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2013年7月22日 (月)

Midsummer Day of the Ox and eel/土用の丑の日と鰻

Canicular days are the 18 days before Risshun (around February 4th), Rikka (around May 5th), Risshu (around August 7th) and Ritto (around November 7th). The day of ox during the summer canicular days is Midsummer Day of the Ox, and it's today this year.  People eat eel on this day, and there’re several stories on how that custom was started; an eel shop owner consulted Gennai Hiraga, a herb doctor, on the poor sales. He put a poster that says “Midsummer Day of the Ox is the day of eel, then, the sales started picking up. It’s also said that eating foods starting with ‘u’ on the Midsummer Day of the Ox is good for the body.



2013年7月11日 (木)


Simply boiled corns remind me of my late grandmother. She was growing corn in summer, and boiled corns were always on a table every time we visited her place. While corns are sold with skin on in Japan, they’re sold without skin and cut in the U.K. Plus, corns are supposed to be cooked on the same day as they are harvested, but the shelf date is longer in the U.K. 

Even wrapped with skin, you can tell good corns by how thick and how dark ‘whiskers’ are. In boiling them, stop three minutes after boiling if you prefer crispy texture. Five minutes if you like soft and tender texture.




2013年7月 7日 (日)

Shichiseki (Tanabata) and vermicelli/七夕(しちせき、たなばた)と素麺

There’re two events on July 7th on the old calendar. One is the Star Festival that celebrates the meeting of two lovers, Kengyu (Altair, personified as a cowherd) and Shokujo (Vega, as a weaving girl). They’re separated by the Milky Way but allowed to meet on the bridge over the river just once a year on that day. The other is “Kikkoden” that prays for the improvement of women’s handicraft skills. In Japan, there’re rituals to purify themselves on the five sechi-nichi (Jinjitu - January 7th, Joushi - March 3rd, Tango - May 5th, Shichiseki - July 7th, Chouyou - September 9th). People bathed on July 7th to clean impurities away. Imperial court and aristocrats in the Nara period (710-784) adopted these events, and then it was spread to the ordinary people. The custom became popular in the Edo period (1603-1868) that setting up pieces of bamboo in the garden and hanging strips of paper of five different colors on that wishes are written. 

Somen (Japanese vermicelli) is the dish for this day. It’s likened to Shokujo’s threads and come from sakupei (noodle made with flour and rice flour).

(The bowl in the photo is made of ice. Prepare for two different size of bowls, pour some water and put in a freezer. That’s it.)






2013年7月 5日 (金)

Kitchen utensils in Japanese restaurantsやっとことやっとこ鍋

This utensil called ‘yattoko and yattoko-nabe’. They’re commonly used in Japanese restaurant.
Yattoko is a pincer-like tool to hold pans. You might think it’s not convenient and a pan might fall down, but they’re practical tools and no worries to drop. Yattoko-nabe is a pan and it has no handle. Why don’t Japanese chefs use pans with handles and yattoko? There are several reasons. One is to prevent pans from burning. Handles of Japanese pans are made of wood, and kitchen for commercial use has wider and stronger hob compared to the one for home use. Two is chefs use pans for many different ways. For example, cooking on the hob first, then cooling down on ice water, then keeping in a fridge. Work would be easier without handles. Three is to keep the traffic in kitchen open, then accidents like chef’s apron catches a pan can be avoided.




2013年7月 4日 (木)

Conger myriaster/鱧料理

‘Hamo (Conger myriaster) is a summer delicacy in Japan, especially in the west. The eel-look fish is just in season now in July. It has lots of small but hard bones. Therefore, preparation called ‘hone kiri (literally, bone cut)’ should be done. Chefs are experienced to make 26 cuts in 3 cm and without damaging its skin. Hamo’s bone is hard enough to make a knife nicked at one-time cutting. 

It can be cooked in many ways – parboiled and served with plum sauce, grilled, tempura (deep-fried), marinated in vinegar, soup, risotto etc.






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