Snacking Tokyo-Style: Plum Onigiri

riceAre you looking for an easy way to jazz up your weekday lunch?

All over Tokyo, food courts and convenience stores sell triangles of sticky rice filled with all sorts of wonderful goodies. Called onigiri, these snacks fit easily in the palm of your hand, are quite filling, and are very affordable – many cost the equivalent of $1 or less. Our whole family enjoyed sampling onigiri filled with pickles, plums, smoked salmon, and even hard boiled eggs. Our favorite were the plum-filled snacks, which we are creating today.

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Onigiri mold

You can Continue reading

Salem Seafood Chowder

Soup1Chowder, or Chowda as the locals say, is popular in Salem. Many diners and pubs feature clam chowder high on their menu as either an appetizer or a complete meal with fresh bread. Two establishments, Tavern on the Green in the Hawthorne Hotel and also the wildly popular Red’s Sandwich Shop, offered amazingly delicious seafood chowder. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve done our best to recreate authentic seafood chowder, loosely based upon Continue reading

Stay Tuned for Salem!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re busy unpacking after a festive trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Everyone knows that Salem was the infamous site of the 1692 Witch Trials (those witch hunting Puritans were a kooky bunch!). Fast forward 325 years, and modern Salem offers visitors myriad ways to learn a bit of New England history, breathe in a bit of salty sea air, and be happily well fed.

Very happily well fed!

Over the next few days, Crowded Earth Kitchen will feature a few culinary gems from the Northeast. Stay tuned!

Happy traveling, and happy eating! Blessed be!

Give the Gift that Gives Back!

cookbook-cover-imageAvailable on Amazon, 100% of the profits from The Global Recipe Project Cookbook will benefit not-for-profit organizations which feed people as a central part of their mission. Cooks and food bloggers from around the world have generously contributed to this amazing book. Over 170 recipes from 65 countries are included!

Try your hand at Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, while reading how and when this meal is traditionally served. Sample a variety of chutneys while exploring the rich spice blends of India. Dine on simple and delicious French dishes such as Croquette Monsieur and Soupe L’Ongion.

Bakers will appreciate clear and simple instructions for classics such as Italian Cannoli and Austrian Apfelstrudel. Feeling adventurous? Amigdalato, a Greek almond pastry, and Kransekake, a Norwegian wedding cake, offer dramatic dessert options for holiday entertaining.

Pick up a copy today, and support a worthy cause!
ISBN-13: 978-0998191607
ISBN-10: 0998191604
BISAC: Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / General

Signature Recipe: Japanese Shoyu Ramen

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The results of Crowded Earth Kitchen’s ramen poll are in! Today we’re making Crowded Earth Kitchen’s version of Shoyu Ramen, the most popular type of ramen which is flavored with soy sauce. The recipe below is pretty simple to make, and offers great flavor without a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. We’re also using pork tenderloin instead of pork belly, because pork tenderloin is more affordable and more readily available in much of the US. If you’ve enjoyed ramen with pork belly, I think you’ll find the taste of this recipe very comparable.

Two tips: First, don’t skimp on the pork stock or the chicken stock. If you have time to make your own, that’s what I recommend. If not, look for good quality stock from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Ramen “is” the broth… if the broth is just OK, your finished product will be just OK. If your broth is delicious, your ramen bowls will be delicious! Second, if you have time, it’s worth preparing your pork tenderloin the day before you enjoy your ramen bowls.

Let’s get started!

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Dried shiitakes, ginger, onion, and garlic

Ingredients (Serves 6)

16 ounces dried wheat flour ramen noodles

1 cup thinly sliced greens (I used baby bok choy)

1 cup sliced bamboo shoots

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

(Optional) 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into six pieces

For the meat:

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white wine (I used Umeshu)

For the broth:

3 quarts pork stock

1 quart chicken stock

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20160701_164234Step 1) Prepare your pork tenderloin. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, and white wine to make a paste. Rub this paste all over your pork tenderloin. Let your pork tenderloin rest in a baking pan, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight (overnight is best). Then, roast your pork tenderloin, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check your pork tenderloin with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Allow your pork tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and refrigerate.

