Archives for March, 2009

Japanese cooking; Tempura

 When you are watching cooking shows on TV, you are exposed to see variety of produce,herbs,spice, cooking techniques, and  flavors from around the world.  It is interesting enough to make people to be encouraged to try cooking by themselves. However,when it comes to authenticity, it is sometimes compromised in ingredients or flavor.

I am particularly interested in skim through ingredients that celebrity chef put to make Japanese dish. Some recipes come closer to real taste of our cuisine but, it is different flavor from what I remember growing up with.

Most tempura recipe you can find online is good by its own,but when it comes to dipping sauce,it is far away from our authentic taste. Sometimes,ingredients are off.

So,I thought I would write on how to make authentic Tempura batter and Tempura dipping sauce,and how you can use the leftover tempura,and my version of Tempura ingredients.

All you need to make Tempura batter is,water,flour,and Egg. Many families would have the 3 key ingredients all the time. So,it is good for quick fix for quick supper.

First thing you need to think about is,what you are going to use for Tempura.

My mother used to make tempura with following items.

*Sliced sweet potato with skin on
*Sliced Green peppers
*sliced Onion
* Julienned carrots
*Sliced Eggplants with skin on
*shell off,tail off shrimp (you need to devein)
* cut-up green beans
*fish fillet
*Squid strip(cut to bite-sized)
etc

My version of Tempura ingredients are as following

*Sliced Green peppers
*sliced Onion
* Julienned carrots

* cut-up green beans
*bite size chopped baby corn (my husband’s favorite)
*sliced water chestnut (my favorite,because it gives you nice crunchiness when you bite)
*shell off,tail off shrimp (you need to devine)

** I usually devein my shrimp with toothpicks. It is safer and easier than using knife.**

One rest area vendor in Japan highway had potato fried up in oil and sprinkled kosher salt.I think batter is similar to donut batter but it was our favorite to pick up of we happened to stop at the particular rest area in highway in Japan. You can try with peeled potato and see how it comes out.

So,now you know what you like to fry-up,so prepare the ingredients and while you are chopping,prepare the oil to get hot. I recommend to use deep pan and don’t fill out more than half of the height. Ideally,it is good to use wide surface,deep pan for this,but I cook for just two people,so I tend to use heavy deep stainless steel pan with height of 5-6 inch tall or so.

I use vegetable oil for general Tempura.

To check if the oil is ready, you can use thermometer or you can drop one small bits of bread into oil and if it bubbly and floated to top right away,it means the oil is ready to use.

Now,you are ready to make tempura batter.

<Tempura batter>

1. In the bowl,pour ice cold chilled 200cc water (about little over 3/4C),and crack 1 Egg,and stir well

2. Put 1.5C of shifted all purpose flour,gently mix until the state some of the flour floating up,and stop stirring (If you mix real well and let it stand long,the batter gets heavy and does not make good bradding)

When your oil is ready to fry,put the tempura ingredients into batter, and drop them into oil

When tempura got crispy enough,pick it up,drain the oil (My mother told me to hold the tempura above the oil and shake a little and stay about 10 seconds to drain oil .) and put the hot tempura onto plate that are lined with paper towel, and sprinkle kosher salt while it is still hot.

**This tempura batter amount is probably enough about making 2-3 people adult serving**

<Tempura dipping sauce>

In the pan,pour 200 cc water (a little over 3/4C), 3 tablespoon of soy sauce(I recommend extra fancy whole bean soy sauce from kikkoman Japan that has just 4 ingredients. Some soy sauce has caramel coloring or other preservatives,check the label before buying. ) , 1.5 table spoon of Mirin(sweet rice wine), and 1/2 table spoon of white sugar. Stir well and simmer in the pan a little until sugar dissolve.

** My favorite brand of Mirin is Orange bottle of Morita brand,Honjozo Mirin.You can find them at Asian store**

When tempura is ready, serve this dipping sauce with choice of grated Japanese horseradish (daikon) or sliced lemon so that people can add in if they wanted to. I like the one with horseradish because it gives a little kick/zing to the sauce.

