Testing the KonMari Method on My Worst Problem

If you want to declutter and organize, anything from a small closet to an entire kitchen, try the KonMari method. It is a tried and true Japanese way to get the job done. I love Japanese culture, particularly the food, so why not this basic principle. First, you identify the problem and assess your desire for a solution. Maybe it is a matter of alphabeting or grouping your canned goods or sorting your various types of packaged noodles.

The KonMari method is not intimidating and I have found a way to use it on my worst problem. My shelves are pretty tidy in the kitchen and the fridge I in order, but somehow tons of paper documents are lying about. There are old invoices and statements and a bunch of recipes that have been either used or rejected. They say to never toss personal stuff in the trash so I don’t. I keep it. How foolish you say? Yes, I know that it takes up valuable space. If you cook regularly, you need pristine work surfaces.

Back to the KonMari method. It tells me to dispose of information that someone could steal. It tells me to think about something fast and efficient like a paper shredder from https://www.shredderlab.com/best-home-shredder/. If it is obsolete, throw it in the jaws of death. The method teaches you to gather up all the objects in question and assess their long-term value. Some people empty their cupboards top to bottom, but I restricted myself to what was on the countertops to start. Long ago I went through the process of tossing duplicates, donating outmoded stuff, and recycling what I could.

The method says to evaluate everything with the same goal in mind: decluttering. I wonder if the originator of the concept also had in mind your mental issues. Ha! We all have a lot in our heads and little time to sort through it. Such is the nature of modern life! But I do have time for the paper shredder today and it is going to work its magic in no time at all.

I will be able to start some new culinary projects once the decks are clear, so to speak. Decluttering is fun and therapeutic. The smaller your space, the more important it is to use the KonMari method. Getting rid of the debris of your life that has accumulated in one area, like the kitchen, is vital to moving on. You can’t be productive if you are sitting knee high in old paper.

According to the method, I could have sorted and collated and archived what I wanted to keep in filing cabinets or drawers. But something in my cluttered, but still functioning, brain told me to shed, shred, shred. I recommend it as an adjunct procedure for anyone with a similar problem.

Great Night

A friend just got a rectangular trampoline. At first, I thought how odd. Why not get the regular kind? After all, they have been around forever and they are still super popular. Now, if you want a larger model and chose to surround it with a normal chain link fence, you can. Some people say these models are safer because they give kids, those most prone to accidents, more room. Plus, you can double bounce with a partner and each person can have their own space. I get the point but I had to try it out for myself to see what all the fuss is about.

I went to see the real thing which had been strategically placed in the yard. He had moved it to a central location since a couple of friends were coming over and we wanted maximum access. It looked like a round trampoline except that it is rectangular – just like this: https://www.trampolinechoice.com/best-rectangle-trampolines/. Simple as that! Seeing it fulfill its function so well, I wondered why they hadn’t invented this sooner.  I don’t think the shape affects buoyancy. However, I suspect that athletes can perform better on one or the other type. It may seem unfair to some that the rules have changed along with the format. I say go with the flow. I am an easy-going guy.

For our purposes, we just wanted to have fun and burn a few calories. People have small trampolines in their homes to keep fit, so we decided to follow suit in the backyard. It was easy to take breaks lying on the soft grass. If we stuck to it for a while, we agreed that we would go out for our favorite Japanese food. Somehow a vote was taken in the middle of the jumkping and we opted for a minimum of one hour for best benefit. I don’t know how many calories you burn compared to walking, jogging, playing basketball, or dancing. I guess that it is not very high up the scale, but I did break a good sweat.

We all took a dip in the pool to cool off and changed for the restaurant. It was in walking distance, so more exercise that day. It was a good thing since we ordered practically everything on the menu. My friend said who cares since Japanese food is so healthy. It is all in how many calories you consume. If most of them are rice, then you will gain weight. We like shabu shabu with the best Kobe beef and fresh vegetables. Glass noodles rounds out this special dish where you can cook your meat to perfection as you wish. When you are in a group, it is great fun. It made the culinary experience more special and we stayed for hours, sipping Japanese beer and hot jasmine tea.

All in all it was one of the best days I have had with my friends. The combination of the trampoline and food was divine.

