Plummy! Simmered Saury

February 25th, Monday:

DSCN4319

  • Scallop Soup (Scallop, Tofu, Carrot, Chinese Cabbage, Burdock)
  • Simmered Dried Sliced Daikon (Dried Sliced Daikon, Satsuma-age, Hijiki Seaweed, Carrot, Green Bean, Sliced Konnyaku)
  • Plum Simmered Saury
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 846

Tofu 「豆腐」 is a food handed down from China.  The character fu 「腐」does not mean “rotten” in China, but means “something gathered from a liquid to make something firm out of something soft”.

To explain what the kyuushoku tayori means by the above, I should say that 腐 means rotten in modern Japanese, so the characters for tofu seem to literally say “rotten beans”, which does not sound the most appealing.

Anyways, the saury fish today is not that beautiful and rather hard to eat, but being plum-simmered gives it a really nice taste. I say this as a very picky eater. So frightening to behold, but delicious. I like hijiki and satsuma-age and konnyaku so much, so I really liked the simmered daikon, but judging from my students plates, the saury was far more popular than the daikon….

Other exciting things today was one of the boys split his entire soup all across his lap and we got to eat ぼっけもんsweets by 風月堂 from Kagoshima prefecture, since the superintendent brought them back as omiyage! I ate it before I could take a picture. I’m sorry.

  • ほたて汁
  • 切り干し大根煮
  • さんまの梅煮
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳
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Suiton Soup

February 18th, Monday:

DSCN4307

  • Suiton Soup (Wheat Dumplings, Chicken, Bean Curd, Naruto Surimi, Carrot, Daikon Radish, Green Onion)
  • Five Ingredient Kinpira (Burdock, Carrot, Pork, Satsuma-age, Sliced Konnyaku, Green Bean)
  • Natural Teriyaki Amberjack
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 871

So, suiton (水団) are sort of hand formed soup dumplings made of wheat flour. As you know, I love dumplings, so I liked today’s soup. It was also full of other things I love like abura-age, naruto, and carrots. Also, the five ingredient kinpira seemed a little different than before.

I’m tired today… I was so busy last weekend.

Because who doesn't want to see a close up of this awesome suiton soup?!

Because who doesn’t want to see a close up of this awesome suiton soup?!

Pregnant Susuhamu

January 21st, Monday:

Photo-0309

  • Pork Soup (Pork, Potato, Tofu, Carrot, Onion, Burdock)
  • Shore Simmered Soybeans (Hijiki Seaweed, Satsuma-age, Carrot, Sliced Konnyaku, String Bean, Soybean)
  • Susuhamu with Child Fritter
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 812

Burdock is a vegetable with lots of dietary fiber.  We can’t digest the dietary fiber in burdock and it passes through our body, making clean our stomach and intestines. Burdock is a master at cleaning our stomachs. 

Can I be honest with you? I am all squeamish about eating fish which still have their heads, tails, or even many bones. So the susuhamu isn’t in my picture because another teacher kindly ate my portion for me. It’s childish to be all “it looks weird, I won’t eat it”, but oh well, I’m foreigner so its okay right? But I ate all of my delicious hijiki and soybean simmer!

In my island home and in Japan too, milk is served with every school lunch and students are encouraged by teachers and posters to drink their milk, especially in elementary school. In junior high school, a lot of students no longer drink the milk, because they don’t like it or it makes them sick. However, I think due to the meat and dairy heavy diet in schools and often at home too in modern Japan, Japanese people are on a whole getting taller and taller.

Is being tall a good thing? In modern fashion magazines and the opinion of most modern people (especially in the West), yes. But this is a really new opinion in Japan. It is an opinion that has been copied blindly from the West, I feel. In fact, I would like to argue that being tall is evolutionary disadvantages for an island country like Japan.

On islands, resources are somewhat limited. Likewise, there are not many natural dangers that require a large body to fend off. So on an archipelago like Japan, being smaller in size–thus requiring less resources–is to a person’s advantage. This can be even been seen in some animal populations in Japan, such as the Honshu fox or Ryukyu deer. You might argue that being bigger has its advantages now that Japan must compete with the taller, larger Westerners. But when Europeans and Japanese men were compared at the start of the Meiji period, the Japanese were able to better run long distances, endure extreme conditions, and so on than the Europeans, and with less food and resources (cf. Hearn).

So I think we should be careful to avoid blindly copying ideas when they might not necessarily be the best depending on the situation.

