Ask Maki anything, well almost anything (or just say hi)

This post is now closed to new comments. It's now replaced by the new forum section, Ask Maki Almost Anything.

makiface-redshirt-sm.pngThanks to you (yes, I'm looking at you!) Just Hungry and Just Bento have really grown in popularity recently. This has also meant that I'm getting more emails. I do very much appreciate getting your emails, but there's a couple of disadvantages to email.

  • It's a one on one communication so your question will only benefit you. It might just benefit a lot of other readers. I do actually end up answering the same thing several times.
  • I may not know the answer but someone else might!
  • I'm really bad at email. Don't ask me why. I try to answer things as fast as possible but sometimes emails languish in my inbox for days, or I forget about answering them. Then you get mad at me and think I'm ignoring you, etc.
  • Answering lots of individual emails takes time away from me writing new posts, not to mention spending time with my family/friends, exploring new foods, and all that kind of thing.

Hence, this is Ask Maki (almost) Anything. comments here will remain always open, to ask me anything that doesn't fit into the context of a particular post. Unless it's something that must remain private, please post here before emailing. Thank you!

But before you ask....

There's nearly 5 years worth of content here. Chances are your question has already been answered. Please try the Search function, right at the top of the page, before asking something. Thanks!

[Edit:] Do not use this post to pimp your refrigerator parts, miracle diet, whatever site. Such comments will be deleted.

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Thanks for keeping up with this great site. I really enjoy the recipes section as well as your other site Just Bento. Aloha!

hi Lori and thanks for visiting!

hi! I was wondering, how do i broil something if i dont have a broiler? what temperature would i have to set my convecture oven to?

Broiling means applying a very high heat at close range from above, so if your convection oven has an upper heat source you can try setting your rack as close to the top as possible. If not, you can try some alternate ways of applying a very high heat at close range:

  • use a grill pan (this is good especially for meat and fish) - heat up a cast iron grill pan until it's quite hot, and place your food on it to sear/cook quickly on the surface
  • For anything that needs to be cooked specifically on top, like a crême brulée, you can use a kitchen blow torch to rapidly brown the top. (And blow torches are fun!)
  • If you have the space and budget for it, toaster ovens often have a 'top heat' source which is handy for broiling small quantities, e.g. a single piece of fish.

Hello Maki....

great website dear....

I thought this piece in today's NY Times about the origin of the fortune cookie might interest you. It raises several interesting questions, for example the role & history of the various kinds of food businesses that thrive next to Japanese temples, and the expat story of Chinese food & restaurants in the USA.

Yes I saw that article..interesting! I'm not quite sure if there is a direct relationship between fortune cookies as we know them now that were supposed to have been invented in San Francisco, and those cookies in Japan. It's an intriguing theory though. And the researcher is right in that there are lots of cookies or snacks in Japan with that kind of flat, crispy form, whether made of wheat flour or rice or something else.

Also the comments to that NYT article about memorable fortunes is hilarious.

The main danger besides depressing your thyroid function & causing non ability to assimilate minerals in the unfermented types, is that all soy is estrogen loaded & when used in soy formula for babies may not allow the young baby that should be a boy to properly develop & the girl to develop secondary sex characteristics very early. See I wish it wasn't so. Was hoping you could give some real evidence contrary to my first statement.

You are free to believe what you want about soy, but I remain a skeptic about such claims, especially for traditional soy products. I will continue to eat tofu and edamame etc. Of course it's a personal choice for anyone.

Hi, Maki!

Great website, recently found it by accident and now I'm a frequent visitor!

I have a question about rice cookers/ rice steamers. A couple of questions:

  1. is there a difference between something labeled a rice cooker v rice steamer?

  2. do you have brand or type that you think is a good buy? (something in the moderate price range)

Oh! And i tried the zucchini miso recipe and it was wonderful.

Steamer vs. cooker? Probably no difference. It should have an inner removable bowl or pot inside, and no steaming rack on which the rice rests or something like that.

For brands, I like Zojirushi the best though I don't know what 'moderate' means to you in terms of price. The Zojirishi ones tend to be in the $150 and up range I think in the US, though they last forever.

Have you seen this post yet? Some people recommend various brands that they use in the comments.


I've just found your site by googling hakusai pickles... I feel like I know you.

I was born in Nagasaki and lived in NYC for 20+ years. I've never realized how much I love Japanese food until I moved to Boca Raton, Florida. In NYC, there are tons of Japanese restaurants & grocery stores. Here in Boca, there are Japanese restaurants but the menu are limited and when it comes to Udon noodle soup or even Sukiyaki, they don't seem to get it right... And I terribly miss China Town and a grocery store in Korean district in NYC.

Q: Is there a good site for Oriental grocery shopping in East Coast?

Q: Have you ever been to Barcelona & Marbella in Spain? Can you recommend me restaurants??

Hi Etsuko! Unfortunately I've never been to Barcelona or Marbella, though I keep making plans to. Maybe I can correct that this year (at least for Barcelona)

For places that ship on the East coast...Katagiri does, though their website sort of sucks. There aren't as many good online Japanese or east Asian groceries as might be expected in the US somehow... KOA Mart and Uwajimaya are both on the West coast (but they ship nationwide).

Also I found this page - it's in Japanese, but at least the addresses are in English...I know Tampa is not that close to Boca Raton but it's a start! Japanese/Asian groceries in Tampa.

Hope that helps a bit!

hi maki!

well. first and foremost, i am a regular visitor to both, justhungrya nd justbento. during all my visits in the past 6 months or so, my cullinary knowledge has increased three-fold! however, aside from all this new knowledge and the new recipies ive learned, i still am having a problem with the basics. i cant get my rice to stop burning onto the bottom of the pot! >:O it makes me very frustrated. ive followed your directions, the packaged directions and a thousand others multiple times and i cant seem to shake the burnt-bottom syndrome.

lately ive been using nishiki rice-which is very tasty, and also the best thing i can find at the local grocery store-and a large pot with a lid. your directions say to lower heat every so many minutes which i have done, repeatedly, but i cant see the rice through the lid because it gets too steamy. and i know you arent supposed to open the lid and stir the rice, so what do you suggest i do?

and also, what happens when the rice starts to boil over?

please answer!!


Hi Tony,

Actually you shouldn't worry about the burnt or crispy rice bottom - it's sort of inevitable if you are cooking rice in a pot on the stove. As long as it's just brown and crispy and not charcoal, you are ok. As a matter of fact most rice cooking cultures regard that crispy part as a sort of delicacy! In Japanese it's called okoge. I know Latin/Spanish people love the burnt bit too. And it happens with all kinds of rice. I think the only way to totally avoid the okoge forming is to use a rice cooker, or to steam the rice (which is a pain to do really). So..don't worry! If you are getting charcoal though that means your heat is too high.

If the rice starts to spill over, take the pot off the heat and sprinkle a bit of cold water over until the foaming subsides. When it does return to the heat set at low.

Hope that helps!

I make rice without a rice cooker on an almost daily basis (always have a 5kg bag of Nishiki rice at hand)

Here's my suggestion for fool proof rice.

Make sure you have a pot with a heavy lid (if you have a hole in the lid, plug it up with wet tissue paper or something - should be air/steam tight)

Use two heat sources - one gets turned to high, the other to the very lowest setting (if using gas you might have a big ring and a small ring, use both - same with electric hot plates)

Add one measure of rice and one and a quarter measures of water. Put the lid on the pot and heat the rice on the high heat setting. Listen out for when it starts to fully boil. Until you recognise the sound of boiling rice water you'll need to check - but try to take the lid off as little as possible. Avoid all unnecessary peeking - the rice needs the lost steam to cook in.

Once it has begun to boil/bubble move the rice to the lower/smaller heat source (which is at minimum) and switch off high heat source.
(If it starts to boil over before you get there - just leave the lid alone, hold the pan in the air for a few seconds so it settles, then put it on the low heat source)

Leave it to cook on minimum for 10 minutes (use a watch). Turn off the heat after 10 minutes (a little residue heat is fine so no need to move the pan) and let the rice sit for a further 10 minutes.

No need to stir, no need to do anything. Rice will now be done.

If you are fastidious, another tip is to very quickly replace the lid with a clean moist kitchen towel at the point where you turn off the low heat (or just insert a paper towel under the lid). This stops water from the lid dripping back onto the rice. But the rice is still fine without this (I rarely bother anymore).

    If the minimum heat you can apply means that the rice still boils over... this might be a problem - should be rare though.
    If the rice remains uncooked - the minimum heat source is too low. Try it at a slightly higher setting - do please persist, you will be able to make this method work.

I like browned rice too, but I never get it with this method - the plus is that the pan cleans very easily.
Also a very economical way to cook rice - helps keep the fuel bills down! Hope this helps.

Have you ever made/eaten traditional Iranian rice? It has a thick, buttery crust on the bottom. Sometimes, potatoes are involved. I've had it once- it's basically a nutritional black hole, but so good. Apparently, you can buy a rice cooker (that only has one switch- on/off), or make it at home using a pot and some dishtowels. Sounds complicated.

I went to a Persian restaurant once in Boston and I had some delicious rice like that. Loretta's points about creating an airtight environment are good in any case - pressure cooker rice rarely develops a crust in my experience for instance.

no-one sees my comment as detracting from your excellent advice about cooking rice.
The apartment I live in in London has old fashioned electric hobs in the kitchen that I can't change. They take ages to heat up and ages to cool down. Casually turning the heat from high to medium isn't really an option like it would be with a better cooking range or with gas. The method I posted helps deal with this, I'm in no way suggesting it's the best way.
I've still got a lot to learn about rice. I grew up eating stunning paellas (cooked outdoors on burning orange-wood where the smoke envelopes the paella pan making a virtual seal that keeps in and adds to the flavours - a paella is never the same cooked on gas... and yes! The browned rice scraped from the bottom is the most revered part for true paella lovers)

One thing I have noticed about Japanese rice - when I've eaten out in Tokyo there have been times that the plain rice has been exceptional. On complimenting the cook I'm usually told (through my husband) that they used a gas fired rice cooker rather than an electric one. Kenji also recalls discussions with his grandmother who has talked about rice cookers in the way most men talk about electric tools - she views "lots of power!" as important.

You are obviously passionate about rice, Maki. Do you have any opinions on cooking temperature during the initial stages?

im so happy! not only do i get to tell my brother that he has to eat the burnt part too (and sound really awesome and overly-knowledgable when i tell him the bit about okoge) but i learned another way to cook rice! yea woo.!

thank you much maki (and loretta)! =D

Recently I've been hoping that there's such a thing as home-made yakisoba sauce? I haven't had any luck in trying to find a recipe, and the yakisoba sauce at my grocery store has a ridiculous amount of sodium, I swear it's nearly 100% daily value for one tablespoon...

The only recipe I've been able to find is here, but I don't know if it would provide the same flavor or not. Your help is greatly appreciated! :) Thank you!

Oops, I forgot to ask if soba-tsuyu is an acceptable substitute, but from what I understand yakisoba sauce is thicker and maybe has more of a "fruity" flavor, but I'm probably wrong, haha ^^

yakisoba sauce is actually based on that steak sauce-like sauce used for tonkatsu and such (Bulldog is a commonly available brand). It's sold as chuunou sauce or (a slightly thicker variety) tonkatsu sauce. You can substitute a steak sauce like A-1, or use Worcestershire sauce for the flavor. For a "sauce yakisoba" try a mix of Bulldog sauce (or equivalent) an Chinese oyster's pretty yummy. (though i guess it would still be high in sodium...) Soba-tsuyu would make a nice soy-sauce-ish sauce but wouldn't taste like yakisoba sauce.

Hello Maki, ever since I found your page I come here almost every day, I love it. I have just recently left Japan after being over there for 4 years. The one thing I regret not buying is a multi-purpose cooking appliance I saw every where I shopped. It allows you to grill and stew and comes with around 3-4 different interchangeable metal attachments/containers. I was wondering if you knew of any websites that would sell these. It is a table top cooker w/ ajustable heat.

I'm not sure of the exact model you are looking for, but you can find such things usually at Asian or Japanese stores that carry housewares. Start here and see if there's a store near you that might carry it. If you have a Mitsuwa store near you, either they or a store installed in their side malls usually carries Japanese kitchen appliances.

