Posts filed under ‘Noodles’

Kaiseki in Tokyo

After a pretty hairy spring (great b-day celebration followed the day after by my mother’s passing), we finally took off for Japan.  This was our first trip and although I tried to do planning, with all the other stuff going on, it was pretty tough.

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I started writing about Japan but then thought it was a bit boring.  Rather than going through things in some organized fashion, I think it might make sense to just jump around and include notes every so often.

~During our visit, we tried 3 different kaiseki meals.  These are traditional, multi-course meals – served with quiet beauty (read about them here ).  The last of these was Nakaiseki Sen; Setagaya-ku  Shimouma 5-35-5 2nd Floor Tokyo.   It is actually a shojin ryori style, that is, all vegetarian with a Buddhist leaning.

~Because this restaurant is likely closing next month (at least that’s what the person who made the reservation told us), I will start with it first.

~The chef of Nakaiseki Sen is Yomiko Kano.  You can read about her here .  Essentially, as with all kaiseki meals, hers uses seasonal, local ingredients with a distinctly simpler country-style form.

Here are pictures from the meal:

~plum alcohol/green tea

~peanut tofu, baby corn, black beans, soy, seaweed

~pureed zucchini strips, with chestnut, enoki mushrooms, wasabi

~peas – tofu base, asparagus

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~tempura

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~yuba, aloe gelato, seaweed gelatin

~ginger rice, miso soup, pickled veggies

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~At the end of the meal, they presented us with chopsticks. You can see them on the side of the setting for dessert.

carrot cake (gelatinous rather than flour based)

~As with many things in Japan, even though there was a communication gap, everyone was very kind and patient with us, as we were with them, and things ended well.  This was a delicious, beautiful meal in a locale that was both modern and traditional at the same time.

~Details:  You need to call or ask someone to call for you to get a reservation.  We took a taxi who let us off near the complex.  From the outside, it looks like a regular apartment building.  Inside you’ll find a beautifully appointed, multi-room place – wood floors and wood panels.  (I can’t tell you how many times we got lost trying to find places.  Google maps often dropped us in the back of buildings.)

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July 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

Cooking some meals from Ferran Adria’s new book, The Family Meal

The hardest part of making dinner for the extended family (or even on a regular weeknight with just the 3 of us) is figuring out what to make.  Making meals is not at all difficult.  So, when I saw reviews for Ferran Adria’s new book, The Family Meal, I thought it would be fun to see what set meals he has.

~The beginning of the book describes ingredients and cooking techniques, as well as philosophy.  Clearly, getting everything ready makes things easier.  He also includes basic sauces that are used in many of the recipes.  (One short cut is to buy some of these pre-made.)

~In any case, as would be expected, when you’re cooking for extended family, there’s always food preferences to consider and dietary restrictions, not to mention Lent.  It’s nice to see all 31 meals laid out in a calendar form – You can easily choose things to mix & match meals.  Although the chef discusses side dishes in a small section, each the meal contains an appetizer, main, and dessert; each set has meat or fish.  So, if you’re vegetarian, this would not be the book for you.  Also, given our changes, I have definitely added sides of vegetables or salad to each of the meals I tried.

~What’s nice about the recipes is that each step is shown but you can get this type of cooking notes from looking at websites.  Still, it does give a benchmark.

Caesar Salad

#1:  For my first try, I combined the Caesar salad and Santiago cake from Meal 1 with the Pasta Bolognese from Meal 2.   Both the salad and the pasta were very good.

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*For the pasta, I increased the quantities for the recipe to make it a main but not by much and it worked well.  

Rather than increasing all the meat, I added tempeh (steamed and separated) to the mix. The combination of meats in the pasta was perfect; the tempeh added texture but did not add a huge vegetable flavor. (Note that I’m only showing the sauce.)

*The biggest problem I had was with the Santiago cake.  The proportions for a regular pan size seem just off.  The first panel said to grease a 12×20” square pan but the amount of batter seems like too little for that size pan.  I tried a 9” spring form to start but ended up changing it to an 8” spring form.  Without having transferred, I think it would have ended up just a bit better with no altitude adjustment necessary.  The flavor was good and so might be worth trying again.

#2:  For try 2, I made the roasted vegetables and salmon stewed with lentils from Meal 29, and the chocolate cookies from Meal 2.  I made rolls to go with the meal because I thought it would be nice to have something to dip into the stew.  Since I didn’t have much time, I made quick cooking tapioca with coconut milk.

*The roasted vegetables were good but quite standard – nothing special. (I don’t like eggplant and so subbed zucchini.)

*The salmon stewed in lentils were delicious.  This dish required the sofrito and the picada sauces – both smelled and tasted great.  They may have added to the dish’s flavor but also disappeared a bit into the sauce.  It was hard to tell that the extra work had gone into it.

