Help us out – please rate our podcast on iTunes. Thank you!
Miso Hungry Podcast

Episode 31: Tsukimi, the Moon Viewing Festival

Play

Tsukimi udon - Moon Viewing Noodles

Tsukimi or Otsukimi (月見)literally means “moon-viewing,” and refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The days for the celebration of the full moon and the celebration of the waxing moon normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar.

The tradition is thought to date back to the Heian era (794—1185) when Japanese aristocrats would gather to recite poetry under the full moon of the 8th month of the lunisolar calendar, known as the “Mid-Autumn Moon.” Since ancient times, Japanese people have described the 8th lunisolar month (corresponding to September on our calendar) as the best time for looking at the moon, since the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon cause the moon to appear especially bright.

On the evening of the full moon, it is traditional to gather in a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate with Japanese pampas grass (susuki), and serve tsukimi ryori, etc., plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest.

There are specific terms in Japanese to refer to occasions when the moon is not visible on the traditional mid-autumn evening, including Mugetsu (literally “no-moon”) and Ugetsu (“rain moon”). Even when the moon isn’t visible, though, Tsukimi parties are held.

White rice dumplings called tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. The dumplings were traditionally thought to bring happiness and good health, and the offering is not only for the moon’s beauty, but as an expression of gratitude for the autumn harvest.

Seasonal produce is also displayed as offerings to the moon. Sweet potatoes, satoimo (taro root), kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), beans, chestnuts, and tsukimi dango are offered to the moon.

Tsukimi udon and tsukimi soba are soba or udon noodles topped with a raw egg, maybe a bit of nori and scallions, and then covered with broth. These aren’t necessarily for moon viewing parties, but the word tsukimi is used in food because the cracked egg resembles the moon.

Tsukimi Udon

Makes approximately 4 servings

Ingredients

For the shiitake kombu dashi:

  • 7 cups water
  • 1 piece kombu (approximately 12-square inches in size)
  • 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

For the soup broth:

  • shiitake kombu dashi
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

To serve:

  • 14 ounces fresh udon noodles, prepared according to the instructions indicated on the package
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablepoons thinly sliced scallions
  • shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice), to garnish (optional)

Cooking Directions

  1. Make the shiitake kombu dashi: Place the kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms in a pot with the water. Bring the water almost to a boil and then turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the stock stand for 3 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms to release the stock they have soaked up, then strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside.
  2. Make the soup broth: Mix the dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and salt together in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Divide the prepared udon noodles into four bowls. Ladle the simmering soup broth over the noodles. Crack an egg on top of the noodles in each bowl, and then garnish each bowl with the thinly sliced scallions. If you prefer, you can poach your eggs separately before adding them to the soup.

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 30: The Yaki Imo Girl!

Play

This week we have another special guest – Kate, aka the yaki imo girl, aka our #1 Miso Hungry Podcast fan, from Eat Recycle Repeat!

She’s joining us to talk about her very favorite food – Japanese sweet potatoes!

(Our apologies in advance about the sound quality this week – Kate was Skyping with us all the way from Japan, so sometimes the connection wasn’t the greatest.)

purple and yellow sweet potatoes

Kate lives in Japan, and has fallen madly in love with sweet potatoes in her time there!

yaki imo stand at the grocery store

Did you know that sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing? What they label “yam” in an American supermarket is almost guaranteed to be a sweet potato. Actual yams don’t grow in the US – they only grow in Africa, but they’re starchier and less sweet than sweet potatoes.

purple sweet potato

Types of Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Satsuma imo: yellow inside, dark, purply skin, starchy with a well-rounded flavor.

Beni imo: from Okinawa, deep purple; sweet, great for baking/desserts. (Called murasaki imo when used in desserts.) For some reason, they won’t allow you to take raw beni imo out of Okinawa.

