March 29, 2013

Izakaya Houryou/居酒屋豊漁

Edited to add price information where appropriate.
Today, three of us, my wife, daughter, and me, went to the izakaya Houryou, the izakaya that opened last year near my house. The time has come to use the tickets I got at the tasting party.
Houryou means good catch (of fish). Recently, they placed this boat in their premises. What a surprise!
豊漁とはgood catch (of fish)という意味です。最近、この船が敷地内に設置されました。ビックリしました。
Sorry, too drunk to provide any decent descriptions.
Edited to add:  Now that I am sober, I can provide some descriptions.
追記: もうしらふになったので、ちょっと説明を付けます。

A mug of beer and the otoshi (squid) last night:
An otoshi is a small appetizer that you are served first when you enter an izakaya.
NOTE: An otoshi is not free. You will be charged for it. Roughly, an otoshi is around 300-500 yen.
注: お通しは無料ではありません。料金を請求されます。大まかに言って、お通しの値段は300~500円程度です。
Otoshi: 330 yen
Beer: Complimentary, thanks to the izakaya's flyer that we brought with us, which said you are entitled to a complimentary mug of beer if you bring it with you.
お通し: 330円
ビール: 無料(持っていけばビールが一杯無料でもらえると書いてあった居酒屋のチラシを持って行ったため)

I ordered the shochu and soft drink nomi houdai (drink as much as you can) (90 minutes) plan (1,490 yen).
This plan enables you to select two from among 20 appetizers. As requested by my daughter, I selected french fries (fried potato in Japanese), and
I selected chicken karaage.
A glass of shochu diluted with water.
I had five or so glasses of shochu in total, by diluting with different liquids (green tea, oolong tea, orangeade, and ginger ale).

My wife ordered a tonkotsu miso ramen.

790 yen.

My daughter ordered an "ebi-bonara" spaghetti. Ebi means prawn (shrimp, lobster). As you can easily imagine, it's carbonara with prawns in it.
娘は「エビボナーラ」スパゲティーを頼みました。エビとはprawn (shrimp, lobster)の意です。ご想像の通り、エビの入ったカルボナーラです。
890 yen.

I later ordered a mushroom pizza.
790 yen.

"Retro" poster:
Interior of the izakaya:
These citrus fruits, offered for free, were VERY DELICIOUS!
The owner/chef said they were arita mikan.
We had a good time, but I thought it was not a good idea to take non-drinkers to an izakaya after all.

March 27, 2013

Making Nina/煮菜の作り方

Ingredients for 4 servings:

500 g nozawana zuke
Note: To make nina, nozawana zuke that has turned sour due to lactic acid is usually used.

10 niboshi (simmered and dried sardines used to make dashi)

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake


Desalting nozawana zuke
1. Cut nozawana zuke into 3-4 cm lengths.
2. Put nozawana zuke in a pot, add plenty of water and simmer. Change water and simmer again. Repeat this step 2-3 times until soft.
3. Soak nozawana zuke in water overnight.

1. Put desalted nozawana zuke in a pot, add niboshi, add just enough water to barely cover it, and simmer until soft.
2. Add seasonings and further simmer.

- When simmering, add sake kasu (lees) for additional flavor.
- Serve in a bowl, and sprinkle white sesame seeds for fragrance.


野沢菜漬け 500 g
注: 煮菜を作るには、通常、乳酸発酵で酸っぱくなった野沢菜漬けを使います。
煮干し 10本

しょう油 大さじ2
みりn 大さじ2
酒 大さじ2


1. 野沢菜漬けを3~4 cmの長さに切る。
2. 鍋に入れ、たっぷりの水を加えて煮る。水を替えて、また煮る。柔らかくなるまで2~3回繰り返す。
3. 一晩水に漬けておく。

1. 鍋に塩抜きした野沢菜を鍋に入れ、煮干しを入れ、ひたひたの水を加え、柔らかくなるまで煮る。
2. 調味料を加え、さらに煮る。

- 煮る時に、酒かすを入れると美味しい。
- 器に盛ってから、白ごまをふりかけると、香りがいい。


March 26, 2013


As part of supper tonight, my wife made these three dishes:

Sweet and sour pork:

Spinach goma ae (dressed with sesame seeds):
Oyster and enoki mushroom stir-fry:
We also had nina (pronounced nee-na around here in Niigata):
This nina was given by my wife's father.  This particular one contains sake kasu (lees) and abura age. Here in the Uonuma region of Niigata prefecture, nina is made by first desalting pickled nozawana. In other regions of Niigata, pickled daikon leaves and taisai (or taina; Brassica rapa) are used. Anyway, nina is a very, very popular dish in Niigata.

March 25, 2013

Yanagi Matsutake/柳まつたけ

Today, I bought a pack of yanagi matsutake.
yanagi = willow
matsutake = pine mushroom
Despite the name, yanagi matsutake has nothing to do with matsutake, but it belongs to the family Bolbitiaceae.

The label says, "Kaori to matsutake no hagotae" (Aroma and the texture of matsutake). As requested by my son, my wife put it in clear soup. I can't comment how it smelled or tasted because we let my son have all of it. My son asked me to buy two packs next time.

