Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Turning Japanese, Day 4

For dinner Monday night I made the super easy soba recipe (the hot variation) from this Japanese recipe site – sort of. The grocery had been out of grownup spinach (baby spinach salads being all I could find), so I didn’t have any fresh greens on hand, but I did have the soba (buckwheat) noodles, green onions, and soup base. The instructions say the ingredients are for one serving, but it’s really more like three or more. Three cups of water plus ingredients make too much soup.

Anyway, I started cutting back on the fly and used half the noodles, soup, and onions required (and no spinach) and created a large bowl of noodles with a little soup around them. I had planned to have a little rice on the side, but this was enough for one meal. It was pretty good, but like the miso soup it could use some finesse and experimentation – mainly some tofu and shichimi togarashi. Extra note – I managed to eat the entire meal with chopsticks.

I saved the leftover broth that wouldn’t fit into the bowl and used it along with some rice this morning to make rice soup for breakfast. That turned out much better than I would have hoped – even better than last night’s meal. The soy base of the soup worked well with the rice and the whole thing really brought out the flavor of the green onions. I’m not sure if sitting in the refrigerator overnight actually helped, but it didn’t hurt. If you want to try this quick and easy meal, it’s:
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of soup base (see super easy soba recipe above for a picture)
1 green onion
1/2 to 3/4 cup of cooked rice
Heat the water and soup base to almost boiling. Add the rice, top with the chopped green onion, and you’re done. You can add cotton (firm) tofu and schichimi togarashi (Japanese seven pepper spice) for added texture / flavoring.

Lunch yesterday was another frozen Whole Foods meal, chicken tikka masala with basmati rice. That’s right – more Indian food. I think it’s been reproducing in my freezer like bunnies.

Speaking of which, I watched part of Female Yakuza – Inquisition and Torture last night. Being more chop saki action, it’s not as graphic as J-horror, but it balances the lack of gore with added nudity. If you want to see Japanese women chop people into sushi while completely naked, you’ll find it in this film.

Dinner last night was supposed to be miso soup, rice, and a simple fish recipe I got from the book which prompted me to start this little trial. When I went to marinade the fish fillet I pulled from the freezer, I discovered it was actually chicken. I decided to take another chance and prepare it the same way. You’ve heard of chicken-fried steak? Well, here’s fish-fried chicken. The basic recipe involved marinating it in sake and pepper, dusting it with flour, and then frying it in my wok. I’m not sure if the sake added anything to the flavor, but the pepper was a nice touch and wok frying the nuggets (I cut it into pieces) was fast and easy. I’m beginning to think most good Japanese recipes came from happy accidents. I can’t believe I’ve never used a wok before. The book said it was okay to use a regular frying pan if you didn’t have one, but they’re really not interchangeable.

Speaking of the book, most of the recipes included are a little difficult for my level of expertise plus they seem to invariably require cheesecloth to strain something which is a real problem around here. I’ve looked in cookware stores, grocery stores, and discount stores and have yet to find any (in fact, most salespeople I’ve asked don’t even know what it is). The book is good for anecdotes, okay for a few useful recipes, but best for its research and explanation of the traditional Japanese view on food and eating, and that is what interests me most. The foodstuffs are vastly different between traditional Japanese cuisine (more rice, and soy) and Southern cooking (fried pig parts), but it’s the difference in attitude that intrigues me most.

One concept frequently expressed in the book is hara hachi bunme – eat until you are eighty percent full. This is very foreign to most Americans, particularly us slow and fat Southerners. I was always taught to clean my plate, regardless of how much food had been shoveled onto it, as if my family was afraid I might starve to death in between meals and snacks. I think it had something to do with all the starving children in Africa, although I don’t know how fattening me helped them in any way. Maybe it was like applying balance weights to a tire – scientists have determined that the Earth is wobbly, and we need to add weight to North America to even it out.

As an adult I get to measure my own portions (and have all the beer and ice cream I want), but I still have the American mentality to eat until I’m completely full, unless I’m on vacation in Florida and eating at Captain Anderson’s, wherein I eat until I’m at least 180% full (especially when having the World’s Finest Seafood Platter with One-Half Stuffed Broiled Florida Lobster) and have to be airlifted from the restaurant in total agony. I’m trying out the 80% full thing (although I’m not sure how you precisely measure that amount) and so far have found it to be effective. I get hungry more quickly and have to have an in-between meal snack, but I’m eating less overall and still feeling good (even better and more energetic, actually, but I think it’s too early to attribute that to a change in foods). Hara hachi bunme, combined with Japanese meals of rice and miso soup, keeps me from having the urge to nap after a heavy meal (unlike with, say, country fried steak and gravy and mashed potatoes and gravy and fried okra).

