Yoshizen's Blog

Sakura-mochi (Japanese Cherry cake)

Sakura-mochi(1)-DSC07142Sakura-mochi (桜餅) is a common Japanese sweets.  You can buy it from any Japanese sweets shop.  It is not a kind of very complicated cooking still not many people ever attempt to make it by themselves.  (May be to make Ohagi / Botamoch could be the farthest people does.)    Many years I’ve been thinking “Why shouldn’t I make it” and “I want to eat — I haven’t eaten it more than 30 years”

So, this is my attempt to make it though, I never seen how it was made neither my mother told me how.  Therefore, all I’m showing here were done by the sheer guess-work and I wouldn’t claim any authenticity in a Japanese sweet making tradition or any suggestion pretending any kind of wise man.

Sakura-mochi(2)-000From the improvised idea of Rice-cake making,  I used White Rice powder and Glutinous Rice powder half and half, because if it was pure glutinous rice it may become too sticky. (Photo left)  So, I mixed one large spoonful of each powder and one small spoonful of sugar with 3 and half large spoonful water. (Photo middle) then put a half runny mix to a dish and Micro-waved (Mid-High, 1.5 to 2 minutes)
So, the Photo left was the cooked skin of the cake. —– carefully peel it off and use it to wrap up the Anko (Sweet Red bean paste) (Photo middle) —– Then wrap the whole cake with salt pickled Cherry leaf. (Photo Right)
Sakura-mochi(4)-DSC07152Voila, here it is.  Japanese Sakura-moch.  —– Looks genuine ! (isn’t it ?) —– The taste was genuine (what else could it be !) —– (If I could steam the finished whole cake, the flavor of the Cherry leaf would have gone into the cake more.)    Considering this is the first ever attempt in my  life (in fact, I did one test run before Photo shooting) = the result wasn’t too bad.  “Well done Yoshizen” (eat two Sakura-moch made a man Fully satisfied !   😀  )  

Incidentally, the Cherry leaf was meant to give nice flavour and a looks good wrapping, and not meant to be eaten. (I hope, you didn’t try eat it with struggle. 😀 ) There is other variation of this = Kashiwa-moch (柏餅), which use an Acorn like Kashiwa’s leaf for wrapping though I couldn’t find that tree in this country.    Kashiwa-mochi was meant to be eaten on the day of the Boy’s festival (端午の節句) = 5th of May.   And the Sakura-moch was originally for the Girl’s festival (桃の節句)    (I guess) though, it became so popular, you can find them all year-long. (Nothing wrong with it.  🙂  )

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PS : While giving a thought, I realized that the Kashiwa-moch must be invented first.    When you play in a Shinto shrine, you clap the hand = it called Kashiwade  (柏手).   The leaf of the tree Kashiwa has a shape of a hand, hence the hand spread the fingers was called Kashiwade, and the Kashiwade is a symbol of the honest, single-minded clean person (think it in comparison to a gripped hand which could hold a weapon and next moment it could hit you).  So, a boy’s parents wish their boy grow to a strong honest man and think the things associated with Kashiwa is auspicious.

—– So, a clever owner of the sweet shop (和菓子屋) invented a sweet wrapped in a Kashiwa leaf = Kashiwa-mochi and sold for the boy’s day’s celebration.   It must be a big hit, then they thought, if there is a sweet for boys, why not for girls as well = then Sakura-moch was made.   🙂
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Onion Business


Some time, I had to buy the onions from a street open stole, which has been wet by the passing shower.   Of course I have a choice to go to super market but I’m not such fussy.  (The same onion could be half of the price on the street — still, it would be only a matter of 10P 20P kind of money.) —– Then what will happen to that wet onion IS a bit different story. = I peel off all the wet skin and made them dry.   With wet skin, onion would get rotten easily = so, why not to make them naked. —– You might say why DO I choose to have so much trouble,  just because I didn’t buy dry onions from a roofed shop while paying 10P more. —– Is that true ?    AM I doing  more with wet onions ?    Whether it is a dry one or wet onion, we need to peel off exactly the same number of the skin = only the difference IS to do it now in advance or later.     Without seeing this, most of the people who saw my naked onion just got shocked.  Very Very funny.   😀    This IS the typical sample of,  how our mind was stacked with a preconception and couldn’t see even a plain truth. —– Open your eyes.   😀

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Japanese Pickles 漬物

pickles1-a09a7167Again here, there is a fundamental difference of the idea between east and west.  Western people think the pickles is in the vinegar though Japanese think pickles is the name only for western food pickled in the vinegar.  Because Japanese makes the vegetable preserve in totally different way and the taste completely different.  Japanese calls them Tsukemono /漬物  (Funny thing is there are certain food pickled in the vinegar exists in Japan though they were called Suzuke / 醋漬, not in the western name pickles.   😀 )  As in the winter, we can see the vegetable called “Hakusai”/ 白菜(Chinese calls Bak-choi / 白菜) Chinese Cabbage.  And it is the time for me to make a Hakusai-zuke (pickled (?) Chinese Cabbage) —– This must be the second simplest cooking after a grilled fish. (simply give a bite to a fruits may not be a cooking = just a way to eat.  = it is not in a count.   🙂 )  So, how to make Hakusai-zuke ? 

