Tofu true love: Hiyayakko

8 Dec

Love of pure heart of tofu exist by name, Hiyayakko.

Best dishes for preparation by person like a topping in many variety

and pure taste of the real tofu.


Hiyayakko with natto
Hiyayakko with natto (fermented soy beans)

People are suspicious of tofu. And if they live outside of Asia, I don’t blame them. There is one thing that really bothers me about tofu in North America. It’s gross. I mean, I’ll eat it, and maybe even enjoy it… but I don’t consider it tofu. Here, soy bean curd is used as a meat substitute, whereas in Japan, tofu – soft, smooth, and rich with a mellow bean flavour – is enjoyed for it’s texture and delicate qualities. It’s eaten boiled, simmered, grilled, fried, as a drink and as a dessert custard. There are multiple course meals based around tofu and all its glory. It’s delicious. And if you really like tofu? You get raw, and top it.

Ingredients for Hiyayakko (per serving)

  • Chilled soft (silken) tofu. For this dish, it’s worth going to the Asian market for the real deal. If you can’t find soft tofu, do not substitute this with medium or firm tofu. Simply abort the mission until you find the good stuff.
  • Garnish of choice (see below for some suggestions)
  • Soy sauce or ponzu sauce (available at Japanese markets and many grocery stores)

How to make Hiyayakko:

  1. Carefully slide a single serving size of tofu onto a small side plate (first drain the water out of the package and cut the typical “square” of tofu into roughly 4 equal servings).  If you’d like, cut a grid into each serving, resulting in 4 or 6 bite-sized cubes.
  2. Top with your favourite garnish (see “Variations” section below)
  3. Pour on a little soy sauce or ponzu sauce to taste, adding wasabi paste if you like the kick.
  4. To eat, roll each cube in the sauce and enjoy with a little pile of the topping. YUM!

Variations for Hiyayakko toppings:

Katsuo-bushi (shaved bonito) and green onion

  • Sprinkle some katsuo-bushi on the tofu, and top with a little finely sliced green onion.
  • Serve with soy sauce and wasabi, if you like

Natto and green onion (pictured above)

  • Vigorously stir purchased natto (fermented soy beans – very stinky!) and pour over tofu.
  • Top with thinly sliced green onion.

Umeboshi and shiso with ponzu sauce (pictured below)

  • Finely slice shiso herb and place on tofu
  • Pit a couple of umeboshi and chop finely, until it becomes a paste. Place a dollop on top of the shiso nest, or place on the side to mix in with the ponzu (as you would wasabi in soy sauce)
  • Pour over a little ponzu, for dipping, to create a citrusy, fresh dish

Katsuo-bushi (shaved bonito) and white onion

  • Slice fresh white onion into paper thin slices, and soak in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes (better to do this for an hour or more). Change the water a few times for best effect.
  • Drain and spin or pat onions dry, and make a beautiful pile on top of the tofu.
  • Sprinkle liberally with katsuo-bushi flakes
  • Serve with soy sauce


Hiyayakko with shiso and ume

Hiyayakko with shiso (perilla) herb and ume (sour plum) paste

Happy forking!


Heat me up, Scotty: Takikomi Rice

14 Nov

It’s now a cold season. May I make a suggestion?

Boil the rice inside with soy sauce and goods  for keeping body comfortable temperature.

Warm of rice for body is clever technique on such a cool day.

Takikomi Gohan

Rice cookers rock. Not only do they cook perfect rice every time, they also give you the freedom to make dishes like takikomi gohan. At the danger of sounding like an infomercial, I have to say that it’s SO EASY to make. Just to throw in some veggies (and possibly meat) and seasoning in with your rice, press “cook” and wait for deliciousness. The best part is, these make great onigiri (rice balls) for tomorrow’s lunch.

There are two ways to make it:

  1. The easy way.
  2. The REALLY easy way.

How to make takikomi rice “The easy way”:

  1. Wash and rinse 2 cups of plain, Japanese rice. Drain. Put into your rice cooker and fill to the “2” line with fresh water.
  2. Drop in some sliced mushrooms (shiitake, shimeji, enoki, matsutake, button, etc.) cubed carrots, sliced bamboo shoots (takenoko), strips of inari (deep fried tofu sheets), bite-sized pieces of raw chicken or thin slices of pork, half a can of tuna, or whatever other fillings you like or have in your kitchen.
  3. Season with 1 Tbsp sake, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp mirin (or 1 tsp sugar).
  4. Press “cook”. Enjoy. Serve with a sprinkle of some crumbled or sliced nori (dried seaweed) or sesame seeds on top for garnish.