Dinner Party

Are you a nonsmoker who has to deal with the consequences of this vice? I am not here to judge smokers in today’s blog, but it is about being practical. Plain and simple, how do you handle smokers in your car after the fact. Recently, I had this problem. I went to a dinner party at a friend’s and ended up being the designated driver for a few friends. We take turns so that most of us can enjoy a few drinks. One friend had another friend tag along. The moral of the story is that while my friends don’t smoke, this person did. As far as my smoke-filled interior goes, he was the culprit. I didn’t really realize it before it was too late. I was surprised, since I rarely encounter this situation. Alas, I had to get rid of that darned stale smell.

It isn’t an easy task by the way. It lingers for a time and eventually seeps into the seat fabric and the floor rugs.  A very nice party cost me a lot of time and aggravation. Just opening the windows didn’t do the job. I sprayed with some kind of lemon scent I found in a store and it made me gag. It was strong enough to mask the odor but so sweet that it was sickening. I didn’t even want to try the cherry or rose flavor. It is just a way to layer one bad smell over another. I moved on.

Next, I tried a laundry deodorizing product and it, too, had a heavy scent. Now I was mingling too many things and the combination was worse than the smoke alone. This was a big mistake. On the other hand, I could barely stand to get in the car. Nonsmokers all face this in the face of alien odors. We aren’t used to them and haven ‘t be desensitized like smokers. While I said I wasn’t going to judge, by now it sure sounds like it.

I had one last chance to air out my car. I looked up how to get rid of smoke smell in car, hoping desperately for an answer that would make my car smell better. I found some home recipes plus some products to help too. This way you can control the amount of the scent you wish to use. The recipes included essential oils that are soft and fragrant like lavender, orange, or eucalyptus. You dilute them considerably (being very careful not to come into contact with the oil). With a few other ingredients, voila, you have air freshener at little cost. It keeps for a while if stored in a dark place. You can buy special glass spray vials with tight lids. The product of your labor can be shared with friends who are in the same boat as you are.

After I told everyone about my little project and that I had found success, we all got into selecting some new scents. One person likes cinnamon and vanilla while another goes for pine and peach. Most love “new car.” It is the number one choice of do-it-yourselfers.

Fun Dinner Outing

Tempura, miso soup, teriyaki, seaweed roll, Wagyu beef, yellow tail sashimi, spicy mashed tuna…these are all well-known Japanese foods. There are dozens more, ever more exotic like sea urchin and eel. Most are served in America. I could add shabu shabu, my favorite. You can enjoy thin slices of prime beef dipped in hot broth laden with noodles and vegetables. It is sublime. I wish more people would try new dishes. I enjoy exploring new restaurants, especially of the Asian variety, and even trying cooking them myself. You can ask chefs for recipes or get them in books or online. Just make sure they are authentic, especially if you want to invite people over who are tasting your cuisine for the first time. While many chefs are loath to give away secrets, most will help you out with pride. They always advise me to only get the freshest fish and never sacrifice quality. I love getting tips on presentation as Japanese cooks are incredible artists.

I have friends who share my interests and taste in food. We go out a lot, but it is not always for Japanese fare. Even diehards need a change of pace now and then. Recently, we went to a sports-themed restaurant that offered various games including an indoor basketball. It seemed like a fun change of pace. When we arrived en masse, we all exclaimed together, “now this is a novelty.” I had never done a shooting activity like basketball in a small space. I was willing to give it a go. Why not? I’m a good sport. We decided to make it a real competition and make the loser pay for everyone’s dinner. Some of us wanted to try our hand at pinball and video poker first so we could warm up a bit before our big event. After all, the evening was all about socializing, not just sports. We did as we wished for about an hour and then were ready for our trial.

I was first up and did fine, but I knew I would have another chance. I didn’t panic. One friend, oddly enough, was so serious about his score that he put on an arm compression sleeve (like these on Baller’s Guide) before taking his shots. Where on earth did he get it and was it already in his car? Who would bring this kind of thing to a restaurant? Probably he was at an unfair advantage because he won the basketball “tournament.” It was no surprise. Some of us were a bit peeved, especially the person who was the big loser, who had to pay a small fortune for the dinner and drinks. But he obliged as a good sport.

