Discover Oishii Tasting Event: Wakame salad

April 21, 2009 in Japanese, product, review

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

(Amazing Wakame Salad)

Time has really gotten away from me these past weeks so this post is just too long in the coming!
Back on March 16th I visited the International Boston Seafood Show (3rd year in a row!) and was fortunate to be able to attend an evening of meeting the fantastic people representing the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and eating simply delicious samples of Japanese food. I got to meet Sues from “We are not Martha” again (met her at the BlogHer event in Burington, MA) and got to share part of the evening with her. You can read her account of the event at her post “Japan Pavilion Tasting Event ” at “We are not Martha“.

This is an event that the ministry is vigorously promoting – Oishii Japan. I was given a few delightful minutes to chat with, via interpreter, the Deputy Director of the International Trade and Tariff Team in the International Affairs department of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Masashi Itoh.

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

He was very kind to give us the time he did and he was very patient with our many questions about their efforts, Japanese food, and cultural things like the proper way of handing one another their business card.

The take home message that I really appreciated was that Japanese food is about more than just sushi (it really is!) and that the Japanese government is interested in promoting the exquisite quality and breadth of variety that typifies their food and cuisine.

I would give hen’s teeth to be a food blogger in Japan, exploring the ancient as well as new cuisines that Japan has evolved.

There was a great variety of samples provided that included salmon, hamachi yellowfin tuna from Dainishi company, wasabi avocado by Kinjirushi, delicate crab, unagi, salmon roe by the Nomura Trading Company, and a resplendent wakame salad from The Marine Foods Corporation.

Here are a couple shots of the crab dish. A fellow photographer who was competing with me all night to shoot things decided she needed a shot of me eating this crab morsel. Somewhere out there in the Japanese web-o-sphere is a cheesy image of me scarfing this down. Hope I never run across it!

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Here are a couple of shots of the wakame salad that I could NOT get enough of. It has this plump crispiness when you bit into it, the flavors (sesame, wakame, other more mysterious aspects) explode in your mouth. It was fantastically refreshing.

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

They shared delightful unagi.

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

We had this composite fish ball sort of food that is really quite delicious. This is something that is common in asian cuisine but we do not tend to find it here as part of the Japanese restaurant food cuisine.

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Hamachi teriaki (yellowfin tuna)

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Sashimi yellowfin

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Salmon roe

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

It was a delicious (did I say that before?) and entertaining evening. I look forward to possibly attending again next year!

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

Japanese Ministry Oishii Tasting 2009

As with any event relating to Japanese customs, they provided us with gifts, including this cute shrimp sushi pen!

Oishii gift - shrimp sushi pen

Oishii gift - shrimp sushi pen

Kaji Aso Studio Japan Festival 2007 – Boston May 6th

April 29, 2007 in Japanese, Japanese Tea Ceremony, Local Food, Tea

Kaji Aso wild boar painting

(“Wild Boar” by [tag]Kaji Aso[/tag] 1995, Courtesy of the [tag]Kaji Aso Studio[/tag])

(Learn more about Mr. Kaji Aso!)

You long time readers might remember that my oldest daughter and I have been learning about the [tag]Japanese Tea Ceremony[/tag]. We have attended a couple of 2 hour long tea ceremonies at the Kaji Aso Studio “[tag]House of Flower Wind[/tag]” [tag]Tea House[/tag] in the [tag]Symphony[/tag] area of [tag]Boston[/tag], MA.

I have taken various photos there and can share them here with a very strong recommendation that you find a chance some time to book a Sunday afternoon tea ceremony appointment. Be sure to learn some about it before you go. This page at the [tag]Kaji[/tag] [tag]Aso[/tag] Studio has information on their Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The Kaji Aso Studio also puts on a yearly [tag]Japan Festival[/tag] (details below) that is absolutely worth your time if you enjoy anything about [tag]Japanese[/tag] culture and wish to meet very talented and infinitely welcoming people. You will get a chance to mingle with other [tag]Japan[/tag]-o-philes, visiting Japanese, view [tag]ikebana[/tag] classes, tour the Flower Wind tea house, eat [tag]sushi[/tag], learn some haiku, hear some delicate and extraordinary music, and enjoy a delightful play written by the late Kaji Aso.

When we last went, Mr. Aso was still alive and we got to hear him sing [tag]opera[/tag], do sumi-e painting (I have some on my wall), and enjoy his gentle, quiet but joyful self. We still are sad at his passing.

Please take some time to attend the Japan Festival! We might see you there, let us know if you plan on attending. Let Kate know that I sent you.

