October 2017 Homecooking Snapshots: Cauli-Niku-Jaga, Mushroom Rice and Oden

Cauli-Niku-Jaga (my take on Niku-Jaga)


Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to your own and loved ones’ dietary needs, and the most important ingredients, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

One pot suppers season is back in full swing!!

If you have been following my Instagram account you probably notice my claypot has been making a few appearances in my feed since late September…

This month is all about Japanese comfort foods: Matsutake-Chanterelle mushroom rice, Japanese Oden stew and my take on the popular homestyle dish Niku-jaga, which literally means “Meat and potatoes” – I named my dish Cauli-Niku-Jaga (see picture above).

The cooking method for the “jaga” is exactly the same as the making of a regular Niku-jaga with a couple minor tweaks: barley fed pork belly slices were used instead of beef, the addition of two vegetable component : edamame beans and cauliflower florets were added (1-1 cauliflower-potato ratio and about 1 cup of beans);  I have also changed things up a little with the meat stewing process.  To soften meat I usually use orange juice, the usage of sugar to soften the texture of the meat is a more suitable and great tip from Chef Masa from Masa’s ABC Cooking.

Ingredients and Preparation (2-4 people): (Part of Recipe adapted from Masa’s ABC Cooking)

200 grams of thinly sliced pork belly (Sliced in half, marinade in 1 teaspoon of coconut palm sugar(*my preference only) and 1 Tablespoon of sake for 15 to 20 minutes, set aside)

Prepare all the vegetables: 1 onion (medium size, sliced), 4 potatoes (I’ve used medium size creamer potatoes (usually russets are used) – quartered, edges slightly”peeled”*to prevent breaking up while cooking, in Japanese the method is called “mentori”, then soaked in water for 10-15 minutes, drained), cauliflower (florets – about 1 1/2 cups (to your liking, chopped about same size as carrot), 2 medium carrot (peeled and chopped in rolling wedges, size slightly smaller than potatoes because it takes longer to cook),  1 package of shirataki noodles (blanched, rinsed and drained), 1 cup of edamame beans (frozen and shelled – blanched then shocked in cold water, drained and set aside)

Prepare the dashi stock (recipe in my archives or you can use water) – 700 to 800 ml  (I usually make extra just in case I need more, it not available, just use water).

Measure the seasoning: 3-4 Tablespoons Tamari or organic low sodium soy sauce (*can be substituted with regular soy), 3-4 Tablespoons sake, 2 Tablespoons of Mirin, 1 Tablespoon coconut brown sugar (**can be substituted; this is my preference)

Cooking Process all in one:

Over medium high heat, use a large pan (a braiser would be excellent, I used a Japanese donabe) and add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (something neutral of your choice –  canola or grape seed oil), saute the pork slices until slightly browned, removed from pan and set aside.

Add slice onions and carrots, saute until they slightly browned.

Add potatoes to the pan, gently mix well with onion and carrots, then add the drained shirataki noodles, continue to saute, make sure the shirataki noodles do not lump together and do not mash the potatoes.

Add dashi stock to pan; make sure you have enough stock to cover all ingredients

Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and skim off the scum.  Add seasoning to pan, stir and mix well.  Cover the lid and let ingredients cook for approximately 6 minutes.

Remove the lid then add pork slices, make sure the slices are evenly distributed, then sprinkle the cooked edamame beans. When meat is cooked, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.   Remove from heat and let it stand for while before serving, the ingredients will absorb the flavours!

***Note: This is the step which I have tweaked to keep the meat tender.  You can watch his original video for his method and wonderful cooking tips (Masa ABC cooking on YouTube )

If you want a thicker sauce, you can turn up the heat and the sauce will reduce if you cook it a little longer.

For this dish the most difficult part would be balancing the sweetness and saltiness; just keep tweaking and you will find the balance to your liking, remember it also depends on what kind of sweetener you are using.  Do not make it overly sweet!

My sources in Vancouver for ingredients: Nikuya Meats (for the pork slices, in Richmond BC),  Sakura-ya (517 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC) and Whole Foods (various locations – for Delta’s Fraserland Farms Creamer potatoes).


You know Fall is here when matsutake mushroom (Japanese pine mushroom) becomes available; this year I changed things up a bit and added chanterelle mushrooms, and voila it really works.  Remember back in August 2016 I recommended Food Video Channel (in Mandarin Chinese) on YouTube (also on Wechat, Weibo) ?  Well the chanterelle mushroom mix idea is also from one the videos I watched on that channel, apparently somewhere in Yunnan province chanterelle mushrooms are also available and they usually saute them together with Chinese ham.

It is very difficult to purchase high quality cured ham here in Vancouver; last Fall I experimented with Italian cured pork jowl “guanciale” and lay them underneath the rice, then topped with sliced (torn actually) matsutake (doused with little sake earlier) and the kombu (kelp from the dashi making).  When rice is almost cooked (with approximately 10 minutes remaining), I used organic unsalted  butter to saute the remaining mushrooms then add to the rice cooker and let everything finish cooking together.   It worked beautifully and my family totally loved it.

This year I added the chanterelle mushrooms (thanks to a trip to Vancouver Farmer’s Market I got the fresh chanterelle) to cook with everything else initially in the rice cooker, repeat the same organic butter saute finishing process.  The chanterelle mushrooms were quite difficult to clean, however it added another depth of flavor to the rice and the results were beyond my own expectations.

Because the mushrooms are quite expensive, I use them sparingly.  For 3 cups of rice (I used Haiga rice), I use approximately 1/2 to 1 lb of mushrooms (depends on budget, grade and availability).

I used the rice cooker for convenience because my Zojirushi has the “Mixed Rice” setting; the rice is also cooked in homemade dashi, with the standard soy sauce, mirin and sake seasoning (3-2-1 ratio which works very well – always adjust according to your own taste).

My “hybrid” version (that’s what my friend “mydoctorgreen” called it) tries to retain the nuance of the original concept, keeping things simple without over-seasoning, just adding another layer of flavor to enhance and showcase the star ingredient, the matsutake.  The chanterelle also did not overpower and they co-existed together harmoniously.