  • 豚汁
  • 大豆の磯煮
  • 子持ちししゃものフリッター
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Daikon Yakusha

December 7th, Friday:

  • Miso Soup (Cabbage, Carrot, Daikon Radish)
  • Satsuma-age with Egg (Satsuma-age, Rgg, Onion, Burdock, Green Bean)
  • Salt Broiled Boarfish
  • Wakame Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 778

Poor actors in theatre are called “Daikon Yakusha (Radish Actors)”. Because daikon are easy to digest, even if you eat a lot of them, you will rarely get (lit. hit) food poisoning. Thus actors who rarely have a hit are called Radish Actors.

By the way, I asked my friend about this, and she said there were many stories behind this term “daikon yakusha”. One is that daikon are often grated (orosu) which sounds the same as the word meaning to be fired. And another story is that daikon are white and boring (they don’t have a strong flavour and are very common), and poor actors are white and boring as well.

Speaking of Japanese theatre, I was reading in a book the other day that in the Edo period, while the amount of people who actually went and watch theatre wasn’t that high, the amount of people who read books and papers about actors and theatre life was very great. As someone who has no interest in celebreties (theatre or otherwise), I thought that contrast was interesting.

みそ汁
さつま揚げの卵とじ
つぼ鯛の塩焼き
わかめごはん
牛乳

Kinpira

November 12th, Monday:

  • Miso Soup (Potato, Wakame Seaweed)
  • Five Ingredient Kinpira (Burdock, Carrot, Pork, Satsuma-age, Konnyaku, Green Bean)
  • Local Teriyaki Mackerel
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 811

Gomoku (five-ingredient) means to have five items or to mix in a variety of thing. In cooking, there is also the case of when you combine fish, meat, or vegetables.

When I was a child, I had this awesome cookbook called “Five Ingredients or Less”. It was awesome because it was more likely we already had all the ingredients in the house and the recipes were pretty simple. My favourite recipe in that book was “Egg Drop Soup”, which is basically similar to the egg soup we eat here in Japan.

That said, there is a saying in Japan that you should eat at least 20 (25? I forget) different ingredients a day. This makes sense, because if you eat lots of different ingredients then you will get lots of different nutrients. Japanese meals naturally lend themselves to this as well by serving lots of different dishes in small quantities. Judging from my friends, the most basic meal seems to have at least two different side dishes plus soup and rice. And I’ve seen a friend of mine throw together a 7 dish meal for an unexpected visitor based on things she had in her kitchen at the time.

As for myself, one of my main eating flaws in trying to live on white rice alone. Seriously, I’ve had literal nightmares about getting beriberi. Yum!Yum! But slowly, I am trying to be more diverse.

みそ汁
五目きんぴら
国産さば照り焼き
ごはん
牛乳

Yukari Rice!!

November 9th, Friday:

  • Miso Soup (Cabbage, Carrot)
  • Stirfried Butterbur (Butterbur, Konnyaku, Bamboo Shoot, Satsuma-age)
  • Sweet Salt Broiled Salmon
  • Yukari Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 699

“Yukari” is red perilla sprinkled on rice, and was first introduced as a product by Mishima foods. It is related to the poem in the Kokin Wakashuu:
Murasaki no hitomoto yuye ni Musashi-no no
Kusa ha minagara ahareto zo miru

As you can see, yukari rice turns a lovely red when mixed with the red perilla. I like perilla a lot, so I was happy to eat it, but I think the colour/ slightly sour taste turned some students off of it.

As our school lunch menu told us, yukari gohan was first formulated by the company Mishima Foods in the 1960s. The name “yukari” is an archaic word for purple and they were inspired to name the product purple by the 867th poem in the “Collection of Poems, Old and New“. I typed out the romanji of the poem above, but the meaning is something like this:

Because of a single purple plant, everyone is moved by the sight of the Feild of Musashi’s grasses.
紫のひともとゆゑにむさしのの草はみながらあはれとぞ見る

I should mention that the kanji used to write yukari is not the same as the one used to write murasaki, but is interestingly used when writing the word for perilla. Because waka poetry is very beautiful, I will give you a silly waka I wrote myself:

Amoung the bamboo,
wind pawing at your white sleeves, paused in your hurry,
Was it only accident that you looked my direction?

みどしる
ふきの炒め煮
鮭の甘塩焼き
ゆかりごはん
牛乳

Butterbur Stirfry

September 3rd, Monday:

  • Miso Soup (Cabbage, Carrot, Tamogi Mushroom)
  • Butterbur Stirfry (Konnyaku, Butterbur, Bamboo Shoot, Satsuma-age)
  • Many Veggies Meatballs
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 749

Many veggies meatballs, besides chicken and onions, also contain various ingredients like carrots, soy beans, trifoil, green onions, and cabbage.

