Saturday, October 29, 2011

Half Australian Shinobu, Half Japanese Jane

Recently I've been thinking it's about time I tell a little more about myself.  If you hadn't noticed, I've introduced myself here as Shinobu.  But if you're one of my Australian friends, you might know me as Jane.  
Shinobu is my Japanese name.  Jane is my English name.  I'll tell you a little story about it...and about growing up half Japanese in Australia♡ I hope you get a laugh out of it!
♡ ♡ ♡

I guess the story started many years ago when my mother was in high school.  My mother's friend sometimes told me about the old days and what my mother (nicknamed: Nonchan) was like when she was young.  Once she told me that Nonchan picked out her children's names when she was in high school, and that Shinobu was one of them.  Little did Nonchan know, that years later she'd be marrying a foreigner and living in Australia!

So my father chose an English name for me, and my mother gave me my Japanese name.  When I was small, sometimes my mother called me "Shinobu-chan", but more often she'd call me "Jane" pronounced "Je-en" (Jen with a long "e" sound, as the English sounds of "Jane" don't exist in Japanese) or "Jen-Jen".  We spoke English at home.  With a Japanese accent.

In first grade my mother wrote on my school books my name as: Jane Shinobu Surname. I was so embarrassed.  Shinobu was such a strange name.  No-one could even read or pronounce it.  We lived in the country, and as far as I know, our primary school of 500-or-so had no Asian kids other than myself and my sisters.  Let alone Japanese with strange names like "Shinobu"!  The most embarrassing question was: "What's your middle name?"

The first day of Junior High came, and the teacher called the roll.  Half way through I hear the name: "Shinaboo".   The class went silent.  I shuddered in embarrassment - I knew it could only be me.  Again, "Shinaboo".  I quickly walked to her desk and tried to explain that my first name was really "Jane" and there must be a mix-up in my given names.  For weeks classmates joked that I was under cover and that "Jane" was just a pretend name.  I even got the nick-name "Secret Agent Shinaboo"!

Finally I realised I couldn't keep it secret any longer.  I might as well accept my name and be proud of it.  Luckily we lived in the city now, so there were Asians and kids of all nationalities in my school.  It was no longer a shame to be Japanese.
♡ ♡ ♡

When I was seventeen, I visited Japan with my mother, for the first time in twelve years.  I was blown away by the experience.  Stepping into a tatami-floored room, breathing in and realising that the smell was so familiar (even though I hadn't experienced the smell since I was five years old); seeing Mt Fuji appear before my eyes as the mist cleared, and feeling that my ancestors had seen that same peak; my identity as a half-Japanese suddenly meant more to me than it ever had before. I fell completely in love with Japan, and from then on somewhere in my heart I knew that my destiny was in Japan.  I felt the Yamato-Damashi.  My ancestors were calling.

But I couldn't speak Japanese.  I had taken Japanese class in Junior High, but that only gave me a handful of sentences which didn't get me very far.  When a Japanese person spoke I couldn't understand anything.

I was incredibly lucky then, when at twenty-one years of age, I applied to serve a one and a half year volunteer mission for my church.  I could have been called to serve in England, The United States or New Zealand, to name a few.  But the call letter came in the mail, I opened it, and it read "Sendai, Japan".  My mission in Japan was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  So many dear friends, so many precious memories.  It was truly living the dream.  And of course, most of my days for one-and-a-half years was spent talking to people.  
...In Japanese, of course.
♡ ♡ ♡

After I had finished the mission I couldn't stay away.  Eighteen months later I was back living in Japan, this time working as an English teacher.  While at work I was "Jane", but the rest of the time I was called "Shinobu-chan".   I was very involved with church activities, and of course all my friends there were Japanese.  

This might surprise you, but for Japanese people, "Shinobu" is easier to remember than "Jane".  Japanese names all have kanji - they are written in chinese characters which show the meaning of the name. (Shinobu is written: 忍.  The top half is the blade of a sword.  The bottom half is a heart.  Shinobu means "to endure silently".  Not that that describes me.  My mother will tell you I don't do it.  Maybe it's the attribute I need to develop!  忍者 reads "ninja".  A ninja must endure silently to remain invisible.)  

I really liked being called Shinobu, because it allowed people to see me as partly Japanese rather than just seeing me as a foreigner with a foreign name like "Jane".  I had so much fun and made many friends all over Japan who know me as "Shinobu".  

