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Culture

Japanese Comfort Foods That Go Beyond Sushi Or Ramen

tamagoyaki

Photo: Laura Tomàs Avila

I didn’t realize how much Japanese comfort food is slept on. I’ve had it many times, but usually just order the same things. Like any culture, the cuisine is vast, and Japanese cuisine is more than just sushi and ramen. Many familiar dishes have existed for hundreds of years. Sushi in particular is estimated to have been around for 1,800 years. So just imagine all of the dishes you’ve yet to try.

pikunico kuniko yagi

With Los Angeles having the second highest Japanese population in the United States, it’s the perfect place to experience Japan’s world of comfort food. One person that’s making an impact in Los Angeles’ dynamic dining scene is Chef Kuniko Yagi. As the former executive chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Sona, contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, and current owner of karaage (Japanese-style) fried chicken spot Pikunico, Chef Yagi knows delicious Japanese food. This deliciousness is confirmed by a slew of glowing reviews Pikunico has received since it’s opening. In hopes of sharing the dynamic world of Japanese comfort food, below is a list of six lesser known types you might enjoy — all with Chef Yagi’s own recommendations on where best to try them in Los Angeles.

Photo: Buenosia Carol on Pexels, Free to use

1. Japanese Curry

Hugely popular in the country, curry was introduced to Japan by way of Europe’s spice imports from India in the late 1800s. It’s typically served with rice, potatoes, carrots, and onions and is a milder, sweeter counterpart to Indian curry. Japanese curry also varies from Indian in that beef and pork are more commonly used rather than chicken and mutton.

Chef Kuniko Yagi’s Recommendation:

Coco IchibanyaThe place to go when you’re craving any type of curry and want it ASAP! It’s a Japanese fast food franchise, so expect a Burger King vibe, but with one of the most creative and extensive curry menus in LA.

Photo: untitled_folder on Flickr, CC by 2.0

2. Japanese Omelet

A unique take on the French creation, the Japanese omelet, mostly known as “tamagoyaki,” or grilled egg in English, is commonly served alongside sushi. Unlike western omelets, tamagoyaki isn’t served with filling but rather is rolled together using layers of egg. There are two types of tamagoyaki: atsu-yaki-tamago and dashi-maki-tamago. The first type is a thick fried egg and the latter is a rolled egg with dashi (cooking stock). Each type can be prepared sweet or savory. 

Chef Kuniko Yagi’s Recommendation:

OtafukuWhen you’re in the South Bay and craving Japanese, Otafuku is a must! It’s very low-key and unassuming, but they have an extensive, delicious menu. Their Japanese-style omelet is a must. Their seasoning with mirin, dashi, and salt make each bite so delicious.

Photo: Arnold Gatilao on Wikimedia commons, CC by 2.0

3. Potato Salad

Potato salad is a staple of Japanese home cooking. Differing from American-style in texture and taste, Japanese potato salad is mashed with chunks of vegetables and sometimes ham. While the ingredients are similar to Western potato salad, the  version here is made with Japanese mayonnaise and rice vinegar, giving it more of a tangy twist.  

Chef Kuniko Yagi’s Recommendation:

Nijiya MarketAn unassuming storefront leads into a well-stocked Japanese grocer, complete with produce, ready-to-eat foods and specialty snacks. Our favorite thing by far is the Japanese potato salad at the prepared foods bar: mashed potatoes coated lightly with Japanese mayo create a unique combination of creamy, sweet and tangy flavors!

 
Photo: Nakano Mune on Flickr, CC by 2.0

4. Yakisoba (Stir Fried Noodles)

Yakisoba, or “fried buckwheat,” is a popular Japanese stir-fry dish which originates from China. Although “soba,” which means buckwheat, is a part of the word, it is actually made using wheat flour. Yakisoba is typically prepared stir-fried with bite-sized pork, vegetables (usually carrots, onions or cabbage) and flavored with yakisoba sauce, salt and pepper. Yakisoba sauce is made from sake, mirin, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, Tonkatsu sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar, giving it a sweet and sour taste.

Chef Kuniko Yagi’s Recommendation:

IchimiCharacterized as a “soba-intensive noodle shop” by the LA Times, this restaurant, tucked away in the Rolling Hills Plaza, will fulfill all your soba dreams and needs. They import their buckwheat from Japan and take care in creating each dish — and it shows. 

