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Food blogging: why?

jason

The Girl Who Ate Everything has a bit of a homework assignment to explain food blogging. I started writing a short comment, but it kept growing, even though I don’t think I have the “answer.” Because I seemed a little too verbose, I thought my thoughts would work better as a blog entry than as a comment.

For those who don’t know already, Pursuing My Passions is not, strictly speaking, a food blog, but food is one of the things I’m most passionate about. I cook fairly obsessively, and my business was founded in part because of how much I enjoy food browsing in Japanese department stores.

My food obsessions started fomenting when I was quite young, as I began cooking for myself, to a limited extent, as a child. By the time I was about 7 years old, I had some basic microwave oven and frypan skills, and in my pre-teen years I played with Bisquick and perused the Joy of Cooking. During my final semester in college, before looking at my student loan bills, I briefly entertained the idea of going to graduate school to study the role of food in revolutionary movements and peasant rebellions. (At the time I also wore my political stripes very loudly).

I'm not sure blogs are reactions against glossy idyllic portrayals of food, considering how much culinary celebrity worship goes on in blogging contexts, and how happily food bloggers devour "food porn."

Blogs do let relatively ordinary people connect their culinary experiences with other people who share similar passions. It may be hard to share my food obsessions with my friends in the same way I can do in a blog; many of my friends are happy to indulge along with me when I'm cooking, but are mildly amused by my ability to steer any conversation toward food topics. Online, people self-select when they want to participate in that conversation, so they are at least as interested in food as me, at least for a moment.

Blogging is, however, a kind of democratization of "cuisine." Without a “target market", unlike a food magazine or TV show, bloggers can, comfortably and without shame or bashfulness, rapidly shift focus between homemade haute cuisine and humble, lowbrow daily fare. Unless they want to, bloggers don’t have to make pretentions of healthfulness or authenticity, and they don’t have to promise easy results in 30 minutes or that your neighbors will be impressed by all the work you’ve done if you just follow some lovely focus-group tested recipes. They just have to celebrate food in an endearing way.

Instead of a traditional media priesthood of good taste (ahem), food blogging is more like a potluck. We might occasionally try to impress each other, but blogging is more about sharing the joy of little discoveries, minor food tragedies, and culinary triumphs. And sometimes guilt, giddiness or discontent.

The thing that makes blogging more real than a magazine, cookbook or TV series is the lack of editors and producers who needs to balance the interests of advertisers, the fickleness of their audiences, and the egos of their writers or hosts. We’re relatively content regardless of who shows up to the party.

As food bloggers, each one of us can wear many hats… restaurant reviewer, chef, event planner, food diarist, food stylist, cooking class instructor, co-conspirator… for most of us, our ability to shift between these roles wouldn’t be possible in other contexts.

Blogging has a low barrier to entry, but fairly powerful network effects… I once saw photos someone in Holland and someone else in Malaysia had taken after making a variation of a cookie recipe I had originally posted on my blog. Similarly, I’ve been inspired by flavor combinations I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about from people blogging around the world. That kind of global influence, even on a small scale, is just incredible to think about. I’m not likely not get my 15 minutes of fame by posting an occasional article online, but this ability to reach other people, and learn from each other, is really appealing.

French toast and real maple syrup

jason

Nothing is more comforting than some nice French toast on a weekend morning, even if I do have a full day of work ahead of me. I cut some 1– or 2– day old Essential Bakery baguette into roughly 1 inch thick slices, and dipped each slice into some milk, then into some beaten egg. I dusted the slices with some Chinese-style five spice powder, and grilled them in a buttered pan. I served the toast with some medium amber maple syrup and a few slices of banana.

French toast

My Thanksgiving weekend was no weekend… I spent a lot of time doing supermarket demos. I hope they pay off.

Small culinary diversions from a busy Thanksgiving week

jason

A midnight snack

Earlier this week, I had a late night hunger pang, and I wanted something small and simple to nibble on. With some leftover renkon (lotus root) handy, I started cooking the renkon in a bit of butter until slightly golden brown on each side, then I added a splash of soy sauce and the tiniest hint of mirin.

