Shellfish Species 8: Pen Shell/Tairagi


Pen Shells or Tairagi in Japanese are usually sold in winter but tend to still appear in Sping in Shizuoka.


Also called Tairagai, it was very common not so long ago when the domestic catch amounted to 13,395 tonnes in 1976 to suddenly fall to a mere 134 tonnes in 1994!
It disappeared from the Tokyo Bay and is presently mainly caught in the Inner Japanese Sea between Shikoku and Honshu Islands.


It has become expensive these days and when you realize there is not so much to eat for such a big shell, one can understand it is fast becoming a rare morsel.


It is particularly delicious as sashimi or salt-grilled and is very similar to scallops, although distinctly different in shape.
Naturally it is most popular served as sushi nigiri!

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Shellfish Species 7: Clam/Hamaguri


Clams come in many varieties in Japan.
They are either called Common Orient Clams or Hard Clams, whatever their mode of cooking.


Japanese Clam Variety

In 1993, Japan produced 29,000 tonnes before suffering a steep decline down to only 1,500 tonnes in 2000.
Since then imported clams are 15 times the domestic production.
Main importers to Japan are:


China (see variety above): 20,100 tonnes


North Korea (see variety above): 3,33 tonnes

A great part of both Chinese and North Korean varieties are imported young and “re-planted” on Japanese beaches to be sold as Japanese varieties!

80 percent of all clams are sold over the counter at supermarkets while 20 percent are proceesed by canneries.

Clams, like everywhere in the world, are cooked/prepared inmay ways in Japan:


Ni-Hamaguri/simmered clams served in broth with vegetables, tofu and chopped thin leeks.


Chirashizushi/”Decoration Sushi”, very popular in Japanese homes!


But my favourite is Ni-Hamaguri Sushi!
The clam,s large variety only, are first slowly simmered into broth, then drained and cooled before being served brushed with a sweet “tare” sauce. Sublime!

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Shellfish Species 6: Turbo Shell/Sazae

Japanese turbo shells with and without “spikes”

Turbo shells are common all over the world, but are not eaten everywhere. Called Sazae or Sadae in Japan, they are at their best in Winter and Spring.
About 10,000 tonnes are consumed every year.


Korean turbo shells are also found in markets.

The Japanese consider that the best specimen should have a comparatively thin shell and well-pointed “head horn”.
They should not emit any noise when lightly shaken.
They should be avoided in hot weather as they tend to spoil quickly.


They can enjoyed grilled with soy sauce.
As sushi,they can be served as nigiri either raw or cooked.
Large specimen’s livers are served raw as “gunkan”!

Note: I feel in a good mood today as I slowly manage to convince old Blogspot friends like Melinda and new ones like Rachael to modify their Comment Box! At last I can leave messages and compliments for these great sites! LOL

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/34)


After Yesterday’s traditional Japanese bento, the Missus prepared an “open sandwich bento” more reminiscent of European/American packed lunches!


As she is away on a vacation today she did not need to prepare food for both of us.
She toatsed some bread and proceeded to rummage through the refrigerator:


Smoked salmon with capers and black olives.
Japanese-style scrambled eggs with Italian parsley from our verandah for a finishing touch.
Avocado slices.
Sweet plum tomato.
Dip sauce for the vegetables.


Smoked pepper ham and cornichons.
Cucumber and celery sticks for the dipping sauce (or is this the other way round?LOL)
Honey-pickled dates for dessert.

Very healthy!

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LE CAFE-LABO: Classic Cakes (11)-Benihoppe


It’s been some time since I could find a new creation by Le Cafe-Labo in Shizuoka City. The fact is that their current palette sells well, but I finally got my hands on one today!


“Benihoppe” is interesting for many reasons:
“Benihoppe” means “Red Cheeks” in Japanese, the name of a very popular strawberry variety in Shizuoka Prefecture. Did I tell you that Shizuoka is the biggest producer of strawberries in this country with more 1,200 registered growers?
This is obviously a seasonal creation.
The base is made up of a very thin layer of light “Joconde” sponge cake supporting a thick layer of vanilla mousse. Another thin layer of Joconde sponge cake helps support on another thick layer of Benihoppe Strawberry Mousse. The whole is covered with a very thin layer of strawberry coulis, a small benihoppe strawberry, a redcurrant, and a raspberry..

