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10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods

RocketNews 24:

Comfort food” is traditional cooking that tends to have a nostalgic or sentimental connection, often one related to family or childhood: the grilled cheese sandwiches your mother used to make; the thought of your grandmother’s bread pudding makes your mouth water; the way the whole house would be filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasted turkey or ham at Christmas? Because of such memories, these foods comfort us, especially when we’re longing for home or feeling especially vulnerable.

Not surprisingly, the sentimental Japanese have their own comfort foods. While you might think they’d be waxing over the octopus tentacles of home, very few of the dishes we’re about to talk about have much to do with seafood. Many Japanese comfort foods have a rice connection and may even center around the unique relationship between mothers or wives and their role in family food preparation. And in Japan, make no mistake about it–her kitchen rules!

Here are 10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods:

1. Miso soup and rice (味噌汁とご飯)

miso soup

Miso soup and its companion bowl of rice are sometimes described as a “marriage.” This is the food Japanese miss most when they leave home to live on their own for the first time or if they travel abroad and tire of “Western breakfast.”

Miso soup is hardly ever served without its faithful rice. For centuries this edible couple has been considered the main part of a classic, healthy Japanese breakfast. “Mom’s miso soup” is, quite simply, to die for. And each Mom adds her own touch to the recipe, so the subtle flavors vary according to household. So powerful is this aromatic duo that the mere thought of smelling miso upon waking up in the morning can leave a study-abroad student salivating as he or she is transported temporarily back to the mother ship.

Other than the miso base, other ingredients in the soup may include dashi broth, tofu, chopped green onion, wakame seaweed and a plethora of others. See some miso soup anime ads that bring out the true miso spirit.

Try making it! Learn how to make miso soup in the Rocket Kitchen. No miso? No problem–miso can be made at home too!

 

2. Onigiri (おにぎり)

onigiri

While women’s hands are said to be too warm to become sushi chefs, those ostensibly hot hands surely come in handy when it comes to making rice balls. This favorite snack, made from either fresh steamed rice or leftover rice from the night before, is standard fare for bento lunches and picnics. All good outdoor gatherings feature the highly portable and nutritious triangular-shaped sticky rice ball, which is geometrically formed by squeezing it just so in the palms of the hands. Each ball is filled with one of a number of ingredients from sweet salmon to sour plums, and the triangle of rice is girthed with a seaweed belt so moist, it doesn’t actually stick to your lips like the papery convenience-store kind.

According to Japanese aesthetics, any food tastes better with proper scenery, so you’ll find rice balls at every “Hanami” cherry blossom party.

 

3. Tempura (天ぷら)

Tempura

This favorite food of foreigners is also a favorite of the Japanese (even though tempura is thought to have originally come from Portugal). Surely, worldwide, everyone loves tempura! And mama’s home made has gotta be the best. But I can’t help think that the nostalgia surrounding this food (the taste of which doesn’t vary that much from kitchen to kitchen) has to do with the method of preparation: the wife dutifully stays in the kitchen throughout the meal, only emerging occasionally when the next batch of piping hot veggies are ready to be served to her expectant family. And of course a Japanese wife is happy, perhaps even ecstatic, to do this, in order to fulfill the expectations of the perfect mother who, at least in the old days, was said to “make and serves food with all her heart” (kokorokomete ryoriotsukurimasu).

Tip! Be sure to have fun with your tempura–make it colossal!

 

4. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

okonomiyaki

A close runner up as an all-time favorite by foreigners and Japanese alike is oknomiyaki (literally “grilled as you like it”). What could be more fun than playing with your food? Mix up the cabbage with a combination of okonomiyaki flour and milk, add a raw egg, then ingredients such as mochi, cheese, fish, pork, or corn (anything really–as you like it!). Leave it on the grill to cook then top it with sweet okonomiyaki sauce!

Whether Hiroshima style or Osaka style, oknonomiyaki satisfies even the most unsophisticated pallets. It’s what I serve to my parents who don’t like Japanese food (surely the only two people left in the world). This pancake-like food is certainly interactive and gets everyone communing at the table.

Not only that, but such comfort foods pull at the heartstrings of boys when they become myopic, nostalgic adults missing their mommies. In Japan, the relationship between mothers and sons is supposed to be extra special (sorry girls!).