Renkon butter

My first memory eating renkon bataa was about a year and a half ago with some of Hiromi’s friends. The simplicity of the dish may obscure its charm… it’s an excellent shared plate, especially when served with some good cold sake or other favored intoxicant. When made well, you’ll be fighting over the pieces. You might like to add some grated katsuobushi as a garnish. 

I made no plans with my local family for this year’s Thanksgiving, or vice versa, for that matter… the only thing I had planned was a brief supermarket demo at Uwajimaya; I ran my demo until about 4:30 or so, and got home just shy of 5pm.

I conspired with a friend to do a simple dinner close to standard Thanksgiving fare. I made some roasted sweet potatoes gratin, a mushroom-shallot cream sauce baked fresh green bean dish, some beautifully red cooked apples, and a dish of oven-baked dill-garlic mashed potatoes. We also had a mulled spiced apple cider.

Originally I had planned to make some protein-heavy dish for myself, but I somehow distracted myself and never quite got around to it. For me the whole meal was about butter and cream. I prepared gravy for Jennifer, who brought over three brined turkey pieces and one untreated one (needed to produce suitable fats for a gravy).

My camera batteries died unexpectedly when I was trying to photograph yesterday’s dinner. I never got any decent photos before the camera died.

Tonight I had battery power, but a much more basic dinner. I made a little yakisoba and some mapo doufu.

Yakisoba

I tried to cram too much into this week. I really had a difficult time managing everything. I tried to squeeze in demos, pack orders, run down to the airport and pry the new shipment from the slow moving airfreight warehouse, and plow through more insanity than I knew what to do with.

Rushed bread

jason

I’ve been swamped today trying to catch up with orders. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, so I need to knock out a lot of the rest tomorrow or I’ll be in desperate shape.

I was able to pick most of my orders for in-stock things picked but some complications made it impossible to get everything out. I’ve never been this overwhelmed before.

Just after making the ground cutoff for FedEx, I went back home and got a yeast dough started, while I worked on some other things. I really needed a brisk walk to decompress, so stepped out for about 30 minutes. I’m really exhausted, and I really got minimal sleep last night. Right now I’d like to be packing a few more orders to get a jump on tomorrow, but I’m so worn out I’m afraid of making mistakes.

This bread proofed only for about an hour, so it never developed any real flavor or textural complexity, but it formed a nice crust.

Rushed bread

Food-related taboos in Japan

jason

On eGullet an innocent inquiry by a restaurant-savvy Manhattan denizen about disposable chopsticks turned into a lively discussion about Japanese food-related taboos.

Namely, Japanese seem to be resistant to reusing chopsticks, and people are far more comfortable with disposable chopsticks than reusable alternatives (unless they are using their own pair). Chopsticks become strongly associated with the person that uses them. On the eGullet thread, I suggested that the origin of this is in old taboos about touching other peoples’ belongings, and also tied to Shinto rituals related to chopsticks.

Actually, although Japan has a reputation for elaborate ritual, it’s not so difficult to learn basic Japanese dining etiquette. Most of the rules about how to behave when eating are just related to chopstick usage.

You don’t need to worry about the order of utensils to use since there’s usually only one to choose from. You don’t really need to worry about where your left hand is. You don’t even need to worry about the order of what to eat, although it’s more delicate to take a bite of rice, when present, between tastes of different side dishes.

I think you need to worry more about whether you have holes in your socks than the way you eat.

Gourmets may argue about the preferred order to eat certain foods, but it’s not necessary to follow such rules to be polite; it’s sort of like knowing the preferred order to eat cheese in the U.S. or Europe. It might reflect on your sophistication or lack thereof, but doesn’t make you a barbarian.

I have sometimes tended toward nervousness when eating with unfamiliar people in Japan, perhaps from some anxiety that I may do something inappropriate. This is perhaps slightly amusing or occasionally endearing but completely unnecessary. Except for some easy-to-follow rules about manipulating chopsticks, you don’t need to worry much.