Also Amazon carries a lot of kitchen appliances - I'm not sure if this kind of thing is what you were looking for, or this, but it's somewhere to start.

Hi I just received a care package from my sister who is in the us ( I am currently in Greece) and she sent me everything needed to get into Bento mode!! Could someone please offer info or advice on recipes ? and portions? Actually any help would be appreciated!!
please no spam just bento info!!!!

Eleftheria, check out the siste site for Just Hungry, Just Bento, which about bentos only!: It should get you going.

Hi Maki! I wanted to show my appreciation for your sites. I just found them through my friend Hannah (cooking with chopsticks blog) and you are awesome! Thank you so much for doing this!
I spent a year in high school as an exchange student in Japan and ate homemade bento everyday (made by my host mums), and I am always trying to recreate them. I use sometimes but it's nice to be able to read directions and explanations in English with measurements I'm more familiar with :)

My boyfriend is Japanese and I know secretly he wants me to be able to cook all the recipes that seem to be ubiquitous in Japanese households... I've got down the basics but I need more side dish ideas. Also, the instant pickle recipes are a great idea! I can't wait to try them!

That's such a nice comment Morgan..thanks! :) I'm glad you like the sites!

I was wondering if you new how to make hamburger steak the Japaneses style I really want to eat it with demi-glaze sauce But I can't seem to find it anywhere.

hmm yes, I guess I should post a Japanese hamburger recipe one day. So much to do, so little time :)

Hi Maki,

I just found your site last week and love it. I used to live in SF, CA and there was a great sushi joint "No Name" sushi on Church Street that served cold boiled potatoes as an appetizer. I think they stewed them in soy and rice win vinegar but I am not sure. Do you know of any recipes that are similar to this?


Without tasting it I really can't say what it is, but it may just be potatoes cooked in dashi with added mirin and soy sauce, or a variation of nikujaga, potatoes stewed with a little meat.

I was looking through one of my cookbooks just now and came across a recipe for "nikkorogashi" (the english title is "new potatoes cooked in dashi stock") that includes onion, sesame oil, dashi, and soy sauce, so maybe that's it?

Dear Maki,
first i want to thank you for the advice about Japanese shopping agent site. I will come back and tell about the experience. You did great sites and i read them often!

Today i wanted to boil some soba noodles and arrange them in nests with avocado/salmon/wasabi filling. It should have been a very colorful starter, if only i managed to get them in nests properly :) Hence the question: they are sold tied in bunches together with a ribbon. Shall these noodles be boiled without removing the ribbon? I assumed ribbon has adhesive on it so i tore it off. Or is it just to present them beautifully?
Thank you very much,

Hi Anna! The ribbon should be removed as you guessed - it's just paper, and has adhesive or even a piece of sticky tape on it. Besides, a bundle of dried noodles is far more than you want for a little bundle of cooked noodles.

The only way to make neat nests really is practice. Also you may want to cook the noodles a little bit more, if they are not 'bending' properly. When they are a bit soft (but not mushy) they should curl neatly. Try to take just a few strands at a time, which should make neater bundles too (or a small pinch if you're using very thin noodles like somen).

Hi Maki,
thanks!! I am checking out the website as we speak!!
OU lalala!! :)
I will go to the only japanese shop I know of in Athens to shop for my second attempt in making a meal!!( I will send contact info of the shop for others!!)
This whole site rocks!! :) (great layout, photos, design)

I just returned from one of my (several times a year) visits to Japan (Yokohama area, for business). One evening, my Japanese colleagues took our delegation out for a "different sort" of traditional Japanese dinner. One of the dishes was named (something like) "Sh'roku teriyaki." We were instructed to try it BEFORE we would be told what it was; we complied, and later were informed that it was "a sort of fish, actually just a part of a fish, actually only a part found only on male fishes...." It turned out that even most of our Japanese colleagues didn't know what this was, although they had enjoyed it for years! I have searched the internet in vain trying to find any reference to this dish, in an attempt to 1. verify this information, and 2. find out just what sort of fish this is. Maki, can you (or anyone else here) help?

Was it sort of gelatinous and soft? If so it could be 'shirako' (白子), which are the sperm sacs of a male fish. (never heard of cooking it teriyaki but I guess that's possible)

Yes, with a white creamy interior almost like a thin custard; that is what I was talking about. Is that a "generic" term, or is it specific to a certain species of fish? Given the size of these (about 50 to 75mm in diameter) my impression is it must be a fairly large fish. My friends and I are curious as to the name of the fish, if it is from a specific species.


Shirako is a generic term (it literally means 'white children'. The kanji is 白子). Given the size you describe I'm guessing it came from something like monkfish (ankou). I've seen shirako from mackerel, cod, and other fish too. I can't say it's a favorite thing of mine... (I like the kind of roe that comes from a female fish better :))

I was given a set of egg molds by my sister. I have tried them twice and they have not worked at all. I am thinking that my eggs are too small. Is there any other reason that they are not coming our right ?? Am I doing something wrong ? What's a good size egg to use ? And when exactly should I stop boiling and put them in the mold ?

I guess you are talking about boiled egg molds? If so the keys to using them are -

  • find the right egg size to use. It should fit snugly but not overflow. (The package says use an "L" size but that's a Japanese L, so that size differs by country.

  • hardboil the egg, and peel it while it's hot

  • Put the egg in the mold and then immediately immerse the whole mold in cold water. Leave the mold and egg in the cold water for at least 10 minutes

See if that works!

Hi Maki
I was wondering if Japanese people who live in apartments in Japan cook very much. The apartments seem to have very small kitchens.

It really depends on the person, as anywhere in the world. Some people just live on takeout or combini (convenience store) and so on, others cook for themselves. I don't really think Japanese kitchens in general are much smaller than equivalents elsewhere...have you seen some NYC apartment kitchens? :)

Maki-san -

Thank you for this site! From the little I've been able to explore in a few days, it seems to have lots of info! I made my first soy milk the other night, and I'm about to try making tofu with it (wanted to do it yesterday, but I went to 3 different asian markets and couldn't find nigari - about to try with lemon juice, before the milk goes bad). So far, my husband and I have used the okara in eggs, smoothies, and a loaf of bread. I will probably have many other questions, but I wanted to start with this. Do you know where I might find any katsuobushi in the US, rather than dried bonito flakes?

Do you mean the whole dried katsuo that you shave yourself? (because katsuobushi means dried katsuo, essentially). If so I'm not really sure - you may want to try calling the major Japanese grocery stores like Uwajimaya or Katagiri to see if they carry it. (It's something that isn't carried that much in regular stores anymore even in Japan, so you may not find it...)

I'll see about contacting them, thanks. I knew it was a long shot, but thought I'd ask just in case. My tofu seems to have come out well, though - we'll find out for sure when it gets cooked :P

do you have a recipe for japanese sesame dressing for salads, thanks wendy

I'm so happy I found this site. Thanks for the recipes. I've wanted to know how to make omu rice for a year now. This recipe sounds easy and delicious!
I'm making it this weekend!

Next up..Onigiri!

Thanks very much!

I came across this when looking for a onigiri recipe (which makes me feel stupid as its kinda simple xD ) but um yes, i found and then this.
Great work keeping it up with this site- I love the things here, totally made my day :D

Hello again! I hope I'm not being too bothersome by asking this, but I must know! Surely there must be some difference between "onigiri" and "omusubi?" If they refer to the same thing then why are they two different words? I saw a picture recently of a vending machine that was selling onigiri meals, and on one picture it was written "onigiri," but on the other picture written "omusubi," even though the picture was of the same thing? Another thing that I've been unsure of is the difference between "hanpen" and "kamaboko"... I would be really grateful for your explanation!

There is no difference between onigiri and omusubi, but there is a difference between hanpen and kamaboko. The only reason why some people call rice balls onigiri and some omusubi is whatever they grew up hearing! There may not even be strong regional differences (keep in mind that there are many different dialects in Japan). No need to think too deeply about it though...why do some people call the same fizzy drink 'soda' or 'pop'?

But hanpen and kamaboko are different things. Kamaboko is a fairly solid, rubbery fish paste product, while kamaboko is light and airy in texture, like a marshmallow (it's made usually with beaten egg white, as marshmallows are).


I was wondering if there were any vegetarian cookbooks on Japanese Cuisine written in Japanese that you would recommend.


David, check out the first three books on my Amazon JP atore page:

They are all vegan and I love them! If you can read Japanese, there are some others on that page too (the 'macrobiotic' type ones). But the three by Yumiko Kano are my top recs.


Just came across your great site - I have my own blog and cook for people who then review the food. The last meal I did was Japanese - have a look and if you like it maybe you could tell others about it?
Cheers Joel

Luv ur Hungry and Bento. I'm not Japanese, but I love ur culture and people as well. I can tell from ur pages that u are full of vitality and enthusiasm. I am trying to live like you. Just want to say hi and thank you, Maki!

Hi Maki! Awesome site, I really love your recipies!

Anyway I have some diffculties in making Japanese rice cake [Mochi in Japanese], and I need some advice.

Alright, I made Mochi before, although it wasn't often. I really like Mochi, it's pretty simple to make. The Mochi I have made before is the basic, round shaped mochi with filling inside [Daifuku in Japanese, I think].

My problem is that when I finally finish steaming the Mochi [I don't use the traditional way of making mochi, just modern way to do it], the mochi keeps on sticking onto my hand and it's a big problem because I tried to mould it nicely into a ball and stuff the filling in, it just wouldn't want to listen to me. I know Mochi is easy to make, but moulding is a big problem, and it doesn't turn out great.

I'm currently using my hands to mould the Mochi. Although I tried using a muffin tray [Basically the tray where to make muffins] to mould [Not using my hands, with spoons], it's still very hard to do so. I need help on how to mould the Mochi properly without having too much trouble.

If you require the recipe on how I did the Mochi [For any reason], I'm happy to to do. Thanks a lot!

Janice, there are basically two ways to keep mochi from sticking to your hands. One is to coat your hands and all surfaces with plenty of katakuriko or potato starch (cornstarch is an acceptable substitute). The other way is to use plenty of water - even handling the mochi immersed in water if it's excessivly sticky. If you are making something like daifuku, you'd use katakuriko (commercial daifuku comes coated in it), and if you were making mochi dumplings to put into a soup or coat with something else, you'd use water. Hope that helps!

Hi Maki-san!
Thanks a lot for the advice. It really helped me a lot as I tried to make it again just yesterday. Thank you lots!! =)

Sorry for the inconvience but I want to ask if glutinous rice flour would possible a subsitute for the potato starch as I don't usually use starch when I make something to eat.


Although, I am a bit late on the entry, I just wanted to say thanks for your time, creativity, endless effort, and sharing heart with your two sites.

Since becoming a member about two months or so ago, I have read your post and comments from fellow readers every day.

I've used your many helpful ideas and tips and cooking and to this day I have not come across any blog site that so wonderful and helpful and FREE such as yours.

So thanks so much fro a Pacific Islander in South America.


thanks for always visiting and commenting, Ode! :)

Hi Maki, can you tell us how to make seaweed salad and octopus salad? I am not sure if it is real Japanese food but my friends and I are definitely very fond of it. Thank you for the great websites. I made some food last night using your recipes and they turned out wonderful. Keep up the good work!

Abbie, it's probably the dressing that makes the difference. There are lots of variations on a 'wafuu' (Japanese style) dressing, but basically you combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sometimes sake and sugar, and a few drops of sesame oil. Try equal amounts of soy sauce + rice vinegar + sake (say 1 Tbs. each) and 1 tsp. of sesame oil. To make it even better add shredded shiso leaves, toasted sesame seeds, etc. (You can also buy bottled 'wafuu' dressing which tastes pretty good.) The seaweed part - the easiest thing to do is to buy a ready-to-reconstitute mix (you can find this in the seaweed section of any Japanese grocery store), and for the octopus buy an octopus sashimi pack, unless you can deal with cooking raw octopus. You can add any fresh salad ingredients like cucumbers, lettuce, tomato etc. to this too.

