Category Archives: dutch?

Kindergarten bento – Sandwich disaster (21/Sep/17)

I hardly pack sandwiches for my daughter’s lunch. I have a reason for it; I’m afraid of overfeeding bread for our girl. Having a Dutchman in our household, we have bread for breakfast, almost everyday. We eat thin slices of bread and/or buns, with accompaniments such as cheese (preferably Gouda), ham, jam, unsweetened peanut butter, and this heavenly chocolate sprinkles called “Hagelslag” that the most of Dutch people love. If I have time I’d serve fruits and yogurt, but my husband is happy as long as there is bread on our breakfast table.

Anyway, as a very rare occasion I ended up buying sandwich slices at a bakery nearby yesterday, since all the other bread was sold out (anyone from Central Tokyo, you may want to check out this tiny but beautiful bakery called Panetteria Kawamura). And this made me think of making sandwiches for lunch for a change. I thought it would be easy and quick, and I could even save some time in the morning.

The part of making sandwiches was easy, how can it not be, but the real problem was with packing. I cut the sandwiches into quarters so that it would be small enough for my little girl to hold it with one hand and is also visually appealing. But the sandwiches kept falling apart when I tried to pack them while attempting to hold them up vertically. I’ve seen it many times in various bakeries where they are packed nicely and standing straight in a plastic sandwich box. I didn’t realise how hard it was to pack bread in a neat manner. There must be a trick for it, but I couldn’t figure it out today.

As a result, instead of saving time, I totally ran behind schedule and had to rush like a headless chicken to get ready to walk my daughter to school.

Menu: Sandwiches (fillings: Ham, Cheese & Appelstroop,  Scrambled egg & Cucumber, and Strawberry jam), Mashed pumpkin with chicken soboro, Sausage, Steamed broccoli, Cherry tomato

Japanese Nashi pear for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Picnic sandwiches (9/May/17)

There was a school picnic at our daughter’s kindergarten with their mummies, daddies and/or caretakers. We went to the Yoyogi Park, right next to the beautiful Meiji Shrine in the heart of central Tokyo.

I usually make Onigiri rice balls for this type of occasion, but this time made some sandwiches for a change.

One with egg salad, another with the Dutch Appelstroop (Apple syrup) with Dutch Gouda cheese, and one with strawberry jam.

Kindergarten bento – Takenoko rice (8/May/17)

During the so-called Golden Week holidays at the beginning of May (one week of consecutive public holidays), we took a short trip to up in the mountains in Gunma prefecture where my aunt and uncle live. Every spring we enjoy visiting them at their beautiful traditional wooden house, built entirely by my carpenter uncle, and going for Takenoko (bamboo shoot) digging in the mountain at the back of their house.

This was only the second year to do Takenoko digging for our daughter, but she was very comfortable and enthusiastic going through the woods to find the small signs of bamboo shoot emerging from the ground.

The hardship of Takenoko digging is worth every sweat. The eating bit afterwards is a great pleasure. This year, I cooked Takenoko rice in an earthen pot for a Sunday brunch with our good friends after coming back from Gunma, coupled with the white asparagus dish inspired by my Dutch husband’s roots. For those who are interested in the recipe of the Taeknoko rice, click here for the one I used.

The leftover Takenoko rice was packed for my daughter’s bento the next day. Last year she could not eat Takenoko, but this year the bento box came back empty!
Takenoko, bamboo shoot

Dutch lunch party (Sunday, 9/Apr/17)

My daughter’s school has been closed for spring break for the past two and a half weeks, and it will finally start again tomorrow. In Japan the new school year starts in April, so it’s kind of a big deal for children as well as their parents/caretakers in order to bring our mindset back to the new school routines.

To finish up the last day of the spring break in style, we threw a small lunch party at home, inviting a few of our daughter’s best friends and their parents from the kindergarten. Since we wanted to put some special touch to it, we went for a Dutch theme (my husband is from the Netherlands).

We started off with the appetizer of Dutch sandwich. I said to him it might be better to cut them into small pieces, but he said this was the Dutch way. Yes, very bold.

(Photo in courtesy of T. S.)

My husband is from the region called Limburg in the south, bordering Germany and Belgium, where the culinary culture is more elaborate  compared to the north. In Limburg, they use this incredibly divine yet underestimated paste-like syrup made from apples called Appelstroop. They spread it on a thin slice of bread (with butter underneath it usually), and place either sliced Gouda cheese or sliced ham on top.

This is the Appelstroop we use from the brand called Timson Rinse.

