Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Fukuoka Specialty  ‘Hiyoko’ ひよこ SweetsDSC_5156

Craving makes you slightly insane I think. But what if the item is not available in a store, at least not within a 50 mile radius from my home then the only viable option is to make it? …right? Thank goodness for Google search, I found the recipe for this 100 year old popular sweets. The story behind it was even sweeter.DSC_5142

The birth place of Hiyoko, is a coal mining town of Iizuka, Fukuoka (飯塚、福岡) where sweets making flourished in the Meiji era. Japanese pasty shop owner Shegeru Ishizaka (石坂茂) who inherited the Yoshinodo (吉野堂) from his father was brainstorming new pastry shapes,  non traditional and more adorable style for a while. Then one night chicks appeared in his dream…okay...that sounds a bit strange but .. it was a huge success. Eventually they opened a factory in Saitama, near Tokyo in 1964 the year the Tokyo Olympics were held. Hence, chicks population exploded!DSC_5145

To make this I have to start with white sweet bean paste. Unlike sweet azuki bean paste, white sweet bean paste is…well…not in the store. Oh shucks!  I spent an entire afternoon stirring, washing many pans. cleaning kitchen,  I was just trying to make it to the finish line, refraining from a strong desire to tear the recipe up. I seriously thought about calling my son for a big box of chicks…express delivery of course.DSC_5123

Ingredients and Instruction for white sweet bean paste yield about 200g
(Print Recipe here)

Necessary equipment : food scale, food processor, colander, fine mesh sieve

  • 250g white kidney beans Substitute option: large lima beansDSC_5100
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 150g more or less sugar.  I used made-in-Japan light brown sugarDSC_5113
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Soak beans in plenty of water for at least 5 hours, overnight if possible.DSC_5101
  2. Drain water and place beans in the pot and pour water ( three or five times the weight of beans ). Bring to a full boil for 5 minutes then drain water.
  3. When the beans are safe to touch, peel off shell from the beans. discard shells. Return the beans to the same pot and add plenty of water to cover and the baking soda and cook at medium–low heat ( low boiling stage) until the beans are soft. 20 to 30 minutes. Skim off scum periodically.DSC_5110
  4. Drain the water. Put cooked beans in the food processor and puree. DSC_5115DSC_5116
  5. Rinse the same pan quickly, put pureed beans in. Add sugar and salt and cook at low heat,stirring constantly with wooden spatula. Careful not to burn the bottom. Cook till puree is like stiff mashed potato – when you lift spatula, puree won’t drop,15 to 20 minutes.DSC_5120DSC_5121

Ingredients and instruction of  6 Hiyokos

Necessary equipment: Spray Mister

  • 200g white sweet bean paste – see recipe above
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 15g rice flour I used Joshinko (上新粉 –Top rated rice flour)DSC_5129
  • 1/2 egg
  • 5g sugar
  • 5g corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder –sift with flours below
  • 45g low viscosity flour
  • 10g  bread flour
  1. Make sweet egg paste - Add egg yolk to the white sweet bean paste and mix well. Put rice flour in the egg/ bean paste mixture and combine well. Divide in 6 then shape like marshmallow ‘peep’. Set aside. I’m on a roll…  made 8 peeps.
  2. Make skin -Double boil egg stirring constantly at low heat, 1-2 minutes Add sugar and light corn syrup until incorporated. Remove from double boiler. Add sifted baking powder, flours. Knead with wooden spatula well. Rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 340 F. Set aside small amount of dough and roll out the rest of dough in a very thin sheet. Divide in 6ths. Cover the ‘peep’ shaped sweet paste (step # 1) from top and tuck underneath of peep, reshape to the way you want it to look. Use the set aside dough to make a tiny beak and stick to center of the face (I used water as glue) Make eye holes with tooth pick. Place on the baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment paper. Cover with damp cloth to avoid drying out while you make the other chicks.
  4. Mist entire peeps with mister. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Mist again and immediately wrap with plastic sheet  and cool.  Warning: If you don’t mist and wrap right away the skin will harden quickly.