I came across your site while looking for ways to give my family a more healthy diet. I am doing this by adding more Asian recipes (mostly Japanese and Vietnamese so far) and ingredients to our meals and cutting back on meat and starch.

I live in Phoenix, Arizona and have a hard time accessing the fresh, inexpensive fish and Japanese ingredients that were readily available when we lived in Portland, Oregon. I have resort to what I can find at Korean groceries (for some reason more accessible here than Japanese)and make due with whatever fish happens to be fresh at the store.

I really only wanted to say "great site" and that it would be an often used resource for me. But I do have one question. I read your post about brown rice, which my family loves. I have sister in law who lived in Kyoto for about twenty years and claims that people rarely eat brown rice in Japan. I just wondered if that were true, and if that is changing now. Not that it's important but I'm just curious.

I know you enjoyed a couple of the BBCs excellent programs on the Edwardian Diet.
There's a new one being shown tonight (GMT 9pm) called 'The Diets That Time Forgot'.
I hope you get the chance to watch and perhaps comment on it.

Hi Maki,
I stumbled about this website via Google while trying to find out how to braise pork belly. Thanks for an incredibly interesting, entertaining, and informative website about Asian cooking. As a second generation Asian American, I am trying to learn how to cook the many delicacies I love from family meals and traveling abroad. I appreciate the posts about seemingly simple things, like how to make tofu and differences among rice cookers and grains of rice.
I too am a Francophone, after spending a year in Lyon. Please post on different discoveries and experiments with Provencial cuisine! I personally loved the seafood and olive oil emphasis (though there will always be a spot for butter in my heart and pantry).

Looking forward to future posts and yummy pork belly!


Hi Maki, great site!
I have a simple question. I´ve got a tube of vegemite from an Australian friend and I liked the vegemite very much. So after reading your post on Marmite I´ve decided to give it a try and I´ve bought it.
Now the question: Shal I keep the Marmite (and the Vegemite as well) in the fridge after opening it?

Massimo, I've found that both Vegemite and Marmite keep fine at room temperature (probably because of all the salt in them...)

Thank you very much

Hi Maki,
I was so delighted to find your site while doing research for my family's visit to Zurich in May. I am looking forward to checking in regularly for recipes and news but am writing to see if you have any food recommendations for family restaurants (we will be taking our seven year old son on his first trip out of the US) near the University, and Niederdorf or Zurich generally. Our son especially likes pizza. We will have a microwave and refrigerator in our hotel room so I imagine I will be shopping at the Coop, markets....Are there any other options for "take out" food?
Any suggestions at all about Zurich will be most welcome.
Thank you again,

Mary, the Niederdorf is a very touristy area (but not in a bad way...there are a very few 'adult' places but they are pretty discreet and barely noticeable), and also popular with the younger crowd, what with the University of Zürich and the Federal Institute of Technology right nearby. So there are tons of small eateries of all kinds there, from sit-down restaurants to takeout places - kebab, pizza, sausages, Asian, etc etc. So I'd say just walk around and try!

The Coop Bahnhofbrücke has a lot of takeout possiblities (it is on the bridge over the Limmat that leads you from the main station to the Niederdorf area) from readymade food to deli things and so on. There are a couple of small groceries in the old town too, but for one-stop shopping the Coop is probably your best bet.

You should keep in mind that most groceries (and some restaurants) are closed on Sundays, and stores close at 4 or 6 on Saturdays. On Sundays or after the other stores are closed you can shop in the main station itself, which has a fully stocked Migros - or there's a Coop in the Stadelhofen station that's also open on Sundays. (You will be sort of in between the Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Stadelhofen.)

For a sort of special Zürich experience (not takeout) I would recommend visiting the Zeughauskeller (full description here) which has a huge menu of Swiss specialities.

Your nearest morning farmer's market is at Bürkliplatz (Tue and Fri mornings until 11AM). The Wednesday 'gourmet' market in the main station hall is also worth a visit, though it can be pricey if you don't pay attention!

Hope that helps!

Thank you so much! I'm so excited about getting to the places you mention in your food destination posts and in your reply to my question. Thanks for the information about hours - and the markets in the train station.
Also, I was a little concerned about remarks that Niederdorf was a 'red light district' -- so thanks so setting my mind to ease about that.
Thank you again for your informative and fun sites!

First off, great pages. You have no idea how much I love you right now. I just came back from my first trip to Japan a few days ago, and I had the honor of staying in Osaka and the food was so amazing!! So now, with your help, I can destroy my kitchen at home and still enjoy Japanese food~


hi Maki -- i keep up with just hungry/just bento/hungry for words via RSS, and thought that instead of just lurking, i should thank you for all the great blogs! as a hapa girl who grew up in Okinawa, Japan, moved to Los Angeles, and then ended up marrying a German man, i heart these blogs in a special cultural-swirl kinda way. let's just say that making your bunny bao from last Easter for my Chinese mom was super oyakoukou-esque, and thanks to some of those bento recipes, no more hungry natsukashii-ness; now i can have full-belly manzoku! thank you for all the care & time you take in crafting the photos and text for each post -- your zest for enjoying life is shared and appreciated!

Thank you always for your nice comments everyone! I don't always answer them all but I read every single one and really appreciate it !

Hi Maki,
(i tried to write you this thank-you note before, but i think my internet connection went all wonky -- so if you've already seen this, sorry!) in any case, i just wanted to thank you for keeping up such marvelous blogs (i follow just hungry/just bento/hungry for words via RSS). being a hapa girl who grew up in Okinawa and then after moving to America, married a German guy, i especially super-puffy-heart love your blogs in a unique cultural-swirly way. i used to get so natsukashii for certain foods, but thanks to the two "just" sites, i can make them for myself and eat them with my carefully maintained keroppi chopsticks, yay! and this note is what, a year late? because i made those awesome bunny bao for my Chinese mom, and that was definitely oyakoukou-esque. so vielen vielen Dank for all the time & exquisite effort you put into making your blogs fun, beautiful, and practical. keep it up!

Hi! your site reads like a how to cook for beginners! It's fantastic and I LOVE it!

Hi Maki-san. A while back, I saw an anime which mentioned making a "Cheese Lemon Custard Chiffon Pie" (チーズレモンカスタードシフォンパイ). There are no English websites on this pie, but I did find a few Japanese pages that mention the pie, but no recipe. I placed links to these Japanese pages on my blog entry about the anime that talked about this pie (if you go to my blog, just use the search function for "cheese lemon custard chiffon pie" and that will take you to my entry, where at the bottom of the entry, you'll find the links to the Japanese pages).

Anyway, have you ever heard of this pie? I'm really keen on making it so having the help of a native Japanese person fluent in Japanese would be great. Besides, if I actually get to make it, I can report on how it went. ^_^


Hi Maki,

Just wanted to let you know I just made my second batch of Japanese Essence and my fifth or sixth batch of udon noodles. My first udon were a bit martian-y because I hand cut them but now I'm using the pasta maker (that I used maybe twice before many years ago) and they're coming out very nicely, if I do say so myself. :)

I separate the udon into 2 servings each of 1 and 2 portions and then freeze them. I have found that I must use quite a lot of flour to dust them to keep them separated. Is there some other tip? Drying them longer, maybe?

I invented a dish that I'd like to share as a little thank you.

Sauté 1/2 chopped onion, 3 chopped reconstituted shiitake mushrooms.
Meanwhile boil udon. When there are about 4 minutes left for the noodles to boil add 1 Japanese eggplant, sliced in udon-like strips to boiling water.
To onion and mushrooms, add 1/2 c. broth (chicken, mushroom, whatever), a couple of dollops of oyster sauce, and a shot of Japanese Essence.
When the noodles and eggplant are ready, drain them and toss in with "sauce".
I usually like to cover this and let it meld a bit before I serve it.

If you had any comments/suggestions, I'd be honoured to read them.

Your recipe sounds low-fat and delicious! I guess I might try adding some grated ginger and maybe chopped green onions as garnish.

Re: flour for the udon. I find I need quite a lot too. Try decreasing the water a little bit in the recipe, or kneading it a bit longer (or both).

Hi Maki,

I'm hoping you can help. Many years ago, my husband and I visited Japan, experiencing all kinds of wonderful foods. One particular sweet (KENKERA) we found in the city of Fukui made such an impression on me, I've been searcing for where to buy it here in the U.S., or to obtain a recipe, so I can (attempt) to make it for myself.

Would you have any contacts in the Fukui area?

Thank you in advance,

Hi Cathy, I don't have a recipe, and just looking around at some Japanese pages it rather looks like something that could be hard to make (because it's so hard/crispy maybe?) - haven't found an actual home recipe either. Basically it seems to be a mixture of ground soy beans, sugar syrup and sesame.

If you want to try ordering it from Japan, could try contacting an overseas shipping service, that can buy it for you in Japan and ship to you for a small service charge, around 10-15% of the purchase cost usually. this page (scroll down) lists a few with comments from people who have tried them. This is the first page that comes up on Google for kenkera - a place that does mailorder of them. Good luck!

well, I'm really bad at finding things in sites and I've just sent you an e-mail... I'm sorry :\
I'd like to know what this delicious looking thing used on the bear's head is... you know, the head itself, not the eyes, ears, mouth etc
I follow several food sites, some of them just for the pleasure of looking at food (I don't think it's weird =X I like food), and I find this... erm.. thing in alot of japanese sites, and since I don't know japanese... If you know what the head is please do tell me ^^

Xs and Os and thanks for the sites, they're awsome, they're my top sites in the 'food' and the 'bento' bookmarks folders =)

I answered Ana by email already but in case anyone else is wondering, the face is made with a squished inarizushi I believe.

Hi! :)
Thanks so much for your blog! It's fabulous :D
Your recipes are awesome too =P

Dear Maki,

I enjoy reading your site, thank you! Here's a question for you, and all your readers...

I am doing a small, informal research project on the history/trends in wagashi (food culture) as related to globalization. One topic I am looking at is changes in Wagashi in expatriate communities. I am originally from Hawaii, so I already have a few sources on that, but I don't have any experience with other communities. Thus, I thought I might ask: what is wagashi like in your country? How is it same or different from what you might find in Japan, expecially in terms of ingredients, preparation, appearance, and occasion? Or, perhaps, how have you adapted your wagashi to your new location?

I don't really think that wagashi outside of Japan have evolved much beyond their original forms, except perhaps in areas with large second-and-more generation people of Japanese descent (Hawaii, the west coast of mainland US, etc. - I've never been to Hawaii though so have no first-hand experience.) At least that's what I've seen with wagashi in New York, Paris (which has a Toraya), London, and here in Zürich. The selection is much smaller the smaller the expat population is of course, but that's about it.

Dear Maki,

Thanks for providing so much great information. I live in Japan, speak Japanese, and have tried Japanese recipes before, but your site is the only source I've found that clearly explains the how and why of Japanese food and cooking techniques in a down-to-earth way. I really like the way your writing avoids the "Japanese mystique" and makes Japanese cooking seem so much more accessible. I hope you have a book deal in the works; I would definitely buy it.

I was wondering if you know anything about sakura-based western-style desserts. What ingredients do people use to get that sakura flavor? Starbucks had an amazing sakura chiffon cake for the past few months, but I haven't had any luck googling recipes. (I actually wanted to ask you the same thing about yuzu desserts, but from googling it seems like people tend to use yuzu-cha. Cheaters! XD ) Anyway, if you have any hints I would really appreciate it!

Thanks again, I've really enjoyed the recipes on this site that I've tried, and I can't wait to try more.

Hi Maki! Today has been really hot here so I took a bento to the beach. I'm not good in hot weather though, I wilt and find it difficult to eat food like the onigiri I made. Anything apart from juicy fruit seems too heavy. Do you have any ideas for light nutritious foods to get the appetite going in hot weather? What do people in Japan eat? Maybe an idea for an article what with the summer approaching. Just a thought!

hi!!!maki, i wantto say thx for your site help me alot and give me alot of inspiration. btw i want to ask you about how to use ground beef for obento except making burger or meet balls, i'm running out of ideas please help???!! thx

At many Japanese restaurants in California I've eaten small salads with a light white dressing. I've asked the waitpersons what's in it, and all they've been able to answer is "um, mayonnaise ... and sesame seeds ... I dunno, the cook makes it." I've searched the web and found various lists of ingredients, none of them alike and mostly containing some, but not all, of mayonnaise, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, mustard, honey, sesame oil, green onions, and/or carrots ... and none of them listing any amounts.

