Monthly Archives: September 2010

海鮮焼麺 seafood chow mein

i love improvising dishes using leftover ingredients from previous days. i love it even more when my attempt works out well.

the idea of this dish came from leftover fresh noodles (for stir fries) and some cabbage. i didn’t want to use the ready made powder which comes with the noodles to give out the taste of worcester sauce, and wasn’t in the mood for using pork slices i normally use for stir-fry noodles. ok, i thought, maybe i should be a bit more adventurous this time, and grabbed a big squid and a pack of crams at the shop and rushed out of there to head back home.

in our kitchen, the battle started with the squid. it needs to be cleaned with running water, skinned, and then gutted (unfortunately i broke the ink bag, so it went straight down the drain…). i asked for my husband’s help, who is equally inexperienced with any type of fish, letting alone cooking it. when pulling out of some soft bones from the squid, we held the flesh from both sides with our eyes closed at the same time, quite not getting what exactly we should be doing. not sure if we followed the right routine to clean a squid, but it finally started to look edible.

after the squid fight, the rest of it seemed quite easy. stir-fry chopped garlic & chili pepper with vegetable oil, put crams in, and when the shells start to open put the sliced squid, and after 10 seconds or so pour in a half cup of sake (rice wine). i did this thinking it could remove the overly fishy taste out of the dish. put salt & pepper to taste, and put it aside.

in a different pan put more oil, this time stir-fry onion, kōngxīncài(空心菜), and cabbage. after a few minutes, put the noodles in, and stir-fry for 2 more minutes or so. when the ingredients in the pan get mixed, add the seafood which was put aside earlier, and a bit more salt & pepper to taste. at the end, pour in some oyster sauce & nam pla (thai fish sauce) from the rim of the pan. lightly stir up all the ingredients before putting off the heat.

sprinkle some chopped chives & green (i used leftover trefoil, 三つ葉)over the noodles before serving.

the dish from the sea, satisfied our taste buds greatly, worth the battle.

tagliatelle bolognese

september is half way, and it is finally getting cooler in tokyo. one day we had typhoon coming towards the island of japan, and after buckets of rain, the temperature dropped quite significantly. for the past few days i can feel the gentle, autumnal chilliness which my body remembers from a year ago. despite the rain outside, the humidity seems to be much less, and the cool breeze so comforting.

for the first time in months, we opened a bottle of red wine – today’s dinner is tagliatelle bolognese, cooked with a generous portion of the wine coming from the same bottle.

this is my old recipe. i’ve been cooking the same sauce for the past 8 years or so. i discovered it in one of the italian cooking books i had, and changed here and there as i have done my trials & errors. here are the ingredients i use for the bolognese sauce:

3 table spoons (or even more maybe) of extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic (chopped)
3/4 of onion, 1 celery, 1/2 carrot, fresh rosemary, all finely chopped, or put in a food processor altogether
300 – 400 g of minced pork/beef (mixed)
1+ cup of red wine (or generous pour directly from the bottle!)
10 – 15 cherry tomatoes
a lot of ground pepper
1 – 2 tea spoon of salt

the tip of this sauce is to simmer the vegetable in low heat for 15 – 20 minutes (this way it gives some sweetness to the sauce). then add meat, put the flame up to medium heat, cook it for a few minutes until the meat is brown, then pour the wine, put the halved cherry tomatoes, put the lid on, lower the heat again to minimum and simmer again for at least 30 minutes. add salt & pepper to taste at the end. after turning off the heat, it’s even better if you can leave it for 1 – 2 hours for the taste to settle, and reheat before serving. the ingredients above should serve 4 people at least.

i sometimes make the double portion of the sauce, first to eat with tagliatelle or penne or rigatoni, etc., and then a few days later i make one of my signature dishes, lasagna (i hope to upload the recipe sometime in the near future).

tagliatelle bolognese reminds me of italy, especially the central part of the country – bologna, of course, where the dish was originated, firenze, siena, roma… whenever i miss the beautiful landscape and their delicious cuisine, i prepare this dish as if to compensate the missing piece of la dolce vita.

