Sweet Corn Rice

 

Corn Takikomigohan

Corn Takikomigohan

Growing up in Minnesota I was surrounded by large farms growing corn. There was nothing better than stopping by the side of the road and picking up a dozen ears of corn in a brown paper bag for a buck. At home we would shuck the ears outside on the front lawn. There was one huge pot in our house that was used mostly for boiling corn every summer. The sweet corn was then slathered with butter and salt, and attack ear after ear until my face was covered with butter and the corn disappeared.

While we salted the water when we boiled the corn I was shocked when a farmer’s wife told me that we should cook the corn in sugared water. That revelation changed the way I made corn ever since, and it does make it better.

Corn in Tokyo has been out for a few weeks already. I have been eating an ear or two every day. The only difference is that here it costs a buck a cob. It’s my favorite vegetable and I will indulge while it’s in season.

Shinji’s in culinary school at the moment and one of his recent assignments was corn rice. Takikomigohan is when toppings are steamed with the rice and then incorporated into the rice. A similar preparation is called mazegohan when toppings are mixed into cooked rice. While this is called a takikomigohan this almost feels like a mazegohan as the corn is cooked before it is added to the pot. To be honest, I don’t care what it’s called, it’s delicious.

Sweet Corn Rice

Sweet Corn Rice

Shinji said that he cooked the ear of corn in salt water. After it is cooked the kernels are cut off of the cob. Rice is cooked with a little bit of salt in the water. We cook the rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). After the rice has come to a boil the lid is taken off, usually a no-no, and sprinkled with some saké and the corn. The lid is returned and the rice is set aside to finish steaming for fifteen minutes. If you are cooking your rice in a rice cooker there should be a timer that tells you when there about ten minutes or so left to cook. I would add the corn at that time.

The rice is ever-so-salty, like the breeze on your face at the ocean, while the corn adds bursts of sweetness.

Tenmatsu Tempura in Nihonbashi

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Spring is my favorite time of year for tempura as sansai, mountain vegetables, are featured at good restaurants serving tempura. At the top of this box is udo (spikenard), which reminds me of a tender and somewhat bitter white asparagus. The other vegetable is renkon (lotus root). 

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Tenmatsu at Nihonbashi bridge, just between Nihonbashi and Mitsukoshi-Mae stations on the Ginza line, has long been a favorite spot of mine. I used to work at Takashimaya which is just a five-minute walk from here and would sometimes come for a solo lunch. The lunch here is a great bargain at under 1,000 JPY for tempura that is made and served to you piece-by-piece as it comes out of the oil. Here you see the chef’s work spot. Some flour that the ingredients are dipped in before being covered with an egg, flour, and water batter before being deep-fried.

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Here is the udo to start off the meal. At home we blanch udo and then dress it with mayonnaise. But tempura is probably the best way to enjoy it.

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This is a special technique when putting in items to the hot oil, to gently toss away from you into the hot oil. Part of the joy of sitting at the counter at a tempura restaurant is listening to the oil as it sputters. A good tempura chef will know when items are ready to be pulled out of the oil by the sound it makes when it is done frying. On the plate is asparagus and shiitake. My friend got two pieces of shrimp for this course.

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Squid and lotus root. I love the chef’s smile. :-)

In the large round bowl is the chef’s batter mixture. He also uses two different chopsticks. A wooden pair for the flour and batter and then a metal pair for working in the oil.

Tenmatsu is in my book, Food Sake Tokyo. The chef in this photo is the same chef that is in my book. It is quite busy at lunch time so either go early or late. Be sure to request a seat at the counters on the 1st or 2nd floor. The 3rd floor is tables only and you miss out on watching the chef prepare the tempura in front of you. They are open on Sundays and holidays which is good to keep in mind as most shops in this area are closed on these days. The main shop is in Shibuya.

Note that at lunch time there is a vegetable only tempura set lunch.

Tenmatsu

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-8-2

03-3241-5840

Lunch 11:00 – 14:00 (Sat., Sun., and holidays until 14:30)

Dinner 17:00 – 21:00

Le Pain Quotidien

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For one year I lived in Brussels. Just down the street from my apartment was a Le Pain Quotidien. I went about two to three times a week. Some nights for a baguette to have with wine and cheese. Mornings I could pop in and pick up a croissant. There was a small garden in the back with some tables and inside a large communal table. On the table were jars of confitures and chocolate-hazelnut spread. It was a popular shop and I loved seeing what the customers were dining on. Usually the signature open-faced tartines or salads.