Could you provide a basic recipe for this dressing? It's light and pleasant and everyone in my family is willing to eat it, which is not true of any other salad dressing on this planet.


djheyt, I am not sure there is a standard mayonnaise based dressing. I'd have to taste the one you are referring to to see what's in it... One thing though, the taste of mayo mingled with the juices of fresh vegetables, especially cucumber, is very nice, especially with a little added vinegar.

Ginger, I will be addressing hot weather bentos for sure in the next few weeks.

homodachi, Sakura flavor comes from salt-pickled cherry blossoms or cherry blossom leaves. They are often pickled with vinegar, usually ume (pickled plum) vinegar but sometimes other fruity vinegar. I'm fairly sure Starbucks uses artificial flavoring though...

hime-chan, there are a few ground meat recipes very suited to bento on here an JB. These two are very easy:

meat soboro

Dry curry

Some that need more efforts are for example shepherd's pie in individual portions; even more work would be gyoza dumplings, etc.

I am very new to cooking Japanese style and would like to make homemade dashi. I went to the local Mitsuwa and purchased the bonito flakes and konbu only to find that the konbu that I purchased appears to be the wrong kind. Can I still make dashi using tororo konbu, which appears to be used for wrapping onigiri? I was thinking that perhaps I could put it in a cheesecloth sack to keep in together since it looks pretty fragile, but I'm not sure how that would work. Also, would I use the whole package (1.6 oz.)?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Actually tororo kombu is used to make a sort of soup, by pouring hot water over it and letting it steep. (It can be used to wrap onigiri, but the original use is for soup. Actually I don't like tororo as an onigiri wrapping that much myself.) The resulting soup has a slightly viscious (slimy) texture. It does have a lot of flavor, so you could use it as dashi, if you don't mind the texture! The whole package is probably too much - just try a small bit of it and see how it goes.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled onto your website and have been addicted ever since! My mother is Japanese, and moved back and forth from Japan to Seattle all my childhood. It is very rare to meet people or I guess in this case, a website that I totally connect with--someone who understands bicultural issues, and all tying it back to food (something I am very obsessed with as well). It is just really comforting to read your website knowing that someone has similiar views as me. :) Thank you!!

thank you for your nice comment :)

Hi Maki,

A friend recently said she got a recipe for something called chichi dango. She was told it was a WONDERFUL Japanese desert that she could not put down.

I was not familiar with this and did a search about it. Have you had it? What are your thoughts. Is it a traditional dessert?

Also, thanks to you, I have mastered making my own home made dashi. My question is, instead of just steeping the konbu with the water for 20 minutes, can I just put the water and some konbu in a mason jar the night before and let it steep longer. Will that affect the dashi? Or actually make it taste better as more umame will be released.

Wakkun, chichi dango is an unfilled dumpling made of milk, a sweetener and mochi powder. (Chichi means udder or breast or milk.) It's a speciality of the Hiroshima area. It doesn't have that long a history I believe (since Japanese people didn't drink milk until about 150 years ago or so) but nowadays it's one of those 'if you go there bring me back a box of that' type of things. I think it's also spread to Hawaii, where there are variations using coconut milk. I haven't had it in a long time but I'll see if I can dig up a good recipe.

Sure, you can soak just the kombu or the kombu and bonito flakes both in water in the refrigerator - like I describe with the vegetarian stock This is actually the way I prefer to make dashi now - it's nice to always have a jug of it ready to go!

I apologize if this has been answered, but I used the search and couldn't see it anywhere.

I'm wondering about the egg molds described on this page:

Are they machine washable?

Thank you very much!

It doesn't say anything on the packaging. (Dishwashers aren't that common in Japan, so dishwasher-safeness is not always indicated.) I just rinse it out in hot water by hand. Judging from the quality plastic I would think it is probably toprack-safe, though don't hold me to it :)

I was looking at the recipe for the steamed buns... and I was wondering, could you substitute soy milk in place of the whole milk and achieve the same/decent results (I'm vegan)?

Soy milk should be ok, otherwise you can try the no-milk dough used for the Bunny Bao: <a href=">link

I ran across your blog looking for alternatives to MSG. I don't like using it and was so glad to see your post about it and using konbu and the bonito flakes for soup bases.

Thank you!

Hello there Maki! I just have to say that I've fallen in love with both Just Hungry as well as Just Bento. I truly appreciate that you do this. They have been the most helpful sites to me so far. I adore the fact that you have everything in one place and that I don't have to go searching everywhere for recipes, shopping lists, etc. I do have two questions though.

First, I was making Onigiri for the first time and having difficulties with it and came up with another easy version as well as a great tasting filling. Do you ever accept recipes/ideas (I took pictures as well) that you would be willing to check out? I wouldn't expect anything in return and would just love it if you posted it (if you liked the ideas of course). If so, where would I contact you as there are images as well, etc.

Second, in your basic Miso soup, do you recommend a certain type of Tofu? I prefer just the plain miso soup with the white miso, seaweed and tofu...but I can't find on any recipes (not here or on other sites) if firm or soft tofu is recommended or if it even matters.

Thank you so much for your time in advance!


Cricket, sure you can send me your recipe and photos, to maki at makikoitoh dot com. (No guarantee I will post it but if I do I'll give you full credit of course!)

For miso soup, I usually prefer to use kinugoshi or soft (silken) tofu, but you could use firm too of course.

Okay, I just sent it off.

Thank you for the quick response and for the tofu information as well! jots it on shopping list

Hi Maki,

Came across your site when I was looking for a tsukemono recipe, like Mom used to make. I'm half Japanese regular old American any my only tie to my Japanese heritage is food. I love all the clever bento lunches - and make similar stuff having been slave labor in my Mom's lunch counter place as a kid.

Also I love traveling and eating - so all your posts on farmers markets and food while traveling is great! I got to try a reisling soup in Lichtenstein!

I really want a Wii fit too! I keep forwarding your site to my friends. It's great reading!

I know I don't say thank you to all of your nice comments, but - thank you! I'm really glad you find Just Hungry and Just Bento entertaining and useful :)

Hi Maki! What a great site! I have recently started taking Japanese lessons from a woman who moved into my apt. in Boston while her husband is doing a post-doc at Harvard. She really likes to cook because she says the US portion sizes are too big. I'm thinking a good lesson that would incorporate English and Japanese conversation and culture would be a cooking lesson.

Do you have any suggestions for something for us to make? I will also have her update your grocery store list as they have been exploring good places to buy food in Boston.

Thanks in advance!

Jenny, if you're in Boston why not something very New England or local? Some things I can think of.. New England clam chowder, Boston baked beans (with brown bread), Boston cream pie... any of them would be a big hit I think! I'm sure you could dig up some interesting history about those dishes too.

That's a great idea. Thanks! She also mentioned that in Japan, not many people eat lobster, so I think I might incorporate that somehow. Although, boiling/steaming a lobster doesn't really constitute much of a cooking lesson, I think it might be fun in any case!


Hi Maki,

I've enjoyed your site for some time--it has been helpful for me in deciphering ingredients here and learning how to use them (we're stationed in Misawa, Japan).

I would like more info about how sugar is made in Japan. I noticed the light brown sugar here looks different than US sugar. I know that US sugar is usually refined first (sometimes with beef bones), to white, and then the molasses part added back in, to make light brown or dark brown sugar. I would prefer working with a sugar that is like Muscuvado (where the processing stops at the brown sugar level and nothing is added back in)--seems more healthy.

Also, how do I use Okinawan black sugar (kuru satou)? It's usually lumpy or in blocks. Do I have to grind it first or? (And how healthy is it? Meaning, how is it processed?)

Thank you.

Zen, the light brown sugar (san on tou) is sugar that hasn't been refined to be pure white. Okinawan black sugar is very unrefined sugar - I think it's usually used melted in liquid. Actually when I was growing up, my mother used to give us lumps of unrefined black sugar when we got skin rashes and such - not sure how scientific it is, but there's always been a belief (which seems to be prevalent throughout Asia) that unrefined sugar is good for you.

Actually, I think it's only in the US and perhaps the UK too, where white sugar is re-colored so to speak to produce different degrees of 'brown' sugar. Here in Switzerland we can't get 'brown' sugar as it's sold in the US at all - it's white, or 'raw' (unrefined) sugar. Interesting how even sugar selections can differ from country to country!

Hi Maki,
Thanks for info (information). I really appreciate it. I've been experimenting with my baking and then passing that knowledge on to my friends. Believe it or not, right now my task/hobby has been to make Western desserts with common Japanese ingredients--for example, in cookies, I'll use soft tofu in place of butter (yeah, we're nowhere near Tokyo to find inexpensive butter. But there's lots of tofu here!). Hey, if you have a company address, I can always send you something of Aomori (where Misawa is)--land of the apples!

Do you make your own saba or buy it frozen? I don't believe I've ever come across a good explanation of how saba is made. Is it just salted or marinated with sweet sake? Is it dried at all? The few recipies I've come across only call for salt and have never produced anything like the saba I buy frozen or eat in japanese restaurants.

Also, do you have any dried fish recipes? I just got Mark Robinson's book on the Izakaya and I've got overnight dried fish on the brain.


Saba is just the name of 'horse mackerel' in Japanese. Do you mean shimesaba (pickled saba)? If so, it's cured with kombu seaweed, salt, sugar and vinegar - it's not dried really.

I don't do much in the way of dried or cured fish, simply because in the landlocked land that I live right now really fresh fish is pretty expensive (and not much variety). I do however make salted salmon fairly regularly - the how-to is on Just Bento (since shiozake is something that's so useful for bentos). This basically produces a salmon ichiyaboshi. You can use this method for any kind of fresh, firm and oily fish filet.

(Incidentally, ichiyaboshi means 'dried one night' but it doesn't really mean it's always dried for just one night, just that it's softer and ready-to-eat, vs. fish that's dried very hard for longer keeping.)

Hey Maki!

I currently live in Japan, and my parents, in trying to get in touch with my life, found a Japanese restaurant.

My Dad has food allergies to certain types of fish--sardines, swordfish, anchovies, and TUNA. (Salmon is okay, tilapia is okay, shellfish is okay.) It is a rare type of allergy, I think, but a few other people he has met have the same fishes affect them.

He tried some miso soup (among other things) and his food allergy acted up. He now shuns miso, as he thinks there is some tuna or sardines in it.

I told him that is was probably the dashi stock, as it can have tuna flakes in it, and that miso is not the problem. Miso is made out of veggies or grains, right? I said next time he goes tell the guy "dashi arerugi-" or "maguro arerugi-" and then order. (The restaurant guy's English isn't great, apparently.)

Aside from making him ill, he really loved the miso soup. I was thinking of bringing back some tuna-free dashi and avoiding miso/dashi pre-mixes. Miso is probably not the problem, right?

Does hondashi have tuna in it? I can't read much Japanese, and I was wondering if you had a recommendation of a brand or something I should ask for. I am in a pretty rural area...

A lot of people use niboshi, a kind of dried sardine, for making dashi, and that could also be what your father reacted to. Miso itself has no fish in it, unless it's a kind that is pre-mixed with dashi. So you just have to get a brand that does not have dashi in it. (This is listed in the ingredients, which should not have anything other than salt, soybeans, maybe rice or other grain.) Unfortunately, no restaurant is likely to have miso soup without dashi especially in the U.S. (most restaurants just use dashi powder), so your father will have to avoid it.

Hondashi does have bonito flakes, and bonito is a type of tuna. You can look for a konbu dashi powder (昆布だし)- or maybe teach your parents how to make vegan dashi!