 
Photo: Ernesto Andrade on Flickr, CC by 2.0

5. Karaage (Japanese Fried Meat)

Karaage is a style of Japanese cooking involving deep-frying breaded meats like fish and more commonly, chicken. Meats are typically marinated in soy sauce, rice wine and ginger beforehand, resulting in a juicy inside and crispy outside. Commonly sold at open markets on skewers, karaage comes in variations that include sesame, garlic or pepper. Karaage is often accompanied by veggies or a bed of rice with a range of dipping sauces.

Chef Kuniko Yagi’s Recommendation:

PikunicoChef Kuniko Yagi’s first stand alone project at Row DTLA centers around Japanese fried chicken (karaage), a dish she would get every Sunday from her grandma’s favorite Tokyo department store for a Sunday picnic supper with the family. Yagi’s nostalgic take on her favorite Japanese comfort food brings to life the delicate flavor and umami of karaage with more of an American fried chicken crunch through her homemade organic brown rice flour and potato starch batter.

 

Photo: Guilhem Vellut on Flickr, CC-BY

6. Cha-han (Stir Fried Rice)

Thought to have originated from Chinese immigrants, Cha-han is a fried rice dish which includes a wide assortment of ingredients: vegetables, onion, garlic, shitake mushrooms, tofu, pork, various seafoods, scrambled egg, and ground beef to name a few. The dish’s seasoning can vary between soy sauce and oyster sauce, sesame oil, salt, pepper or katsuobushi, a dried and flaked tuna product. 

Chef Kuniko Yagi’s Recommendation:

KourakuThis is the place to go when you’re in the mood for some comfort food. It’s a Japanese style diner and open until 3 am Monday-Saturday, making it perfect for a late-night stop any day of the week. Just keep in mind it’s cash only!

Additional Chef Kuniko Recommendation:

YakitoriyaThis is truly one of the hidden gems of Japantown in Los Angeles. When passing by, it might not appear to be much, but venture inside this family-owned and operated Japanese grilled chicken joint and you will not be disappointed!

As you can see, Japanese comfort food goes far beyond mere ramen and sushi. With Little Tokyo so close, us Angelenos are spoiled with many options. But for those who don’t have pockets of Japanese communities in their cities, recipes and local restaurants are an easy Google search away. The next time you’re in need of some Japanese comfort, perhaps try something new, instead of a familiar go-to.

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Celebrity Grub Culture

New Show ‘Gochi Gang’ Is An Intimate Deep-Dive Into Japanese Cuisine and Culture

First We Feast’s new series ‘Gochi Gang’ premiered this Tuesday.  Hosted by YouTuber, anime producer, and food lover Reina Scully, the show highlights the cultural impact of Japanese cuisine in the U.S. beyond sushi and ramen. The name Gochi Gang was inspired by the Japanese phrase for gratitude, “gochisousama,” which is typically expressed after a meal. The gang represents the spirit of togetherness that sharing food with others brings. 

Japanese cuisine was gradually introduced to the United States decades ago. Initially, immigrants unaccustomed to American food would only eat imports. Since the end of the 19th century, Japanese immigrants were concentrated in neighborhoods called Nihonmachi, or it’s aptly named English counterpart, Japantown. While a macro view of these neighborhoods may correlate them negatively to a “ghetto,” Nihonmachis actually provided a space for Japanese culture to persist on foreign soil. It’s within these areas importation of homeland goods began slowly spreading to Americans in neighborhoods beyond.

Naturally, Japanese cuisine is vast. Sushi and ramen popularity within the US can be traced back to the post-World War II invention of instant noodles and endorsement of sushi by the McGovern Report. The McGovern Report (Dietary Goals for the United States, 1977) was published by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. Due to this, Japanese cuisine spread, yet has been mostly spearheaded by sushi and ramen. 

Gochi Gang aims to burst the floodgates to Japanese cuisine wide open. For Japanese people, preparing and eating food goes beyond mere sustenance. Reina Scully shared her thoughts on why it’s important to raise awareness about the culture and cuisine:

“Both Japanese culture and cuisine are multifaceted and interconnected with each other. Japanese food is generally typecast as ramen and sushi, but that’s just the very tip of the iceberg. There’s so much that’s worth exploring and the world deserves more insight into Japanese culture and food because it reveals how important of a role it plays in our history and tradition.“

Scully hopes that viewers not only learn about the wide range of tasty options, but also see how respectful Japan is regarding food. “We believe that food itself is spiritual and we treat it and those who prepare it with the utmost respect and gratitude,” Scully expressed. I personally believe that when food is connected to something deeper, it elevates the food itself. Equipped with experience and a little help from notable foodies, Scully is prepared to take you on a journey through the history of Japanese cuisine. Catch the first episode of Gochi Gang HERE and after you fill up on brain food, remember to say gochisousama!