Important notes: Remember the guanciale is a little salty so factor that in when tasting.   The rice should be cleaned and soaked prior to cooking; because you are adding mushroom, reduce the water (my experience at least 1/4 less liquid) and the guanciale should be removed before serving.  This mushroom rice simple recipe should work well with shimeji and maitake mushrooms also, be adventurous and experiment.

It tastes as good as it looks (OO).

My source for Matsutake mushroom in Vancouver: Fujiya Japanese Food Store on Clark Drive (East Vancouver).


Japanese Oden with Umeboshi flavoring – Recipe adapted from Masa’s ABC Cooking

My Japanese friends taught me how to make oden a long time ago without any specific recipe; just like any regular home cook/hobby chef, sometimes we just make something “on the fly” based on our existing knowledge.  When I try to make a new dish, I like to research a few recipes, apply my own skills and tweak things to our tastes, hence the creation of “hybrid” food (like my cauli-niku-jaga).

I don’t get to make oden very often at home because my husband somehow must have experienced a childhood episode which may have scarred him for life, he finds the idea of having oden repulsive.    Well that being said, I would cook it for myself when he happens to be away on business trips (Ha ><). The most recent creation happened a couple weekends ago when my friends came over for a gathering.

Recently I have been watching Chef Masa’s channel quite a lot; been busy comparing and tweaking my own recipes, learning new tips and applying new techniques.  Changes are also made according to our preference and dietary needs!  The more I study about cooking, the more I love it.

This is what I truly love to do during my down time at home.

I highly recommend you to watch his original video for wonderful cooking tips and methods.

This dish is really great for cold weather and the recipe is good for 2 people, be sure to try it out this winter!

Ingredients and Preparation for Soup base: 500 ml homemade dashi, 2 Tablespoons Sake, 1-2 Tablespoon Mirin (I used 2), 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon tamari (*my preference, use regular soy and don’t add too much because it will darken the soup), 1 teaspoon sugar (**I used coconut palm sugar) and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  

Add all the above ingredients in this particular order to the claypot (Japanese donabe), taste and adjust accordingly.

Oden Ingredients and Preparation:

Japanese daikon radish (peeled skin, sliced approximately 4 cm thickness, then use small knife and smooth the edge of the daikon (Mentori method as mentioned and used for the potatoes in previous recipe) – mark an “X” cut in the middle (do not cut through completely), using medium heat, at radish slices to cold water, bring to boil and cook until soften.   While daikon is cooking, prepare the other ingredients.  Check on the daikon periodically, when cooked through and softened, remove from pot gently and set aside.

Enoki Mushroom: 1 small package, ends cut, set aside.

Napa Cabbage : a small one would do, washed, sliced to bite size, blanched, drained.  Lightly squeeze excess water when napa is cool enough to handle.

Japanese firm tofu (approximately half a box, 200 g – slice into squares.  Using medium heat, brush the pan lightly with vegetable oil, sear and brown all sides of the tofu lightly.  It is easier to handle by using a small pair of tongs.

Japanese konjac (konnyaku): 1 small package, cut into square pieces (approximately 2 cm thick),  lightly scored both sides (think Cuttlefish Chinese way, the konjac will absorb the flavor).  Then sliced into triangular pieces.  Parboil konjac in hot water to get rid of the “fishy” taste, set aside.

Kombu (kelp):  The cooked kelp from the dashi making can be added to the oden.  Rinse and lightly scrub off the “sliminess”  without breaking the kelp,  cut into trips and tie into a bow shape.

Chikuwa (tube like fish cake purchased at Japanese food store) stuffed with asparagus: 2 pieces of chikuwa and 2 -4 stalks of asparagus  (ends trimmed, blanched, shocked in ice (to keep color) and stuff inside chikuwa. If the asparagus stalks are really thin, you may need two for each chikuwa).  Slice each chikuwa into 3 pieces, place 3 pieces of chikuwa on each skewer.

Eggs (2 large eggs) – boiled and peeled, set aside.

Lay all ingredients nicely  and get ready to cook in the donabe which you have used to prepare the soup base earlier.

Using medium low heat, keep the soup base in a simmer and add 2 umeboshi (store bought pickled plums – removed the seed);  put the napa cabbage, daikon, cooked egg, konjac, tofu and kombu in this order.  Turn up to medium high heat, cover with lid and cook the ingredients for approximately 4-5 minutes.

Remove the lid (be careful as it will be very hot!), check the ingredients and if necessary, cover again and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the lid (again be careful) and gently add the chikuwa skewers and enoki mushrooms. cover again and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

The Delicious oden should be ready…once you open the lid,  steam will come through and you will see a nice bubbling action;  hear a “bub bub bub bub bub” bubbling sound…and smell a whiff of the pickled plums flavor….

**My Verdict: Chef Masa‘s idea of adding umeboshi to the soup base adds freshness and slight “tartness” which my friends and I enjoyed immensely.  This is such a wonderful idea which I am trying to work into other recipes.    Thank you Chef Masa for all your cooking tips!


In the video he made Japanese napa cabbage rolls; I didn’t want any meat in this dish so I did not replicate the recipe.  The cooking time will definitely be slightly longer if you include the cabbage rolls.  Other fish cakes (can be purchased at Japanese deli) and Mochi bags (kinchaku – mochi stuffed in fried tofu skin) are great oden ingredients.  I avoid eating processed foods so I may skip the chikuwa next time.

I have a bigger size donabe so I was able to cook more ingredients at the same time, and I prepared more dashi.

**Potatoes and Daikon have sharp edges which need to be removed before cooking, otherwise when the pieces cook together in the pot, they will start rubbing and it will cause breakage.  The method is called “mentori”.

My sources in Vancouver: Fujiya (Japanese food store on Clark Drive in East Vancouver), Sakura-ya (East Broadway and Fraser in East Vancouver).





September 2017 Homecooking Snapshots: Tomato Potato and Bean salad, Baked pork chop “rice” and Shiso Lemon Drink

Here are some of the dishes which I have been cooking at home in September!   Autumn is definitely my favourite cooking season (OO)

This month I am featuring three recipes which you may have seen on my Instagram account @mygoldenapron

Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to you and your loved ones dietary needs, and the most important ingredient, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

Italian style Tomato, Green beans and Potato Salad (Adapted from September 2016 edition of  Food and Wine)

I have adapted this simple and nutritious recipe from last September’s Food and Wine magazine; every six months when my dear friend James return from Italy to Canada for a visit, I always go through an Italian cooking phase!

