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My Comfort Food

Another comfort food post! But this is from someone growing up in Japan - so it's no paean to blue box macn'cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. Instead, I'm singing the praises of the simple katsuobushi over rice with shoyu. To see a video clip from the Japanese series, Shinya Shokudo, go here: http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v61...

applehome - http://applegigo.blogspot.com

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  1. Our dear mutual friend Sam was the bridge between your Japan-centric and my Mexico-centric preferences. May Sam's legacy encourage us all to experiment with exotic food and other good things we have not yet discovered.

    1. In Sam's memory, I bought Everyday Harumi (definitely "fusion" Japanese but still....) and am going to start working on some of those comfort foods. BTW, love your blog and welcome back.

      1 Reply
      1. I saw your blog entry earlier this morning.. I've been reading you for some time now (when you do write...LOL). That katsuobushi over rice with shoyu looked absolutely gorgeous. Even though I have never cooked Japanese food before I think I could make it without a recipe...?? I just have to track down the shaved bonito. One needs no subtitles for that scene. Her smile really Does say it all.
        Wellcome back, applehome.

        1. Somehow, with HIS stomach growling, I expected her to cook for him! Maybe if I understood Japanese I wouldn't have?

          Somehow, I don't think it would taste as good with preshaved bonito! On the other hand, it may well be I haven't looked that hard, but I don't recall seeing whole dried bonito in any of the Japanese or PanAsian markets where I've shopped. Wish my Benriner had a box like that to catch things!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caroline1

            You're right that the pre-shaved stuff just doesn't have the concentrated oomph flavor to go with rice on its own. I do use it to make dashi - although I add niboshi. Remember Morimoto's "elixir of life" in the original IC? He used only the pre-shaved katsuobushi, but he use tons of it - I guess he could afford it.

            I don't think a Benriner would do it. The fish is rock hard - as if it were petrified. The blade and assembly on the box are an actual Japanese carpenter's plane and need to be adjusted for proper depth. Note that the power stroke is the pull, not the push, as with all Japanese carpentry (and even bushido/samurai swords) - opposite of western ways.

            He offered that he also liked "nekomanma" and would make some from scratch. He asked if she had time, and she said yes, but little money. It's a bittersweet story - pretty good drama for a 1/2 hour show. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any sub files for the series and I have to sit here and translate for my son.

            Thanks, all, for your kind comments and for taking the time to look at the blog (as well as my posts here). This is indeed Sam's legacy - we spoke (emailed) of real shaved katsuobushi more than once.

          2. Applehome, will you recommend a Japanese cookbook which would help get a Westerner, ahem...me, get started cooking Japanese food??

            9 Replies
            1. re: Gio

              The absolute best - the bible of Japanese cooking (with a forward by MFK FIsher) is Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji - here it is at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Cookin....

              Another one, that was contributed to by fellow chowhound Yukari Pratt, is Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku - Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1580085199 .

              Tsuji's has been a classic for decades. He explains things so well and you learn so much from just reading it. Andoh's is much more of an immediate use cookbook - less learning history and lore, although there is some there as well. Japanese cooking (not the book) is divided into two main parts - yoshoku and washoku. Yoshoku is the "foreigner's food" - all the curries, fried tempuras etc, that came in with the Europeans and that were made over into Japanese classics. Washoku is the traditional Japanese cooking, millenia old. Andoh obviously concentrates on the latter, and her book is especially about home cooking.

              C Oliver mentioned Harumi - I haven't seen any of her books so can't comment.

              1. re: applehome

                One of my Chow-buddies recommended it when I treated myself to a little cook's shopping spree after winning a few buxks at the casino. It's definitely not pure Japanese but it looks good. I'll have to check out the ones you mention.

                1. re: applehome

                  I think I bought this book on another thread, since there were no compressed threads, and I have to say, it's the most beautifully described book on Japanese fod I've ever seen. I read it like a novel, going over parts and rereading unfamiliar techniques over and over. It's the ultimate book on Japanese cooking there is.

                  1. re: applehome

                    Thanks for your recommendatioins and information ! That was so well explained. The Tsuji book was one of 2 Japanese books that were up for nominations for this month's COTM, the 2nd being Washoku. It didn't happen but I feel certain we'll have a Japanese month yet. In the mean time it looks as if I'll have some light summer reading after all. Can't wait to get started.

                    1. re: applehome

                      Applehome, Thanks for the recommendation, I would love to get this book - do you think the new edition is much better than the 1st edition (which I can get a lot more cheaply)?