Anno imo: orangey color; kind of like American sweet potatoes, used in winter. You can buy them baked, also often found dried (hoshi imo).

sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are really good for you, taste great, are great comfort food, travel well, and are great for people with food allergies and intolerances.

yaki imo truck

In Japan, there’s a yaki imo truck in the fall and winter, which is kind of like the Japanese version of an ice cream truck.

saved by a yaki imo truck!

They’re extra good when it’s freezing cold outside (especially if you’re at one of the yaki imo festivals in Okinawa or Kawagoe City), and can double as a hand-warmer.

Saved by the yaki imo truck! We’re positive Kate has a yaki imo guardian angel.

Kate holding a yaki imo

Sweet Potato Recipe Ideas

sweet potato ice cream

sweet potato cake

sushi using sweet potato

kuri kinton

  • Satsumaimo kinton (a type of wagashi)
  • Ofuku imo
  • Sweet potato tarts

running bursts

Did you know that if you eat a lot of sweet potatoes, you’ll get “running bursts” that will make you go faster? This is what Japanese kids tell Kate…

map magnet

Chestnuts are considered the “sweet potato” of nuts – no wonder they go together so well!

Sweet potatoes have a very low impact on your blood sugar. They’re high in Vitamin A and beta carotine, and are as nutrient-dense as broccoli (but a whole lot tastier!) The skins (which are great if you bake them after taking the flesh out) are high in fiber.

yaki imo

Kate got to help out with a sweet potato harvest this year, which sounds pretty cool (especially when you get to take some home!)

sweet potato

Anyone have a good idea for a Miso Hungry yaki imo shirt?

mashed sweet potato

Kate gave us a quick and easy recipe she often uses to make sweet potatoes to use in other dishes:

An Easy Way to Cook Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

  • sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup water

Cooking Directions

  1. Put sweet potatoes and water in a crockpot, cook on high for 4 hours.
  2. Use for anything where the texture isn’t super important (ice cream, baked goods, etc.)
  3. Enjoy!

sweet potatoes

(P.S. Kate is giving away an entire box of sweet potato goodies to one lucky winner, so go check out the giveaway post on her blog to see how you can enter!)

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 29: Japanese Grocery Stores – an interview with Spilled Milk’s Matthew Amster-Burton!

Play

This week, we were lucky enough to have Matthew Amster-Burton agree to do an interview with us.

You might know him from his fantastic podcast, Spilled Milk that he does with Molly Wizenberg, his blog Roots and Grubs, or his book Hungry Monkey.

We gave him the option of choosing whatever topic he wanted, and he chose… grocery stores!

It’s a longer episode this week, but trust us, it’s totally worth the listen.

We talk about things like really cool ladles for unagi sauce…

unagi sauce ladle

unagi sauce ladle

And Japanese TV shows where they send really young children, followed by camera men, off to the grocery store to run errands:

All in all, it was tons of fun. Thank you so much, Matthew! We can’t wait to have you on again!

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 28: Bento Buddies!

Play

Bento boxes!

We love them. You should too.

Bento box from Kyoto Station

You can get bento boxes pretty much anywhere in Japan. Train stations, convenience stores, department stores… and they’re almost always guaranteed to be delicious.

One of our favorite things about bento boxes is the variety of foods you can get in a single bento. Rice, meats, veggies, tsukemono… all sorts of things.

Bento is a great way of using up those little bits and pieces that weren’t finished off the night before. You don’t need to have a lot of any one ingredient, but you do need variety of taste and texture. You also have to choose dishes that are tasty even when cold, ones that will not go off quickly and ones that are not too watery.

It is common to have both meat and fish in one bento box, though one is usually more predominant than the other. Deep-fried seafood or chicken is always very popular, as is teriyaki fish or meat.

Vegetables are crucial for a good bento. Crunchy, lightly cooked green beans, carrots or broccoli are all fantastic additions, providing color and texture.

Bento box from Marukai in Gardena, CA

Kyaraben or “character bento” are typically decorated to look like popular Japanese cartoon (anime) characters, characters from comic books (manga), or video game characters.