Today’s was a classic miso soup full of cabbage and mushrooms. Since the weather is quite warm (88 degrees according to my computer’s forecast), eating hot soup only makes everyone rather more hot, but it’s still tasty. And serving soup cold is a horrible faux pas, so it’s better hot than that. Butterbur stirfry has a solid and filling texture. I could see how some people might find it a little bland, but I personally prefer it that way. Finally, the meatballs had a sort of ketchup-ish sauce on them, which was good, but I think I like teriyaki style better.

A difference between Western foods and Japanese foods is the former is always expected to be freshly finished and hot, while the latter is fine cold and can be eaten anytime. Tanizaki Jun’ichiro talks about this in his essay “Randa no Setsu”. Thus the time of a Western style dinner is very strict, and if someone is very late, it upsets the whole situation. But in the case of a Japanese style dinner, the food can be prepared easily ahead of time, so the guests can take their time getting to the event. Of course, rice and soup should be served hot. That’s why soup bowls always have lids and the reason behind why rice cookers were invented. Indeed, there is a Japanese proverb: 「冷や飯を食う」 literally, “to eat cold rice”, which means to be treated be badly. As for cold food related proverbs in English, we have the sound advice: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Relatedly, I’m not sure how much Japanese people are aware of this, much less care about it, but there is technically a proper order in which to eat a Japanese meal. Any respectable etiquette book will tell you this (or at least, all the ones I have read do), and there is an aesthetic reason behind it. Rice, as the staple, is of course eaten first, followed by sampling the soup broth, and then some more rice. From there, you can eat the side dishes at will, although you should eat a bit of rice before eating a new side dish. Each dishes proper taste can be fully appreciated then.

  • みそ汁
  • ふきの炒め煮
  • 野菜いろいろ肉団子
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Country Soup

August 27th, Monday:

  • Country Soup (Fried Tofu, Daikon Radish, Carrot, Shiitake Mushroom, Konnyaku)
  • Egg-Bound Satsuma-age (Satsuma-age, Onion, Burdock, Green Bean, Egg)
  • Plum Simmered Saury
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 885

Pickled plums have various benefits such as an antibacterial effect, increasing the appetite, and recovering from fatigue. Today’s saury is finished up by being simmered with it.

Humid days continue…

I am always a fan of Country Soup. It has lots of interestingly textured vegetables, nothing repulsive at all,  in a savoury broth that cannot help but make me happy. I liked the egg-bound satsumaage as well. I must confess I am not very fond of saury to start with (it’s bony and dark…), but today’s did have a distinctive pickled plum flavour which was nice.

いなか汁
さつま揚げの卵とじ
さんまの梅煮
ごはん
牛乳

I won this giant bottle of お神酒 at the archery contest for my local shrine’s festival. It’s pretty awesome.

Tofu and Miso Meat Paste

August 20th, Monday:

  • Kenchin Chowder (Tofu, Carrot, Burdock, Daikon Radish, Shimeji Mushroom, Shiitake Mushroom)
  • Fried and Simmered Konbu and Pork (Pork, Bean Curd, Satsuma-age, Konnyaku, Konbu Seaweed)
  • Tofu and Miso Meat Paste Wrap
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 885

The new dish “Tofu and Miso Meat Paste Wrap” has a base of tofu and surimi with carrots and seaweed that enwrap the miso meat paste.

けんちん汁
昆布と豚肉の炒め煮
豆腐の肉味噌あん包み
ごはん
牛乳

Shore Simmered Soybeans

July 2nd, Monday:

  • Miso Soup (Tofu, Spinach, Shimeji Mushroom)
  • Shore Simmered Soybeans (Hijiki Seaweed, Satsuma-age, Carrot, Green Bean, Soybean, Sliced Konnyaku)
  • Teriyaki Amberjack
  • Rice
  • Milk

Hijiki, along with konbu and wakame, has been eaten in Japan since long ago. It is thought to have been eaten in the Jomon Period, about 16500 years ago.

Some people don’t like it, but hijiki is very delicious. It has such a wholesome rich taste, some what like eating bread with lots of whole grains. Mix that that soybeans, satsuma-age, and konnyaku, I really don’t see how you can wrong. It is such a nice meal for everyday. It went nicely with the amberjack too.

  • みそ汁
  • 大豆の磯煮
  • ぶり照り焼き
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