Japan Food Report: Internet Fish Market Changed Japanese Home-Dining Scenes

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From top R: Chu-toro (pink), Paradise Prawn (blue), Kazunoko/Herring roe (yellow), Hotaru-ika/Firefly Squid (purplish brown), Tako/Squid (white with purple edge)

Every time I go back to Japan, I’m amazed by their obsessions with fresh and unique food.  It’s getting worse every year it seems.

Now with the internet, you can order practically anything from anywhere in the world. For the Japanese, probably the most prominent is that you can order the freshest seafood that used to be only available when you traveled to a specific area. It can be on your dining table the next day, without leaving your desk or home (order by 1pm today, you get it tomorrow for dinner.)

Yes, we have been able to get sashimi of many different kind of seafood for decades (or longer) at our local supermarket, but the internet really changed the way the Japanese eat seafood, direct from the port.

On our dinner table on the first two days of our visit, we had the following:

– Hotaru ika (Firefly Squid) from Toyama (on the photo above)
– Paradise Prawn from New Caledonia (ditto)
– Shiro baigai (White Ivory Shell)
– Extra Large Zuwai Gani (Snow Crab) legs (5 inches long) from Canada

All came through internet, fresh frozen except for Baigai (fresh).  My question is, why don’t we have the same service in the US?  Canada is much closer to us than in Japan.  And their ads stated these crabs are prepared and frozen at a USDA approved plant.

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Shiro-baigai

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Snow Crab legs

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My sister joyfully preparing these giant crab legs for the kani shabu/crab hot-pot.  She loves seafood, plus this was an excellent opportunity for her to impress my husband, the special guest at their household.

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(Besides the hot-pot, we had yakitori (bottom left), bonito sashimi (bottom middle), mounds of hotaru-ika (brownish mass on the bottom right), pickled nappa cabbage (center, cream-colored thing), and nameko mushrooms with baby anchovies (brown thing right next to it), etc.)

The Japanese doctors and nutritionists often say “eat 30 different food items per day”. This alone is close to that 30 in one meal!

It was not just the variety, but the amount was pretty generous as well. We don’t eat like this when we are in the US, so we got really full quickly. Both my mom and sister kept offering us to eat more: “We got all these for you, and we don’t want to spoil them.” I started to think, now I lost weight from eating smaller portions in the US, this is the first time I would gain weight by visiting Japan.

It seems to me that because of the economy, Japanese people are not eating this über fresh seafood at the five-star Japanese restaurants, but at home for a fraction of the price (or same price, 5 – 10 times of the amount.)  Plus preparing sashimi takes practally no time.  Once it’s thawed, all you do is place it on a plate.

We used to buy a few slices of assorted sashimi — about 1/4 – 1/3 lbs or so on a small tray for $20 or so.   Now these internet fish markets sells these by the kilo, and often have special bulk offers, such as “buy 3kg (6.6 lbs), you get shipping free”.  These internet offerings are definitely cheaper if you do the math (and they do that for you in their marketing copy).  It’s basically bulk sales, like buying at Costco. It’s a smart business model though, because people buy a larger amount, share with others, then they too get hooked with the fresh seafood.  The word of mouth spreads like a tsunami!

For example, my sister got 3kg of raw baby squid (hotaru ika) at once, because by buying two 1 kilo boxes, this company will give you another one free, plus free shipping.  Just like me, she loves variety, so as you see, she orders four kinds of seafood, anywhere between 1 – 3 kgs, totalling about 10 kgs (22 lbs!) for 3 adults in 40s and one 78 years old woman!  Way too much!  The Japanese traditionally hates wasting food, especially super fresh straight from the port kind, so she shares these seafood with other relatives.

My guess is that one of our relatives first ordered a lot, and shared with everyone else.  In any case, the circle of ordering and sharing keeps going.

