Chili Shrimp

March 8th, Friday:

DSCN4363

  • Miso Soup (Tamogi Mushroom, Tofu, Trefoil)
  • Chili Shrimp (Shrimp, Onion, Green Onion)
  • Sesame Vinegar Dressed Cabbage and Bean-curd (Cabbage, Cucumber, Beancurd)
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 874

Shrimp are said to live until their backs are bent, so they are a symbol of long life. Celebratory meals such as at new year’s are not the same without them.

Today’s lunch was the best! Note the complete absence of meat. The cabbage was surprisingly sweet, vaguely similar to the flavouring of inari sushi. I liked the chili shrimp too. It was slightly spicy, which means it wasn’t spicy at all by many foreigners’ standards, but even so, one of the teachers worried about what students who dislike spiciness were supposed to do. I personally don’t like spicy foods, and spicy foods by Western standards make me feel physically ill the next day or two after eating them. Really, I think spiciness is something you grow accustom to, so if you grew up in a country with spicy cuisine, you can probably enjoy a lot, but if you didn’t, then it is not good for you to eat it. Japanese food, on the whole, is not spicy at all and tends to have very subtle flavours. This perfect for someone like me, but I could see how some people might dislike that.

みそ汁
エビチリ
キャベツと油揚げのごま酢和え
ごはん
牛乳

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Eho Maki Sushi

February 1st, Friday:

DSCN4276

  • Clear Soup (Tamogi Mushroom, Carrot, Plum Gluten, Trefoil, Wakame Seaweed)
  • Simmered Chicken (Chicken Breast, Burdock, Bamboo Shoot, Onion, Carrot, Shiitake Mushroom, Konnyaku)
  • Egg for Hand Wrapped Sushi
  • Tuna and Mayonaise
  • Nori Seaweed for Hand Wrapped Sushi
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 841

This Sunday is Setsubun. Traditions that involve food include throwing beans, eating eho maki, and hanging a grilled sardine stuck on a holly branch to ward away bad influences.

I liked today’s lunch. To start with the Simmered Chicken had a light feel with many delicious root vegetables, so it was really a dish made for me. And in honor of setsubun we had handwrapped sushi! We placed some rice on the nori, and then layered the tuna and egg on top and rolled it up and ate it. The nori was a little small, you can see my attempt:

DSCN4277

So as said before, this Sunday is Setsubun or the day before Spring. Mamemaki, or throwing beans is the most common tradition. Where I live, usually whole peanuts are used, but (often candied) soybeans or even small wrapped chocolates are used. “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” or “Out the the Demons! In with Fortune!” is shouted. The windows should be opened during this as well, to, you know, let the demons out and fortune in. At the end, most people then eat the same amount of peanuts/beans as their years of age.

Eating ehomaki, too, is a now popular setsubun tradition, although if I recall correctly it was invented within the last 100 years following the “let’s commercialize holidays!” style Japan picked up from America. But eating giant makizushi while facing South-Southsoutheast isn’t so bad of a commercialization.

As for the sardine head tradition, I don’t know anybody personally who still follows it, but some old traditional families probably do.

すまし汁
炒りどり
手巻き寿司用玉子焼き
ツナマヨ
手巻き寿司用海苔

Qingjiao Rousi

November 30th, Friday:

DSCN4071

  • Slightly Thickened Egg Soup (Egg, Imitation Crab, Shiitake Mushroom, Trefoil)
  • Qingjiao Rousi (Pork, Green Bell Pepper, Bamboo Shoot)
  • Shrimp Crystalline Dumpling
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 841

Egg Usukuzu Soup is a soup that has a thin viscosity. There is also a simmered dish with the same name (usukuzu). 

