Friday, November 25, 2016

Turkey Mole Stacked Enchiladas

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. I can't really pinpoint why it has always been my favorite holiday, even as a kid. It has always been more relaxing than other holidays, even now that help prepare a lot of the meal.

I guess now that I'm grown, I can say I love the fact that it's not religious and therefore very inclusive, not overly commercialized like Christmas or Valentine's Day, and finally I just love to cook.

And possible more than cooking, I love leftovers. It's serious business in my family. My mom hosts Thanksgiving just to get her hands on leftovers.

Sometimes however, you need a little variety in your leftovers. You need a little spice. Most of all, you need something quick and easy because you just did a marathon of cooking and you need a quick meal.

Enter in these leftover turkey mole stacked enchiladas. The flavor of these enchiladas is radically different from most traditional Thanksgiving fare, so it helps break the monotony of leftovers. You could make the mole sauce from scratch, but you just cooked a giant meal for your friends and family, so I think you deserve a tasty and easy meal by buying premade sauce.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Persimmon Pudding

It's persimmon season! Every year, my great uncle's trees bless us with more fuyu persimmons than we know what to do with. I've shared lots of recipes over the years and suggestions for what do with the fruits besides eating them plain, and it's become a Thanksgiving tradition to whip up something with persimmons.

I asked my mom what she wanted to see this year, and her answer was persimmon pudding!

There are two basic types of persimmon, or kaki (柿): the squat Fuyu that can be eaten crisp like an apple or the heart-shaped Hachiya type that is ripened until jelly-like inside. The Hachiya cannot be eaten hard because it is very astringent unless fully ripe.

Now persimmon pudding is traditionally made with the Hachiya type (or the wild American native persimmon which is similar in texture to the Hachiya), however it can be made with fuyu. You just need to let them over-ripen to a jiggly state. Generally speaking, there's always some of our fuyu that manage to overripe before we get through our bunker crop!

No matter what variety you have on hand, make sure they are jiggly-about-to-burst ripe. We want to highlight that custardy texture of the pulp in this recipe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Julia's Korroke

All I wanted for my birthday was to learn how to make Julia's amazing korokke. Julia is one of my mother's very best friends and someone I consider to be part of my family. They've known each other since before I was born, and I grew up going over to their house, going on road trips together, and spending holidays with them.

I learned to ride horses with Julia's instruction, while her husband introduced my brother and I to the awesome world of computer games. I was too young to notice it at the time, but they were very influential in my life, encouraging me in my academics but also my hobbies as well. I'm thankful every Thanksgiving I've had so many amazing role models in my life. I know that sounds super cheesy, but you haven't met them! Our families go camping together, horse trail riding together, and even thrift shopping with one another! I especially like playing board games at their house, and wish my work hours didn't prevent me from seeing them as often as I'd like.

Julia's son got me set on this idea when he mentioned that his favorite part of Thanksgiving was his mom's croquettes, which is served with the traditional okonomi sauce (sosu), but also ranch dip. It just wasn't Thanksgiving without it, in his opinion.

Ranch dip? On korokke? I had to see this. And then Julia brought some over to my parent's house, and I was hooked. I would have never in a million years thought that ranch would work with croquettes, but it is delicious. I personally liked to alternate between the okonomi sauce and the ranch dip, so each bite sings.

Korokke, or Japanese croquettes, are very similar to the French croquettes, but are usually made with a higher ratio of potatoes to meat and served with the same family of tangy sauces that tonkatsu and a lot of fried foods is served with.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Adventures in Japan: 2014

In 2014, I took an epic trip to Japan during the cherry blossom season, and I haven't had a chance to write about it. I wanted to make sure I did the trip justice, and I fell into a funk of nothing but business, career, and job. Now that I've got my priorities more settled, it's time to share my amazing Japan trip with you!