Sunday, May 6, 2-7 pm
Admission- $10, Students & Seniors $5

Kaji Aso Studio
40 St. Stephen Street
Boston, MA

2:00-2:40 – [tag]Origami[/tag] Workshop
2:50-3:30 – Ikebana Demonstration (Flower Arranging), [tag]Tomoko Tanaka[/tag]
3:40-4:20 – Demonstration of [tag]Calligraphy[/tag] – Kate Finnegan
4:30-5:15 – Traditional Music – [tag]Sumie Kaneko[/tag]
5:25-5:45 – Haiku and Renga reading by [tag]Boston Haiku Society[/tag]
5:45-6:00 – Kaji Aso Studio [tag]International Haiku Contest[/tag] Award Ceremony Supported in part by the [tag]Consulate General of Japan[/tag] in Boston
6:00-7:00 – Theater Performance “[tag]Thunder God[/tag]” – Written by Kaji Aso

Also from 2-6 pm

  • Tours of Tea House and Taste of Tea $5
  • Exhibition of Calligraphy and Sumi Painting
  • [tag]Ceramics[/tag] and Gift Items- Priced Individually
  • [tag]Maki Sushi[/tag] and [tag]Inari Sushi[/tag] á la carte -$5 to $8

Information: 617- 247-1719

At Kaji Aso’s 2006 funeral at the Massachusetts State House Rotunda, we were all humbled and silenced by a haiku he wrote on the occasion of his passing and for us to remember him by.

“young boy

dreaming of catching rainbow

he became rainbow”

– Kaji Aso 2006

Related Posts:

Pre-Diabetes and low glycemic cooking

April 18, 2007 in chicken, diabetes, Food Porn, ingredient, Japanese, low glycemic index, product, recipe

Bhutanese red rice onigiri with tofu and split peas

([tag]Bhutanese[/tag] [tag]red rice[/tag] [tag]onigiri[/tag] with [tag]tofu[/tag] and [tag]split pea[/tag] puree, [tag]recipe[/tag] towards the end of this post)

Today’s post is going to have multiple personalities. I am going to cover three main topics:

  • [tag]Low Glycemic Cooking[/tag] and why I care
  • A recipe for the Bhutanese red rice onigiri you see above
  • A how-to on making onigiri with my new [tag]gadget[/tag] – an onigiri form

Low Glycemic cooking and why I care

As a general rule, I respect everyone’s right to their own eating styles. I care that people eat the way they need to and I am no one to nit-pick others for that. My story that follows is like many of you. I can not say I have any answers and I am not an expert. I am sharing this story so that you can understand how I got into my current predicament – I am [tag]pre-diabetic[/tag], according to my [tag]doctor[/tag].

Like most of the over-developed world, I have had to [tag]diet[/tag] from an early age. Even though I swam 4 miles a day for two different swim teams, I still had to watch what I ate. When I decided that the swimming was more than I could bear anymore I decided to quit at the end of freshman year (4:30 am every day for the State National team and after school every day for the high school team, I never stopped smelling of chlorine and my hair was blond at it’s tips – I have blue black hair mind you).

Then, the weight FLEW on my body. At the tender age of 16 I was on [tag]Nutri/System[/tag]. I lost 50 lbs and was down to 117 lbs (was 5’5″, have shrunk since then). I was sort of happy but my body wasn’t. When I went back to school that fall, I went back to regular food and the [tag]weight[/tag] came back. Over the many years since, I have done Nutri/System many times, [tag]Weight Watchers[/tag] many times, all the while, killing my [tag]metabolism[/tag]. The only times when I maintained a loss after these diets was when I was working out excessively, running 3 miles a day and barely eating. In more recent times, I have tried the [tag]Atkins[/tag] diet (I saw my grandma try it back in the early 80s with some success) and it worked but it was [tag]unsustainable[/tag]. After a while, you can honestly get sick and tired of butter, bacon, steak, eggs, essentially any high protein food. The worst thing about the [tag]low carb[/tag] high protein diet is the imbalance in something about one’s hydration (must be the ketosis) such that when one goes off of this diet, the weight (both water and fat) comes back quickly and with a depressing vengeance.

This has always seemed unfair to me because my dad and my little sister literally eat what ever they wish (or wished, my dad has passed away) and never get or got fat. So within my own family, there is the object lesson that if one’s body is [tag]genetically predisposed[/tag] to accumulate fat, IT WILL.

In recent times, I have had to make peace with my body and not let the fat twist my entire self-worth. That is a very hard process and I would not say I had complete success. Doing this food blog and also, especially, doing the [tag]food photography[/tag] has helped me in ways that may not be intuitive. When I do food photography (and the cooking for it), I am not eating the food and I am not craving it. (I have never been obsessive about eating food nor binged on it so I do not have that dynamic) When I am cooking, styling, and shooting, I appreciate the food as an art form, as shapes, composition, as artistic statement, as cultural statement, as a sharing of my identity or my process of discovery. Same thing with the writing. I can not help writing about food the way I do because my curiosity leads me to ask questions and learn, just for the sake of learning. This is a bit of overflow from the fact that we homeschool and life is about learning.

insulin hexamer

([tag]Insulin[/tag] hexamer: Wikipedia source – public domain)

All of this is fine and dandy but my doctor recently witnessed one of my [tag]hypoglycemic[/tag] episodes (have had them all my life, thin or fat), tested my [tag]blood sugar[/tag] which was fine, and so he sent out blood tests for something called the [tag]HbA1c test[/tag] ([tag]hemoglobin[/tag] [tag]A1c[/tag] [tag]test[/tag] or hemoglobin [tag]glycosylation[/tag] – an [tag]assay[/tag] that determines the amount of [tag]sugar[/tag]s that have been stuck on the hemoglobin molecules.. this is indicative of the levels of sugar in one’s [tag]blood[/tag] over a few months). The following is a down to earth description of this assay.