Watch it! A video of one man’s gourmet food trip through Japan, including oknomiyaki.

 

5. Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけ御飯)

TKG

This simple dish is so fast, so simple, and so good! Just a raw egg, a little soy sauce (if you like) and some cooked white rice will give you a meal on the go. One of our RocketNews24 writers who grew up eating TKG, says it’s her go-to comfort food. Just pour the raw egg yolk over the rice and mix it together: ta-da! Isn’t that convenient?! Who said you couldn’t cook Japanese food?

Make it! Try Rocket Kitchen’s Ultimate TKG

6. Nabe (鍋)

nabe

Nabe is one of those foods in the “cooked in large earthenware pot” family. It is stewed in a vessel that sits in the middle of the table. Meat and vegetables are added throughout the entire dinner session, with each person around the dinner table reaching into the pot with their chopsticks to pick out their own vegetables or meats (or perhaps dished out by mom) as the ingredients slowly cook. This dish is only shared with family or good friends who you’re absolutely sure don’t have any contagious diseases. The constant dipping of your chopsticks into the broth to dig out mighty morsels means that you’ll be sharing your germs. On the other hand, you can console yourself that the boiling broth may kill most of the cooties someone might unknowingly be passing on. Nabe, a winter food, is usually associated with close friends and family, the equivalent of sitting around a bonfire with a guitar and singing songs together. Being invited to a nabe party is a definitive indication you’ve been accepted into the inner circle. Try yosenabe–or “fling it all in” nabe!

Make it cute! Tips on how to make your nabe look as kawaii as possible!

 

7. Okayu (おかゆ)

okayu

When Japanese feel a cold coming on, they reach for okayu–a warm, easily digestible watery mush made from rice. It’s also the food of choice if you’re missing your teeth. Even Kiki, the heroine of the anime film Kiki’s Delivery Service, can be seen eating okayu in a scene when she is sick. So next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, do what Kiki does and try some rice porridge!

Make it! Ghibli-inspired rice porridge

8. Udon (うどん)

udon

While both ramen and udon noodles are loved by the Japanese, I’m going to stick to Udon here because, well, it’s Japanese (whereas ramen in technically Chinese) and udon is the Wall Street Journal of noodles–it’s way more sophisticated than ramen. Ramen’s reputation is that of an easy, greasy food eaten when you’re in need of something filling and moreish but not especially good for you–often after a night out drinking. But while ramen satisfies, udon nurtures. The warmth of steam emanating from a large bowl of udon, and enveloping your face in the wintertime is enough to warm you to your toes. It’s no wonder that in Kagawa Prefecture, the udon capital of Japan, and where they are known to eat udon while in the bath, that they’re using the long unleavened egg dough to generate power. How cool is that?!

9. Curry Rice (カレーライス)

katsu curry

Curry rice doesn’t sound like it’s Japanese, and surely its origins aren’t (Japanese curry comes from India by way of the British navy, would you believe), but the way the Japanese have modified their knock-off version is distinctly their own. It’s sweet, gooey and heaped over sticky rice! And it’s usually not spicy at all. Kids and adults alike love this cheap, easy-to-prepare food, usually made from boxed curry you buy at the store. And anything can be added to it including meat and veggies. For me, I prefer the real thing, but the fact is that Japanese kids grow up eating and loving the Japanese version. Curry rice is served in school lunches, at ski resorts, on the beach, and at restaurants everywhere. It’s ubiquitous, which means it’s a fallback food anywhere, anytime. Except abroad, where you’ll rarely, if ever, find it.

Tip! Twelve meals to make using leftover curry

10. Ochazuke (お茶漬け)

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We saved ochazuke for last because this dish is consumed at the very end of a meal. Ochazuke is most likely only encountered by foreigners who dine with Japanese, so may not be well-known to mere tourists. But most foreigners’ first encounter is similar: You’re at the end of a meal, feeling like a total pig because you’ve eaten so much amazing food. You’re sitting back in your chair, hands folded over the swollen stomach, thinking you couldn’t eat another bite of anything even if it were apple pie, when suddenly, someone at the table pipes up, “Let’s have ochazuke!” They tackle the waiter who dutifully takes away one thing from the table: the leftover rice. This is taken back to the kitchen, where the chef mixes it with green tea (and perhaps some other things). The rice concoction is brought back out to the table and presented as the last course, like a sort of savoury dessert. It’s warm, it’s delicious, and you somehow find a little extra room in your distended stomach for it before completely passing out.