Oekakiben or “picture bento” are decorated to look like people, animals, building and monuments, or things like flowers and plants.

Bento box from Ueno Station in Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

There are a bunch of bento blogs out there. Just Bento, Lunch in a Box, Happy Little Bento, Bento Lunch, and Feisty Bento (Yvo hasn’t blogged there for a while, though she still does talk about bentos on her main blog) are some good ones.

Bento box from Marukai in Gardena, CA

We’ve got silicon saibashi winners!

Congratualtions to Iryna and Carla! Check your emails for messages from us so we can get your shipping info and get these saibashi sent your way. ^_^

Bento box from Ueno Station in Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 27: Going cookbook-crazy in Japan, and noodle bowls the size of your head!

Play

We only had two more days together in Tokyo before Allison and Son headed to Kyoto for a few days and Rachael and her family stayed in Tokyo, and there was a lot for us to do!

Day 6

tuna sushi

First off, sushi. Because hello, we’re in Japan… but we hadn’t had sushi yet! (I know, what’s wrong with us?)

sushi

We headed off to a good kaiten sushi place (“conveyer belt” sushi) where we ate our fill of good, but super-inexpensive sushi.

sushi chef

(Kaiten sushi, or “conveyer belt” sushi, is a type of sushi bar where the sushi chef(s) stand in the center and make the sushi, and then place each plate on a conveyer belt that revolves around them. The customers sit at a bar around them, and take a plate off the conveyer belt anytime they see something they want to eat. You pay by plate (sometimes they color-code the plates; here all the plates cost the same amount, except for a few specially-marked ones) so at the end of the meal they just tally it up for you.)

salmon sushi

The mango pudding also really hit the spot on this hot, hot day!

mango pudding

Look how much we ate!

stack of plates

After lunch it was a bit of shopping (where we picked up the two pairs of silicon saibashi that we’re giving away!), then made a stop at a combini to get these “Coolish”… ice cream in a pouch. Yes, they’re just as awesome as they sound.

coolish

And then, off to a bookstore in Roppongi Hills… to buy waaaay too many cookbooks.

(It’s all Rachael’s fault.)

lots of cookbooks

Rachael and her family had a dinner with Mr. Fuji’s work at a super expensive place, so Allison and Son decided they would pass and instead take Rachael’s recommendation to go to her favorite udon place.

As Rachael describes it, “the bowls are the size of your head.” Seriously. It was so good.

(If you’re ever in Japan, it’s called Tsurutontan, and there are several locations. Rachael loves the Nabeyaki udon, Allison adores the curry udon. Really good noodles… and cat-approved! ~_^)

huge bowls of udon

Day 7

The next day was our last day together… and we spent it doing more shopping!

This time, a trip to Kappabashi, the street that is home to Tokyo’s cooking district. Tons of cookware to look at and buy (and wish we had room in our luggage to take more back!)

shopping at kappabashi

After that, it was off to Ginza… to get lost.

alley where the yakitori place was

Eventually we found the yakitori place we were looking for (which was in a basement, and you entered from an alley, so it was pretty had to find).

yakitori

The yakitori place – Torigin – was seriously good. All sorts of delicious grilled foods!

saying goodbye

And then it was time to say goodbye. We wish we could have had more time together! But there’s always the next time… and until then, we can promise you there will be tons of episodes about all the delicious things we ate in Japan!

leaving on the shinkensen

We’re having a contest!

saibashi - cooking chopsticks

You can enter to win one of two pairs of silicon saibashi (cooking chopsticks, like these) that we brought back from Japan.

Today is the last day of the giveaway, so don’t forget to go enter!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on Episode 25′s post.

One entry per person. You have until 11:59PM on Monday, September 24th, 2012 to enter. We will ship internationally, so anyone may enter. The two winners will be chosen using random.org.

Good luck!

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 26: So much good food… oh, and a typhoon.