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(Put the leaves into a bucket in layers and cover them with a suitable size of a dish.)

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(And put a soup bawl kind to have a space = because the leaves will sink under the pressure, while the water is coming out and rise.  I cover whole bucket with a plastic bag and put a heavy weight from outside.  I used an electric transformer as a weight.)

Put it in a bucket with the sprinkle of salt and keep it under a pressure of a heavy weight 5~7 days.  (With a pressure, the air was pushed out, so the anaerobic fermentation takes place.)   That’s all. 

pickles4-a09a7180With the vegetable’s own enzyme and the common bacteria, it would be naturally fermented and change the taste.  How much the amount of salt is not very critical.  In Japan the salt content of the vegetable Tsuke-mono said to be dropped from 15% to less than 5% in the past 50 years or so = So, it can be one shake of salt for every few layers of leaves. (If you want a stronger taste, you can put a drop or two soy-source or chili kind when you eat.) And how heavy the weight should be = somewhat 2~3 Kg = fill the water to an empty milk bottle or a kind and use it. (I’ve been using an electric transformer.  🙂  ) 

(I’ve put the pickling bucket into the other room where no central heating and leave the bucket for 5~6 days.)  (Photo left) — It seems, the Tsukemono made in the Winter is the best.  (Low temperature might keep the bad bacteria out.)  When I was a keeper of a mountain shelter, we made 5 binful Blacken  (Warabi) Tsukemono in the early summer and the same amount of local vegetable (Nozawa-na / 野沢菜) in November to accompany the meal for the guests.  It was a mountain of tsukemono !

Of course, there could be many variation which you can have a fun such as to put a hot chili sauce or the other vegetables etc.  Chinese people makes it with a lots of salt and they can be kept many years as really a preserved vegetable, called Tou-chai / 冬菜 and it must be the origin which came to Japan with Zen Buddhist.  (Yet, on the historical record,  Japanese has been making pickled vegetables 1000 years ago and there are hundreds of different style of Tskemono there.  Still, the basic idea is the same = use the effect of the natural bacteria’s fermentation to create distinctive flavor to the vegetable. (Though, may not necessary to make a good preserve because, it got only few days for the best eat and after it, it became to “Over pickled” taste became too sour, the color too brownish etc. — Yet, my guess is, when people found that the old natural fermentation become sour = why not use the vinegar from the beginning for the sake of consistency and the longer shelf life of the product. — this might be the start of the Pickles in vineger. )

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(After 5~7 days, when the Hakusai-zuke was ready to eat, I shredded it and put into a jar while mixing with additional Chinese hot chilli sauce.  Since the pickled Hakusai is conveniently in a jar, it is easy to serve onto the rice.)  M m m,  Yummy !

For Japanese, the Tsuke-mono is a way of cooking —– to make it for long preserve, there are many different way such as pickled in a salty miso or use Sake etc.  The amazing difference in the western pickles is, that their taste was designed = what type of vinegar, what is the additional ingredient such as Junipers, dill seeds etc. and it almost symbolizes the fundamental difference between Judea Christianity and the Buddhism.  The one try to make the taste by their own idea, and the other see what the nature can make and follows it.  (It must be a very interesting point there, why the west didn’t start anaerobic fermentation of the vegetable, while having such as the wine making alongside.)    I haven’t tasted it though, there said to be the Zen Tsuke-mono made in the temple which is in the original Chinese style (much salty) — but to make it more acceptable mild taste, a Zen master, Takuan / 沢庵 said to have invented the use of rice bran with salt = it became the “Takuan Zuke” = which made his name as big as Ikkyu / 一休 on the history !  Since then, in most of the case, the tsukemono mean pickled in the salty rice bran — but it is so awkward to keep and smelly = it is the house wives’ nightmare.

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(Yet the matter of fermentation is a combination of the bacteria = So, with a help of modern chemistry, the convenient short-cut was invented !

—–> Now people can make Tsuke-mono conveniently in a glass jar.  —  magic bullet was given to me from the friends though I haven’t tested it yet = if you like to try, it called “Nuka-yorokobi” from a Japanese food shop.)   Good luck and enjoy a taste.   😀

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Chilly still very hot !

