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Thursday, September 30, 2010


Many different kinds of seaweed are eaten in Japan. One of them is wakame (pronounced wa-ka-may.)

This deep green sea vegetable is a standard addition to the miso soup eaten with many (most?) Japanese meals, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. I've had some delicious miso soup, but I've also been served a lot of miso soup I did not enjoy. But good soup or bad soup, I always like the wakame. One of my favorite Japanese salads is a combination of wakame, thinly sliced cucumber, and seafood with a sweet vinegary dressing. 

Recently I traveled to Naruto on the Southern tip of Shikou to see the whirlpools there. One of the local food specialties in that area is wakame. In a souvenir shop they had tasting samples of wakame simply dressed with ponzu, a combination of sour citrus and soy sauce. It was so delicious that I bought a big pack of dried wakame to take home with me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


 I often go on long bicycle rides, and it always makes me really hungry. Sometimes I pack a picnic, but even if I do, I eat it all up quickly and end up buying stuff from convenience stores. A while ago I rode from Kyoto to Uji to Ishiyama and back to Kyoto. The scenery was great, especially along the Uji / Seta River. I took a rice ball with corn, okra, and black pepper, some walnut brownies, a mini-pack of tofu, and a nashi pear. I ate all that at Uji, and by the time I got to Ishiyama I needed more food, so I bought fried chicken wings and a sweet potato chou cream (in NZ we call those cream puffs.)
Sadly I don't seem to lose any weight from biking....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I never skip breakfast. In New Zealand I always ate home-made meusli. Bought meusli is often loaded with sugar and far too sweet for my taste. Rolled oats for meusli are available in Japan, but only in expensive small bags which the miserly streak in my psyche prevents me from buying. The classic Japanese breakfast is rice, grilled fish, pickles and miso soup. It's very healthy and good... just not what I want for breakfast. Lunch maybe, but not breakfast.

So I have eggs sometimes - fried, scrambled  or maybe a cheese omelet. Sometimes I have toast (made from my delicious home-made multi-grain bread.) However the breakfast I eat most often is rice 'pudding'. Many Japanese are repulsed at the idea of sweet rice, but none of them seem to have actually tried it...

Rice with blueberries, walnuts & yoghurt
When I say rice pudding, it's not the rice pudding my mother used to make (although I love that too, and I still can't make it as well as my mother.) I use left over cooked rice. In winter I usually heat it. In summer I leave it cold. I add something sweet, like a handful of raisins or blueberries, or some raw chopped apple, or even some whole sweet beans that are used in traditional Japanese desserts and sweets. If I have walnuts I add a small handful of walnut pieces, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I top it off with a couple of big spoonfuls of natural unsweetened yogurt. The fruit or beans add enough sweetness for me.

It's quick, healthy (even more so if I use brown or multi-grain enhanced rice), satisfying, and delicious.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Spaghetti with chicken, tomatoes & pesto
 In case you don't know what it is, pesto is a green paste made with basil, pine nuts and olive oil. You can spread it on bread, toss it through cooked pasta, dribble it onto pizza or cooked chicken. It's delicious with potatoes too, whether they are mashed, diced, sliced, boiled, baked or fried. Try mixing it with a creamy mayonnaise - yum!

In Japan basil is sold for premium prices, in tiny little bunches, or in little pots that start to die on me before I even get them home. Pine nuts are expensive too, and probably only available from foreign food stores. But you can buy huge bunches of parsley at the supermarket, or if you have a garden it's easy to grow. And parsley makes wonderful pesto. Heres how... 

You need a blender or a food processor. Put in 4 peeled cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup almonds or walnuts, about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 5 cups of loosely packed parsley (remove any tough thick stalks), and 1/2 cup olive oil. Process until everything is finely chopped, then add up to 1/2 cup more oil slowly until you have a dark green paste that is just thin enough to pour. Store in a glass or plastic container and refrigerate. Use within 3 months, or freeze for longer storage.

You can mix parsley with basil, and I haven't tried it out yet but probably you can make it with other herbs or mixtures of herbs. I've made it without nuts or cheese too, and it was still good. 

 By the way, did you know that parsley is a cure for garlic breath? So eating them together like this means you don't have to suffer a garlic after-taste next day.