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Food Trends News Products Restaurants Sweets What's New

Here’s How To Become a Cheesecake Taster for Japan’s Uncle Tetsu Bakery

The world-famous Japanese cheesecake bakery, Uncle Tetsu, is offering up an opportunity for a select few to become their elite taste-testers. Here’s a chance for all of you cheesecake lovers to live out your wildest dreams as you will get to taste the newest and most unique creations Uncle Tetsu has to offer, some of which have yet to be released to the public.

Lydia Chen, Master Baker and Head of Product Development for Uncle Tetsu USA, went on to note that the company “recognizes the growth of foodie culture and wants to continue to improve our cheesecakes and flavors by working directly with our guests. We believe that guest involvement is the key to Uncle Tetsu’s continued success. Since the opening of our first California store, we have received so much support from our loyal guests and the wider community, so we would like to give a few lucky cheesecake lovers the opportunity to have direct access or a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the creation of our cheesecakes.”

For a chance to be one of the select few, you must grab a “Pick Me” card at one of Uncle Tetsu’s participating California locations, post a picture or video on your Instagram story with the card and an explanation on why you should be selected, and tag @uncletetsu_us’s Instagram account. Uncle Tetsu will start their search for taste-testers from August 31-October 26, 2019. For more information, please visit Uncle Tetsu’s Contest Rules page.

Participating Stores:

Santa Anita Mall

400 S. Baldwin Ave, Space M15
Arcadia, CA 91007
Phone: (626) 254-9007

 

Del Amo Mall

3525 W Carson St, Space 514B
Torrance, CA 90503
Phone: (323) 275-9190

 

Hillsdale Shopping Center
72 Hillsdale Shopping Center
San Mateo, CA 94403
Phone: (650) 437-0399

Categories
Culture Food Trends Grocery Hit-Or-Miss Packaged Food Products

7-Eleven Is Selling Realistic DIY Sushi Candy And We Tried It Out

Japan is known for its cool and unusual snacks because their use of aesthetic and flavors always grab attention. Years ago I came across a YouTube video of someone making sushi candy out of powder and water. There was no explanation, just the quiet sounds of a little plastic spatula mixing the powder together.

Now, years later on an every day trip to 7-Eleven, I came across the same cute box with illustrations of delicious sushi gracing the cover. It made me stop in my tracks. How did this 7-Eleven even consider ordering this? It doesn’t even matter, my time had finally come to give this tiny food kit a try.

The Box

This adorable little box depicted what I guess should come of this project. The instructions on the back seemed simple enough. The arrows show where to begin and where to take it. The Japanese was cryptic to me, but luckily the box directs you to Popin’ Cookin’s website where you can find instructions in English.

The Tools

When you open the little package you get an assortment of packets, a tiny plunger and spatula, and a small black rectangle of “nori.” Each of the little packets will make either rice, tuna, egg, salmon roe, or soy sauce. The little plunger is to put the perfect amount of water for each section of this bento box. The packaging itself serves as a guide for how big to make your rice ball and how long to stretch out the seaweed.

The Rice

There’s one thing strange about this kit: The box says “sugar powder cake mix,” with its online description stating it as grape flavored, though all I can smell is bubblegum. The “rice” looks and has the exact texture and stickiness of sushi rice which is a little eerie. I don’t know what to expect of the taste.

The Egg & Tuna

Next comes the egg and tuna mixes. Each of their sections have little details of swirls and lines so that the gelatinous mixtures will have the markings of egg and tuna. Since the box says to wait 3 minutes for it to form, let’s move on to what else we can get into in this box.

The Salmon Roe

Now, for what I was really fascinated by: The salmon roe. This requires a watery mix for the orange-hued liquid to be dropped into in order to form the tiny balls of “roe.”

As a side note, handling the plastic spatula was an experience within itself. When mixing the powder, the spatula makes light scratching noises against the plastic. Because the compartments are so small, you are forced to make gentle movements to avoid overflowing any of the mixtures into the wrong cell; I was put into a meditative state because of the necessary focus. The motions and sounds of mixing were entrancing and it recalled a similarity to the ASMR videos I love.