Ingredients and preparation: You can change the produce according to seasonality; I find the balsamic vinaigrette works very well with savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts, so use your imagination and work with the flavours.

1/2 pound baby potatoes: In medium saucepan, covered with cold water and bring to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and simmer over medium low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool, then slice in half.

1/2 pound green beans (or any other colourful beans you can find at your local market) – trim the ends; bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add the beans and a pinch of sea salt and blanch until the beans are crisp yet tender, under 2 minutes.  Drain and transfer beans to ice bath to cool.  Drain again and dry thoroughly.

1 whole shallot – thinly sliced, you can use red onions or add more shallots

1 -2 ears of fresh corn: remove the husk (you can freeze and save it for later use to make vegetable broth) and silk, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add corn , cover the saucepan and return it to a boil.  Cook until corn is tender; drain and let cool. Place the corn on a clean cutting board, trim one end of the corn so it stands flat, use a knife to slice the kernels off the cob.

1 Tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh basil and 1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh parsley

1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved

In a large mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey (optional).  Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, corn, shallots and capers and toss gently.  Fold in the basil and parsley, season with salt and pepper.

*To increase our vegetable intake, I added some mixed greens to the dish.  When making a vinaigrette, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

A Healthier Baked Pork Chop “Rice” (with cauliflower, carrot, rice) with homemade tomato sauce with onions, red and green pepper:

Baked pork chop rice is one of my favorite childhood dish, I made a version of this Hong Kong style dish using boneless pork loin (from one of my favourite butcher shop Petes Meats crusted in toasted panko (panko precooked before breading the pork, method adapted from Ms. Namiko Chen’s Just One Cookbook method)

Prepare the Panko Crusted Pork:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (place oven rack on top).

I have chosen a good quality pork and pound it evenly, prepare the toasted panko (1 cup panko and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  (enough to coat two pork loins) – Combine the oil and panko in a frying pan, and toast the panko over medium heat, stir once in a while to ensure all panko bits are toasted until golden brown and evenly. Set aside and let cool down, keep 1 to 2 teaspoons aside and use as “sprinkle” when ready to bake the dish.

Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the pork loins.  Coat the pork loin one at a time: dip pork loin into beaten egg mixture, make sure you get rid of the excess egg mixture.

Using your dry hand, coat the loins with toasted panko.  Lightly brush the flakes to cover the pork loin, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly.  Place the coated pork loins on the baking sheet.  Baked the pork loins until 3/4 ways cooked through (approximately 8 – 9 minutes). Remove from the oven.

Prepare the cauliflower, carrot and rice combination: I do not have specific measurements for this recipe, however for the two of us, I have prepared one cup of cooked rice (I used Japanese Haiga rice), 1 cup of finely chopped cauliflower, 1 small carrot (finely chopped) – First I cooked the rice in the rice cooker, when it is ready, remove from rice cooker and let it cool (you can use “overnight rice”).  In a frying pan, add 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil), sautéed the cauliflower (you will need to add a little water otherwise it will burn, you will need to cover pan for a short time to “steam” and soften the cauliflower), add carrot when cauliflower is half-cooked, add the cooked rice and a pinch of sea salt (season to taste), mix “cauliflower rice” and rice very well, when vegetables are cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the Tomato sauce: You can use canned tomato sauce and add onions,  red and green pepper.  For my sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil to sautéed three medium size San Marzano tomatoes (I got from the Farmer’s Market, they are so flavorful: chopped and seeded), you can use more tomatoes if you want to make more sauce), 1/2 to 1 cup filtered water and a clove of finely chopped garlic. Using medium low heat,  cook the mixture until tomatoes are soft.  Turn off heat, working in small batches, spoon mixture into blender, remove the centre cap from the lid of the blender.  Cover the lid with a folded clean dishcloth and hold it down when you are blending.  Repeat until you are done.

Using the same sauce pan, add another 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to sautéed one chopped (bite size) onion until slightly caramelized. Add one chopped red pepper (thin sliced) and one chopped green pepper (thin sliced), cook for 1 minute, return puree tomato sauce to pan, mix well and using low heat, simmer until sauce is thickened  (20 to 25 minutes), season with sea salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Using an oven proof casserole or baking dish, spoon the “rice” in the bottom, then add a layer of the tomato and pepper sauce, place the panko crusted pork loin, then spoon more sauce and cover the pork loin, make sure you have some onions on top, and sprinkle the remaining toasted panko.  Baked in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or longer if you want the sauce to brown nicely, remember the pork loin must cook through.

***You can use the “broil” feature to really brown the sauce, cheese can be added to achieve a “bubbling” effect.

***The Extra Virgin Olive oil which I use for sauteed or stir fry dishes is suitable for everyday cooking usage.

Shiso Lemon Water: Recipe from YouTube “Food Video”

Pretty in Pink: Shiso Lemon Water

Since last year I started watching the “Food Video” channel on YouTube; this channel is based in Shanghai, China and feature some professional and home chefs.This channel is so much fun to watch: the videos are short and stylish; the cooking demonstrations and instructions are simple to understand.

Do you like shiso (perilla leaves)?  It is commonly used in Taiwanese and Japanese cooking, particularly used to flavor and pickled plums, and often it will appear on your sashimi order. If you have read my other posting (August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad Rolls with Cooking Buddies), my friend Phung has shown us to add shiso leaves to homemade salad rolls; I have also used shiso in my duck breast dish (September 2014 posting).

Shiso has its medicinal benefits and two recipes are featured on this video: the one I have tried is a very refreshing drink, a great digestive aid and helps to reduce the “dampness” (Chinese medicine term) in your body.  The flavor is very subtle and drizzle of honey is used to sweeten the drink.  When the lemon juice is added to the purple shiso water, it changes into a very pretty pink colour.

I have made this drink a few times and I really enjoyed it!  You only need three ingredients: fresh purple shiso leaves, lemon juice and a little honey (I used a drizzle of manuka honey).

Below is a translation of the recipe: 

In a large sauce pan, add 80 grams of chopped purple shiso leaves to 1 litre of filtered cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Set aside and let it cool.