A very elegant, feminie cake you enjoy cutting through before letting all the savours melt into your mouth. Very tasty and light at the same time. A cake for the summer!

424-0886 Shizuoka City, Shimizu Ku, Kusanagi, 46
Tel.: 054-3441661
Also available at Isetan Dept. Store, Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Shichiken-Cho

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Shellfish Species 5: Gaper/Mirugai


We are just in season for Mirugai or Gaper Shellfish.
Known under many names including Mirugai, Mirukui, Mirukuigai, Mirukugai, Guidakku, Umitake or Atlantic Miru, it is a bit grotesque with its vent protruding endlessly.
In Japan it is collected mainly in the sea between Shikoku and Honshu islands.


It can be either dark brown or completely whitish beige.
When consumed as sushi or sashimi, the dark skin is taken off.
It is widely consumed in this country and more are imported from Canada, and Korea. There is practically no difference in taste or quality whatever its origin.


It is particularly popular with sushi lovers with a big appetite!

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/33)


Today’s bento was probably the most “traditional” the Missus prepared this year. It is very reminiscent of high school students can expect from their mothers.


The rice part is a double-decker. That is soy sauce will be brushed on a first layer of plain steamed rice and covered with dry seaweed. The operation is repeated to form the two-tier rice dish.


As for the garnish the Missus made small “sandwiches” with slices of zucchini intersped with a chicken paste she made with minced chicken, a lttle sake and what else before rolling them in cornstarch and frying them. Served with lettuce and fresh cress, it made for the vegetable part.


As for the “salad” part, she included mimosa-style boiled egg halves, “yama imo/taro roots” (raw) salad with two kinds of sesame seeds, pickled Japanese gourd and pickled Japanese cherry blossom, and a plum tomato for dessert.

Not as big as usual, but I have to lose weight!LOL

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Shellfish Species 4: Surf Clam/Torigai


“Torigai” does not have a real name in English. They are approximately translated “large cockle”
They appear on the market in Spring and earlier in Shizuoka Prefecture. They are mainly found in Tokyo Bay, Ise bay and Seto Inner Sea. Some are imported from Korea, but catches can wildly vary, especially with the occurence of “red tides”. A lot are imported from Aichi Prefecture to Shizuoka.


They must be absolutely fresh to be consumed.
One easy way to check if they are still fresh is to slam them on the wooden board. They shouldimmediately retract, even if cut out. They are at their cheapest between March and May.

(Pic taken at Sushiya No Ichi, Shizuoka City)

They can appreciated either as tsumami with a little grated wasabi and shoyu, or as nigiri.
Beware of torigai with a thin colour! They are not fresh!

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Shellfish Species 3: Oysters/Kaki

Oysters! One would be hard put to find a produce from the sea more internationally recognized as a gourmet’s choice! Moreover, it is the only shellfish you coul survive on if you get marrooned on a desert island! It is a complete food in irself if consumed raw.
For a long time (that is before coming to Japan), I had thought that my country, France, was the place to eat them. Well, I must admit it was a little pretentious from me, especially in the light that more than half of the oysters consumed back at home originated from Japan!

Now the Japanese has come with many ways of appreciating them:
-As in the picture above they would eat them as sashimi with a dash of wasabi and soy sauce.

-Or just a little lemon juice as in Euope, Americas or Oceania.

-Or in another japanese fashion, with ponzu and momijioroshi (succulent!)

-Or, and here Japanese and foreigners are simply crazy about them, as “kakifrai”, deep-fried oysters in batter and breadcrumbs with a nice tartare sauce!

-Or finally, and I would recommend the experience to all foreigners, as “kaki-gohan”, either with oysters steamed together with the rice, or cooked apart in light broth poured over a bowl of freshly steamed rice!

Of course, any good sushi restaurants will serve oysters as nigiri or gunkan!

In Japan, oysters come from various areas, mainly Hiroshima, Iwate and so on.
As for Shizuoka Prefecture, oysters mainly come from Hamanako inland sallted lake near Hamamatsu City.

