Wednesday, June 27, 2012


                                       Sanbiki's popular "Ebi Sunomono" with shrimp
Ah summer! The temperature rises, and so too does demand for cool and refreshing food. SUNOMONO fits the bill. Outside of Japan it is best known as a noodle salad in a vinagrette dressing. "Harusame" noodles made from yam are used. Rice noodles may be popular with westerners, but are rare in Japanese dishes. The most popular sunomono salads include cucumber, shrimp, seaweed and octopus or other seafood.

                     Crunchy octopus is a favourite sunomono item everywhere!
 In Japan, noodles are not usually involved, and sunomono is usually served as a small side dish with many other foods. The name "sunomono" refers simply to the food ("mono") and the fact that it is served with vinegar ("su") Any number of sunomono dishes exist depending on the season, the region, and the mood of the Chef. Vegetables are particularly popular and taste lightly "pickled" from the vinegar in the dressing.

Tosazu from Kochi in Japan

 Certain seafoods lend themselves well to sunomono style preparations. Octopus, squid and shrimp are common. Some areas use seasonal fish. Sardines are used in "tosazu", pictured above. This style of presentation is traditional. "Tosazu" is a specialty of Kochi in southern Japan. The area enjoys a good supply of katsuo (bonito). The tuna is dried and used to flavour the stock added to the vinegar dressing.

                        Seaweed and cucumber make healthy, tasty additions to sunomono
Two very basic recipes are the starting points for sunomono dressings. NI-HAIZU mixes two ingredients ("ni"=2) soy sauce and rice vinegar. SAN-BAIZU adds a third ingredient, sugar ("san"=3). Dashi (a Japanese stock made from dried tuna and seaweed) can be added, as with the "tosazu".

Sunomono is an excellent option for vegans and vegetarians as neither meat nor seafood is necessary as the main ingredient, nor  in the dressing.

Another popular Japanese salad is "GOMA AE". Outside Japan this is almost always served as a blanched spinach with a sweet sesame or peanut dressing. Actually, "goma" means sesame and "ae" means dressing. Other green vegetables such as asparagus, green beans or rapini are commonly served as "goma ae" dishes in Japan. Crushed sesame seeds, soy sauce and sugar are the main ingredients. Peanut sauce and creamy, overly sweet dressings overpower the veggies and are not preferred in Japan.

                  A prepared dressing (gomaae) mix. Mori Mori Grocery has similar products

Heard of soba, somen and/or unagi? They are a few Japanese summer favourites! Stay tuned for more, have a great week!

Friday, June 22, 2012



The best definition I've heard of kawaii is, "you look at something that's kawaii and it's not just cute. It's not just something you love. It's something you want to protect." That from a professor of Japanese and American Pop Culture. Kawaii translates (basically) as "cute" and is pronounced like "ka-wai-yee" The high pitched squeal of a schoolgirl who has spotted a particularly kawaii object is an earsplitting, unforgettable experience....

Pretty much anything can be made cute....

"Kawaii" animals, aliens, milk bottles and more!

The roots of kawaii in Japanese culture can be traced back hundreds of years. As elsewhere, women were seen to be docile and gentle and society encouraged women to demonstrate these qualities. The modern "kawaii" takes the notion much further. Kawaii fashion and  her followers go to great lengths to accentuate a child like innocence and demeanour.

Too much? Kawaii loving girls think not!
Looking to dress for kawaii success? "How to be a kawaii girl" websites reccomend lots of colour, ribbons and hair pieces when choosing outfits. Use make up that accentuates your eyes, and always keep them wide open (especially for photos!) Cold compresses may help them look bigger too....Computer simulations offer the opportunity for girls (and boys?) to design their ideal kawaii persona/companion.... 

A kawaii character created in a computer simulation game  

While young women may be the driving force behing kawaii consumer goods, high end (and high cost) clothes and accessories are out there. Sanrio is the Japanese company making big bucks from Hello Kitty and a stable of other characters. They have cleverly teamed up with clothing and jewellery designers to produce some very cute, (not to mention very expensive) toys indeed.....

                           So Cute! For $8000, it should be....Please, Santa, pretty please?

HK diamond jewellery not  in this years budget? The opportunity to get up close and personal cozy with kawaii culture is still within your reach. Just a bus ride away.....

Setting your sights further ahaead? Book with a "kawaii" friendly carrier....

Kawaii doesn't have to be all sweetness and light....This critter appears to harbour a nasty streak...


We'll get back to culinary blogging and kitchen gossip in the next the meantime, watch out for killer bunnies in kawaii costume!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


The first part of DONBURI names usually indicate the tasty rice topping. "DON" refers to the method of delivery, the rice bowl. So Ten ("tempura") + Don (bowl) = TENDON!

Tempura veggies and or seafood over rice with a sweet and savoury sauce. TENDON, like other donburi are often eaten with a small vegetable side dish or salad and a bowl of miso soup (as below)

Beef ("gyu") is simmered with onions in a sweet soy based sauce to become GYUDON. A little salty pickled ginger gives the flavour a final kick.

A Japanese take on a "schnitzel". A pork cutlet ("katsu") is breaded in a crispy breadcrumb ("panko") batter and may be served with tonkatsu sauce. The sauce is savoury with a hint of worcester and fruit. With katsudon, an egg is added in the final minutes of cooking and the dish is garnished with green or fried onions.

Grilled or BBQ freshwater eel is "unagi". Pop a few thick slices onto a bowl of steaming hot rice and garnish with sansho (a Japanese peppery herb) Voila! UNADON...

Many cultures (and thus cusines) have certain foods that are considered "taboo" to serve. One of the best known is the Jewish reference to "not boiling a kid in it's mothers milk". A "child" is never served alongside it's "mother". This is reversed in Japan. OYAKODON roughly translates as "mother and child" and consists of chicken cooked with egg, veggies and seasonings.

IKURADON is similar in the sense that slices of salmon sashimi are served with salmon roe over seasoned sushi rice.

Other "sushi bowls" include CHIRASHI, NEGITORODON and TEKKADON. Sushi rice is used instead of hot steamed rice and topped with raw fish and seafood. CHIRASHI often has tamago (omelette), unagi (eel) and veggies mixed in with sushi rice on the bottom, and is topped off with slices of mixed sashimi. Sanbiki's chirashi (below) is a customer favourite. 

NEGITORODON is made with fatty tuna (toro) and finely chopped spring onion (negi) Like other donburi, sushi bowls are popular "Grab and Go" meals for busy bodies.

TEKKADON has raw tuna (not fatty) that is sometimes marinated with soy, sesame or a spicy sauce before being put over rice. Finely cut nori (dried seaweed) garnishes the tekkadon below.

Unlike sushi or sashimi, no special etiquette or rules pertain to eating and enjoying donburi. Japanese people do not themselves pour soy sauce directly on to plain white rice but it may be added sparingly to donburi if desired. And of course never leave you chopsticks sticking straight out of the rice bowl. This is how offerings are presented to the dead!

 Instead rest your chopsicks on the rim of the bowl or on the "hashioki" (chopstick rest) that may be provided. If one is not provided in a restaurant, some Japanese will fashion their own from the chopstick wrapper....

 More soon! Enjoy DONBURI sit down at Sanbiki or visit Mori Mori for Grab and Go sushi and bowls. Made fresh daily!