Thanks! ^_^

Hi, I am so intrigued and enchanted by your website and Japanese food! I am drinking barley tea now (delicious) and learning how to cook and serve rice. I bought my first package of umeboshi and now trying to figure out how to eat them. So, questions: Are the brownish-red strands of leaf material ok to eat? I assume that this is the shisho leaf from the pickling process, but are we supposed to eat it or throw it away? When you put a whole umeboshi in the middle of an onigiri, how do you eat around the pit? Is it ok to pick it up with fingers to scrape the flesh off the pit, or do you chop it off the pit before putting it in the middle of the rice? These umeboshi remind me of snacks I used to buy at the 7-11 in my childhood hometown, called saladito's. They were also salted plums, mouth-puckering and extremely salty, yum when you are a kid! Thanks in advance, and thank you for your time with this and your Bento site.

Yes it's fine to eat the leafy parts sticking to the umeboshi - they are as you guessed the red shiso leaves. I always de-pit the umeboshi before using it as an onigiri stuffing, because I don't want to bite into that hard seed. Thanks for reading my sites! :)

I just happened upon your recipe and have two questions:

1 - Do you know the hydration percentage of the desem starter as created from Laurel's bread book? I have my own starter created by a similar method and I want to get the flour/water proportion close to that of your recipe.

2 - The amount of starter listed "1 3/4 cups of fully mature desem, containing 2 cups (120g) of flour" is a bit confusing to me. I use mainly use weight measurements in baking and I know 2 cups of flour weighs much more than 120g and 1.75 cups of starter will also weigh much more. Should I just stick with a volume measurement or is that a typo?

BTW, I love your recipes and the variety. I just made and thoroughly enjoyed Japanese Beef Curry with my sweetie.


The hydration in the book is the same as I wrote in the desem day 0 entry. (I wrote that nearly 5 years ago, so I know it's not that clearly written, but the information is there.) When the flour is mixed with the water, it does compact down to 1 1/2 cups, so that's not a typo. IIRC the Laurel's Kitchen book does use volume measurements so that is what I stuck with. (I can't refer to the book easily at the moment since I'm packing up to move house and that one is already in one of the stack of boxes! If you're interested in desem I do highly recommend getting the book, since it has copious instructions.)

I just happened upon your No-Knead Desem recipe and have two questions:

1 - Do you know the hydration percentage of the desem starter as created from Laurel's bread book? I have my own starter created by a similar method and I want to get the flour/water proportion close to that of your recipe.

2 - The amount of starter listed "1 3/4 cups of fully mature desem, containing 2 cups (120g) of flour" is a bit confusing to me. I use mainly use weight measurements in baking and I know 2 cups of flour weighs much more than 120g and 1.75 cups of starter will also weigh much more. Should I just stick with a volume measurement or is that a typo?

BTW, I love your recipes and the variety. I just made and thoroughly enjoyed Japanese Beef Curry with my sweetie.

Thanks very much!

Hi Maki (^_^)

Do you have any dish recipes using rice-cooker?
I don't have a kitchen, only a rice-cooker.
What else can I cook beside Onigiri??

By the way, can I cook Chawanmushi using a rice-cooker?
Do you have the recipe, Maki?
I am very looking into it, since I haven't find the rice-cooker cookbook around my place.

Thank you.. (^_^)

I have just read your post ( on the book Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat, which I have recently finished on the recommendation of a friend. I was not interested in it as a diet book, but one that would help me to learn more about the Japanese way of cooking, eating and thinking about food. I also have Harumi's Japanese Cooking by Harumi Kurihara, which I found in the remainder bin of a chain bookshop. Both of these have inspired me to continue in my quest to learn to eat Japanese, and as you wrote of JWDGOF it 'may serve as a good introduction to Japanese cooking, though definitely not the best', I wonder if you would be able to tell me what 'the best' is, and what I should read now?

With many thanks,


I wrote up a book from an author I highly respect here a while ago - take a look! (it's not that expensive either, which is a plus)

i love your site.GOD bless you more!

HI Maki!
Is it considered rude to ask the other shoppers at the oriental market what is good to buy? There was a nice girl at the market today and I asked what was in her cart and she explained to me how to steam the buns and make the dipping sauce. Was that ok?
I would love to go to the market with a guide!!!!

I don't think it's rude at all - most people would love to help out I think!

Is using butter that was frozen and has been thawed out okay to use in baking? Does it change the texture, how cookies might raise - or anything like that?

I recently discovered your site and have had my printer working away printing many of your recipes. I'm having a hard time trying to decide which one to try first, but have thoroughly enjoyed just reading through them. I love the way you really go into the details of why and how - so educational.



As long as you don't keep it in the freezer for too long (a couple of months max), and also have it very well wrapped it should be fine. I'm glad you find the site useful!

Hi Maki,

Just wanted to say thanks for your brilliant food sites. I've made loads of your recipes and they're all spot-on and permanently added to my repertoire.

I particularly like your experimental and irreverent approach: stuff like butter & soy sauce on potatoes. Genius. It's also inspired me to mix and match, which sometimes actually works.

Latest fave is your sweet pepper & onion confit. SO useful for using up vegbox peppers. Heavenly with olives on pasta. (Getting over-excited now...)

Basically, you're WONDERFUL and your sites just get better.


Thank you very much :)

I just got back from a 2 week stay in Japan. (I plan to return...) I had some rice at a tea house in Kyoto that sprinkled a purple powder on top of the rice. It was delish, and I want to get some. Any ideas?

If it was sour-salty, it was yukari, a furikake made from red shiso leaves that were used to making umeboshi (pickled plum). Any decent size Japanese grocery should have it.

That sounds right. Alas, I will have to mail order it since we really don't have a great store around here...

Thanks! And, I love your JustBento site! Keep it coming!


I made the cream puff custand recipe:

I realize now that I probably should have kept cooking the custard until it was thickened enough. I just did it for a little longer than the time suggested and it didn't taste flourly, so I removed it and put in the fridge overnight. It is still very runny. Can I reheat it and add more cornstarch/flour to thicken it?

Part of the problem may be that I mixed the egg/flour mixture in a bowl, then transferred it to a pan that I could use on the stove, so not every bit of it ended up in the finished product.

When you heat the milk should it be to the scalding point?



You can try heating up the custard again over a low heat (so it doesn't burn), and adding cornstarch that has been dissolved in a little milk - start with 1 Tbs. + just enough milk to dissolve it. If that doesn't thicken it up enough, keep adding more. The custard should be thick enough that it coats the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, and you can draw your finger through it and the line stays there.

The milk should not it should heat up to just below the scalding point I guess.

Hello Maki! I've been following Just Hungry and Just Bento for a while now and am very grateful for all of the wonderful recipes you've given us! Most of the focus seems to be on lunch and dinner foods, so I was wondering whether or not you were a fan of breakfast and, if so, what kinds of food you usually have in the morning.

I am a fairly regular breakfast eater, but I don't do anything really special mostly. Sometimes I do make something like this green tea and rice porridge. Right now, I am mostly having smoothies with tons of fresh berries and other fruit, to take advantage of what's in-season.

Maki, I also would love to order the big stainless steel tofu mold. Do you have any clue where I might get one? Wonderful site. Great article on Tofu making. Best, Mary Beth

That is one of the most-asked questions around here. Unfortunately I have no idea where to get it now - I got it years and years ago in Japan. But the suggested alternative containers will work just as well.

Thank you for two very inspiring sites!
I was wondering which you use the most for typical bento preparations (such as reheating before putting food into the box) - a toaster oven or a microwave?

I'm thinking of buying one or the other, but although you can buy them toaster ovens are rare here in Norway, and so I don't have any personal experience in using one.
Can you get the same crispiness from a micro with a grill function that you apparently get from a toaster oven?
Any other pros or cons you have experienced with either choice?

You can't get anything cooked in a microwave to get crisp, unless you use specialized cooking sheets or containers. However if you had to choose either a microwave or a toaster oven I would choose a microwave, because it has a lot more uses. A toaster oven is handy for quick oven-cooking, but there are other ways of cooking things. A microwave is good for defrosting, steam-cooking, etc etc. There are also combination oven/microwaves (though they tend to be quite expensive).

Hi Maki! I've been looking for recipes for Kani Cream Pasta, but the one I found called for Heinz American Sauce, something I'm not familiar with. I'm not sure if the Japanese supermarkets around here(San Francisco) have it, I haven't really checked. But just in case they don't carry it, could you tell me of possible alternatives to the sauce? Thanks!

'American' sauce is actually a classic French sauce for seafood. In French it is spelled americaine. It's a fish stock based rich sauce with tomato (presumably the tomato makes it 'americaine' somehow). Try googling for that term! (Heinz makes all sort of region-specific sauces I believe.)

hi! i was wondering if you knew if marmite will have their guinness version out again, if so how someone from the states could score a jar (or ten....)

Unfortunately you're out of luck I think...Guiness Marmite was a limited edition, and if you do manage to buy any jars they'd be past their expiry date (though Marmite is edible past the date...) so would technically not be legal to sell for consumption... you'd have to hope that Marmite and Guinness get together for another run :(

Hi Maki,

I've managed to buy a couple of frozen 'logs' of kamaboko, which are sitting in my freezer. Before I use them, I was wondering if you could tell me how long one would keep for once it's been defrosted - would I need to use it up all in one go, or would it keep for a few days in the fridge? Many thanks in advance!

Once kamaboko is defrosted, it's as perishable as sausages or ham, so you should try to use it up ASAP. So try to defrost as little as you will use at a time.

Hello Maki,

I'm a 4th year college student from the Philippines. I would like to thank you for the information regarding tofu making. I'm in a research study regarding soybeans specifically soycheese making. I found your site very useful for my study. I would like to ask what is the proportion of the other coagulants if use for tofu making? I saw the "nigari" proportion but I think I can't afford to get a source of where can I get it so I think the other coagulants are available here in the philippines. Thank you very much and I will be very glad if you will reply as soon as possible.. Thank you.


I really don't know the proportions for other coagulants, since I don't like tofu made with them so I've never tried. Sorry!

Hello, Maki! I have been enjoying your food sites, Just Bento and Just Hungry for the last several months! I discovered them while drinking mugicha and wondering what the internet had to say about it!

I would like to know if you have any recipe recommendations for shishito peppers? This year, I bought a seedling from Mitsuwa, and he is finally, to my great delight, bearing fruit!! His (Yes, I decided it was a male and even named him) first batch of peppers will be ready this week, so it's time to cook them! Looking around for recipes online, I keep seeing repeats of advice to broil, grill, lightly stir-fry or even tempura fry them whole, but not many dishes which include them. I know what they taste like, and they are delicious cooked in a simple way like broiling, but I was hoping for a recipe which includes them. I don't tempura fry at home (delicous...but I kind of have a rule for no deep frying at home. It's an occasional restaurant treat for health reasons), so that leaves only broiling and snacking as my lone serving option.

I used the search field to check your website, but only found the recommendation to grow shishito in a home garden of japanese herbs. You mention that they are good for many recipies, but what are they? :) My boyfriend has suggested including them in my next batch of mabo tofu, but I'm not sure that it would be suitable--the flavor of the shishito may be overpowered. Thanks in advance for your time and any advice or recommendations you might have!


Shishito are mildly spicy peppers, so they can be used in all kinds of ways. Stir frying is one way. You can also grill them, deep fry them as tempura or even without any batter, stew them in some dashi + mirin + soy sauce + sugar, etc etc. I think they are too mild for ma-bo-dofu where you need a spicier chili pepper. You could also use them as you would jalapenos (though shishito are a bit milder than jalapenos).

Hi Maki,

Have a question about umeboshi. I had it when I was younger but didn't appreciate its taste. Am wanting to try it again now.

I was at the store the other day and got confused with the umeboshi offerings. They had the plums in different color like more red and a brownish color. Some are labeled "Aka umeboshi" (I think it means red plum) and the other labeled "shiro umeboshi".

Could you please tell me what are the differences between the two? Is it just the color? Or is there a taste difference? If I were to try them, which one would you recommend....

Another question, I bought a bag of what is labeled as "dried seaweed" at the Japanese grocery store the other day. It is nice bright green color, but in flake form. I used it to sprinkle on the rice and such. It has a bit of bitter taste to it, and does not taste like nori that I know (color is much brighter). Could it be mis-translated and actually be dried shiso leaves flakes instead? Is dried shiso leaves flakes sold? Just wondering.

Thanks a lot!