Despite my intention to be as cautious as possible I am just not coordinated enough for that kind of precision. Some of the rice powder from earlier had sprinkled into various chambers and my “roe” suffered because of it. They were less like eggs and more disfigured into comma-like shapes. It was fun to see the small eggs form as if it was a science experiment. As soon as the orange fluid comes into contact with the blue water, it rushes to arrange together without getting stuck to the others.

The Soy Sauce

I understand that soy sauce is an important part of sushi, but the visual of it in this situation made me a little uncomfortable. The brown color represented soy sauce exactly and that’s not exactly appetizing for candy, even if it doesn’t taste like it.

Stretching the seaweed was no easy feat. I wanted it to be as smooth and perfectly straight as it looked on the box. It had the texture of thick gum and the more I pressed into it, it brought out thin white lines instead of a solid and shiny black color. On the other hand, the measuring space for the rice was satisfying to use. I measured my little rice balls happily and honestly, if I didn’t have it I would have probably made them all too big.

Assembly Time!

The instructions say to split the egg and tuna in halves to make your sushi. As a tuna lover I have to say it looked so real, the color is perfect as well as the consistency. The egg was a nice color but egg isn’t usually as slimy! The seaweed wrapped around the rice well enough but I couldn’t figure out how to seal it closed without squishing all of it.

My Masterpiece

Here is my masterpiece! Okay, some angles are better than others.

Now as for the taste?

When I popped the tuna into my mouth it was the strangest sensation. The texture of the sushi was on point. It was exactly what you would expect from it, but the taste was so sweet. It wasn’t grape or cake or bubblegum, it was just sugar. The texture of the fish was perfect, and the egg a little slimy. The salmon roe had a skin that popped and released the juice into your mouth just like popping boba. It was fun, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat more than one to be honest.

The Verdict

It was a fun little project. It satisfied my tiny food obsession and I got the ASMR tingles from the mixing and squishiness of the rice. The taste, however, was awful and I probably would not recommend that you eat this. If the sushi firmly held its shape it would not have been so bad. The texture of the sushi was almost too realistic and the melt in your mouth experience I love from quality fish was not what I needed from this sugary clump.

I saw several other kits at 7-Eleven that make noodles, rice cakes, and donuts. Those are a little scary after the flavor I got from this, but honestly I’m still going to try it.

To my knowledge, this can be found only at the 7-Eleven in San Gabriel, CA on Las Tunas drive for $7.99.

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Culture Drinks Restaurants

Restaurant’s BEER RAMEN Lets You Slurp Straight From A Beer Mug

On a hot day, nothing beats an ice-cold glass of beer. What I usually don’t chase when the weather’s scorching, however, is a piping hot bowl of ramen. Sure, ramen is arguably one of the most delicious noodle dishes on the planet, but I’m a sweater by nature and would probably run hot the rest of the day. Cravings be damned.

What if there was something that combined the cooling effect of beer with the flavorsome components of ramen?

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Yuu Japanese Tapas, a restaurant located in British Columbia, has decided to put an innovative spin on the traditional Japanese noodle dish.

Served inside of a beer mug, the ramen noodles are added to an ice-cold broth made from bonito flakes. To replicate the aesthetics of beer, the ramen is topped with a foam made from a combination of egg whites and gelatin.

While it may look like a hefty pint, the “beer ramen” has ZERO alcohol inside of it. Sorry, guys.

The concept was inspired by the cold noodles of Asian culture, ones that were typically served during the hot summer seasons. Not the more well-known hot ramen dishes most are used to, but still traditional nonetheless. Dishes like zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles) and naengmyeon (cold Korean noodles) are fan favorites during the warm months.

Yuu’s Beer Ramen was originally intended as a limited time menu item for the summer, but the restaurant is seriously considering keeping the novelty dish around for a few extra months. That gives us some time to plan a trip to Canada.

Featured Thumbnail Courtesy NATIV Media
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Deals Hit-Or-Miss Restaurants

How To Turn Your Father Into A Hibachi Chef For Father’s Day

Getting dad a gift for Father’s day is always a struggle. There’s only so many years in a row you can get the poor guy a pair of new socks, which he somehow always needs. Benihana, the hibachi restaurant company, is offering a pretty amazing deal to anyone who wants to change things up for good ol’ dad.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 12.30.18 PMFor just $200, you can get a Be The Chef package for your father this Father’s Day. The package includes dinner for three plus the guest chef, which is presumably your father or father-figure, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. This fun lesson in cooking can be enjoyed by anyone with a passion for teppanyaki.