Despite her effort, my husband wasn’t too excited about them.  After all, he’s a white boy from the Midwest.  He freaked out with these “big shiny eyes”.  Me?  I enjoyed them a lot.  They were so rich and sweet, I loved them…  until after about 20, and still a mound of them left.  Too bad you weren’t there with us! (My sister probably still has majority of them left in the freezer.  If you are willing to visit her in Tokyo and eat some baby squid, let me know!)  Now I’ve been away from them for a while, these photos makes me long for this seafood…  (drool….)

Maybe some of you don’t agree with this national obsession with fresh seafood, and the gluttony of Japanese ordinary (middle-class) gourmands.

And excessive fishing.  I haven’t watched the Cove yet, but I can see that the same thing could happen with other kinds of seafood.

What do you think?  Is it good that Japanese can order so many varieties of fresh seafood so easily?

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Sneak Preview — Food in Japan Report

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Happy April!
As with the most wizards, a Kitchen Wizard also disappears from time to time.

This time, I wasn’t sick, and not being able to eat.  (Thank god!)

As a matter of fact, I was in Japan, visiting family and eating lots of good food for 2 weeks.

During the fast week, my husband joined, and we travelled to Kyoto and such.
On my second week, he went home becoming a mini-kitchen wizard back home during my absence, while I taught my mom how to do Kitchen Wizarding, and she made some things from the base I made.

I will start more detailed reports with photos next week.

In the meantime, here is a sneak preview — the highlights from my trip, to whet your appetite over the weekend.  : )
(The slide show of all these photos on top.)

Which photo/food do you find most intriguing?

Have a great weekend!

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 3: “It’s Not Only For Chowder! It’s For Seafood Doria Too!”

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It's Seafood Doria Now!"

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder! It's Seafood Doria Now!"

As I mentioned on Monday, as I was enjoying this creamy yumminess of “Not Bleeding Chowder!” inspired seafood chowder, I realized this smoked-fish-less version would be also good to be turned into a doria, a quintessential Japanized yoshoku (western food).

It’s basically some buttered rice in a heatproof dish with white sauce with some kind of sautéed meat or seafood with onion (chicken and shrimp are popular) and baked with lots of cheese on top.  Something I loved as a child when I was growing up in Tokyo, along with the macaroni version which we simply called them “gratin”.

Since my mom never wanted make something complicated, nor white sauce, for me they were something I’d order when we go out to eat.  To give her some slack, to make doria from scratch, it takes more than 1 hour, and you have to deal with making white sauce.  And the challenge is, there are no dorias in the restaurants in the US!

Because of that, I, too probably made it only a few times in last 20 years, which equals the number of times I ate doria, because they are nowhere to be found in the US (except for, of course, these Japanese Yoshoku restaurants in Los Angeles.  A bit too far!)

Now with my “It’s Not Only For Bleeding Chowder!”, it can be for doria too.  Very easily.  Especially if you have some of these rice balls in the freezer.  If you do, microwave it first so that butter will melt.  As I confessed in my last post, this is a super-short cut version.  I will post the proper way to make a doria on my next post.

Seafood Doria

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

Directions:

  1. Mix butter into hot rice and season well.
  2. Pour seafood chowder on top of buttered rice.  Then top with grated cheese.  Optionally, sprinkle with some panko.
  3. Bake in 400F oven until bubbly and golden brown. (If both the rice and sauce are hot, you can broil it in the oven or “Toast” setting on toaster oven until golden brown, about 7-8 min.)

Yummy doria in 1/3 of the effort and time! I love it!

The next post…  Another way to make doria, another useful trick when you already have sautéed chicken or shrimp, or white sauce. Or if you are in a mood to make this from scratch.  Also few key time-saving tips, so that even if you make this from scratch, you can still optimize and save time and effort later.

Yes… Kitchen Wizarding is all about optimizing your resources (time, money, ingredients, etc…) in the kitchen.  Maximized food with minimized effort.

So stay tuned.  You can subscribe to Secrets of Kitchen Wizard via email (best in my opinion), RSS or Facebook Networked Blogs application.  Click the link from the top right of the page, right below the red pots on the header photo.