Play

We just have to say, we have the most awesome fans ever. Seriously, you guys rock. While we love you all, you’ll get to see who currently has the ranking of #1 fan in just a bit…

Our next few days in Japan involved a lot of great food… oh, and a typhoon.

(If you missed the first part of the trip, you can listen here!)

Day 3

(Our 3rd day together was Allison’s 5th day in Japan, which is why the day numbers might seem a little off sometimes…)

So first things first, Allison just had to try the Shiro Cream Puff from Beard Papa’s that Rachael had been raving about.

Made with tapioca flour and a cream cheese filling, she was instantly obsessed.

Shiro Cream Puff

Since Rachael and her family got to spend our day 5 (a Sunday) seeing old friends at church, Allison and Son ventured to Don Quixote, which we describe as “Wal-Mart on crack”.

Seriously.

Allison at Don Quixote

Then we went to Bassanova! Green curry soba for the win!

Green curry soba

But the much more exciting part of this was getting to meet Kate!!!

We’re still flipping out over the fact that we get to not only say that we have fans as cool as Kate, but that we have a #1 Fan!

Kate, you rock, and we think you’re totally awesome.

Kate!

Day 4

This was the day we attempted to go Tsukiji fish market.

And by attempted, we mean what actually happened was a comedy of errors where Allison and Son got stuck in their hotel, got slightly lost, then ran around looking for Rachael (whose alarm hadn’t gone off!)

Ah well. At least it was a pretty morning.

Early morning Tokyo

So after we all got a little more sleep, we headed off to Hamarikyu park where Son did a bit of filming…

Hamarikyu with Son filming

And then we took the waterboat from Hamarikyu, up Sumida river, to Asakusa where walked up the street to Sensoji temple.

Sumida river from the boat

Sumida river on the riverbus

On our way, we got to try all sorts of goodies – taiyaki, sweet potato age manju, and (of course) ice cream!

mini taiyaki

age manju

near the temple

rope near the temple

After letting the girls play in a park a bit, it was off to Kaikaya by the Sea for dinner – a place that Rachael has been RAVING about for ages.

ginger ale

We finally got to try the ginger ale in copper cups that she goes on and on about…

carpaccio

And happily, the tuna ribs (along with the rest of the meal) lived up to the expectation that she had set.

tuna ribs

(The buttery fried goatfish was another huge winner in that meal!)

goatfish

Day 5

Did we mention it was typhoon season when we went?

Yeah.

And like any sane person would do, we went to the zoo on the day the typhoon was supposed to hit. And dragged poor Kate with us!

Allison with the penguins

Zoo food in Japan is surprisingly good, for a ridiculously inexpensive price.

pancakes!

Allison’s maple syrup-filled pancakes with blueberry jam were fantastic, and the chicken karaage that Rachael got for the girls was crazy good.

pancake

But the best thing ware the homemade roasted sweet potatoes (yaki imo!) that Kate brought for us.

Because she’s the yaki imo girl!

(P.S. Go follow her on twitter. Tell her we sent you. Be prepared to find out why we adore her so!)

yaki imo

seals

That evening we actually got to meet Keizo (since he wasn’t there when all we went to Bassanova) and go out for monjayaki!

Monjayaki is like okonomiyaki, but waterier. However, still delicious.

okonomiyaki

After dinner, the Fujis went back to their hotel (smart people – there was a typhoon coming, after all!) but Son was still hungry, so we went for ramen with Keizo and his girlfriend.

ramen

And then it was a sprint back to the rain station, against the rain and wind that were getting stronger by the minute!

Yeah. There was a typhoon. Thankfully we were all safe in our respective beds by the time it actually hit. What a day!

We’re having a contest!

saibashi - cooking chopsticks

You can enter to win one of two pairs of silicon saibashi (cooking chopsticks, like these) that we brought back from Japan.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on Episode 25′s post.

One entry per person. You have until 11:59PM on Monday, September 24th, 2012 to enter. We will ship internationally, so anyone may enter. The two winners will be chosen using random.org.

