May 9 2010 Japanese Food Newsletter
Some of my earliest childhood recollections are of my mother in the kitchen. I mostly saw her backside as she stood over the stove, stirring large, steaming pots and tossing in different herbs and spices or over the sink where she rinsed greens and cleaned shrimp. I loved to be in the kitchen because of the sumptuous smells and rattling activity. It was always an adventure as we screamed to see the crabs trying to crawl out of the steamer or squishy guts get yanked from the bellies of glassy-eyed fish. She scaled all sorts of fish my grandfather brought home, sending sticky fish scales all over the kitchen. My sisters squealed and ran out of the kitchen. I squealed and stayed.
My mother taught me a lot about cooking. From washing rice and pickling onions to rolling sushi and drying fresh abalone, her lessons were informal, mostly by example. I still pick up the phone or drop her an email (she’s tech savvy even as she nears 80) to ask about this ingredient or that recipe. She never fails to respond with helpful advice.
In Japan, the elderly family members are revered, and in our family, my mother is the grand matriarch. We love her and adore her. Happy Mother’s Day, mom! (She’s one of my few readers! By the way, mom, I do know that Worchestershire sauce is not a Japanese ingredient, but it is similar to tonkatsu sauce so I did add it to my Yaki Udon recipe. And I know you add garlic, ginger, sugar and oyster sauce to yours—which to me tastes terrific—but that is more Chinese-style and my recipe site is Japanese! I had to be true to that.)
In any case, my mother’s cooking experience is vast and yet her tastes remain simple. When I begged her to tell me what she wanted for her Mother’s Day menu, she said that while she occasionally enjoys fresh maguro (tuna sashimi) and saba (mackerel), nothing is more enjoyable to her than a simple bowl of chazuke with tsukemono.
So, here are this week’s recipes:
O-chazuke Rice and Tea
Pouring hot tea over rice once was a way to collect the last rice that stuck to the bowl, but many people enjoy ochazuke (rice and tea) as a humble yet satisfying meal when it is accompanied by simple okazu (side dishes).
Lillian’s Nasu Karashizuke Recipe
Hot mustard, sweet mirin and Japanese eggplant make an intensely flavored tsukemono. This is my mother's version. Happy Mother's Day!
Cucumber Kim Chi Recipe
The Japanese version of kim chi lacks the blistering heat of the Korean hot and spicy cabbage dish. This one is made with Japanese kyuuri or thin cucumbers like pickling or Persian.
Your Japanese food word of the week: karai (kah-rah-ee) which means hot/spicy.
“I tell my kids that their grandmother is not the woman who raised me. My mother was mean. What you see before you is an old woman trying to get into heaven.” ~ Bill Cosby
Until next time,
BellaOnline.com Japanese Food Site Editor
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