Kevin Dundon’s “Duncanon Seafood Chowder” Recipe (Basically “It’s Not Bleeding Chowder” from Raglan Road”)

OH MY GOD!  OH MY GOD!  OH MY GOD!

This morning, I got a comment on my blog from Kevin Dundon, THE chef who created the “It’s Not Bleeding Chowder” who cooked for U2, about my post! 

He commented,

I am delighted that you are featuring my recipe on the your web site for more recipes checkout http://www.kevindundon.com

Good Eating

Kevin

To someone like me who loves to cook, loves to eat good food, plus loves everything Irish -especially cute, talented, smily Irish men, it was like the real GOD talking to me!

Can I say it again?  “Oh my God!”  It’s like my prayers answered.  My Irish God is smiling down at me!

As you can imagine, in my mind, I hear Bono singing away “It’s a Beautiful Daaaaaaaaay!”, and also “When Irish Eyes are smiling”.  I told you, I love them both.

I’m very excited, honored, astonished…. and a bit embarrassed.  So THE Kevin Dundon saw my picture? (Compared the one on his site, it looks shabby…)  He even saw my recipe? The cabbage comment?  And I wrote “fish stock or CHICKEN stock” to make it more accessible?  Geez.  

I might take that Chicken broth out and change to water, since the God said fish stock or water.  And take the cabbage comment out….  Make the real version with more seafood with shells and replace the photo…  And now to think about it, I think the version we ate at Raglan Road might have had fennel infused broth and cubes of fennel in it.  I forgot about it…  It’s nearly 2 years ago, and my memory is fading! I’m not 25 any more!

But he’s the best chef in Ireland who can charge a lot of Euros for his creations. On top of that, he cooks for people like U2 and Queen Elizabeth!  On the other hand, I was just trying to translate my memory of that tasty creation to an everyday table, easily.

It’s time to shut up my evil little voice.

Anyway, maybe it was your prayers too…  On his website, there is a recipe for “Duncanon Seafood Chowder” which is basically the same with Raglan Road’s “It’s Not a Bleeding Chowder!”

So here it is. Kevin Dundon’s real seafood chowder recipe.  Enjoy!http://www.kevindundon.com/duncanonSeafoodChowder.html

Me? Of course I’ll make the God’s real version soon!

When I do that, I will add more seafood with shells to include a photo of a more impressive chowder on this post.  (I can’t copy and paste that beautiful photo from his website, you know?)

Oh, and for those of you who have been waiting for the doria recipe, don’t worry, I’ll post it tomorrow.  I just wanted to share my excitement, and his recipe with you. : )

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 2: My version of “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder” Seafood Chowder

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Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

So here’s the recipe for my “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!”, inspired by the Best Irish Chef 2009 Kevin Dundon’s “It’s Not a Bleeding Chowder”. (Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL)

Ingredients (4-6 servings – Reserve half for the doria)

  • Cleaned and chopped leeks: about 1 large. Dark green part removed.
    • How to clean leeks:  Split the leek from the center lengthwise, bottom part attached, and wash off sand/dirt well with running water.
    • Save the tops for making chicken/fish/vegetable stock.
  • Diced boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold): 2 medium
  • Seafood (scallops & shrimps) chop them if they are large: 2/3 lbs (300g)
  • Bay leaf: 1
  • White Wine: 1/4-1/3 cup
  • Fish stock or Milk and fish bouillon (or chicken stock/bouillon): 2 1/2 cup
  • Corn:  1/2 – 2/3 cup
  • Cream: 1 1/2 cup

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and white wine lightly on seafood.
  2. Clean leeks well and chop them.  Sautee in extra virgin olive oil, and light amount of salt.
  3. Add diced potatoes and sauté for a while, add seafood and white wine.
  4. Add fish stock or milk and crumbled fish bouillon and cook until hot, and seafood is heated through.  Make sure to not to boil it.
  5. Add cream and corn, and adjust the seasoning.  Serve hot.