I'm guessing since I haven't seen the actual packages :) but the Akaume is probably umeboshi that has been pickled with a lot of red shiso to make it very red (there may be some food coloring added too, check the ingredients), and shiroume has been pickled with no or minimal red shiso. The bright green seaweed is probably aonori, which is a form of nori but used mostly to sprinkle on top of things that are a bit sweet already like yakisoba (panfried noodles) or okonomiyaki.

i bought some dried soba and also fresh. when making the dry i never washed it off (used to pasta) but it was still pretty good. but when i made the fresh (no sticking or clumping!) and rinsed it really well and had a dipping sauce, it just tasted like glue. is there any way to add some flavor or is soba always like that?

You may have actually over rinsed the fresh noodles, so you ended up washing out almost everything but the gluten! People in Japan often even save the cooking liquid that fresh soba has been cooked in because it's so flavorful. Try rinsing it a lot less next time, just to cool it down (this differs from the way dried noodles are treated).

thank you for the advice
ill rinse less
keep up the great work!

I don't know how to make them so please can you help me

Since I had to look up saladitos to even know what they i can't, sorry :)

Hi Maki,

Someone told me that the Japanese didn't eat white rice until the English introduced it to Asia. This sounds incredible to me. Do you know any sources for learning about the food history of Japan?

Whoever said that has no clue I would say...rice has been eaten in Japan for quite a long time. (The idea of the English introducing white rice to Asia is pretty funny too!) I don't really know of any English language sources for learning the food history of Japan, though any decent general history book would have plenty about Japan and rice (most peasant uprisings throughout history had something to do with rice, the lack of it or overtaxation of it etc.)

It may not be as ridiculous as it sounds. This person said white rice, not rice. In the U.S., white flour was only made affordable to the middle and lower classes in the 1920s.

Sure, refined grains were always only available historically to the upper classes...the same goes for rice. As a matter of fact, the ruling samurai classes in Japan often suffered from beri-beri, an illness caused by nutritional deficiency attributed to the eating of white, refined rice. This was a problem in Korea, China etc. too. The English only made full contact with Japan in the 1850s - their arrival actually was the trigger for the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate - so it's rather unlikely they introduced white rice before then! (Until that time Japan was closed to any foreign contact except from China, Korea and the Dutch in a very limited way for about 220 years.)

Fish or seafood is usually a main ingredient in Japanese cuisine, right? But, personally I dont like any kind of fish or seafood. So, is there any way that I can enjoy Japanese food even though I don't like any kind of seafood?

Do you have any recipes?


Fish or seafood is usually a main ingredient in Japanese cuisine, right? But, personally I dont like any kind of fish or seafood. So, is there any way that I can enjoy Japanese food even though I don't like any kind of seafood?

Do you have any recipes?


There are lots and lots of vegetarian or vegan recipes in the well as many meat based dishes. I don't actually feature a lot of fish dishes since, living in a landlocked country where seafood is rather expensive, we don't use it as much as I'd like to. So...just look around the archives! :)


I just 'discovered' your site today, it's definitely bookmarked!

Love the flexibility offered by dishes, and the clarity of presentation -- thanks especially for making tsubuan recipe easy!!! can't tell you how pleased and excited i was to find that.

best wishes,


"Maki" used in the context of sushi means roll or rolled. Basically anything that can be made into a temaki (hand roll) can be made into a regular maki and vice versa, except for the multi-ingredient futomaki (fat roll).

I have seen a dish in one of your recommended blog, and was wondering if you knew the recipe as I can't seem to get a hold of it either in my multitude of japanese cooking book or either on the net. It's a braised wintery (we are having one cold summer in Canada!) dish called gyusuji tofu.

I don't think that is a standard recipe (could be regional...) but gyuusuji means stringy beef, or stewing beef (the cuts that are rather sinewy and gelationous) so I am guessing it's made by stewing or braising tough cuts of beef for a long time, then combining that with tofu. You could try braising the beef in the same way as braised pork belly until it falls apart, and then adding tofu near the end of the cooking process. (just guessing how it might be here)

Hi Maki,
Thank you so much for creating such wonderful and informative blogs! This is the first place I turn to when I cook anything Japanese.

I was wondering what the shelf life of pickled daikon? I made a simple pickled carrot and daikon recipe a few days ago, after noticing a couple of neglected fresh daikon radishes in my fridge that still seemed fine(about a week old). It's been a couple of days since I made this recipe and it's smell has completely overtaken my fridge and half my kitchen and it tastes vaguely like cheese. Is this normal? I can't seem to find any indication anywhere as to how long pickled daikon keeps.



You didn't say how you pickled the daikon, but if it's just pickled in some brine or similar, or salt, you should eat it fairly soon I think - the sulfuric compounds in it would make it quite smelly. The exception is takuan pickles (the yellow ones) but those are made from thorougly dried daikon, so keep far longer. Generally with homemade pickles, unless they are vacuum-sealed I treat them like a marinated salad and use them up within a couple of days.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that. The recipe called for salt, a tiny bit of sugar, and a lot of vinegar. I made the recipe once before, and it was pretty much gone within a day. So I didn't really have anything to compare it to. Daikon is little difficult to find in my city. Thanks for answering my question.

there's a chance somebody asked already but: are you going to publish a cookbook? I love your blogs lots but there's no much place on my kitchen worktop to keep a laptop :( besides, there's always a chance to spill something on! :)) I'd love to have a book with color photos with all the tips and recommendations you give - you know the most important are these tips!
Hope one day you do it,

i'm alergic to pork so I wanted to know if there is any recipe with beef or chicken or anything else that I can put in to a Manjuu that I don't have to use pork?

Try substituting ground chicken for ground pork (if you grind your own, use the dark meat). I think this is a better substitute for pork than beef. Instead of roast pork, try some roasted chicken thighs.

Thank you! Maki

Hi! I love your site; all the food looks so yummy ^_^

I have a question about Mirin. My religion's dietary laws do not allow me to use any kind of alcoholic substance whatsoever in cooking. So, is there any kind of substitute for Mirin?

Also, the same goes for sake... What is it's purpose in a recipe and is there a substitute?

And rice vinegar doesn't contain alcohol right?

・゚★,。・::・゚☆♪( ^-^)/アリガトウヽ(^-^ )♪・゚★,。・::・゚☆

I forgot to reply directly but there really is no substitute for sake or mirin, so you will have to omit them if they go against your religion's dietary laws I'm afraid. Alcohol when it's used in Chinese, Japanese and other Asian cooking serves a specific purpose beyond flavor: see the role of alcohol, onion and ginger. You might want to be aware that many Chinese or Japanese dishes are likely to have some form of alcohol in the form of mirin, sake and so on, though just about all of the alcohol will have evaporated in the cooking process.

I have found this forum thread has some useful information, pertaining to halal/Islamic food laws. (I don't know if that is your religion but it should be useful nevertheless)

Rice vinegar is just like other vinegars...I don't know if vinegar is forbidden by your religion, but if not it should be fine!

Your reply was really helpful; thanks!

Have a great day!

It is amazing! I'm already copying and pasting like a fool. I can't wait to share it with my friends.

Hi Maki
what kind of bread based items are served in japan for breakfast if any and would they be available in england?

For breakfast, Japanese people love white toast - and it's made from loaves that are just like the ones you get in England (big square loaves), either pain de mie or Pullman loaf type where it's square and all soft crust, or with a slightly crust or buttery top. The latter type is actually called "English bread"! Other types of bread are rarely eaten at breakfast time, though you might occasionally have small butter rolls or croissants.

Hi Maki,
I've been reading along with you for a little bit, both here and JustBento. Thank you for all the great explainations, you really make it easy to follow the recipes! I know you must get tired of people asking about the food that they get in restaurants, but I have another...
I have been served a small salad-like dish here in europe. I can't remember eating it state-side, but it's possible! It is served in small quantities, and is made with long, thin, green crunchy veggies of some sort. There are usually sesame seeds as well, and the overall taste is semi-sweet. Do you have any idea how to make this? It is one of my favorites, and I'd love to make it at home, or even know the name to ask for it when we move back to the US.
Thank yoy for your time!
~~Alie could be any number of things. I'm really not sure unless I saw it (and probably tasted it too..)

Hi Maki,

I know you said it's ok to add this blog to my blogroll in the "About" section but I just want to let you know that I did. I've been reading your blog on and off for about 2 years, captivated firstly by the catchy title and then by the content. The fact that you're also in Switzerland is a big bonus because I can count on finding the ingredients (esp. seasonal ones) at the same time as you do.

So, thanks for the hardwork (Quality blogging is indeed hardwork!).


Wow. I cant believe now then i found this place.. When i enter, the fight impression to me is nice and cute.. Not sure why though.. ^^ I like food and especially Japanese food. I hope you continue writing about it for many years!! ^^

Our family loves Japanese culture and food, particularly my eight-year-old son. After enjoying a packed lunch of Miso Soup and Inarizushi at school today, he came home and asked, "Mom, why don't we try to eat like Japanese people all day long - you know, breakfast, lunch AND dinner."

I did do a search, I know you have all these meals separately, including the afternoon snack, but I was hoping for a little direct information about how you piece all of them together - what might a typical (or a couple typical) Japanese day be, as it relates to food?

I really enjoy your blog, both as reference, and for pure enjoyment - and have been borrowing ideas (like your excellent method for Onigiri) right and left. Thank you!


ive been trying out a few recipes from justbento and justhungry and they've been awesome!
its also really great that your recipes are quite authentic, unlike most cooking sites (in english) featuring japanese dishes as they contain more fusion style japanese food.
also love the fact that your instructions are so detailed and some recipes that have a picture by picture instructions are just god-sent!
last but not least, thank god this website is in english, or i would have never understood it otherwise!!!

thank you soooo much!

Hi Maki.

Since you're resourceful when it comes to kitchenware(or lack thereof) maybe you can help me solve a problem?

Project Make Your Own Fishcake (PMYOF?) is leading me in strange directions: Steamed Curry Fish Cakes in Cucumber Water. Sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? With baking powder for extra fluffiness!
The steamer I can work around, but do you have an idea as to what I can steam them in instead of ramikins to get the same effect?

You could use teacups or small mugs instead of ramekins in a steamer...

My nephew was showing slides of his trip to Switzerland. He showed a picture of a green, I think kind of half round, dessert, with I think some kind of chocolate round shape on top. He said it is his favorite dessert. He said it is called carack. They bought it from a bakery or store. Google did nothing to help me find anything at all. Have you heard of this? I'm looking for a recipe to surprise him with.

The name 'carack' for a dessert draws a blank, but from your description could it be a cassata? Here's a picture of one on the Betty Bossi site (Betty Bossi is the Swiss equivalent of Betty Crocker). It's a sponge layer cake with a green pistachio icing (sort fo a fondant really), and is supposed to have originated in Sicily. It can have chocolate on top sometimes, but the main feature is that green pistachio icing. It's a favorite cake in Switzerland. Hmm, now I want one!

Unfortunately it is not a cassata that my nephew had in Switzerland, but I did get more information from him about it.

"I did find that they have many different spellings, but none actually lead to the carack/carrak/caraque that I am looking for. It should be a small round chocolate filled tart, with green frosting on top. Other countries other than Switzerland don't have it, and the only place I have found them is at the store called Migros. The Migros website did not have caraque either."

It seems that Migros is a grocery store chain in Switzerland? Perhaps if you ever shop there you could investigate.



I found a webpage with a picture of the caraque - it is at the bottom of the page.

dos the coler red make you hungry

My shiso plants have many flowering stalks (shiso nomi). I've been told that the flowers can be pickled to be eaten over the winter. does anyone have any idea how one would go about pickling the flowers of the shiso plant?

You can preserve them in salt. Basically, take the stalks that have formed seedpods, wash them, take the seedpods off the stalks, and salt them fairly lightly with kosher or coarse salt (non-iodine). Leave under a weight in a bowl for a day or so, then drain and rinse (this gets rid of the bitterness), add more salt (this time salting a bit more) and if you have it, add a little ume vinegar (ume-su). After a few days start tasting - it should be salty-sour but still fragrant. You can then keep it in sterilized jars, or in the refrigerator. (Note: this is transmitted from my mother...I haven't tried it myself yet)

I hope this is not a silly question: Can ochazuke be made with dashi (the bonito type)? I've sometimes felt confused by the various tastes present in ochazuke and now I'm begining to think that the dashi tastes may come from whatever is put on top of the rice. Still, are there versions with dashi?