I have heard that many pros use these shooting sleeves and no doubt my friend found out about it. He didn’t have an injury that I knew of. They are akin to an ankle brace, only they protect and strengthen the arm. It is an odd piece of information to acquire.

We’ve Got Sushi, It’s a Party!

My world is a bit traditional. My friends and I love to celebrate each and every birthday. It is a major part of life and no one gets overlooked. We try to come up with new places to meet and consider the taste of the person having the milestone. This takes us to all kinds of novelty restaurants and a host of ethnic cuisine. We are adventurous and go with the flow. I, personally, will try anything although as the blog name clearly indicates, I love Japanese food the best. Give me teriyaki steak, yakitori chicken, miso soup, grilled octopus, California and spicy tuna rolls, and all the rest. Shabu shabu is a popular favorite but we have been so often that we had to make another choice. I crave the fresh vegetables and thin slices of Kobe beef dipped in boiling water to cook and then topped off with succulent sauces.

The venue of the day for this birthday is going to be the very best exotic sushi. This time, the five of us will fit at the counter in front of the sushi chef. As we watch what he concocts for other diners, we will order in the same vein. It gives us new ideas as we are wont to order the same things all the time. Now we need a new adventure and some special fish combinations. We are excited. We’ve got sushi and now it is a party!

The conversation starts with the birthday person and hovers around favorite foods. We go down the line and tell about our most recent best experience. We pick one of the restaurants for our next group meeting. If it is to celebrate a birthday, the honoree must be in agreement. He usually is. The topic of discussion moved on at this party because the TV was on and tuned into an important world soccer event. We all like the sport and were staring at the screen. We discussed the various teams from the top contending countries and the most recent wins. We made predictions as to the score.

The day was intense as we liked to get into the act while watching. We cheered our favorite team, yelling with a frequent “bravo.” I was taken with the soccer ball for some reason and suddenly wanted to know what brand it was. The other attendees all had opinions as to the best for professional use, quoting reviews and sources from publications like Top Corner Mag. Features and benefits were enumerated related to lightness of touch and performance. We talked about the materials and how long a typical ball lasts.

Finally, we got to price. There is a big difference between ordinary training balls, those used in schools, and real competition at the world class level.  Some of us play soccer, but I am mostly a spectator so it was all new to me. I listened intently and turned my attention to the cleat shoes. This started a new direction going and it lasted for hours.

Making a Better Broth

Most people are not adventurous with ethnic or exotic foods. What on earth are they afraid of? They fear what is within and imagine something unnatural (in their minds) or tasteless like sea urchin, roe, or duck feet. This is so often true of Japanese food although the cuisine has become enormously popular in the U.S. for decades. People no longer limit themselves to teriyaki chicken or beef and white rice. They will try new dishes like shabu shabu. It is good to expand beyond your normal horizons when it comes to new comestibles. I have been happy to see the change in attitude over the years. I myself shy away from live octopus in Korean food that feels like it is moving around sucking at your inner cheeks—which it is doing!

Because it is tasty and almost traditional by now, shabu shabu has gained a large following. There are restaurants that serve only variations of this one hot pot dish. It is all about the broth and it must be made from scratch according to specific directions. Japanese chefs do not buy jarred beef broth like many Americans. They make it themselves from only fresh ingredients like green onions, sesame, Ponzu sauce, and other seasonings and oils. Many like the broth with paper-thin sliced beef of the highest grade. What makes shabu shabu an event is that it is cooked at the table. It is said to date back to the 1950’s in Osaka, Japan. Variations have arisen that include fish, pork, crab or vegetables in lieu of beef. I prefer the latter dipped in hot broth and swirled around for a few seconds. It doesn’t take long to cook. Then you eat the sliced beef with sauce. If you want to get really exotic and pricy you can order blowfish.

Not just any beef cut will do. Opt for sirloin, ribeye, etc. It depends whether you like your beef marbled with fat for flavor. It is also more tender this way. Never compromise on quality when making or eating shabu shabu since it is barely cooked. Your butcher will cut it especially for you if you tell him what you are making. You can also use a meat slicer or do it with a sharp knife by hand. But be careful of the implements! Remember that the broth gets special attention and it must be rich and deep. I swear that filtered water makes for a tastier broth so I never use water from the tap. I have installed a reverse osmosis system like these, which every chef worthy of the name should have. You will know when your broth is perfect and you can tell the difference if a restaurant uses tap water.