I’m embarrassed that mine looked like seals (with big nose) rather than loveable chicks. I’m sure my chick making skill will improve with more practice… The question is, will be a next time?

In hind sight, I should have doubled the white sweet bean paste recipe and freeze it since it’s very hard to find item in store..Duh moment really.
And you know what? While I researching Hiyoko story, I saw that Amazon sells this! Boy they have everything! Amazoning! I mean Amazing!

Garden diary - I don’t remember planting those but a nice surprise!….fingerling potatoes my husband dug up.DSC_5167 And Peter Pan Kabocha – I don’t want to grow up….size of baseball…fine, be that way.DSC_5168Found the sweet 100…twin…IMG_1992

All kidding aside, we did some serious weekend projects – cleaned the gutter,  prep for winter, citrus scented Quince made into Jelly,  the white flesh turned to gorgeous ruby…so magical!DSC_5235

The Lemmon Salt will be ready in a week. IMG_2001

And get ready for trick-or-treaters! IMG_2002

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wafu (和風)

Pumpkin Soup With White Miso PasteDSC_5072

Something about warm soup on a chilly night, so comforting, loving…it’s like someone put a blanket over someone who dozed off on the couch…oh, thanks honey…no, I’m not sleeping…just closed my eyes for a second…that show is so fascinating to watch…what? it’s over?

Wafu means Japanese style. And this very successful remake of western pumpkin soup done by NHK’s Today’s Cooking. OK, basically it’s pumpkin miso soup but it’s more done than that. It has surreal deep umami flavor, pairs well with naan or rice. My husband adds a dollop of sour cream into the soup to westernize it…a little … So tell me whodunit? Really? … wow that’s wicked.

Ingredients and Instructions for 4-6 servings (Print Recipe here)

  • 600g of Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin, recommended)DSC_5044
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2  to 5 cups dashi stock -  I used 2 No-MSG dashi packs to extract strong dashi soup. See picture below. Option: Of  course you could make your own dash stock. I like Alton Brown’s version  I found it uncomplicated.
  • 130-160 g of white miso paste (Saikyo 西京 miso is preferred)DSC_5064
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Tamari light soy sauce
  • Mitsuba 三つ葉 (Japanese honewort or Japanese parsley) for garnish if you have it
  • Seven spices 七味唐辛子 (optional)
  1. How to cut pumpkin - Remove top and bottom stems by notching with knife heel around stems first then inserting deeper with the knife tip. Wrap in plastic wrap and microwave 4-5 minutes on 60% power. The pumpkin is still hard but much easier to cut than raw. Cut in half and remove seeds and the stringy part with large spoon. Cut in sections, cube and peel off skin with vegetable peeler. See video on other method.DSC_5046DSC_5048DSC_5053DSC_5054
  2. Place 600g of pumpkin  in a pan and pour plenty of water and
  3. salt to cook for 15 to 20 minutes until soft. Option: cook and puree all pumpkin and use 600g for this recipe and keep rest in refrigerator for later use.
  4. Drain the water. Put cooked pumpkin back in the same pan, puree with hand held mixer while it’s still hot.
  5. Gradually add dashi stock stirring constantly until the desired thickness is achieved. I used 4 cups of dashi stock 
  6. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Whisk in half of miso paste and do a taste test. Add 1 Tablespoon miso paste at a time to adjust flavor. I used about 150 g of miso paste.
  7. Add soy sauce, top with mitsuba, sprinkle 7 spices if you like. Serve warm. I used only 1 teaspoon of soy sauceDSC_5071DSC_5078

Variation – Make it hearty – add pork, burdock roots and matsutakeDSC_5095With connections, we got cheaper (almost $20 per pound less than in store) Matsutake mushrooms. Lucky! DSC_5037

Pumpkin JOY! Since we were left with plenty of pumpkin puree, I made a pumpkin pudding…DSC_5081FABULOUSE! DSC_5085And my husband tackled Salted Caramel Pumpkin buns…Touchdown!DSC_5090

Hi Punkin….