It was a whirlwind fifteen days. I visited cousins, gave my respects to my ancestors at our temple, visited our ancestral house, and trekked up a cliff to visit our family grave surrounded by citrus trees. I dressed up as a geisha (maiko to be specific) in Kyoto, hugged deer near Hiroshima, got lost on the Tokyo train system more than once, and explored the enchanting Ghibli Museum. Most of all, I ate tons of amazing Japanese cuisine, and I can't wait to share it with you.

Yawatahama's many graves on the hillside
I thought a bit about how I wanted to present all the information and pictures without turning this blog into a travel blog, but also not leaving you with the impression all I did was stuff my face (to be fair, it was a main feature). So for each city or province I visited, I will have a short post with some history, pictures of what I did besides eat. This regional post will be followed by a review of a restaurant if possible, or perhaps an overview of the regional food will be worked into the first post if not. Lastly, I will have a recipe for each place inspired by my visit. I hope you enjoy sharing my adventures, and I hope that my recipes will allow you to experience a little bit of what I enjoyed on my travels!

This post will stay on top until I complete my Adventures in Japan series so that you can skip to places at your leisure! Each region page will have a list of all the ingredients and recipes associated with it linked at the bottom!

Miss Mochi at Miwajima Island
Fukuoka, Fukuoka prefecture, Kyushu region

Yawatahama, Ehime prefecture, Shikoku region

Beppu and Yuifin, Oita prefecture, Kyushu region

Hiroshima and Miyajima, Hiroshima prefecture, Chogoku region

Kyoto, Kyoto prefecture, Kansai region

Tokyo, Tokyo prefecture, Kanto region

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Adventures in Japan: Tokyo

What don't you already know about Tokyo? It's the most populous metropolitan area in the world and the capital of Japan. Its GDP is more than most countries and more Fortune 500 companies are based in Tokyo than any other city. It has more 3 Michelin Star restaurants than any other city on earth. Its arguably one of the most important urban areas in our global community, at least at the time of this writing.

Tokyo has this reputation of Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers and dark grit, some sort of cyberpunk labyrinth of oriental urbanization. Don't believe me? Search "Tokyo" in google and click on "images." Highly stylized photos of an intersection of Tokyo, complete with glaring photo-shopped neon lights. And don't get me wrong, if that's what you're looking for, you can find it in pockets. But really, you're better off taking a gander at Singapore, Dubai, or Hong Kong.

Tokyo, and the surrounding suburbs, honestly kind of reminded me of Los Angeles, only bigger and better. Better public transportation, better and bigger parks, and much much cleaner. And of course, not a desert which can only make things prettier and greener. But despite being such a huge city, it didn't feel as big and scary as New York, with the skyscrapers looming overhead, taxis honking, and grim gothic architecture of its churches. I'm having trouble describing it and we didn't take a lot of pictures of the city. Just go there!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Negima Nabe (ねぎま鍋)

This is an old-school Tokyo recipe. Otoro, or fatty tuna belly, used to be something that spoiled too fast to be commercially useful. Instead of the prized sushi ingredient it is today, it was sold fast and cheap, and more often cooked than served raw, thought to be too rich to consume raw. Which is insane considering how prized and expensive otoro is nowadays. But at one point in time, we used to feed lobsters to prisoners and indentured servants here in the states because it was so plentiful. Doesn't both of these make you wistful?

Our family took us to a restaurant famous for its otoro fare, apparently the royal family has even frequented there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down the name of the restaurant. I wanted to bring some of that cuisine home to Mr. Mochi and my father since they weren't able to come with us on this trip. The name of this hot pot, "Negima Nabe," is a portmanteau the two star ingredients: Japanese long onion "negi" and bluefin tuna "maguro." "Nabe" just means "pot" and refers to the donabe pot that the meal is cooked in. Don't have a donabe? A dutch oven or even a large saucepan will work fine, you might need to cook in batches however.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sugar Margarine Snack (シュガーマーガリンスナック)

Late at night, my brother and I would wander the cities of Japan, peeking down alleys filled with laughter as the izakaya crowd were just warming up, strolling past stray cats and dark buildings with nothing but the eerily glowing vending machines in the distance to mark our path. We'd emerge on a major street, eat dinner or perhaps head to a konbini on the corner for a look around and a quick snack. Sometimes we had a destination in mind, but mostly we were just exploring.

