happy (belated) white day!

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in japan, women give chocolate to men on valentine’s day. you can give chocolate to someone you love (“honmei” = true love) or to your colleagues at work as an obligation gift (“giri choco“).

since this one-sidedness is obviously unfair, white day was invented for men to return gifts to women. white day (march 14th, one month after valentine’s day) was created by a marshmallow company in 1965. they urged men to give soft, fluffy marshmallows to the women who had given them chocolate on valentine’s day. it was called “white day” because marshmallows are white.

thankfully, men don’t only give marshmallows nowadays (i hate marshmallows — too sweet!). they can give anything white: underwear, handkerchiefs, stockings, jewelry, etc.

in canada, most men give roses or chocolates for valentine’s day. i worked at a florist in kingston last year on valentine’s day, and i remember the store being packed that afternoon with boys ordering dozens of roses. so many of them showed up in the last few minutes before we closed, when we’d already run out of roses. they were so cute to be so worried when they found out we didn’t have any roses, but i told them it was okay and helped them pick out some other flowers. they were all so sincere — i had a good time helping them choose. i told them it was more romantic and powerful to give just one flower than a whole bouquet.

in canada, i have the luxury of receiving presents on valentine’s day. so i decided to reverse the tradition and give something white on white day. this year, i made mochi!

mochi are cakes made of glutinous rice. you’re supposed to steam the rice and then pound it with a hammer until it’s very sticky. traditionally, we use a long wooden hammer and a large wooden pestle, called “kine” and “usu”. but i don’t have those tools, so instead of using glutinous rice i used glutinous rice flour (it’s called “mochiko”, which is available at asian super markets). and i just put the flour, sugar and water in a bowl and heat it up in the microwave. it works fine!

traditionally, mochi are filled with sweet red bean paste, called “anko”. it’s tasty, but too old-fashioned. in japan, you can buy mochi with a big strawberry inside, along with the anko. that inspired me to get rid of anko (and strawberry) and use raspberries and white chocolate (perfect for white day). i melt the white chocolate and dip the raspberries in it, then wrap the whole thing up in mochi. the hard part is not eating them before they’re done.

recipe

  • 454g glutinous rice flour (“mochiko“)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 660mL water
  • 1 225g bag white chocolate chips
  • 1 8oz package fresh raspberries
  • cornstarch
  1. combine flour, water, and sugar in a mixing bowl. mix well.
  2. cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  3. take it out and stir (watch out for steam!) well with a wet wooden spoon. keep a glass of water next to you to dip the spoon in, so nothing sticks to it.
  4. cover again and microwave for another 4-5 minutes on high.
  5. sprinkle cornstarch on the countertop, then dump out the hot mochi mix on it. sprinkle more cornstarch on top.
  6. let it cool.
  7. meanwhile, melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler. you can add cream, but i don’t.
  8. when the chocolate is melted, dip the raspberries in it, one by one. place them on parchment paper and move them to the fridge to set. you need parchment paper so the chocolate covered raspberries don’t stick to your dish.
  9. wait until the mochi mix is cool and the raspberries are set.
  10. cut chunks (size of a golf ball) off the mochi mix and stretch them out to the size of your palm.
  11. put one chocolate-covered raspberry in the middle and fold it together, pinching the edges closed. roll it into a smooth ball.

bon appetit!

(you can wrap each mochi in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer)

nikuman (with recipe)

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on a bone-chilling cold day on your way home from work, what you need is “nikuman”. nikuman are steamed buns filled with meat. they’re very popular in japan, where you can buy them at convenience stores during the winter. there’ll be a steam cabinet near the cash register filled with different types of chuuka-man. chuuka means chinese, who invented them. thanks, china. anyway, your local convenience store will have nikuman (“niku” = meat), also called butaman (“buta” = pork), and kareiman (curry), pizaman (pizza), and anman (“an” = sweet red beans).

they’re all good, especially when it’s cold outside.

there are so many convenience stores in japan that they have to invent new flavours all the time to compete. i’d like to try the “super-spicy habanero pork/kimchee”man from family mart. but there’s no family mart in canada yet, so…

this was my second time trying to make nikuman. the first version was pretty sad: the bread was so hard, it was barely edible. at least the filling was good. i figured i should be able to make better nikuman this time — plus, i had a new recipe!

i used a bag of chinese “steamed bun flour” that i found at the asian market. and the recipe called for LARD…. yes– i was supposed to use lard. i had to buy the lard. the LAAAARD — pig fat! of course i just couldn’t reach for it at the supermarket. i just couldn’t stand the thought a stick of LARD happily sitting in my basket. so i grabbed some vegetable shortening instead. it’s not very good for you either, but at least it isn’t pig fat. all i needed was a tablespoon, but still… i was willing to do ANYTHING (almost) for the perfect nikuman.

yes, i’m contradicting myself by not wanting to put lard in the bread that i’m filling with pork anyway.

so there i was with a stick of vegetable shortening sitting in my kitchen for the first time. it turns out that using shortening is the secret to producing fluffy nikuman. here’s the recipe i used. it’s in japanese, so here’s the translation:

recipe: nikuman

bun (pastry)

  • flour 300g
  • sugar 40g
  • a pinch of salt
  • instant yeast 4g
  • baking powder 10g
  • milk 40ml
  • water 100ml
  • vegetable shortening 15g

meat filling (my version)

  • lean minced pork 150g
  • chinese cabbage about 5 leaves, cut into jullienne, steamed (microwaved), squeeze out all the water
  • garlic 2 cloves, minced
  • ginger about half the size of a golf ball, minced
  • shiitake mushroom 1/2 cup, sliced
  • dash sesame oil
  • dash soy sauce
  • dash oyster sauce
  • sugar 1TB
  • japanese cooking sake wine 1 TB
  • cornstarch 1/2 TB
  • s + p to taste, but don’t actually taste it (raw!)
  1. for the bun, mix all the powdered ingredient in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  2. pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix in thoroughly
  3. when they’re combined, add the shortening and knead until smooth
  4. rest at room temp. for 30 mins
  5. mix the filling and divide into 10 balls
  6. divide the dough into 10 balls and roll them out round.
  7. wrap them around the fillings, pinch at the top
  8. rest for 15 mins
  9. steam for 15 mins: add a splash of white vinegar to the water to prevent discoloration

(makes about 10 nikuman)

you eat nikuman by dipping them into a soy-vinegar sauce mixed with hot yellow mustard (like a hot english mustard). sooo— good.

meshi-agare!