May 2008

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I wrote about the use of kuzu powder in the _goma dofu_ (sesame tofu) recipe. This time it's a very traditional, simple sweet dish using kuzu.

Kuzumochi are sticky 'mochi' cakes made with just kuzu powder, sugar and water. The texture is somewhere in between gelatin and mochi made from rice flour - wobbly but not too sticky. It's traditionally served chilled, so it makes an interesting, gluten free (and vegan) summer dessert.

One of the most frequently asked questions here is about substituting or leaving out sake or mirin from a dish (most recently to the chicken karaage recipe). This reminds me of how certain ways of thinking exist in Japanese and East Asian cooking, that may not necessarily exist in Western cooking. One of those is the perception of the flavor of meat.

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I was not intending to do a recap of each episode of The Supersizers Go, but they are so interesting and just right up my alley. So, if you don't have access to BBC 2, are here for the Japanese recipes, or both, please indulge me. I'll try to be brief.

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I've had my Wii Fit now for almost a month (it was released in April here in Europe). I know it's not directly related to food, but since a lot of people who visit Just Hungry are interested in fitness and weight loss, I thought I'd share my thoughts about it after using it for some time, especially since it just became available this week in the U.S. (Besides, way more people are likely to read it here than on my sporadically updated personal blog.)

Incidentally, I've written about the Wii as a fitness device previously on my personal blog, focusing on Wii Sports. In a nutshell I was not convinced that playing Wii Sports would do much to improve your fitness.

So, what about Wii Fit then?

supersizers-1.jpg Giles, Sue and Allegra examine a week's worth of rations during WWII.

Last year, a very interesting hour-long program(me) called Edwardian Supersize Me aired on BBC Four. Taking their cue from the hit documentary Supersize Me, Giles Coren, food critic for The Times, and writer/actress/comedienne Sue Perkins spent a week eating as the middle-class Edwardians did - meaning a lot. The pair are back, upgraded to BBC Two, in a new multipart series called The Supersizers Go.... The premise is the same as Edwardian Supersize Me - in each show Sue and Giles spend a week eating as people did in a certain historical era. The first episode aired last night, and the era was World War II.

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There are some dishes in Japan that look and have a texture like tofu, but are not tofu in the traditional sense; that is, they're not made from coagulated soy milk. One of these not-tofu tofus is goma dofu (ごま豆腐)or sesame tofu. Goma dofu is made from three simple ingredients: ground sesame paste, water, and kuzu or kudzu powder.

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There are two Japanese vegetables that I can't get fresh here that I miss very much. One is burdock root or gobo; the other is bamboo shoot or takenoko (竹の子 or 筍). Bamboo shoots are very much a spring-only vegetable, much like asparagus, so around this time of year I always get a craving for the crunch and subtle flavor.

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Periodically, someone asks about Japanese pickles - those crunchy, salty, sweet-sour, even spicy bits of goodness that accompany a traditional meal, especially breakfast. There are a big variety of Japanese pickles, and sooner or later you might consider making them.

Some time ago I did a week-long series on making instant, or overnight pickles. These pickles can be made very quickly, usually with ingredients that are easy to get a hold of. If you want to try your hand at Japanese style pickles, I recommend starting there. There are also a couple of cookbooks in English dedicated to quick and easy pickles, both of which are quite good: Quick and Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu, and Easy Japanese Pickling in Five Minutes to One Day: 101 Full-Color Recipes for Authentic Tsukemono by Seiko Ogawa.

However, the type of pickles that you are likely to be served in a high class traditional inn in Japan, or even the type you can buy in vacuum sealed packs at a supermarket, are a bit more complicated to make, especially outside of Japan. Here are some examples.

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How to prepare that hairy looking beast, the taro root or satoimo.

Fans of the original Japanese Iron Chef (ryouri no tetsujin 料理の鉄人) in the U.S. have cause for celebration, because the series is back on the air starting tonight at 11pm Eastern on the Fine Living channel. I think it's been off the air on the Food Network for a while now. In my opinion, while the American version is fine, there's nothing to match the sheer craziness and fun of the original.

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