Japanese Cakes/Wagashi 2: Recipe-Anko/Sweetmeats


One main ingredients in traditional Wagashi/Japanese Cakes is “anko” (or more simply “an”) which can be translated as “sweetmeats” or “bean jam”.

I would like here to introduce a simple way to make one’s own “anko” at home:


Azuki/Adzuki/red beans (in Japanese: 小豆): 150 g
Sugar: 150g
Salt: a little


a) Wash azuki lightly. Put in a large basin with an equal amount of water and turn on heat to high.

b) Bring to boil. If beans level is higher that of water, add water till beans are completely covered. Let simmer. Add water 2 or 3 times as soon as the water does not cover completely the beans and this until beans stop floating on water.

c) Drain beans, put them back into basin with same amount of water and turno fire to high. Repeat a9 operation.

d) Cook as c) fro 40~60 minutes.

e) Mash azuki beans lightly. Add sugar. Simmer and stir to mix, making sure the jam does not overboil.

f) Add a little salt (to your taste) and mix.
Let cool completely.
You can eat as it is of course, but you will need it to make your cakes!
You can either sieve it to make it a very fine paste, sieve a part and mix it with the unsieved part, or use it as it is. In any case it will be easy to fashion!


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Sea Pineapple/Common Sea Squirt: Hoya/Mahoya


The Common Sea Squirt, very often called Sea Cucumber is neither a coral, seaweed, shellfish or whatever.
It is an animal of its own class.


in its natural habita, already a prey to many marine predators, it has become rare because of the extensive catch by humans.


Its natural colour is whitish out of the water while (see pic above) Hoya rasied by humans are of a deep orange colour.

We are just in the middle of its season, May.
They are mainly raised in Miyagi Prefecture while natural ones are caught in Iwate Prefecture.


You have to cut it open to reach its edible part.


It can be eaten raw, slightly boiled or pickled.
It is said to be the rare sea animal combining the four tastes: sweetness, saltiness, sourness and acidity.


For a better view of its insides. It is called sea squirt, because it is mainly filled with sea water which can be expelled at will.


Ipersonally appreciate it as sushi nigiri, although it is a bit of an acquired taste!

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Japanese Cakes/Wagashi 1: Introduction


There is a traditional way of making cakes in Japan that ought to please no end vegans and people allergic to wheat flour and dairy products, namely Wagashi!

Wagashi (和菓子) is a traditional Japanese confectionery which is often served with tea, especially the types made of mochi, azuki bean paste, and fruits.

Wagashi is typically made from natural based (mainly plant) ingredients. The names used for wagashi commonly fit a formula—a natural beauty and a word from ancient literature; they are thus often written with hyōgaiji (kanji that are not commonly used or known), and are glossed with furigana.

Generally, confectioneries that were introduced from the West after the Meiji Restoration (1868) are not considered wagashi. Most sorts of Okinawan confectionery and those originating in Europe or China that use ingredients alien to traditional Japanese cuisine, e.g., kasutera, are only rarely referred to as wagashi.

Assortment of wagashi for a tea ceremony

During the Edo period, the production of sugarcane in Okinawa became highly productive, and low quality brown sugar as well as heavily processed white sugar became widely available. A type of sugar, wasanbon, was perfected in this period and is still used exclusively to make wagashi. Wagashi was a popular gift between samurai, in significance much like a good wine. Wagashi is served as part of a Japanese tea ceremony, and serving a good seasonal wagashi shows one’s educational background.

Wagashi in the shape of rape flowers/Na no Hana

There are many, many kinds of Wagashi.
I will introduce them in the next posting, followed by another posting on the basic preparation.

Shizuoka’s Abekawa Mochi

Just know that about every region in Japan has its own traditional Wagashi!

Wagashi is widely available in Japan, but quite rare outside it.
Minamoto Kitchoan (源 吉兆庵)
Has a varied selection, and stores in New York City (shipping throughout the US), London (shipping throughout Europe), and Singapore, in addition to Japan.
Toraya (とらや)
Has a full Paris store, stores in Japan, and sells a limited selection (yōkan only) at New York stores.
Family owned and operated in the USA, since 1903, Fugetsu-do now ships anywhere in the USA.