WIN_20160701_154316Step 2) Prepare your broth. In a large pot, combine pork stock, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by half. This will take approximately an hour, depending upon how gently or vigorously your pot simmers. I prefer a slow simmer. Allow broth to cool, then ladle or pour through a sieve into a second pot. This will strain out all of the flavor additives (mushrooms, onion pieces, garlic and ginger), leaving you with a clear, flavor-packed ramen broth! At this point, you can freeze your broth for future use, refrigerate your broth to use tomorrow, or return your broth to a gentle boil and proceed with Step 3!

Step 3) Prepare your noodles. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to package directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR NOODLES. When in doubt, it’s better to undercook the noodles a bit, as they will continue to cook in Step 4. Mushy noodles make terrible ramen. Seriously… don’t overcook the noodles!

Step 4) Assemble and enjoy! Here’s the fun part. First, transfer a serving of cooked noodles to a large single-serving bowl (your biggest cereal bowls will work). Second, arrange a few slices of pork tenderloin, a hard boiled egg half, a few bamboo shoots, and a few sliced greens around the edges of the bowl. Don’t mix up the toppings like you would for American-style soup… each ramen topping should occupy its own place along the edge of the bowl. Third, carefully ladle hot broth over the top of everything, to warm the ingredients. The broth should just barely cover the top the noodles… don’t drown your ramen bowl in broth. Fourth, place a small square of nori on the top of your bowl and serve immediately!

When you make this ramen, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are now as ramen obsessed as we are here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Tokyo Food Tour! Dumplings!

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Steamed Pork Dumplings

Nothing pairs more deliciously with a bowl of authentic ramen than a side of dumplings. While snacking our way through Tokyo, we sampled an endless variety of dumplings. Feast your eyes on the photos below, and answer our quick poll at the end! We’ll use your feedback to create an amazing dumpling recipe just for Crowded Earth Kitchen viewers.  🙂

Steamed Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Chili Sauce

Steamed Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Chili Sauce

Giant Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Giant Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Steamed Pork Shumai with Peas

Steamed Pork Shumai with Peas

These are just a few of the wonderful dumplings we enjoyed. Pick a favorite, and we’ll recreate them for you!

Tokyo Food Tour! Ramen!

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Shoyu Ramen with Dumplings and Rice

Ah, ramen. There are approximately 80,000 ramen restaurants in Japan. Try to wrap your head around that for a moment… that’s three times the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the entire world. Volumes of cookbooks have been written about ramen, the quintessential Japanese comfort food. Revered chefs from David Chang to Ivan Orkin have perfected their own signature bowls. You haven’t tried a bowl of real ramen yet?

Well, you simply must.

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll be happy to share a simple and delicious ramen recipe. We need you, our readers, to point us in the right direction! Would you prefer a ramen flavored with soy sauce (Shoyu Ramen) or a broth that’s even saltier (Shio Ramen)? Does a fermented broth (Miso Ramen) sound lovely? Or, would you prefer to go all in with a fatty but delicious pork stock (Tonkotsu Ramen)? They’re all delicious, it’s just a matter of personal taste.

Ramen 1

Many ramen shops have a vending machine such as the one shown here. Customers place their orders and make their payment at the machine, then give a ticket (like a receipt) to the server and wait for their food to arrive.

Vote here, and we’ll create something just for you!

 

Tokyo Food Tour! NINJA

NINJA

Tableside NINJA Chef

“What was your most amazing meal in Tokyo?”

That’s a common question, and an easy one to answer. Our friend Natsu, a Tokyo resident, took us for a spectacular dinner at NINJA. It was an experience we won’t soon forget!

Upon arriving, a costumed “NINJA-in-training” escorted us through narrow, stone walled passageways, over a drawbridge, and into our private dining chamber. After being seated at a traditional, low table near an indoor stream filled with treasure, we were introduced to our personal NINJA and cook. Believe me, friends, one course was even more delicious than the next!

NINJA kids

Awesome Children’s Meal

Two pint-size diners each enjoyed an enviable children’s meal featuring a variety of kid-friendly meats, seafoods, and sides. NINJA star crackers, colored a bold black using bamboo charcoal, were included in the children’s meal and were also featured in the first course of the adult meal along with foie gras.