Tip! Just combine green tea and rice.

 

Disney’s Baymax appears in curry, hot pots, and more, thanks to cheesy food-based pun

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RocketNews 24:

You might not guess it, given the country’s well-known acceptance of stoicism as an admirable virtue, but Japan absolutely loves puns. In fact, the characteristics of the Japanese language, such as multiple potential pronunciations for the same kanji character, make it a veritable pun-producing machine.

For example, the character for “rice,” 米, is usually read as kome. When it’s combined with other characters, though, it’s read as mai or bei, with the latter being pronounced like the English word “bay.”

Of course, that also means bei is pronounced like the first half of Baymax, the loveable caretaker/combat robot from Disney’s Big Hero 6. And now that Japanese fans of the film have figured out how to put a little rice into Baymax, they’re also coming up with ways to put a little Baymax into their meals by making Baymax curry rice, rice balls, and nabe hot pots.

You can thank pop idol Haruna Kojima for kicking off the culinary trend. Earlier this month, the AKB48 member found herself with some extra time on her hands, so rather than make a plain old plate of curry rice, she decided to shape the fluffy white grains into a likeness of Baymax, adding two small, connected circles of dried seaweed to recreate his simple facial expression.

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Identifying her creation as Baymax, but written with the kanji for rice, Kojima posted the above photo to her Instagram account, where it put smiles on the faces and rumbles in the stomachs of all who gazed upon its appetite-stimulating cuteness. Even better, in contrast to the difficulty in trying to craft an edible version of Pokémon’s Pikachu or Yo-Kai Watch’s Jibanyan, Baymax’s soft, simple form and almost entirely white color scheme means that just about everyone can manage this cooking project, as proven by the steady stream of Rice-max photos that have been popping up since.

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View image on Twitter

Even six weeks after its release, Big Hero 6 is still going strong in Japan, wherepositive word of mouth about the films variety of action, comedy, and heartfelt emotion made it the highest-grossing movie in the country last weekend, just like it was for the three weekends before that. It’s a testament to the film’s broad appeal that stretches beyond just the kiddie demographic, and includes fans old enough to enjoy a little alcoholic refreshment with their Baymax curry.
View image on Twitter

Of course, Japan has a lot more ways to eat rice than just covering it with curry roux. How about a Baymax oyako-don, a rice bowl with chicken, egg, and the cuddly robot?

View image on Twitter

If you’re after even lighter fare, you can combine rice and miso soup, which is also a great way to make use of leftovers of the two Japanese staples.

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It’s also worth bearing in mind that the rice/bei/Baymax pun still holds up even if you’re not using plain white rice. For example, mochi (rice cakes) are just as appropriate for adding a dash of Disney to your hot pot.

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10 Asian soups to keep you warm over the holidays

mieayam

 Audrey Magazine:

On a blistering cold night, a steaming hot bowl of soup is the tastiest cure to the shivers and well, almost everything else right? Now that winter is full steam (sorry) ahead, here are ten different Asian soups, from the popular to the underrated, that you should try eating and possibly try making this winter!

1. Kuy Teav

Image courtesy of khatiya-komer

A Cambodian delicacy, kuy teav is a Camobidan Chinese pork noodle soup made from a clear broth and flat rice noodles. Kuy teav is usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish from street vendors, but we feel that it’s comforts will last throughout the day!

2. Soba

Image courtesy of kampai.us

Unlike the popular ramen, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Soba can be a year round dish and is typically served either hot and in a soup for winter or chilled with a dipping sauce for summer. Also, soba differs from udon in that soba noodles are thin while udon noodles are genuinely thicker.

 3. Laksa

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A spicy MalayasianChinese fusion dish. There are three main types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa and sarawak laksa. Curry laksa has a coconut curry base, while asam laksa has a sourfish soup base, and sarawak has a sambal belacan base. No matter which type of laksa you choose, it’s sure to give you a kick!

4. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Image Courtesy of S.O.F.A.T BLOG

There are many different types of beef noodle soups out there. However, the red-braised beef noodle soup was invented by Chinese refugees in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Today, Taiwan considers this red-braised beef noodle soup a national dish. With it’s tender beef and spicy broth, it is sure to be a comfort during those chilly months.

5. Tong Sui

tongsui

Tong Sui literally means “sugar water” in Cantonese and is a soup dessert that is a Cantonese delicacy.

6. Bakmi Ayam

mieayam

Bakmi ayam, or often shortened to mei ayam, is an Indonesian noodle soup that is very simple but delicious. The main ingredients are wheat noodles, chinese bok choy (cabbage), and slices of chicken and mushroom. Eaten separately or together with the broth, the soup is delicious either way!

7. Sinigang

Image courtesy of PanlasangPinoy

Sinigiang is a Filipino dish. A tamarind-based soup, Sinigiang is usually sour because of ingredients such as guava and ripe mango.

8. Soondobu Jjigae

Image courtesy of LTHforum

Soondubu jjigae is a spicy Korean tofu soup. It’s typically served in a hot stone pot with other dishes such as rice, meat, or banchan on the side.

9. Milagu Rasam

milagurasam

Milagu Rasam is a pepper tamarind-based South Indian soup. Supposedly, both the black pepper and tamarind are natural heat-inducing ingredients for the body. Either way, milagu rasam is a tasty method to staying warm!

10. Bun Mang Vit

Image courtesy of PhamVo's Kitchen

Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese soups, but Bun Mang Vit, a duck and noodle soup, is also another tasty option! The main ingredients here are duck, bamboo shoots and vermicelli noodles, but the lemongrass, ginger and chili give this soup a nice kick.

You will soon be able to make fancy, restaurant-style ramen at home

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FoodBeast:

 

It used to be that instant ramen was the pride and joy of broke college students. After all, a $5 bill can feed you for weeks. Now the door has opened for fancy, and no doubt more expensive, ramen to become the norm.

Sun Noodles, provider of artisan noodles to restaurants such as Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, both in New York, will be teaming up with Whole Foods for instant, restaurant-style, Japanese noodles.

The build-your-own ramen kits will be available in Shoyu– and Miso-based broths, and can be mixed with any vegetables, seasonings or meats. Of course, the fresh and fancy noodles need to be refrigerated, unlike your normal instant ramen.

Kenshiro Uki, general manager of Sun Noodle New Jersey, said, “We are excited about our partnership with Whole Foods Market which will make our products readily available to anyone who enjoys Japanese ramen in New York City.

 

Link

Want your cooking to taste like world-famous chef Nobu’s? Here’s the seasoning you need

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

One of the few Japanese restaurateurs to gain international fame and popularity is Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Better known by his professional moniker Nobu, the Saitama-born chef began his culinary career in Tokyo, before leaving Japan to open restaurants in Peru, Argentina, and the U.S.

Being so far away from the birthplace of Japanese cuisine, though, meant Nobu had to come up with new recipes and flavors that would suit the palates of his non-Japanese clientele. This often meant finding roles for locally available ingredients, but in one case, Nobu took things a step further by developing one of his own: miso powder.

There are several ways to make miso, and the exact ingredients and process used can cause differences in flavor, consistency, and even color.

 

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One constant you can generally count on, though, is that miso is a paste. Even the most internationally well-known dish that uses the soybean seasoning, miso soup, is made by thinning the mixture with water.

Nobu chanced upon a different way to use Miso though, thanks to a simple bit of forgetfulness in managing his own household condiments. After using some miso to prepare a dish at his home in Los Angeles, Nobu stuck the partially-used tub back in his refrigerator, but neglected to replace the lid.

 

▼ An ordinary miso container

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By the time he realized what he’d done, the top layer of the miso had dried out and hardened. Curious, he scraped off some of the powder, tasted it, and discovered it was surprisingly delicious.

Figuring if he enjoyed it, his customers might too, Nobu began adding the dried miso powder to dishes at the Nobu restaurants he co-owns along with actor Robert De Niro.

Of course, with over a dozen branches, the famed chef’s personal fridge isn’t big enough to make enough dry miso to meet demand. Instead, the professional-grade powder is produced in Nagano Prefecture by Hikari Miso. The company says the seasoning, which is made of flakes of organic red and white miso, is perfect for fish, chicken, meat, and even salads.