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Sea Urchin Species

Aka Uni/Red Sea Urchin Roe

Sea urchins, or uni/海栗in Japanese, are popular in many countries, but maybe not as much as in Japan!
The situation sometimes is becoming ridiculous as time and again Chinese and North Korrean ships are caught poaching sea urchins in the Japan seas to export them later to Japan!

There are many kinds of sea urchins, some great, some barely acceptable, and many inedible.
I will keep this posting to the most popular ones in Japan.


Ezobafun-uni, or Kaze, or Kanze are best appreciated in Spring.
Most are caught off Hokkaido.
As its name in Japanese says (Sea Chestnut), when fresh it has a firm texture and tastes like chestnuts.


Its roe is a beautiful orange.
Beware of imported copies that don’t mely in your mouth!


Beautiful as sushi nigiri or gunkan!


Appearing on the markets between early Summer and Atumn, domestic specimen come from Hokkaido (12,000 tonnes).


Please note the different colour, more yellowish.
It is widely imported from Russia (6.200 tonnes), USA (2,600 tonnes), Chili (2,100 tonnes), Canada (800 tonnes) and Kora (300 tonnes).


Great as sushi nigiri!
Good quality specimens should be firm, with a definite shape, and leave a yellow colour inside its box or on chopsticks!


Chili-Uni/Sea Urchin from Chili is considered as the best imported sea urchin in Japan and merits a special mention.


Beautiful served as sushi gunkan!


Aka-uni/Red sea Urchin, although of a lower grade, is considered a choice morsel.


Aka uni roe, some of which will find its way in the following dishes!


There are countless ways of cooking and using sea urchins!
The following are just suggestions.

Uni Chyawan Mushi

Cold Pepperocino Sea Urchin Spaghetti

Sea Urchi Gratin in its shell

Another Sea Urchin Gratin in its shell.

Sea Urchin Pilaf

Uni-Renkon: Sea Urchin cooked inside slices of Lotus roots

Sea Urchin Shou-mai

Sea Urchi Tofu and Avocado Millefeuille

Sea Urchin and Tofu Soup

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Tomatoes: Local varieties in Shizuoka


I had my good friend Rich in mind when I set off on my bicycle yesterday morning in the direction of the Abe River in Shizuoka City. This major river is dotted almost all the way up to its source with farmland. Very often, while the men are busy with staple crops like rice,tubers and even peanuts, some housewives grow vegetables and other produce as a “side business” to contribute some cash to their homesteads.
About an hour ride from my place one will find a JA (Japan Agriculture) market called “Agri Road Miwa” associated with 13 such housewives who sell their vegetables, fruit, flowers, tea, honey and home-made cakes on a daily basis, guaranteeing fresh produce everyday.
The only problem is that you must be there when the market opens at 9:30 and fight off the local “o-baasan/grannies”! LOL
Being seasonal produce only, you can expect something new every morning!
I had already picked some great burdock roots, pink potatoes and maountain veggies, when my eyes stopped on some unusual tomatoes.
Interestingly enough. the grannies were more interested in the lettuce and strawberries, so I had enough time to choose the best specimens!


“Black Tomato”. Actually it is a very deep red colour, practically dark blue-violet.


“Orange Tiger”. Beautiful name, isn’t it?


“Green Tiger”. A cousin of the above!


“White Tomato”. Actually more of a mild beige colour.

Bear in mind that all these tomatoes, in spite of their colour, were ripe.
I bought enough for myself and Yasaitei, a favourite local Japanese Izakaya which specializes in vegetables (I just give them away as the prices are simple ridiculous. If Yasaitei can promote these farmers’ products, I’m more than happy!).
Some actually did not reach my office intact (a long rough bicycle ride is not a great idea for shopping!). I just “sampled” them,… I ended up eating all the “damaged” tomatoes! They were sweet and tangy at the same time, firm and juicy, all basically of the same taste. No need for drinking water after that!
I stored the intact tomatoes in the fridge and later brought them to Yasatei. This izakaya is run by ladies only, and it was a discovery for them! No need to say that the tomatoes were immediately displayed for the customers’ pleasure!

