Tag Archives: oden

January 2012, welcome, Year of the Dragon! Happy New Year!

9 Jan

2011, the year of the rabbit, skipped by very quickly – its little bunny tail quickly disappearing into the abyss of another 12 year cycle. 

Up rose the majestic Dragon, and hopefully, our health and luck continue the upward trend!

This week was a short week starting on Tuesday.  I included a little Japanese New Year items in my daughter’s lunch box.

Kimpira gobo, or julienned burdock and carrot slices (cut into matchstick width) that were sautéed and subsequently simmered in a dashi, soy sauce, mirin broth until the liquid is boiled away.  I’m guilty of cooking by “eyeballing” my recipes, but here’s a general recipe for this traditional dish:

One burdock (gobo) root – usually, they come in two in a package.  I take the non-bladed side of my knife, and shave the skin off.  It’s very thin, but very muddy – you can also choose to simply scrub the burdock with a vegetable brush.  It’ll be very fragrant – an earthy, herby fragrance that will be released, and the burdock root itself is a gorgeous creamy color.  Cut into 1 1/2 – 2 inch matchstick pieces, and allow to soak in some cold water.  The water will prevent the browning of the pieces.  Drain well, right before adding to the pan.

I like a healthy helping of vegetables, so I take three medium-sized carrots, peeled, and cut into similar matchstick pieces.

Into a large frying pan, I add 1 tbs of canola oil, and 1 tbs or sesame oil, heat until shimmering over medium heat, and add the drained burdock pieces and carrot pieces, and saute, coating the pieces well with the oil. 

I then add 3 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs mirin, 2 tbs white sesame seeds and 1/2 cup water, and continue sautéing the pieces.  I also add 1 tsp of the ground shiitake powder to the pan, and continue sautéing the pieces.  Adjust the seasoning accordingly.  Alternately, you could add 1/2 cup of dashi – I substitute actual dashi with the water + ground shiitake powder mix.

Once the liquid has cooked away, I remove from the heat, and it’s ready to go.

Also in her bento were cucumber slices, some oden, left over from New Year’s Day, as well as sekihan, or literally, red rice (Sweet rice steamed with adzuki beans, served with a little salt and , which is served on auspicious occasions.  The oden included were (my favorite) boiled egg, bamboo sprout slices, and konnyaku (devil’s tongue yam) pieces which have been simmered in a rich, dashi stock for many hours.  The egg is stained a lovely, caramel color, and the pieces are seasoned with the savory, slightly sweet oden soup.  My winter favorite!

Wednesday, I sent in a thermos container full of oden, as my daughter told me she loved to eat it.

For Thursday, I included:

Broccoli omelette

Roasted chioggi beet stars

Cucumber slices


Friday was pizza day – and I fell right back into the usual routine.


Middle of March bento

16 Mar

My younger brother and his wife came over to our house, and survived a sleep-over with our girls, as husband and I slipped away for an overnight trip with a dear college friend and her husband.  Uncle K announced he was coming with reinforcements (also known as bribes) – in the form of rice crackers, and ikura, or salmon roe. 

I grew up looking forward to a day I would be allowed to eat ikura until I was full.  My parents served ikura on special days – a family dinner night where my mother would prepare a huge batch of steamed white rice, and prepare a wooden hangiri or rice bowl, and mix the rice together with a sweetened rice vinegar mix with a shamoji  while she enlisted an innocent by-stander (usually father) to cool the rice with a fan while she deftly stirred the rice together.  “The key,” she would say, “is to slice into the rice, and not mash it together.”  I’d stand there rolling my eyes, fanning away with a paper fan, waiting for her to tell me I was relieved of my fan duties.

At dinner, the rice would be set at the table with pieces of sashimi, or raw fish on pretty plates, with squares of nori (seaweed) at each diner’s table.  Most often, the gorgeous, jewel-like balls of ikura would also be set at the table.  We would take a piece of nori (a square piece, about three inches x three inches, take a tablespoon or more of the rice and gently spread into half of the nori sheet, add a slice of sashimi (normally, it would be maguro, or tuna, hirame, or fluke, ika, or squid in thin slices, and mirugai or geoduck) and roll everything together into a nori cone.  We each had small dishes of soy sauce to carefully dip the sushi into, and enjoy.

To try to ease the burden of watching my kids, I had a huge pot of oden simmering when he arrived.  It had the usual goodies – various fish cakes, konnyaku, daikon, boiled egg, carrots, gobo simmered in a dashi stock, which perfumed the air, reminding both my brother and I of dinners growing up.  Definitely  Ofukuro no aji, literally translated as “mom’s home-cooking.”

Lunch for this week so far took advantage of the leftovers.

Monday’s lunch consisted of:

Left over oden – boiled egg, fish-cake “ballies,” carrots

Blanched snap peas

Steamed rice with nori furikake, or seaweed and sesame seed topping

Roasted beets in heart shapes

Tuesday’s lunch included:

Roasted chicken wings and drumsticks with salt, pepper and lemon

Boiled egg – simmered in dashi

Blanched snap peas

Roasted beets cut in stars

With the crisis taking place in Japan – earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear plant fires – my mind and heart have been elsewhere.  The news footage has been heartbreaking, and I’m worried for  my parents, my family, my friends – and for the future of Japan.  Thankfully my immediate family is outside the earthquake ravaged area; however, the effects are being felt.  Between the rolling blackouts, worries about food and fuel supply, and the potential effects of radiation deeply concern me. 

To ease my mind, I decided to cook. 

I made a turkey-meatball-vegetable soup, and let it simmer on the stove.  The turkey meatball included:

Minced onion, garlic and carrots


Ground turkey

In a pot, I added chicken stock, sliced carrots, onions, celery, and potato, and brought to a low boil.  Once the vegetables softened, I started dropping turkey meatballs into the boiling soup to cook.

My daughter’s lunch today included the aforementioned soup, and cut vegetables:  red peppers, cauliflower, beets cut into cat and heart shapes, and originally, I had steamed rice with denbu, or a fish flake topping as shown in the picture.  However, after I re-thought the amount of food already packed, I decided to change the rice for carrot sticks.

Hopefully she’ll enjoy her lunch.

Dad, Mom, I know you’re reading this – between the black-outs.  We are so worried, we are thinking of you both, the family, and sending strength, hope, and positive energy.