 

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Get your hand on a bottle, and you’ll be all ready to season like a pro. As for cooking like one, though, you’re on your own.

 

Check out this link:

Want your cooking to taste like world-famous chef Nobu’s? Here’s the seasoning you need

 

Link

From spicy curry to delicious charcoal – 7 bizarre toothpastes on sale in Japan

RocketNews 24:

takoyaki
You’re probably well aware that the Japanese are fond of creating food and beverages in unusual flavors and splicing things together, but guess what? That trait can be found in their toothpaste as well. Here are seven odd-tasting toothpastes available in Japan that you might, or perhaps might not, want to brush your teeth with!

Just to build up some anticipation, whether in a good way or not, we’ll go down the list, beginning with the tamer flavors!

dentalpasty
1. Binotomo Dental Pasty Cream

Despite its dubious naming, this is actually a tube of toothpaste formulated with salt, which isn’t really bizarre per se, but the nice thing is that it doesn’t contain any preservatives, surfactants or artificial colorings. Made with natural salt, this toothpaste allows you to leave the cleaning of your teeth in the gentle hands of Mother Nature. Quite how it tastes, however, is another matter entirely.

charcoal
2. Bamboo charcoal toothpaste

Bamboo charcoal is known for its oil and dirt absorption and odor reduction properties, and is used in a wide variety of Japanese products ranging from air purifiers to fabrics to beauty products. Bamboo charcoal toothpaste has become somewhat common in recent years, but some people still feel weird about brushing their teeth with a black or grey dollop of toothpaste, and we can’t say we blame them.

spagyric
3. Spagyric toothpaste

Hard to pronounce, even harder to understand what this is made of. Spagyric refers to the production of herbal medicine with the use of alchemic procedures. This toothpaste is formulated with herbal extracts, and is free of additives such as parabens, surfactants and artificial colorings or fragrances, promising to give your precious pearly whites a gentle and natural cleaning.

nasu
4. Binotomo Nasu Dentifrice Jet Black

Okay, now things are starting to get a little weird. From the makers of the Dental Pasty Cream, here’s a toothpaste formulated with nasu (Japanese eggplant) and salt. According to user reviews, this salty toothpaste works great in tightening soft gums, and leaves your teeth feeling really smooth and clean. You wouldn’t want to use this when you’re in a rush though, as it seems that the color of this toothpaste can leave a nasty stain on your clothes.

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5. Breath Palette toothpaste

This is the Baskin-Robbins of toothpaste. Available in 31 varieties, this toothpaste brand provides a crazy selection ranging from normal flavors like peppermint, strawberry and apple; to the slightly the more adventurous such as cola, espresso and Darjeeling tea; to the most outrageous tasting such as indian curry flavored toothpaste. Why, oh why, would anyone want to begin their day swilling curry around their mouth!?

takoyaki
6. Takoyaki toothpaste

If you love Osaka, this one’s for you. We have no idea what inspired them to make takoyaki flavored toothpaste, but at least the makers were sane enough not to put real batter balls of octopus in it! Although it is said to taste and smell like the famous Osaka street snack, it also manages to prevent cavities and bad breath in the same way that a normal toothpaste does. Apparently, this product also comes in miso flavor to represent Nagoya, and ningyoyaki (doll-shaped castella cakes) flavor to represent Tokyo. Simply bizarre.

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7. Dirty Gorilla Perfume Toothwash

All right, to be fair, this isn’t a toothpaste, and it isn’t uniquely Japanese either, but it was just too out of the ordinary to miss! Produced by the well-known handmade cosmetics makers, Lush, these solid toothpaste tabs work like a normal toothpaste when you chew on them. An unconventional choice, but these would probably be great for jet-setters who need to stick to airline baggage restrictions. The good news is, it doesn’t taste like a dirty gorilla. Not that we’ve ever been close enough to one to give them a quick lick…

Well, it seems the Japanese have managed to make even the brushing of teeth a bizarre affair. If you’re eager for some “special” toothpaste, be sure to explore the local drugstores, or check out larger stores like Tokyu Hands, Village Vanguard or Loft when you visit Japan!

Source: Jandan

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From spicy curry to delicious charcoal – 7 bizarre toothpastes on sale in Japan