Add 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, the shiso water will start to turn “pink”.

Add a drizzle of honey as sweetener.

You can drink as is or add ice / ice water if you prefer the drink to be slightly diluted.  Enjoy (OO)




RECIPE: WAFU Tomato Orzo Soup



Post holiday season “cleanse” at home with lots of soup and vegetables….I have used this tomato soup base for different dishes (seafood pot, hot-pot base, just to name a couple); today I add orzo and kale, it turns into a healthy wholesome meal… Enjoy (OO)!

Serves 2-4

Ingredients: 8 medium tomatoes (vine tomatoes for this recipe), 1 clove of garlic (peeled and finely minced), 1 large onion (thinly sliced), 2 Tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil, 4 cups of katsuobushi dashi, 1/2 cup of orzo (or pasta of your choice), 1-2 Tablespoon white miso, 2 Tablespoons of kaeshi (see recipe under “Vegetable Curry Udon), kosher salt (to season tomatoes for roasting), kale (handful, stalks removed and  finely chopped), savoury seaweed flakes (for garnish).


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Prepare the tomatoes: wash, core and cut them into halves, toss in 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, lightly seasoned with kosher salt, lay them evenly on baking tray, roast them for 25 to 35 minutes, or until caramelized.  Remove from oven, set aside and let them cool.
  • Prepare the onions (thinly sliced) and garlic (peeled and finely minced).
  • Prepare katsuobushi dashi broth (can be done 1 to 2 days ahead, reheat refrigerated broth and keep it warm for later use, use kombu broth only to make it entirely vegetarian).
  • In large pot, using medium high heat, heat remaining Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, saute onions, stirring constantly, until onions become soft and turn translucent. Add the 1 Tablespoon of miso to the onions, continue to cook, stirring constantly and mix well, do not burn the miso.
  • Add the roasted tomatoes to mixture, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add warm dashi broth and 2 Tablespoons of kaeshi to the pot, scrape the bottom, cook for 2 to 3 minutes and bring to a boil.  Skim off any fat or scum from the mixture, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes.
  • Prepare the kale for garnish.
  • When soup is almost ready, boil water in a different pot to cook the pasta (usually 100 grams of pasta to 1 litre of water), add kosher salt to boiling water,  then add the orzo and cook according to instructions.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning of the soup (if necessary), put orzo pasta into bowl, ladle the soup, garnish with chopped kale and seaweed flakes, now ready to serve and enjoy!


I have used the Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s orzo pasta for my recipe (available at Gourmet Warehouse on East Hastings, Vancouver, BC), the savory seaweed flakes is from Cornish Sea Salt Co (also available at Gourmet Warehouse).

See “Vegetable curry udon” for kaeshi recipe – I have used the kaeshi (instead of just soy sauce and mirin) which I made for the curry udon as seasoning; you can even add a dash of sake when cooking the onions and tomatoes, add red chili pepper flakes to make it spicy, be creative!

Katsuobushi dashi broth – made with kelp and dried bonito flakes

I added leftover cauliflower to the soup and use less orzo, it is always a great idea to have more vegetables.






RECIPE: Vegetable Curry Udon


A bowl of savory and mouth-watering curry noodle soup on a cold Vancouver winter day!

My recipe is loosely based and adapted from Japanese Soul Cooking (By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat), one of my great recent cookbook finds!  They use soba broth (it’s called kake soba broth) to enhance the flavor of curry;  I added turmeric (when sautéed the onions and vegetables), diced apple and fukujinzuke, commonly used to serve with Japanese curry rice, are used as garnish (in addition to green onion) to a hint of sweetness and add “crunch” to the dish, the end result is much more flavorful.  Leftover curry taste even better the next day, add more vegetables or meat then serve with rice as a donburi (you can always add crispy fried pork cutlet (tonkatsu),  or simply freeze it ready for use anytime for quick ready-to-go weeknight dinner; Enjoy (OO).

Serves 2-4:

Ingredients:  4 bricks of fresh-frozen sanuki udon, 1 large onion (thinly sliced), 1 small head of cauliflower (florets roughly chopped), 1 medium zucchini (diced), 4 small bunched carrots (peeled and chopped), 3 Tablespoons of ground turmeric, 1 Tablespoon of mirin, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 package (110g) Japanese curry roux (I used Glico Medium Premium),  6 cups of katsuobushi dashi, green scallions (white part only, thinly sliced on an angle), kosher salt (light seasoning when cooking vegetables).


To make the dish completely vegetarian, simply substitute the katsuobushi dashi with kombu dashi broth

For Meat Lovers: Thinly sliced pork or minced pork goes very well with the curry,  I used the a bit of ground ginger and apple, turmeric powder and kaeshi to marinade the pork (minced or thinly sliced) night before if I am adding protein to the curry.

You can use curry powder and potato starch instead of the instant curry roux.

Check out Ms. Namiko Chen’s  Just One Cookbook, she has a great pork curry udon recipe.

Here’s a picture of the fukujinzuke!


*Recipe for kaeshi (makes 2 1/2 cups) – from Japanese Soul Cooking

Prepare 2 to 3 days in advance this recipe : Add 2 cups Japanese soy sauce (I used only 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup katsuobushi dashi to make it less salty), 1/2 cup mirin, 3 Tablespoons sugar (I used coconut nectar instead, adjust the sweetness accordingly) – Add all ingredients into saucepan and bring to boil over high heat.  Turn off the heat and allow mixture to cool off to room temperature.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow the flavors time to mingle, store in glass bottle and refrigerate up to a month.

**In Japanese Soul Cooking – they prepare the kake soba broth (combining the kaeshi and dashi and a lot of mirin) ahead of time, I did not combine the katsuobushi dashi broth and kaeshi, I add them separately into the curry and use a lot less mirin.  Check out their book, it’s filled with wonderful recipes, thank you very much for your inspiration.


