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Tuna, I hardly know’a

February 3, 2016

IMG_2022I have been thinking about going through my Damn Good Food cookbook and recreating some of the recipes using ingredients I can find here in Tokyo. I decided I would start off easy and just make some mustard using local rice wine vinegar, but then I went to the grocery store and my plans changed. Read more…

This Sucks.

December 19, 2015

SONY DSCThere is a man who I think about almost every day without even realizing it. When I head into my kitchen to cook dinner it’s his voice in my head that guides me to use real lemon juice instead of that fake bottled crap, to add a little more cream or butter, to try creating my own dishes, and in general to just not “Fuck it up” while I am cooking. His name is in the original title of this blog and I just found out he is no longer with us.

Five years ago I started a project to cook all the recipes in Damn Good Food because I liked the food. As I read each recipe and the all the stories about Hell’s Kitchen and about Mitch Omer I started to feel that I knew him a little bit. Then I was lucky enough to get to know him for real and he was just as energetic and chaotic as I had pictured him. He was also generous and friendly. He was generous with gifts (of food usually) and with his advice on cooking. Mitch was good people and I doubt very much I will cross paths with anyone else like him ever again.

Goodbybe, Mitch. You will be missed.

 

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

November 19, 2015

Today in my Japanese class we focused on telling the time. It was a lot of numbers and some very thoughtful expressions as we went around the room and asked each person, “Anata no kuni wa ima nanji desuka?(What time is it now in your country?).” The gentleman from Canada tried to get specific and let us know what time it was in Toronto, but I kept my answer short and just answered without giving a specific city or time zone (not that I would know how to say “time zone” in Japanese).

As we learned the different minutes and then the words for a.m. and p.m. the group sort of collectively stumbled upon a tongue twister. Gozen is a.m. and gogo is p.m.. The number five is go. One of the example times was 5:55 .pm. Which gives us:

gogo goji gojyuugofun gojyuugobyou

The last part is 55 seconds. The lesson today wasn’t supposed to cover the word for seconds, but we asked about it so we could make it even harder to say. Try saying it five times fast.

Some new takeaways for me were the word for noon, shougo, and adding the phrases asano, hiruno, or yoruno (in the morning, during the day, at night) to a time. Yoruno kuji would be 9 o’clock at night and another way to say noon is hiruno jyuuniji.

Aji Furai

November 13, 2015

IMG_0506As promised I am going to recreate all of the recipes from my class at Yuka’s Japanese Cooking. Shortly after the class I made the same meal again, but I am going to make each dish again and write it up with pictures.

Except I might not make the Fried Horse Mackerel again in the near future. For a few reasons; it seems to be seasonal, it was a little expensive, and deep frying really messes up the kitchen. Fear not – I took good pictures of the fish when I cooked it last week.

There isn’t any secret recipe to having this dish be delicious. You dredge the fish fillets through flour, egg and Panko bread crumbs, maybe add some salt and pepper, and deep fry the fillets until they are golden brown.

These simple ingredients create something delicious, but I think the fresh fish probably takes it up a notch and I never would have tried this if Yuka hadn’t shown us how to fillet the mackerel. She gave us cut by cut directions and during the class my fillets were pretty pathetic, but after cutting up the four fish I bought I think I finally got the hang of it.

I was a little worried about the cook time for the fish because the directions are things like “until brown” and “heat all the way through,” but because I only had to focus on the fish (everything else was already prepared) it was easy to see when they were done. I pulled them out of the frying pan when they were golden on both sides. When we cooked the fish for the class there were still several small bones in the fish and my fillets where the same. After the frying I couldn’t even tell they were in there and they are a great source of calcium. Michael pulled a couple of tiny bones from his portion, but I think he was looking for a reason not to enjoy it – fish is not his favorite. It seems a little wasteful, but the middle part of the fish just gets tossed in this recipe. I suppose I could have made fish stock, but that only occurs to me in retrospect. Yuka-san told us that she will sometimes fry the middle part and then just nibble around the bones as a snack.

Hmm…Now that I am looking at the pictures of the finished product maybe I will have to make this again soon.

What and Who

November 12, 2015

This has been a very busy week. Kira is in Kyoto with her students, my friends Chris and Carrie are visiting, I have a lot of work at my job to get done, and it is the first week with two Japanese lessons.

Today in class we added a lot of new vocabulary including one word that I think I have “learned” about 5 times. For some reason I can never remember the word for bag – kaban. Hopefully by typing it here it will stick. The phrase that I really learned today wasn’t really in the curriculum. The first lesson of the day was learning the word for what – nan. The sensei would pick up an item and ask us, “kore wa nan desu ka?” (what is this?) She then had people come up and do the same thing. Each time she would point at a person and say “Kitte kudasai.” She never translated this for us, but by the end of the class everyone knew it meant, “Please come here.” In addition to these two phrases we learned the words for about 30 nouns as each new item got picked up, including a kaban.