Hua juan and yuba-vegetable soup

jason

My favorite steamed Chinese bun is one of the simplest. After proofing a fairly standard, slightly sweetened yeast dough, I massage in a tiny bit of baking powder, which seems to affect elasticity. I roll out the dough as thin as practical, then rub in a liberal amount of roasted sesame seed oil. After that, I usually add nothing more than scallions, but occasionally I add some chili flakes or some sesame seeds according to my whim.

I roll up this sheet tightly, then take a dough cutter to create 1.5”-2” wide sections. I use chopsticks to smash the end of the spiral into the bun, causing the bun to expand out into a flower-like shape. The buns need to be steamed for just about 15 minutes.

Hua Juan: Steamed Flower Rolls

Huajuan

Yuba and vegetable soup with kikurage

Alas, because I never progressed very far when studying Chinese, I only know the Japanese names for most of the ingredients in this Chinese-style soup. Although essentially a simple soup, I used a lot of different vegetables, including onions, celery, garlic, sichuan ja tsai (zasai) pickles, snow cabbage pickles, carrots, napa cabbage, carrots, chilies, and, perhaps atypically, some turnips, and some shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves).

I incorporated some rehydrated yuba (soy milk skins), and dried “tree jellyfish” mushrooms (kikurage in Japanese) some pressed, slightly dried Chinese style tofu.

In order to add an earthy nuance, I seasoned this soup with a moderate amount of sesame oil. I also incorporated a fair amount of black vinegar and, of course, soy sauce and salt. To thicken the soup slightly, I relied on a bit of katakuriko dissolved in liquid.

Huajuan 016-640w

Dinner is served.

Huajuan and yuba vegetable soup

 

Tsuji Ayano

jason

I was pleased to hear a feature on Japanese ukulele player and singer Tsuji Ayano on PRI’s The World. I’ve been listening to her music since around March 2000, when I ran into one of her early full-length albums at a “New Release” listening station in HMV Shibuya. (A Japanese site has some sound clips).

That album was a refreshing change from standard-issue Japanese pop fare, mostly because the production aesthetic was so austere.

Most Japanese musicians are barely distinguishable under the weight of their usually far more famous producers. In contast, Ayano’s work has an infections, unpretentious style, slightly boyish lyrics, and is relatively free of the standard issue self-conscious cuteness endemic among Japanese female vocalists. She has a kind of singer-songwriter style that, while certainly Japanese, would not be shocking on a playlist of contemporary American folk music.

When I first heard her music, I was hooked. Ever since then, I tend to seek out her newer albums whenever I travel to Japan, and I buy them before I even have a chance to listen to them.

The funny thing is that I started listening before most of my Japanese friends had ever heard of her. A year or so after I started listening to her music a friend in Japan told me she had a bit of an ear worm from a song of Ayano’s that had apparently been featured on a TV commercial or movie or something, but apparently the marketing department of her record label took a relatively soft approach to promoting her work.

I wonder if the little mention on The World will build some awareness of her work in the U.S.

I’m not a big fan of Japanese pop music, but Ayano’s work has made me hopeful to find more quality music from Japan.

Mini galettes with chevre and caramelized onions

jason

On a whim, last Friday night I made a savory galette-style cheesecake. I improvised the dough, cutting a bit of clarified butter into flour, adding a bit of mace and salt, then working in a bit of cold water in a well.

I hurriedly caramelized some onions, which is not a process that likes to be rushed, but it worked out reasonably well. I mixed soft chevre, cream cheese and sour cream together, beat in an egg, adjusted salt, and filled a large round of dough; I baked the cheesecakes until the filling set, and served warm.

Tonight I took advantage of a bit of leftover dough and filling, and made a smaller version to go with yesterday’s borscht.

Savory mini galette cheesecakes

Mini Galette

 

Full of borscht

jason

As winter approaches, I like to get back to my roots and tubers. (Insert groan here.)

