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Easy Japanese Recipes


Sushi Rice 酢飯の作り方

How To Make Sushi Rice | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

One of the frequently asked questions that I receive from readers is about sushi rice.  When you hear “sushi rice“, what do you think it is?  Is it the short-grain Japanese rice, or rice used to make sushi?  Well, actually both answers are correct.

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Pumpkin Smoothie

All-star, easy-to-follow Pumpkin Smoothie recipe - Perfect for a delicious on-the-go breakfast in the fall!  JustOneCookbook.com

Today is Halloween and also my birthday (yippee!), and I have one more thing to celebrate.  It’s the 1 year anniversary of me going to the gym!   Yeah seriously.

Last year I committed myself to go to the gym for the first time ever.  Thanks to my awesome personal trainer that I meet on Mondays, I have been exercising 3-5 days a week over the past year!  It was a huge lifestyle change for myself and I’d like to celebrate today with this delicious, velvety and creamy fall treat, Pumpkin Smoothie!

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A Quick Guide to Tokyo DisneySea

Guide for Tokyo DisneySea | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com In 2013, we took our children to Tokyo Disneyland when we visited Japan.  Our entire family had a magical time and I still remember the touching moment when my son was watching the electric parade going by.  He turned me to and said, “mom, it’s so beautiful I want to cry.”  Since we had such a great time, when we visited Japan this past summer we were super excited and looked forward to visit Tokyo DisneySea.

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Tofu Pudding (Blancmange) 豆腐プリン

Melt in your mouth silky Tofu Pudding (Blancmange) made with tofu, soy milk, top with a delightful strawberry sauce. Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com.

Growing up in Japan, when I go the dessert and snack aisle in the supermarket, there are endless choices to pick from.  One of my favorite dessert is pudding or flan.  The smooth silky texture topped with a bit of caramel sauce is irresistible.  Besides the traditional pudding that uses eggs and milk, the Japanese also make pudding out of tofu.  Today I want to introduce you to this delicious and delicate Tofu Pudding!

Tofu is a pretty common ingredient in Japan, enjoyed by itself or used in savory and sweet dishes.  If you haven’t tried tofu dessert, I hope today’s recipe will help you discover a new way to enjoy nutritious tofu!

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Popovers with Strawberry Butter

Neiman Marcus Popovers with Strawberry Butter. These homemade airy popovers are light and fluffy in texture. Serve hot with the Strawberry Butter. | JustOneCookbook.com As the holiday season is approaching, there is one recipe that I really wanted to re-share, and that is Popovers with Strawberry Butter.  I first shared this recipe about 2 years ago and it’s been a popular dish in my family, especially around the holiday season.  Why am I re-sharing?  I created a tutorial video on how to make these heavenly treats and updated the post with new photos.

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Eating in Kyoto | Japan Travel Blog

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

This is my final posts on my visit to Kyoto and the topic will focus on food.  While walking around Kyoto and taking in the amazing sceneries, we also tried various types of speciality food in Kyoto.  From Kobe Steak to Kaiseki Ryori, and to a traditional tofu shop that was founded 375 years ago, dining in Kyoto was just as interesting as the city itself.

After we checked into our hotel (Westin Miyako Hotel) the first night, it was already dinner time and since the children wanted to swim right after dinner we grabbed a bite nearby at Kiraku.  Kiraku specializes in Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) and some Teppenyaki (鉄板焼き) style food.  Sure I make them at home, but it’s nice having someone else do the prep work and cooking as well.  At Kiraku, all the dishes were prepped and cooked at the open kitchen and we got to observe how our meal was created.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

They have 2 sizes for Okonomiyaki: one is gigantic and the other is the normal size.  Our family share 1 giant one and 1 standard size and that was enough for  2 adults and 2 children.  Besides the Okonomiyaki, my son also loves grilled squid (bottom left) so we had that along with their house special omelette Tonpeiyaki (top right).  The restaurant was great for a quick bite and our children ate happily and swam after.

Kyoto is famous for Kyo-ryori (京料理), which translates to Kyoto’s Cuisine.  The heart and soul of Kyo-ryori is to:

  1. Bring out the flavor and elements of fresh and seasonal ingredients.
  2. Use minimal seasoning.
  3. Present the food beautifully.
  4. Able to enjoy the food not just with flavor, but through sight, smell, and other senses.

One of Kyoto’s specialty food which incorporate this spirit is Yudofu (湯豆腐), or simply hot tofu.  We enjoyed our tofu meal near Kiyomizu-dera at Okutan (総本家ゆどうふ奥丹清水), a tofu restaurant that was founded more than 375 years ago in 1635.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

The restaurant and the dining area is set in a beautiful green scenery that changes with the season.  Since it’s extremely popular, try making reservation beforehand or arrive around 11 AM to avoid a long wait.  Okutan’s tofu is made in the basement of the restaurant fresh every morning to be served that day.

