Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/20)

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Today saw a rare occurence in that the Missus prepared a double bento for me!
Let me explain: As I have to submit to a camera scan of my stomach (you know, those long thin things they force through your gullet!) I’m not allowed to eat anything after 9:00 p.m.
As I usually have dinner at around 9:30 due to late work hours, the Missus included a small “6:00 p.m. dinner” (I can’t really call it a lunch box! LOL).

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Lunch was served in that interesting box with a bamboo lid I have described before:
Three different “o-nigiri/rice balls”, one with an umeboshi/pickled Japanese plums, another one with Japanese cucumber (both wrapped in fresh shiso/perilla leaves) and the third one with fried “shirasu/Sardine whitebait”.

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Two kinds of deep-fried chicken fillets cuts were provided with some lettuce. One kind was fried with white sesame seeds, the other with bits of shiso/perilla leaves.
The tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette came in a cylindrical shape instead of the usual rectangular one. This done is done by “rolling” it into a sushi roll bamboo sheet just after it has been cooked and kept pressed inside until it has completely cooled down.

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As for dinner I was provided with potato and ham salad to which the Missus added plum tomatoes, cut processed cheese, walnuts, sweet peas in their pod and more lettuce!

I’ll be hungry tonight!

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Tuna Species: Kindai Tuna/Kindai Maguro

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Following a kind request by my good Foodbuzz friend, Elizabeth, I decided to re-post an article on this particular tuna species to clear some misunderstandings and add new information!

“Kuromaguro” or Blue Fin Tuna has become almost a mythical fish all over the world to the point that non-Japanese refer to it by its Japanese name.

“Kuromaguro”, or Blue Fin Tuna (or Tunny) has many other names in Japanese: Honmaguro, Maguto,Meji,Yokowa, Shibi, Imoshii, Shibimaguro, Kuroshibi, and Hatsu!

The best are caught in Winter mainly in the seas off Kochi (Shikoku Island), Miyagi and Hokkaido Prefectures.
This variety is the most expensive and can reach astronomical prices, especially caught in Winter off Hokkaido.
Imported Kuromaguro usually reaches Japan frozen, but in recent years the fish has been successfully raised in semi-wild environments in Spain, Australia and Croatia and arrives in Japan fresh by plane.
Imports and sales of Kuromaguro are monopolised by Japanese trade associations, unless you are lucky enough to catch one (careful here, as poaching is a major offense in Japan!).
Between you and me, if you want to eat Kuromaguro sashimi, it might come cheaper if you do it while travelling in Spain!
Did you know that Japanese importers will fly to Spain and other countries just to check that the fish are bled properly?

Now “Kindai Maguro” (近/kin for “near/nearby” and 大/dai for “big”) is the name given Kuromaguro/Blue Fin Tuna entirely human-fed (I mean fed by humans, not fed with humans!LOL).
There is big “but”, though! Huma-fed does not mean human-raised.
Young tuna have first to be located, encircled with large nets, guided near a shore and then provided with food. What people forget is that the tuna gills are hard. If the fish cannot swim freely enough it will wither and eventually die. So Kindai Tuna is nothing less than wild tuna caught into a trap and raised inside it!

BUT GOOD NEWS!

Only last week, the Tokai Marine Studies University in Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City (Shizuoka, Banzai!) has just announced that they have succeeded in raising Kuromaguro from the eggs! What is with the recent success by fish farmers in raising another variety of Kuromaguro in Kyushu, Specialist are confident that Japan will be able to actually export completely human-raised tuna in the foreseeable future!

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Related terms:

kuromaguro-otoro
Kuromaguro Otoro (fat part)

kuromaguro-chutoro
Kuromaguro Chutoro (semi-fat part)

kuromaguro-akami
Kuromaguro Akami (lean part)

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/19)

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The Missus did not want to take a picture of today’s bento because, as in her own words, it looked too “brown”.
I ignored her protests because bentoes are simply looking brown sometimes,e specially when you include deep-fired items.

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She deep-fired first soft pork strips after dipping thme into a sauce mix of hers and breadcrumbs, and then slices of renkon/fresh and peeled lotus roots in exactly the same way.

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As for the rice it was plain steamed rice with which she later mixed chopped Japanese pivkled cucumbers.
A boiled eggs, plum tomatoes, lettuce and shredded veg completed the lunch.

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For more salad and dessert, shredded veg, “tankan” oranges from Yakushima island and walnuts!

Simple, tasty and very satisfying!

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Cheese Plate at gentil (5)

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Last night I paid a belated visit to Gentil Restaurant In Shizuoka City in the company of two good friends to check and taste what was on offer at that nationally famous restaurant.