I love Australia.  I love Japan.  In Japan, I'm Shinobu.  In Australia I'm Jane.
♡ ♡ ♡

(...So, as my Japanese identity is "Shinobu", and this blog is about Japanese stuff, I thought that "Shinobu" would be the appropriate name to introduce myself as♡)

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Okonomiyaki Recipe (with endless variations!)

So quick and easy to make, Okonomiyaki has always been a favorite in our family.When I was a little kid we used to call it "okonomi-yummy"!
This time I made it with bacon, however thinly sliced pork is the original version.

Scroll down past recipe to see more variations.

 Okonomiyaki (makes 4 large)

Essential Ingredients of Okonomiyaki:
  • about 1/2 a large cabbage
  • 1 1/3 cup flour (I use self-raising, my mother says plain flour)
  • Approx 1 cup water
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp dashi powder (can be replaced by chicken stock powder)
  • Okonomi Sauce or Tonkatsu Sauce
Other ingredients I used tonight:
  • About 6-8 short-cut bacon rashers (Thinly sliced pork is better but it's a little difficult to get in Australian supermarkets)
  • 1 Tbsp beni-shouga (pickled ginger) chopped finely
  • 1  large negi (shallots/scallions/spring onions) sliced thinly, 
  • Japanese Mayonnaise
  • 10g Katsuo-bushi
  • Ao-nori
  • Oil
  1. Finely slice cabbage.  (After slicing, bruising it by squeezing in your hands also helps soften it)
  2. Mix flour, watereggs in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in dashi, pickled ginger and some negi.  Add cabbage and combine well. 
  3. Heat a little oil in a frypan.  Spoon Cabbage into the frypan, to make a circle about 22cm(9in) across and 1.5cm(3/4in) thick.  Make sure there's enough batter to hold it together.  Neaten the edges by using a spatula to push in the edges and any cabbage or batter that's sticking out.
  4. Place thinly sliced pork on top (or bacon).  
  5. Cook over med-low heat about 5 min.  Flip, then cook another 3-5 min.  When cooked through, turn onto a plate, meat side UP.
  6. Spread sauce generously on top.  Decorate with Mayonnaise, Katsuobushi and Ao-nori.

I was shocked to see "Okonomiyaki" recipes on Taste dot com dot au, (Australia's #1 recipe site) which were nothing like okonomiyaki!  The three recipes had, without exception, too much flour and were more like a vegetable pancake (which Okonomiyaki is not, really.)
The essense of Okonomiyaki is Dashi (Japanese Katsuo fish stock), and then 
Cabbage, Eggs and only just enough flour to hold it together.  
I don't know how anyone could call something Okonomiyaki if it doesn't have Okonomi (or Tonkatsu) sauce spread on top!
Having said that, there are MANY variations of okonomiyaki.  Some of my favorites are:
Kaki Okonomiyaki (Oysters mixed into the batter, no meat on top)
Ebi Okonomiyaki (Prawns mixed into the batter, with or without pork on top)
Mochi Cheese Okonomiyaki (Put down a thin layer of cabbage mixture in the frypan, place thinly sliced mochi and a little grated cheese in the middle, and put some more cabbage mixture on top.  When it is done, it will have a mochi-mochi gooey centre.)
Hiroshima-yaki This one has a layer of yakisoba noodles and an egg on top
Modan-yaki Similar to Hiroshima-Yaki, but with the cabbage and batter mixed.
As long as you stick to my list of "Essential Ingredients of Okonomiyaki" I think you'll be pretty safe calling it okonomiyaki.
Have Fun!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More of my Pai-Shu Cream Puffs; and Why Beard Papa's is Better in Japan

(This is what I made today:)

 And here is the link to my Recipe:
♡  Pai-Shu (Cream Puffs with Cookie Crust)  ♡

Why do Beard Papa's cream puffs taste better in Japan than in Australia?  I know the answer!

I was just walking past the local Beard Papa's store here in Brisbane, when I noticed that the store looked different to the stores I saw in Japan two weeks ago.  Where are those big oven-looking things where they keep all the cream puffs?  In Australia the cream puffs were sitting cold in a display window, not an oven.

So the secret to (Japan's) Beard Papa's is:
Leave the cream puffs in the oven at low temperature until you're just about to serve them!

I generally leave them in the oven after they're done for 40 min at 100 degrees C (as I wrote in the recipe)

Maybe if you wanted to serve them 2 hours later you could leave them at 75 degrees C for longer?
I haven't tried that yet so I can't say exactly.