The restaurant-provided descriptions of the eight-course menu we enjoyed only hint at the deliciousness…

1.Shuriken star-blades grissini

2.Cold Appetizer of the season

3.Chicken fritter NINJA style

4.Special stone-boiled soup (Japanese bouillabaisse)  ***Side note: This was one of the best soups I’ve ever enjoyed!

5.Capellini with Japanese tomato flavor

6.Meat specialty or seafood specialty of the day

7.Sushi of the season & today’s Sushi Roll

8.Today’s dessert

I tried not to annoy my dining companions with too many photos. Here’s a peek…

NINJA 2nd course

2nd Course – A savory cold shrimp soup

NINJA pasta course

5th Course – A delicately seasoned pasta dish

NINJA meat course

6th Course – This salmon was spectacular!

NINJA Sushi Course

7th Course – Sushi!

At home in the US, many otherwise excellent restaurants view dessert as something of an afterthought. Not so at NINJA! To kick off dessert, costumed NINJAs burst into our dining area through a small window, carrying mysterious black boxes for the kids (Really, who loves dessert more than kids?). To the delight of the children, the black boxes emitted an impressive amount of “smoke” thanks to the dry ice keeping their frozen treats cold. What a special effect!

NINJA kids dessert

Children’s Dessert

The grown-up dessert was just as fabulous, featuring a luscious apple custard wrapped around ice cream (how, I have no idea). Look how beautiful it is!

NINJA adult dessert

Grown-Up Dessert

Tokyo offers something for everyone, of this I am convinced! If you have an aspiring NINJA among your travel companions (particularly if he is pint-sized), a dinner at NINJA will without a doubt make an utterly unforgettable experience.

Thank you, Natsu. We miss you!

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Tsukiji Fish Market

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It’s hard to miss the main entrance to the Outer Market in Tsukiji!

Located in central Tokyo, Tsukiji Market is the largest fish market in the world. It’s so large, it’s actually one of the largest food markets of any kind in the world! The Inner Market is where tons (and tons and tons) of hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood are sold to wholesalers and restaurant owners during the early morning hours. The Outer Market is where the action is if you’re a tourist. It’s here, in the Outer Market, where people from all over the world can sample and purchase a seemingly endless variety of products, from fresh and dried fish to exotic spices to every ready-to-eat food imaginable.

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One of many shopping lanes in the Outer Market

Tsukiji Market is a must-see for anyone visiting Tokyo. It is truly a feast for the senses! While you need to taste and see and smell the kaleidoscope of offerings to fully appreciate Tsukiji Market, these photos will give you an idea of Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Pizzaria Buono Buono

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Pizzaria Buono Buono

Nestled into the Asakusabachi neighborhood in Tokyo is Pizzaria Buono Buono, one of our dinner stops during our second week in Tokyo.

“Pizza? On a Tokyo Food Tour?”

Well, if someone visited New York City and raved about a Japanese restaurant, would that seem odd? Of course not. Likewise, Tokyo is a global city, and a hungry traveler can find just about any cuisine as long as they’re willing to venture beyond the narrow lanes of shops that line the immediate area surrounding most train stations. My crew was up for a walk and craving a dairy fix from cheesy pizza. Enter Pizzaria Buono Buono.

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The Menu!

It was a quiet evening, and the owners greeted us heartily, speaking English, before escorting us to a beautiful, rustic wood table. Being asked where we were from and how we were enjoying Japan was nice, as language barriers while traveling often impede such pleasantries. American Rock and Roll from the 1950s was piped throughout the restaurant, which was decorated with musical instruments and memorabilia from the same era. How unexpected and fun!

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Tuscany Pizza

Our pizzas were delicious – I highly recommend both the Genovese and the Tuscany. All in all, dinner at Pizzaria Buono Buono was thoroughly relaxing, not just because our pizzas were cheesy and our beers were cold, but because we spent a few hours reading and hearing our native language while eating familiar food. When traveling to distant places, especially with children, an occasional meal such as this is not a cop-out, it’s a recharge. The very next day, we resumed sampling delicious, traditional Japanese foods with gusto and navigating language barriers with care, our dairy cravings sated.  😉

Life is short and the world is small. Eat well.