During these explorations, I discovered my favorite konbini snack: Sugar Margarine Snack. Literally just a brick of untoasted thick-cut shokopan white bread with a smear of cold margarine, sprinkled with granulated sugar.

It's a snack that will horrify your mother and your dietician. But it's truly delicious and a testament to everything refined, bleached, and concocted by man.

I was in love.

I tried to find it in every city we visited, and sometimes was awarded with a slice of sweet sweet diabetes. Sometimes it would be something similar, sometimes they tried to fancy it up by toasting it, sometimes the price would be higher or lower. The cheapest I saw was ¥52, and the fanciest was ¥129, but my favorite was the original priced just under a dollar at ¥91. The others just tried too hard.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

All about that Konbini life

When I went to Japan in 2014, I didn't have a lot of cash to sling around. We backpacked around the country, staying in hostels, and ate a lot of cheap food. I've spent more on room service in one day than I spent on food for an entire two weeks in Japan. It helped my family took us out to absolutely fabulous meals I hope to be able to repay in kind some day, but we were very price conscious about our dining habits in between these ultra-luxe meals. We visited the local grocery stores near our hostels in order to buy groceries, and visited konbini.
chocolate covered shrimp chips

Konbini (コンビニ), as Japanese convenience stores are referred to, have taken the American convenience store concept and perfected them. Think I'm over exaggerating? Put it this way: the parent company of 7-Eleven Japan bought the original United States' 7-Eleven. Lawsons, which died out in America, is one of the largest chains in Japan and the success in Japan led to the chain returning to the U.S. via Hawaii. Konbini are serious business, and the Japanese have mastered it.

And if you visit Japan, I guarantee you will end up going to a konbini. Why? 7-Eleven has ATMs that take our credit cards. Japan has their own credit card system and a surprising amount of places don't take Visa, Mastercard, Discover, etc, but JCB and others, and even more are cash-only. If you don't stay far from the beaten path and stay around Tokyo and Kyoto you'll be fine, but just finding an ATM was tough in Yawatahama, let along somewhere that took Visa!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Adventures in Japan: Kyoto

Kyoto, also known as the old capital, reigned as the imperial capital of Japan for over a thousand years. So you can imagine a lot of history can be found there. It was also spared the worst of the bombings from World War II, something that couldn't be said about Hiroshima.

More national treasures of Japan exist in the city of Kyoto than any other and it remains one of the most important cities, culturally speaking, in Japan. It's simply a must-visit place and was our next stop on our trek across Japan.

As one of the cultural and historical hubs of Japan, Kyoto boasts not only shrines and temples galore, but also some of the best fine dining you will find. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Yudofu (湯豆腐)

Kyoto, since it was the capital of Japan for so long, is steeped in history and tradition. One of those traditions still popular today is shojin ryori, or Buddhist cuisine. As Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 6th century, so was the idea of vegetarianism for religious ideals. This cuisine became synonymous with Kyoto as Kyoto is home to some of the longest standing Buddhist temples and sects that still carry on this tradition.

As a whole, Japan is not very vegetarian-friendly. Dashi, made with dried bonito shavings, is omnipresent and veggie dishes on most menus will have some sort of fish in it, if only the broth. If you're a pescetarian, you're in heaven, but if you're vegan or vegetarian, I'm not going to be the best person to tell you how to navigate Japan and I recommend finding a blog that specializes in both Japan and veganism. I ate things in Japan that I'm still not quite sure what I ate, so I'm not going to claim any sort of authority on either subject. I normally write about Japanese American food!