TexMex/Southwestern/Mexican foods were something I purchased from the grocery or at restaurants in the US, missed sorely in Japan, and was convinced I couldn’t make it myself. If I found salsa in a jar, I couldn’t find chips, so what was the point? Avocados weren’t something I could get my town easily, and forget cilantro or jalapeños. I gave up on my dream of enjoying these foods in Japan, but luckily Cheruko didn’t, and she put together a fantastic fajita spread for an international cooking lesson.
One thing that always amazes me when I return to the US is the sheer amount of choice one has about food. Order a pizza in the US and you can usually choose whole-wheat or white crust (sometimes even gluten-free); thick or thin crust; marinara sauce or white sauce; any combination of toppings. With the sheer amount of kinds of pizzerias in towns like Ann Arbor–everything from national chains to Silvio’s organic pizza–the sky was the limit.
I know most of my posts start with me gushing about Ann Arbor, then complaining about Japan, then resolving into my resolution to make it myself, but going from choosing the tiniest details of my pizza to angrily eyeing the corn-and-mayo pizza on a rare trip to Coco’s actually wasn’t that shocking until I came back to the US on business in the winter. Continue reading
One of the biggest challenges–and triumphs– for me during these 2.5 years living in Japan has been creating bread products I could easily purchase back in the US: pitas, tortillas, flatbread, pizza dough. I experimented (usually disastrously) with a few things in year 1, namely pizza dough, which was passable but not fantastic, and tea bread, which refused to cook through no matter how I reduced the recipe or what device in which I baked it.
My first success was whole-wheat soda bread. Pizza dough took two years and five different recipes. Tortillas and pitas, which I was stupidly convinced couldn’t be made at home until Cheruko of Hokuriku Expat Kitchen decided they could, turned out to be incredibly simple. I, like many Americans, thought bread-making was some sort of epic process, a choice between hours of kneading and rising and punching dough or investing in a breadmaker that would take up precious storage space. It’s really not that bad. I’ll speak more on this later with each recipe’s time-commitment information, but I full work-time, work out, have an active social life and hobbies, and I still have time for bread-making. The rising time, depending on the recipe, is often ideal for cooking the rest of a meal, enjoying a TV show or book, or even an evening trip to the gym for the longer risers.
So, now that you’re less worried about OMG BREAD, let’s get started on building your expat bread factory. First, we need to have a chat about types of flour. If you’ve never baked in Japan, you might be surprised to know that flours that are not all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour is what we Americans use in damn near everything (unless you are a pastry shop or gluten-intolerant)–and isn’t as easily found in Japan as cake or bread flour. The contents of this article have been cross-posted to resources.