First, I’m very jealous of you all in Japan enjoying or about to enjoy the sakura food! I like to follow food trends, so, for posterity, here are some foods from cherry-blossom season 2014. Most of these are from international brands and chains that localize their products for Japan.
Delicious (too) fresh yae-zakura (八重桜) Photo: マリマリ on Wikipedia.
Just a heads up: I’m not sponsored or compensated by any of these brands (or any brands at all), so if you’re reading my review of a product, it’s either my opinion or FOR SCIENCE.
I’ve noticed a lot of people find my blog by searching for bamboo shoot recipes. This year, I wanted to develop a new recipe to add to the list and to make something other than bamboo-rice with the shoot I bought. My friend and temporary roommate mentioned that she had seen a bamboo and kabocha curry at a festival over the weekend, and–
What I Ate in Nagano, Day 1: On the Road to Yudanaka Onsen (長野の名産を食べる旅：第一日）
What I Ate in Nagano, Day 2: Yamanouchi (長野の名産を食べる旅の第二日：山の上)
On our last day in Nagano, we went to see Matsumoto Castle and drove through Hakuba and Miasa on the way back to Kanazawa.
One hell of a storm blew through Saturday night and Sunday, ruining the weekend for hanami. Luckily, we’d had decent weather all week, including Friday night, when I went to Rojô Park in Komatsu for nighttime cherry-blossom viewing.
Of course, hanami wouldn’t be hanami without food and drink, and what better to bring than two Japanese classics together in a super portable form?
I especially like that this recipe uses the leftover sakura flowers from the Sakura “Latte.” No waste and more sakura flavor.
Nothing heralds spring like seasonal menu changes! Starbucks’ sakura latte (henceforth not italicized) is much like the pumpkin spice latte in the US: people go crazy for it and it sells out long before sakura season is over. Or, in Kanazawa and the rest of northern Japan, before it even starts.
This year, the latte was replaced by a sakura white hot chocolate, which I really liked, but unfortunately it’s been gone for a month and the sakura only started blooming this week. Luckily, a sakura “latte” (technically it’s a steamer since there’s no coffee) is really easy to make at home. All you need is preserved edible sakura, boiling water, and milk.
While at Omicho Market a couple weeks ago, I spied a fish-seller with sashimi-grade sawara (サワラ, 鰆), Japanese Spanish mackerel, on sale–for 250 yen, I could get a plate of huge filets much bigger than the ones I usually get at the store–about 500 grams’ worth.* “Two, please,” I told the clerk (the fish monger?). “Onê-san,” he said, “I’ll give you 3 for 500 yen.”
This was probably the only time I’ve had a whole kilo of fish at one time. I don’t know how to gut a fish (it’s on the to-do-in-2012 list, promise), so my choices are more limited than chefs braver than I am. Still, since moving to Kanazawa, I’ve found my supermarkets carry a great selection of filets caught locally, so I’ve finally really learned how to cook fish.
Early May means fresh bamboo shoots are in season again here in Ishikawa, and I received not one but three lovely shoots from my friends and coworkers this year! 2012 is apparently a bumper year for bamboo in the forests and in my kitchen.
Whether you purchased or received fresh bamboo, one large shoot can seem like a lot to cook up. The best English-language resource for cooking bamboo is, in my opinion, Makiko Itoh’s Just Hungry. The reason why I have only one bamboo recipe on this site is because I always use hers! What I do have to offer is how to cook raw bamboo, my master list of bamboo recipes, comments, and my own photos. Enjoy! [Updated 5/18/2013]
Orange sweet potatoes, ubiquitous in the US, are often nowhere to be found in Ishikawa. Depending on where you are in the prefecture, you can usually locate some in one brief part of late winter in the local-vegetable section of the grocery store with the Noto- and Kaga Yasai (heirloom vegetables from Noto [northern Ishikawa] and Kaga [central-southern Ishikawa]). This March, I found some “Kabocha Imo” (“kabocha squash potato,” かぼちゃ芋), a Noto Yasai, at Marue, and I also found a large bag of annôimo (安納芋) in the basement grocery stores in the department store M’ZA. Orange sweet potatoes are not as cheap as I remember them being back home during my student days, but they’re every bit as delicious.
Cheruko over at Hokuriku Expat Kitchen sent me Mark Bittman’s New York Times article “We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?” the other day, and we were both pretty excited to see the new term he had coined for people like us: flexitarians, those who eat vegetarian most of the time. That is, my diet is based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. I eat dairy, eggs, and honey. I eat fish a few times a week, but I try to limit my fish intake to domestic, locally caught, fish. (You would be surprised how much of the fish at my grocery store is imported from Norway, Alaska, and Chile even though I live on the sea.) I cook chicken occasionally; pork rarely; and beef, never, though I make exceptions for really good hamburgers and Hida beef if the opportunity presents itself at a restaurant. With meat that I purchase, I try to be as conscientious an omnivore as I can be in Japan.
Unfortunately, most of the domestically raised poultry sold in Ishikawa comes from Miyazaki prefecture–farther away and the prefecture hit hardest by avian flu in the past few years. Interestingly, Ishikawa is a good source of locally-raised pork, which I discovered when I set out to make today’s recipe. Fava beans, sora mame（空豆), are all over Kanazawa right now (though my vegetable almanac says they are a late spring bean), and they really compliment the sweet onions and spicy pork in this stir-fry.
“Are those plums? Wait, what’s a マンゴ…ス..チ…ン?”
“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