Lately, it seem like we have been having Chinese-style lunches on Friday. Dishes like dumplings are generally served on Thursday (with Chinese noodles of course), so I was surprised to see it on today’s menu. Qingjiao rousi is a dish characterized by green peppers and meat. As awesome as crystalline wrapped shrimp sound, my favourite today was of course the soup. Mostly, because I really love soup. And I also really love imitation crab. Yum! Yum! “Ususkuzu” is literally “thin-starch”, so it means a soup whose broth is thickened slightly with kudzu starch. I was asking my friend about precisely what it was, and she mentioned that while they never ate usukuzu soup in her hometown in Okayama, she thinks of Kyoto when hearing the term. So it might be a somewhat locallized dish.

Shore Simmered Soybeans

October 26th, Friday:

  • Miso Kenchin Soup (Tofu, Trefoil, Burdock, Winter Mushroom, Daikon Radish)
  • Shore Simmered Soybeans (Hijiki Seaweed, Satusma-age, Carrot, Green Bean, Soybean, Konnyaku)
  • Mirin Dried Herring
  • Rice
  • Milk

Konnyaku comes from the konnyaku taro, which is related to taro. It has lots of fiber, which prevents constipation and cleans out your intestines.

I caught a cold today.

みそけんちん汁
大豆の磯煮
にしんみりん干し
ごはん
牛乳

Miso Oden! Yummy!

October 19th, Friday:

  • Ankake Soup (Tofu, Trefoil, Oyster Mushroom)
  • Miso Oden (Squid Fishcake, Daikon Radish, Konnyaku, Quail Egg, Carrot)
  • Salt Culture Broiled Rockfish
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal:773

Tofu is made by condensing the deliciousness and nutrition of soybeans. Furthermore, it makes the nutrients of the soybeans easier to digest.

Speaking of tofu, back in the day, tofu used to be translated as “soy cheese”. If you think about it, it makes sense. Tofu is quite similar to soft cheeses. Also, we call tonyu “soy milk”, not “soy juice.”

Today was one of my favourite lunches, I think. First of all, miso oden is so delicious! Too delicious for words. It has all my favourite foods in it: konnyaku, kamaboko, eggs, carrots! And they are all imbued with a delicious grainy texture of pale miso. I really like it. I should learn how to make it home. Rockfish has a light flaky taste, with the slight sharpness of salt culture (shio koji). Lacking bones and separating itself easily, it is easy to eat with chopsticks. Ankake soup is a starched thickened shoyu(?) based soup full of delicious tofu and mushrooms. Really, the only difficult thing about today’s lunch was I felt so full after eating it all. Yum! Yum! Yet despite that, it is surprisingly low in calories. 773 food calories might seem like a lot, but please recall that at least half of that is from the rice.

  • あんかけ汁
  • みそおでん
  • メバルの塩麹焼き
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Squash Tempura

September 14th, Friday:

  • Potato Dumpling Soup (Potato, Chicken, Burdock, Trefoil, Bean Curd)
  • Minced Salmon with Spinach and Jaco Fish (Salmon, Mustard Spinach, Chinese Cabbage, Dried Sardine Babies)
  • Squash Tempura
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal:851

Seasonal food is much more delicious. Looking around you, can you feel the plenty of Autumn? Autumn may be the most delicious season of them all.

  1. Potato dumplings: Very Yummy!
  2. Jaco Fish: 😦
  3. Squash: Yummy!
  4. Rice: Always Yummy and Sweet!

A strong awareness of the seasons is part of the Japanese national character. The modern incarnation of this includes associating certain activities with the seasons. In the case of Autumn, it is usually associated with eating, sports, and reading. Eating is hardly surprising, given it’s harvest time. Sports can also be logically explained as the cool but not yet cold weather of Autumn is most suitable for physical activity. Reading doesn’t have a particular reason to my knowledge, but if you have passed your Sunday in the park reading while gold and crimson fall gently about you, I think you should be able to understand.

  • 芋団子汁
  • 小松菜とジャコの鮭そぼろ
  • かぼちゃ天ぷら
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Bibimbap

August 22nd, Wednesday:

  • Bibimbap Rice Bowl (Pork, Egg, Bean Sprout, Carrot, Japanese Parsley, Osmond Fern, Spinach)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Plum Gluten, Tamogi Mushroom, Trefoil)
  • Cabbage Dumplings
  • Kcal: 919

Bibimbap Rice Bowl uses soybean sprouts. Some types of beansprouts include black mappe sprouts, soybean sprouts, and mung bean sprouts.

