Thursday, July 5, 2007

Golden Kabocha Soup

Maybe in America, pumpkin is something people only buy to make Jack-o'-lantern around Halloween. In Japan, however, pumpkin is a common ingredient for home style cooking.
Japanese pumpkin is called "kabocha". It is green and much smaller than the orange Halloween pumpkins.

Kabocha has a wonderfully natural sweetness, and is rich in vitamin and nutrition.

Tempra, quroquette, kabocha pudding, kabocha, soup, etc…. There are many kabocha dishes I love.

However, there is one thing I have to warn you about if you are planning to cook kabocha.
Kabocha is HARD.
So, expect that cutting the kabocha would be hard work.

Though, the cutting process is labor intensive, it will be worth cooking this sweet vegetable. Today, I would like to introduce my favorite kabocha recipe – “golden kabocha soup”.

Here are the list of ingredients. (This makes a lot of soup. About six servings. For smaller amount, use 1/4 Kabocha and 1 can broth)

· Kabocha (Half)
· 1 Onion
· 2 (14 once) can of Chicken or Vegetable Broth
· Milk
· Salt

Seed, skin, and cut the pumpkin in small pieces.
This first step is the hardest part.
Be very careful! Kabocha is rock hard. You need a big sharp knife.

Cut Kabocha into half.

Scrape out all the seeds with a spoon.

Cut again into half.

Skin the Kabocha. A regular peeler doesn’t work with this hard surface. When you skin the kabocha, don’t hold it in your hand. Place it on the cutting board, and chip the skin little by little. Remember, your hand is always on TOP of the knife!

***If you are not an experienced cook, maybe you can microwave the whole kabocha for few minutes until it gets little soft. Then, you can cut it easily.

Diced kabocha & onion.

Saute onion first till it's soft and light brown.
Add pumpkin, and sautee for few minutes.

Add broth (chicken or vegetable). Cover the pot and bring it boil.

Remove all the scum from the surface of the soup.
Cover again, and cook several minutes until the pumpkin gets soft.

When the pumpkin is cooked, turn off the heat, and let it cool for several minutes.

When the soup has cooled off a little bit, transfer the soup into a blender and blend until it gets smooth.

Transfer the soup back to the pot, reheat it on a low heat.

Add some milk till the soup becomes the consistency you like.

Add salt and as needed.

There you have it, the sweet and creamy "golden kabocha soup"!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Okura Spaghetti

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It is so easy to make!

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • Spaghetti
  • Okra
  • Grape Seed Oil (I like its lightness. If you use olive oil, I recommend lighter one than E.V.O.O.)
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Tsuyu (Japanese soup base)
  • Yukari (A kind of salty sprinkles for rice called furikake made from Perilla plant)

Among the six ingredients above, Tsuyu and Yukari are two things you need to get at Japanese super

  • Start boiling hot water in two pots. One for pasta, and the other for okra.
  • Lightly boil okra only a minute or so, in boiling salted water.
  • Drain okra in a colander.
  • Cut okra into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • Cook spaghetti to al dente.
  • Put the cooked spaghetti in a large bowl
  • Put okra on top of the spaghetti
  • Pour grape seed oil.
  • Pour Tsuyu
  • Add Yukari
  • Add red pepper flake
  • Toss gently to combine all the ingredients.
  • Serve.

Italian meets Japanese. It’s quite a nice harmony, more like a mosaic than a blend of flavors. You will be surprised.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Ramen is one of the most beloved noodle dishes in Japan.

The style of ramen varies greatly from one locality to another, from its ingredients and consistency of soup, texture and thickness of noodle, to variety of toppings. Every ramen restaurant offers own unique style of the noodle dish.

Ramen is a comfort food for Japanese people. Many Japanese people have one or two favorite ramen restaurants to rush to in case of sudden ramen craving.

In Japan, it is easy to find a good ramen, because, first, there are so many ramen restaurants, and second, due to the competition among each other, ramen restaurants need to maintain certain quality to stay in business. However, in Los Angeles, it’s a different story. Even though there are at least few dozen ramen restaurants in town, it is very hard to find a good ramen to meet my snobbish Japanese high standard.

Anyway, I have heard about the good reputation of “Ramenya” from few people before, and had wanted to see for myself.

Last Friday night, two of my friends who were visiting from Japan, and I were craving Japanese comfort food after hours of shopping in Santa Monica.

I remembered about “Ramenya”, and off we went.

I was impressed by the simple syoyu ramen I ordered. Most memorable were the good egg noodles in clear and flavorful syoyu soup, with the topping of sprouts, bamboo shoots, green onions, and a piece of thick tender “char siu” pork that melted in my mouth.