Anyway, I made cream puffs (again) today, this time as a special treat for my class of 12-13y.o. girls that I teach at church.
And I wanted to share them with you too, but these photos are all that are left to share now...♡

Making Custard Cream in Australia, I noticed today that it didn't turn out as yellow as when I made it in Japan.  The colour depends on the colour of the egg-yolks.  In Japan they're bright yellow but in Australia they're a slightly dull orange-colour, and the custard colour was a bit dull.  I put in a few drops of yellow food colouring to get the custard cream colour you see here:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Basic Tsuyu Recipe for Somen or Soba

Tsuyu can be used for a dipping sauce for cold soba (zaru-soba) or somen noodles, and as an ingredient in many other Japanese dishes.  For using as a basic dipping sauce for zaru soba or somen, dilute 1 part tsuyu to 3 parts water.
  • 1 cup shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
  • 3/4 cup mirin
  • 1/3 cup water
  • katsuo-bushi (3g-10g, depending on your budget)
  • about 3cm of konbu (if you have it. Rinse salt off first)
  1. Place mirin, water, katsuo-bushi and konbu in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Gently simmer for 5 min or so to evaporate the alcohol.
  2. Add shoyu and simmer 1 more minute.
  3. Allow to cool completely.  This time allows the katsuobushi flavour to steep into the tsuyu.
  4. Pour through a sieve into a bottle and refrigerate.  Keeps for months.

  • The water is to make the concentration similar to shop-bought tsuyu, however you don't really need to add it, if you want to save fridge space.  Just remember when using that it will be more concentrated.  
  • Shop-bought tsuyu also contains sugar, so if you prefer sweeter tsuyu, you can add 1 Tbsp sugar to step 1.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Sukiyaki Recipe (with Wagyu & Kinoko-rui)

Wagyu and Kinoko-rui Sukiyaki
In Japan all these delicious kinoko (Japanese mushroom) varieties are FRESH and in the local supermarket (and so much cheaper than overseas!) so tonight we're gonna eat them all! The wagyu beef was a gift, so we decided to use it for sukiyaki...
By the way, did you know Sukiyaki is SO EASY it's just 3 steps?

3-step Sukiyaki
 Step 1:  fry beef fat to grease the pan.  Add sauce.

Step 2:  Add some of each ingredient...
 Step 3:  Add shungiku.  It's now time to eat!

Wagyu Kinoko-rui Sukiyaki (full recipe)
  • Wagyu Beef, thinly sliced
  • Grilled Tofu
  • Negi (Shallots or scallions)
  • Fresh Shiitake mushrooms
  • Shimeji Mushrooms
  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • a bunch of Shungiku (Spring Chrisanthemum leaves)
  • 1 package Ito-Konnyaku (Konnyaku noodles, also called Shirataki)
  • A chunk of Beef Fat
  • 1/3 cup Japanese Soy Sauce & 1/4 cup sugar & 3/4 cup water(and more of each for later)                                            OR a bottle of Sukiyaki sauce
  • Sake (as much or little as you like)
  • A bowl of steamed rice for each person
  • A raw egg in a small bowl for each person

Preparation: Prepare ingredients and place on a large platter:
Tofu: slice into 1 inch cubes
Negi: slice diagonally 2 inches
Shiitake: stem removed, halved if big
Shungiku: Fill a bowl with water in the sink.  Submerge shungiku, dunking well. (this also freshens them) cut into 3-4 inch lengths.

Place cooking equipment on the table.  Set out egg bowls and rice bowls and chopsticks for each person.  Each person whisks their egg with chopsticks and waits in anticipation.

  1. Heat Sukiyaki Pan and fry beef fat to grease the pan.  Add sauce ingredients (or 2/3 of a bottle of sauce) and a dash of sake.
  2. Add some of each ingredient (beef, tofu and vegetables *except for shungiku) each in their own position in the pan.  Keep it tidy. 
  3. Allow to cook for 1-2 min and then add shungiku.  It's now time to eat!  Everyone takes something from the pan with their chopsticks, dips in raw egg and eats.
Keep the pan only just simmering as you enjoy your sukiyaki.  When most of the ingredients are gone, add more of each ingredient, pushing the cooked ingredients to one side (still keeping it tidy).  Add some more sake and sauce mixture.

The ingredients:

I don't think I've ever eaten such expensive wagyu in my life!
It is so tender it almost melts in your mouth.  
Wagyu is sooo filling, (due to high fat content) this was enough wagyu for maybe 8-10 people.  
There was just three adults eating... we did NOT eat it all!
I thought it interesting that the Sukiyaki Pan is made by an Italian company, possibly in Italy??