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It’s a dark gray winter (in theory though, the reality here in London it has been quite mild) — so, why not to have burning red staffs ! (Somebody kindly educate me, the history how such hot staff was named as Chilly !    😀 )

I’m not dealing with Xmas kind though, I have to deal with closing shops or stoppage of the transport etc —– so, I decided to get lazy while saving a work by cooking a Chinese Ma-po-Tofu for three days meal.  It’s a hot staff.  So, not only a hot Chinese seasoning Toban-jan, I bought a bowl full of chilly.  It was the medium size one on the photo though, it found to be a seriously hot staff.  (On the photo, left large one is rather sweet and having the “most Chilly Pepper like exquisite flavor”.  And, right small one is notoriously, killingly hot ! = better not to handle it with your bare hand !)

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Seriously hot still, they are classified as edible = fit to human consumption.  So, they can be cooked just like other vegetables, chopped and boiled with others, carrot, onion, potato etc. with your seasoning.     —– Three days portion of Ma-po-tofu was a big amount ! = 500g of minced beef (rather horrifying staff to some of you) four fist sized onions, one 12″ size carrot (grated), one big spoonful of minced Garrick, five big spoonful of Chinese Toban-jan, four hot chilly, 800g  (one pack) of  Tofu, one spoonful of sugar, etc. of seasoning (such as Chinese 5 spices etc.) = altogether put into a big pan !   So, this is Ma-po-tofu.  (As it was originated from Szechuan, it is hot indeed — still, we can survive. (as I did.  😀 )  (You may find a bit more moderate recipe in the net. )

There seems to be a quite common boast all over the world which is, “Our cooking is the hottest in the world” (Egyptian said so, Mexican, Malaysian, Korean, Jamaican, —– etc all insisted so, alongside the amount of drink he can take, and how big his penis is.  So, they are the things what the man try to cling in his pride.  (In material level though.)   (Do you do ?    😀 ) 

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Kitsune-koge

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Mind you, I’m not living on that bellows.  I’m living on my food (with very little blah blah or ism in it = just buy cheapest ingredients = it’s happen to be the fresh material) and cooking every day myself.  And I’m not using electric rice cooker, instead cooking the rice in a pan on the electric cooker.  But this evening, I was distracted by an Email and missed the timing to turn down the heat.  So, I burnt the rice very lightly which showed light brown on it, which we Japanese calls Kitsune-koge.  Since the color of light brown = Kitsune = Fox. 

Up in the mountain, where air pressure is lower, the water boils not at 100°C — 2000m high, boiling point is 85°C and makes a boiled rice soggy.  So, we try to burn the fire more and longer, resulting the rice burnt. — In England, I think I’ve made the rice burnt only once before.   Cooking manual heating and made the rice burnt only twice in the long half century isn’t too bad.   But much more important point IS, we Japanese appreciate the Kitsune-koge.  Like a burn on Onigiri on an open fire, lightly burnt rice, and its crispy flavor is a rare treatment on the life.   (Though, I wouldn’t intentionally burn the rice for this purpose.)  —— Bon appetet  !   😀

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Coconuts

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Everybody knows what the Coconuts are, still this Nuts (?) Fruits (?) has number of myth or misunderstanding.

Long time I was made to believe that the coco2-dsc03587name Coco was a Hawaiian word of the Monkey as a Coconut got a face like pattern, since I’ve read it long time ago.

But now I know, it was simply a Spanish or Portuguese word means head or skull.

—– Another myth was that the Coconuts spread through the sea current = ride on the wave and reach to the another island.

So that one Japanese song 椰子の実 (Yashi-no-mi) was telling such fancy story of sea voyage though, the counter-proof of such story was well documented on the history.  = When Captain Cook reached to the eastern shore of the Australia, there was even a single tree of Coco palm there to alleviates their thirst. 

Neither Columbus found any Coconut when they reached to the Caribbean Island.  = Coconut was brought by the human hand.

—– There are many Coconuts products, from Coco-drink to Coco-cream, Coco-powder = they are all from the same tree = but a difference was whether it was young or matured. 

(After a while, green Coco’s juice become whitish meat inside)  🙂

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Poltergeist

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While checking the Net, I heard a sudden banging noise from the

kitchen.= Bang, gang kind.  What ?   Is it a Poltergeist ? ? ?   

The sound was  nothing like a sound-effect =  very real and I never

imagined that there could be any supernatural phonomenon here.

I looked arround and located the cause to the inside of the cupboard, 

and found a tin of beans was fallen and hitting a glass next.  It seems

the tin has been swollen by its internal pressure, so that the bottom

of the tin was popped up, and the tin jumped. —– The reason why

the tin has been expanded so much was that the beans inside has been

rotten (I guess) and the pressure of the gas produced by the bacteria

came to the explosive level.

= It’s mean, the beanz has not been properly heated up or the content

has been contaminated by a dirt during the process in the Heinz factory.