More and more chefs are learning about the benefits of filtered water. The reviews rave about it. Sure, you can buy it in bottles, but why not save money. You won’t be at the supermarket every other day.

Cooking Lesson

When a friend asked me how to make my favorite Japanese dish, shabu shabu, I jumped at the chance. I am thrilled that I have a convert to a wonderful cuisine that not all people enjoy. Many think it is strange due to the raw fish and odd flavorings. It is not so if you give it a try. It is quite delicious. I eat out of course, but I love to make it myself. I gather the best recipes and learn the top chefs’ techniques. This is how I “feed” my passion. While I have an extended palate, it likes to indulge in Japanese fare.

Cooking day arrived and I was excited to show my friend the basic ropes. Shabu shabu is not a complicated dish – mostly slicing and dicing. You must have the very best beef you can find and fresh vegetables including the right noodles. And so, the lesson began. We lined up the ingredients on the countertop and started a pot of boiling water. It would be flavored so the vegetables would absorb the flavor. The beef would be cooked raw so the eater could customize the degree of rawness. It cooks super-fast.

It wouldn’t take long so we were both anticipating an imminent meal. I also made some hot green tea to accompany the food. It was worthy of sharing on Facebook. After my friend took on the role of slicing master, we had plenty of vegetables for the shabu shabu. The portions were predetermined and exact. We would use up all that we had on hand. As we were talking and laughing, I got a bit clumsy and knocked most of the goodies on the floor. It was covered with green and orange tidbits. Yikes. There goes lunch. There goes the floor.

In a flash, I brought out the canister vacuum, not unlike these, to take care of the mess so we wouldn’t slip and fall. That would be the only thing worse than losing our ingredients. I tidied up the best I could which was no problem given the power of the little appliance. That’s why I keep it on hand. In minutes, the floor was pristine and we preceded with the lesson – minus the vegetables.

Okay, don’t panic, I thought. The market is just a few steps down the road. My friend volunteered to run the errand to replace the vegetables while I watched the boiling pot. He was back in a jiffy with more than enough to make the dish. We were getting a bit anxious by now – and hungry. The lesson was okay if not a huge success because of the interruption. No matter.

In the end, the shabu shabu was fine. Maybe it tasted particularly good to me because of the fuss and bother. Don’t take this story too seriously and let it deter you from making a fabulous dish. You will quickly see why it is so popular. Some restaurants specialize in it and offer fancy cuts of Kobe beef.

Are Fancy Kitchen Gadgets Necessary?

I guess you could say I am more of a traditional kind of cook. I don’t use a lot of gadgets. Sure, I might drool over a stand mixer with a pasta attachment, but realistically I know I won’t use it. I tend to avoid things that only have one use or are redundant because of something else I already own. I might be more careful about the clutter in my kitchen because I don’t have a lot of counter or cabinet space, I am not sure, but I try to make sure that the kitchen tools I have are necessary items I actually use on a regular basis. Here are a list of some things that I’ve been able to function without:

A food processor. I know some people swear by them, but I already have a blender. I haven’t found much that I would use a food processor for that I can’t do with my blender. The average person doesn’t need both, and you’re way more likely to have a blender.

Zester. If you have a fine plane on your cheese grater, you’re probably set here.

Any kind of specific slicer. I was given a cheese slicer once, and that was pretty cool. But it broke and I really haven’t felt the need to replace it, because I also have a knife, which actually slices cheeses better than the cheese slicer did. They make strawberry slicers, and again, I have to wonder—how hard is it to just use a knife and slice them? It isn’t like it takes all that long, and a knife is easier to clean than one of those slicers. At least something like an apple slicer cores the apple when you cut it, and I guess if you were often eating apples that would make sense for you.

Rice cooker. That probably sounds like blasphemy coming from me, but I prefer a pressure cooker. It serves the same purpose, but it isn’t a one-trick-pony. If counter space wasn’t a premium, I might think differently, but for now any taste difference doesn’t justify having both things lying around my house.