As a reminder, this is NOT a diet and I’m not trying to lose weight or get in better shape or turn yellow, so don’t leave any of those annoying little notes asking me how the diet is going because this is NOT A FECKING DIET and I don’t know or care if it’s affecting my BMI, whatever it is. I just like trying new things to see if they really can enhance my life. Tomorrow I think I’ll try writing a post that doesn’t take me days to complete because of a frickin’ work overload. Here’s hoping.


Seven said...

Walk around any mall in America or sporting event and you will see easily 70% obesity factor in Americans, substantiating your overeating description of typical north americans.
The recent World Baseball tournamnet had a slim fast Japanese team that won the tournament, beating American pro players with speed and fundamentals discipline.
However not one poor asian woman was chopped to bits; that I know of.

Liz said...

Good luck with the diet Grant. hehehe I'm just fecking with ya.
Now I'm gonna have to eat my asian equivalent.. ramen.

Nobius said...

BLOGGER is still a mess.

Anyway, I was going to ask you, what do you plan to do with your Japaneese language skills. You may have said but I don't recall....

Also, I'm working on my new collaborative zine project Calliope Nerve wondering if you might want to submit something?

Lastly, that story you had published a few months ago, I can't seem to get a hold of copy. Wondering if you might photocopy it and mail it or email it to be if you have a scanner? I want to read it.

Did I ever tell you when I went to see Mercyful Fate a few years back, these witches (at least that's what I think they were) kept screaming, "King Diamond, I need to be reborn"

WTF? :)

Kira said...

I love japanese food, but I don't think I could ever do a month of just Japanese food (well, maybe I could if I mixed it up with Indian like you do :P). My mom was what I'd call an international cook. One night, Italian; next night, Chinese; after that, Hungarian. One never knew what was for supper at my house. I remember my sister in law once stayed with us for a while, and she called up her mom one night and said, "Mom! I feel like I'm dining in a different foreign country every single dinner!" Haha! I just like variety.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I love sushi...does that count?

The PK could eat sushi every single meal...I like it, but not quite that much.

And you you think you could get my ice cream to reproduce in my freezer like your Indian food does in yours? That'd be cool.

Joe said...

Sounds like things are still going swimmingly with your conversion, such as it is.

As for the cheesecloth thing, as odd as it sounds, you might want to check an auto parts store. Cheesecloth is often used for detailing and that's where I've found it on the odd occasion I've needed it.

pink said...

Well i had chicken Biryani last night and boy was it good.

Grant said...

rick - I think the mall draws a higher percentage of obese Americans, despite the walking.

liz - try the soba noodle recipe. Ramen are egg noodles, whereas soba = buckwheat. The cold noodle recipe doesn't involve a large soup base.

nobius - I have no plans for the language (other than turning off those sodding subtitles), I've just always wanted to speak a second language. And I'll bet KD is waist deep in witch pussy. Lucky guy.

kira - Japanese food has a lot of variety. A recent study showed the Japanese eat about 100 different foods each week as compared to about 30 for Western nations. Given my limited cooking skills, I've only tried a few simple recipes. Plus, since I'm cooking for one, it's difficult to make a proper Japanese meal which typically has about five or more courses (just very small portions).

pq - sushi definitely counts, although it's Japanese restaurant cuisine instead of something typically made at home. I've read that it takes five years to train a sushi chef.

joe - thanks, although I prefer one stop shopping. I wonder if I can use 30 weight in place of canola oil?

pink - I just had chicken, so I think I'm ready to attempt a fish meal now.

Guide_to_life said...

hell just reading your post makes me want to go get some Sarku Japenese food...sounds good

Leesa said...

I feel so stupid when it comes to preparing Japanese food. Chinese Food - no problem, Japanese food. Ahhrrrfffggggg

PBS said...

Thanks for making me hungry! I don't like to cook food, just EAT it! Chopsticks make my hand cramp up, must do doing it wrong.

Just Some Gal said...

It sounds like you're having a bit of fun with such a variety of foods. I usually end up using a lot of ginger & shrimp too.

Speaking of accidents while cooking I ran out of ideas for dinner the other night and just diced some onion, bell pepper (cajun coming out in me), zucchinni, shrimp, chopped some chicken tenders, fresh pressed garlic, ginger, mushrooms and bit of soy sauce... tossed it all in the wok... Made some rice to go along... Ended up pretty good tasting.

Overall, I love how I can use my wok for almost anything. If something needs to cook longer, I start it first and push it to the side walls to add the rest of the stuff.

Also, you can buy dried chili peppers... Heat about a tablespoon of oil, toss in the chili peppers and let them get good and warmed up... It actually helps release the oils and can spice up a meal by adding them.

I do cook a bit milder because I have to feed the wee man too.

PS, I know I went off on a big ole' tangent about cooking but I love it. Sorry for the long comment.