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Open, Sesame! Sesame Sauce Secrets

18 Dec

For matching traditional taste and foreigner’s enjoy of Japanese foods,

can use sesame easily in the dressing.

Creamy nuts taste is liked by everyone.

sesame dressed salad
Sesame dressed salad

I’m often asked my advice on products and brands by those who want to cook more Japanese foods, but just aren’t sure what to do when they enter their local Asian supermarket. “What’s the big deal?” I thought, “all you have to do is read the labels”. After a recent trip, however, I realized how often those labels were written only in Japanese! So here goes my first attempt at introducing you to one multi-purpose (and uber-delicious) Japanese-only labelled product: Goma-shabu, a sesame dip.

As you may know, the insanely popular salad, spinach goma-ae translates literally to “spinach dressed with sesame”, but you can make anything goma-ae with the addition of some sesame sauce. I don’t know how or why it happened, but North American sushi shops abandoned the  traditional soy-sauce based dressing (easily made with soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sugar) for a richer, creamy-style sesame dressing (warning to those with allergies – I highly suspect many of them use a peanut-based sauce). And despite my disdain for this inauthentic topping for spinach gomaae (it isn’t the real deal! Don’t be fooled into thinking the Japanese eat anything like it at home) I must admit that a creamy sesame sauce is damned delicious. The closest pre-bottled dressing I can find for those who want to recreate their favourite restaurant treat at home is Goma-shabu. It’s not only tasty, but also versatile.

So here is the bottle:




And here is how to use it:

  • use it straight up as a salad dressing on a green salad, tofu salad, or noodle salad
  • mix in a few tablespoons with a can of tuna for a twist on tuna salad
  • on a tuna sashimi & avocado donburi – arrange sliced sashimi and avos on a hot bed of rice, pour on a little dressing and top with crushed sesame seeds to garnish
  • stir it into a bowl of grilled or BBQ-ed vegetables like eggplant, zucchini squash and pumpkin
  • use it for its original purpose, as a dip for hotpot. It’s specifically meant for beef shabu-shabu, but I use it for veggie and seafood hotpots as well



Seafood hotpot with sesame sauce and ponzu sauce

Really, anything I put it on tastes better. Shake it well, as it separates, and try it on anything else you fancy.

Happy forking!



Where to shop for Japanese ingredients

20 Oct

For making authentic Japanese dishes, the shopping for ingredients is thing for not forgetting. Also, never forget important Japanese manners of beautiful presentation with proper dishes.

List of those places for getting it is here.

Let’s enjoy shopping for real Japanese foods-ware!


Where to buy Japanese Ingredients in Vancouver

Japanese food enthusiasts are lucky to live in Vancouver (and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland of B.C.) where Asian produce is readily available, and imported Japanese food is around nearly every corner! There are many places to shop for Japanese ingredients, but here are my favourite:


Fujiya’s largest location (on Clark and Venebles) is your one-stop-shop for all pantry items. This is where you will find everything you need to keep in stock: dashi, large sacks of rice, noodles, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, ponzu, and the best selection of Japanese pickles. They also have a good stock of frozen items (including the famous natto), a selection of fish, ready-made sushi and bento, Japanese cookbooks, and even carry Japanese kitchen tools such as ginger graters, cooking chopsticks, and more. Although short on produce, they do carry some specialty vegetables such as kaiwara (daikon sprouts) and shiso herb (often used as a garnish for sushi and sashimi). If this location is convenient to you, you can stop reading now.


Although mainly Chinese in its product, T&T locations carry a great stock of Japanese items. Although less likely to carry the widest variety of Japanese soup stocks and sauces, the best part about T&T is its variety of Asian vegetables, freshly made noodles and selection of frozen fish. It’s also the best place to pick up fish balls for nabemono (Japanese hot-pot).


H-Mart is primarily Korean, and has a small selection of Japanese sauces and stocks, but has a great selection of Asian produce and seafood that more than makes up for it. This is a good place when you just need a couple of additional items. Their downtown location is on the second floor (look up!) and also has ridiculously convenient hours: 7am – 10pm Monday – Saturday, and 9am – 10pm on Sundays.


