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I’m in 7th Grade and Looking for Ideas for an Authentic Japanese Dish for a School Project

Indium Jan 8, 2013 04:26 PM

Hey, chowhounds! I’m doing a school project for my seventh grade history class. I need an authentic and traditional Japanese recipe. I want it to be something that is not common, to be different than everybody else. It should probably photograph well, since I need to take pictures along the way. I don’t have to serve it to my class, so it doesn’t need to taste good to 7th graders. I would love some ideas. Please respond quickly, because my deadline is approaching.

Thank you! ☺

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  1. w
    wyogal RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 04:32 PM

    Do you have to actually bring the food, or just the pictures?

    1 Reply
    1. re: wyogal
      Indium RE: wyogal Jan 8, 2013 04:32 PM

      just the pictures

    2. juliejulez RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 04:42 PM

      I did something very similar in 9th grade :) We made a full japanese dinner for an English class. It was a awhile back and it was a group thing so I don't remember all of the dishes that our group made, but the one dish I do recall was miso soup. It's very easy to make and should photograph well, especially if it's in a white bowl. Here's a good recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

      Also since that doesn't have a photo, here's a recipe with a photo: http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/lemony...

      1. mebby RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 04:42 PM

        FYI, this is my daughter's post -- and she's super excited for her first Chowhound post!

        For perspective, there are a bunch of Asian kids in her class (mostly Korean), so the usual suspects will probably be taken (so no sushi or teriyaki). We live in L.A., so have access to good Asian markets, but no experience with making Japanese food. I was thinking of the rolled omelet (forgetting the name at the moment), as it would have good presentation value and photos along the way, but have never made, so please bring on additional ideas.

        Thank you in advance for helping my Chowpup along to success!

        1 Reply
        1. re: mebby
          gimlis1mum RE: mebby Jan 9, 2013 10:23 AM

          There is a nice how-to video for making this omelette on the Just One Cookbook website:

          There are so many good ideas here already...if your daughter is having a hard time picking just one recipe, it migh help for her to look at photos & decide what she'd like to try. Just One Cookbook and Just Bento have beautifl photos.

        2. Indium RE: fourunder Jan 8, 2013 05:18 PM

          i am 11 and i am in seventh grade and my mom is really strict about this kind of thing. i really wanted to have my own chowhound account anyway.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Indium
            eepi RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 06:18 PM

            Welcome to Chowhound! I found a really cool idea - are you familiar with Doraemon? You can check it out on Wikipedia - and have your mom okay it first - it's an iconic manga which should be completely appropriate for 7th grade. And the reason I bring it up - I found a recipe for Dorayaki, which is Doraemon's favorite food!


            If you tie the manga in with the presentation, yours will most likely be the favorite of the entire class.

            Good luck & I'd love to see the photo series when you're done!

            1. re: eepi
              tcamp RE: eepi Jan 9, 2013 05:56 AM

              Super cute.

            2. re: Indium
              mebby RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 10:03 PM

              FYI, this was in reply to someone who questioned whether she was really 11 or whether or her mom was doing her homework for her -- apparently got flagged and deleted.

            3. b
              Booklegger451 RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 04:54 PM


              You might consider oden soup. Oden is a traditional Japanese winter soup of dashi (a type of broth) and a variety of fish cakes and other inclusions. Because of the variety of fairly large ingredients, it's a very visually appealing dish, and it would be very traditionally served at this time of year, commonly from little street vendors and tiny shops.

              A quick Google search will turn up plenty of pictures and recipes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Booklegger451
                tcamp RE: Booklegger451 Jan 9, 2013 05:52 AM

                I second this idea. There was just an article in my paper about oden and I made it over new years. Easy and delicious. Make the shrimp balls - they are fun.


              2. b
                baystater RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 05:13 PM

                Japanese breads are different and not too hard to make. Japanese breads tend to be seasonal. Melonpan is popular this time of year.

                Here's a recipe for it: http://www.lerman.biz/asagao/melonpan... and here is a and a link to photos of it: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/08/...
                and a video showing how to make it:

                I think that there are a few ways to make it - in this case, it seems like the appearance is almost the most important part.

                1. b
                  baystater RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 05:50 PM

                  Another thought would be to make onigiri, which are rice balls. You can either stuff them with something, such as tuna fish or leave them plain. Here's a recipe: http://www.justhungry.com/2007/01/oni...

                  Be sure to use sushi rice, so it holds well.

                  Bento boxes are also fun. Here's a link: http://justbento.com/handbook/bento-b...

                  and here's another with some cool photos of children's bentos: http://www.aibento.net/2009/02/an-onl...

                  1. fmed RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 06:19 PM

                    Kabocha nimono http://www.lafujimama.com/2011/11/sim...

