Sunday, November 7, 2010

I think I'm cooking Japanese

When I first moved here, I didn't cook for the longest time. Sure, there were lots of restaurants and socializing going on the first few weeks we arrived, but honestly, I was scared to cook. The Japanese kitchen was as foreign a place to me as Japan itself. The stove looked like a camping stove, with no honest oven in sight, but supposedly the microwave could be the oven ( I've barely used the oven even today, as I can't make out most of the kanji.) And let's not forget the grocery store! Aisles and aisles of things that, as David Sedaris would say, "All look like soy sauce". I realized that I was going to have to get over my fear of the grocery store and learn how to cook in a Japanese kitchen. So the first thing I did was buy a cookbook (in English of course), on Japanese cooking. Seriously, before this move, the most Asian meals I'd made were stir fries, and I knew there had to be more I could cook than that.

First the basics. Most Japanese dishes revolve around rice, and thank goodness we had a rice cooker. It's super easy to use, and luckily, the people who lived here before us, wrote the English translations for the buttons. Next, most Japanese dishes start with a base of dashi, which is what I would describe as a broth of fish and seaweed. Luckily, you can buy instant dashi at the grocery store, and once I figured out the hiragana, I was set.

Here's some of the dishes I've made so far:

Soba in broth with Japanese pumpkin

Uh, I think this was udon casserole

Okonomi-yaki with edamame. Okonomi-yaki is a pancake-like dish that was cabbage and ground pork in it.

I've made more, but I don't always get out the camera. I try to make mostly Japanese meals for dinner, with at least one American dish or pasta during the week.

And the grocery store's not such a scary place anymore. In fact, I feel rather proud of myself when I can read the labels and descriptions.


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