My other version of Tempura dipping sauce is mixture of ketchup and Worcester sauce.I use this to Okonomiyaki(Japanese savory pancake). I usually put more Worcester sauce than ketchup but it gives zing to your tongue and tastes good.

<Leftover tempura>

When you had leftover tempura,you can use toaster to crisp up again and eat it as is but also can use it to something else. Japan has dish called “Tempura Udon”. Udon is thick noodle with color of white. You can usually buy at local grocery store or Asian store. If you live in VA,I see them at Hmart(Asian store) in Fair fax or Ukrop store.

So,when you make Tempura Udon,you need to get Udon package. Here in US,you find all kind of flavored package but for this specific usage,pick the one with flavored of “Oriental”.

My favorite brand is Myojo,and green colored package with Japanese letters “Udon” on front(7.22oz).The package say “Japanese style noodles with soup base.

One package for 1 adult person. So,you can estimate how much package you need,and follow the direction on back of the package to make Udon.

My tip here is that,when your water got boiled,and ready to put udon, cut the udon package in half and then drop to water.Udon is generally long string so,this way,you get shorter noodle and easy to eat.

So, when you made Udon,plate them up and top the Udon with crisp Tempura.

This is what we call “Tempura Udon”. It is good taste to eat with Udon

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Mar 11, 2009 | 2 | Asian cooking 911

Dog’s memories

 When I was an University student, I used to visit some of my pen pals in foreign countries during  vacation.

USA,UK,Australia,Holland etc but, I visited USA more than other countries. Many of my friends in USA had dogs at home. One of the friends had gentle Golden Retrievers, and I visited her family a couple of times with interval of 2 years or 3 years,but they seemed to remember me and came to meet me with happy jumpy and wagging tail.

I wondered if they still remembered me even after 2-3 years of time not seeing me. My friend said they might have remembered me still.

After moving to the states and had our home, in 2005, we welcomed stumpy little Welsh Pembroke Corgi,”Palette”.

At about 3 months or so, we enrolled in puppy training class. There,the trainer told us that dogs just don’t learn and remember things in snap,and we need to do training repeatedly.

Also, Palette’s breeder told us that she would not think that Palette may remember/recognize her mother Corgi dog & father Corgi dog when she happened to see the parents on walk etc.

 So, these made me think how dogs remember things.

 According to animal.howstuffworks.com, human can think back to specific events or memories but animal can’t. They say dogs don’t have episodic memories or ability to remember event in the past.

 When dog seem to look like they know it is time for food,or where the food will be placed or when the dog parents will be home etc,it is not by memories but by biological clock: circadian oscillators (use fluctuation of hormones,temperature,neural activity). In other words,they do not remember how much hours passes between meals. Time is recognized just by human.

 (To read more on dog memory,please click here)

 So, I wonder if the Golden Retriever recognized scent,not by memories we spent together a couple of years back from the visited time.

As for puppy does not recognize their parents after separated, I wonder if it  is something to do with scent recognition. As puppy gets older,their scent can change?? I don’t know. It maybe interesting thing to search about.

 While I was trying to find about dog’s memories,I found interesting memory test for dogs from Modern magazine site. (Click here)

 While it is interesting to read how one  can mark score of memories,since they use smelly treats in test,I personally feel that score is more to do with sniffing ability rather than memory of the dog.

Even if dog did not remember where the people put the treat in, they can use keen sense of smell (their nose) to sniff out.So,I think it is hard to tell if it was found by sense of smell or memory.

What is your thoughts on dog’s memory? 

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Mar 09, 2009 | 0 | Miscellaneous (dogs)

Peanut sniffing dog

 There are many dogs who use their keen sense of smell for us on their job. Arson dogs that sniff out the gasoline,termite sniffing dog that sniff out  where termite reside,cancer sniffing dog that detect cancer, drug/bomb sniffing dog that sniff out hidden drug or bomb.. but have you ever heard of Peanut sniffing dog? I recently came across “Peanut sniffing dog” news.

 Peanut sniffing dog is the dog to sniff out the peanut residue, or object that contains peanut (wrapper of candy that contained peanut etc) by checking the places or object  to make sure that the place is safe for people who is allergic to Peanut to come in or contact with. If they find residue of peanut on chair,table or candies ,wrapper of candies that had peanut in it etc ,they either sit or paw at it.