                      1. re: visciole

                        The new edition has a forward by Ruth Reichl - I've enjoyed her work, but don't know if that's worth any extra money. Tsuji's son also contributes a new preface. But I haven't heard that there were any changes to the actual text itself.

                        1. re: applehome

                          Thank you, it sounds like I can go for the old edition. I like Ruth, too, but I'm really primarily interested in the techniques and recipes.

                          1. re: visciole

                            I just checked and found that you can read the forward and the preface for the new edition using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. So there you go.

                            I second the recommendation for these books. Tsuji's really is the English bible of Japanese cooking.

                      2. re: applehome

                        Tsuji is also known as the most respected culinary academy in Japan, and its book is the introductory level book for Japanese cooking.

                        Harumi Kurihara's name is synonymous with home cooking (katei ryori) in Japan. She could be considered Japan's Julia Child in a way. I wouldn't call it fusion, but her recipes are developed with homemakers in mind, with ingredients readily available at the supermarkets. She has probably inspired scores of home cooks to cook creatively using western ingredients with Japanese technique, or vice versa.

                        Another author worth checking out is Kentaro Kobayashi (known just as Kentaro in Japan). You might remember him and his mom (the real Julia Child of Japan) from the original Iron Chef (mom beat the Iron Chef, Kentaro lost by a narrow margin, I think). Anyway, Kentaro has a series of books on a variety of comfort foods (donburi, noodles, bento, etc.) translated in English. But he applies his own creativity and twists as well as lays out the traditional.

                        Japanese food magazines are also great (if you read Japanese). But interestingly, even food magazines are divided into women's and men's sections. The women's magazines are clearly marketed to homemakers, and shelved with fashion, gossip, or mother-oriented magazines, and the men's are shelved with the car, stereo, sports magazines. Kurihara is usually found in the women's section. Not sure where Kentaro is found, but the men's section usually deals more with the history of food, or more restaurant industry topics, and dining guides (like Otona no Shumatsu, or Dancyu, or Serai). And the recipes you find in these sources differ from the household creative (Kurihara), to distilling the traditional elements (like you find in Dancyu or Serai).

                    2. Yea! applehome is back! I've missed your posts...

                      1. I actually don't know if I could eat that. I spent a few weeks one summer working on a project not far from the Kachidoki area of Tokyo. There must have been a katsuobushi processing operation or something nearby, because it just smelled like katsuobushi in the atmosphere 24/7. I've never been the same since toward it. I can eat it just fine and dashi isn't a problem. But if there are heaps of it, I gotta dial it down a notch or two. BTW, I've seen blocks of fish and the shavers for sale at Sunrise Mart in Manhattan.

                        My comfort food is negitoro-don. I used to buy cheap packs of marked down negitoro at our local super. I'd mince up some green onion, throw in some toasted sesame seeds, and a couple healthy doses of shoyu. I piled it all on top of hot koshi hikari rice, with a thin layer of nori. If this was dinner, I'd wash it down with two pounders of grapefruit chuhai. There were periods when I ate this for days on end. It's a pain to find negitoro in the US and it's usually overpriced. But I'll make this for lunch when I visit my in-laws in Tokyo.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Silverjay

                          Interesting- my favorite auntie and uncle lived across the highway from the original Heath toffee plant in Robinson Illinois. We could smell the butter boiling over at their house- but of course there was abso-efing-lutely NO Japanese food in Robinson, which was the absolute last white WASP holdout in the midwest.

                          But anyway, we could smell the chocolate and the toffee and it was quite the fabulous smell, Aunt Gin used to bring us out double-dipped Heath toffee bars when she came to visit. I met some local kids back in the day when I was a kid, and the Heath plant was a great place for the local high school kids to work. The rules were- you can eat as much toffee and chocolate as you want, BUT you cannot take it home. Well, after two or three days, none of the kids wanted to eat Heath Toffee or chocolate ever again, so I guess it was a good company policy.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            EWSflash I am from Lawrenceville and went to LTC In RObinson. I used to love driving by the plant and smelling the toffee cooking. I might of considered a job there is I had known their policy on eating the candy ;)

                            1. re: pickychicky1979

                              What's LTC? I thought I knew the whole town. Was it one of the schools? Country Club? The oil refinery? My uncle Walt and his two brothers ran the Schmidt Clinic there until they all died of old age (seriously- they all lived a real long time). I havn't been back since before i was married- I sure mis Aunt Gin and Uncle Walt, but would really like to know what LTC was!