The second trimester of school has started again and I got to eat school lunch again after a long while.  My diet at home, as I have mentioned, consists almost entirely of white rice and soymilk. While such a mild diet prevents stomach pain and makes me happy, it is somewhat lacking in vitamins. So the bibimbap–with its multitude of interesting vegetables–and miso soup–with the distinct flavour of trefoil and its soft mushrooms–were a much needed repast.

School resumed on Monday, but I hadn’t any class because I had the fortune to present at a certain meeting for foreign teachers. It was held at the lovely Akarenga, built the twenty-first year of Meiji and more formally called the 北海道庁旧本庁舎. The Akarenga is built, as its name implies, of red brick, and in an American new baroque fashion. Baroque has a connotation of overwhelming decadence, but that is not the feeling the Akarenga displays. She is elegant, but simple. She was built beautifully, but only for the purpose of encouraging good and pure thoughts in men endeavoring to shape the future for the better. Abiding in such a charming building, especially for such a short time, truly reminds me how sad and lifeless modern architecture is.

Unrelatedly, while I generally considered myself a rather unfashionable person, I received so many compliments on my charming clothing during my stay there, I am beginning to think I ought to be more arrogant.

Photographs fails to capture the subtle splendour of such a building like this.

ビビンバ丼
牛乳
みそ汁
キャベツ餃子

Bibimbap

May 18th, Friday:

  • Bibimbap Rice Bowl (Pork, Egg, Bean Sprout, Japanese Parsley,  Zenmai Fern, Spinach)
  • Milk
  • Ankake Soup (Tofu, Trefoil, Golden Oyster Mushroom)
  • Salt-Grilled Trout

Bibimbap is a Korean dish in which Korean style namul and meat is placed on top of rice and mixed together. “Bibim” means to mix, and “bap” means rice.

I can’t say I have ever eaten real Korean bibimbap. When I flew Korean Airlines to France, bibimbap was served both there and back and it was spicy to the point of being inedible. However, school lunch bibimbap is not spicy at all and I enjoy the flavour quite a lot. I doubt it tastes like korean bibimbap at all, a hypothesis underscored  by the fact that one teacher whose favorite lunch is this bibimbap has no special affinity for Korean food at all.  The main disadvantage to this lunch is that since I am not a fan of meat, I have to pick out the scary pork and fat bits before I eat the remaining vegetables and eggs. I set a rather poor example for the students. Furthermore, I would like to comment on the fish.  I did not like fish in America. Last time I ordered fish at a restaurant (visiting the sunny state of California), I could not even finish eating it, it was so bad.  But fish in Japan in invariably delightful, and today’s trout was no different. I love you, Japan. By the way,  ankake soup is a soup made by thickening the broth with potato starch, in the method so commonly used in (slimy) Chinese dishes.

Simmered Seaweed and Fried Tofu

May 11th, Friday:

  • Miso Soup (Plum Gluten, Tamogi Mushroom, Trefoil)
  • Simmered Seaweed and Fried Tofu (Hijiki Seaweed, Fried Tofu, Carrot, Konnyaku, Green Bean)
  • Wine Dried Herring
  • Sardine and Herb Rice
  • Milk

Atsuage is thickly cut tofu fried in oil. It is an ingredient that combines the virtues of tofu (lots of protein and calcium) and frying (giving body to the food).

Pork Kimchi Bowl

April 25th, Wednesday:

  • Pork Kimchi Bowl (Pork, Egg, Chinese Cabbage, Carrot, Green Onion)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Golden Oyster Mushroom, Trefoil)
  • Shrimp Dumpling

Note: Shrimp has a red element called Asutakisanchin. When alive, it’s body has a different colour that matches other things, but when boiled it becomes red.