  • 2 to 3 days before – prepare kaeshi (see recipe above, refrigerate in glass container ready for use)
  • Prepare dashi broth (can be done 1 to 2 days ahead, refrigerate in glass container ready for use)
  • Prep all the vegetables
  • In a large saucepan, reheat the dashi broth (if you did not make from scratch the same day) and keep it warm
  • In a different large heavy pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil using medium high heat, add cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes, then add carrot (cook for another 2 minutes) and zucchini, lightly seasoned with kosher salt and 1 Tablespoon ground turmeric, saute in total 5 to 6 minutes then remove from pot, set aside.
  • In the same pot, heat another 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil (medium high heat), add sliced onion and 1 Tablespoon of mirin and saute, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, until onion becomes soft and turn translucent (I let it caramelize a little).  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons ground turmeric and cook, stirring constantly and mix well, be careful not to burn the turmeric!
  • Add the warm dashi broth and 1/2 cup of kaeshi to the pot , scrape the bottom of the pot,  cook for 2-3 minutes and bring to a boil.  Skim off any scum and fat from the broth.  Reduce heat then let the flavors mix and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, add the curry roux, using a strainer or chopsticks, melt the roux and blend nicely with broth mixture.
  • Turn on the heat to medium high, heat the curry, stir occasionally, making sure it will not stick and burnt on the bottom.  Using small fine mesh strainer, remove any scum.
  • Add cauliflower, carrot and zucchini mixture to curry, using medium low heat, let it simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, gently stir occasionally to prevent sticking and don’t break the vegetables.  Keep it warm using low heat (and it will not burn), taste the curry and add seasoning (using kaeshi) if necessary.
  • Prepare garnish – diced apples (squeeze a bit of lemon juice to prevent it from turning “brown”) and scallions
  • Meanwhile using a separate pot, boil water to cook the sanuki udon (according to instructions approximately 1 to 2 minutes) – I prepare each serving individually
  • Turn off the heat, put udon into bowl, ladle the curry over noodles, garnish with diced apples, scallions and fukujinzuke, now ready to serve and enjoy!
  • If you are adding ground or sliced pork to this dish, lightly saute the pork in the beginning and set it aside, add the meat last when vegetables are cooked, bring curry to boil and turn off heat immediately, the meat will cook through and remain juicy!

Where to shop for ingredients in Vancouver: Fujiya (Japanese groceries, fukujinzuke is available – 912 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC), Nikuya (11220 Voyageur Way, Richmond, BC – for sliced pork), T and T Supermarket (Various locations – for Sakura Farms ground pork), Japanese Soul Cooking (Available at Indigo, Amazon, I purchased mine from Crate and Barrel at Oakridge Centre).

RECIPE: Japanese Bonito Stock (Dashi)



Hi everyone, here’s the recipe which I’ve been using for a long time to make Japanese bonito stock, adapted from Practical Japanese Cooking by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata.  The recipe yields approximately 6.5 cups of stock.

Ingredients: 2 litres of cold water, 3 cups loose dried bonito flakes, Dried kelp (kombu) – 40 g (approximately 2 pieces 4″ x 5 )


1. Gently clean the surface of the kelp with a clean damp cloth.  Do not wash the kelp as flavor will be lost in the process.

2. Fill 5.5 quart stock pot with cold water, add kelp in stock pot and slowly bring to a boil over medium low to medium heat.  Skim the surface occasionally.

3. When fine bubbles begin to appear at the edges of the pot, remove the kelp from pot and press your thumbnail into the thickest part. If it enters easily, then the flavor has been properly released.  If kelp is still tough, return to pot for 1 to 2 minutes maximum.  Do not allow water to BOIL at all when kelp is in the pot.

4.Once kelp is removed and the water boils, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cold water, then add bonito flakes to the pot.

5. When stock returns to a boil, remove it from the heat and skim the surface.

6. When the bonito flakes sink to the bottom (takes 30 to a minute), use a strainer or sieve , strain the stock through a fine cheesecloth to clarify.  Do not wring the flakes.

7. The finished stock should be clear and free of any bonito flakes.

8. Let the stock cool before refrigerate.  Store in glass container (I use one of those large glass mason jars) for up to 7 days in refrigerator or you can freeze the stock (as cubes in ice tray or ziplock bags) in freezer up to 3 weeks.



Here’s a good reference!



RECIPE: Wafu Kabocha Soup (Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Seaweed)

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RRRRRR…It’s only mid-November yet it feels like we are already “deep” into the winter season; it might be chilly but I am not complaining as we have enjoyed some fine sunny days, which is quite unusual here in Vancouver…

So out come the Dutch oven and my Blender as Hearty Soup season is in full swing!

We don’t have kabocha very often in our household as it is not Andy’s favorite, I cooked it only once in a while for my own enjoyment, prepared either in Japanese (simmered in dashi and soy) or Chinese way (stewed with pork and soy).

I was so inspired by my friend Haruko’s creation; she made the most delicious and elegant version by keeping things simple, using fresh in-season ingredients (kabocha, onion, homemade chicken stock, milk)  and let them shine; I feel this is always the best way to cook.

I decided to incorporate my favourite “Wafu” style (yes again) into this recipe; the idea of the toasted nori came from Canadian food blogger “The First Mess”; she adapted the kabocha + chestnut soup recipe from Amy Chaplin’s cookbook ” At Home In the Whole Food Kitchen”, this cookbook is on my Christmas wishlist…any takers?? (OO)

Ingredients: (serves 2 – 4)

1 medium size kabocha, seeded, peeled, chopped into small cubes, 1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves (thinly sliced), 1 Tablespoon sake kasu (optional), 2 Tablespoon olive oil, 3 1/2 cups Japanese dashi broth*, 1 to 1 1/2 cups regular almond milk, 2 teaspoons Japanese mirin, 1-2 Tablespoons organic soy sauce, sea salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning to taste, nori seaweed (**optional, toasted for garnish). 


– Prepare the kabocha squash: sliced it open into two halves. Remove the seeds, then cut into thin wedges; remove the skin then cut them into small even pieces

– Prepare the onion: peel and slice thinly

– In a 4 quart pot reheat the dashi broth, bring to a boil, lower heat and keep it simmering (if you are using pre-packaged dashi powder, prepare the stock according to instructions on package)

– Using a different heavy pot, heat the olive oil using medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they become soft and golden (6-8 minutes), add the sliced garlic and saute until it becomes fragrant.