There’s probably more, but it’s hard to come up with stuff that’s NOT in my kitchen, you know? If I am going to buy something for the kitchen, it is going to have to WORK for that valuable counter or cabinet space. So far, these are the things that I have found are totally worth it:

good pots and pans. I don’t know if you’re into copper or stay cool handles or whatever, it doesn’t matter to me. With the different brands and sizes available, it’s not hard to find something that works well for you. Get good ones, because it will make food easier and faster to cook. Plus, they’re usually expensive for a reason—they last! Invest in a set with a variety of sizes and lids so that you have options when you’re cooking. Although sets don’t necessarily come with a wok, I recommend one of those as well.

good measuring tools. Don’t buy cheap measuring cups where the labels or measurements wear off after a few washes. Get the good ones. Also get a liquids measuring cup that you can see from above as well as alongside. You’d be surprised how quickly that comes in handy.

Good, sharp knives.You’re going to be cutting things in just about every recipe you make, so be sure to have a set of great knives. Make sure they are comfortable to hold and use, and can cut a variety of items. Invest in a knife sharpener and you won’t need to replace them for a long time to come.

Quality Cutting Board. With the good, sharp knives you bought, you’ll need some cutting boards. I like the kind you can throw right into the dishwasher. I have a color coding system to help me remember which type of food I cut on each (red for red meats, green for veggies, etc).

On any given day, those are probably the only things I am reaching for to make myself a meal!

Being There for a Friend

I was having dinner with a friend, sharing some new and exciting dishes I had just learned to prepare. We talked about food for a long while, but the topic turned to a more serious subject. My friend had been recently diagnosed with SAD and was quite concerned. He had serious symptoms like depression, low energy, excessive sleep, and loss of interest in life and poor concentration. He wondered if he would be stuck with them forever, impairing his ability to function at home and work effectively. Not knowing much about the condition, I wanted to do some research after which I would accompany him to his follow-up appointment with his doctor.

He was worried about getting good care for SAD as this odd illness is relatively rare and unknown. I told him it happens mostly in the winter and in countries with short days certain times of the year. It is seasonal, so maybe it will go away in the spring. He felt better as he remembered that when living in California, he felt blue in spring during May and June gloom. There is a lot of overcast weather near the beach, even if you live inland within ten miles. Listening to his doctor describe the treatment, I felt there was cause for optimism. He seems to know a lot about SAD and how to bring it to its knees. You fight it first and foremost with light therapy. You set a light box to a certain intensity of light and program it for a designated time of exposure, say a half hour or more in the morning. In talking about why he selected a certain model, I felt that he had my friend’s best interests at heart. He was not lacking in knowledge.

My friend began treatment and kept a log of his moods for two weeks. We then went back to the doctor to get an assessment. The physician was pleased that he was less irritable and had improved mood and energy. The depression that often accompanies SAD was diminishing, knowing that a cure was around the corner. He felt better knowing that I agreed that he was getting the best care possible. Suddenly, we noticed that other people were talking about the condition and sharing their confusion about how it related to clinical depression. More needs to be uncovered about the causes and treatment and information should be disseminated to help people who don’t know they suffer from SAD. My friend and I agreed to write blogs about it and share it on Facebook to make sure it reaches the masses. You don’t have to live in Finland to be a victim.

I learned something new and believe that sharing experiences will help others find a solution. Light therapy is the best treatment and it is easy to do on your own. You can add psychological counseling at first if you need it to start the process of healing.

A Day Made for Comfort Food

Today was a grey and rainy day. The kind that makes you just want to stay in your nice warm bed and watch tv or read a book. Of course I can’t do stuff like that because I need to earn money to pay my electricity bill so I can watch tv or the money to buy the books I read.

Unfortunately for me, though, I thought I hit my snooze button but accidentally turned off the alarm instead. I overslept, only waking up an hour and a half later when somebody from work called to find out where I was. You know that expression, “When it rains, it pours?” Yeah, that was my day. One crappy thing rolled into another and I just couldn’t shake that bad luck all morning. I ran around like a crazy person to get ready in record time, only to step in a huge puddle the second I ran out the door. I had to run back inside and change my shoes, socks, and pants before I could finally leave for work.