Salmon with Lentils

*The chocolate cookies ended up OK but were again a problem.  The batter was too running to shape into anything.  I added just enough additional flour to get to hold.  As you can see, I rolled and put into a paper towel roll to keep in a circular shape.  However, when I took them out, even after the long freezer stay, they were so soft that I ended up scooping.  If I were to make these again, I would add a lot more flour (and maybe some cocoa to keep the chocolate intensity).  On the other hand, one could just add a bit more flour, as I did above, and then just scoop onto the pans…quite good made in this way, too.

#3:  For try 3, I made the cheeseburger from Meal 1, and the coconut  macaroons from Meal 6.  I served this with a focaccia, details below.

*The cheeseburger mixture is reminiscent of a meat loaf mixture.  The added ingredients help to make the burger stay moister.

*The focaccia I made came from Nancy Silverton that you can find on the Los Angeles Times website ( Nancy Silverton’s foccacia.)  Because I was using this recipe with the cheese burgers, I kept the top simple with fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil on the top and baked as described in the topping recipes.  It was delicious.

*I made the macaroons with the regular sugared coconut shreds from the regular grocery store.  So, I reduced the sugar by a half (and could probably reduce it more).  It turned out perfectly.  As a gluten free treat, it’s also incredibly useful to have in the arsenal.

*I served the macaroons along side some tapioca pudding.  Just to let you know, I’ve been very excited about cooking with small pearl tapioca – as opposed to quick cooking.  While it does take a significantly longer time to cook, the texture is unique and completely worth it.

#4:  For the try 4, I made the roasted chicken and pineapple dessert from Meal 22, and the Tagliatelle carbonara from Meal 2.

*I followed the directions for the chicken as directed, with the chicken placed breast-side down first and then flipped over.  This seemed a bit unnecessary and the top seemed a little flat out of the oven.  However, since I served the pieces sliced on a platter, no one saw the top but me.  (Note that I used a roasting thermometer that lets you set an ending temperature.)  The chicken was juicy and delicious.

*The carbonara is interesting because it’s not exactly like an Italian carbonara but does have some similarities.  I think it relies less on the cheese than on just pure fat.  In the recipe, the bacon is fried and then cream is added.  This is cooked for 20 minutes (which flavors the cream).  If I were making this dish again, I would drain the bacon and then cook the bacon and cream together.  This wouldn’t diminish the amount of fat in the dish by a whole lot and make it just slightly healthier.  I made the recipe for 6 servings but used only 4 yolks.  This was just fine and also reduced some of the fat.  Note that to make the dish even healthier, I really lightly blanched some asparagus to add.  With the pieces of bacon and asparagus, it was so pretty.

*I decided to use honey in place of the molasses for the pineapple dessert.  I also baked the pineapple a little in the oven before cutting into serving slices and continuing with the recipe. I warmed the honey in the microwave and then zested the lime on top.  It was great.

~What do I think?  Nice, instructive, flexible…  Heavy on the protein — The combinations could use more added vegetables.  One could skip the appetizer and add that extra vegetable or add vegetables into the various dishes (as I did with the carbonara dish.

*The dishes with protein work really well.  They work true to the recipe and require a little less intuition.  The baked goods needed a little more cooking by feel in order to make work.  (The pineapple dish obviously didn’t require any adjustments but it’s more of a “way to serve” rather than a recipe.)  I would try some of them again but might research to check proportions before starting.

*Note that the quantitites are a bit large and so you can easily adjust the appetizer recipes up by a little to make them into the main and the main could be adjusted down a little to make normal portion sizes.  (Portion size is extremely important.  You can eat a little bit fattier or “bad for you” things, if you keep the portion sizes reasonable.)

~Would I do any of these menus again?  Well, loosely speaking, I would.  Actually, I didn’t do a single one of the menus as laid out – instead I mixed and matched.  This was easy to do because everything was presented so nicely in the calendar form.

March 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

Chinese New Year 2012 (including Superbowl Sunday)

Gung Hay Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year.

This year was different, as I suppose it is most years; but, of course, it was a bit more noticeable this year.  15 days allows usually for 2 weekends with 2 big Chinese banquets.  Since the whole thing started on a Monday, it was hard to justify stopping everything to do a banquet.  Instead I brought lunch in for mother from Zoe Ma Ma (a great local hole-in-the-wall Chinese place in downtown Boulder).  She was confused until she started to eat the noodles…!  After gymnastics, we met my sister and her family at another non-fancy Chinese restaurant in north Boulder.  It was fun all around and with no cleaning.