 

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Octopus Senbei

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Crispy octopus chips for sale at Tokyo Solamachi

My travel companions and I spent a rainy day at Tokyo Solamachi, an enormous shopping mall/entertainment complex attached to the Tokyo Skytree. If you live in the US, think Mall of America but more of a feast for the senses!

There it was… a cheerful red and white storefront prominently advertising something called “Octopus Senbei.” My understanding was that senbei were rice crackers… but these were clearly, definitely, octopus! How Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Matcha

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Matcha powder made into hot tea

Matcha tea is an important beverage in Japan, used in traditional tea ceremonies and favored as an everyday, relaxing beverage as well. Before arriving in Tokyo, I understood that matcha was a popular beverage. What I didn’t understand, but have come to appreciate, is that matcha is also a popular food ingredient!

Matcha tea is made from high quality green tea leaves. After the leaves are dried, they are ground into a fine powder (see photo above). Small quantities of matcha powder are whisked (or just stirred) into almost-boiling hot water to make tea. Note that there’s no “tea bag” here – there’s nothing to remove from your cup. Instead, matcha is whole tea, where the leaves themselves are consumed instead of merely steeped. Why is this significant? For starters, drinking matcha tea provides significantly more antioxidants per cup because you are consuming the entire leaf. Remember, antioxidants are powerful little cancer fighters and anti-aging weapons! Also, matcha tea contains more caffeine that steeped tea, making matcha tea a nice substitute for a cup of coffee.

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Barracuda tempura dusted with matcha and salt

Here in Tokyo, we’ve seen matcha powder used as a seasoning. In the photo to the left, a lovely slice of barracuda tempura has been dusted with salt and matcha. Absolutely delicious!

We’ve also seen matcha used to flavor Japanese interpretations of traditional French desserts. I’m reserving those photos, friends, because I plan to recreate a few sweet treats and bring you recipes here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Stay tuned!

Finally, matcha ice cream is quite popular here. The matcha soft serve ice cream cone shown below is Half-Pint approved!

Want to try matcha for yourself? Here’s a link for you!

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Matcha ice cream – YUM!

Tokyo Food Tour! Plastic Food

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Plastic food on display at an indoor food court

Menu, schmenu. Who needs a written menu in Tokyo? Throughout Tokyo, thousands of restaurants and food vendors advertise their offerings with a display of plastic food. This isn’t the primary-colored plastic food that American children often keep in their toybox. No, this plastic food is so realistic you can stare at it closely and not be entirely sure if it’s the real thing!

Plastic food is surprisingly expensive… really expensive. A plastic nigiri sushi keychain costs around $10 (USD equivalent), and a plastic display of a full dinner platter can cost… wait for it… over $200.

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See for yourself how realistic looking plastic food can be!

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Tokyo Food Tour! Uni

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Raw uni (top) may be eaten directly from the shell

The fragile, edible portion of a sea urchin is referred to as uni, and is a Japanese delicacy. The appearance of uni in any form can be a bit intimidating for new tasters, as uni really doesn’t resemble anything at all in Western cuisine. It’s unique qualities, ranging from its bright orange color to its soft, almost liquid texture, are precisely what make uni such a high demand item for connoisseurs.

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Uni nigiri sushi (raw) with a dab of wasabi

When enjoyed raw over rice as nigiri sushi, uni has a buttery feel and a mildly sweet, briny taste. Fresh, raw uni is more expensive than many other sushi items, but the experience is worth purchasing a taste if the opportunity presents itself!

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Steamed uni vendors at the Vietnam Festival

Uni can also be enjoyed as part of many cooked preparations, as well. At a boisterous Vietnam Festival in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, vendors were selling steamed uni, shown below. When steamed, the color is more muted and the texture more crumbly. I found steamed uni to have a mildly smoky flavor, and enjoyed steamed uni more than raw.

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Steamed uni

When traveling to exciting, new destinations, don’t be afraid to sample locally popular foods. For those of us here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, tasting regional specialties is one of the most exciting parts of exploring our crowded earth!