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I don’t normally eat the beans, neither potato (baked, chips even crisps

except Spanish omelets) — so, the reason why I bought this tin was a joke

= I used the beans to make a sweet.    Then the other tin bought together

stayed in the cupboard for many years left  forgotten. 

Now I learned, a tinned food could still get rotten. (or am I too lazy ?) 

😀

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 You might be noticed, the popping noise of the can was throughly

explained through the rational causation here. = No supernatural

mambo jumbo or dubious fantasy at all. —– This was the way how

Lord Buddha taught the people, and a kind of the matter he couldn’t

see any rationality neither find a rational explanation, he completely

ignore the question itself (such as the matter related to the Atoman /

Self or the matter about abstract notion like an infinity or universe =

since, such as the Atoman / Self which is not exists in the first place

couldn’t be seen as a subject = We can not talk about the subject which

is not exists.  Neither the subject which couldn’t be definable = such as

a subject we only imagining and nobody know what really it is, couldn’t

be a subject of discussion.) —– It’s mean, all the glorious fantasy in

the Mahayana scripture is just a decoration for the sale. 

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Rice Cake

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I would say nothing new = It’s the same story in New Year.

= I made a Rice Cake and made it to an Ozoni etc.

In fact, having the same event so many times again and again

it isn’t much of excitement. —– it’s a routine Sir.

I don’t have new year’s resolution kind. ( but just having

on-going projects which is going to be completed)

= Has to live as usual and do as usual whether it is fun or not.

That what the life is.

(If we plan big, it would fail.  Not a plan but DO have a step further.)

That what the Zen is.

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Salmon Tofu — simple cooking

Salmon Tofu-1-A09A3160Indeed, this was the reason why I bought Tofu. —– I used to invite the people 

to see my work, and in such a case, often I cook and eat the meal together.  

Now, I don’t need to do that since I started to show the photo in my Blog,

even the short viz in the Youtube, = just tell the person “See the blog”.

Anyway, when I cook, Salmon Tofu which I invented was my regular cooking.

—– not because original but above all it is the simplest and easiest cooking.

(no complicated preparation of Dashi etc — just put together and heat)   🙂

Salmon Tofu-2-A09A3152Only three ingredients = Tofu, a chunk of Salmon and a fresh Ginger —

well, a drop or two Soy-source. 

When the three were put together, place the bowl into the pan with shallow

water to boil = it’s mean, Tofu in the bowl was steamed. (7~10 minutes boil)

Salmon Tofu-3-001(Or put a cover on the bowl and cook in the microwave cooker for 5 minutes.)

The steam drip down through Ginger to Salmon and to the bottom of bowl

makes beautiful soup as well —– and its taste struck everybody.  (so far)   🙂

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Although this is not a vegetarian, I regard this is the Zen cooking.

= everything was there as it is but nothing else. 

And everything melt together and creates the best by themselves.

No complicated thinking or manipulation = just leave the process to them.

= the nature is having the best in its own.   (Proof of the taste — you try !)

And this nature, we call the Dharma. 

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Rice-rice

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In comparison to the potato, price difference of the rice is much wider,

especially if we count the price of the Japanese rice in Japan.  There is no

secret that the Japanese eating the best rice in the world, swallowing the most

expensive price comes with it.  (If you are interested in to know how much the

price over there, you can look into the list. (though, they are in Japanese) )

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Photo above Left, is one of the most expensive,  among the expensive

Japanese rice,  “Kosihikari” I paid £3 for this 500g bag here in London.  

Still, even in Japan, people expecting to pay for this rice £20~£25 for 10Kg.

To get Japanese rice over here, the price would be doubled = so that, the

Californian rice grower found the market in Japanese residents here and

sell their “Japanese variety rice” 10Kg for £25 price (with huge profit). 

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So that, to buy Californian rice was a bit of luxury if not a status symbol.  

While, Japanese food, Sushi etc becoming a fashion, the sale of Sushi-rice

became a competitive market.  Now, even a Californian rice was sold less

than £20 for 10Kg. (photo middle) and even Chinese started to grow

Japanese rice and selling as “Sushi-rice” £15 in Chinese shop (Photo right)

but, I found the quality was pretty low — if not Cadmium contaminated.

(It is a well known story, Chinese don’t eat Chinese rice if they can afford.)

And the Chinese Supermarket does know the situation, so, they are selling

a Spanish grown Japanese rice, or Italian grown one both about £12 for

10Kg.  (Second Photo, middle and right)

—– I found Italian was a bit better even though their naming “Shinode” (got

to be “Hinode”) was too funny.  Still, taste and the texture wasn’t too bad.    🙂

In fact, the Japanese rice grown outside of Japan, they didn’t make so much

difference = the way how it was cooked makes more difference.  So that,

the cheaper the better and find the best way to cook is more important.

(I mean, if not using automatic electric cooker.)

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