My daughter just had a birthday. Here she was a year old, observing my husband at a church basketball game.IMG

That was many years ago…time flew by way too fast. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thai Style Tofu Salad

With left over Summer vegetables

DSC_5002Some Summers, we don’t get good crops from our garden for various reasons and this past Summer fell into that ‘some’ year category. We are bit bummed about that. The only half-way decent yield we got was tomatoes. My favorite cherry tomato variety ‘Sweet 100’ was not bad yet in my opinion it got up to only 85…oh come on!IMG_1974  

A vegan meal night over the blue moon, the petite tomatoes support this Thai salad’s weight well. We may be carnivores but today, we enjoyed a bowl full of greens. The small changes were made on the recipe from a book Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink.You will fall in love with her photographs.

Ingredients and Instruction for 4 servings (Print Recipe Here)

  • 1 (16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained

For marinade

  • 1/4 cup low sodium tamari soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons roasted red chili paste ( I used Tobanjan soy paste)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the dressing

  • 2 limes
  • 4 Tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

For the greens – practically anything but here are some suggestions. It does not have to be exact measurements.

  • Cherry tomatoes, halved 1-2 cups
  • Okura, thinly sliced about 1/2 cup
  • Sugar snap peas, sliced 1 cup – I cooked in salted  boiling water for 1 minute, drained then plunged in ice cold water. It can be raw if you prefer.
  • Cucumber, cubed 1 cup
  • Fresh mint  leaves, roughly chopped 1/4 cup
  • Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 1/4 cup
  • Butter lettuce, torn 3-4 cups
  • Cilantro leaves and blossoms for garnish Option: white radish sprouts is great too.
  • 1 small Thai red chili, seeded and thinly sliced for garnish
  1. Place the tofu on a cutting board and weight it with another cutting board (or heavy plate) on top to extract water from tofu for 30 minutes.DSC_4973
  2. While the tofu is pressing, make marinade sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together the tamari, rice vinegar, olive oil, red chili paste and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and smooth. Note: I put everything in a zip lock bag, closed tight then massaged the bag. DSC_4976
  3. Dry the pressed tofu with paper towel and cut into 1-inch cubes. Put into the bowl or zip-lock bag of marinade. Toss gently to coat. Cover with plastic sheet (if using the bowl). Lay flat (if using bag). Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Turn over once in a while to evenly marinated.
  4. Meanwhile make dressing – Zest 1 lime, put in the small bowl. Cut the lime you just zested and another lime in half and squeeze the juice out and add to the bowl. Add rest of dressing ingredients to the bowl and whisk until the brown sugar has dissolved. Set aside.DSC_4985
  5. Combine the greens except cilantro and Thai red chili. Toss with about 2/3 of dressing. Serve the remaining dressing on the side. Chill in the refrigerator until needed.
  6. Set oven for broi.l Arrange the tofu in a single layer on a lightly oiled small baking sheet discarding marinade sauce. Broil for 15- 18 minutes. turning every 3 minutes until deeply browned.DSC_4986
  7. Place greens on plate, top with tofu and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and Thai red chili.DSC_5000DSC_4996

Vestiges of the past Summer….  late comer fig…what took you so long?DSC_5030Black Plum tomatoes has good flavor and gorgeous color though I feel like I have to spit it out its thick skin…good news is that because of tough skin, it withstands bugs, mold and other diseases.DSC_5031The seedless watermelon stayed small. DSC_5004What the heck! It was not seedless?DSC_5036Second year thornless, bushy ‘Raspberry short cake’ variety tasted better than previous year.IMG_1935The roses…released pleasant scents all Summer long…really sweet..DSC_5027

The weekend blessing…My husband’s take on Saldkay Bulochaka by Cooking Melangery…everything on her blog is like wow!DSC_5010

He tweaked her recipe a little bit so it looks different…still nice. I often hand him the wish list…printed recipes from other food bloggers…A man in training I guess…try not to surpass the master…k?