food

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paul, elijah and i spent a week in ontario this summer. we went to visit our family and friends there.

we went to georgian bay, kingston and ottawa. it was a very busy schedule, but we managed to get a few hours in toronto to visit one place we really wanted to go – J-town!

J-town is a little japanese mall in the suburbs in toronto. there are a few small shops, and a grocery store, and a restaurant. i bought a lot of japanese books and groceries, things that i can’t usually buy in canada.

best of all, i found a package of sansai (mountain vegetables)! it’s been a long, long time since i ate sansai. sansai gohan and sansai soba are my favorite.

since elijah was born, i’ve learned to prep supper after eating supper the night before. this way, i don’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen in the evening, when elijah usually turns into mr. fussypants :D

recipe for sansai gohan

  • 3 cups rice
  • 660ml water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 Tbsp sake
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 200g sansai
  1. wash rice and soak in the water for 30 minutes
  2. boil sansai in hot water and drain
  3. put rice and water in the rice cooker
  4. add sugar, soy sauce, sake and salt and mix well
  5. place sansai on top of the rice
  6. cook until it’s done.

you can add dried shiitake and fried tofu if you like.

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W~~~~~~~H~~~~~~~Y~~~~~~~?????

via choggie

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i’m starting my 33rd week today, and my belly is very big. my waist is now 94 cm. i have to support my belly with my arm when i get myself up, in order to keep my balance. i can’t button up my spring jackets. with this big belly, i walk like a penguin — not that different from usual, unfortunately. people tell me my belly is going to get even bigger in the next two months, but i think it’s just a rumor. my skin is hitting its limit already.

even though my belly is getting bigger, my weight hasn’t changed over the last month. i gained about 15 pounds (7 kg) during the first 28 weeks, but since then it’s the same. i have a humongous appetite, i’m eating all the time, and i’m eating a lot at every meal. i even eat beef, which i didn’t care for before. in fact, i want to eat burgers all the time…

i feel like i’m getting bigger and bigger, but i was worried that i may not be taking enough nutrients to help poko-chan grow. i got an ultrasound two weeks ago and they estimated poko-chan’s current weight at 4.5 pounds (2 kg) already. this was even bigger than average at 32 weeks. my doctor assured me not to worry, so it’s probably okay.

i think poko-chan has grown even bigger since that ultrasound. poko-chan continues to kick and punch with no mercy. i can clearly see waves and bulges on my belly as s/he moves. i like watching and feeling those movements, even though i get kicked so hard sometimes i can’t sleep.

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(paul took these photos)

having this huge appetite reminded me of the opposite problem i had in early pregnancy – morning sickness.

i started getting morning sickness around 7 weeks. at first, i was happy to experience it. since i couldn’t feel any movement of the baby yet, it was the only sign i had that i was pregnant. but it soon turned into a not-so-pleasant experience.

my morning sickness was more like “evening sickness”. i was fine in the morning, but later in the day, i started to feel unwell — no appetite, headache and nausea. i guess my body is still in japan time — it was morning-in-japan sickness in the evening here in canada. anyway, this soon became all-day sickness.

i felt like i was having hungover all the time. food smelled weird. all kinds of food i used to like turned into a nightmare. i couldn’t eat, look at, or think about:

  • any vegetables, especially leafy ones and potatoes – tasted strange.
  • tomato-related food – i couldn’t understand why tomatoes exist on the planet.
  • crackers – some people suggested i eat crackers, but for me, they tasted like sawdust.
  • milk products: yogurt, milk, ice cream – usually i love ice cream, but i felt sick when i thought about it.
  • meat in general, especially beef. tasted odd, even though now this is my favorite food.

the food i could eat:

  • udon, soba or rice
  • fruit, especially oranges
  • apple sauce
  • potato chips (plain, salt flavour)
  • sweet potato
  • bread (only white part)

it was really hard to go grocery shopping because i couldn’t look at food. so i kept my head straight all the time and when i saw what i wanted in my peripheral vision, i grabbed it.