I arrived to work late and dripping wet. Not my best look, and needless to say my boss wasn’t impressed with me. I told myself to shake it off. I kept my head down and worked hard until it was time for break. It was tough. I felt like the universe was really trying to fight me on it. Especially since the weather continued to be bad, which translated to really crabby customers. When the customers are pissy, the staff gets pissy, and then everybody’s taking it out on each other. So it was not a great place to work today.

At lunch, all I could think of was eating some comfort food. Maybe you think of ice cream, mashed potatoes and gravy, or some mac and cheese when I say comfort food. But for me, I think of miso soup and rice. Is there anything better than a bowl of soup on a cold and rainy day? And miso soup is the best. Smells good, tastes good. It makes me so happy, and it definitely lifted my dark cloud for the rest of my shift.

When I left work, it was still freakin raining! Ugh! I came home and decided to make myself another comfort food I’ve been craving for dinner. My mom used to make us breakfast for dinner sometimes, and this is my version—okonomiyaki. If you’ve never had one, it’s basically a pancake, ‘grilled as you like it’ (which is what okonomiyaki translates to).

I have a fairly simple Osaka style batter recipe that uses flour, dashi, cabbage, and pork belly that I follow. I poured it into a skillet and cooked it until it browned on both sides. I have been known to put an egg on it, add bacon, douse it in BBQ sauce, or any number of other things to it. I like things that you can customize and make all different ways.

Allright, I give up on today and I am going to bed. Night (unless I forget and don’t post this until tomorrow, in which case, hope you’re having a good day)!

Ordering at a Sushi Bar

Are you as big a fan of sushi as I am? I hope so! I thought maybe I would share some tips and suggestions for you to try the next time you go out. I can’t help you with the pronunciations here—there are too many possibilities to even attempt to guess what you may need help with—but I can give you some pointers so you can enjoy your meal a little more.

If it’s available, sit at the sushi bar. First of all, it is cool watching them make your food. There is an art to making sushi that can really be appreciated when it is being prepared right in front of you. I always find it fascinating to see. Second, you get to peruse the menu up close and personal. If there’s anything really appealing or incredibly fresh, you’ll be able to spot it right away so you can order it.

Sitting there also brings me to my next point: ask questions. If you aren’t sitting at the sushi bar, ask your server questions. Find out if there are specials, or if something is popular or noteworthy. Be honest with them about the tastes and textures you like, then ask for recommendations. Use the staff’s experience and knowledge to direct you toward menu items you’ll like, or to help you avoid a costly pile of fish that only has a bite taken out of it when you think you are cool but it turns out you don’t actually like the taste of urchin.

This seems counterintuitive, but don’t order everything at once. Order a few things and then go back to the point above. Talk to your server. Let them know if there was something you really liked about what you’ve already ordered and they’ll be able to point out other things for you to try or to avoid. They want you to have a good experience, and being honest about your preferences will ensure you get the food you want to eat. This is another great way to keep your costs down. You won’t overorder and then not eat everything, and the stuff you do order will have a better chance to be more to your liking.

Another thing that people often make a mistake with is the sauces. Don’t overdo it on the wasabi or the soy sauce. Most places provide wasabi and ginger as a palate cleanser, not as something you should be dunking your sashimi or nigiri into. And the sushi chef has probably already put the appropriate amount of soy sauce on your order, so you don’t really need to add more. It may seem like a simple preference issue but you may inadvertently insult the chef.

Something people aren’t often aware of is that there is a progression. Order the sashimi, then the sushi. Sushi is considered like an entrée. And if you’re like me and you love miso soup, order it last. That’s the traditional way to do it!

That’s all I’ve got for now. I think I am going to go out and get some sushi for myself!

Japanese Cooking Styles

When I was young, my mom was in the military and they stationed us in Japan for a few years. Since my parents were divorced and my mom worked, my siblings and I had a kind of nanny/housekeeper. We called her oba-chanand I cried when we had to leave her and come back to the U.S. I remember that she often asked me to keep her company while she was in the kitchen. The others thought I was in trouble or that I was the favorite. I have a completely different theory. I think it honestly was because I was the youngest and she wanted to keep an eye on me. I spent a lot of time watching her cook.I was young and it’s hard to remember a whole lot from back then, but I think spending that time with her was what started my love for Japanese cooking.