Agri Road Miwa
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Abeguchi Shinden, 537-1
Business hours: 09:30~15:30 (from 08:30 on Saturdays)
Homepage (Japanese)
Even if you don’t understand Japanese look at their products!

Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-Cho, 1-6-2 Green Heights Wamon 1-C
Tel.: 054-2543277
Business hours: 17:30~22:00
Closed on Sundays
Reservations highly recommended

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Octopus Species

Mizudako Octopus Sashimi Salad

Octopuses are common on the markets along the Mediteranean Sea, especially Greece, italy and Spain.
Tey are also very common in Asia, especially Korea and Japan.

For people living in Tokyo, you will find plenty inside the Tsukiji Market.

As for people living in Shizuoka Prefecture, go and visit the Harbour in Numazu City!

There many kinds of octopus, some edible, some definitely not!
I will talk here about the main varieties found, sold and eaten in Japan!


Madako or “True Octopus” will be sold from late Autumn till early Spring.
50,000 tonnes are caught in Japan while 100,000 tonnes are imported, 60% fromm Morocco, 20% from Mauritania and some more from South Africa.

Boiled Madako from Japan

Boiled Madako from South Africa

It is very often found boiled in the supermarkets and are appreciated in salads, chyawanmushi, takoyaki and so on.


But lightly as sushi nigiri is probably the best!


Mizudako, also called Shiodako and Oodako is a large variety reaching up to 3 metres. It is caught in Autumn and Winter at depths bewteen 100and 1,000 metres in the Northern half of Japan.
It is usually sold frozen. It is then cut when half thawn for:

Mizudako sashimi

Mizudako Salad

It is also very common boiled and pickled in rice vinegar.

Its eggs are a rare morsel eaten as sushi on a gunkan!


Iidako, also known as Komochidako or Ishidako are caught south of Hokkaido Island. They are comparatively small and do not measure more than 20 cm. A lot are caugt along the Korean Peninsula and China at depths down to 20 metres. They tend to lay their a bit everywhere, even inside empty cans at the bottom of the sea!
Imports have been increasing of late.


Iidago are much appreciated cooked whole with their eggs or


whole again, boiled or raw, as sushi on nigiri!


Chihirodako is local Shizuoka variety found at Numazu Harbour.
It is appreciated boiled or in Tenpura

Its tentacles, boiled, are popular as sushi nigiri!

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This is an article written by my good friend, Patrick Harrington on this popular if quaint Japanese institution called Viking Bar or Resturant!

‘Viking with a drink bar’*

What image is conjured by these words? A wild Norseman who runs a pub?
An even wilder Norseman who has been ordered not to drink?

To someone in Japan a ‘viking’ is an all-you-can-eat meal, and a ‘drink
bar’ refers to the option of unlimited drinks. This is very popular in Japan and comes in various forms.

My favorite is the breakfast buffet, especially when on vacation. It
expands into a huge brunch. If I slip a couple of bread rolls into a bag
I can skip lunch and enjoy an uninterrupted day of leisurely sightseeing.

Then there is ‘lunner’, the lunch/dinner combination, which again
affords the opportunity to skip a meal. And if you time it just right
you can pay the cheaper lunch-time price and get to try some dishes from the more extensive dinner menu.

And then there are the specialist buffets. I once had an afternoon cake buffet in Harrods of London. The array of mouthwatering delights was so dazzling that I just had to sample at least one of each. I walked out so bloated that I didn’t eat a thing until dinner the following day, a full 24 hours later.

*So how do you fell about all-you-can-eat establishments?*
This concept has quite an attraction for customers and proprietors alike.

Waiters are not needed, the only service being the collection of
crockery and cutlery, though in many places the customers do this too.
In addition there is no need for the cooks to prepare individual dishes,
so many more customers can be accommodated. There are cost savings all round.
There is also the obvious advantage of a wide variety of food. We can
choose more of what we like, avoid what we dislike and experiment a
little too. We can decide to have our onion soup after dessert, we can
have strawberries with our salad, and we don’t have to wait for coffee.
In short it’s culinary freedom.