~Over the course of the next few days, I incorporated the dishes that needed to be eaten and tried new Asian dishes.  (On the first day, we had dan tart – custard tarts, almond jello with fruit, and CNY candy from the red box.)  We ate steamed fish, long noodles, etc.  We brought in many items for my mother.  I made ji (traditional rice noodle dish), orange beef, gai lan, and almond jello; my sister made lamb and broccoli, walnut shrimp, and a Japanese bean/rice mixture.

The last dessert I made for that big celebration with mom was Pichet Ong’s pineapple tarts – that look like little tangerines. (See The Sweet Spot.) I made them last year but this year I made just a few modifications and it seemed to go a bit more easily than the year before.  They tasted amazing.

Then over the whole course of the 2 weeks: dan go (egg steamed sponge cake), almond cookies, Japanese Wagu hamburgers, steamed whole fish, peanut noodles, and steamed fat go little cakes.

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~Between Superbowl Sunday and Chinese New Year this year, we also celebrated National Chocolate Cake day!  Here are the cupcakes I made:

~Superbowl Sunday fell the day before the end of CNY.  We (my sister’s family and my family) have a great time making all sorts of bad-for-you-foods – noshing and watching the game and commercials.  This time only one of us was truly invested and so it was a bit more relaxing.  We could enjoy the exciting ending without getting knots in our stomach.  Anyway, my sister used her new 3 crock crockpot for queso, vegetarian chili, and regular chili and she brought 3 other dips with chips.  My daughter made a shortbread sandwich cookie – the first time she did everything with just coaching and hints from me….(She even made her own homemade vanilla pudding mixture to use in the cookie recipe.)

~I made 3 types of wings – 2 different Asian wings and 1 very hot Tobasco wing (using the Tobasco wing sauce, along with another secret mixture) and non-alcoholic sangria.

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I also made Boston cream pie (because it was suggested on some site) using Gale Gand’s cake, a pastry cream from some where else, and my own chocolate glaze.  Finally, I usually make regular nachos but decided to make a sweet nacho… crisped tortilla triangles with cinnamon sugar in the oven, sprinkled melted milk chocolate and homemade dulce de leche sauce, finely chopped fruit, and shavings of white chocolate…. The last was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

This was in some ways a more relaxing way to do things and very much more multi-cultural due to Superbowl Sunday coming at the end.  It did feel very much like we celebrated the whole time and everyone left with good feelings…  Gung Hay Fat Choy — I hope your year will be a good one.

February 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm 2 comments

Chinese New Year 2011

Ever since I finished college, I’ve been very interested in learning and keeping my mother’s traditions.  For several years when I lived in New Mexico, I also read books and the internet and gathered the information – including my mother’s own handwritten notes.  There are differences between what my mother does and what is considered “traditional”; however, after so many generations of the family living here, it’s not surprising.

~This year is different from previous years.  My mother is now living here in town.  So, aside from getting everything ready in my own home, I have also had to get everything ready for her.  This is a great honor for me; but, as you can imagine, it has meant a great deal of extra work – on top of my actual paid work and the general care of my family.  (The 15 days after Feb 3rd are filled with Superbowl Sunday, 2 birthdays and Valentine’s Day.)

~Feb 3rd was the first day of Chinese New Year.  I made Dan go, red bean soup, and fat go (or faat go, fatt go, fatt gou or fatt gao – all spellings on the web for prosperity cake).  The dan go is my mother’s recipe for steamed egg cake. (I prefer my mother’s cake. I have made this with a rice flour mix substitute to mimic neen go’s rice cake idea (also spelled neen gow).)  The red bean soup is a cobbled together from The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. Finally, the fat go used half the pancake recipe from The Breakfast book plus the rest from the prosperity cake recipe of Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s website. (Notice that the cakes blossom up – into what look like flower petals.  I added more baking powder, even though we’re at altitude, to insure the flower – otherwise it wouldn’t be the same.)

origami fortune cookies

~I visited mom after breakfast and brought her a piece of dango and some of the sesame and peanut candies from my red box (as shown above).  This was my mom’s box.  She gave it to me after the first Chinese New Year in my own place after college.  I fill it with the Chinese candies from the store that I like and the Valentine’s day candies because they are often red, gold, and silver.

~We took mom out for a traditional Chinese dinner.  It was good – 3 cold dishes (vegetable stuffed tofu, cold chicken, and a scallop/shrimp ceviche like dish), whole fish, duck, Cantonese style noodles, vegetables in deep fried potato dish, lobster, and sesame seed balls for dessert.  I had not seen mom eat so much since she’s arrived.

~On Friday I went to visit my mother in the morning – brought her a pine nut cookie and another sesame candy.  That evening the extended family ate the leftovers – I added fresh rice and peanut noodles because there was not quite enough of each item left for the number of people.