Kitchen Wizard Tip: I highly recommend you clean and saute the entire bunch of leeks, and save the rest in a zip-loc bag for later use, either in the fridge or freezer (keep it thin, less than 1/3 inches so that you can break only the amount you need).  It’ll be very handy.  I promise!

The original version from Raglan Road has a lot more seafood, such as smoked fish, mussels, fancy prawns etc… It might have even had some shredded cabbage in it…  They had a Colcannon soup called Colpucchino that had cabbage in it… Mine is easier weeknight version.  You can also use other mild seafood on hand.  If you are planning to make doria later in the week, it’d be better not to use smoked fish.

Tomorrow on Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard…

Drum roll please… (Some people have been waiting for this post for a while!)

Leftover Make-over of this…  “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It’s Now Seafood Doria!”  Don’t miss it!

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 1: Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!

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Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

One of my passions is Irish things.  Some of you may have seen my Facebook post about U2. Yes, I love them since the Edge had a mop of hair, and Bono and Larry looked like 10 years old. I also love pretty much all other kind of Irish music too, even the kind used for traditional dancing which some people find to be repetitive.  Irish music makes me feel happy and calm.  When I visited Ireland, I felt I came back home – even more than when I go back to Japan.  Probably too much baggage associated with Tokyo! I think I was Irish in my previous life.

My love of Irish things even took me to a couple of months of Irish dancing lessons. It doesn’t look like much of a work out because the only things that are moving are the dancers’ legs, but Boy, it’s a major work out!  After one jig or reel, I was huffing and puffing!  After I learned a few different pieces, my teacher decided to move the location from Ft. Mason, walking distance from our home, and in the same building as our print-making class I was taking back to back, to more of an Irish American neighborhood.  Her marketing decision resulted in the loss of one student (me) and probably a gain of many students that fit much closer to her ideal target market profile.  So our (me and my teacher’s) dream of me dancing with these curly blond wigs and these elaborate stitched outfits never came true.  Maybe it’s a good thing. Or maybe I should make my silly dream come true on one of these Halloweens.

Anyway, when we had a chance to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, I insisted to my husband that we HAVE TO go to Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Downtown Disney. They have an Irish band and dancing every night! My inner Irish wanted to have some comforting Irish food and most of all, Irish music. The chef cooked for U2 and Queen (not Freddie Mercury, but Elizabeth II.)  That was good enough of a validation for me.

I was in heaven there, because not only the band excellent, they played for hours, just like in Ireland. (My husband had to drag me out because we had a very early morning flight.)  Many photos of my favorite Irish (and non-Irish) celebrities like U2, Pierce Brosnan, Thin-Lizzy, Sting, etc. adorned their walls leading to the bathroom.  Love this sense of humor! Perfect thing to look at when you are waiting for your turn to pee after many pints of Guiness!  No worries, their bath room accommodates many people, and you can even continue to listen to the fine music!!

OK. Food.  Irish food is not known as the best food in the world.  Maybe the reputation is getting better now, compared with when I was there in 95. Yet, maybe because  I’m Irish in my previous life(?), I thought most of the food was very good and satisfying, even though not fancy.

One of the dishes we chose  at the restaurant was called “It’s not the bleeding chowder!” and it was really delicious!  The inside was super dark, so I couldn’t see what was in it.  Along with the loads of seafood on top, I identified something green most likely leeks, yet since it’s an Irish restaurant, there may have been cabbage, especially since they DO have frothy colcannon (potato & cabbage) soup called Colpucchino.    They use smoked fish as a base, and bit of bacon (I think), and that gave the chowder (or “not the chowder”) an interesting twist.

It was good enough to inspire me to make similar chowder at home using smoked trout I can get from Costco.

So when I found a pack of heavy cream that was near the expiration date one rainy evening, I realized that we haven’t had the “not the Chowder” thing for a long time.  I also had some sauteed leek.  Yes, the green things I identified in the chowder.  That’d save quite a bit of time and headache.  I didn’t have all the fresh seafood, but I always have some shrimp and scallops in the freezer!  That should work!