What makes their tofu so special?  It’s made using natural ground water from Shiga Prefecture and uses natural coagulant, resulting in milder flavor and smoother texture.  Besides using great ingredients, their soybeans are pesticides free.  Depending on the course you order, the set meal range from USD$32 to $43.  Most courses comes with sesame tofu, grilled tofu with sweet miso, tororo (grated yam, here it’s soup), vegetable tempura, and of course yutofu.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Each dish was very enjoyable, not overly flavored and letting you taste the ingredient as they meant to be.  The sweet miso with tofu had the perfect sweetness and does not overpower tofu’s flavor.  As for the main course yutofu, the restaurant recommends you to eat a piece first without any condiment to savor its flavor.  After that, you can enjoy the rest by putting a little soy sauce on the tofu and garnish with green onion and Shichimi Togarashi.  The tofu had amazing texture and flavor, and it was definitely one of the best yutofu I’ve ever had.

After you make your trek around Kiyomizu-dera and other sites around east side of Kyoto, head to Nishiki Market in the afternoon.  This wonderful food arcade has been around since the 1600’s and it’s one of the main tourist attractions in Kyoto.  The market closes at 5 pm so give yourself a bit of time.  The market runs for about 4 blocks spanning about 1300 feet.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Though short in length, there are over 130 stores selling everything from tsukemono (Japanese pickles) to grilled unagi (eels), seafood vendors, Japanese pottery shops, and spice stalls.  The shops vary in size from tiny stalls to large store fronts.  It was fascinating for us as we stroll through the market checking out the various merchandise each merchant offers.  Stop by and sample some flavors of Kyoto, perhaps bring home a souvenir or two to remember your trip to Japan.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

As you finish browsing the market, head south 2 blocks and you’ll be on Shijo Dori (四条通).  This is the luxury and high end retail street in Kyoto, where you’ll find department stores Daimaru and Takashimaya as well as global brands like Louis Vuitton.  Browse around and then head east where you’ll find a small alley called Ponto-chō (先斗町).  Don’t let the size of the alley deceive you, this area is one of the main geisha district and has an extensive restaurant selection.

The buildings along the alley tried to retain their history character and you feel as you are again transported to another time.  The restaurants on the right side of the alley offer seasonal outdoor patio seating with a view of the Kamogawa River.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

While looking the visitor’s map from the hotel, I noticed an ad for Teppanyaki for award winning Kobe beef.  I mentioned to Mr. JOC and his eyes just lit up.  For the past few trips to Osaka to visit my grandparents and relatives, he wasn’t able to join and missed out on delicious teppanyaki-style steak from my late grandpa’s restaurant New Matsusaka (read the post here).

The teppanyaki restaurant we decided to go was called Itoh Dining Kyoto and it is located in a small alley in Gion (祇園) district.  We were seated at the back of the restaurant right next to a river (Shirakawa), and the setting was beautiful.

As we were waiting to be seated, there were autographs from numerous celebrities including Michael Bay and the Transformers cast, Michael Schumacher, and Yankee’s Masahiro Tanaka.  Our expectation was raised pretty high, celebrities and award winning beef! 

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

The course meal came with katsuo (bonito) sashimi with ponzu and garlic flakes, cold kabocha soup with crispy Parmesan cheese, fatty tender pork belly with potato and tomato sauce, sea bass with truffle sauce, foie gras with daikon simmered in orange juice, grilled beef, and dessert.  

Among the courses, the sea bass was quite exceptional; it was crispy on the outside while the flesh melted in your mouth.  The daikon simmer in orange juice paired really well with the foie gras, cutting through the fattiness and soft root texture contrasted well with the crispy bread.  The Kobe beef steak lived up to its expectation, full of juice and flavor while slightly crisp on the outside.  The only disappointing part was the garlic chips they used as it tasted like they were from a pre-made package.  

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Finally, the highlight of our meals in Kyoto.  While in Arashiyama (嵐山), we made reservation at Nishiki restaurant (京嵐山 錦), which served Kaiseki Ryori.  In Kyoto, Kaiseki ryori can range anywhere from USD$50 to USD$300 per person.  We selected a restaurant that offered the set course for USD$75 as we wanted our children to experience the meal, but didn’t want to go overboard.  After doing a bit of research Nishiki’s pricing was in our range and received good reviews.  Once again, the setting of the restaurant is really pretty as it sit on the small island off the Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋).  We were provided a large private room with a view of the river from the window.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

The Kaiseki meal was a 10-course meal, and some of the course contained multiple elements.  What do I mean by elements?  If you look at the sashimi dish below (top right), it not just sashimi served in a plate.  It’s decorated with cucumber and other ingredients which made the course a delight to look, and of course eat.  I loved how each dish was exquisitely presented and the best part was that not only are the dishes pretty, everything was edible.