Borscht is a colorful way of incorporating several earthy fall and winter vegetables in one simple, comforting dish.

It doesn’t take much: tonight’s borscht involved onions, celery, turnips, potatoes, beets, cabbage and carrots. After sweating the vegetables a bit with salt, I add soup stock and simmer until the beets are tender.

Borscht, plated with sour cream

Borscht

When I did my Bellevue demo today, I was pleased to see that most of the big boxes of dragon beard candy I delivered on Friday had already disappeared. I hadn’t expected that. I’m guessing that someone was waiting for the new shipment and bought several boxes, but of course there’s no way to know.

A long time since Portland

jason

I haven’t made it down to the Beaverton Uwajimaya for a while, so it was a good thing I finally made it down there.

I got a late start due to a bunch of things that I needed to prepare this morning, and I had so much merchandising and preparatory work to do when I was there that I took more time than usual to get set up, and in fact I wasn’t ready to go until just before a fairly substantial foot traffic rush started to subside.

This could be considered a problem, but in fact I’m never quite sure whether heavy or moderate foot traffic is better for me, because I tend to convert more customers when people come in small, sporadic waves than when I have dozens of people pressing by, grabbing samples and moving on before I have a chance to explain products to them.

This weekend I’m back into full demo mode; I will be at the Bellevue Uwajimaya in the afternoon tomorrow.

My dragon beard candy shipment is very tight right now. Including intended deliveries, I think I have just about 2 small gift boxes left, and maybe about 18–22 larger gift boxes. I still have a moderate amount of a new style of packaging left (a tea and candy gift set), and enough of the 3 pc samplers to meet anticipated needs, but I’m going to have to reorder this week.

I had a bit of a run on the candy this week that I didn’t expect. I am torn because it’s too soon to order again for most of my wholesale customers, but stock is inadequate to cover near-term demand. Hopefully I can make things work somehow.

Toasted baguette with champignons

jason

As a starving student in Marburg, Germany, I used to eye a couple of shops that apparently specialized in baked baguettes, quite often with Camembert or Brie, and some vegetable, mushroom or meat. The concept was as simple as it was seductive.

But in fact, I never made it inside the place… most of the time, it wasn’t even open as I passed by. It was on my way to university, but not terribly convenient to trek back to during lunchtime, and in fact, except for the occasional incredibly cheap Turkish Imbiss food or 5 Mark wood-fired pizza special at an otherwise unexciting Italian restaurant, I rarely indulged in eating out.

Of course, it was so easy to recreate such pleasures in my dormitory kitchen, and at the time, I couldn’t convince myself to pay for something that I could just as easily make at home. I had far more time than money.

Now I can’t say I have a lot of time or money, but conveniently, this worked out to be a quick and frugal meal.

Champignon baguette with Brie

Baguette with champignons

I buttered some second-day Le Fournil bread and added some chopped garlic. I sauteed some shallots in butter until slightly browned, then sweated button mushrooms with some thyme. I added a splash of wine. The baguette is stuffed with the mushrooms, and I covered it with a bit of soft chevre and a young Brie. Upon serving, I ground some pepper and sprinkled a hint of truffle salt atop the sandwich.

Kurikinton

jason

I was mostly in rush-everywhere-mode today, going from customer to customer and errand to errand. I got a fair amount done but I’m still behind on a couple of things.

Actually, until tonight, I didn’t even get around to sending out shipping notifications for the large number of internet orders I sent out on Monday and Tuesday.

I never ate a proper dinner. I just nibbled on good bread from Le Fournil and dug in to some Brie. If I had been doing this on a park bench or at the dinner table, that would have been perfectly respectable, but actually I was mostly eating it while underway this evening, between tasks.

I got a bit hungry late tonight but I remembered I have some kuri-kinton, or sweet potato puree with chestnuts, that I made a few days ago.

Kuri-kinton is one of the humblest of Japanese confections. You won’t find a lot of middle-aged Japanese mothers who make the kinds of sweets that appear at fancy wagashi-ya-san, even if it’s as simple to replicate as dorayaki. Daifuku (usually ambiguously referred to as “mochi” in the U.S.) are rarely made at home except for special events. But a fair number of people are willing to attempt kuri-kinton.