I must admit to having taken advantage of these places more times than I care to remember.

Because we all know there is a big downside. In many places the
all-you-can-eat deal is just that: a low-cost, low-quality,
high-temptation binge-fest: the rush to get the last of the fried
potatoes, the hustle when the chocolate gateau apears. I’m sure this
kind of thing brings out the hunter-gatherer instincts in us. And our
instincts also tell us that bingeing cannot be good, indeed the perils
are widely documented.

*But it doesn’t have to be like this!*

It _is_ possible to prepare good quality food. It _is_ possible to
provide an attractive balance and variety of dishes. It _is _possible
for cost-savings to be made. And it _is_ possible for customers to eat
and drink sensibly in a cordial atmosphere.

There is a ‘viking with a drink bar’ on the 7th floor of the Parco
Department Store in Shizuoka City. Much of the food is local and
organic, and the sake is local too. The dishes are seasonal, in some
cases original, and the taste ranges from very good to excellent. The
ambience has a rather quaint, traditional woody feel, not a plastic
chair in sight, and here is the kicker: the customers talk to each other!

Even the wildest Norseman would be placated in such a place.

If it can be done by a department store it can be done by anyone.

(Japanese Hotel Viking Restaurant Sample)

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/36)


Yesterday we had an earthquake in Shizuoka, but everybody is OK!
Thanks to all for the concern!
A Friend actually suggested to call it the Earthquake Bento of the Day!LOL
The fact is that it did stimulate the Missus into cooking a lot this morning.
Incidentally, even Kamran could eat it as it was cooked with olive oil!

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Once again, as there was very little shopping done yesterday, the Missus foraged inside the fridge and came up with the following:


The rice was plain steamed rice but sprinkled with plenty of rasted sesame seeds.


For the arnish, she fried “Saikoro/cubes” of beef, zucchini, red mild pimentoes and mini asparaguses together (in that order?). She prepare “Tamagoyaki/Japanese Omelette” and added some home-made min-melon pickles.


As for the salad, almost the same as yesterday: On a bed of shredded greens, boiled broccoli, lettuces, green leaves and Shizuoka-grown Ameera rubbins mini tomatoes (as the latter are very sweet, I supose they made for my dessert! LOL)

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Shellfish species 11: Surf Clam/Ubagai


“Ubagai” or more commonly called “Hokkigai” when served as sashimi or sushi have many names in English.
Member of the Trough Shells Groups, they are called Surf Clams, or more precisely, as pertains to the varieties eaten in Japan, either Japanese Surf Clams or Sakhalin Surf Clams as they are collected both along Japan and Sakhalin Islands shores

8,000 tonnes are caught in Japan every year. 94% of fresh/live Surf Clams are collected in Hokkaido, Aomori, Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures.
About 4,000 tonnes are imported frozen from Canada.
They are popular dried, in soups or cooked with vegeatbles and rice.


Their “tongues” can be appreciated as sashimi, but are most popular lightly poached and cooled down.


That is the way they are usually processed before being served as sushi nigiri, either straight, or with a few small incisions for better effect!

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/35)


Today’s bento was a bit of a straightforward affair making good use of what was left in the fridge!


Plenty of steamed later mixed with Japanese cucumber pickles.
Boiled Shrimps and smoked salmon dipped in lemon juice with scrambled eggs, Italian parsley, pickled mini melon and black olives.


Salad, very simple too: Green leaves, boiled broccoli, processed cheese, Ameera Gibbins sweet mini tomatoes and honeypreserved dates for dessert.

What is the Missus cooking tonight, especially after the little earthquake we had?

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Shellfish Species 10: Ark Shell/Akagai

(Ark shell sashimi in its own shell)

Akagai or Ark Shell tends to frighten potential sheffish amateurs because of its other English name, “Bloody Shell”, not only because of its deep reddish-orange colour, but also because of the reddish water it gives off upon opening.


Now, shellfish do not have blood in our mammal concept.
Bear in mind that many shellfish are used for dyeing cloth, and if if I’m not mistaken, ark shells fulfill both utilitarian and gastronomic needs.