Incidentally,it's interesting how Japanese food can be quite playful and addictive...It becomes like a sort of lego-game, things to build upon, in intuitive ways, creative,etc. And I noticed that when I can stick to a Japanese/Asian diet (I hate this word), I lose weight instantly, if I re-introduce dairy/wheat/meat and sweets, the weight returns and trust me it's easier to gain than to lose, but lose you do with a bit of discipline when and if you stick to the great Japanese pantry and ways of cooking.

Thanks so much for your amazing site, Maki.
From NYC

Commercial ochazuke powder usually has some MSG in it, which is what you may taste as dashi. You can add some dashi granules, or an umami-rich ingredient to your ochazuke bowl such as bonito flakes, nori, kobucha, dried fish of some kind, soy sauce and so on, if you need that shot of umami (or if can even add MSG (Ajinomoto) if you like!)

Hi there,

Japanese ingredients are readily available in London if you know where to look, but none of the online stores seem to stock the recipe books recommended on this site. Has anyone had any joy finding them anywhere?



If you are talking about the Japanese bento books listed on Just Bento, you can try asking at Japan Centre whether they stock them or know of a bookstore that may in London. Otherwise you may have to get them from Amazon Japan. It's not hard to do - just follow the links (you can turn the shopping parts of the site to English). Though of course, the books themselves are in Japanese.

Maki! I love your site, it makes me homesick of Asian food in general with all the different ingredients you put in your recipes that are special in Asia. I'm wondering, have you ever had guest speakers or columnists write in recipes and articles? If you had that I would LOOOOVE to help out! Let me know please because I have all sorts of recipes and experiences that I would love to tell about. Domo!

I've never had a guest writer per se, but I may consider it in the future. I do occasionally have reader-contributed recipes, and I'm always happy to get them (but no guarantee of course that they will be featured...)

Thanks for the great site! My family is now addicted to Japanese food, and I'm now addicted to cooking it. My wife practially begs me to make onigiri.

I just tried the Tamagoyaki recipe. I had to skip on the mirin though, since I didn't have any on hand, but it still turned out great!

Thanks again!

Hi Maki,
I've subscribed to your site for about a year now, and really am enjoying your blogs! I always really look forward to getting your latest posts in the e-mail, and enjoy commenting as well as reading the comments too! My favorite one was your 100 top Japanese dishes. I had so much fun! I've lived in Japan, and it brought back great memories... but that you even went back and added the descriptions was way over the top and too much fun!

My question is this. I have a little propane powered table top cooker that I adore. It really gets a work-out with my Nabe cooking in the cooler months, and has witnessed many wonderful parties gathered around the table over the years. I've seen table top cookers that have a mesh grill attached to the top that are used to grill fish, I saw it used for "shio-yaki". Do you know of what I'm speaking of? Is the mesh grill part a separate attachment to the cooker that I already have or a totally different appliance?
I live in Los Angeles and have been to all the major Japanese super markets to no avail. I've been on-line also. Can you help me? Thank you so much!

I'm afraid I've never seen a tabletop grill like the one you speak of...generally speaking, using a fish grill (ami) on top of a tabletop propane cooker is discouraged since it traps heat underneath, which can be dangerous. So I'm guessing the one you saw is a special grill. Sorry I can't help you more :/

Hi Maki !
First of all, let me say that your site is a pleasure to read when you're food-curious like me. I've tried quite a few of your recipes, and I've never been disapointed... and since a few weeks I also need to bring my own lunch at university twice a week, so Just Bento is very helpful to me as well (I've tried a good number of your bento recipes too ^^). Keep up the good work ;)

Anyway, a few days ago I bought a bottle of kimchi sauce/pickling liquid when I saw it at an asian store (homemade kimchi... an old dream of mine)but sadly I can't read the directions in japanese. There picture of bite-sized pieces of cucumber, chinese cabbage and daikon but I could't figure out how long you need to let the vegetables rest before eating them. Do you have any idea of how long it should take?

Also, since I've eaten some in England, I can't forget the taste of bagels... And I can't find any decent bagel here in south france. But I had a little problem with your recipe, since it calls for a special kind of flour. Bread and brioche flour I've found in stores already have baking powder and the like in them. Could T45 or T55 flour be suitable for making bagels ?

Thank you ! ^^

Re: Kimchi sauce - it really depends on the brand, but I think most require you to massage the vegetables with a little salt first before putting it into the sauce (the massaging w/salt softens them up and gets rid of excess moisture). Then it just takes an hour or so...but it does depend on the brand.

For bagels, you need to get a high gluten or 'strong' flour (bread flour is 'strong' flour) - which means getting one with the highest percentage of protein . If you look at the ingredients, it should say the percentage of protein her 100 grams...if it's higher than 12%, it should work.

Thank you,I just did that, and it worked perfectly well.

Arg. (Well, most of the time the percentage isn't on the package, but after some research I found that's because the french classification of flour already includes that, so I'll need at least a T80 flour. Wich comes only with additives or other cereals in regular stores.) I think I'll check at organic stores, or the local mill... If it works, I think I'm going to try putting some cheese and bagel sandwiches in my bentos ! Thank you, you've been very helpfull.

So this is a odd question; probably stupid too, but If I cook tamagoyaki and place it in a bento, how long can it be stored at room temperature safely? or how cold does it need to be stored at? can this be achieved with ice packs? Or am I doomed to all veggie lunches until I graduate?

It's not odd or stupid at all - safety is very important for bento. Have you taken a look at the bento safety article? (Also Summer bento safety). If a tamagoyaki is cooked through properly and cooled down before the bento box is closed (to reduce condensation, which can lead to spoilage) it will keep fine in most circumstances at room temperature for a few hours. If you have to make your bento in the morning to eat in the evening, if you want to be extra-cautious or the weather is very hot, you may want to pack it in an insulated bento bag with an ice pack.

Thank you for the articles! I love Just Hungry and Just Bento they are great resources for making bento or just any boxed lunch. I get compliments on my lunches (which I pretty much copy straight from your site!)at school all the time.

Hi Maki, I just wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying all the Japanese recipes on your site! I've always wanted to learn to cook some homestyle Japanese dishes and have found your recipes and directions very helpful. Thanks!


Hi Maki,
I'm new to the site and would like to say that it's really great to be able to find so many Japanese recipes with an added amount of insight. I lived in Japan for a few months while doing a study of Japanese history and I took to buying sandwiches from the convenience stores before hopping on the train to Nagoya. I'm wondering, do you have any recipes for the sandwiches that are typical to a Japanese convenience store?


Hi Charlie. I don't have any konbini sandwich recipes here simply because...they aren't too healthy ^_^; The typical konbini sandwich is white bread slices (I do think Japanese white loaf bread is the best), with something quite high-fat inside, e.g. tons of mayo, or fried tonkatsu or chicken katsu, etc. Tastes great but... though one of these days I may do a post on Japanese sandwiches (which are closest in spirit to English tea sandwiches).

Hi maki
First of all thanks for your two wonderful sites. I check both Just Bento and Just Hungry on a regular basis to see your new yummy recipes.
Can I ask a question about bento no 12? In it you talk about konnyaku no tosani - a salty-sweet konnyaku with bonito flakes. I'd like to try this as I recently bought some konnyaku, but although you mention that the recipe is to follow, I can't seem to find it anywhere. Can you point me in the right direction please?

That's one of those things that I meant to do and forgot. I'll post up a recipe very soon.

Edit: and now the recipe is up!

Hi Maki,

Dare I say how gracious you're to offer up this one of a kind resource for Japanese food on the web. I'm reading Elizabeth Andoh's, Washoku cookbook, and more. She has a section on Konbu, which I'm very hard pressed to find here in Washington State. Yes, even Uwajimaya doesn't carry high quality konbu.

I came across this article

The author suggests finding a high class Konbu, like Rashiri, that has been aged properly, and comes from a reputable beach in the northern Hokkaido region.

Now, I've been calling all of Andoh's references in the states, and as well, Eden and Mitoku who supply Japanese food to stores in the USA. No luck!

I've resorted to emailing the site:
ttp:// in some form of broken Japanese, asking if they'll ship to the US.

I'm guessing that's a no. What should I do next? Bribe my friends in Japan to go to a small store in some suburb of Tokyou to find it? Ahhh! Help!

Thanks :)

Well, with all due respect to Elizabeth Andoh, that's a main problem I see with many cookbooks and such about Japanese cooking - they want you to get esoteric products or types of products that may be easy to get in Japan, but simply are not elsewhere. It makes Japanese cooking seem more daunting and out of reach than it needs to be! These authors should be forced to spend time in an area where their readers might actually live, and see what they can do with the ingredients on hand there.

Ranting aside, in regards to konbu, just get the best quality you can get a hold of easily. It should be as thick and leathery as possible, and have a white bloom on the surface. Don't get hung up on where it comes from or the region or whatever, but just trust your eyes and when possible what the store people might recommend. Uwajimaya is a store with a long history and great reputation, and I'm sure they know what works for their customers.

Thanks Maki. I agree! It seems that my days in Japan have caught up with me — and now I understand your point of view more than ever.

Andou's book is quite a mystery, because she does not mess around with the Japanese pantry items. In fact, she may be writing the most uncookable Japanese book for non-Japanese geographies. You may be her arch nemesis!

I shall take the two hour journey to Uwajimaya and come out with some decent konbu if it's the last thing I do!...besides kiss my wife.

I'm grateful that this urge for good Konbu hasn't been while living in some distant farm country. If there's any farm folks out there reading this, reply and I'll see what can be done to get you your fair share of some decent seaweed love.


I absolutely LOVE Just Hungry and Just Bento. I get so many wonderful ideas from these sites, so thank you for all the inspiration and mouthwatering recipes!

I hope you haven't covered this elsewhere; I was reading an old thread on onigiri, and as a vegetarian remember enjoying one filled with what seemed to be a sort of salad of seaweed and chilli. Many local japanese conveyor belt sushi restaurants also sell it as a salad. Do you have any idea what this could be? I thought it may be something called sukikonbu, but I may be wrong...I would love to be able to make it myself to put in onigiri, as umeboshi are so expensive! Thanks again for all the delicious recipes.

Hey there!

Thanks for your wonderful site!

I want to know how many calories are in 100g of kabocha.

It seems a lot more dense than American pumpkin which is incredibly low in calories.

It seems like the perfect diet super food!
But I want to confirm the calorie content.

Thank you!

Most winter squash, except for spaghetti squash, are about 2x the calories of pumpking from the charts I've seen (try looking it up on calorie counter sites like Calorie Lab, Calorie Count, Sparkpeople etc) because they are denser and higher in natural sugars/carbohydrate. This includes butternut squash and so on. Kabocha squash is in this group.

I really like those little crunchy rice crackers (arare? nori maki?). It's my understanding (and I could be way off here) that they are made of mochi. I'm having to eliminate gluten from my diet, so I am now wondering if they are generally gluten-free?

I don't have any around right now to check the label, and I can't find them locally. Amazon doesn't have ingredients for them. I thought you might actually have some around or that you might know.

I love your blogs! Keep up the good work!

Most traditional type rice crackers are made of rice, so should be mostly gluten free, though there may be tiny amounts in the soy sauce coating. Your best bet might be traditional rice crackers that are deep fried and seasoned with salt instead of soy sauce. Arare can mean several kinds of rice crackers actually.

But there are some rice-based snacks that have wheat flour in them, so you do need to check the labels.

I know we've just been discussing going overboard with accessories on JustBento but have you seen this?
It actually sounds like an interesting idea for portioning your lunches.

Hmm, interesting idea, and very pretty. But a triangle doesn't seem like the most practical shape to carry around in your bag to me...

Hi Maki. Just wanted to say hi! Read your post about the sprained wrist...definitely no fun at all. Wanted to wish you speedy recovery. Hope you feel better soon!
Take care!!!