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Shellfish Species 2: Scallops/Hotategai


Hotategai, or Scallops, is another worldwide favourite and also a source of dispute caused by illegal poaching, international or domestic.
The season is summer and the shellfish is sometimes called Akitagai, as of Akita Prefecture.
They are caught off Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.
The domestic production/catch is over 300.000 tonnes a year, while 400 tonnes are imported from China as whole Scallops and 700 tonnes as the muscle part only (“kaibashira”). Japanese scallops will be significantly larger than the Chinese.

Of course, they are much appreciated as sashimi, but also as sushi:
(pic taken at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City)

They are also much appreciated cooked/grilled in the shell with just a little shoyu and sake:

Actually, a good-class sushi restaurants will serve the muscle part as sashimi or sushi, and will serve the rest of the shellfish cooked in light broth inside the shell later!

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Shellfish Species 1: Abalone/Awabi

Kuro Awabi/”Black Abalone

With the weather definitely turning hotter, the first abalones or “awabi” start appearing on the markets.
The Japanese are great connoisseurs and amateurs of abalones, and they do have to import a lot to satisfy their demand!
There amany varieties of different quality avalaible inthe markets and restaurants.
Most are eaten raw, especially as sushi on nigiri!

Kuro Awabi/”Black Abalone”

As for the main varieties, you can sample expensive Kuro Awabi or “Black Abalones”


Another expensive variety is Ezo Awabi/”Ezo Abalone”

Ezo Awabi as sushi.

Lesser varieties include:

Madaka Awabi

Madaka Awabi as sushi

Megai Awabi

Megai Awabi as sushi.

Victoria Awabi imported from Australia.

Victoria Awabi as sushi.

Do not forget that catching abalones in a ny place in Japan without a proper license is a severly punished poaching offense!

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French Gastronomy on Stamps (29): Traditional Ingredients & Dishes


France has issued many stamps on food (not foodstamps!) on her own gastronomy for quite some time including the new series will be issued on April 25th and wil be printed in the form of mini-sheets dedicated to a particular region with stamps, pics and explanations.
As for stamps issued since the first stamp in 1849, a number of them were issued with Traditional Ingredients and Dishes as a theme:

Someone said that France is a muntain of butter in the middle of a lake of milk, a statement hotly disputed by Denmark!

The word crepe apllies only for the sweet whet flour pancake. Its original meaning is “lace” as of a lace veil.
The buckwheat pancake is called “galette”.

Oriinally a poor man/fisherman’s soup eaten with toasted bread has beome an extravagant “national” dish almost unrelated with the real one.

A traditional sweet from south France.

Created with beans originally from India. It takes four hours to cook it with beans, tomatoes and meat (pork, duck or goose) before being gratineed in an oven for at leat an hour.

Made in different regions of France. originally mad with goose liver. I, for myself prefer duck foie gras!

Did you know that all oysters in France, except for the Belon variety either came from Great Britain or Japan?

Originally from the Middle East, it is mainly prepared in Dijon, my birthplace!

Baguette is not French by the way. It was introduced by the Austrian Queen, marie-Antoinette!

POT AU Feu/Pot on the Fire
Has become universal!

The original one, cooked with fresh cream, eggs and bacon only!

made with lean pork and lard. Great, but careful with those calories!


CAFES, the symbol of a lifestyle originally came from Austria!

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Chicken Ham: Recipe


Following queries by Jenn and the unamed-yet friend at Food to Make you Miss your Plane about the Missus’ chicken Ham included in some of my bentoes, I decided to do some personal research (complemented by some comments from the Missus who is very cagey about her own recipes!).


Now, the following recipe is for Chicken Ham in the shape of a “ham”.
Natyrally, you can, like the Missus keep the original shape of the chicken breast.


You can slice or shred the chicken as shown above in the combination chicken/avocado salad. Variations are almost endless!

-One large chicken breast: 250g
-Sugar: 1 large tablespoon
-Coarse salt-black pepper mixture: 1 large tablespoon


Get rid of all skin and fat.
“Puncure” chicken shallowly on both sides.