Good luck!

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 25: Miso Hungry Podcast goes to Japan – Part 1!

Play

We’re back from Japan!

(Actually, we’ve been back for almost two months already. But we haven’t been able to record until now, so…)

We’re back from Japan!

Family Mart food

We’ve fallen hard for the combinis (convenience stores, like 7-11 and Family Mart).

Onigiri

We have a renewed obsession with onigiri.

More onigiri

And we miss Japan like crazy now that we’re back!!!

Day 1

So what did we do in Japan? Well, on the first day we were both there (Allison arrived a few days before Rachael did), we all went and visited the Tokyo Skytree.

Tokyo Skytree

And by visited, we mean stood around and looked up at it. When we were there, you had to have a reservation to get up into the Skytree, because it’s only a few months old.

So instead we got curry pastries.

curry pastry

And while we were sitting around eating, met some very interesting people!

sitting at the skytree eating onigiri

the girls playing with a dog

Day 2

The next day, we all rented a car, and off to Mt. Fuji we all went. (Mr. Fuji drove.)

We got to check out a Japanese rest stop, which is ridiculous compared to what we’re used to in the US. It’s got an entire food court!

Then around and around and around, up Mt. Fuji.

Mt. Fuji

Though it was quite warm in Tokyo, it was freezing cold and incredibly windy and rainy up the mountain, so we unfortunately didn’t get to spend much time there before sprinting back to the car.

The Fujis on Mt. Fuji

But it was totally worth it for the little udon restaurant we found at the base of the mountain.

udon

The noodles were handmade – to die for. And the only meat available? Horsemeat!

horsemeat udon

And then, like any normal traveler would do in a foreign country, we went to Costco.

costco

Seriously. We went to Costco. Which was one heck of a freaky experience in itself.

You walk in, and it looks exactly like every single Costco you ever see in the US.

But then they have some different things – like all sorts of different types of sashimi-grade seafood. Fish, fish eggs, uni, seaweed… we’re seriously jealous.

Allison in Costco

However, the real reason we were there? Rachael has been tempting the rest of us with Hokkaido Milk Soft Cream ever since we started this podcast, so Allison couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try some.

hokkaido milk soft cream

So worth it!

Stay tuned the next two weeks for the rest of our Japan trip!

We’re having a contest!

saibashi - cooking chopsticks

You can enter to win one of two pairs of silicon saibashi (cooking chopsticks, like these) that we brought back from Japan.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post.

One entry per person. You have until 11:59PM on Monday, September 24th, 2012 to enter. We will ship internationally, so anyone may enter. The two winners will be chosen using random.org.

Good luck!

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 24: Let’s get pickled!

Play

Tsukemono (漬物), literally “pickled things”, are Japanese pickles. They are valued for their unique flavors and textures and commonly used as a garnish, relish, condiment, palate cleanser or digestive.

Served with rice as okazu (a side dish), with drinks as otsumami (a snack), as an accompiment to or garnish for meals, and as a course in the kaiseki portion of a Japanese tea ceremony.

Historically, pickling was one of the fundamental ways to preserve food. However, some types of tsukemono are quicker pickles, meant to be eaten right away. Now, tsukemono can be easily bought at the supermarket, but many Japanese still make their own, especially quick pickles.

tsukemono

Types of Tsukemono

There are several different varieties of tsukemono, which goes right along with sa shi su se so.

Shiozuke (salt pickles): The simplest and most common types of tsukemono. Even today, when people mostly buy their tsukemono, most people still make certain types of shiozuke at home.

The most basic consist of lightly salted, sliced vegetables, which result in pickles with the crisp texture and mild flavor of fresh (usually seasonal) vegetables.