                    It photographs well and is very easy to make. When cooking it you will learn all about natural sources of umami that the Japanese use - eg konbu (kelp), katsuobushi (dried tuna).

                    1. g
                      greymalkin RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 07:18 PM

                      What a fun project! Lots of great suggestions, I second the dorayaki and onigiri, I was going to suggest those too.

                      Other ideas:

                      Make a Bento! Even if someone else makes one, yours will look different and it will photograph beautifully. You can make them as fancy as you like and you don't have to get a special bento container, any storage container will do. You can just take the photos from above and no one will even see the container.
                      Here's a selection of recipes which should be relatively simple and look very pretty together with contrasting colors and textures, but you can really pick anything you like.
                      Here's a photo of what it could look like
                      Green veggie rice (or just make rice and sprinkle furikake or sesame seeds on it
                      Apple bunnies
                      Tamagoyaki (the rolled egg omelet that your mom mentioned
                      Quick cucumber pickles (you can leave out the dashi, wakame, and chili and probably make a half-recipe so you don't have 4 cups of pickles
                      If you want more resources, this site (justbento.com) is great and so is her cookbook.

                      Udon or soba noodle soup
                      Taking advantage of the fact that you don't have to take the actual dish in. This can photograph well if you add various toppings like pink kamaboko, green snowpeas, carrots and other colorful things. You can use chicken broth if you can't find dashi, it will look similar in photos and taste good (if different) still.

                      Moffles (if you have a waffle iron
                      )Very very easy especially since there will be lots of mochi in stores at this time of year.

                      Best of luck on your project!

                      1. BigSal RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 07:45 PM

                        What a fun project! Some great ideas so far. Some other ideas are oyakodon (rice bowl topped with chicken and egg), gyudon (rice bowl topped with beef), nikujaga (very homey meat and potatoes dish), tonkatsu (deep-fried panko breaded pork chop) or okonomiyaki (savory pancake of sorts made with seafood/meat). Gambatte kudasai!

                        1. paulj RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 07:54 PM

                          There are some great Japanese cooking videos on Youtube
                          Cooking with dog

                          1. g
                            Gingerbaker RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 08:09 PM

                            What about Gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings. You can make them with Pre-made wonton wrappers and they aren't that difficult. They are extremely tasty as well!

                            1. mebby RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 10:01 PM

                              [OP's mom posing as OP]

                              So, the mods deleted my daughter's account (she needs to be 13 apparently) and she can't personally reply, but she wanted to thank all of you for the great ideas! She has already looked at a bunch of links and has so many more ideas than I had for her, so thank you from me as well.

                              She can't wait until 13 months from now when she's 13 y.o. and can rejoin Chowhound and is really excited that they're reserving her user name. Thank you for showing her what a cool and generous group of people the Chowhounds are.

                              And if you have any additional thoughts, please bring them on, as I (and she) will continue to monitor this post -- thank you in advance!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: mebby
                                youareabunny RE: mebby Jan 8, 2013 10:09 PM

                                Make Melonpan :)

                                1. re: mebby
                                  Rodzilla RE: mebby Jan 8, 2013 11:40 PM

                                  I see you're in Los Angeles, so there's no shortage of Asian markets where you can find ingredients.

                                  I'm imagining the most fun for a 7th grade class would be the more "bizarre" options.

                                  My first thought is fried amaebi heads - you could assist, but it's relatively simple.

                                  If that's too extreme, I would go for Okonomiyaki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okonomiyaki

                                  you could also do a variety of yakitori skewers with variety cuts - cartilage, liver, heart, etc.

                                  1. re: Rodzilla
                                    Gio RE: Rodzilla Jan 9, 2013 06:33 AM

                                    I was going to recommend Okonomiyaki, sometimes called the Japanese Pizza. as well. It's really easy to make and tastes delicious too. I link a site that has a choice of recipes w/photos that I make although there are many recipes on the web. You will have to buy a few special ingredients but I think you probably know that. Good luck with your project whatever you choose to make!


                                    1. re: Gio
                                      paulj RE: Gio Jan 9, 2013 09:33 AM

                                      Okonomiyaki is fun and visually appealing (with the pattern of mayo and sauce), but I don't think it is very traditional. It's authentically Japanese, but looks more like a modern development.

                                2. d
                                  darrentran87 RE: Indium Jan 8, 2013 11:23 PM

                                  A bento box?


                                  Watch CookingForDog's video on it. It's beautiful... I would image a great idea for a middle school class.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: darrentran87
                                    tcamp RE: darrentran87 Jan 9, 2013 05:53 AM

                                    Cooking WITH dog! It would take me a long time to train either dog to sit there quietly like the video dog does. Mine would be all over the food.