 According to peanutallergy.com,peanut usually contains 200mg protein per peanut,but if people were allergic to peanut severely,very small amount of 2mg is enough to cause serious allergic reaction.

(To read more,click here)

Dog’s nose is much better than human so,their job as Peanut sniffing dog is really life saving job for handler/peanut allergy person.

Here is one video that I found on Peanut sniffing dog.

Peanut sniffing dog

 If you were interested in learning more on peanut sniffing dog,please click here.

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Mar 07, 2009 | 0 | Dogs on the job

Doll festival (Hina Matsuri) :Girls’ day in Japan

 March 3rd in Japan is called “Hi na ma tsu ri”. It is a cerebration day for girls.

 Boys have boys’ day in May. What we do on the special girls’ day is basically families with daughters (even grew up ones) cerebrate March 3rd by displaying the “Hina Dolls” on stepped shelf to express the wish for their daughters’ good health and growth.

The dolls have all traditional look to it:wearing kimonos,traditional hairdo,and you also put carriage on the step along with dolls.All these are based on look in “Heian court”.

If you have heard of the book titled “Genji story” in Heian court,these are what they were wearing at that time.At that time,capital city was “Kyoto”,not Tokyo.

There are many kinds of dolls to displayed but the one my family has has 7 steps and on the very top,we place Emperor,Empress on thick matted thing,and one step lower,you place Sannin Kanjo (3 ladies),and then one step lower,you place Gonin Bayashi (5 guys that play instruments for Emperor and Empress),one step down,you place Zuishin ( Escort) along with fake cherry blossom trees,then,one step lower,you place Eji (guards),and lower 2  steps,you mainly place carriage at that Heian times or mirrors for empress,Fake mochi thing.

All these are place on red cloth, and when you look at it,it is very nice. But it is expensive too.

These dolls are very delicate dolls and you need to wear gloves to handle and it takes time to place them as it supposed to be and, when you put them back,it must be on sunny day because it is not good condition for dolls to be put away on bad weather. So,when you put those dolls away and if the condition were bad for dolls,we simply put all the dollars face back and place cloth or something.

In Japan,it is believed that dolls need to be placed approximately 2 weeks from March 3rd at latest.Then,as soon as the day passed March 3rd,you need to put the dolls away.Otherwise, daughter  get marry very late.

For me, I was not too early to marry,not too late to marry,so I think my parents did good job taking care o f Hina dolls for us. I too helped put out, put back dolls. It sounds easy but it is very laboring job to do.

Here is a website you can see the Hina dolls. (click here)

Here is a website you can see how the Hina dolls are made. (Click here)

Above sites are all in Japanese,but you can enjoy pictures there.

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Mar 05, 2009 | 0 | Japan

Ms Lissa with Dane puppy crews,March 4th,2009

 “Thanks Yassy, I received my order today. The pups followed the box in the door and never took their eyes off of it. I unpacked it,and gave two the Antlers—they lasted about 30 minutes (that’s good for my crew).The Lamb trachea was gone in seconds.

Did I mentioned that I have rawfed Danes that are SERIOUS chewers? LoL!!! “

Until next time,

Lissa,MD

Feeding Raw Meaty Bones since 2001

** Feedback is used with permission**

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Mar 05, 2009 | 0 | Paw up?Paw down? Treats from Yassy's Gourmet Dog Kitchen

Palette in the snow. March,2009

 Today,we got quite heavy snow pile in our yard,and found it interesting to see Palette bunny-hopping in the snow,sticking her nose all the way into the pile of snow to sniff.

 She does not care when to play in the snow.She whines at bed time, hoping to be out from bed and play in the snow even in the midnight… She needs to understand that night time is for sleeping, but it can tell you enough that how much she loves playing the snow

 Palette in the snow March 09

 Here is one more picture of Palette today,with snow on her muzzle

Pal in heavy snow Mar09

How does your dog enjoy snow??

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Mar 02, 2009 | 0 | Miscellaneous (dogs)

Pizza

A couple of days ago,we had Pizza night. Pizza night is not the day that one of us pick up the phone and ask delivery of Pizza.