The smallest of the stores mentioned, Konbiniya mostly carries dried/instant foods, snacks and bento boxes. Famous for the automated voice welcoming you to the store upon arrival and thanking you for your visit as you leave, they tend to have a selection of ingredients for easy to prepare [read: instant] foods for home-sick Japanese ex-pats needing an instant reminder of home. However, they do carry some staples. Also check out the manga, videos, Japanese hair-dresser, dishware, and karaoke box upstairs!

Where to Buy Japanese Dishware and Cookware

Daiso in Richmond ( and YokoYaya downtown ( are two of the best places to find daikon graters, ginger graters, sesame mortars, cooking chopsticks and other amazing Japanese cookware. T&T is good for rice cookers, but various stores in Chinatown also carry them. Look for Japanese brands (like Zojirushi) with heavy insets for the highest quality.

For something a little fancier, try Utsuwa-no-yakata in Burnaby (in Metrotown) and in Richmond (at Aberdeen Centre). They also carry earthenware nabe (hotpot dishes) and lovely sets at reasonable prices.

Let’s enjoy shopping!

Roe, roe, roe my boat

27 Aug

Everybody is show their love by enjoy eating

Roe of fish is taste great!

If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning, you may have noticed my slight obsession with fish roe, particulary mentaiko, the hyped-up, spiced-up version or tarako (haddock roe).

Mentaiko are only one of the many types of egg-straordinarily delicious occidental pre-embryonic delights. But even more than ikura (salmon roe that provide a little squirt of juiciness that is to die for) and tobiko (flying fish roe that adorn the outside of many an inside-out roll), my heart belongs to mentaiko. (By the by, if you’re in the Lower Mainland, the sockeye are running this weekend, so get out there and buy some local fish and fish roe! I dunno about you, but by Monday, I hope to be buried in a mound of ikura and have to eat my way out.)

Nothing really can beat the adaptability of mentaiko to a variety of cuisines. Salty, spicy, and with that little bit of “pop!” that roe so satisfyingly gives in your mouth, it’s well worth overlooking its’ veiny and rather off-putting appearance. Available in Vancouver at the Korean supermarket H-Mart, and at Vancouver’s largest Japanese food store, Fujiya, this salty treat just needs to defrost before use. Use it sparingly – just one egg sac will deliver enough salt, spice, and texture for 3 – 4 people, depending on how it’s used in the dish.

If you haven’t tasted it before, and aren’t sure if you want to invest in buying a whole box before you know you like it, give it a try in the yaki-udon at Vancouver izakaya chain Zakkushi.

Ready to give it a try? Here are some suggested uses. And relax – it’s SUPER easy to use, and absolutely tasty.

Recipe 1: The Basic Mentaiko – Mentaiko on Rice

They say that simple is best, and if you really like mentaiko like I do, all you need is the accompaniment of a bowl of white rice.

Mentaiko on Rice

Mentaiko on Rice

How to make Mentaiko on Rice

  1. Defrost one egg sac of mentaiko overnight in the fridge.
  2. Cut the egg sac into 4 pieces and place one on each bowl of hot white rice (or a mixture of half brown, half white rice). If you are averse to eating the casing (it’s very thin, but some people might find it hard to take, looks-wise) slice open the sac and spoon about a quarter of the eggs into a small pile on your rice. Enjoy!

Recipe 2: Mentaiko on toast

Another example of mentaiko matched with a favourite carb, the Japanese enjoy eating it on a french baguette (you’ll find mentaiko furansu-pan at most Japanese bakeries)

Mentaiko toast

Mentaiko toast on the far right

How to make Mentaiko on Toast:

  1. Generously butter and then spread mentaiko on either sliced bread or on a halved small French baguette.
  2. Grill in the oven or toaster oven until bread is crusty and mentaiko has cooked through (it will change colour to a light pink when cooked). Enjoy!