It does require some skill to open and present.


The main “Tongue” and “Thread/Akahimo” are edible.

The best season is Autumn, although they are available all year round. They are pretty abondant along the Japan southern coastlines, but many of them are also imported from Korea and China amounting to 80% of the total domestic consumption.


Ark shells are usually not served cooked.
Sashimi (see top picture) is very much apprecaited but sushi nigiri is definitely the most popular way to savour them!

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Italian Restaurant: La Prima Porta

(Haruka Yamaguchi)

Service: excellent and very friendly
Facilities: great washroom, great cleanliness overall
Prices: reasonable, good value.
Strong points: Authentic Italian Cuisine with a local twist. Very fresh local ingredients extensively used.

End of last April, Il Cuore finally opened its second restaurant called La Prima Porta!
The concept is completely different and it took me some time to find a seat there, so popular it has become!
Located in the middle of the Shizuoka “nightlife quarter”, it has the particularity to be opened from 18:00 to 02:00, making it the “latest” Italian restaurant in town.
Its young but experienced and very talented chef Keizo Kaneko is already quite famous, especially among female night-owls, and I can garantee you had better reserve your seat(s) in this place which used to be “izakaya” and was quickly re-decorated with the minimum fuss.
Keizo usually works on his own in front of his customers with the help of a single waitress to look after 8 guests at the counter and the same again at tables.
There is plenty to use from the menu, but just ask Keizo what he has in the fridge and proceed from there!

To cut a long stroy short, I visited for the second time with my good friend Haruka Yamaguchi who took the pics for me!


Keizo has a short but very well-balanced wine list to select wines from. What I do usually is just give him a price and let choose one for me!
I FRATI, Lugana, 2007, White, Ca dei Frati in Lombardia
Jen and Melinda, the following tasting notes are for you!
Colour: Very clear light golden hue
Aroma: Fruity and flowery. Sweetish. Muscat
Taste: Pleasant tingle. Well-rounded. Sweetish at first. Muscat and raisins. Dry finish with nice acidity.
Lingers for a while in back of the palate.
Great on its own, but makes for a great match with food, especially vegetables.


The two-year matured raw Parma Ham was just too much to ignore!


Justmake a salad of it! I ordered.
The picture does not give enough credit to th mountain of succulent local vegetables hiddden under the succulent ham!


As for the meat, we had a choice between poultry, pork andd beef. We opted for the pork.
Very simple “Kogane Buta/Small golden pork” from Niigata Prefecture sauteed with balsamico sauce and giant asparafuses and string beans from Shimizu, Shizuoka City!
Simple in appearance and concept but sublimein taste. I usually am not that fond of fat, but when crispiness turns into a melting swetnees under your teeth, ou just forget it was fat!


After some discussion we chose risotto over pasta as the night was still young (meaning that we planned to go somewhere else!).
my friend just could not stop extolling the gastronomic virtues of this beautiful vegetarian risotto with gree peas and broad beans grown in Shizuoka!

Don’t worrytehre’s more coming soon! LOL

420-0032 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryogae-cho, 2-7-1, Akiyama Bldg. 1F
Tel.: 054-251-6633
Business hours: 18:00~26:00
Closed on Sundays and National Holidays
Credit cards OK
Homepage (Japanese)

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French Restaurant: Lunch at Pissenlit


Service: excellent and very friendly
Facilities: great washroom, great cleanliness overall
Prices: reasonable, good value.
Strong points: Interesting wine list. Great use of local products.

Tooru Arima, after working for ten years at Shimizu Hotel Quest, decided it was about time to fly on his own wings and opened Pissenlit with his wife Takako on September 24th, 2008.


A small restaurant, it sits a maximum of 20 guests.
I visited it at lunch time for the first time last Sunday, a rainy cricket-less Sunday and came back with the Missus for lunch yesterday.
If lunch gives a faithful idea of the level of the restaurant, Pissenlit is bound to become a regular visit.
To the Missus’ delight, the place is completely non-smoking!