I have attempted to make daifuku at a nursery school in Japan that a friend’s family managed. This was about 7 years ago, and my Japanese was even worse at that time. The teacher gently scolded me for making them inadeqately elegantly; the 4 year olds had more experience and seemed to understand the instructions on kneading the dough better than I did, and they managed to massage out any hint of seams in the bottom.

Homemade Kuri-Kinton

Kurikinton

Kuri-kinton, however, requires no such attention to detail. Boil some Japanese-style sweet potatoes, peeled and in pieces, until fork tender. Drain. Add a fair amount of sugar to taste, and optionally, a splash of mirin; I recommend adding a pinch of salt to add some richness. Smash with a fork or potato masher while still quite hot (about 160F sounds good to me).

When you have a nice, smooth paste, you will then incorporate some chestnuts. For convenience, canned or jarred chestnuts preserved in syrup work well; the syrup should be drained, and may used in something else if you so desire. Otherwise, you’re welcome to attempt to make them from scratch by boiling in your own syrup; this requires very careful peeling, and even with my nifty Japanese chestnut peeler I rarely quite get that right. I’ll save the chestnut peeling for roasted chestnuts or things that require a less sweet starting point.

You can serve the kuri-kinton warm, but it’s more typically served at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Kurikinton requires no artfulness in presentation and can simply be spooned onto a plate. If you feel so inclined, however, you may shape the kurikinton into little balls or other shapes. I chose to highlight one chestnut in the center.

 Serve with some good Japanese tea.

Receiving, packing, shipping, delivering, election night

jason

My dragon beard candy shipment finally made it in this afternoon, just at the end of the scheduled delivery window. I got to furiously packing a couple of express shipments, and some other behind-schedule dragon beard candy orders. I just barely made the cutoff time for Express, and I just barely made the cutoff time for Ground.

I then headed home to grab materials related to the election. I needed to remind myself how I planned to vote.

The polling place for my precinct seems to have changed at the last minute. I got a new voter registration card just yesterday. I was surprised about such late notice, although it’s possible that the last card that I got also noted this change. My previous polling place was just 2 blocks away, but the new location is about 8 blocks away.

After voting, I made another delivery, and met up with a friend to join in some election night gatherings. Nick Licata as an incumbent had some of the best results of the night, with 76.52% of the votes (99.6% reporting). We had some nibbles at the Mirabeau room, and then moved on to some other events at the Westin.

I’m a little tired. Tomorrow I’ve got an incredibly busy day ahead as I need to handle some big internet orders and distribute various wholesale orders.

A wasted trip

jason

My dragon beard candy order cruised through customs and FDA clearance today, which is a relief after a series of messy problems on the Hong Kong side.

The freight vendor told me everything was ready to pick up at the airport, so I went down to the cargo facility to pick it up. I’ve been to this location before; the same airline as usual transported the shipment, but the logistics vendor was different.

Apparently, the warehouse hadn’t properly understood instructions to break down the consolidated shipment, so it wasn’t ready after all. They also said the shipment couldn’t be broken down until tomorrow because they were busy preparing a large outbound shipment. I wasn’t very happy.

Basically, this meant my entire trek to the airport, during peak traffic hours, was pointless.

Fortunately, the logistics provider’s sales representative had planned to meet me at this warehouse, and he tried to straighten things out there. He couldn’t, however, get them to budge. So he volunteered to have his company pay for trucking to my office in Fremont.

Oddly enough, in spite of the hiccups on this shipment, this freight vendor has provided some of the best service I’ve encountered so far. They’ve been fairly hands on helping my vendor prepare documents for the shipment, and they are the only freight company to actually come meet me in my office, and probably the only logistics company to offer anything as compensation for an error.

Of course, this final complication means my schedule will be messy tomorrow, so it may not help me all that much.