After we finished with What? we moved on to Who?

To practice the question “Who?” the sensei would hold up a picture of someone and ask “Dare?”. I list for you now the five people that she showed us assuming they would be instantly recognizable to our very international group.

  • Barack Obama
  • Albert Einstein
  • Will Smith
  • Steve Jobs
  • Vladimir Putin

She also taught us the example in the textbook, to ask us who is on the ¥1000 note. None of us knew, but she wrote it up on the board and explained that he was the famous doctor, Hideyo Noguchi.

Which worked well to transition us to a lesson on counting money. I have the numbers down fairly well, but I still stumbled when reading aloud things like 587 or 13849 because I have to think of each part separately. One interesting thing about this lesson was that we started giving each other random numbers and it was at this point the sessei told us that 4 yen is yoen and not yonen, because the latter just doesn’t sound right.

How Old?

November 10, 2015

Sometime last year Microsoft created a website called How-old.net to showcase its machine learning tools. the premise is that you upload a picture of your self and the programming behind the site can analyze it and guess your age. It is freakishly accurate while still offering some hilariously wrong answers because it doesn’t care when it is wrong or by how much. After today’s Japanese lesson I can now answer the same question as How-old.net, but in Japanese.

If you have studied Japanese a bit then you might be aware that there are different counters for everything. Days of the month have their own counters, small animals, flat objects, round objects, and these are all different from the numbers used just for counting. There are some patterns and the kanji for the numbers remains constant, but I don’t think I will ever remember all of them. Today I learned the numbers used for “years old.” They are pretty straight forward with only a few exceptions from the counting number. The suffix for years old is ~sai. Here are the words for 1-10 to tell someone how old you are.

  1. issai
  2. nisai
  3. sansai
  4. yonsai
  5. gosai
  6. rokusai
  7. nanasai
  8. hassai
  9. kyuusai
  10. jussai

They work like the counting numbers in that to get 13 you just say the number for 10 and then 3 (jyuu sansai) or for 28 it is two then 10 and then 8 (ni jyuu hassai).

There is one more exception that I will be able to remember because it applies to my oldest daughter. The word used for 20 years old is hatachi. Twenty is the age of adulthood in Japan so it gets a special word.

The Demise of the Rusty Trombone

November 9, 2015

This week we have our first non-family visitors from the United States. My good friends Chris and Carrie decided to spend some airline miles and visit one of Chris’s favorite cities, Tokyo. I’ve known Chris for a long time and he is no stranger to this blog. We’ve enjoyed several good meals together over the years and I was looking forward to showing him some of the things I have found and some of the things I want to try while he and Carrie are here.

Chris is also very familiar with my great butter chicken quest and in fact he is responsible for the Butter Chicken Battle. His trip to Moti’s, on my recommendation, in 2009 kicked off my search for recreating their signature dish. Which made our joint trip to Moti this past Saturday, six years after his first trip, a momentous occasion. Chris and I both ordered the butter chicken and would do so again tomorrow.

Our original plan after Moti’s was to meet Will and Chika at our new place, the Rusty Trombone. We’ve met there three times since arriving in August and we were making a conscious effort to make it our place. The Rusty Trombone is a wine bar that plays jazz music in Omotesando. Or at least it was. When we arrived last night the one room bar had been gutted and we could see workmen remodeling everything through the open door.

Distraught by losing one of our few landmarks we rallied by going to the neighborhood pizza joint. The pizzas looked interesting, but we were still full of butter chicken so we just had some drinks and conversation. The pizza place was nice enough, but it didn’t quite have enough character so we left in search of something more interesting. We walked over to a British pub down the street, went in and then back out again after seeing the crowds of rugby fans. Just downstairs from the pub was an izakaya (japanese tavern) named Toan that specializes in fresh tofu.

TuoanTofu

We had definitely found something more interesting. We dithered a bit on what drinks to order but we all quickly agreed to try the tofu. It came in two large cakes and we could spoon some into out bowl and then add various flavors. I tried each one expect the very fishy smelling topping. I think Chris was the only one brave enough to give that one a taste. The tofu was interesting and probably the healthiest bar food I have ever eaten, but even with all the different toppings it was a little bland. To wash it down I kept things simple and ordered a beer, but Will won the drink lottery with his sake order. They brought the bottle over and poured it into a large cup that had a spout draining into a smaller cup from him to drink from. the waiter poured exactly enough that it filled the smaller cup to the brim as he was filling the larger cup. We were all impressed.

 

 

 

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