– Add the kabocha to the same pot, add 1 teaspoon mirin and gently mix all ingredients; add reheated dashi broth, 1 Tablespoon of sake kasu and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat (medium low) and simmer until kabocha is tender (you can use a fork to test the texture), approximately 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, skim off any scums.

– While soup is simmering, prepare the nori – remove from package, lightly brush them with olive oil/mirin (1:1 ratio) mixture. Using medium low heat, place seaweed on small fry pan and toast them lightly using dry heat. The seaweed should be toasted on both sides, be very careful not to overheat and burn them.  Set aside.

– Using an upright blender, working in small batches, process and puree the soup until smooth (be mindful to fill blender jar less than half way). To prevent the liquid from splattering, remember to allow heat to escape by removing the blender’s lid centre insert (cap), hold a kitchen towel over the top when blending.

– Return puree soup to stock pot, over low heat, stir in the almond milk slowly till mixture is combined, do not let the soup boil.

– Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

–  To serve: ladle soup in bowls and garnish with toasted nori.


Dashi is a fundamental ingredient to many Japanese dishes; it is used in miso soups, noodle soup, stews (oden) and sauces.

For your convenience, you can purchase the instant bonito stock packages which are readily available at Japanese food stores, and follow the instructions.

I choose to make my own awase dashi (basic stock) on a regular basis as I used it quite often as a substitute in many recipes. It is a combination of kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and I have been using the recipe from Practical Japanese Cooking (by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata) ; you can also find recipes available online.

You can substitute dashi broth with either vegetable stock or kombu stock (without the bonito flakes) to make the soup a completely vegetarian dish, or use chicken stock.

Sake kasu is optional, it adds lots of flavour to soups and stocks.  In Vancouver you can purchase at Fujiya Japanese Food Store or Artisan Sake Maker (Osake) in Granville Island.  

Always taste and change the ingredients according to your liking and dietary needs.

Here are links to other versions of kabocha soup:



RECIPE: Triple C Chowder: Cauliflower, Chicken and Corn Chowder

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Late in October I was really thrilled when JJ and TT (many thanks again!) brought me some Hungarian paprika as souvenir from their European trip; I admit this is not the spice I use very often in my cooking, I had to give it some serious thought…

Rewind back to early October when I went for my haircut at Fab’s; my hair colouring session is the time when I catch up on my magazine reading; we are mostly digitized (twitter, Facebook, instagram) these days, so I rarely buy hard copies of any magazines unless it’s some special edition which I would like to keep. I was flipping through the October issue of Canadian Living magazine and came across their wonderful cauliflower corn chowder recipe; I love the idea of using cauliflower or potato in soups to add the texture without the need for whipping cream.  As usual, I took a snapshot and “tuck” it away in my cookery files…

So here you go; here’s my own version – the end result? It’s a lighter and healthier chowder, and certainly makes a hearty weeknight meal.  Please feel free to change things up anyway you like to suit your own taste and dietary needs.

There’s still paprika left in the pantry, so what’s next? Perhaps a Hungarian goulash for my dear friends? (OO)

Ingredients: (Serves 4-6, parts of the recipe adapted from Canadian Living’s Cauliflower Corn Chowder)

2 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 large yellow onion (diced), 4 cloves of garlic finely minced, 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 1 1/2 Tablespoon smoked sweet paprika, 4 corn cobs (husked, kernels removed, save the cobs), 1 small head cauliflower (cut into bite size), 2 boneless chicken breast (skinned and cut into bite size), 3 cups low sodium chicken broth*, 1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk*, 1 large sweet pepper (seeded and cut to bite size), 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, sea salt for seasoning to taste and sliced green scallions (or chives) for garnish (optional).

*almond milk and using mostly organic produce is my own preference; I’ve used homemade chicken stock as the soup base.  To add some heat – add 1 chili pepper to soup mixture or just use hot sauce in the end when ready to serve.


– In small bowl, prepare marinade for chicken; whisk together 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 Tablespoon paprika and pinch of sea salt.  Add chicken breast cubes to mixture and marinate for at least 20 minutes.


 In a small pot using medium low heat, add the cobs to the chicken stock, let mixture simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.

– In Dutch oven or large heavy pot, using medium high heat, saute the chicken breast until the meat is slightly browned and half-cooked, about 2 to 3  minutes.  Remove chicken meat from pot.

– Using the same pot, heat remaining olive oil, add onion, garlic, chopped fresh thyme and remaining paprika; saute until onion is softened, this takes approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 the corn kernels, cauliflower, pre-heated chicken stock, sea salt and 1/2 cup water, bring mixture to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, approximately 10 minutes.

– Using an upright blender, working in small batches, process and puree the soup until smooth (be mindful to fill blender jar less than half way). To prevent the hot liquid from splattering: remember to allow heat to escape by removing the blender’s lid centre insert (cap), hold a kitchen towel over the top when blending.

– Return puree soup to pot, add remaining corn kernels, red pepper and half-cooked chicken breast cubes, bring soup to boil.  Reduce to low heat, stir in almond milk, let it simmer and stir occasionally until red pepper is tender and chicken cubes are cooked through.  Season with sea salt to taste. Turn off heat, stir in lemon juice.

– When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, add hot sauce (optional) and garnish with chopped green scallions or chives (optional).



RECIPE: KIMCHI JJIGAE (Kimchi Soup with pork)


Korean Food Wave Revisited: Two weeks ago on the Thanksgiving long weekend, I went “work-clothes shopping” with my friend “Mui Mui”, a fairly level-headed “youngster” who recently got a new job and need a little assistance with wardrobe selections.

She can only have soup or congee (braces!!); we popped into H-Mart food court (on Robson Street) for a casual dinner (shopping is just about the only time I’m willing to forgo a proper “sit down” meal, taste is important still); it was great to revisit Wang Ga Ma food stand, where I had one of my all time favourite Korean dish, Kimchi jjigae. It was absolutely delicious, just “hit the spot”, perfect dinner on a rainy Friday night.

I like Jjigae for its simplicity and heartiness, it is what it is. Unlike SoonDuBu (Tofu soup), this dish is not readily available anywhere. Whenever I have a sudden craving, I must make my own at home. It’s my “go-to” dish during the gloomy Vancouver winter months.