We started with deep fried tofu with Japanese mustard (top left).  The tofu was tender and soft and flavor was enhanced by the soy sauce and mustard.  The second dish was salmon sashimi with gobo, cucumber, shiso flower, and garlic (top right).  It was decorated like a fishing pier in the Japanese countryside and it was absolutely gorgeous.  Everything was edible including the shiso flower.  We moved on to the miso soup with sesame tofu (middle left).  The dashi for the soup was excellent and the soft jello like sesame tofu was flavorful and complimented well with red miso.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Then we had deep fried Kamo eggplant filled with miso flavored meat filling (middle right).  Kamo eggplant (賀茂なす) is a highly prized Kyoto vegetable.  I saw this vegetable in Tokyo area this past summer, but it’s very rare for stores to carry and it’s also quite expensive.  Despite the humble appearance of this dish, the eggplant was juicy and very tasty.  The eggplant absorbed the flavor well from the miso and each bite was heavenly for me as I love eggplants.  We also had a plate of teriyaki scallops with okra, hamo fish (pike eel) sunomono salad, and hamo fish in spicy miso vinaigrette (bottom left).   Then we have Ayu Shioyaki (salt-grilled sweetfish).

As we enjoyed each course, we could see and feel the effort the chef made trying to extract the essence from each dish.  Some of the dishe are interactive as well, like food are hidden inside the small wooden basket (bottom left).  It represents a basket for fireflies, which we could see at night along the river nearby.  It was like a game which made the meal entertaining.

Next the 2-tiered ojubako (traditional lacquer meal box) came where you find many different dishes inside (middle right).  In the top tier, a small sushi was hidden under the roof of the boat and there are simmered tiny fish in a tiny pot.  Inside the lantern the grilled salt-water eel was hidden. The bottom tier has several kinds of simmered dishes which include hijiki, a type of seaweed, tofu, and chicken.  Each dish was meticulously crafted and works together to tell you a story.

Eating in Kyoto - Japan Travel Blog | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

When it was the course for rice, I was expecting to eat regular rice, but a soupy dish came (top).  It was actually a porridge made with mozuku, a type of edible seaweed.  I never had mozuku with rice, so it was definitely an interesting experience.

We finished the meal with 4 different kinds of desserts and our entire family was very satisfied.  As you can see from the images below, Kaiseki ryori doesn’t focus on quantity of food, but rather delicate preparation and presentation of the food which bring out the flavors.

I hope you enjoyed my brief culinary journey in Kyoto as well as the flavors I experienced.  I get asked by readers quite frequently on where and what to eat when traveling in Japan.  I’ll offer some helpful tips on finding recommended restaurants in Japan in a future post.  Stay tuned!

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Update: Each month 20% of proceeds from selling my eBook will go to charity.  For September, I donated to International Rescue Committie (for Ebola Crisis).   Thank you for those who purchased the eCookbook!

Just One Cookbook Essential Japanese Recipes ebook

Weeknight Meal Ideas: 15 Easy Japanese Recipes

Family-friendly Japanese recipes that are tasty, simple, and easy-to-follow!  It’s perfect for weeknight as these recipes can be prepped in less than 1 hour!

Teriyaki Salmon: Get the Recipe

Teriyaki Salmon #recipe | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Quick and easy homemade teriyaki salmon cooked in soy sauce, sake, and mirin.  If you are not a seafood fan, try Chicken Teriyaki or Beef Teriyaki.

Omurice: Get the Recipe

Omurice (Japanese Omelette Rice) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Classic Japanese Yoshoku recipe, savory chicken ketchup fried rice wrapped in a thin layer of egg.

Baked Tonkatsu: Get the Recipe

Baked Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Tender and juicy pork loin wrapped in crispy golden panko crust, serve with tonkatsu sauce and freshly ground sesame seeds.

If you are not a fan of pork, try Crispy Baked Chicken or Crispy Salmon.

Gyudon: Get the Recipe

Gyudon (Beef Bowl) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Gyudon (Beef Bowl) is a comfort food for Japanese.  It can be prepared quickly and it has nutritious ingredients such as beef, onion, eggs, and rice.

Honey Soy Sauce Chicken: Get the Recipe

Honey Soy Sauce Chicken #recipe | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Easy honey soy sauce chicken marinated in sake, soy sauce, and honey.  Quick and simple meal for a weeknight dinner.

Taiyaki 鯛焼き

Taiyaki - Japanese fish-shaped cake snack with sweet red bean filling, traditionally sold by street vendors. | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Living in the US, I crave for street vendors’ foods that I used enjoy at festivals in Japan.  Among them, hot and freshly made Taiyaki (鯛焼き) with red bean paste was one of my favorite.

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