The wine list is more than adequate and offers a good variety from Cremant de Bourgogne to a rare Chateau Chalon. It even features two local sake: hana no Mai and Fujinishiki!


I ordered a Alsace bottle by Marcel Weiss, Riesling 2007 in the village of Bergheim.


The tasting notes are for Jen and Melinda!

Colour and clarity: Very clear golden colour
Aroma: Fruity and flowery. Slightly sweet and dee.
Taste: Fresh tingling flowery attack/light, petillant typical of Alsace.
lingers for a little while in back of the palate.
Reveals otherv facets with food. Well rounded.


They have two lunch fixed menus. I chose the “Creatif menu”, fairly reasonable at under 30 US$:
Out of 5 starters I chose the Aji/Saurel Carpaccio Salad.
The fish come the neighbouring harbour of Yui. Great freshness and perfect with its green and balsamico vinegar!


For a better look of the fish!


A soft and pleasing carrot cream soup.


The main dish: “Yusui” Pork from Fujinomiya City, one of 3 main dishes to choose from.
This main dish is the epitome of Mr. Arima’s cuisine which can be described as an intriguing combination of local ingredients and those of othe regions and countries: Wild asparaguses from France, Green Papaya from Okinawa, organic red beet from Shiuzoka, Lily flower buds, etc.


For a better view of this juicy pork from pigs raised in our Prefecture!


I’ve heard that many guests come especially for the dessert plate (chaging regularly).
The present assortment includes Macha Roll Cake with Azuki beans, Gateau Chocolat, Pannacotta, Souffle Cheese Cake and Black Tea Jelly!

I will show picture of what we had yesterday in another posting!
Moreover I shall visit Pissenlit for dinner very soon to delve into Mr.Arima’s Carte which includes such delicacies aas Castelnaudary’s Cassoulet, Vendee Duck, Hungary Mangaricia Pork, Foie gras marbre and Bourgogne Escargots with Morel Mushrooms Fricassee!

420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo, 2-3-4
Tel.: 054-270-8768
Fax: 054-627-3868
Business hours: 11:30~14:30; 17:00~22:00
Closed on Tuesdays and Sunday evening
Homepage (Japanese)

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Shellfish Species 9: Round Clam-Hen Clam/Bakagai


“Bakagai”, or Round clam/Hen Clam in English is found mainly in the Central part of Honshu Island.


Actually, you have a good chance to discover it at low tide all over Japan.


It is a versatile shellfish as it provides for two distinct morsels:


The “Tongue” called “Aoyagi”. It is very popular in Japan for its colour and sweetness. It is both eaten as Sashimi and


Sushi as nigiri.


The second morsel, one of two muscle parts is called “Kobashira/Small pillar”.
Sushi chefs will keep them until they have enough to serve as sashimi or even better as suhi as gunkan!

Make sure to order either “Aoyagi” or “Kobashira” unless you want to start a long conversation by ordering “Bakagai”!

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Sashimi Plate at Tomii (’09/05/20)


I suppose I need not introduce my favourite Japanese restaurant in Shizuoka City any more, as I just have stopped counting the articles I wrote about this place!

Anyway, Last night I went for a quick fix before resuming work.

Look at pic above showing what I was served as “o-sukuri/sashimi plate:
Front row:
-Uni/Sea Urchin, “Saimaki Kuruma Ebi/Shrimp variety, Aka Ika/Red Cuttle Fish, Ishidai/Seabream variety
Second row:
-Hon Maguro Akami/Blue Fin Tuna Lean Part, Kurodai/Black Seabream, Houbo/Bluefin Robin.
Note the Shiso/perilla flowers!


Apart of the freshly grated wasabi, I was presented two kinds of soy sauces: normal soy sauce and the other a mixture of soy sauce and sweet pickled Japanese plum/Ume Shoyu. The later is great with white-fkesh fish!


Before that I was served “Shunsai/Spring Vegetable”, a very tasty morsel for which vegans and vegetarians would swim across the Pacific Ocean!

Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-cho, 1-2-7, Tomii Bldg, 1F
Tel.: 054-274-0666
Business hours: 17:00~22:00
Closed on Sundays
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

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