How to make takikomi gohan the REALLY easy way:

  1. Wash and rinse 2 cups of plain, Japanese rice. Drain. Put into your rice cooker and fill to the “2” line with fresh water.
  2. Add a pre-packed bag of fillings and bag of seasoning (available at Fujiya) and press “cook”. Enjoy.


pre-mixed set of fillings for takikomi gohan

Rice Balls! Making Onigiri with Shinmai

2 Nov

Balls of good firmness with some of salt taste

Remind me the traditional times grains

Using time of new rice to eat fresh balls is enjoyment of fall season

Onigiri with furikake seasoning and a piece of nori

It’s the season of shinmai (new rice) and when rice is this fresh and delicious, the best way to eat it is the simplest way. Plain. With a little salt and wrapped in a piece of nori (seaweed). The amazing blog Just Hungry featured this article in the Japan Times, which gives a run-down on shinmai as well as a recipe for the delectable onigiri (rice ball). (For more on balls, click here for two of my fave.)

Happy forking with balls!

Omuraisu: Fried Rice Omelet

31 Oct

True loves of couples takes special place in our hearts

When lonely time with no love, you can make lovely couple of fried rice and omelet

It is enjoy new home-cooking and show food’s romance


Omuraisu: Japanese-style Western food

Got leftover rice? Got random bits of vegetables and meats and/or seafood? You have a meal. Yakimeshi (fried rice) is best prepared with day-old (or more) cooked rice, because refrigeration dries it out and allows the grains to separate. So don’t look at that dry, old rice as a nuisance – eat it’s potential!

Got eggs, too? Then you’re set to make one of the most popular yoshoku (Japanese-style western food) dishes, omuraisu (a portmanteau of omelet and rice). In its most basic state, it is an omelet stuffed with fried rice, topped with either tonkatsu sauce or ketchup. Substitute the ingredients below with whatever suitable bits and pieces you have available to you, and riff on the theme with the sauces of your choice. Common variations see omuraisu dressed up with a curry sauce or Chinese-style an (a thickened soup stock).

Ingredients (per omelet)

For the Yakimeshi (fried rice)

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil for cooking
  • ¼ cup white, yellow or green onion, chopped
  • ½ clove chopped garlic
  • ½  cup chopped vegetables of your choice (e.g. zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, peas, green beans, tinned corn, or whatever is handy)
  • ½  cup chopped protein of choice: cooked meats such as pork, ham, or chicken, or raw or cooked seafood such as shrimp, scallops, prawns or squid
  • salt and pepper (white pepper is best, but black pepper is fine) or dashi powder and pepper to taste or ½ a crushed bouillon cube
  • approx 1 cup warm cooked rice (reheat before frying)
  • 1 Tbsp each of tonkatsu sauce and tomato ketchup or 1 Tbsp soy sauce

For the Omelet

  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2  eggs

How to make Omuraisu:

Prepare the yakimeshi:

  1. Chop all ingredients before beginning. Once you begin cooking, you won’t have much time.
  2. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic until onion softens.
  3. Add chopped vegetables, and cooked meat or seafood and continue to sauté until vegetables are cooked through and meat is heated. If using raw seafood, wait until vegetables are mostly cooked through, and add raw seafood for the last 2 minutes or so of cooking (so as not to overcook).
  4. Salt and pepper to taste
  5. Add the re-heated rice (easiest done in a microwave) and stir to break it up.
  6. Add the sauce of your choice, and stir to mix. If using soy sauce, clear a space in the middle of the pan, add the soy sauce to the hot pan, and then mix in. This prevents the sauce from being absorbed by a select few grains of rice.
  7. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add a drizzle of sesame oil if desired. Mix into the rice.
  8. Once heated through, transfer to a bowl or plate while you prepare the omelet.

Prepare the omelet:

  1. Pre-heat a smaller, non-stick or well-seasoned frying pan on medium-high heat, adding just enough oil to thinly coat the surface.
  2. In a bowl, crack two eggs and beat vigorously. To be very Japanese, do this with chopsticks!
  3. When the pan is hot enough (it is ready when eggy chopsticks across the surface results in a cooked stripe of egg) quickly pour in the egg, and then mix with chopsticks until partially set, but still covering the surface of the pan.
  4. Allow to set to desired consistency – the Japanese like it a little runny.
  5. Carefully slide the sheet of egg onto your serving plate, and place yakimeshi onto half of the egg sheet. Fold over the over half, resulting in a half-moon omelet filled with fried rice.
  6. Top with ketchup or tonkatsu sauce.