カレーライス curry & rice

this is japanese curry & rice. in fact, the majority of japanese people love this dish. it is one of the dishes in japan, in my opinion, that you would think about cooking for your boyfriend for the first time.

we don’t make curry paste from scratch actually, but use curry blocks instead which melts into the broth. you can get the blocks in any grocery store, and there are at least 10 different brands, each of them offers “sweet”, “medium spicy” and “spicy” tastes, lying next to each other on a big shelf. i know it’s a bit like cheating, but that’s how our mums & grandmas have traditionally made the dish all along (i don’t think it goes back to my great-grandmother’s generation though). it’s so handy that people make curry all the time, which is probably very different from what non-japanese people would imagine what we would make at home. we vary what to put in the broth, for example this time i used chicken, onion, zucchini and celery.

the red stuff i am putting on the dish is called 福神漬け, fukujin-zuke pickles. the taste is sweet & sour, goes very well with slightly spicy curry sauce. it is always, always served with the japanese style curry & rice: the-curry-wouldn’t-be-the-same-without-it, kind of thing. this one too, we don’t really make at home, but buy ready-made one at a grocery shop. the colour is dreadful, but picturesque (no?).

poffertjes (mini pancakes)

in holland, there are street vendors who sell poffertjes, handmade mini pancakes, which are very puffy and covered with a lot of powder sugar. influenced by the small, bite sized pancakes with the sweet smell of melted butter, i made these mini pancakes at home for breakfast. somehow, i feel that it makes pancakes a special treat if you make them in small pieces.

my dutch hus puts “appelstroop”, apple syrup, on top of the pancakes and indulge himself with it in one go.
appelstroop is typical food from the south of holland, a region called limburg (you can enjoy idyllic landscapes wherever you go. beautiful, but it can be smelly from time to time). it’s basically concentrated apple juice, and is sweet despite the colour (your instant reaction when you see it for the first time is “yucky, it must be so bitter”, just like famous ‘marmite’ paste). it goes amazingly well with gouda cheese, on a slice of grain bread. sometimes they put appelstroop in a sauce for a meat dish to enhance the taste. it is one of the traditional ingredients in the limburg kitchen, where they say the food is exquisite and far better than the rest of holland, because it is closer to france (but they conveniently omit the fact that there is belgium in between) 😉

mini pancakes – dutch style (for 2 people)


– 1 egg
– 1 table spoon of sugar
– 1 cup flour (about 140g)
– 1 teaspoon of baking powder
– 3/4 cup of milk (150ml)
– 30g melted butter
– powder sugar for decoration


1. in a medium sized bowl, beat the egg with the sugar
2. sift in 1/3 of flour & the baking powder into the bowl and mix well with a whisk
3. mix in 1/3 of milk and mix again
4. alternate the steps 2 – 3 until the batter is well incorporated
5. mix in the melted butter into the batter
6. put a non-greased large frying pan (you don’t need to grease it because of the melted butter) on the medium heat
7. once the pan is heated up, place it on top of a damp cloth quickly to lower the temperature of its surface
8. place 1+ table spoonful of batter into the pan per pancake. my frying pan takes 3 – 4 pancakes at a time
9. once the bubbles start to appear on the surface of the pancake batter, flip them with a metal spatula
10. cook it for another 10 – 15 seconds or so, and place it onto a large plate
11. repeat the steps 8 – 10 until the batter is fully gone
12. once the pancakes are cooked and nicely decorated on the plate, sprinkle the powder sugar to your liking (i like it a lot!)

eat the pancakes with all the goodies you have in your kitchen – fruit preserves, maple syrup, honey, nutella, etc. and if you happen to find it, appelstroop also. enjoy!