This is my second Sukiyaki Post...I think I must really LOVE SUKIYAKI!
By the way, this style of making Sukiyaki is from a friend from Yamagata.
For my mother's style of sukiyaki, (kansai) with a cooking video click here

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inside Shinobu's Pantry and Fridge

So maybe you've seen my recipes, looked at the ingredients list, and thought "what on earth..."?

There are a few items I always keep in the cupboard and in the fridge and pantry.  If you have these few items, you'll find you can make many Japanese dishes!

Essential Flavours of Traditional Japanese Cooking:
  1. Shoyu: Japanese Soy Sauce.  Kikkoman is one famous brand.  Don't use non-Japanese brands, their taste is different so they can't be substituted.
  2. Mirin:  Japanese sweet rice wine for cooking.  You can substitute 1/3 the volume in sugar if necessary.
  3. Dashi:  Japanese Fish Stock made from bonito.  The most convenient forms are stock powder, called Dashi-no-moto or Hon-dashi.  Scroll down below to see the other ways to make Dashi.

Other contents of my fridge/pantry:
  • Tonkatsu Sauce: A condiment for many modern dishes.  Made from a unique blend of spices, fruit and vegetables.  This is very useful as it can also substitute for Okonomi Sauce or Yakisoba Sauce.
  • Japanese Mayonnaise: many brands, pretty much the same.  Used in modern Japanese dishes.
  • Katsuo-bushi: Shaved dried bonito (flakes)
  • Miso:  Soy bean paste used in Miso soup, Miso ramen, mabo-dofu or mabo-nasu etc. 
  • Sake:  (Ryouri-shuu) Rice wine for cooking.  Can sometimes be omitted if you don't have it.  Or replace with water in the case of Yakiniku Sauce Recipe.
  • Sesame Oil: Used in any Chinese-influenced Japanese dishes such as ramen, gyouza.
  • Kombu:  Strips of Dried Kelp (seaweed).  Naturally enhances flavours.
  • Shiitake:  Shiitake Mushrooms (I buy dried shiitake because they're cheap in Australia)
The vegetables I always have in my fridge: 
(And you probably do too)
carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage, negi (Shallots/spring onions/scallions) 

Other Vegetables I often use:
cucumber, pumpkin, spinach, corn, peas, lettuce, tomato, broccoli, avocado.

Hakusai:  Chinese cabbage
Daikon:  Big long white Japanese radish
Piiman:  In Australia I use Green Capsicum (bell pepper).  In Japan real piiman are small with very thin skins.
Moyashi: Mung bean sprouts (bean sprouts)
Enoki: White thin mushrooms I buy from the fridge in my asian grocery store.

Other Ingredients:
Tofu:  If I just say "tofu" in a recipe, then I mean "regular tofu".  However, tofu comes in various forms:
Fresh Tofu: Soft, Regular, Firm
Fried Tofu: Agedofu: Usuage (thin), Atsuage (thick)
Grilled tofu

About Dashi:  (Japanese Fish Stock)
Yes, commercial dashi powder (dashi-no-moto or hon-dashi) does contain MSG.  Japanese people have been using it for decades and most have never thought twice about it.

If you want to make it MSG free, then make your own dashi by boiling katsuobushi in water with a little kombu.  Kombu has the natural version of MSG so it's a natural flavour enhancer, and katsuobushi is what we're making stock of.

There are also dashi bags (like big teabags) which are basically dried katsuo in a teabag.

I usually use the dashi powder.  It's easier.  
3/5/2012 update: For the past month or so I haven't used dashi powder once!  Where dashi stock is needed, I begin by boiling the katsuobushi in water, then use a sieve to scoop out the katsuobushi before adding ofther ingredients.

Cream Puffs Update

For today's cream puffs I used a REAL pastry bag.  (8 for 100yen, from Daiso.)  Not a sheet of cooking paper folded into a cone (that's what I've been using until now), but a real piping bag.  It made such efficient use of the pastry that I made 16 giant cream puffs in one batch.  

