All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Kaminaridofu / pan-fried tofu with soy sauce and katsuobushi

With the literal meaning of "thunder tofu," this dish is well named; the water from these small cubes of firm tofu makes a rumbling sound when fried at high heat. For the sodium-savvy version below, I use less oil so that the amount of seasoning (soy sauce in this case) can be reduced. As a result, the tofu cubes only make a tame roar, if any. While the dish is now less entertaining to cook in an audio-visual sense, it has the advantage of requiring less cleanup of spattered oil. Taste-wise, this is quite strong thanks to the intense flavor of katsuobushi bonito flakes, and the strong flavor is highlighted by refreshing green onion slices. A small yet satisfying dish.

1/2 of recipe:
99 calories; 7.7 g protein; 6.4 g fat; 2.2 g carbohydrate; 15.8 g net carbs; 100 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 1 mg cholesterol; 0.5 g fiber


Biitsu to ninjin no akadashi / red miso soup with beets and carrots

Butter-sauteed carrots are paired with baked beets for red miso soup, creating a deep melody of flavors. When carrot slices are lightly cooked and allowed to retain their crispness, the taste of the two vegetables is more clearly noticed. When carrot slices are cooked until very tender and beets are cooked a bit longer, the two vegetables mingle together in the soup and produce a complex taste, although cooking beet chunks longer makes beets themselves lighter in color while the soup becomes darker. Below, beet chunks are added toward the end of the cooking process to retain their vivid color, but cooking them longer is well worth trying. This soup may not be a typical Japanese dish but does go well with any Japanese or other Asian food.

1/2 of recipe:
66 calories; 2.8 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 11.6 g carbohydrate; 8.5 g net carbs; 296 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 3.1 g fiber


Chawanmushi / steamed savory custard

Heavenly soft custard that quickly disappears on your tongue after releasing its umami-packed flavor. When serving only a small number of people, chawanmushi is easy to make in a regular pot or deeper pan with lid. Finishing with a smooth surface and no obvious holes is the sign of extra silky texture; for this, cook at low heat once water starts to bubble and the pot is filled with steam! While all solid ingredients can be immersed in the egg-dashi mixture, shrimp is placed after custard has basically solidified so that it stays on top along with mitsuba leaves and yuzu peel, the aromatic garnishes.

1/2 of recipe:
66 calories; 7.7 g protein; 2.7 g fat; 2.2 g carbohydrate; 1.8 g net carbs; 210 mg sodium; 125 mg cholesterol; 0.4 g fiber


Takenoko no tsukeyaki / sauteed bamboo shoots in citrus soy sauce

This saute can be either strongly or softly flavored by adding or not adding marinade to the frying pan toward the end. Simply sauteing marinated bamboo shoots would naturally result in a soft flavor where their sweet yet tangy taste comes through. When a stronger flavor with punch is desired, continue sauteing bamboo shoots with some of the leftover marinade. In either case, eringi king oyster mushrooms compliment bamboo shoots really well.

1/2 of recipe (bamboo shoots & eringi mushrooms):
89 calories; 2.3 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 18.3 g carbohydrate; 15.8 g net carbs; 166 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce & ponzujoyu made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 0 mg cholesterol; 2.5 g fiber

1/2 of recipe (bamboo shoots, eringi mushrooms & vegetables):
95 calories; 3.0 g protein; 1.3 g fat; 19.1 g carbohydrate; 16.0 g net carbs; 172 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce & ponzujoyu made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 1 mg cholesterol; 3.1g fiber


Tofu no hoshi-ebi itame / stir-fried tofu with shami dried shrimp

An easy tofu stir-fry where extra minutes spent sauteing ensure a pleasantly tender outcome. To match and maximize tofu's silky texture, garlic, ginger and shami dried shrimp are slowly sauteed for a gentler aroma, and tofu is allowed to absorb their flavor along with other seasonings. Tasty and comforting.