My good friend, Ms. Keiko Kubota, the only Japanese Cheese Sommelier to hold the title of compagnon d’Honneur de Taste Fromage came up with the tray of Cheeses she is currently maturing:

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Front from left to right:
-Cone de Port Aubray (Goat Milk, Loire, France)
-2 year-old Chevre Noir (Goat’s Milk, Canada)
-10 year-old Red Cheddar (Cow’s Milk, Wisconsin, US. Yes, you read well!)
-Bleu de Sassenage (Cow’s Milk, Alpes, France)

Back from left to right:
-Talegio (Cow’s Milk, Piemonte, Italy)
-Gorgonzola Picante (Cow’s Milk, Piemonte, Italy)
-Gorgonzola Dolce (Cow’s Milk, Piemonte, Italy)

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-10 year-old Red Cheddar (Cow’s Milk, Wisconsin, US. Yes, you read well!). A rarity!

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Another rarity: look at the pic at the top of this posting. It is the large cheese “standing” on the right:
-“Hokkaido Shintoku”, semi-hard type from Hokkaido, Japan. Only served presently at Gentil!

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We actually tasted all the cheese on the tray.
This particular dish offers:
-Cone de Port Aubray (Goat Milk, Loire, France), top
-Gorgonzola Picante (Cow’s Milk, Piemonte, Italy)
-2 year-old Chevre Noir (Goat’s Milk, Canada) Standing
-10 year-old Red Cheddar (Cow’s Milk, Wisconsin, US.)!
-Gorgonzola Dolce (Cow’s Milk, Piemonte, Italy) in the wooden spoon.

What did we drink with that?
Chateau Talbot from Bordeaux, and wines from Crozes-Hermitage and Bourgogne!

Restaurant Gentil
Address:420-0031 Shizuoka Shi, Gofuku-cho, 2-9-1, Gennan Kairaku building, 2F
Tel.: 054-2547655 (Reservations advisable)
Fax: 054-2210509
Opening hours: 12:00~14:00, 18:00~last orders for meals at 21:30. Bar time 18:00~23:30. Closed on Mondays.
Credit cards OK
Homepage (Japanese)


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Cream Sauce Prawns and Potato Pagoda

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Frankly speaking, I was stumped by how to call this simple, healthy but fullfilling home-made recipe reminiscent of the Curry Sauce Mango Prawns and Scallops recipe I posted a couple of days ago!
Lauren would probably have kicked if I had called it “Prawns and Potatoes Sandwich in Cream Sauce”! LOL
As with other recipes, it can be multiplied into many variations. Vegetarians can replce the prawns with boiled cauliflower and Brocoli for example!

Ingredients (for 2 people/large apppetites!):

Small -medium prawns: 18 without their shells and kept in a little lemon juice
Potatoes: 4 medium-large
Courgette/Zucchini: 1 small cut in thin strips (at least 9 or 10. See pic above)
Eringi Mushrooms or subsitute: 2 large cut in thin strips (at least 9 or 10. See pic above)
Fresh dill (for decoration)
Fresh sweet basil (for topping)
Sauce:
Shallots: 1 large, finely chopped
Garlic: 1 large clove, finely chopped
Red, yellow, green pimento: 2 large tablespoons of each, finely chopped
Fresh Cream: 1 cup (200 cc)
White wine: 1 quarter of a cup (50 CC)
Olive oil
Lemon juice: 1 lemon
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, chili pepper (the last to taste). You can make it Indian by using curry mix powder.

Recipe:
Organize yourself so as to have everything on hand and ready from the beginning!
You will need at least two frypans and one deep pan.

-Cut potatoes as thin as possible. The thinner, the better. Also keep in mind you have to make 6 “pancakes”. Wash them. Take all water off them with a clen cloth or kitchen paper. Add a little salt, pepper, nutmeg and chili pepper (last one can be discarded) to them in a bowl.
-Pour a little olive oil in one non-stick frypan. On a medium-large fire wait until oil is hot enough and form a “pancake with potato slices. The trick is that no space should be left between potatoes and at the same time avoiding two sliced to cover each other completely. Wait until potatoes have cooked enough to stick together (“help” them if necessary by pressing them). Turn them over and cook the other side to a nice crispy light brown. Continue until you have obtained 6 “pancakes”. Keep warm.
-While the potatoes cook, fry first zucchini then eringi mushrooms in a little olive oil until tender to taste. Add a (very) little salt to them while cooking. Keep warm.
-Sauce: In a deep pan, pour 3 large tablespoon of olive oil, heat oil over medium fire. Fry shallots and garlic. When shallots have become translucent, add wine, fresh cream, lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg and other spices. Take it easy with salt and spice at first. You can always rectify later. Let cook for a few minutes. Sieve sauce, add chopped pimento and cook for a good 5 minutes on a medium fire. Lower fire if it boils.
-Fry prawns in a little olive oil until only their centers are still a little raw. If you cook them any longer, they will harden up.