it was probably not a good time for paul either, because i couldn’t taste the food i was making for him. one time, i was trying to make a pasta dish for supper. i started sauteeing mushrooms and spinach. it didn’t look good, so i added a can of tomatoes. it didn’t look good so i added more herbs and spices. somehow this combination just didn’t work — it was really awful pasta. of course i couldn’t taste it, but paul did. he was very kind to say just, “mmm…. (silent)”. but i could tell it was awful. so i asked him how the taste was. he said with the most agonized face, “not very good…”. i should probably note he was kind enough to eat most of it. we started buying frozen food soon after that.

around my 14th week, i started to feel much better and have more appetite. i broke off my morning sickness period by wanting to eat MEAT. one day in the 14th week, i had a huge craving for beef. so paul and i went to a restaurant and i ordered a hamburger. it was a big hamburger, but i ate it all. people who know me are often surprised to see me eating meat since i’ve never been a big meat eater. but now i love it. i didn’t know cows and pigs are so tasty.

my appetite has just grown and grown now, and so has my belly. now that i see poko-chan getting bigger and moving so wild, i feel much better. s/he makes a big wave on my belly by stretching and pushing. it looks like an effortless belly dance.

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drain your brain


(click to view close up)

freshly drawn this afternoon. it’s been awhile since i’ve drawn in vivid colours. i think i’m liking it.

the kanji on the milk carton says yuki-jirushi, which means snow brand. that’s a japanese milk company that got into huge trouble a few years ago when many people around osaka got food poisoning from their low fat milk. paul was one of the first cases. interestingly, paul and i both drank from the same milk carton that day, but only paul got food-poisoning. he was really sick. later on, two men from the milk company came to the door of our apartment and apologized. they bowed very deeply and gave us a box of expensive japanese sweets. i felt bad that these two men had to apologize even though they didn’t do anything wrong.

the case was a big scandal in japan. 14,780 people got sick. you can read more about it here.

my drawing has nothing to do with the food poisoning scandal. i just like the design of the milk carton, and i’m used to since we always used to drink snow brand milk (before). my brain is very weak, like 0.1% milk.

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during the taisho period in japan, a popular song in the japanese opera was コロッケの唄(“song of korokke“), which goes like this: “korokke is an everyday dish, we eat korokke today and tomorrow. are we gonna eat korokke all year around?”. “korokke” is the japanese word for croquette, the popular french food that had just been introduced to japan. japan still has popular songs about new popular foods. the croquette boom is over, but japanese people still eat a lot of croquettes. you can find them in the grocery stores and convenience stores, and they’re often served as pub food in izakaya. everybody loves croquette.

as a kid, i was one of them. i used to take swimming lessons every saturday. afterwards, i would be starving, so my friends and i would go to a meat shop to buy croquettes. the butcher would fry up some croquettes for us. i think they were 50 yen each. so it didn’t hurt my small okozukai very much, but sometimes i had to debate in my head if i should spend my money on a croquette or save it to buy a cute pencil. the meat shop and the stationery shop were on the same block. well, you can’t fight with an empty stomach :)

i always liked croquettes, but i never made them myself until yesterday. i’d never had croquette in canada, and i don’t think i’d had one for at least six years. so i made it myself.

i then realized that i’m not such a big fan of croquettes anymore. the croquettes i made turned out pretty good and tasty, but after i ate one i realized croquette is just fried mashed potato with ground beef in it. i’m not a big fan of mashed potato, nor fried food, nor ground beef, either. hmm… at least i like onion.

anyway, the croquette wasn’t as tasty as i remembered. i guess you can never beat the food in your memory.

either that, or the butcher in my hometown just makes way better croquettes than me :D

i still enjoyed making the croquettes and serving them. i wrote paul’s name in japanese on them in ketchup. he was happy.

recipe

this is for 10 croquettes:

  • 2 potatoes (medium)
  • 100g ground beef
  • half an onion, chopped
  • nutmeg
  • bay leaf
  • flour, beaten egg, panko (japanese bread crumbs)
  • vegetable oil
  • s + p

sauce:

  • ketchup + worchestershire sauce + red wine + grated garlic  (i just used ketchup)

how-to:

  1. boil the potatoes with skins on.
  2. saute the onion. when it turns transparent, add the beef, nutmeg and bay leaf.
  3. when the potatoes are done, strain the hot water and mash them in a bowl. set aside.
  4. when the beef mixture is ready, damp it onto paper towel to soak up the extra grease.
  5. add the beef mixture to the mashed potato, mix lightly (do not overmix).
  6. move the mixture onto a plate and cool in the fridge.
  7. heat the vegetable oil in a pan. arrange the dipping station for flour, egg, and panko. i used tupperwares.
  8. divide the cooled mixture and shape into balls and flatten them. make sure there are no cracks or it’ll explode in the oil. it’s better to wet your hand with some oil so the mixture won’t stick to your hands.
  9. when the oil is heated to 170c (if you drop in some of the flour and water mixture and it drops to the bottom and comes back up, the oil is about 170c), dip the ball into flour, egg and panko. i use my right hand for dry ingredients and left for wet so that the panko doesn’t get stuck together with egg. that way, you can get a clean result.
  10. turn them when they’re golden brown. cook both sides.
  11. when fried, put them onto paper towl to soak up the extra oil.
  12. serve them with cabbage and tomato. cabbage is supposed to help you digest greasy food. i like rice on the side.

enjoy! (or not so much…)

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i like food that’s good for me.

when i was growing up, my mom and grandma used to tell me the benefits of food. at the dinner table, they’d say things like, “if you eat carrots, your eyes’ll shine.”, “have more seaweed, it’ll make your hair more beautiful.” or “don’t eat too much eggplant, it’ll cool your body.” etc… it wasn’t like a lecture, though. it was more like…just a part of dinner conversation.

they also used food to cure my pains. when i had muscle pain, they’d make paste from flour and spread it all over on my legs. when i got a prickle in my finger, they’d sprinkle some salt to soften my skin to remove it easily. believe or not, it worked.

health-conscious information is a big deal in japan. there are tons of health-related tv quiz shows or cooking shows. in elementary schools, dietitians draw cute illustrations on school lunch menus to describe how milk will help grow healthy bones, for example.

so in my mind, health and food share the same meaning. when i need more vitamins, i don’t grab vitamin pills, i grab vegetables.

after a long week, my skin looked a little tired. so i chose barley for dinner. barley is one of the foods i like to use often. this oldest cultivated grain is said to balance the digestive system and improve circulation. if you eat it regularly, it’ll soften your skin and you’ll feel refreshed!

i know, it might be just a superstition. who cares? believing is everything.

again, i forgot to keep track of what i used. so here is the hypothetical recipe:

recipe: barley risotto with leek and mushroom

  • 1 leek (only white part), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • a handful or more of brown mushrooms, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • s + p

saute these in 2 tsp of olive oil in a pot until they turn golden brown.

  • 5 pieces of sundried tomato, diced

add the sundried tomatos to the sauted vegetables.

  • 1 cup of pearl barley
  • 2 cups of water

add barley to the sauted vegetables and slowly add some water. stir until the water evaporates, then add some more water.
cover the lid, stirring occasionally

  • 1 cup or more of organic unsweetened soy milk

when the barley mixture is cooked, turn off the heat and add soy milk slowly as you stir. then add:

  • dash of soy sauce
  • S + P to taste
  • minced parsley

to the risotto.

for garnish, i used sauteed asparagus and ham, diced red pepper, and shaved asiago cheese.

it’s very creamy even without adding a lot of cheese. soy milk gives a rich flavour.

to finish off, i squeezed some lemon juice on my last bite. i was left with a rich and fresh flavour… heaven!

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