They puffed so big I think I should have made 24 normal sized (big) puffs.
By the way, I always use XL eggs (59g)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Japanese Street Crepes Recipe

1 cup SR flour
3 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups milk (room temp, or microwaved 30sec) 
30g melted butter (1oz)
1 Tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
  1. Sift flour, sugar, pinch salt into a bowl (preferrably a jug-bowl)
  2. Beat in eggs and half the milk.  Beat until all lumps are gone.
  3. Add the rest of the milk, add butter and beat again.
  4. Stand at room temperature 15-30min (depending on your patience)
  5. Pour a little into a pre-heated, non-stick frypan and immediately tip the frypan to let the batter spread all over the frypan (can use a regular frypan, greased with a tiny bit of butter)  (another option is to spread the batter with a crepe tool or teppanyaki/okonomiyaki spatula)  Cook over med-high heat until underside is golden-brown. (about 2 min)
  6. Lift the edges of the crepe and flip the crepe  (I find this easiest to do with my fingers, as the crepe is so thin) Cook just 30 sec or so on the second side.
  7. Fill the Crepes however you like.
makes 10-12 crepes in a 30cm frypan (this is much smaller than the crepes in the crepe shops in japan)
Tips for making Cone-shaped Japanese Street Crepes:
  1. Place fillings on just one quarter of the crepe.  Do not go past the centre-point or it will be difficult to fold.
  2. If adding ice-cream, use just a tiny scoop (unless you have a very large frypan or crepe maker like the shops use) Other things you could put inside are: creme caramel, brownie, cheesecake.
  3. Fold the crepe in half, with the centre of the filling on the fold line.  
  4. Next, roll the crepe, starting from the filled part, pivoting on the centre point until you have created a cone.

My favorite crepe: Strawberries, Ice-cream and Fresh Cream

To make Chocolate Crepes, just add 3 Tbsp sifted pure cocoa to this recipe.

Savoury Crepes make a nice lunch.  See photos below for ideas.

My recipe above isn't really how they make them in the Japanese Street Crepe Shops, because they have proper equipment.  This recipe is just so you and I can make them at home when all we have is a frypan!  

To make them crispier, flip again (back to the first side) and cook on medium heat for another minute.  This also works well with day-old crepes that you kept in the fridge.

My Inspiration:
Update (June 2012) Marion Crepes are way better than Sweetbox!  From Marion Crepes I had a Strawberries, cream and cheesecake crepe!  It was amazing! Sorry I didn't take a photo! (My little Ochibi couldn't wait to eat it, nor could I!) It's #48 in the photo menu, 6th photo down.

These photos I took when I went shopping in Harajuku last week.

I had a: Strawberries Chocolate Sauce and cream. 380 yen

The Menu of one of the Crepe shops in Harajuku:
This one's been here since 1976 so I'm guessing it's the original Harajuku Street Crepes Shop:
Here's its menu:

Another Crepe Shop in Harajuku:

Thursday, October 6, 2011


☆Congratulations to the five winners of the Like to Win Japan Giveaway
♡Thank-you to everyone who has now "like"d or "Join(ed) this site"!♡
Actual Prizes Chosen by the Five Winners
I enjoyed the reactions when I contacted the winners.  Here are a few:
"Yay so excited!!" 
"Hooray!! I never win anything!"  
"i feel so lucky.. i didn't expect to win (but i secretly prayed that i will lol) anyway that is so sweet of you.."
Congratulations to:  
Pin W from Australia, Alana R from Australia, Michelle K from the United States, 
Julia L from Australia and Irene H from Australia, 
who will be receiving their prize packs in the next few weeks.  

Sorry if you missed out this time, I hope you win next time, as we plan to have more of these in the future!  In the meantime, please tell your friends about♡

☆It's easy to share something you like here on your facebook wall or in a private message by clicking the "f" facebook symbol at the bottom of each post!☆ "Like" to Win Japan Giveaway was drawn using all the Facebook "Like" entries and Google "Followers" at 10pm 5th October 2011, which totaled 50 entries.  The draw was conducted by numbering the list of entries and using the True Random Number Generator.  The five winners have all replied to their notifications so this draw is now closed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

100 Yen Daiso Part 3: Chopsticks Sets, Learner Chopsticks, Onigiri Moulds, Stroller Hooks, Disney Chopsticks

Daiso 100 Yen Shopping Part 3:
Chopstick Sets, Onigiri Moulds, Cookie Cutters, Food Shape Cutters for Children's Bento, Baby Goods (Stroller Hooks and Safety Latches for cupboards)
Children's Chopsticks, Learner Chopsticks
Family Chopstick Sets

Disney Chopsticks
Disney Chopstick cases (mostly children's size)

Lunchbox Picks

Cylindrical Onigiri moulds, various sizes about 3cm long (mini onigiri) to 6-7cm long
Food Cut-out shapes (for making cute food for kids)

Baby Goods: Stroller Hooks, Safety Latches, Corner Covers

Sushi rolling mat