Heavily salted pickles are more involved to prepare and have stronger, more complex flavors. An example is umeboshi (red pickled Japanese plums).

cucumber shiozuke

Nukazuke (rice bran pickles): Common household pickles fermented in a mixture of roasted rice bran (the hard outer skin of the grain of rice that is removed when polished the rice grain), salt, kombu, and other ingredients. Whole vegetables are stirred into the mash and allowed to cure anywhere from a day to several months. The pickles are then rinsed clean, sliced and served.

Nukazuke are crisp, salt and tangy pickles that are rich in lactobacillus and said to aid in digestion.

They are similar to sourdough starters in that you have to constantly feed and maintain the nuka mash.

takuan

Kasuzuke (sake lees pickles): Pickles preserved in a mixture of sake lees (the yeast mash left over after filtering sake), salt, sugar and sweet cooking wine (mirin). The pickles have an almost indefinite shelf-life.

These pickles are allowed to cure anywhere from several days to several years.

Pickles may be slightly alcoholic with flavors that vary from sweet and mild to strong and pungent, depending on how long they were cured for.

daikon shoyuzuke

Shoyuzuke (soy sauce pickles): Pickles preserved in a soy sauce base.

This method produces a wide range of pickles with flavors that vary from light and crispy to dark brown, salty, sweet relishes such as fukujinzuke.

This is a different preservation method than tsukudani, which are foods preserved by cooking them in soy sauce and sweet cooking wine (mirin).

Suzuke (vinegar pickles): Pickles brined in rice vinegar. Gives a crunchy texture and sweet and sour flavor.

Rice vinegar has low acidity, so suzuke will not keep long unrefrigerated.

garlic misozuke

Misozuke (miso pickles): Made by covering vegetables in miso. These pickles tend to be crisp with a salt miso flavor. (Try these garlic misozuke!)

Also a popular way of preserving and marinating meat and fish. (This tofu misozuke looks pretty interesting… has anyone tried it?)

Common Tsukemono Dishes

Kyuri Asazuke: Simple pickles made from cucumbers marinated in a salt brine (shiozuke) that is sometimes seasoned with kombu, togarashi pepper and/or vinegar.

Whole cucumbers served on a stick are often pickled this way and sold by street vendors at festivals, near temples and popular tourist spots, especially during spring and summer when they are a refreshing treat.

kyuri asazuke

Beni shoga: ginger cut into thin strips, colored red, and pickled in umezu (umeboshi rice vinegar brine)

beni shoga

Gari: thinly sliced young ginger that has been marinated in a solution of sugar and vinegar

gari with sushi

Fukujinzuke: A mix of daikon, lotus root, cucumber, and eggplant which are pickled in a soy sauce and mirin base. The sweet brown/red relish is served as a garnish to Japanese kare raisu.

Umeboshi: Japanese plums (related to apricots), which have been salted and dried. The wrinkly red pickles are extremely salty and sour, although some sweeter versions exist. Umeboshi serve as a preservative and digestive. They are eaten with all types of traditional meals, and often accompany the rice in bento. They are also one of the most popular fillings for onigiri.

takuan

Takuan: Made from daikon (Japanese radish) that has been sun dried and pickled in a mixture of salt, rice bran and sugar. They are sweet and crunch and sliced and served alongside rice or other dishes. They range in color from brownish white to fluorescent yellow in color. (The neon yellow color comes from kuchinachinomi, which is the seeds of the gardenia flower.) They are a type of nukazuke.

Hakusai no sokusekizuke: A quick and simple shiozuke dish made from lightly salted hakusai cabbage, which is often mixed with carrots and cucumber and seasoned with yuzu zest, kombu, and togarashi pepper. It is a salt, crisp pickle with a slightly spicy citrus flavor. It is one of the most common pickles found in Japan and is often served with teishoku (set menu meals).

a donburi with shibazuke

Shibazuke: This is a Kyoto specialty made of cucumber, eggplant, shiso leaves, ginger and myoga (a mild flavored relative of ginger) pickled in umezu (a plum vinegar that is the byproduct of making umeboshi). A salty, slightly sour, purple pickle commonly served in Kyoto cuisine.

shibazuke

Equipment

Tsukemonoki (漬物器 つけものき), literally “vessel for pickled things,” is a Japanese pickle press.