Yudoufu

jason

After stopping in Ballard briefly I went to my office to work on a long outstanding, slightly complicated project, and it kept me there a little late. I started to get fairly hungry, because both breakfast and lunch were quite minimal.

I had a simple dinner in mind.

During wintertime in Japan, nabe-ryouri (most clearly translated as hot pot cuisine or one-pot meals) is a preferred way of warming up at dinnertime. It’s a communal kind of meal, and generally involves multiple additions of various ingredients. In a restaurant, however, sometimes everything is placed in the pot before bringing it to the table. It’s typically heated on a small portable gas stove or a small induction cooktop at the table.

Kinoko-iri Yudoufu

Yudoufu 027-640w

Yudoufu is perhaps the most assari of nabe meals. It’s light flavored, sometimes consisting of no more than some dried konbu (giant kelp) and fresh, chopped tofu. It is generally served with a sappari, or refreshing, dipping sauce, like ponzu.

Yudoufu must feature tofu, but a number of additions are quite typical. Hakusai, or napa cabbage, is a natural, and contributes a bit of a broth. I frequently include shiitake mushrooms and occasionally the thin, long enoki. For tonight’s version, I didn’t use enoki, but I did come across another good deal on chanterelles, which were cheaper than my shiitake. They provided a kind of earthiness that I don’t usually experience with yudoufu in Japan.

Other nabe might contain chicken, lighter-tasting shellfish such as hotate (scallops), and in some cases, the occasional crab or lobster. Heavier, meaty nabe are also popular. After the raw ingredients are exhausted in these stronger-tasting nabe dishes, many families will add cooked rice to make zousui, or rice porridge.

Yuzu ponzu

Hidden in my freezer is a small, slightly freezer-burned stash of grated yuzu peel. I owe this treasure to ceramic artist Minowa Yasuo, who acquired several for me from a conveniently located neighbor last fall in Mashiko, Japan. My remaining stash still seems to have a fair amount of the incomparable aroma of this citrus fruit.

To make the dipping sauce, yuzu zest is indispensible. Because of its power, I don’t really need complicated seasonings: Japanese soy sauce, a little citrus juice (I used yuzu juice also), and the yuzu peel make an aromatic, refreshing foil for the mild tasting yudoufu ingredients. Some people add might add shichimi.

Yudoufu 044-640w

 

Oyaki

jason

Roadside dining options in the United States tend to depress me. I usually end up at burger-and-shake stops looking for a token veggie burger or a milkshake, or at some poor satire of a Mexican restaurant serving things made with canned black olives, reconstituted refried beans, salsa from foodservice jars or ketchup-like portion packs, and piles of yellow Cheddar cheese.

In Japan, the toll highway system creates a captive audience for restaurants at various highway turnouts, much like spiffed up highway rest stops. Most of these places have one or two full service family-style restaurants, a cafeteria-style quick service option that usually includes ramen, soba or udon as options, and then, most importantly, little yatai-style vendors at the front of these facilities selling tai-yaki (fish-shaped, generally bean paste stuffed, waffles), mitarashi-dango or various things on sticks.

In all fairness, the quality of cuisine at highway “service areas” in Japan is not much better than the US; it’s sometimes equally artificial, full of stale flavor-enhanced instant katsuo-dashi, mostly prepared in advance by foodservice manufacturers. However, the options are a little more diverse. And those yatai in front of these facilities often offer comforting snacks that I sometimes actively crave.

A few years ago, I finally discovered my roadside snack of choice. Atypically for Japan, they are quite often vegetarian; some of them even eschew the ubiquitous katsuo-dashi flavor base. They are not fancy, and are not usually particularly inspired flavors, but are somehow comforting. They are quite filling and usually reasonably inexpensive.

Oyaki cooking in a cast-iron pan

Oyaki on the pan

Oyaki can be considered a simpler form of Chinese stuffed buns (baozi, called humbow in Cantonese, nikuman or anman in Japanese), but unlike baozi, the dough is not made with yeast. They are a little more like certain types of stuffed pancakes (turnip cakes, sesame cakes, etc) only with an even less elaborate dough-making technique. In fact, there’s little to this dough; it’s just a sticky dough of flour and warm water, maybe with a bit of salt. No yeast, no baking powder, and minimal waiting.