1/2 of recipe:
73 calories; 7.4 g protein; 3.4 g fat; 2.6 g carbohydrate; 2.2 g net carbs; 122 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 20 mg cholesterol; 0.4 g fiber


Mineoka-dofu / Mineoka-tofu / milk kudzu pudding

Often made today with cream and sugar as a dessert, this milk pudding originally was improvised as a quasi-tofu dish about 300 years ago when the Shogun, during a visit to the pastures of Mineoka, simply mentioned his desire to eat tofu. Upon hearing the Shogun's words, a cook accompanying the Shogun made the pudding using cow's milk and kudzu found at the pastures. Traditionally, milk is the only dairy ingredient that goes into the pudding; I mixed it with additive-free tonyu soy milk to cut back on sodium in the recipe below. This pudding contains no sweetener, but its milky taste and creamy texture are quite gratifying.      

1 serving (1/4 of Mineoka-dofu recipe, 1/2 of sauce recipe, shrimp & arugula):
113 calories; 5.7 g protein; 5.3 g fat; 10.8 g carbohydrate; 9.9 g net carbs; 105 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 0.9 g fiber

Whole recipe of Mineoka-dofu only:
388 calories; 14.4 g protein; 20.6 g fat; 37.8 g carbohydrate; 10.8 g net carbs; 85 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 2.4 g fiber


Seri okowa / steamed sweet rice with water dropwort

The mellow aroma that wafts up from okowa steamed sweet rice is comforting in cold seasons. Seri water dropwort acts as a counterpoint even when a smaller amount is used, as seri's slightly bitter taste and vibrant color provide just enough punch.

1/2 of recipe:
277 calories; 5.4 g protein; 0.9 g fat; 59.3 g carbohydrate; 58.3 g net carbs; 96 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.0 g fiber

1/3 of recipe:
185 calories; 3.6 g protein; 0.6 g fat; 39.6 g carbohydrate; 38.9 g net carbs; 64 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.7 g fiber


Ebi no nikogori suigyoza / shrimp shui jiao dumplings

Delightful and tasty dumplings featuring shrimp. I used to use coconut oil as a pork fat substitute, but I could not fully get used to its clingy taste. Other oil or fat seemed to lack something. Then I realized that juiciness does not have to come from fat or oil. For example, with xiao long bao steamed soup buns/dumplings, the juiciness of the filling comes from the soup. Below I applied the technique of making nikogori jelly with the water used to rehydrate dried scallops, and mixed it in with the shrimp filling.

1/2 recipe (dumplings only; yu choy sum on top and dipping sauce not included):
251 calories; 15.0 g protein; 2.1 g fat; 40.3 g carbohydrate; 38.2 g net carbs; 149 mg sodium; 80 mg cholesterol; 2.1 g fiber


Kabu to satoimo no surinagashi / Japanese turnip and baby taro root potage soup

A gentle, creamy soup for cold days. This takes full advantage of the sweet yet refreshing taste of kabu turnips. Satoimo baby taro provides subtle depth in terms of both taste and aroma, and its thickening effect creates a potage consistency that is appreciated when the weather is chilly. Mitsuba's crisp, invigorating aroma highlights the mellowness of the soup.   

1/2 recipe:
37 calories; 1.4 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 7.7 g carbohydrate; 5.9 g net carbs; 175 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1.8 g fiber


Dinner, January 31, 2018

Living on the coast does not necessarily mean easy access to fresh fish here. Simple grilled or steamed fish was what I wanted to pair with seri okowa bitter greens mixed in mellow steamed sweet rice. For some weeks, however, we have been out of luck finding very fresh fish from local stores. Rather than compromising on fish quality, I decided to change my menu plan.