Recipe 3: Wa-fu (Wa-hooo!) Mentaiko Pasta

“Wa-hooo!” for wa-fu (literally “Japanese style”) pasta – a treat that takes the best of both Italian and Japanese cuisines and comes up with something out of this world. There are a whole schwack of wa-fu pasta recipes out there, but mentaiko is a perennial favourite.

Mentaiko Pasta

Mentaiko Pasta

How to make Wahoo! Mentaiko Pasta

  1. Defrost the one to two sacs of mentaiko overnight in the fridge. Once fully defrosted…
  2. Boil spaghetti  for 4 in plenty of water. Once cooked al-dente, drain the spaghetti and set aside.
  3. In a frying pan over medium heat, add about 2 Tbsp. butter or oil, the mentaiko, spaghetti, and about 1 Tbsp soy sauce and 3 – 4 Tbsp Japanese mayo, tossing and adjusting soy sauce and mayo to taste.
  4. Serve hot, garnished with sliced shiso herb or shredded dried nori.

Want more details? Go HERE for the full recipe.

Come on, let’s roe our boats together for salty MENtaiko!

Shopping in Japan: forking cheap!

13 Jul

It’s true that Japan is home to the truly, extravagantly, unattainably expensive and unnecessary products (such as face cream dotted with flecks of gold leaf – it’s true, my mother bought it, in both senses of the phrase). However, it’s also home to unbelievably well-priced, well-made, oddly handy and exciting things for your kitchen (and belly!)

In order to fully take advantage, I have been scouring all sorts of stores to find those items that you just can’t buy at home, taking trains to towns big and small, chatting with street stall ojisan (uncles), popping my head into village shop windows, browsing through the Japanese big brand stores and daintily walking through posh department stores, hoping to not be noticed as the working-class intruder that I am. And for all of that train-riding, head-popping and dainty walking, there are two stores that always stand out as the best buys: the convenience store and the 100 yen shop.

The Japanese Convenience Store:

Actually convenient, the Japanese konbini (short for kon-bii-ni-ansu su-to-ah = “convenience store”) is home not only to dirty magazines, razors and shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste, stockings and socks, breath fresheners, and everything else you need for a clandestine night away from home, it’s also the place where you can stock up on the social lubricant that will get you there – liquor!

Conbini Biiru

Convenient Sake

With a wide selection of sake and beer, the Japanese convenience store is there to ensure you have a forking good time when you just can’t make it home from the office.

Conbini Onigiri

Convenient food

You may want to fill your belly with more than just drink though, and so much more than the North American 7-11, the Japanese convenience store is full of yummy snacks, treats, and what’s more – REAL FOOD. Rice balls, lunch boxes with rice, egg, noodles, potato salad, and main courses of chicken, beef, or fish, you can leave a Japanese convenience store with more than just a processed-cheese smothered hot dog and a stomach ache. Ahh, konbini-ent.

The 100 Yen Shop:

Possibly even more convenient than the Japanese konbini, the 100 yen (= around $1) shop carries everything from underwear to make-up, from furniture to home-cleaning items, and my favourites, dishes and food! One walk around the 100 yen shop and you’ll be shocked at all of the things you have been living without.


100 Yen Heaven

Totally enthralled by the dishes available, I refrained from buying the breakable, and went with some cute, plastic bowls and trays.

Hyakkin booru

100 yen treasures

And the best part is, you don’t have to be in Japan to enjoy a 100 yen adventure! Greater Vancouver’s Richmond has it’s very own Daiso – the first of its kind in North America. If you’re in the area, take a trip to Aberdeen Centre and delight in two whole floors of madness. Be careful, though, with import fees, everything at Daiso Canada is a pricey $2 Cdn!

I’m off to the Japanese countryside for the next week plus, where I’ll be weeding, gardening, forking up some food for my leathery grandmother, and saving up some posts for when I return to internet-accessible areas.

Let’s forking when I come again!