March 21, 2013

Making Nozawana Zuke/野沢菜漬け作り

(Sorry, more like a personal memo.)

Last Thursday, I got just a lot of nozawana from my father. I measured them, and they were 3.8 kg in total. Just too much to use up for a few days, so I decided to pickle them, although it is very unusual to pickle nozawana around this time of year. They are usually pickled in late November to December. I googled for a good recipe, but there were just too many of them, so I just added 3%  (3.8 kg x 0.03 = 114 g) salt and one red pepper.
先週の木曜日、父から野沢菜をいっぱいもらいました。測ると、全部で3.8 kgもありました。数日で使い切るには多すぎるので、漬けることにしました。今頃、野沢菜を漬けるのはとても珍しいことですが。普通は11月下旬~12月に漬けます。いいレシピをググってみたのですが、あまりにも色々あるので、ただ塩を3%(3.8 kg x 0.03 = 114 g)と唐辛子を一本入れました。

Today, I took some of them and put some in my nukadoko.
Something that's not usually done, but I wanted to have something similar to daikon leaf nukazuke.

I finely chopped the rest to mix with natto.
To make "kirizai", of course! Kirizai is a very popular local dish here in the Uonuma region of Niigata whose main ingredients are natto and nozawana zuke.

I also made kinshobai today. To make kinshobai, you don't necessarily have to dry dried bonito shavings on very low heat for a long time, say, five minutes. Just dry them in a frying pan on very low heat for about 2 min., constantly stirring with chopsticks. When they have cooled, you can easily crumble them into powder with your hand.
My wife made these large kakiage as part of supper last night. She also made something I don't know the name of (darker ones; deep-fried grated potatoes + tempura batter). She said her mother used to make them.
We had them with soba.  I had only one kakiage and some soba because I'm on a diet.

My lunch today was two leftover onigiri and leftover gyudon (beef bowl).
I have lost 9 kg so far since December 17. One more kg to go!
12月17日から9 kg減量しました。後1 kgです!

I took one bag of simmered natsumikan peels from the freezer. I will simmer them with sugar later.
I'm not a big fan, but my son says he can't stop eating them.

March 20, 2013


Today is Shunbun no Hi, or Vernal Equinox Day, and it's a national holiday in Japan.  Shunbun no Hi is the chuu-nichi (middle day) of the Spring O-Higan. In Japan, we have two O-Higan in a year, in the spring and in the fall, and each O-Higan is one week long (three days before the chuu-nichi and three days after the chuu-nichi, thus, seven days in total). People hold a memorial service for their ancestors in each O-Higan. Shuubun no Hi, or Autumnal Equinox Day, is the chuu-nichi of the Autumn O-Higan.

We have botamochi in the Spring O-Higan, and ohagi in the Autumn O-Higan.
Here are some some botamochi, given to us by my wife's brother.  He said they were entirely made by his father.

It should be noted that botamochi and ohagi are almost identical, but depending on the region, they may be different.
The word botamochi comes from botan, and the word ohagi comes from hagi.


Note:  Today, I checked four supermarket flyers and was surprised to find that they all used the word ohagi, not botamochi. Does the word ohagi sound better???
注: 今日、スーパーのチラシを4枚調べたのですが、すべて、「ぼたもち」ではなく、「おはぎ」という言葉を使っていました。おはぎの方が良く聞こえるのでしょうか???

March 19, 2013

Itadakimasu and Gochisou Sama Deshita/「いただきます」と「ごちそうさまでした」

In present Japan, it is customary to say Itadakimasu before having a meal and Gochisou sama deshita or Gochisou sama (less polite) after having a meal. The important thing to remember is that these phrases are considered forms of greeting in Japanese, so it's hard not to say them if you are with someone else when eating. Even if you are alone, you can or may want to say them to yourself.

There is surprisingly little reliable information as to how this nationwide custom got started. I found three sites that sound plausible, of which this one (Japanese only) is the most detailed.

I can never be sure, but I think it is safe to say the following:

The phrases "Itadakimasu" and "Gochisou sama deshita", as well as similar expressions, existed before the Taisho period (1912-1926), but saying them before and after a meal was not a nationwide custom.  The custom spread gradually in the Taisho period to the early Showa period (1926 and after), when the hakozen*1 was replaced by the chabudai*2, and became nationwide due to school education after World War II.

*1 A hakozen (lit. box table) is a wooden box used to contain a rice bowl, a soup bowl, a pair of chopsticks, plates, etc. When turned upside down, the lid served as a tray. It was used from the Edo period to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Everyone had their own hakozen.
A photo of a hakozen can be found here.
Other photos
Results of a Google image search for hakozen

*2 A chabudai is a low table invented around the 20s of the Meiji period (1887). In contrast to the hakozen, everyone sat at the single chabudai. It became popular throughout the country in the late 1920s.  It was replaced by a dining table in and after 1960.
Results of a Google image search for chabudai

Note:  Whether to put your hands together before saying Itadakimasu (and Gochisou sama deshita)
Access the first site linked to, and scroll down until you see a map of Japan.
The black square indicates a place where the people responded they put their hands together.
The black-and-white square indicates a place where some people responded they do and others responded otherwise.
The white square indicates a place where the people responded they make a bow or do something else (put their hand on their laps?).
For example, at my children's elementary school, located in Niigata, students are taught to put their hands together before saying Itadakimasu and Gochisou sama deshita.