Tsukemonoishi (漬物石 つけものいし): heavy stones applied to generate pressure

Tsukemono books

Easy Japanese Pickling in Five Minutes to One Day, Seiko Ogawa

Quick & Easy Tsukemono, Ikuko Hisamatsu

What sorts of tsukemono do you love?

tsukemono in a bento box

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 23: Summer eatin’, having a blast…

Play

It’s summer! And aside from having songs from 70s movies that were set in the 50s stuck in our heads, we can’t stop thinking about all the fantastic summer foods we love.

So without further ado, let’s dive right into all the fantastic summer foods Japan has to offer!

yakisoba

Produce

Cucumbers – look for them in tsukemono (pickled cucumber), sliced with miso-sesame dressing, and kappa maki (cucumber sushi rolls)

kappa maki

Eggplant can be found grilled, steamed with miso glaze, in vegetable curries, and pickled in tsukemono

miso nasu

Musk melon. The outside looks like cantaloupe, but the inside is yellower. It has a very distinct flavor (and it’s pricy – $100/piece!) Many melon-flavored things can be found in Japan, such as Hi-Chew, ice cream, and sodas

Watermelon – just like here in the US, watermelon is a popular summer fruit in Japan (though it’s far more expensive there!) Pepsi will be offering a Salty Watermelon-flavored Pepsi starting this week (July 24th)… if any of our listeners are in Japan right now, we’d love it if you can try it and let us know how it is! (We’re so disappointed we’re missing it.

watermelon

You can also find watermelons in all sorts of shapes, like cubes, hearts, pyramids…

Suica wari is a popular watermelon splitting game… each person takes turns getting blindfolded and taking a swing at the watermelon with a stick (kind of like a piñata)… whomever breaks the watermelon open wins, and then everyone shares the watermelon. (If any of you do this, we want video!)

watermelon

Noodles

Somen:

  • somen salad
  • hiyashi somen served on ice with a dipping sauce (tsuyu) and toppings
  • nagashi somen – flowing noodles. Similar to kaiten sushi, but the somen flows down a length of bamboo filled with icy water, and you have to pick the noodles out with your chopsticks!

Hiyashi Somen

Hiyashi chuka or hiyashi udon – chilled chuka (ramen) noodles or chilled udon noodles. These are different from chilled somen because they’re served with their toppings on top, instead of on the side.

cold ramen

Zaru soba – soba (buckwheat noodles) served on a “zaru” (a woven bamboo plate) (By the way, buckwheat is gluten-free, BUT most soba is made with a little wheat flour so it isn’t gluten-free. “Ni-hachi” refers to noodles that are made with two parts wheat flour and eight parts buckwheat flour. “Ju-wari” or “to-wari” soba refer to 100% buckwheat soba.)

soba

Yakisoba – pan-fried chuka noodles (ramen noodles) with thinly sliced pork, cabbage, bean sprouts, a little sauce… like a Japanese version of chow mein, except so much better.

yakisoba

Other Foods

Unagi – eel that has been skinned, butterflied, steamed, grilled, then topped with eel sauce. It’s eaten during summer because they believe it gives you stamina to get you through the hot, muggy days of summer.

hiyayakko

Hiyayakko – chilled tofu topped with shoyu, grated ginger, green onion, grated daikon, or Japanese mustard. (Also try chilled tofu topped with maple syrup – delicious!)

edamame

Edamame – green soybeans, still in their pods, boiled and then tossed with coarse sea salt

empty edamame pods

Kakigori – shaved ice. Very finely shaved, like snow (not crushed ice, like a snow cone), then topped with flavored syrups (strawberry, cherry, lemon, green tea, melon, sweet plum) sweetened condensed milk, adzuki beans.

kakigori with adzuki beans and sweetened condensed milk

Anmitsu – sweet, fruit-flavored jelly cubes, anko, mochi, fresh fruit, and a sweet black syrup made with black sugar. Variation: cream anmitsu comes with a scoop of ice cream.

