All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Gindara no yuanyaki / grilled yuan-marinated black cod

Black cod with a sweet and pleasant citrusy taste from yuan marinade (soy sauce, mirin and sake with yuzu citrus). A good alternative to grilled saikyozuke black cod marinated in sweet Saikyo miso.


Umeninjin no nimono, shoga-aji / plum-blossom cut carrot simmered in light ginger-flavored broth

A part of takiawase -- assorted vegetables and tofu separately cooked in broth -- for New Year's osechi food. The slightly sweet ginger-flavored broth is one of my favorites for takiawase carrots.


Buta no kakuni / stewed pork

Among the wide range of variations -- from somewhat firm to heavenly soft, as well as light to heavy -- this kakuni is at the soft, light and non-greasy end. While extra fatty pork belly is the cut of choice for a supremely soft texture, country-style rib, which is more commonly available in the US, is used here.  Okara soybean pulp is the secret to removing extra fat and tenderizing pork at the same time in prep-cooking.


Yasai nukigata / vegetable cutters

Handy tools to cut vegetables into flowers or blossoms for different seasons.

From left: ume plum blossom (late winter/early spring); sakura cherry blossom (spring); kikyo Japanese bell flower (summer); kiku chrysanthemum (fall)


Nejiriume / plum-blossom cut carrots

For celebrations such as New Year’s, carrots often appear in the shape of a plum blossom. Plum blossoms symbolize early spring, and red blossoms in particular are prized for their celebratory color (red, often in combination with white, is for happy occasions). Some carrots have a reddish color, and those types are usually recommended. The orange of an average carrot still makes a pretty plum blossom. Carrots can be hand-cut or formed with a vegetable cutter.


Kyabetsu to satsumaage no itameni / saute-simmered cabbage and deep-fried fishcakes

The “green” taste of cabbage’s outer leaves turns sweet from sauteing and is further softened by cooking with satsumaage in broth, resulting in a juicy, flavorful dish.


Yakimochi to satojoyu / grilled rice cakes, with sweetened soy sauce dip

This is the standard way to eat mochi rice cakes, mainly as a snack, at my parents’ and relatives’ homes.


Chukadon / Chinese-style saute with sauce over steamed rice

Another standard Japanese Chinese dish. Assorted ingredients are sauteed and flavored in Chinese style -- often meaning a combination of ginger, garlic, chicken stock, and oyster sauce. Here is one example with prawns and scallops.

When served with 150 g steamed rice:
428 calories per serving (1/2 of recipe); 17.1 g protein; 3.0 g fat; 79.0 g carbohydrate; 75.9 g net carbs; 1077 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 1419 mg with regular soy sauce); 53 mg cholesterol; 3.1 g fiber



Tomyo to chikuwa no nibitashi / pea shoots and chikuwa fishcake simmered in light broth

A very quick, warm side dish. The stems of tomyo pea shoots stay crisp even when cooked and make this little dish stand tall. Their texture contrasts well with soft fishcake, which adds a mellow salty taste as you bite in.


Ginnan gohan / gingko nut rice

Nutty, starchy little gingko nuts are another reminder of fall. Lightly salted to bring out the soft sweetness of mochigome rice.


Breakfast, December 3, 2012

We had lunch with Tom's sister and niece at Shanghai Garden in Seattle yesterday. My favorite dish at the restaurant is pea vine (shoot) saute. It is a very common dish, and Shanghai Garden’s pea vine saute tastes as good as those I used to have in Taiwan. Pea vine saute is not a fancy “wow” dish, but it certainly hit the spot and inspired me to make a decent breakfast the following day with ingredients we already have on hand and something just purchased in Seattle.

    Ginnan gingko nut prep

    Gingko nut shells can easily be cracked open with a tool, ranging from a hammer to a heavy knife handle or bottle opener. Something slightly heavy usually works better. Kitchen scissors and pliers could smash shells, and require some practice for effective use.

    Opening shell
    Hold a gingko nut with one of the side ridges straight up, and quickly hit the ridge with a hammer, heavy bottle opener or a tool of your choice.


    Sake no chanchanyaki / salmon and vegetable saute with miso sauce

    A regional dish from Hokkaido that includes salmon, cabbage, onions and other vegetables. Sweetened miso sauce sends off an appetizing aroma as you cook – take the frying pan to the table or cook on a tabletop griddle and enjoy the dish as it cooks.


    Ginnan gingko nuts

    Seeds of Gingko biloba

    Gingko trees grow extremely slowly, but they certainly live a long time. Some old gingko trees in Japan are said to be at least 1,000 years old. Unless you are into gardening, gingko leaf extracts for memory improvement are probably more familiar. Considering the longevity of the tree, I wonder if people started to look to the gingko tree as possibly offering an elixir for long life.