For us, Pizza night is the work-out day for myself,and it will be very happy tummy day for my husband,and it will be a  jackpot night for Palette the Corgi.

I make pizza from scratch and usually takes about 3 hours or so from start,but it is rewarding.

Nothing better than home-made pizza/bread.

For me, pizza dough is like an art canvas, where you can be creative in many ways. Especially with dough,you can explore flavor of the dough, you can explore the choice of topping, and you can explore the choice of pizza sauce.

Therefore,it is really fun stuff for me to think about what to make out of simple pizza dough.

 These couple of years, I have been in charge of making Pizza for Christmas gathering time.

My in-law family seem to enjoy them a lot,and I have already got one request from my mother in- law to make BBQ chicken pizza next Christmas. So,I am guessing that I will be Pizza maker for Christmas following years to come.

 As you already know,I love cooking.

Funny thing is,I hated pizza,I hated cheese when I was in Japan.But now.. I love pizza,I love cheese and I love making creative pizza myself. I think,partly because US has so many choice of cheese to taste,and I think my taste buds might have changed over the years living in the states.

 So,today, I thought that I would introduce some of my little secrets (I know,it is not going to be secret anymore though) to make good pizza with budget.

Tips on how to make a good pizza with budget…

 1. Use unbleached all purpose flour and unbleached bread flour with ratio of 50%- 50% in the recipe

For me, the choice of flour is important. The ratio would determine the texture of the dough. I personally prefer to combine the unbleached all purpose flour and bread flour with ratio of 50-50.It makes chewy but not too chewy tasty flavorful dough.

I found out that I like this combo flour for better aromas and better flavor. If you use just one kind of flour, it does not taste as good as combo flour one.So, my pizza dough is crusty on bottom,and inside is softer & chewy. Kind of like the texture of pretzels from  Aunties’.

2. Use table sugar over honey in the dough.

It just taste different,and I like one with sugar better.

3. If you use yeast in a jar like I do,you need to make sure the Jar is out from fridge before 30 minutes to make the yeast come to room temperature.Cold yeast does not do good job in proofing.

I like using yast in a jar, because I don’t have to buy it every time I feel like making bread.

4.  For water, measure the water, and pour into pyrux bowl,then microwave it for 30 seconds per cup of water.

I found out that that amount of time in microwave makes water to lukewarm temperature you need (110F-115F)

 All you need to make pizza dough is ingredients from above (yeast,water,flour,sugar) plus table salt.
Depending on recipe you follow, it may needs more, but base is just these.

 5. To make the nice dough, measure out the active dry yeast into lukewarm water (110-115F),add sugar and stir well,then, let it stand 5-10minutes until it gets frothy,bubbly on top.

 6. start mixing in the flour and mix until it forms nice ball. Then, dump onto sillpat and knead about 8 minutes.

The dough surface should become smooth,not too sticky,and should be elastic. There is a test you can do if your kneading is enough. it is called ” windowpane test”.

What is windowpane test?

What you do is, cut off small piece of dough,and gently stretch out/pulling to see if it will hold a paper-thin membrane. If it tore apart,you would knead a bit more and do the test again.

Some people use mixer to knead but,I like kneading with my hands.It is comforting and,good arm exercise,and fun.

7. When the dough is done, put the dough ball into greased with Extra Virgin Olive oil Pyrex bowl,cover it with either wet clothe or seal the top with saran,put it into pre-heated,turned off 200F oven.

You pre-heat the oven to 200F but once it gets to the temperature,you want to turn it off and use the heat to proof the dough. Then, wait about 90minutes or so until dough gets proofed up.

8. Once it gets proofed up, punch it down (let the gas out,and make the temperature of outer and inner dough equal,and dump onto floured sillpat and make shape with rolling pin (I like French wooden rolling pin),then prepare the cooking sheet (Using pizza stone maybe better but I do not have pizza peel so I use half-sheet pan.Thus,our pizza is rectangle. ) by placing non stick Foil and sprinkle Yellow corn meal around

9. place the dough,make a little wedge around using your side of your hands (This makes like Chicago’s deep dish  pizza-like look).