Hokkaido soft cream

Soft cream – Japanese soft serve. Some of Rachael’s favorite flavors include hokkaido milk, purple sweet potato, black sesame, and musk melon.

Purple sweet potato soft cream (and Son!)

What Japanese summer foods have you had this summer? What are some of your favorites, or which do you want to try?

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Episode 22: Japanese Food Etiquette

Play

In which we try not to get kicked out of Japan, refer to dates as “yesterday” when in fact they happened nearly two months ago, and take shoyu shots (try saying that five times fast).

It’s been (ahem) 6 weeks since our last episode went up. Yeah… it was supposed to go up a week after our last one, but it turns out Rachael has a full-time family, Allison had a big deadline she had to meet, and oh right – we went to Japan!

So yes, while we had all the best intentions of having episodes recorded, edited, and posted for the entire time we were gone… that definitely didn’t happen. Instead you get them now! So when we refer to things such as the Diablo III launch happening yesterday or our Japan trip as “upcoming” rather than “already happened and we miss it already”… you’ll know why.

It's okay to slurp your ramen noodles... really!

Most etiquette you’ll run into in Japan is fairly common most everywhere. For example, wait until everybody is served to start eating. Don’t talk with your mouth full. (But it is okay to slurp your ramen noodles! Who knew?)

If you aren’t given a spoon, it’s totally okay to pick up your bowl and drink your soup from it as if it’s a cup.

At the beginning of a meal (and at the beginning of our podcast!) you say “itadakimasu!” (いただきます) It means, “I humbly receive,” and is a way of paying your respect and giving gratitude to everything that went into the meal you’re about to eat – from the person who prepared your food to the living organisms that gave their lives so you can eat.

When you finish the meal, you say “Gochisōsama-deshita” (ごちそうさまでした) – literally, “You were a Feast (preparer).” You’re honoring the person who prepared the meal for you.

Presentation, as many of you know, is hugely important in Japanese culture. Because of this, they often arrange the dishes they give you (if you’re getting your own individual dishes, as opposed to eating family-style) in a very specific way. So while you’re eating, you should try to avoid moving the dishes around and destroying the visual arrangement that was originally there.

Also, you should spread out your eating among all the little dishes you are given, instead of eating one dish all at once. Take a bite of rice, then a little of this, then another bite of rice, then a little of that. (Rice is seen as a palate cleanser.)

When you’re eating a meal where you’ll get a lot of these little dishes, you should wait until everyone is served ALL of their dishes before eating. (Except for kaiseki, Japanese food usually isn’t eaten in courses.)

Okay, so this was airplane food.  But it still applies!

Often, when eating anywhere in Japan, you’ll be given an oshibori – either a hot, damp hand towel, or a wet towelette in a plastic wrapper. This is your napkin – most restaurants won’t give you napkins (although we have seen little waxy napkins that are completely not helpful, or tissues).

You’re not supposed to eat while you’re walking. (Some people don’t even think you should eat while in public, but that rule is broken quite often.)

Don’t pour shoyu on rice. (Er… yeah. We’ve both been breaking this rule our entire lives.)

No getting blatantly drunk in restaurants. But if you are drinking, make sure to pour for others, but not for yourself. So if you’re out drinking, you’re supposed to keep an eye on your friends’ glasses and top them off when appropriate, and they should do the same for you. (We’re not sure if this is the case for non-alcoholic drinks, but we’re guessing it’s okay to pour water for yourself.)

No belches. Please. We’ve all heard there are some Asian cultures where loud burps are considered a sign of appreciation of the meal, however Japan is not one of them.

So there you go. Now you know how to NOT get kicked out of Japan for etiquette transgressions!

Subscribe

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

©2012 Miso Hungry