I really like rice, so having it as a staple in so many different dishes is something I’ve always found appealing. And when you’re not using rice, soba or udon noodles are a common alternative. Both are delicious and better for you than enriched starches.I prefer to serve it in a traditional way, where rice is in its own bowl, and everything else has its own little plate too. It makes for a beautiful presentation.

Most Japanese dishes are cooked with little to no cooking oil. Some recipes require you to pan fry or deep-fry some things, but many of those dishes have been incorporated into Japanese culture from other places—like tempura, which was brought to Japan from Portugal, believe it or not. Other things incorporated into Japanese-style cooking are processed foods and/or red meat based dishes. The majority of Japanese style dishes are based on seasonal ingredients and are steamed, boiled or simmered, stewed, or grilled. Then there are raw foods like sashimi, of course. Pickling or salting is another common way to serve food, and is a technique mostly reserved for vegetables.

Despite using little red meat, I wouldn’t call most Japanese cooking vegetarian. They do use chicken. Many foods are cooked with a dashi stock, and that is typically made with tuna. Obviously, the fact that Japan is an island influenced their cooking and there are many dishes that include a seafood broth or with seafood as the protein. However, there are Buddhist influenced dishes, and those are more in line with a vegetarian diet.

Of course, my favorite dish is shabu-shabu. Simple to make yet complex in flavor, with an almost endless supply of variations. I could eat it every night and never get tired of it. Broth base, check. Any kind of protein or vegetable I can think of to dip it into, check. And a dipping sauce to add to the flavor once the meat is cooked? Check again! So delicious!

That settles it. I’m going to a Japanese restaurant tonight!

How to Make Shabu-Shabu

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant and had shabu-shabu before, you know it’s delicious and fun to cook. You may have been thinking about how you’d love to make it at home so you could enjoy it whenever you want. A major part of the beauty of shabu-shabu is that it is prepared nabemono (one pot) style, so you don’t need to be a cooking expert or have fancy kitchen equipment. You just need a good sized pot and a few ingredients. Here are some tips on how to make yourself some shabu-shabu:

  1. Make a Broth Base: you can go as basic or as complex as you want. Something as simple and comforting as chicken bouillon can be used. Miso soup is another common option. Other people like a richer, spicier flavor, and use a Szechuan based broth. Or take it up a level with Kimchi. I’ve used store bought broth and I’ve also made my own; it doesn’t matter. It’s up to you. You can go with what’s in your pantry or create something exotic.
  2. Choose a protein: this is one of my favorite parts. It can be anything you like, from tofu or rib-eye to lamb or lobster. You don’t have to use meat if you don’t want to. You can try an all-veggie version, or do a surf-and-turf. Don’t be shy with it! Whatever you’re hungry for will work in a dish like this.If you can slice it thinly, you can put it in shabu-shabu. I have heard that the reason it is thinly sliced is because the dish originated with Genghis Khan’s army. They cut the meat this way to have a short cooking time.This way, they didn’t waste much fuel heating the meat. I’ve also heard that it was invented in a restaurant 1950s, so you can take that story with a grain of salt.
  3. Dip! Once your broth base is boiling, you’re ready to cook! Put your meat on a skewer and dip it into the broth until it’s cooked to your preference (or at least to safety regulations). Leave things like vegetables in the broth even longer to flavor the broth and to get really amazing flavor out of the vegetables. You cook and eat as you go, so everything is warm and delicious. Most places will provide dipping sauces as well. Try soy sauce or a satay. You can also try something spicier or sweeter, depending on what you’ve made and your taste preferences.

The thing I like best about making shabu-shabu is that you literally don’t have to make the same thing twice. You can try different broths, different meats, and different sauces in an endless supply of combinations. It works when you’ve only got a few things in your pantry or for a big dinner party. You can go exotic with something like ostrich meat or crowd-pleasing chicken or beef.

What do you like in your shabu-shabu?