Sprinkle sugar on both sides and

throughly brush it in on both sides.

repeat procedure with coarse salt-black pepper mixture.
Water will start oozing out.

Tightly seal inside zip-lock type vinyl envelope and leave it 48 hours inside the fridge (Get as much air out as possible before sealing!).

After the first 24 hours inside the fridge, throw out the water that has accumulated, reseal and put back inside the fridge.

That’s how it looks when you take it out of the fridge after 48 hours.

Take chicken ou, clean lightly with running water, and then let it rest in clear water for 30 minutes to get rid of the excess salt.

Take out of water and carefully get the chicken rid of water with kitchen paper.

“Roll” the chicken breast into a “hm” shape and secure it with a wooden toothpick 8avoid any contact with naked metal!).

Bind the chicken with cooking thread tightly until you have attained a ham shape. Take toothpick out and discard.

Wrap tightly into cellophane paper.

Wrap into foil paper twice.
Note: the Missus does not wrap it into anthing and just lowly directly boil the chicken into chicken bouillon.

In a big enough pan bring water to boil.

Put the foil paper-wrapped chicken inside water and switch off fire.

Cover with lid and leave it as it it is for 7~8 hours.
Take chicken out with its foil paper and let it rest inside fridge for 24 hours.
Note: The Missus will put the chicken and the whole broth inside a Tupperware box before puttin it inside the fridge.

Get Chicken ham out. Discard foil paper and thread.

Cut it to your liking.

That is when the fun starts!
Great as salads, in sandwiches and of course bentoes!

Note: The Missus sometimes, as an extra last step, smokes the whole chicken in green tea leaves!

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French Gastronomy on Stamps (28): River Fish


France has issued many stamps on food (not foodstamps!) on her own gastronomy for quite some time including the new series will be issued on April 25th and wil be printed in the form of mini-sheets dedicated to a particular region with stamps, pics and explanations.
As for stamps issued since the first stamp in 1849, a number of them were issued with River Fish as a theme:



Of course most varieties of Salmo both live in the sea and in rivers.
In France, salmon fishing regulations are very strict and define the season when one can catch the fish, its minimum size and fishing area.
The French probably appreciate it most poached, and served cold with a jelly coating and mayonnaise either served whole or in medaillons/thick slices.



Both caled the “King of Rivers” and the “River Shark”, its catches are also strictly regulated.
Most apprecated either poached and cold like salmon, or as quenelles/dumplings served hot in a gratineed bechamel sauce as made in Lyon!


GARDON/Common Roach

Found in big schools in quiet rivers, it is a small cousin of the carp.
The French mostly appreciate it in small size, emptied, rolled into flour and deep-fried, served with lemon and a good glass of white wine or beer.


PERCHE/Perch=River Bass

here is a fish whose catching, except for the season, is practically not regulated as it tends to overpopulate rivers and lakes to the detriment of other fish.
Best appreciated as deep-fried filets served with lemon or tartatr sauce! Great with a solid beer!

Look forward to the next postings! There are plenty more!

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TAKY’S classic Cakes (9): Buche Pistache


I have just discovered another new creation by talented Takuya Hanai and served it to two of my students today. The beginning of the week is always a good time as Mr. Iwai tries his new cakes out then!
I don’t have to tell you I have to keep a constant lookout as this talented and still young patissier.

“Buche” means a French roll cake in the form and shape of a wooden log, although it would be half a log in this cake. This why it caught my eye as I tend to avoid full rounded roll cakes.


It is another marvel as you go through all kinds of textures and falvours!
From bottom to top (although you will probably appreciate it theother way round):
-Thin flat base layer of chocolate sponge cake containing dry cherries and flavoured with cherry liqueur.
-Pistacchio Mousse. very elegant, light and very feminine in concept.
-Chocolate Sponge Cake, simple and light.
-Chocolate Mousse, creamy and savoury.
-A layer of Chocolate Ganache, firm, hard and crispy enough to incite you to break through it!

To appreciate with a great coffee or English tea!

420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo, 1-11-10
Tel.: 054-255-2829
Opening hours: 11:00~22:00
Closed on Sundays

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