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                lincoln trail college. a junior college and to keeo it food related their cafeteria was HORRID!

                          2. re: Silverjay

                            Negitoro has been a sushi bar thing for me. The Itamae would scrape the big chunk of maguro (used to be hon-maguro), mix with the super-thin bo-negi and put it on top of a hot bowl of rice. Way too expensive to be served to kids as comfort food. I would never have even known about it as a kid. It is good, though! OK - something else to ask the fish guy at Ebisuya - 1) where's the whole dried katsuo, and 2) where's the negitoro!

                            1. re: applehome

                              Supers in Japan sell negitoro as cheapie items off to the side in the fish section- along with kama and stuff like that. After discounting, we used to pick up a pack (maybe 8-10oz) for about 100YEN. Mitsuwa in NJ sells about 6oz. packs for like $5-6....At one of my favorite koryouri-ya in Tokyo, the guy used to serve me a mini negitoro-don like you descirbe for my meal "shime".

                              1. re: applehome

                                <" OK - something else to ask the fish guy at Ebisuya - 1) where's the whole dried katsuo, and 2) where's the negitoro!">
                                Will do, thanks!

                                1. re: Gio

                                  I was gonna do that. You can too, but remember that if you get the whole fish dried katsuo, you still need the plane. You can actually use an American carpenter's plane, but you'd have to figure out how to hold it upside down and catch the stuff. You might just buy a bag of the preshaved stuff to figure out whether you'll like it or not. As to the negitoro, go for it! Or you might order some at your favorite sushi bar to see if you'll like it first (but you probably will - it's a little slimy, but super tasty esp if you like maguro).

                                  Hey SIlverjay - if and when I get back to Tokyo, you're gonna take me around to all your favorite places, aren't you? Please? I almost always used to close with the traditional chahan or ramen - but I'd be happy with a negitoro-don or maybe even a "nekomanma".

                            2. Or you can watch the entire series with English subtitles at mysoju


                              Not sure if this is something I could eat and readily enjoy, although I'd gulf it down with fresh artisinal form tofu and soy sauce (and maybe thousand year old/preserved duck egg).

                              I'm more of a yaki-imo guy.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: K K

                                Thank you for posting that link! I'm absolutely enthralled. I just finished watching the 1st episode and I love the story, the food, the characters, everything. The food challenge at the end is fascinating. Many thanks.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Be careful of the 2nd one - the episode with the Katsuobushi. I'm not saying it's a tear-jerker, but have some tissues handy.

                                  1. re: applehome

                                    Too late... I already saw it. I Loved it.
                                    I sent the link to my daughter and her SO who were in Tokyo last year.

                                    The cooking close ups are most intriguing. Almost a lesson in themselves. Is he cooking in an aluminum wok? Or just a simple pot?

                                2. re: K K

                                  Thanks for that link - I can get the kids off my back. Ever had fresh shaved katsuobushi, instead of the bagged stuff? The flavor intensity is really different. The texture does look like wood shavings, but it does soften with the steam from the rice. In fact, I used to love to watch the shavings uncurl themselves - hey - easily entertained at 3 years old!

                                  1. re: applehome

                                    I'd love to try it- can you get it here in the states?

                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                      The pre-shaved stuff in a bag is available in Japanese and most Korean food stores. But the dried fish and the plane-in-a-box shaver are not something you see everywhere. Silverjay mentions above that he's seen them in the Sunrise Mart in Manhattan.. I will check out Ebisuya, the new Japanese store nearby in Medford (MA), but I know that none of the old Japanese stores in the area (now defunct) had them. Neither of the 2 main Japanese food vendors I've used on line has them (Pacific Mercantile and AsianFoodGrocer).

                                3. Applehome, I'm right there with you with the katsuobushi. I didn't have the freshly shaved stuff growing up in LA, but my mom would often make onigiri (rice balls) with the katsuobushi/shoyu mash inside for a quick and portable version.

                                  By the way, I mentioned Shinya Shokudo when I first discovered it here:

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: E Eto

                                    I got the tip for the show there originally - sorry - should have given you credit for that. I downloaded them right away but didn't watch them for some reason - I think I was getting through the meteor one - Ryusei no Kizuna, another of your food related JDrama finds.

                                    KK's link to the soju site still works, but the links on that page have quit working. The russian site, in particular, seems to have taken them off. Perhaps we generated too much traffic for them. Do you know another streaming source, or do you by any chance know where there might be some SRT files? I keep recommending this show, but most folks want to have the subs before they watch it.