Edited to add:

Note 2: Suppose you are in a restaurant with someone else, and your order comes first and you want to start having it immediately, what should you say to your companion?  Say "Osakini itadakimasu".  Your companion will say things like, "Dozo, dozo".

Note 3:  Other phrases considered forms of greetings in Japanese include:

Ittekimasu (said before leaving home)
Itterasshai (said to someone leaving home)
Tadaima (said when returning home)
Okaeri nasai or Okaeri (less polite) (said to someone returning home)

When you enter a restaurant, the staff will say, "Irasshaimase".





*1 箱膳とは、蓋付きの木製の箱で、その中にお茶碗、お椀、箸、お皿などを入れました。蓋を逆さにして、お膳として使いました。江戸時代から明治時代(1868~1912年)に使われました。各自が自分の箱膳を持っていました。

*2 ちゃぶ台とは、明治20年代頃(1887年頃)発案された低いテーブルのことです。箱膳とは異なり、みんなが一つのちゃぶ台に向かって座りました。1920年代後半に全国的に使われるようになりました。1960年以降ダイニングテーブルへと変わりました。

注: いただきます(ごちそうさまでした)を言う前に手を合わせるかどうか。


注2: お店に誰かと一緒に行ったとして、自分の注文した料理が先に来て、それをすぐ食べ始めたい場合は、相手に何て言ったらいいでしょうか?「お先にいただきます」と言って下さい。相手は「どうぞ、どうぞ」などと答えるでしょう。

注3: 下記も、日本語では挨拶言葉と考えられいます。



March 16, 2013

Proper Way to Hold Chopsticks/箸の正しい持ち方

Note:  I'm talking about the proper way to hold JAPANESE chopsticks.
注: ここでは、日本の箸の正しい持ち方について書きます。

There is ONLY ONE proper way to hold Japanese chopsticks. Everyone is encouraged to hold and use Japanese chopsticks properly while in Japan.
Here are some YouTube videos:  this and this.


The important thing is to remember is not to move the lower chopstick and to make sure that the two chopsticks meet at their very ends so that you can easily pick up a small object such as a bean.

You may find these videos interesting:

(Not the proper way to hold chopsticks.)

March 13, 2013

Home-Made Korokke/自家製コロッケ

My wife made korokke as part of supper last night, as requested by my son.

Photo of leftovers:

The korokke contained some ground pork, which brings me back to the same old question: What is the difference between korokke and menchi? My understanding is that a korokke is mostly mashed potato with some stir-fried onion and contains NO MEAT, while a menchi is mashed potato with some stir-fried onion and contains SOME MEAT. In short, a menchi is a deluxe version of korokke, with the addition of some meat. 50 years ago, when I was a kid, that was true, at least in my area in Tokyo. My wife keeps saying that a menchi is a deep-fried "hamburger patty" (or something similar to it). In present Japan, I think she is right.

March 12, 2013

Nogu Ichi (Farm Tool Market) at Ichinomiya Shrine in 2013, Part III/2013年の一宮神社の農具市、パート3

Bamboo baskets:
Kanjiki (Japanese snowshoes):
Fruit and vegetable stall:
Hoshi gaki (dried persimmons):
Shichiji togarashi stall:
There are at least three shichimi togarashi stalls.

Ebi (shrimp) yaki, hotate (scallop) yaki???
Osaka yaki, actually!!  A type of okonomiyaki, not found in Osaka.
Bekko ame:
Bekko means tortoiseshell, but bekko ame is a type of hard candy.  Sugar is heated up to 140-160oC to make it.

Soba and udon stall:
Nikomi (simmered food), sake, and beer stall:
These two stalls are new to me.  First, chicken cartilage korikori yaki:
Go-sai age sen (lit. five-color deep-fried rice crackers):
My purchases:
1 bag of nameko, 200 yen
3 bags of enoki, 100 yen in total
1 bag of dried persimmons, 500 yen

As always, it's really fun visiting the market.

Nogu Ichi (Farm Tool Market) at Ichinomiya Shrine in 2013, Part II/2013年の一宮神社の農具市、パート2

The man is cutting a salmon fillet into slices.
Sujiko (salted salmon roe not separated into individual eggs), not ikura, at the center; cod roe on the left; and a variety of tsukudani and others on the right:
Shishamo with roe in them (ko mochi shishamo) at the center, and aji no hiraki on the left:
Migaki nishin (beheadded, gutted, and dried herring):
Wakame and mozuku:
Matsumaezuke (?) at the center:
Another stall:
Young shoots of akebia:
Salted warabi:
Salted honey mushroom (standard japanese:  naratake, local name here: amandare):
Another stall:
Large bags of kiriboshi daikon for only 600 yen!

I reached the shrine.

To be continued.