Chinese New Year fell on February 14th this year. I have fond memories of New Year’s dinner at Grandpa’s house. Actually, many memories of spending time with Grandpa involve food, as we shared countless meals in various restaurants all over the bay area. When I was younger, he cooked often and had a knack for picking out the freshest produce. His specialty was Cantonese style Braised Beef Brisket but he never failed to make my favorite childhood dish- Broccoli Beef. He certainly had discerning tastes. You knew that if Yeh Yeh approved of a dish, it was definitely worth eating. I am proud to say that I’ve inherited Grandpa’s love of food and I aspire to exemplify his adventurous spirit and inclination to “take it easy”. I miss you, Yeh Yeh. <3
To celebrate the Lunar New year, we had a belated mini-feast last week.
Another Boy + Girl dinner special! He made Braised Tofu with bokchoy, mushroom, and sausage and he steamed some Zongzi that we bought. I attempted to make onion pancakes. They were not as flaky as I would have liked, so I was a little disappointed. They tasted more like onion tortillas! Oh well! Our kitchen is well-stocked with onions, so there is always next time!
Stay tuned for Tasty Chinese Dinner Part “Yi”!
March 14th: Happy White Day! Not so much a cultural holiday as it is a commercial holiday, the origins of this made-up day were heavily influenced by the custom of Japanese gift-giving. Valentine’s Day in Japan is a day for girls to give a crush chocolate. White Day, exactly a month later, is a day for boys to reciprocate and appreciate the girl. While I am not a fan of either holiday, I admit that I enjoyed this year’s White Day, especially since my day started off with finding a cute tin full of cookies on my desk. Thanks sweetie~!
It was a clear, sunny day out, so we spent the rest of the day on a White Day “date”, just for fun. We had lunch at one of our favorite udon restaurants and then spent the afternoon strolling and viewing early spring flowers at the Awaji Hanasajiki, a sprawling garden in the mountains, overlooking the ocean. Each month, a variety of different flowers bloom there, attracting busloads of tourists from all over the Kansai area.
Before we knew it, it was almost dinnertime. He mentioned that he was craving a grilled chicken sandwich. If you know me, you know that I can never turn down a sandwich. Immediately, I started to think about the yummy sandwiches from back home past and how I hadn’t had one in ages. A typical sandwich in Japan is a little less substantial, usually consisting of crustless white bread, with tuna or egg salad. These are decent, but sometimes I just crave something that tastes more like home. We made a quick trip to the store and picked up some ingredients. An hour later, he had whipped up the sandwich of my dreams: Seasoned grilled chicken on toasted french bread with garlic mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and some salami. He served it with some herb and parmesan potato wedges and broccoli. Yum!!
Could it have been the baguette I picked up at the store? Thinking about our ’07 adventure in Venice? I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but I have had a huge tortellini craving! With no hope of finding tortellini or even ravioli around town, I set out to create my own version of tortellini. Faced with a few setbacks such as no access to ricotta cheese or semolina flour, my strong craving gave me the determination to carry on.
Tonight’s adventure in tortellini-making was a Boy+Girl team effort. He peeled and chopped a massive amount of garlic which I generously used for the filling, sauce, and garlic bread. He also washed and blanched the spinach for the filling, as well as created a vegetable and bean salad to accompany the main course. I made the tortellini filling from the cottage cheese (surprisingly, the Japanese brand looked more like ricotta than cottage cheese… hmmmm!), parmesan cheese, egg, spinach, and garlic. I would love to say that I also made the tortellini wrappers from scratch, but I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the time and effort. Instead, I opted for some trusty won ton wrappers to do the trick. After stuffing and folding the tortellini, I placed them in bowling water for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared a pesto cream sauce using a little bit of pesto, butter, spinach, garlic, flour, and milk. Served with some super garlic bread, it was safe to say that this meal really satisfied my craving. Buon appetito!
Say “stew” 5 times fast. Easy? Ok, now say “Shichiuu” 5 times fast. Not as easy. In Japanese, “stew” is pronounced “Shichiuu”. It’s been one of the most amusing borrowed English words for me to try and say. Shichiuu is a popular western food in Japan, usually prepared with an assortment of vegetables and beef or chicken, served over rice.
He made this cream stew with chicken, carrots, broccoli, corn, cabbage, kabocha (Japanese squash/pumpkin), and potato over pasta. I thought the kabocha was a tasty addition to the usual ingredients, adding a sweet taste. To complete the meal, he prepared a cabbage and tofu salad with sesame seed dressing. Yum!
Poor, poor tofu. Tofu is often misunderstood and even avoided because people think it’s a strange food that lacks taste. While it is naturally plain in flavor compared to other foods, it’s so versatile! I love using it as a meat substitute because it’s a guilt-free, filling, and satisfying ingredient.
I purchased a huge block of fresh, firm tofu from the little tofu corner inside one of the local markets. Only 88 Yen! I decided to use it in an old favorite: Lion’s Head (Unappetizing name for giant Chinese-style meatballs over greens). I usually make this recipe using ground beef or a mixture of ground beef and pork. This time, I drained and pressed half of the tofu and mixed it in with the meat mixture and cooked it as usual. I served it with steamed spinach over barley rice. Taste-wise, it was pretty much the same but not as heavy and oily as it’s all-meat counterpart. In the future, I’d like to try this recipe again but with a higher ratio of tofu to meat, or maybe even an all-vegetarian version. Could I still call it Lion’s Head if it’s vegetarian? ^_^
Indian food can be hard to come by in Japan, especially out in the countryside. What are two curry lovers to do? While sweet Japanese curry is certainly delicious, sometimes we just crave something spicier, something different. Indian curry!!!!!
He made this vegetarian curry feast and we enjoyed every bite of it, including the leftovers the next day. Saag Paneer (with tofu), Chana Masala, Aloo Gobi, and of course, garlic naan! Delicious!
March 3rd was Hina Matsuri, a Japanese cultural holiday. Traditionally, this day celebrates girls and May 5th is Boy’s Day. Although I don’t know too much about either holiday, several pretty-colored holiday foods caught my eye. Earlier in the week we snacked on some Hina Arare, sweet and slightly salty rice crakcer balls. For dinner, we went to the store to pick up some prepared foods. Here’s our mostly non-homemade dinner. He used pre-cooked and seasoned hamburger patties and made the mini hamburgers, and I cooked a package of garlic gyoza. The three maki-rolls with colorful packaging on the left were Hina Matsuri specials. The cute little packages in front are tri-color jelly, made to look like hishimochi, for dessert.
Last week, a teacher invited me to her home so I could see the traditional heirloom Hina Matsuri dolls. We had tea and sweets and she told me a little bit about her collection. Sadly, I forgot the camera, so I only have this photo from my phone to share.
＼(＾▽＾*) Happy Girl’s Day! (*＾▽＾)／