10. Brush with  Extra virgin olive oil (Cold press extra virgin olive oil is better for flavor),and put topping/sauce and let them rest about 5 minutes or so covering loosely with saran on top.

11. Then,bake with 425F-450F oven for 15-20 minutes long or until bottom gets crispy and brown on edge.

Yellow cornmeal on bottom is my little secret for crispy bottom pizza. It gives really nice texture for the dough.

 Like I said above,pizza can be very creative art canvas.

I have made spinach & Feta cheese pizza dough once,and it was really good. I once put Parmesan cheese into dough,to make cheesy flavored dough.This goes well with Alfred sauce based pizza.

With left over pizza dough,you can make garlic knots. Just simply roll out the dough,slice to 1 inch strip and make knots and brush with Extra virgin olive oil,sprinkle little bit of Kosher salt,little bit of dry Oregano,little bit of garlic powder are all you need.

It can freeze in freezer if you got more than enough knots too. and if you prefer,you can make just simple rolls.Just roll to round ball,rest it for 5-10 minutes,and brush it with extra virgin olive oil,and bake with 450F for 20-25 minutes until top gets reddish brown color and when you tap the bread and when you heard hollowing sound,it tells you it is done.

When you bake a little longer,it gives nice crunchy crust on outside,softer chewy inside. You can dip it into pizza sauce or simply dip into mixture of Extra virgin olive oil,grated Parmesan cheese,and dry pest seasoning and it is optional but you can chop karamata olive into small bits and mix well and you have nice dipping for bread.

 With sauce, I like sweeter sauce than salty or spicy sauce.Some pizza store serves really salty sauced pizza,but I prefer sweeter one.

My sauce is simple.Just pour in 28 ounce of crushed tomato sauce  and add a little bit of sugar to it.

Adding sugar helps the sauce balance out the acidity and sweetness.

Then,add little bit of oregano, and stir and done.

If you like spicy,you can add crushed red pepper. Key here is,make the sauce beforehand and use the cool down sauce to put on pizza dough.

 I have done pizza with garlic Alfred sauce with hint of hot sauce to give the sauce a kick,but it came out real good as well.

 Another sauce I have tried is, Basil pesto. with Basil pesto as sauce,I like the combination of Basil pesto+boiled and shredded chicken + Mozzarella cheese.This combo is really good.

 With topping,you can put anything you like,but my personal favorite topping other than cheese is probably red pizza sauce+sliced red onion+sliced green pepper+ thin strip of Deli ham+ chopped pepperoncini+mozzarella cheese. Chopped pepperoncini gives slight kick to the pizza and it is one of my favorite topping.

 But best topping that my husband likes is just plain cheese. No sauce. My secret to make good cheese stick is to use good fresh cheese.

I like using fresh mozzarella 30% (usually you can find them around refrigerated cheese area and it is as big as your fist.Not small mozzarella cheese you find in deli section),and low moisture shredded mozzarella cheese 70%.

The fresh mozzarella gives nice creamy cheesy almost garlicky taste to pizza and it makes really nice cheese stick. You cannot use fresh mozzarella cheese 100%  because it hold lots of moisture and it makes puddle of water pool on top of pizza,so it is best to mix with low moisture shredded cheese with low ratio for fresh mozzarella cheese.

 Another pizza my husband likes is margherita pizza.

Trick for this is that, don’t put the basil as topping to go into oven to bake. Bake the pizza without Basil and when it comes out and still hot, roll up the Basil leaves and thinly chop with scissors over pizza and it still gives you fresh basil aroma and taste.Also, since it did not go into oven,the bright green color stays,not go dark green.

 So,these are all my secret to make nice pizza dough/sauce.

We do  not make Pizza often but we have Pizza night now and then. When we do, we have home-made pizza. It fills up the house with bread bakery smell and it drives Palette crazy.

So,why not try making homemade pizza from scratch and let your kids play around pizza topping for fun experience with you?

You can save quite bit of money by making from scratch although it takes long to make it. You can find many pizza dough recipe on line.

I will be sharing some of my pizza recipes in the future here.

 
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Mar 01, 2009 | 0 | Miscellaneous (Cooking)