The texture of Appelstroop is like world-famous Veggie Mite or Marmite, but its taste is sweet and rich, a bit like thick honey but with more fruity aftertaste. It’s high in iron (and sugar), and is a great match when paired with something salty. According to my husband, they put a bit of Appelstroop in the rabbit stew they eat for Christmas in the Limburg region. They also use it as the spread for the pancakes just like Nutella or fruits jam.

We love Appelstroop so much we personally import it from the Netherlands. If you are interested, here is the link to the shopping site called Holland For You that we use regularly.

After the simple but fulfilling appetizer, the main course is what we call “Sweet Sour Chicken,” inspired by Indonesian cuisine. Just in case you are wondering, Indonesia is a former Dutch colony, and there are many Indonesian ingredients and recipes still available all across the Netherlands.

(Photo in courtesy of T. S.)

According to the recipe passed down from my mother-in-law, she uses this ready-made Pineapple Curry sauce for her Sweet Sour Chicken. Due to the difficulty to obtain it in Japan, in lieu of the sauce I use fresh pineapple, curry powder and yogurt, all mixed in the blender like smoothie. This time I forgot to put yogurt, but it tasted all right. She also uses so-called “ketjap” sauce which apparently is the Indonesian spicy soy sauce. Instead, it was replaced with Japanese soy sauce blended with some balsamico vinegar.

The dish tastes a bit like mild chicken curry with some tomato sauce as its base, and the excellent mixuture of sweetness from pineapple and sourness from vinegar at the same time. If anyone is intrigued, have a look at the recipe here. Sweet Sour Chicken goes very well with Jasmin rice or Brown rice.

After the nice long lunch with a few bottles of wine for grownups and Mugi-cha (barley tea) for kids, I think we are fully ready for a fresh kick-start of the new school year tomorrow.


white asparagus

in the supermarket today, i found a stack of huge fresh white asparagus (made in kyushu region, south area of japan). it immediately reminded me of the dish my husband’s mother cooked on one spring day a few years ago in holland. my husband is from the region called limburg in the south part of holland, where white asparagus is one of their specialties (white asparagus soup, grilled white asparagus, etc.). when in season, apparently you can buy a kilo of them for only a couple of euros in local shops. her dish that day came with boiled white asparagus with melted butter sauce, served with boiled ham, boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. white asparagus is one of the most important specialty dishes of the area, so she even had the matching plates to go with the food.

(mama’s special asparagus dish – june 2008)

instead of trying to replicate the dish completely, i decided to go with my own improvisation with pan fried pork filet, boiled eggs, boiled green beans and jasmine rice.

(my version of the asparagus dish – april 2011)

for the asparagus, i used extra virgin olive oil instead of the butter sauce, and sprinkled salt & pepper just so slightly to give a faint taste, so that we can fully enjoy the taste of the vegetable. eggs are soft boiled, so that the egg york may give some creamy texture.

for the pork, i marinaded the filet with the following mixture for half an hour or so before pan frying them:

salt & pepper on the filet
3 table spoons of olive oil
3 table spoons of white wine
2 table spoon of balsamico
2 pinches of dried thyme
1 tea spoon of honey

when frying the filet, no extra oil is necessary. cook the filet until it is nice and golden.

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!

kip in zoetzure saus (sweet & sour chicken)

in japan, when i tell people that my husband is dutch, people always ask me what a typical dutch dish is (japanese people in general have a high interest in culinary subjects. food can be a central topic of a conversation with strangers). i always stumble over my answer to this question, so does my husband actually. he always says “oh we eat potatoes, meat and veggies, meatballs, french fries, herrings, white asparagus, rabbit or venison for chirstmas…” a funny thing however is that he never comes up with a name of a particular dish for some reason.

not sure if this dish is dutch dutch, but “kip in zoetzure saus,” sweet & sour chicken, happens to be my favorite dish which i have ever eaten in holland. the first time i went to visit his parents there, his mum cooked this dish for us, because of my cravings for rice after staying in holland for a week or so.

the recipe appears to be influenced by indonesian food. the sauce is made with 1/2 chopped onion simmered in oil (3 tb spoons), 1 tb spoon of “ketjap” (indonesian soy sauce – but i use soy sauce instead), curry powder (i use garam masara), vinegar (1 tb spoon), sugar (2 tb spoons), tomato sauce (i use 10 – 15 cherry tomatoes instead) and 5 tb spoons of pineapple flavoured curry cream (you can get it in a grocery store in holland. its consistency is very similar to yogurt, but sweater in taste). after the sauce is ready, put 200g – 300g of chicken breast, lightly fried earlier in olive oil and with white wine, and simmer altogether in low heat for 10 minutes or so. add salt & pepper to taste (but not too much salt). served with brown rice.

the salad is also his mum’s recipe – endive salad with chive dressing. very refreshing.