  • Seri okowa / steamed sweet rice with water dropwort
  • Yudofu / hot tofu in kelp stock, served with citrus soy sauce
  • Kyabetsu to hakusai, kiriboshi daikon no tamago-mushi / steamed egg with cabbage, napa cabbage and dried radish
  • Yaki renkon to shiitake no gomaae / grilled lotus root and shiitake in sesame dressing
  • Murasaki tamanegi no amazuzuke / red onion in sweetened vinegar


Bakuraba / baklava

This satisfies Tom's new habit of eating sweets without increasing sodium intake. But when I made these baklava earlier last year, he blamed me for him gaining weight, as I repeatedly experimented to figure out a good proportion of ingredients, especially erythritol (calorie- & net-carbs-free sugar substitute) so it does not re-crystallize when completely cool and does not trigger any noticeable cooling sensation in the mouth.

My original thought was, if I made 28 small pieces in one batch, they should last for 28 days or at least a few weeks. Making baklava from scratch is time consuming, but it would be not bad if each batch lasted that long ... So far I have been proven ridiculously wrong. Tom cannot stop reaching for more pieces. Although the recipe below is not heavily sweet, as with other sweets I make, it could be addictive. 

Whole recipe:
2,396 calories; 37.5 g protein; 175.1 g fat; 225.9 g carbohydrate; 165.9 g net carbs; 44 mg sodium; 158 mg cholesterol; 15.3 g fiber

1 piece (1/28 recipe):
86 calories; 1.3 g protein; 6.3 g fat; 8.1 g carbohydrate; 5.9 g net carbs; 1.6 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 0.5 g fiber


Ninjin no shirishiri / stir-fried shredded carrot with eggs

A tasty everyday dish from Okinawa that has been gaining popularity across Japan in recent years. Slowly sauteing carrots with a small amount of oil enhances the sweetness of the vegetable, and eggs add a gentle, rich taste. Among a number of variations, canned tuna is often mentioned as an addition. The recipe below features okara-konnyaku (soybean pulp yam cakes) to make the dish more filling as well as snow peas for color.

1/2 recipe:
115 calories; 6.1 g protein; 5.4 g fat; 11.2 g carbohydrate; 5.1 g net carbs; 128 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 106 mg cholesterol; 6.1 g fiber


Satsumaimo to ebi no tai reddo karee / Thai red curry noodles with sweet potatoes and shrimp

Once ingredients are prepped or chopped, it takes less than 30 minutes to cook this tasty, warm and filling dish served with noodles of your choice. Shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt and kurozu brown rice vinegar work their magic yet again here to minimize the amount of nampla as well as sodium-loaded red curry paste.

1/2 recipe (curry only, noodles are excluded):
311 calories; 16.2 g protein; 14.7 g fat; 30.0 g carbohydrate; 24.3 g net carbs; 622 mg sodium (with shoyukoji made of 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 99 mg cholesterol; 5.7 g fiber


Horenso to kani, shiitake no shiraae / spinach, crab and shiitake in tofu dressing

A small handful of crabmeat is transformed into a pleasantly light yet complex side dish. Shiitake is slowly roasted to intensify its taste and aroma, while blanched spinach is flavored with a tiny amount of soy sauce and dashi to give just enough underlying taste to ensure its presence as part of the melody of flavors in creamy tofu dressing.

1/2 recipe:
78 calories; 10.3 g protein; 2.8 g fat; 3.8 g carbohydrate; 1.5 g net carbs; 180 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 2.3 g fiber

Shiraae dressing only (1/2 recipe):
33 calories; 2.3 g protein; 0.1 g fat; 2.5 g carbohydrate; 1.5 g net carbs; 75 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.7 g fiber


Osechi New Year's Day meal, 2018

Our New Year's Day meal was smaller than in other years, yet consisted of all of our favorites.

People say that holiday seasons are uplifting. For me, it is the last week of December. The feverish mood at grocery stores and shopping arcades in Japan toward the end of the year is infectious. Both sellers and shoppers are in high spirits, all hoping for an auspicious start to the coming year. Here in the US, a somewhat similar ambiance is seen at Japanese grocery stores that often carry better quality ingredients and special items for the New Year's Day celebration.