Yakimeshi can use up all the random bits left in your fridge. Just stick to the general rule of cutting things quite small, and cook the ingredients in order starting with the things that take longest first (like onions, bell peppers, frozen peas) and working down to quick things like green onions , tinned corn, or chopped greens. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Try throwing in some katsuobushi (bonito flakes) in at the end for good measure and a little extra saltiness.
  • Add some spice with hot chili paste, chili flakes, or a few drops of chili oil
  • Make the rice extra moist by adding ½ a can of tomatoes and a bay leaf in after sautéing the vegetables. Heat through and continue with the recipe.
  • Add a drizzle of sesame oil in with the soy sauce for a little extra aromatic quality.

For fuwafuwa, torotoro eggs:

The Japanese love their eggs runny, and a true Japanese omuraisu omelet is only partially set and prized for its simultaneously fluffy (fuwafuwa) and runny (torotoro) texture. If you’re confident in your frying-pan technique, and can easily flip pancakes and crepes with a flick of your wrist, then try the art of making a fuwafuwa torotoro omuraisu the way the pros do, by either putting a soft omellette on top of your rice:

or by incorporating the rice into the omellette right in your pan:

Happy forking!

Spinach Gomaae

24 Oct

One of most popular Japanese dish, simple preparation is best feature.

Enjoy to squeeze the water out, making leaves tender.

Pleasure of health by eating.

Spinach Gomaae

Spinach Gomaae

Gomaae salads in North America are usually presented with spinach, but you can make a variety of things in gomaae style. (Goma = sesame, Ae = to dress.) Although the custom is generally to undress before forking, this dressing is so yummy, you’ll prefer to be dressed for this forking sesssion. Dressings vary from cook to cook, so see the suggestions below for four different takes on this ever-popular dish.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 bunches of spinach, or the guu (filling) of your choice (see “Variations” section”)
  • Goma dressing (choose variation appealing to you)
Ingredient Recipe 1 Recipe 2 Recipe 3 Recipe 4
Freshly ground sesame seeds (NOT tahini) 4 Tbsp 3 Tbsp 3 Tbsp 4 Tbsp
Sugar 2 Tbsp 3 Tbsp 1 ½ Tbsp 1 Tbsp
Soy Sauce 1 ½ tsp 2 Tbsp 1 ½ Tbsp 1 Tbsp
Sesame oil ¾  – 1 tsp 3 Tbsp

How to make Spinach Gomaae

  1. Prepare and set aside the dressing.
  2. Wash and boil the greens. Boil and salt plenty of water, drop in washed leaves and boil until just wilted.
  3. Drain wilted leaves into a colander and plunge into a large bowl of icy cold water.
  4. Once greens have cooled, drain them again and then squeeze out the water (be quite firm). The leaves will be much smaller in size – don’t be surprised.
  5. Prepare portions: Shape the squeezed greens into a thick log-shape, and cut into individual portion sizes. Put each portion into a small dish and dress just before serving. (Toss the dressing through the guu if you prefer.)


Toss any of the following (or any combination of the following) with the dressing for a simple side-dish

  • Salt-massaged vegetables: e.g. daikon radish, carrot, cucumber which has been thinly sliced, salted and “massaged”, left to leech moisture for 20+ minutes, and then squeezed out.
  • Steamed vegetables: e.g. green beans, thinly sliced potato
  • Sauteed vegetables: e.g. mushrooms, okra
  • Steamed or boiled meats: e.g. chicken, sliced pork
  • Raw fish: sashimi-grade tuna (cut into cubes) or slices of tuna carpaccio – great with avocado

Not the same as the creamy “gomaae” dressings you’ll find at most Japanese restaurants (some of which taste as though they are made from peanuts and not sesame) you can substitute the above recipe with a pre-made sesame dressing. Try sesame shabu shabu dipping sauce if you prefer to fork something creamy and rich.

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!

Thank You for Smoking our knives

16 Oct

Searching the web for a video illustrating Japanses omuraisu (rice omellette) technique, I happened upon this utterly incongruous promo for “Thank you for Smoking”, the movie starring Aaron Eckhart as cold-hearted, smooth talking, big tobacco spin doctor.

I would like to have been in the advertising meeting where someone pitched the idea for a “Big Tobacco Satire knife”. Perhaps they were convinced that people who love the sharp edge of satire also love sharp knives.

Oh, and the rice omellette? Still an impressive feat of omellettery: