Home-made instant tororo-konbu soup

The good thing about working at home is that I can have lunch at home. But when I’m busy, I want to prepare it as quick as possible.

I got good tororo-konbu, extremely thinly shaved kelp recently. It’s really convenient to make soup. Just add some tororo-konbu, katsuo-bushi (dried bonito) and soy sauce in a bowl and pour hot water. Then it will make savory soup with deep aroma and flavor, just like magic!


Observation decks of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (after giving up chocolates…)

The day before yesterday, I went to Shinjuku. I tried to take a look at “Salon du Chocolat” in Tokyo (Japanese version of le Salon du Chocolat in Paris) held at Shinjuku NK Building in vain. There was a long line at the entrance and I was told to wait for 3 hours to enter…! So I changed my mind and went to the observation decks of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building just next to it, where I often take my friends from abroad. It’s located in the center of Tokyo, open from morning till night and free of charge!

And it was the right decision. The sky was clear. Less people. I enjoyed a beautiful panoramic view (And I didn’t have to spend money on chocolates 😛 )

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. There are two observation decks (south and north).

You can see Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance.

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden in the middle.

The big green area is Meiji Shrine Forest.  

Even Mt. Fuji is visible!

Miso soup of the day: Satsuma-jiru (chicken & vegetables)

There are two kinds of satsuma-jiru: one is Kagoshima’s and the other is Ehime’s. This one is a Kagoshima version – hot miso soup with chicken and vegetables.

Although the recipe is very similar to that of Tonjiru, its taste is quite different.


Ingredients: 250g chicken thigh, 10cm daikon radish, 2/3 carrot, 3 eddoes, 1/2 burdock root, 80g konnyaku, 5 dried shiitake, 1 namaage (fried tofu), miso paste, small portion of chives and ginger.

Method:

  1. Soak dried shiitake in cold water until soft. Then take out shiitake to slice. This water is to be used as dashi, so don’t throw it away.
  2. Peel all vegetables. Cut daikon radish and carrot in quarter-rounds. Cut eddoes and chicken in bite size pieces. Slice burdock root and konnyaku. Dice namaage.
  3. In a pot, add water, the water used to soak shiitake and the ingredients explained above (2). Cook until soft. Remove the scum.
  4. Add miso paste and turn off the heat.
  5. Serve in a bowl. Top with chopped chive and grated ginger.

Visit to Yoshiwara: what the goddesses tell us?

If you’re interested in Japanese history and traditional culture, you might have heard of “Yoshiwara” where there was an authorised red light district until the Anti Prostitution Law was enacted in 1958. Yujo (courtesans), expecially oiran (high-class courtesans) were said to be fashion leaders and stars in the Edo period and depicted in many traditional arts such as ukiyoe, kabuki acts and rakugo stories. Even now, many movies and dramas about Yoshiwara are produced. These women were bought and brought from the remote areas (most of them are said to be from the Tohoku region). To become oiran or high class yujo, in addition to beauty, they had to aquire lots of skills including poetry, songs, musical instruments, dancing and etc..

As I’m learning shamisen (there are many songs about Yoshiwara), I wanted to visit this area but hesitated to do so alone, because Yoshiwara is now crowded with the buildings offering sexual services. Indeed, although it’s quite close to Asakusa, there are a few people who visit there for sightseeing.

Some weeks ago, I visited there with my husband for the first time. First we visited the Ichiyo Memorial Museum. Ichiyo, one of the most famous female novelists in modern Japan, is a lady depicted on the front side of the five-thousand-yen note. She was living just closed to the Yoshiwara district for some period and got inspiration for her novels.

After that, we walked around the area, tyring to find the traces of the glory of Yoshiwara. Well, the inside of the Yoshiwara district was totally disapponting for women… (never expect traditional buildings like Shimabara in Kyoto…) but with a map, we could easily find where exactly the Yoshiwara district was. Around the area, there are many historical shrines and temples including the famous Otori shrine. But what struck me the most was the story I heard at Yoshiwara Benzaiten Shrine. This place was built to commemorate the courtesans who passed away from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The quake caused a big fire and the women tried to run away, but the grand gate was intentionally locked. At that time the district was surrounded by a moat to prevent them from escaping. So they jumped into the pond (now reclaimed) located on the opposite side of the grand gate in order to escape from the heat wave. As a result, only a few women survived and approx. 500 women lost their lives, included small girls…

This shrine is small but beautiful, having a bright and warm atmosphere. Many locals and volunteers seem to come here to pray and clean.

  

Just close to Yoshiwara Benzaiten, there is Yoshiwara shrine. This shrine is getting attention as a spiritual place that would give luck to women.

It’s hard to express how I felt exactly, but visiting Yoshiwara was certainly a sobering experience.

My husband’s okonimiyaki (Japanese savory pancake)

Last Saturday, my husband made his specialty, okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a popular dish, served at special restautrants and home. At festivals, you can find it at food stalls. Literally, okonomi means “what you like” and yaki means “grill or pan-fry”, so there is a variety of recipes.

His okonomiyaki is very soft and has a fluffy and melty texture. He sold lots of okonomiyaki at a campus festival, when he was a student… Here’s how to.

  1. Prepare dough: mix wheat flour (cake flour), an egg, chopped cabbage (use Japanese style cabbage with soft leaves, if available), some grated nagaimo yum (additional), a little amount of grated ginger, instant dashi powder and water. The secret is to make this dough as soft as possible. Add flour little by little to find the best balance.
  2. Add any ingredients you like. This time, we added sweet corn and pizza cheese. Other suggested ingredients are shrimps, squid, mochi, tarako, mentaiko, kimchi, boiled potatoes, etc…
  3. Grill the dough on a pre-heated hot plate.
  4. Place slices of pork on the top (if you don’t eat pork, simply omit it or replace it with beef).
  5. Once one side is cooked, turn it over and cook well.
  6. Serve with ready-made okonomi sauce (or tonkatsu sauce), mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried bonito) and aonori (dried seaweed). Or serve with soy sauce instead, if you want to make it less heavy.


Teba-daikon (stewed chicken wings and daikon radish)

Teba-daikon is one of the popular dishes often served at izakaya (Japanese style pub). It’s less expensive if you make it at home. Last night, I made it for my husband who loves chicken wings…

Ingredients: 10 chicken wings, 8 cm daikon radish, a slice of ginger, 2 eggs (optional), soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar

Method:

  1. Peel and slice daikon radish in 2cm thick, then cut each slice in four. Boil them about 30 minites in a pot until soft.
  2. Once the daikon pieces are boiled, throw away the hot water from the pot. Pour water (about 1 litter) and add a slice of ginger. When the water is boild, add chicken wings, boiled eggs (optional) and 50 ml sake, 50 ml mirin, 70-80 ml soy sauce and 1.5-2 tbsp of sugar (adjust the amount of seasonings as you like).
  3. Simmer 20-30 minutes.