Pain2

I then moved back to New York City and couldn’t be any happier when Le Pain Quotidien opened in Manhattan. The branch I went to the most was in Soho, just down the street from the French Culinary Institute where I took both the bread and culinary programs. The ambience was a bit different in NYC, but the bread was just as good. Here we could order wine by the carafe and some cheese to enjoy with our bread.

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And, now Le Pain Quotidien has followed me to Tokyo. I believe the first location opened near Shiba Koen which is an area I hardly ever get to. And, as there are so many great boulangeries in the city there is no need to make a special trip. The shop in Omotesando is just around the corner from where my cousin lives. She has a young boy and this is a kid-friendly shop so we came for lunch.Pain4

I was excited to see the breads I love so much, a communal table, and the familiar menu. This Mediterranean platter has hummous, tahini, and tabbouleh. The only thing that really changed from the other restaurants I’ve been to in the past is that there is a mini-buffet where the complimentary spreads are congregated. While there is a communal table, everyone this day was sitting at the tables.

It’s perfect for the solo diner or if you want to come with friends. The menu has frittatas, salads, and tartines. A great spot to keep on your radar when in Omotesando and vegetarian-friendly.

And, as one would expect of a European bakery, it is open bright and early in the morning, starting at 7:30 a.m. Some great bakeries in this city that don’t open until 10 a.m. or even later. This and Gontran Cherrier are an exception.

Pain5Le Pain Quotidien Omotesando

Minato-ku, Kita-Aoyama 3-5-15

03-6721-1173

7:30 a.m. – 23:00 (last order at 22:00)

Other branches at Shiba Koen 3-3-1, and Opera City in Nishi-Shinjuku.

Yasaiya Mei at Omotesando Hills やさい家めい


When I am craving Japanese vegetables one of the first restaurants that comes to mind is Yasaiya Mei in Omotesando Hills. While the restaurant specializes in produce it also serves meat and seafood. While classified as a “washoku” or Japanese restaurant, the menu often includes Western-style dishes like bagna cauda or a cheese fondue.

The lunch menu is filled with photos of the set lunches so no worries if you don’t speak Japanese. The dinner menu is bilingual – English and Japanese.

Everything I have had here has been excellent. Tofu burgers, eggplant doria of sake kasu (sake lees) and cheese, and the gozen (see photo above) featuring seasonal vegetables. On this day the staff suggested having a glass of freshly squeezed corn juice. Growing up in Minnesota I am spoiled by corn and have to admit that this was one of the most surprisingly delicious things I’ve had here. Many of the vegetables are on display at the restaurant if there is a Japanese vegetable you are not familiar with.

I’ve always gone with friends which is great for sharing. There is also counter seating popular with solo diners. The staff are knowledgeable about the dishes and ingredients. And service, as usual in Japan, is top-notch.

Yasaiya Mei

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-12-10, Omotesando Hills 3F

03-5785-0606

Monday – Saturday and Holidays
11:00~(Last Order 16:00)
17:00~23:30(Last Order 22:30)
Sunday
17:00~22:30(Last Order 21:30)

Closed if Omotesando Hills complex is closed.

February Seasonal Japanese Fruits and Vegetables 2月旬の野菜

Sansai Gohan

Sansai Gohan

Sansai, Japanese mountain vegetables, start to come into the market this time of year. Growing up, my mother and her Korean friend, Ki-san, would forage for warabi (fiddleheads of bracken) in the forest in Minnesota. There was always a short window to pick these as they grow very quickly. Once home the fiddleheads were washed thoroughly, blanched, and then simply dressed with some soy sauce. Fuki (giant butterbur) cooked into a sweet soy broth Tsukudani style is one favorite. Fukinoto (butterbur buds) are best when deep-fried as tempura. Shungiku leaves are wonderful in nabe (hotpots) or blanched and dressed with a sesame dressing. But perhaps my favorite thing this time of year is sansai served over soba or cooked with the rice for sansai gohan.