On a large plate you had kept hot in the oven, first place one potato pancake then 3 prawns on top. Repeat the operation twice more to obtain the “pagoda” or “Sandwich” shape. Place alternatively zucchini and eringi around to form a crown. With a large tablespoon scoop up the pimento out of the sauce and pile them on top of the Pagoda. Pour the sauce on the vegetables around the Pagoda. Decorate with plenty of fresh dill around and sweet basil leaves on top as shown on pic above.

Serve with a dry white wine or Pilsner tye beer. Non-drinkers could drink a nice fresh lemonade (real one!) with it!

Enjoy!

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The Pride of Shizuoka: Sakura Ebi/Cherry shrimp!

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With Spring comes the season for a specialty found in Shizuoka Prefecture only!
“Sakura Ebi” or Sakura shrimp is a vey small (maximum 5 cm) crustacean caught in the Suruga Bay of Shizuoka Prefecture. Most of ships are anchored in Yui City (part of Shizuka City city) and Fujikawa Harbours.

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The shrimps are caught in special net baskets. They are then siphoned through special “tubes” with the baskets kept just above the water. Later all sea creatures inadvently caught in the nets are released alive back into the sea! Who said the Jpanese are not environment-conscious?
Moreover, for the first time in Japan, the Association of Cherry Shrimps Fishermen decided in 1965 to strictly limit their yearly total catch to preserve stocks. A salutary initiative long before normal citizens became aware of conservation and environment!

According to long traditions they are put on the market immediately for auction.
Many fishermen open their own sushi restaurants, bars and often their catches of the night until early in the afternoon before taking a well-earned sleep.

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For people who prefer them as sushi, the gunkan style is the most appreciated!
Most French and Italian Restaurants in Shizuoka City and around will serve them in quiches!

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(Pic taken at Izutsuya Restaurant, Yui)

Another popular way to eat them is of course as a tempura called kaki-age, either with fresh sakura ebi in season or frozen/dried ones.
Fishermen use to dry their catch for sale and export until the government had the great idea to run an expressway just along the harbour!
The shrimps are now dried along nearby Fujikawa River at the foot of Mount Fuji, creating large quaint rose expanses in the most useen for locations!

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Vegetables Facts and Tips (9/1): Mushrooms/Shitake

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(Mushrooms at at a Shizuoka Supermarket)

I don’t intend to talk about wild mushrooms here as I would need a very thick book to post!
Japan is arguably the country cultivating the greatest number of varieties ( new ones appear and disappear every year!), so I will limit myself to give information on at least four of them and furthermore introduce most varieties I have found in Japanese supermarkets (most of them should be available in many countries.

SHIITAKE

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FACTS:
Shiitake/Lentinula Edodes (Black Forest Mushrooms) are native to China but have been grown in both Japan and China since prehistoric times[2]. They have been cultivated for over 1000 years; the first written record of shiitake cultivation can be traced to Wu Sang Kwuang, born during the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1127). However, some documents record the uncultivated mushroom being eaten as early as AD 199.
Fresh and dried shiitake have many uses in the cuisines of East Asia. In Chinese cuisine, they are often sauteed in vegetarian dishes such as Buddha’s delight. In Japan, they are served in miso soup, used as the basis for a kind of vegetarian dashi, and also as an ingredient in many steamed and simmered dishes. In Korean cuisine, they are commonly used in dishes such as bulgogi (marinated grilled beef), jjigae (stews), and namul (sauteed vegetable dishes). In Thailand, they may be served either fried or steamed.

Shiitake are often dried and sold as preserved food in packages. These must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using. Many people prefer dried shiitake to fresh, considering that the sun-drying process draws out the umami flavour from the dried mushrooms by breaking down proteins into amino acids and transforms ergosterol to vitamin D. The stems of shiitake are rarely used in Japanese and other cuisines, primarily because the stems are harder and take longer to cook than the soft fleshy caps. The highest grade of shiitake are called donko in Japanese.
Extracts from shiitake mushrooms (such as ichtyol) have also been researched for many other immunological benefits, ranging from anti-viral properties to possible treatments for severe allergies, as well as arthritis.
The Japanese actually consume them from their raw form more than in any other country.

-Season: best in October~March for outdoors cultivation
-Main beneficial ingredients: Vitamin B1, B2, N6, Ergosterol, Lentinan, Fibers.

TIPS:

-Loosely wrap them in clean Newspaper or Kitchen Paper and store them in fridge away from the light.
-Choose specimens with unbroken “umbrella” and no black marks under.
-Fresh Shiitake are best enjoyed for their taste by keeping their cooking simple such as frying them over a grill with a dash of soy sauce and sake!

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