Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Japanese kids don't like cakes

In holiday season, there are many opportunities to go to parties.  It is fun but some parents may be concerned that their kids eat a lot of sugar.

Living abroad, I see a lot of kids love sweets - chocolate, cake, cookies, candies and ice cream.  But this is not true of Japanese kids.

Many Japanese kids don't like cakes or any desserts.  I remember that when I was little, I wanted a cake for my birthday but didn't want anymore after one bite.  I didn't like cakes or any sweets for a long time.  In fact, it is common for Japanese mothers who have preschool-aged kids to give them salty crackers or dried fish as an afternoon snack.  It is not because they don't want to feed them sweets but kids don't like them.

This may sound strange for those who live in cultures where children typically have a sweet tooth, but where does this difference come from?

The answer is Japanese food.

For Japanese, the main food is rice.  Almost all Japanese kids eat rice regularly and love it from a very young age.  As you chew rice, you will sense the subtle sweet taste in the mouth.  Chemically speaking, the main ingredient of rice is starch.  The starch is mixed with saliva when being chewed; the starch is broken down, and it turns into sugar by the work of amylase enzyme.  This creates a natural sweetness.

Also, when you look at the recipes of Japanese dishes, a lot of them have a little bit of sugar or sweetener like Mirin.  The main ingredients of many recipes are soy sauce, sake, and sugar.  Cooking sake is sometimes replaced with mirin, which is basically sake and sugar.  The ratio of these can be different depending on the kind of dish , but with these three ingredients, we make many dishes such as Niku-jaga (meat and potatos), Nitsuke (Stewed fish), and Kinpira-gobou (stirred burdock).

After eating rice and these Japanese dishes, kids are satisfied with the sweetness that they had in the meal and don't feel like having more sugar.  Also, compared to desserts, the amount of sugar taken in this way is considerably lower.

Now I am older, I like cakes and sweet desserts.  But I don't crave for them after Japanese meals!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Warm up winter with chai in a Ricotta Pan

Coming of winter season - I love making my homemade chai with this Ricotta Pan.

What is special about this pan?  Well, first of all, it is absolutely beautiful - it is called 'banko' pottery from Mie prefecture which is famous for its high quality clay soil.  The plain form conveys the natural beauty of this soil.  When in use, it gently and gradually heats the contents.  The clay preserves heat quite well, so whatever is heated up stays warm for a long time while it is in this pan.

Have you had the experience of spilling water when pouring it into a cup?  This pan's unique shape stops that from happening!

The surface is finished in matt-texture, and this gives the pan beauty and warmness.  The combination of pottery and wood that goes into this pan requires great skill, but is possible because of the detailed and careful handwork of the craftspeople who make them.

I like to take it to the table and serve it there, leaving it for my second cup.  It is such a treat to take time and have tea with this special pot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Let's make a seasonal lunch with Magewappa bento box

It is already December!

In Japan, in my home city, Kyoto, it is the peak of the red maple.  People visit gardens in the temples and shrines to see the beauty and the change of the color that the Japanese maples show to us in this season.  

Yes, we can still do picnic.  Take a warm jacket, hot drink, and Magewappa bento box to enjoy it under the trees.  What a great way to enjoy the season!  Or if it's indoor, would you like to try bento box like this to bring the season to the room?

This is called 3-colors crumbles bento - or soboro bento in Japanese.  On the top of cooked rice, there normally are minced stirred chicken or pork, scramble eggs, and a kind of green vegetables to make it to three colors.  Once you are used to it, it is not troublesome, but nutritious and yummy!

The beauty to the eyes is the additional but foremost benefit of having this bento box.
First you please the eyes by appreciating it, and then please the tongue by tasting it.  It is surprising that even the simple food impresses and satisfies you just because it is in this special box.

You can shape the boiled carrots with the cookie cutter of maple shape to enhance the feeling of the season.  The bento cooking becomes an creative art.  

This soboro bento and photos are done by my friend photographer and food blogger, Nao Kondo.  Thanks to Nao for your beautiful works!