The taste brought back many fond memories, the years (since 2005) of my absolute fascination with my third “adopted” culture (behind Japanese/French)…Korean language classes (at SFU Continuing Education)…My three trips to Seoul, especially travelling with my language class schoolmates (who remained in touch as good friends until this day)…dinner outings to different establishments with our wonderful teacher Anne…Korean cooking classes…

Upon returning home, I “dug out” an old cookbook – “Korean cooking” by Han Chung Hae; In 2005 and 2007, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunities (yes twice!) to attend her cooking school while I travelled to Seoul for leisure! I’ve learnt some interesting basic dishes – kimchi jjigae (by special request), Japchae, Bulgoogi (secret marinade), seafood pancake, just to name a few!  The cookbook and a few copies of recipes written in Korean (yay have not forgotten everything entirely!) are prized souvenirs, I treasured most the experiences and friendships, they will always remain very dear to my heart.


Last night on the way home we made a quick stop at T & T (Asian supermarket) to pick up the pork and konnyaku (kimchi is always in our fridge!)…Here you go!

잘 먹겠습니다

!!! (OO)


2 cups (packed) kimchi (readily available at most supermarkets, chopped in bite size), 150 grams organic pork shoulder (thinly sliced or bite size, trim excess fat), 1 small onion (thinly sliced), 3 teaspoons grated ginger, 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (can always add a little more),  1/2 cup kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi), 2 to 2 1/2 cups of anchovy stock (*similar to Japanese dashi made of dried kelp and dry anchovies boiled in water), 2-3 teaspoons of gochujang (Korean chili paste), 150 grams konnyaku, 2 scallions (thinly sliced for garnish), 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil, 1-2 teaspoon of soy sauce (preferably Korean, Japanese soy will work also) for marinade and season to taste; 2 teaspoon Japanese sake (rice wine).

*You can use water if you do not have any stock handy, the anchovy stock adds more depth and flavour to the soup.  I always have Japanese dashi stock (kelp/bonito) ready at home and it works just as well.

It’s my personal preference to use mostly organic products, the pork shoulder (it’s less fatty) and konnyaku (a Japanese zero calorie product made of plant from taro family) instead of the usual tofu (OO).  For other versions, skip the meat and add other vegetables for vegetarian, or use canned tuna for chamchi jjigae.


– Slice onions, grate ginger, mince garlic and chop scallions, set aside.

– Trim excess fat off pork shoulder, slice thinly or bite size; marinade with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice wine, 1 teaspoon of Korean chilli paste (gochujang), 1 teaspoon grated ginger and a smidgen of garlic at least for 30 minutes.

– Prepare the kimchi juice: Remove 2 cups (fully packed) kimchi from jar, squeezed hard into a bowl to obtain “juice” (approximately 1/2 cup), set aside.

– Bring a small pot of water to boil, add the whole block of konnyaku to parboil for approximately 10 minutes.  This will get rid of the “smell”,  slice konnyaku into 1/2 inch thick.

– Using medium high heat, heat a hot-pot (nabe – remember to follow instructions if you using one) or 5 quart heavy bottom stock pot, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil, when hot add the pork slices.  Saute for approximately 2 to 3 minutes (do not cook pork entirely) and allow the fat to render.  Remove pork from pot.

– Using the same pot (add a little more oil only if necessary) over medium high heat, add the onions, saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent, add remaining ginger and garlic and 1 teaspoon of gochujang, saute until the mixture is very fragrant.  Add the kimchi juice and a splash of Japanese sake to “deglaze” (you will hear it sizzling) and scrape off the little brown bits (don’t burn) from the bottom.

– Add kimchi, konnyaku and soup stock (or water) to the pot, stirring everything together to combine.

– Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochujang (Korean chilli paste) if you want to increase the spiciness, season to taste with soy only if necessary.

– Turn the heat down to a low simmer and let the soup cook for at least 15 minutes. Let the flavours develop further.

– Return the half-cooked pork slices to the mixture, cook until meat is tender.

– Add the scallions and quickly stir to incorporate.  Turn off and remove from heat, serve immediately straight out of the pot with rice.  Enjoy!



Lemongrass Pork Meatball with Thai Green Curry


Fall is in “full swing” here in Vancouver and it’s the season when we crave for scrumptious and hearty meals; I decided to combine two of our favourite foods together: Meatballs and Thai Green Curry with Zucchini and eggplant.

Almost two years ago I took a cooking class at the Blue Elephant Cooking School in Bangkok, the green curry recipe is a combination of what I’ve learnt at Blue Elephant and a partial adaptation from Andy Ricker’s Green curry with fish and eggplant recipe (from POK POK, see also blogger “Lady and Pup”‘s great adaptation (also pork meatball), it’s a great interpretation and I love the photos!).

Instead of jasmine rice, I decided to serve this dish with a cauliflower “fried” rice, a wonderful recipe (see separate posting) from my friend “PPQ”; it is a great way to include more vegetables into your meals and a very good option for “carb” conscious individuals; the flavors all worked wonderfully together. Enjoy (OO)!

Ingredients for the Lemongrass Meatball:

500 grams organic lean ground pork, 2 garlic cloves (finely minced), 1 stalk finely chopped lemongrass, 1 Tablespoon fresh galangal (or ginger, peeled and finely grated), 3 green scallions (white and green part finely chopped), 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (roughly chopped), 1/4 (up to 1/2 cup) of Japanese panko (as required), unsweetened almond or coconut milk (as required, approximately 1/4 cup), 1 large egg, 2 Tablespoon fish sauce, 1 Tablespoon coconut nectar (optional), 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon white ground pepper (seasoning can be adjusted own taste).

Ingredients for the Green Curry: 

1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 cup Thai green curry paste (store-bought or you can prepare your own), 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (roasted and grounded), 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds (ground roasted), 1 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk** , 1 medium Japanese eggplant (cut into 1 inch pieces), 2 medium zucchini (cut into 1 inch pieces), 1 (or 2) fresh Thai red chillies (sliced, seeds removed), 6 kaffir lime leaves (slightly torn by hand), sweet Thai basil leaves (1/4 – 1/2 cup for garnish), 1 Tablespoon fish sauce (more to adjust taste and seasoning) and 1 – 2 teaspoon grated palm sugar (for seasoning), coconut cream (for garnish), lime juice, chopped cilantro (for garnish).