The plump Gyoza, a perfect companion for ramen (goes with Ramen kind of like a burger goes with fries), was also good, reminding me of my good friend’s mother’s home made gyoza.

The simple syoyu ramen is only around $6.50, and the portion you get is huge! Cheap, fast, good ramen. . . I cannot ask for more. Finally, the ramen restaurant I've been looking for! Comforting ramen and PB, reunited at last.


11555 W. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My mother’s Sausage Roll

My mom used to make this sausage roll for breakfast on the weekends on occasion.

I had long been forgotten about this weekend breakfast treat of my childhood, but the memory of it came back to me when I found this tasty “black pork sausage” at Nijiya Market. I really fell in love with this sausage. It has perfect sweetness and savoriness: I just can’t have it enough.

The roll I used is called “butter roll”, which is a popular kind of bread in Japan. As the name says, it has a rich buttery flavor.

Here is how I made “my mother’s sausage roll”.

  • Lightly toast the butter roll in the oven.
  • While the roll is getting warm in the oven, fry the sausage in a pan until golden brown. (I put few diagonal cut on the sausage before cooking, so it prevents sausage explosions, and it looks pretty when its done)
  • Stir-fly thinly sliced onion and cabbage, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Partially cut and open the toasted roll.
  • Put onion and cabbage in the roll, then the sausage on top.
  • Serve with ketchup.

Enjoy, lick the buttery goodness from your fingers, and do an extra few minutes of Yoga!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Musha, located in the heart of Japanese community in Torrance, is an Izakaya style restaurant where people order several appetizer size dishes and share them in family style, like Spanish tapas.

Their menu was so unique and inventive; it made me want to try everything on the extensive menu list. My pictures are not so good, but the food was great, and the creative presentation was eye-pleasing as well. The servers were very friendly and comfortable. My friend and I had a really good time here.

The most impressive dish of the night was the “Japanese Grain Brown Rice Cheese Risotto”.

A server brought the risotto to our table in the huge piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano. He mixed the risotto placed in the carved cheese right in front of our eyes, making it extra cheesy, and served on the plate. What a presentation!

Musha does get crowded and the volume climbs on the weekends. Try a weekday evening if you want a more intimate atmosphere.

If you want to try something different than common sushi, tempura, or chicken teriyaki dishes, Musha is a great place for your new Japanese food adventure.

1725 W Carson St. Torrance, CA, 90501
Phone: (310) 787-7344

424 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: (310) 576-6330

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heaven Sent Desserts

Jay and I were in San Diego over the past weekend.

On Sunday, one of Jay’s friends who lives in North Park took us to a cafe, called “Heaven Sent Desserts” in her neighborhood.

There we found, what a wonderful surprise! I had one of the best dessert experiences.

The moment I walked into “Heaven Sent Dessert”, I was instantly dazzled by all the beautiful cakes neatly displayed in the glass showcases. They all looked so wonderful; I started to panic in the short waiting line as I got closer and closer to order. That’s how good all the cakes looked, and how hard for me to choose one cake out of them.

The cakes looked already so lovely in the showcases; however when a friendly waiter brought garnished dishes to our table, they were so beautiful, it took our breath away. (The pictures show Hawaiian Luau Cake & San Diego Key Lime Bar)

Don’t they look gorgeous?

Not to mention, they tasted heavenly.

Atmosphere, service,
presentation, and the taste. They have it all!

I was deeply impressed. The name “Heaven Sent” doesn’t deceive you in any way.


Heaven Sent Desserts

3001 University Avenue, North Park, San Diego

Monday, May 21, 2007

Rice Rice Everywhere

When I was single, my staple was cereal. Corn flakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner (not everyday, but somedays, esp. if I was working a lot and in a rush). PB was appropriately appalled at my eating habits. "It's unhealthy," she would loudly exclaim. "No babe, it's no problem. You see we have grains and milk. . .great for the body." She never did come around to my logic on this issue, but you and I will always know the truth.

Wouldn't you know there is still a food I eat almost everyday. It is a grain, starchy with carbs like my former standby, but it's not cereal. . It's Rice! Rice with chicken. Rice with soup. Rice with vegetables. Rice with Rice! It's raining rice!!!

In fact, she has so perfected the art that she has a dedicated appliance, the famed and coveted rice cooker. . .I believe there's a microcomputer inside and when I'm bored it can even carry on a conversation with me. . .you get the idea.

Well, fortunately I do like rice, and I never knew it could be prepared so many ways. You may be aware that in Alaska there are many words for snow, each word describing a subtly different variation of snow. I believe that in Japan there must be at least a dozen words for rice. I'm still most interested in what comes with that rice, but rice in itself has become of interest. By the way, in case I sound like a complete caveman, I just want y'all to know that I do do the dishes!