Sansai Soba

Sansai Soba

Broccoli –

Cabbage –

Cauliflower –

Celery –

Daikon –

Fuki – giant butterbur

Fukinoto – butterbur buds

Gobo – burdock root

Hakusai – Napa cabbage

Hoursensou – spinach

Komatsuna – Japanese green (sometimes called mustard spinach) in turnip family

Kuwai – arrowhead

Mitsuba – Japanese hornwort (also called Japanese parsley)

Mizuna – Japanese green (sometimes called potherb mustard)

Yamaimo – Japanese mountain yam

Nanohana – rapeseed flowers

Naganegi – Japanese leeks

Ninjin – carrots

Nozawana – Nozawa greens (in the same family as the turnip)

Renkon – lotus root

Seri – Japanese celery

Shungiku – chrysanthemum leaves

Udo – udo (a Japanese vegetable in the ginseng family)

Wakegi – green onions

Warabi – fiddleheads of bracken

Yurine – lily root

Fruit

Strawberries are all over the markets now, and perhaps best experienced in sweets found at depachika. We try to keep some fresh yuzu in the fridge using the juice for ponzu and the aromatic peel as a garnish. The Los Angeles Times recently did an interesting article on dekopon.

Daidai – a type of orange

Dekopon – a type of citrus

Hassaku – a type of citrus

Ichigo – strawberry

Iyokan – a type of citrus

Kinkan – kumquat

Kiwi -

Lemon –

Navel orange –

Ponkan – a type of tangerine

Ringo – apple

Setoka – a type of citrus

Yuzu –

January Japanese Seasonal Fruits Vegetables

Following is a list of seasonal fruits and vegetables in Japan this month. Root vegetables in particular are plentiful this time of year. Daikon is one of my favorites as it is can be used in so many dishes. It can be julienned for a salad, simmered and dressed with a sweet miso dressing, in soups, or grated and used as a garnish. I also love the sticky, slippery texture of nagaimo. It can be grated and served over hot rice with a splash of soy sauce, or I like to cook it like an omelet and serve it with some nori. (LINK) Fruit like strawberries and apples can be found in sweets and pastries.

 

Broccoli –

Cabbage –

Cauliflower –

Celery –

Daikon –

Eringi – eringi mushroom

Gobo – burdock root

Hakusai – Napa cabbage

Hoursensou – spinach

Jagaimo – potatoes

Kabu – turnips

Komatsuna – Japanese green (sometimes called mustard spinach) in turnip family

Mekyabettsu – Brussel sprouts

Mizuna – Japanese green (sometimes called potherb mustard)

Nagaimo – Japanese mountain yam

Nanohana – rapeseed flowers

Negi – Japanese leeks

Ninjin – carrots

Nira – garlic chives

Parsley –

Renkon – lotus root

Saradana – salad greens

Satsumaimo – Satsuma sweet potato

Seri – Japanese celery

Shungiku – chrysanthemum leaves

Yamatoimo – Yamato potato, similar to nagaimo

Yurine – lily root

 

Daidai – a type of orange

Ichigo – strawberry

Kinkan – kumquat

Lemon –

Navel orange –

Ponkan – a type of tangerine

Ringo – apple

Yuzu –

August Seasonal Japanese Vegetables

Edamame

Edamame

August is when the gardens are overflowing. Look for these vegetables when dining out. Edamame at beer gardens, vegetables in bento at depachika, and in the supermarket. One of my favorite shops at depachika for inspiration on Japanese vegetables is RF1. It is located in most depachika and is a deli with a wide variety of dishes that incorporate a cornucopia of vegetables.

Edamame 枝豆

Tomato トマト

Nasu 茄子 eggplant

Shin shouga 新しょうが new ginger

Papurika パプリカ bell pepper

Pi-man ピーマン Japanese green bell pepper

Tougarashi 唐辛子 green pepper

Zucchini ズッキニ

Chingensai ちんげん菜 bok choy

Kyuuri きゅうり cucumber

Saya ingen さやいんげん green beans

Tougan 冬瓜 winter squash

Kinshi uri 金糸瓜 spaghetti squash

Nigauri にがうり bitter melon

Okra オクラ

Tsuru murasaki つるむらさき Malabar spinach

Zuiki ズイキ taro stems

Myoga みょうが

Tomorokoshi ともろこし corn

Ninniku にんにく garlic

Takahara Kyabettsu 高原キャベッツ Takahara cabbage