**Almond milk is my own preference as I do not want the curry to be overly creamy. Andy Ricker’s recipe calls for 1/2 cup coconut cream and the preparation method is different.

To prepare the meatballs:

– In a large mixing bowl, using your hand, combine and gently mix ingredients (except panko and almond milk). Cover with wrap, marinade and refrigerate for at least one hour.

– Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

– When ready to cook meatballs, add panko and almond milk (adjust the quantity pending the

– Lightly oil your hands, shape into 1 inch balls

– (**This step is optional – I “soaked” the meatballs in coconut milk for 20 minutes first, pat them dry then bake in the oven – see picture below).

– Lined your baking tray with foil and space them so they are not touching. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes; then change to “broil” and “brown” for approximately 5 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside.

– Proceed to prepare the green curry once you place the meatballs in the oven.


To prepare the zucchini and eggplant green curry:

– In large 6 quart pan, heat olive oil over medium. Add the green curry paste, ground roasted coriander and cumin seeds, stir-fry until an aroma develops and ingredients are slightly browned.

– Add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk, cook and stir occasionally, allow it to simmer until oil is extracted

– Add the rest of coconut milk and almond milk.  Bring to a boil, add eggplant then reduce the heat to medium low.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add zucchini and pork meatballs, cook until all vegetables are tender. Adjust the thickness of curry with water if necessary.

– Stir in fish sauce, palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves and chillies.  Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

– Remove from heat, stir in the basil leaves and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

– Garnish with a drizzle of coconut cream, fresh sliced chillies (add more if you want more “heat”) and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with rice on the side.

Additional notes:

– Omit the pork meatball and this becomes a great vegetarian dish.

***Here’s the recipe for Green Curry Paste from Blue Elephant Cooking School; the class was fun and informative, it’s worthwhile to attend if you happen to visit Bangkok.

10 pieces green birds eye chillies, 1 big green Serrano chilli, 1 coriander (or cilantro) root (omit if you are unable to find, use chopped coriander stems/leaf instead, approximately 1-2 tablespoon), 1/2 tablespoon kaffir lime zest (can use regular lime), 1/2 tablespoon finely sliced galangal (use ginger if you are unable to find), 1 Tablespoon lemon grass (finely sliced), 4 cloves of garlic (peeled), 3 shallots (peeled), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seed, 1/2 teaspoon ground roasted coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon white ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste, 10 sweet Thai basil leaves.

To prepare the green curry paste: Dry roast the cumin seed and coriander seed in skillet until seeds begin to pop, let cool slightly and place them in spice grinder and grind finely. Using the mortar, apply a “pushing” motion and pound kaffir lime zest, coriander root, lemongrass, galangal (1/2 and all chillies together. Add the remaining ingredients (add basil leaves last) and continue to pound until everything is blended into a smooth paste. **If you find this too labour intensive, ready-made Thai green curry paste are available almost everywhere. Unused paste can be kept in an airtight container for two weeks in the refrigerator or last up to 1 month in the freezer.














Wafu “French” Onion Soup

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Bon Appetite!

I love soups; I basically can have soup every day as a meal especially during the Fall and Winter season. This idea came from a wonderful Japanese soup cookbook, I’ve combined the recipe (and translated into English) with some elements from a classic French onion soup preparation; the base is made with Japanese soup stock (dashi) which is a great option for non-beef eaters; Japanese rice cake is used instead of classic baguette toasts. You will be pleasantly surprised…Enjoy (OO)!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a hearty meal, 4 as a starter)

Two medium size yellow onions (thinly sliced), 1 teaspoon unsalted organic butter, 2 teaspoon olive oil, 1 bay leaf, Japanese mochi (store-bought packaged rice cake – 2 to 4), Gruyère cheese (finely grated – 1 to 2 Tablespoons), 4 cups dashi (I made my own using kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes), can use instant bonito stock packages), Japanese sake 2 Tablespoon, 2 Tablespoon organic soy sauce, pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

***see my June 16th ” Napa Shiitake Mushroom Tomato Soup” notes on Japanese soup stock (dashi)


– In a 6 quart pot over medium heat, melt butter and add olive oil.  Stir in the onions and season lightly with sea salt and few grinds of black pepper.

– Reduce to low heat, press a piece of foil onto the onions to cover them completely and cover the pot with the lid.  Stir occasionally (lift the foil) and cook until the onions are very soft but not falling apart, it takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove the lid and foil, raise the heat to medium high and add Japanese sake (rice wine), gently stir often and cook onions until they are deeply browned (not burnt), approximately 10 minutes.

– Over medium high heat, add dashi broth, soy sauce and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to blend the flavours. Discard the bay leaf, season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Soup is Simmering and Flavours developing!

– While soup is simmering, prepare the Japanese mochi – remove rice cake from individual packages, using a paring knife, make a small “slit” (or X mark) in the middle of each rice cake.

Fill the saucepan (make sure it’s big enough for 2 to 4 mochi and there’s enough room they won’t stick together) with cold water, submerge the mochi and turn on the heat to medium high. Gently stir and move the rice cakes around to ensure they don’t stick to the pan.  Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium low and let it simmer for a couple minutes.  Take them out when they begin to melt.

– Place the rice cakes in shallow baking dish and be sure to allow sufficient space between them without touching (the rice cake will expand as it bakes in the oven). Sprinkle the grated Gruyère cheese over the rice cakes,  place baking dish in oven, position the rack from the broiler and heat broiler to high. At this point you have to be very careful not to burn them; keep very close watch and after a while they will start to puff, broil until they are browned and bubbly. Remove from oven.

– Ladle the hot soup in each bowl and gently place baked rice cake on top. Serve immediately.


– The soup can be made up to 2 days ahead and store in refrigerator; reheat soup and bake Japanese rice cake when ready to serve.

– You can find the rice cakes at Japanese food stores; in Vancouver, my go to place is Fujiya (912 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC ).

– As always taste the dish while you’re cooking and adjust the seasoning according to your own taste and dietary requirements. For cheese lovers, be generous with the Gruyère!  I bought my aged Gruyère from one of my favourite stores, Les Amis Du Fromage (843 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC).

Packaged Rice Cake