~In previous years, I have had multiple CNY dinners, inviting many guests.  I am still not quite into the routine of this year.  So, my sister and I just celebrated together.  She brought 2 dishes (walnut shrimp and Chinese chicken wings) and I made whole fish and ji.  Ji consists of rice noodles, fat choy (mushroom), dung go (shiitake), and cabbage (which I forgot) and it can be made vegetarian but I used dried shrimp and oyster sauce (in the sauce for the dish).

~For dessert, I made almond jello with mandarin oranges, lychees, and maraschino cherries (for the bright red color, not for health).  I also tried “tangerine pie” (caramelized pineapple pastries) from Pichet Ong’s cookbook, The Sweet Spot. This is an involved recipe.  I made the dough and filling separately on Friday (to let the dough have time to rest).  Today I brought the dough to workable condition and made the rounds.  They have to sit in the fridge before you can brush them with yolk, stick the clove in (not edible), and bake.  However, they tasted great…
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~One of my friends posted that she had missed National Nutella day. When I looked, I found David Lebovitz’s site stating that World Nutella day is today. I hadn’t missed it…! I took a brownie recipe, removed 1/3 of the batter, mixed the nutella in, and then swirled it on top. It was very chocolatey…

February 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

Chinese New Year (still!)

My understanding is that Chinese New Year runs for 15 days to the Lantern Festival.  (When we were young my mother would celebrate for 10 days.  Since we had to wear red every day, 10 days is about right.  I’ve since discovered that the holiday is actually 5 days longer.)  Usually this means that there’s at least one weekend where I can make a full meal at home with the luxury of cooking all day.  (Weekdays make it hard to do a lot of the traditional dishes.)

*Interestingly enough, with all the birthdays and celebrations, we’ve been going out to eat a lot.  We’ve revisited our very favorite here in Boulder, Frasca.  We also visited The Kitchen, Black Cat, and Jax Fish House.  For Chinese New Year celebrations, we went to both Spice China (for the lion dance) and Heaven Star (for an actual banquet).  It’s been an eating tour of restaurants in Boulder these last two weeks.

*So, this past Saturday, I hung a duck.  (I actually had a tub underneath but removed it for the picture.  It hung until around 3 PM on Sunday and then I dipped it into a glaze.  Then it hung again for about 2 hours.  (The times on the hanging can vary.)  For food safety, this is probably not the best idea; however, in all the years I’ve been doing this duck, it’s always been fine.  You really get a great crispy skin.

*On Sat afternoon, I also pulled out all the dried mushrooms and rice noodles and soaked them.

*Sunday morning I made the almond jello (as in the previous post).  In the past, I’ve made custard tarts (dan tart) and dan go as well; but this was just going to be a relaxed family gathering. 

*My sister came over in the afternoon with the fixings for wontons.  We stood/sat around the counter with our daughters folding wontons.  There are several ways to do the wontons and we taught them the easiest way.  My brother-in-law then fried a lot of them.  Some of the wontons were filled with nutella.  My daughter made some with PB & J.  It was a lot of fun.

*We had some traditional dishes for Chinese New Year, as well.  For example, I made ji which is a rice noodle dish mixed with a mushroom that is named after the good luck symbol.  It’s can be a vegetarian dish including shredded cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, too; however, it is also usually served with ha mei (very small dried shrimp), oyster sauce for flavoring and broth for moisture. 

*I made a whole fish – head and tail included for good luck.  Chinese restaurants will also serve the fish whole during banquets, as well as whole chicken, duck, and port.  You can buy whole roasted duck at the Asian grocery, too.

*My sister made beef with broccoli.  (Broccoli is her “go to” vegetable.)  In addition, she made hup to ha (walnut shrimp).  She deep fried the walnuts and then added them to her shrimp dish — really yummy.

*For dessert we had the almond jello with lychees, mandarin oranges, and cherries, plus fried nutella wontons.

*It’s fun to have my sister here.  We are lucky to be able to watch our daughters grow and to teach them things we learned when we were kids.  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

February 26, 2010 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

Noodles in Maui

Finding good food in Maui is so easy that it’s a bit silly. In fact, the best places are little hole in the wall locations. Today we ate lunch at Sam Sato’s in the Wailuku area. You have to drive all around to get to it and it’s nestled among what look like industrial warehouse buildings. It has the feel of a diner, with just a few tables. At the front of the restaurant is a small case of baked goods – They had several types of turnovers and two different types of manju. The donuts sold before I could get to them. I had the dry noodles which are like saimin except the soup is on the side. They were fantastic.

Peach turnover and Adzuki manju

Peach turnover and Adzuki manju

We saved room for dessert… Of course, that was just the beginning of our bakery stops.

July 16, 2009 at 1:22 am Leave a comment


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