Hi Wakkun! It's a lot better thanks! I'll update on what/where I am tomorrow :)

Hi Maki,
Love your site. I have also moved recently to Zurich, and as a Chinese girl I am wondering whether I'm getting a good deal. I always shop at new asia market in feldstrasse. They don't have everything, but prices are cheap. Or is this there a better place to go? I love Asian fruit and vegetables, where can I get the greatest variety at the best prices here?
And which Japanese/Korean/Chinese restaurants would you recommend in Zurich? So far I have only had mediocre Chinese food here.

For Asian groceries in Zürich, see here. New Asia Market is not bad, though I go more to Lian Hua since it's more convenient for me.

Asian restaurants in Zü a problem. I want to find one I could recommend wholeheartedly, but so far I can't... :/

Do you know if there is a recipe that will duplicate the Kimuraya Cocoa Swiss Roll that can be purchased in Japanese groceries? The cake is very very light and there is barely any holes in the crumb. Japanese cakes seem to be made the same way in the bakeries. All of the jelly roll recipes I have made so far are nothing like these.

That is really a classic French sponge. I'm not really fond of that fine texture myself so I've never really attempted it, but you may find techniques in classic French pastry baking books. I believe it takes some skill though (of course the cakes sold in stores are made in factories...) FWIW many cakes sold here in Switzerland have that same fine, light texture too!

I tried this in Sendai and loved it.
Unfortunately, haven't been able to find any English recipes.
As it's a dessert made with edamame and tofu I hoped you might be interested.

As far as I know, there's no tofu in zunda - it's basically a sort of variation of ohagi, using mashed or ground edamame mixed with sugar or sugar syrup instead of the azuki bean paste.

Please can you tell me if I can freeze fresh lotus root? I live in an area where there are no asian shops I have been able to find it fresh, but want to save it to use at a later date.

In reading your site, I thought that it may be possible to slice it putting it into vinegar water to prevent discoloration, drain and then freeze the slices! Would that be possible or would you have another suggestion,
Kind regards

Bev Christophers

Yes, after you blanch it in vinegar-water, you can freeze lotus root very successfully (you can buy frozen lotus root in Japan and other parts of Asia).

I would have put this with my comment for today's giveaway entry, but I figured you probably wouldn't be reading them (there are a ton, after all).

With your mention and hilarious pictures from the 70s cookbook, I thought you might be interested in this:

They're weight watchers recipe cards...from the 70s. The disgusting and entertaining food choices are even better with the decorations surrounding them.



Yep I've seen that site. Very funny! The Gallery Of Regrettable Food (website) is in the same spirit.

Hi Maki,

In one of your 5th anniversary giveaway posts, you wrote about some of your regrets over the past 5 years in regards to your blog. One of them was that you took a long unexplained absence, which caused your readership to go down.

I too, made the mistake of disappearing from my blog for months without an explanation not too long after it was featured in a magazine. (I didn't want to leave...I had just started a new job and was also going through a hard time in life.) I'm back to regular blogging now (or trying my hardest to update at least every week!), but I feel that like you, my readership has gone way down.

Do you happen to have any tips on how to re-gain readers? How did Just Bento become such a big hit in such a short time?

Hi Jup, I don't know if I have any definitive answers for you. But I have a few ideas -

  • First, just keep plugging away at it! If your writing is of good quality people will return to read your blog.
  • A way to attract fickle readers quickly is to have great photos, videos, illustrations or something visual. You can then submit your photos (linking to related blog entries) to sites like and, which are followed by many people.
  • Focus on a subject you are deeply interested in.
  • Treat your blog like it's brand new, and let your presence be known. Link to other food blogs you are interested in, not just in the form of a blogroll in your sidebar, but in your actual posts. E.g. you can try out someone's recipe and post the results, etc. Comment on other blogs too (but don't just comment for the sake of linking to your own site, because that 's spamming of course)
  • See if there are any food events going on that you can jump in on (Food events used to be much more frequent and well-participated in than they are now, but there are still many out there.)
  • Participate in sites that have communities of food bloggers, where posting a discreet link to your site is not frowned upon. Two I can think of are Serious Eats and Food Buzz, but there are others. Be careful you don't get into the spamming area!

I think that Just Bento just was lucky in some respects. It did have the advantage of being the little sister of an already established food blog (this one), so I was able to give it some publicity early on. It got picked up on by a number of prominent blogs in its first month, then appeared on the Most Popular page on Things went a bit quiet for a while, then surged again, etc. in undulating waves, but each time there was a wave of new traffic the ebb of the wave after it was at a higher lower point that previously, if that makes sense!

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck! :)

Thanks for the tips, Maki!

I read your blog article about almond powder and it really helped me figure things out.

But I have a related(?)question. What is pomade shape. The recipe tells me to knead into a pomade shape (ポマード状に練る) but what is a pomade. I've always thought it was something you put on your hair.

ポマード状 actually means the consistency of pomade, not the shape. So it means you just need to soften the butter and mix it well with sugar or flour or whatever the recipe specifies.

This is more in reference to your "Just Bento" site, however, I do frequent 'Just Hungry" as well :)
I'm 20 and i live with my parents, helping my mom out with her 4 younger ones, in between my trips to japan(she's still got two older ones besides me,the second oldest, making 7 in all, i think she's crazy, she thinks its bliss.. to each her own i guess..). So to help out I make bento for my younger brother and sister to take to school(sometimes for my even younger brother and sister-both 5 yrs- just for fun), and sometimes i also make dinner (it's a good thing i like cooking haha).In September My parents were in China for two weeks to bring home my little sister. Those two weeks I was basically mom, so my cooking went from just lunch, to breakfast, lunch and dinner. During those two weeks your sites were seriously life savers!!YOU ROCK! I guess my point to all that was that your sites, particularly "Just Bento", have been extreeeemly helpful in my pseudo "nanny for free" thing i got goin'on, and how really very grateful I am!! The only downside to your sites, are how much they make me miss Japan(which is really becoming like my second home <3 ) and so anxious for my next trip!! I hope you don't mind reading my text-book of a post with all its lovely grammatical errors...(>.< )

I'm so glad that Just Bento and Just Hungry are so helpful to you! I'm sure your mother really appreciates your help :) Sorry about making you miss Japan tho!

I was reading one of my magazines and I found out that Japan has a special type of Christmas cake. I was wondering if you knew anything about it and had any recipes.


In Japan, a Christmas cake クリスマスケーキ just means a highly decorated Christmas theme-cake. It is most often a plain sponge cake base two-layer cake, filled and decorated with whipped cream and fresh strawberries (for that festive red and white color). I highly disapprove of strawberries in December but that combo, called "strawberry shortcake", is very popular in Japan year-round. Sometimes it can be different - e.g. with chocolate ganache or chocolate buttercream and so on. In recent years yule log cakes have become popular too. It's more a matter of the decoration than the cake itself. A Christmas cake is not made at home usually in Japan, it's ordered in advance from a pastry shop. You can see some examples if you google クリスマスケーキ Here is one page, from the Hankyu Department Store:

Hi Maki,

I was wondering if you had/know of a recipe for a cold sweet potato and miso salad. The miso isn't watered down or vinaigrette-like at all, but more paste-like, probably in combination with the starchiness from the sweet potatoes. It's very mild and just slightly sweet and salty, not acidic, garlicky, etc. There aren't any other vegetables in the salad (I don't think), and it is very simple but very delicious! It was also served as part of a bento. I had it a tea shop which serves Asian cuisine, so I'm not sure how authentically Japanese it is, but still, I hope you know what I'm talking about.

In that very bento, there was also this delicious cold cucumber-ginger salad (?). It features thinly-sliced cucumbers, and I think pickled ginger. There is quite a bit of liquid in this salad, but it was still very mild, not overly salty, sweet, acidic, nor gingery or garlicky. Just delicious and refreshing. Again, I don't know how authentically Japanese this is or if you've ever even heard of it in Japanese cuisine, but I'm hoping it is :]

Thanks in advance, and love your site!!

I haven't heard of either I'm afraid, so they are not classic Japanese dishes I don't believe. They sound delicious though!

It's that time of year again where I start planning all the Healthy Seasonal Vegetables I'm going to start eating in January (mounds of cabbage, here I come). Of course I am trying to bribe myself with a new bento box, and I am one of those sketched-out-by-plastic people.

Googling led me to this: , a wooden bento box made in Germany.

It doesn't say anything about food safety one way or another. I know some "bento boxes" are finished with glues or veneers that are not strictly foodsafe. Any opinions on this one?

Well, uncoated wood boxes like that are used for bento in Japan, but they are a bit hard to take care of. You can put plain steamed rice in them but not any other foods that may stain or get greasy. Also, they usually cost 5-10 times what they are charging for that box. It's suspiciously cheap, in other words. And it says 'storage bento boxes'. So...I'd ask the seller about food safety before buying them for bento lunches.

Sorry for jumping in so late.

Yosenabe is a fun and delicious winter dish, and I am surprised you haven't posted any recipes at all for it. I would love to see what you do with it.

I know you prefer to give us recipes that don't require cooking equipment or ingredients that might not be already on hand or cheaply and immediately available, and I suppose this might be part of the reason you haven't got around to mentioning it. But it isn't absolutely necessary to own a donabe or the gas cassette tabletop cooker thingie, and anyway those are not very expensive.

Or maybe you do not like yosenabe, but I would find that hard to believe. It is too good and too fun for that explanation to seem credible.

You are good and fun. Where is the problem? It is winter, and we are hungry!


Umm...let's just say you've read my mind...(coughs)

Stay tuned :)

Hi, Maki,

Shinnen akemashite omedeto! Happy New Year! I just stumbled onto your site last night and spent hours perusing it. Fantastic! Thank you so much for your delightful work.

Having grown up as a sansei girl on Oahu, my mother (from Hokkaido) would spoil me with bento lunches complete with nori-smiley face onigiri. I was the kid that had the lunch all the other kids envied. 'Course even as a kid, I knew a good thing when I tasted. Beats P&B sandwiches any day.

Liked your shaved ice pic. Did you try Hawaii's portuguese sausage? Portuguese sausage and spam were a bento staple.

Anyway, wishing you a great and prosperous Ox year and I'm looking forward to your yummy bento recipes!

Seattle, Washington (USA)

I just discovered this website, and am so excited to try out the recipes! I am American recently relocated to Tokyo. I've been dabbling in Japanese cooking the past few weeks, already with many delicious results :-) I'm also looking forward to trying out the obento ideas on the other blog. Thanks for providing all this great info in English. (I am learning Japanese, but it's slow-going so far).

Hello Maki,
I just wondered if you had any suggestions for making
a good homemade sauce to have with Takoyaki. I hope I'm
not asking something that you've already answered!


Actually I have :) See the end of the Takoyaki article.

Hi Maki, I stumbled upon your site when I did a search for hayashi rice which is a feature in a japanese tv drama I'm watching. Anyway, I love your site. I love how you give detailed descriptions and explanations of the ingredients and that you provide japanese characters/kanji characters with them sometimes. It really helps when shopping for ingredients because sometimes on the packets they don't have english and there are so many varieties of seaweed/kombu/wakame or miso that you can't tell the difference just by looking at the packets.
After browsing through the site a bit, I thought it would be really helpful if there was an index type thing that lists all the recipes in the recipe categories as sometimes I'm looking for inspiration and don't have anything specific in mind but just want to browse. It would be easier if there was a page with just the titles of all the blog entries in say the japanese category.
Thanks for such a great resource!

Hi mandyviola. Actually such index pages already exist - - for all 'recipe' entries (the link is up there ^ on the main navigation) for all 'japanese recipe' etc.

There are more links on the first page for different categories.

Hi Maki,

I recently bought a bento box from the company(?) Puti Fresh/Lube Sheep and was wondering if you had any idea if those particular bento boxes are bpa-free or contain bpa? I've been worried since I realized that it was possible.



Here you go: What are Japanese plastic bento boxes made of. In a nutshell, BPA is contained in polypropelene, and the Lube Sheep etc. bento boxes are made of polypropylene, which is also what is used for reusable plastic storage containers like Tupperware, so is considered safe for repeat food storage.

Thank you so much Maki :) You are fantastic.