer the koji rice into a large bowl; toss them well with both hands to loosen them; add the lukewarm water to the koji rice and transfer them to the rice cooker bowl; set up the rice cooker at keep-warm function and leave the koji rice and water mixture for about 1 hour;  transfer the koji rice and water mixture (it is no longer watery) to a clean bowl and mix with the salt. It is ready to use but you may rest it for a couple of days in the refrigerator for matured flavor. You may process the Super-quick Shio-koji in a food processor to make it into a smooth paste. Transfer it in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep it refrigerated. You can enjoy it about 3 months.

Super-quick shio-koji has mellow sweeter flavor than the conventional shio-koji.  It is very handy; it keeps any meat and chicken cooked with it moist, juicy and flavorful.

The pork on the photo is painted with Super-quick Shio-koji and dried herbs one hour before cooking, and baked in the oven; the chicken on the photo is painted with Super-quick Shio-koji, maple syrup and cayenne pepper one hour before cooking, and baked in the oven.

If you complain that you have no time to make tasty dinner, try the Super-quick Shio-koji baked chicken or pork.

An important message: You pair the delicious baked Super-quick Shio-koji chicken or pork with seasonal vegetables. No tomato, bell peppers nor cucumber (even though you can purchase them at supermarket), please. These summer vegetables cool our body and not fit to our winter consumption. EAT LOCAL & SEASONAL and COOK OUR MEALS IN OUR OWN KITCHEN.

KYUSHU WITH HIROKO 2018

Posted on 9:15 AM in Hiroko's Blog

Kunisaki Peninsula with changing leaves

Seriously engaged in drawing patterns on a cup; wonderful art craft activity

Visit to shochu brewery

it looks like a gem; it is katsuobushi

Kyushu with Hiroko Shochu gifts

Vegetable lunch at 170 years old farm house

Before heading to Rotenburo onsen-hopping and sake/shochu hopping; what a fun

Vegetable dish reminded us of persimmon

Hike at Aso cardera; climbing up high gave us a beautiful view

Fun dengaku lunch; sitting around the charcoal fire

 

 

 

 

Kyushu with Hiroko 2018 with full 9 participants finished a grand tour with great satisfaction.

Please click the below link to see the collection of photos and video.

Activities varied from a special Buddhism service in Kunisaki Peninsula where they this year celebrates 1300th year Rokugo Manzan religious culture, to a Chinese cooking class, plunging in deep Onsen culture everywhere we went, a hike at Mt. Aso, a small boat ride in Kuma River, hiking to one of the most beautiful crater lakes in Kirishima, visits to katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna) factory and shochu brewery, soaking in the hot sand bath, staying at Christian history-studded Amakusa island, observing how sea salt is made, engaging in art activity, two boat rides between the islands, enjoying a very special Temple Fucha Cuisine at Kofukuji temple, exploring the Dejima (Dutch trading post for 250 years) museum, learning atomic bomb history and riding on Shinkansen high-speed train and local trains. Along with all these experiences we ate through diverse cuisine at breakfast, lunch and dinner on our way. All accomplished in 12 days.

Below is the photo link to Kyushu with Hiroko 2018. Please enjoy it with family and friends. If you want to be part of the tour in 2019, send Hiroko an e-mail of your interest in the tour next year. Price and detailed information of Kyushu with Hiroko 2019 will be sent to you when available at the beginning of next year. Looking forward to traveling Kyushu with you in 2019! https://www.dropbox.com/s/80io78lcnqpwi60/Kyushu%20with%20Hiroko%202018_Small%20%282%29.mp4?raw1

 

HOBA-YAKI, Rustic Mountain Dish

Posted on 7:34 PM in Hiroko's Blog

Hoba-yaki is a dish, in which scallion slices and mushrooms are cooked together over a charcoal fire on the bed of flavored, simple miso sauce placed that are placed on a dried hoba (magnolia) leaf. In the past in the mountainous, rural areas where not many cooking tools were available, this preparation was born. The leaf was used as a cooking vessel. Since the leaf has antiseptic property, the use of leaf in the kitchen was win-win situation. Of course, the leaf must be far enough from the charcoal so that it does not burn or ignite. Anyway, dried hoba leaf is very arty.

Times have changed. Today artistic presentations using hoba leves can be very attractive for diners, so this once-humble dish has adopted by high-end restaurant kitchens. At these venues’ chefs devise more creative version of the sauces and use expensive and varied ingredients such as the combination of wagyu beef and mushrooms, seasonal seafood with vegetables and briefly seared chicken with scallions. The resulting dishes are sensational to see and are delicious.

If you are using the hoba leaves, please do not forget to soak them in water before using in order to prevent burning and ignition.

Recently I found a fresh, very attractive, deep-green fig leaf at Union Square Farmers’ Market in NYC. The leave has five large pointed lobes and resembles a giant maple leaf. The vendor’s sign says that the leaf has anti-diabetic property. After carrying them back to my kitchen, I washed them and divided them into two piles; one for fresh use and the other for drying.

I used the fresh leaf to present cooked food items on top of the leaves. Does this configuration contribute to our health, especially the problem of diabetes?  I can’t say that I really have any further information about this.

One-week dried leaves are sitting on the kitchen counter. They will have to wait for my return from Japan at the end of this month. I am leaving for Japan tomorrow, July 7, to lead my tour, Kyushu with Hiroko 2018. So at that point they will be 5 weeks-dried leaves.  Please follow the tour on Instagram;  and you will enjoy what you see and you may want to join me with others for Kyushu with Hiroko 2019!

NIZAKANA WITH FLOUNDER, SALMON OR POMPANO THIS WINTER

Posted on 7:26 PM in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

There is a Japanese technique which may be new to you in this recipe. Taking this special step is necessary in order to produce clean and delicious flavor in the prepared dish.

The technique is called Shimofuri, which literally means ‘frost-covering’. In this technique we first blanch scaled and cleaned fish in hot water in a pot until the surface turns white resembling frost. Then carefully cool and rinse the fish in a bowl of cold water with tap water running into it. By doing this fish sheds off-flavors and becomes clean allowing the simmering broth in the next process to remain clean, clear and delicious.

After Shimofuri we place the fish in a shallow and large pot in which fish fillets can be placed without overlapping. We simmer the fish in a mixture of dashi, kelp stock or water, sake and mirin. This mixture barely covers the fish. The proportion of dashi/kelp stock, sake and mirin is 3:1:1. Add few slices of peeled ginger to the pot to enhance the flavor of the fish.

After cooking the fish about 10 minutes, covered with a drop lid (if you do not own a Japanese wooden drop lid, use a disc of parchment paper cut to just fit into the pot on top of the simmering ingredients), about 10 minutes, add the shoyu in the same quantity as the mirin. Cook until the cooking liquid is reduced by half. The cooking time varies depending on the size of the fish in the pot usually about 10 minutes. Serve the fish with a portion of the cooking liquid.

If karei (flounder) is not available, use salmon steak (with bones). If you can get wild-caught pompano, try it with this meaty, delicious fish. Nizakana is a wonderful fish dish enjoyed by everyone during the colder seasons.