Monday, November 30, 2009

Hello Japan November Challenge

The Challenge for this month was to eat Japanese food. Since I eat japanese food all the time and love it, I wanted to do a more in-depth response to the challenge in keeping with the spirit of learning more about Japan. So I looked on my cookbook shelf for a book of Japanese recipes. I wanted something that I had never tried before, something outside my normal realm of taste and something that was in English. (I have tons of Japanese recipe books that are all in Japanese - I keep saying that I'm going to learn Japanese just to read these cookbooks!)

I came across a cookbook that I'd had for about a year and never cooked from. My mother had taken me on a trip to Denver and we had eaten at a fabulous Japanese restaurant called 'Domo'. They had a cookbook for sale, written by the proprieter and apparently I was so effusive in my liking for the food that the author even signed the book for me! So when I saw it I was overcome with shame for not having done anything with it, but also with a great desire to cook from it. But first I had to read it!

It's full of incredible amounts of information about traditional Japanese foods, cooking methods and food history. Reading it filled me with the joy of the geek who loves to know weird historical tidbits like the fact that tofu was originally a food reserved for nobles! But then it took me a long time to decide exactly what I wanted to cook. And then I kept changing my mind. Finally an idea hit me: I'd never eaten a Japanese breakfast so I should pick recipes from the breakfast section.

And then...I hit a stumbling block. I am more of a hidebound American than I thought because I suddenly kept putting off the actual cooking. Why, you ask? Because traditional Japanese breakfasts include things like vegetables and soy sauce, things I considered delicious for lunch and dinner but not so much for breakfast where I am fond of sweet, buttery foods. Notice the date that I am writing this - the very last day of the challenge - I was procrastinating! But this morning I folded up my sleeves, put on my apron and committed to a Japanese breakfast.

My breakfast bento was very easy to prepare and though I was initially reluctant, by the time I had finished cooking and gotten all the food in the box I was ravenous. I managed to wait long enough to take pictures of the bento and then armed with my trusty red shoyu pig and my chopsticks, I ate it all. Every bite. In record time. Even - and this is amazing - the cauliflower, which I usually hate. In fact, I only included the cauliflower in the menu because I was partly convinced I was going to not like the whole thing anyway so why not use a vegetable I despise. (I must note here that the only reason I had fresh cauliflower in the house was because at our grocery trip last week my daughter asked me "what is that? I want to try it." and I was so very proud of the fact that I didn't say "Eww, it's yucky, no way." but instead bought and cooked it and let her make her own conclusions. She likes it. Go figure!)

I am amazed at how much I really did like it. It tasted wonderful and I will be happy to have it again for breakfast! My bento was not completely traditional since I added a few items that made it more bento-ish. The traditional breakfast includes: Okayu: rice porridge, tsukemono: pickles, ohitashi: boiled vegetables, daizu seihin: soybean products, yakimono: grilled or broiled dishes and jobina: pre-prepared side dishes. The last 4 items are side dishes that you choose from, not include all in one meal.

Instead of okayu I used a rice ball because it's a bento :) For the pickles I chopped some gari and placed it on top of my soybean product which was yaki dofu. I chose carrots, snap peas and cauliflower for the ohitashi. The vegetables and tofu are supposed to be dipped in shoyu (soy sauce) and for that I had my soy sauce piggy. The tomato flower is completely out of place in a traditional breakfast, but I wanted to do something more pretty :)

The recipes were from the book "The Folk Art of Japanese Country Cooking" by Gaku Homma.

1 comment:

tanabata said...

I'm so impressed you tried something a little outside your usual preference. Thanks for taking the spirit of the challenge to heart. :)