Unlike baozi, oyaki are typically grilled on a cast-iron pan, ideally over an open fire. At an indoor “service area” stall, they will be cooked on a gas burner. Some recipes actually have them steamed, but this seems to defeat the concept of “oyaki”; steaming could help them cook more evenly, if they are finished on the grill.

My favorite filling is probably kabocha, which is just an absolute carbohydrate-loading feast. But I also like the classic nozawa-na (turnip greens) version. Alas, after my recent jiaozi-making adventure, I had a bit of a mismatch between the amount of my mustard greens filling and my skins, so I decided to use the remaining filling for my oyaki. I also remembered I had a small stash of turnips in my refrigerator, and some spring onions, and so I grated a turnip with a nifty micro-plane until it was the texture of oroshi-daikon or nagaimo. I seasoned the mix with a bit of miso and soy sauce.

I made a dough in the same way as noodles: I placed a bit of flour in a bowl, and made a well in the flour and filled it with some warm water; in this case, I added a pinch of salt. I kneaded the dough until it was cooperative: sticky and mostly smooth. Ideally, it should rest a bit, but I quickly went ahead and divided my dough with a dough cutter, and rolled the dough very thin.

Plated Karashi-na to kabu no oyaki

Plated oyaki

I am not particularly skilled in the art of making oyaki. I filled each round of dough and brought the ends together, twisting them and then pressed as close to flat as possible. Little to no oil is required; they just need to be added to a hot, heavy pan on a medium flame. They are cooked for a few minutes on each side, and the process of flipping and cooking is continued until the dough looks cooked and then browned.

It seems that one or two of them suffered from minor structural flaws, which resulted in tiny eruptions. I think a pinprick on the side of each oyaki would help release steam.

Shipping woes, mustard greens jiaozi

jason

I have been frustrated for the last few days with some shipping issues… it reminds me of my very first dragon beard candy shipment, when the competence to book the cargo seemed to fail my shipping vendor, which at that time was Yamato transport.

This time was more of a comedy of errors and miscommunications: between my supplier and myself, between my supplier and a new freight company, and between that freight company and me. I didn’t always know when some problem was still unresolved because of some slow responses.

Fortunately, these appear to be resolved and the shipment is supposed to be on its way. Aside from irritating my customers, the only big remaining risk is the usual risk of customs clearance and FDA delays. If I’m lucky, everything will be ready by Monday, but if I’m not, it could take another 4 days of “fax and wait.”

In the meantime, dinner has been uninspired. Most of the week I made things that I’ve recently cooked variations of. Tonight was my first stroke of creative energy.

I like the tangy bite of mustard greens. They don’t require a lot of intervention; on most occasions I just cook them with a little olive oil and a splash of vinegar, salted to taste. Because such simple preparations work so well, I rarely push the envelope with mustard greens, but I wanted to do something more.

I massaged a bit of coarse salt into the leaves, let them sit a bit, and rinsed them. This technique hinders further shrinkage of the greens after cooking, which was important because I was turning them into a stuffing. I chopped the leaves fairly finely, and did the same thing with some mung bean sprouts. Afterward, I added some momen tofu (momen-doufu), some grated ginger, and some salt.

Karashina-tofu

Karashi-na Gyouza

I turned the filling into gyoza, or potstickers. I used my big, not terribly evenly-heating cast-iron pan. After cooking them in oil on two sides, I added some katakuriko mixed with water and covered the pan for several minutes, which contributes a nice crispiness and some aesthetic advantages.

Karashina gyoza

Mustard greens mellow out quite a bit in such an application, but contribute a nice pungency… next time I might sneak a bit of vinegar into the dumplings. I was hesitant to do so because I remember so many of my least favorite dumpling-eating experiences in Beijing were sour… but it might work well here.