What I didn’t realize until I tasted it was that I forgot the smoked fish.

None the less it was very tasty.

As I ate it, and tasted the difference between the usual version with smoked fish and the one without, I realized that this would be perfect to make seafood doria!

That’s right! It’s not named “It’s not bleeding chowder!” for no reason. It’ll be DORIA tomorrow!

Doria is something we Japanese love.  It’s basically buttered rice in oval baking dish, covered with white sauce with either chicken or seafood in it, and baked with cheeses on top.  It’s a perfect fall to winter dish.  It’s quintessential Japanese Yoshoku (Western Food), Japanized French/Italian influenced food.

So two days later (I prefer not to eat leftovers and their spin-offs back to back for nutritional reasons), I decided to do something unthinkable for those with conventional minds.  I wanted to experiment what I would end up with a minimum effort.  So rather than making buttered rice in a skillet, I made buttered rice by just mixing butter, salt and generous amount pepper into some microwaved hot rice from the freezer. And I poured a generous amount of chowder, topped it with grated cheese and baked it in the toaster oven until it was golden brown.

To compare, I made one with cold chowder on hot rice, another with heated chowder on hot rice.  The result?  Taste-wise, negligible.  However, if you heat the chowder first, the dish will be hot and bubbly faster. But you need to add the time to heat it first, so both end up taking about the same…

Of course, if I made a proper doria with real buttered rice, sauteed aromatics and seafood, and white sauce, bake it with cheese, and compare it with the short cut version side by side, I might have been able to tell the difference. But I was so smart! I didn’t!  So I was able to taste the quick version as it is, without anything to affect my judgment.

At the beginning, my husband couldn’t even tell how I made it. (that’s always a good thing.  You want your family to think you made it from scratch, you are just a wizard in the kitchen whipping up tasty meals like this in no time!)

And the verdict was a solid A, and I was stoked to find out that I can make doria without making white sauce.

Of course, if you have some sauteed shrimp, bite size chicken etc, you can use that leftover, make a quick white sauce and do a proper version of doria too.

Either way, something that used to take close to 1 hour and a lot of work, is now done in pretty much in no time.  Your child can even make it…

Tomorrow, I’ll post my version of “It’s not the bleeding chowder!”, followed by How to make doria from chowder, then how to make doria from sauteed leftovers.

So stay tuned…

Less than 5: Fennel and Cucumber Coleslaw

Fennel and cucumber coleslaw

Fennel and cucumber coleslaw

This is a great summer salad, inspired by coleslaw that accompanied a salmon sandwich I had in this chic-chic sandwich place in downtown San Francisco. 

It’s a snap to make if you have a mandolin, slicer or food processor.  If not, use vegetable peeler. Fennel is really fibrous when raw, so make sure to slice it paper thin.

Fennel and Cucumber Salad

  1. Slice about equal amount of fennel and cucumber as thin as possible.  Paper thin is ideal. Cut them in about 2” pieces.  (I used half bulb of fennel and 1/3 of English cucumber.) Mix a little salt and drain water from vegetables.
  2. Slice about 1/2 of lemon. Cut them in smaller pieces.
  3. Add mayonnaise, dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, more lemon juice if desired. If you are using miracle whip, do not add sugar.  Mix well.
  4. (Optional) Cut some fronds of fennel leaves and mix.

Tips:

  • If your slicer cannot make paper-thin strips, try daikon radishes in stead of fennel, and slice both daikon and cucumbers in thin strips.  Use a little bit of mustard instead of sugar. It tastes different, but it’s great, especially with canned, shredded scallops.
  • You can add boiled, chopped seafood, such as scallop or shrimp.
  • If you plan to eat this in sandwich, make sure to squeeze out water well.
  • Leftover fennel can be sliced (1/4- 1/2 inches), grilled, or blanched for salad or braised dish.
  • Save the fennel stalks for making fish stock later.