The main feature of this package is the one-on-one lessons with a trained Benihana teppanyaki chef. The lucky guest chef will be able to learn how to make Benihana’s famed fried rice on top of a collection of the neatest tricks the teppanyaki chefs know.

On top of the lessons, the guest chef will also receive a Benihana apron, a Benihana chef’s hat, an Honorary Teppanyaki Chef certificate and a commemorative photo. Furthermore, any purchase of $50 or more from now until June 19th will reward you with a $10 gift card.

If you’re planning on getting the Be The Chef package for a loved one, I’d suggest killing two birds with one stone buy purchasing four $50 gift cards, then using that $200 to get the package. In exchange, you should get $40 to Benihana!

Not a bad deal, eh?

Categories
Cravings

How To Make Panda Sushi That’s Almost Too Cute To Eat

Panda-Sushi-Cover

Sometimes, it can be difficult to get kids to try new foods like sushi. What if, however, that piece of sushi looked as whimsical as this Panda roll? Make Sushi, known for creating beautiful works of art contained within a sushi roll, has created a roll resembling the adorable South China bear.

All you need is a few basic ingredients: a small piece of sushi grade tuna, several Nori sheets, some cooked sushi rice, 2 heaped tablespoons of wasabi masago and 1 heaped tablespoon of chopped coriander.

Cut the tuna into four slices: two 1 cm and two 0.5 cm in thickness. Marinate the slices in a bowl of soy sauce for 30 minutes to an hour. Definitely no more than an hour or the tuna will harden.

Add the 2 tablespoons of wasabi masago to the cooked sushi rice. Then, add the chopped coriander and gently mix together with the rice and masago. Make sure the ingredients are spread evenly into the mixture. Once you’re down, set it aside.

Panda-Sushi-Step

Remove the tuna from the fridge and cut to appropriate thickness for the eyes (bigger), nose and mouth (smaller). Horizontally lay down a sheet of nori and place the first tuna strip at the edge of the nori sheet. Wrap the nori around the fish, covering the whole strip and cut off the excess nori.

Keep repeating this until you have six different strips: two parts, two eyes, a nose and a mouth.

With a new sheet of nori, add a small handful of sushi at the center and spread it into an oblong shape. Make sure the rice touches the top and bottom of the nori.

Place a think strip of wrapped tuna flat in the middle of the rice for the mouth. Then, add a think layer of rice on top of the tuna strip covering the strip. Repeat the step with another thin tuna strip.

Now, place the two thick tuna strips on top of the column to make the eyes of the panda. Then, add more rice between the two strips. Carefully mold the column with white rice to make sure that the panda has a round face.

Make Sushi says to now take one side of the nori and curl it up and  around the column of rice. Repeat the step with the other side so that the two sides overlap at the top. Compress the roll with your hands gently rolling into a circular shape. Set that aside.

Taking two sheets of nori, lay them horizontally. Then, glue the sheets together by putting a thin column of sushi rice on the edge of one of the sheets and sticking it with the other nori sheet.

Now, take the GREEN sushi rice and cover about 3/4 of the large nori sheet with it. Be careful so that it stays light and fluffy.

Using two chopsticks, press them to the center of the green rice (two centimeters apart). Now, remove the chopsticks. You should have two grooves that you can now place the last two pieces of rolled tuna inside. These are the panda ears.

Place your panda face roll on top of the ears you just made. Make sure the eyes are at the bottom next to the ears.

Now, dip a sharp knife in som cold water (so it doesn’t stick to the rice), then carefully cut the roll with as little motion as possible. Cut off each end of the roll first, then section off your panda sushi in whatever thickness you want.

Mostly, the recipe is just stacking and careful rolling. You can get a play-by-play of the exact process in the video above.

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Hit-Or-Miss

The Only Sushi Cheat Sheet You’ll Ever Need [Infographic]

Unless you’re an expert for aficionado, sushi can be scary. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what kind of sushi to try first.

Take Lessons created a sushi cheat sheet that details all the popular rolls, ingredients and etiquettes. Customers can now have an idea of what’s appropriate or inappropriate when dining at an authentic sushi restaurant. They even threw popular sushi-centric vocabulary for those interested in immersing themselves.

Check out the graphic below.

Sushi-Complete-Guide

 

Image: Take Lessons