                                    1. re: darrentran87
                                      JungMann RE: darrentran87 Jan 9, 2013 07:28 AM

                                      A bento box, specifically kyaraben, was my idea as well. Japanese mothers go to great lengths to shape onigiri to resemble pandas munching on hot dog bamboo shoots or model sausages after flying fish. It is a great way to get creative.

                                    2. hill food RE: Indium Jan 9, 2013 12:23 AM

                                      tell Indium we'll still be here when she gets back.

                                      heh - she could cheat, go to a restaurant supply store and just buy the plastic replicas and photograph those. (sorry couldn't help myself)

                                      1. KaimukiMan RE: Indium Jan 9, 2013 12:44 AM


                                        so many good ideas. i think a plate of maki sushi like the pic below would be great. the ingredients are simple but classic japanese, and while some skill is needed, it's more about patience than in depth skills. It is also something your daughter can do largely by herself, with just some oversight from mom. Getting the texture of the rice correct, and a few mistakes with rolling the bamboo mat to get them tight. Really a lot like learning to roll out pie crust - its going to be a mess the first couple of times (but still edible) and suddenly it falls into place.

                                        Best of luck whatever the two of you end up doing. Hope you share the pics!

                                        post edit ad: if you can't find a sushi mat i've seen it done with a piece of flexible plastic, and even a piece of cardboard once.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: KaimukiMan
                                          melpy RE: KaimukiMan Jan 9, 2013 08:13 AM


                                          I think you have me confused with Mebby, mom of the OP. ;)


                                          1. re: melpy
                                            KaimukiMan RE: melpy Jan 10, 2013 12:01 PM

                                            gomen nasai
                                            i'll blame it on auto correct rather than not having my glasses handy

                                        2. pikawicca RE: Indium Jan 9, 2013 07:48 AM

                                          I would go with Zaru Soba. It's a very pretty dish, especially if served on the appropriate tray, which you should easily be able to find in LA.

                                          1. g
                                            Grunde RE: Indium Jan 9, 2013 10:16 AM

                                            Google "natto" and copy the grossest picture. You can't go wrong. Fermented soy beans. Very healthy of course, but it's safe to say it's an aquired taste.

                                            1. b
                                              Brandon Nelson RE: Indium Jan 9, 2013 11:00 AM

                                              Udon and soba have been mentioned but they are worth repeating.

                                              Either one will be easy to get in in LA and their cultural importance is near as big as rice. Soba is a very typical breakfast in Japan. Youtube will probably have some videos of a master noodle maker turning the out and cutting them as well.

                                              1. Rodzilla RE: Indium Jan 10, 2013 12:26 AM

                                                seems that many are forgetting this "I want it to be something that is not common, to be different than everybody else"

                                                everyone will be doing soba/udon/maki

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Rodzilla
                                                  hill food RE: Rodzilla Jan 10, 2013 01:11 AM

                                                  well we can't expect the artistry of fugu masters as portrayed in the Nat Geo of 8/1984 vol. 166, no. 2, pg. 265.

                                                  looks exquisite, no?

                                                  1. re: hill food
                                                    Rodzilla RE: hill food Jan 10, 2013 06:20 AM

                                                    lol, my first thought was shirako but it might be a bit hard to find.

                                                    1. re: Rodzilla
                                                      mebby RE: Rodzilla Jan 10, 2013 07:50 AM

                                                      Yeah, being a 7th grade girl who even finds plant genetics awkward ("Do you even know what happens inside a flower?!" she says), I'm pretty sure she's going to go thumbs down on that, but I got a pretty good laugh out of it!

                                                      And that photo is gorgeous Hill Food -- thank you for sharing.

                                                2. r
                                                  RichardBreadcrumb RE: Indium Jan 10, 2013 07:56 AM


                                                  This is a web cooking program where they instruct to make traditional Japanese home cooking style dishes. (Cooking with Dog in the title does not mean what you think it means, it's just a joke)


                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: RichardBreadcrumb
                                                    ricepad RE: RichardBreadcrumb Jan 10, 2013 11:30 AM

                                                    It is NOT a joke! The dog (Francis) is the host!

                                                  2. b
                                                    baby_tran RE: Indium Jan 10, 2013 08:47 AM

                                                    How bout mochi made in the microwave?

                                                    Not sure of the official name but those mini pancakes sandwiched with red bean paste...

                                                    1. h
                                                      HillJ RE: Indium Jan 10, 2013 02:16 PM


                                                      Some of the photo/recipe sites like Tastespotting are excellent resources and you can already see what the dish should look like beforehand. Good luck!

                                                      1. j
                                                        JonDough RE: Indium Jan 10, 2013 02:30 PM

                                                        Ramen or tempura? I like the idea of doing a bento box. I am sure you can find a very cool looking box to feature your food.

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