Monthly Archives: June 2011

Café Proverbs 15:17, Kyoto

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

-Proverbs 15:17

Whenever I go to Kansai, I always have dinner with one of my good friends who is a vegetarian and a fellow lover of cafes. This time, we went to Café Proverbs 15:17  near Hyakumanben (百万遍) in Kyoto. Café Proverbs is a vegetarian café specializing in vegan food; hence the name of the restaurant, which refers to the proverb quoted above. Aside from the name, the restaurant is not religiously affiliated. The vegetarian food I eat in restaurants has been largely Japanese-style: tiny dishes of tofu, seaweed, local vegetables, curry, and noodles. (And tofu cheesecake. Lots of tofu cheesecake.) Café Proverbs, however, serves vegan sandwiches and ice cream—basically Western-style café food done over as vegan.

I guess the difference between this and, say, the “vegetarian option,” is that these meals were created or recreated specifically for tofu and tempeh. The cafe serves more than just sandwiches: if you ever missed out on Japanese food because of dietary restrictions, now is your chance to try dishes like curry, mabodofu, ramen, gyoza, and taco rice.

Only managed to get a shot of one before they were all snatched up.

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Tricks of the Trade: Oatmeal Banana Bread

Although this site is called I’ll Make it Myself!, a lot of the baking I do is less recreating restaurant meals I liked and more reinventing recipes to make them healthier and to make them work in a Japanese kitchen.

Health-wise, my philosophy with baking is that almost any bread can be made over with whole grains and applesauce. For sesame-oil- or olive-oil breads, using the oil will favorably flavor the bread, so I don’t recommend changing it. However, if the recipe calls for vegetable oil or canola oil, you can swap those with unsweetened applesauce at a 1:1 ratio. That is, for 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, use 1 teaspoon of applesauce.

For the flour, swapping half the volume of all-purpose flour with an equal volume of whole-wheat flour generally works: for a recipe that calls for 1 US cup of all-purpose flour, you would use ½ cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup whole-wheat flour. The conversion isn’t as simple to remember if you measure in weight (grams) rather than in volume (cups), but 1 cup AP flour is 100 grams and 1 cup whole-wheat is 130 grams. Therefore, you would use 50 g of AP and 65 g of whole-wheat. (Please note that for this recipe, I added in oatmeal as well, so the ratio here is different.) This swap works best in muffins and loaf breads; for flat breads or flour tortillas, I have better luck with recipes that call for whole-wheat in the first place.

Regarding the kitchen, to solve the problems I often have with bread not cooking through in the oven range as well or as quickly as it does in a full-sized American oven, I opted for a brownie pan to increase the surface area and reduce the depth of the bread.

Finally, in banana breads, a combination of cinnamon and vanilla or lemon for a dimension of umami is common. I decided to use powdered ginger, lemon juice, and lemon zest along with vanilla. For a stronger lemon flavor, you could try lemon extract in place of the vanilla.

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Jerk Kitchen, Hiroshima

I am woefully behind on my food tourism posts about my Golden Week trip to Hiroshima and Iwakuni. When I travel, I try not only to eat the local specialties but also to try the kind of cuisine I can’t find in rural Hokuriku. I spotted the Jerk Kitchen from the window of the Hiroden (広電, the Hiroshima railcar) and decided to head back there for dinner later. The restaurant is conveniently located between the Dobashi (土橋) and Koamichô (小網町) stops  and was an easy walk from J-Hoppers Hiroshima Trad Hostel.

The Jamaican Special

Jerk Kitchen is a cozy little restaurant; probably a former izakaya, judging by the counter at the bar and three raised tables. The menu comes in in Japanese and has explanation about ackee (アキー), Blighia sapida, a West African member of the soapberry family used in Jamaican cooking.

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Mangosteens and the Allergy Hipster

“Are those plums? Wait, what’s a マンゴ…ス..チ…ン?”

“Oh, mangosteens!” 

“Do you think it’s safe for me to eat?”

Ask me about my various strange allergies and I will give you a Cyrano-esque list of jokes I’ve thought up to make myself feel better. One of these is that I am a food allergy hipster–I was doing it before it was cool.  (I was doing it before hipsters and indie kids were even a thing, for that matter.) My body decided at 12 that crippling seasonal allergies were trite and that Latex-fruit syndrome was more underground. And it was: I was diagnosed a good 5-10 years before the medical community caught up with this, and before Johns Hopkins announced that the use of latex gloves for the medical community was A Bad Idea. I was rocking my allergy when you couldn’t even buy non-latex bandaids at Kroger, that’s how cool I was.*

This was also before google was a verb, and so I spent a decade of my life being simultaneously terrified of eating new fruit and woefully ignorant about the non-fruit foods I ended up eating for the first time without a second thought. Latex-fruit syndrome is sneaky because you aren’t allergic to all the foods. Of this foods listed, I am only allergic to one of the four high-risks (kiwi) and one of the moderates (melons, but not watermelon).

When I moved back to Japan, I discovered that one of the grocery stores in my town inexplicably has a good selection of exotic fruit. Continue reading

Farewell to Spring: Spring Miso Soup

Bamboo season is pretty much over, but I wanted to share my new favorite miso-based soup recipe. Despite it being a down year for bamboo, I managed to score a couple shoots at a colleague’s bamboo-picking event. In order to avoid turning into a panda, I ended up freezing about half of my yield. After you cook your fresh bamboo (guides from The Lobster Dance, Hokuriku Expat Kitchen, and Mad Silence), you can freeze it. To defrost, pop it in the fridge for a day or two. Like beans, bamboo should not be defrosted by heating or it will get mushy.

The reason why this soup is delicious and my prior miso soups were terrible is because I would boil all the vegetables in the stock, then add the miso. By cooking the vegetables in sesame oil first, they have a better texture and flavor.

Of course, you can swap in any seasonal vegetables you like for this, but be sure to cook them in order. Dense vegetables and roots that take a while to soften (carrots, potatoes) should go in first, and vegetables and mushrooms that merely need to wilt slightly should be cooked just to that point before adding to the soup.

Also critical to the flavor is to never boil your miso! Boil the water and dashi, but before you add the miso,  bring down the heat and don’t let it the soup boil again. I used a low-sodium organic red miso, which I think melds well with the sesame oil; the combination gives the soup a deep flavor I associate with tonjiru (トン汁) but without any meat.*

Spring Miso Soup

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