“Sugar in the bloodstream can become attached to the hemoglobin (the part of the cell that carries oxygen) in [tag]red blood cell[/tag]s. This process is called glycosylation (pronounced gli-kos-a-lay’-shen). Once the sugar is attached, it stays there for the life of the red blood cell, which is about 120 days. The higher the level of blood sugar, the more sugar attaches to red blood cells. The hemoglobin A1c test measures the amount of sugar sticking to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Results are given in percentages.” Diabetes Tool Box

For those of you who are more scientifically oriented, try this abstract:

“Glucose reacts nonenzymatically with the NH2-terminal amino acid of the beta chain of human hemoglobin by way of a ketoamine linkage, resulting in the formation of hemoglobin AIc. Other minor components appear to be adducts of glucose 6-phosphate and fructose 1,6-diphosphate. These hemoglobin s are formed slowly and continuously throughout the 120-day life-span of the red cell. There is a two- to threefold increase in hemoglobin AIc in the red cells of patients with diabetes mellitus. By providing an integrated measurement of blood glucose, hemoglobin AIc is useful in assessing the degree of diabetic control. Furthermore, this hemoglobin is a useful model of nonenzymatic glycosylation of other proteins that may be involved in the long-term complications of the disease.” The glycosylation of hemoglobin: relevance to diabetes mellitus. HF Bunn, KH Gabbay, and PM Gallop. Science 1978: 200(4337):21 – 27.

Mine came back 6.2, which seems to indicate pre-diabetes and a cause of concern for my doc. I can tell you that I have figured I was [tag]pre-diabetic[/tag] for a long time but every time I asked for tests, they came back negative (they never gave me the glycosylation test before). My doc has told me that I have three months to control the blood sugars and if I do not, I will have to go on meds. I have a natural dislike for meds so it was not good news!

I know that [tag]diabetes[/tag] is absolutely nothing to mess around with and I want to reverse this pre-diabetic thing with whole foods and moderate exercise. Let me tell you though, when you start looking at what is recommended for the diabetic diet you find one commonality: there is NO [tag]consensus[/tag]. I also found that diet recommendations for diabetes and pre-diabetes seems to be a dumping ground for ALL of the vague advice, all that stuff you have heard over the years and found didn’t work for you. Things like: Eat food X because so and so study says to! Yikes. Things like: eat only low fat foods, eat only fish, eat TONS of [tag]omega-3[/tag]s, eat no fish, eat no carbs, eat only a few carbs, eat .. yadda yadda yadda.

Excuse me, but I am getting flash backs and they are not fun ones. I despair at the mediocrity and vagueness of the diet recommendations one finds for this condition. Its all a recipe for unsustainablity. Food is inherently associated with the desire to become satiated, even if it is through food porn.

If my life is on the line, I want something more than the flavor-of-the day [tag]diet recommendation[/tag]s.

I want some metrics.

This is where the low glycemic cooking comes in. I am going to explain this quickly because I have already yammered on WAY too long.


(Glucose: Wikipedia source – public domain)

The word “[tag]glycemic[/tag]” in “[tag]glycemic index[/tag]” comes from the word glucose, which you may know is sugar. A glycemic index is a measure of sugar. In this case, its the measure of sugars released into the bloodstream after the ingestion of a certain food. To determine a glycemic index, they have people drink a solution of 50 gm of glucose in water and then, after a certain period of time, they pull blood and test the sugar content of the blood. They set this value to an arbitrary 100. It is the index against which other foods are compared. To determine the GI of a food, like white bread, they gather a group of test subjects (people) who eat a slice of bread and then get the blood tested. They average the results (each person has their own unique food processing profile but we tend to have similar ones, within some sort of predictable range of variability) and then set the GI for white bread according to the results (its 70 for [tag]white bread[/tag] produced in the US). They have tested 500 foods so far (its very expensive), tho you may come across foods in the store that claims to have a GI, it is likely not tested in humans but calculated predicated on the types of ingredients it has. Thats the rub, foods may be predicted to have a certain GI but the body may do something completely different with it.

Case in point would be white rice, sticky jasmine especially, which has a GI higher than glucose. This is because this rice is almost pure starch and starch, when it hits our bodies, is almost instantly broken down and dumped into our blood as sugars (there are enzymes in your saliva, namely amyloses, which start the process the moment you put the rice in your mouth). The sugars in the glucose solution are somewhat slower to pass into the bloodstream.

When you eat something with a high GI, like that rice in [tag]sushi[/tag] or similar starchy foods, almost the entirety of that mass of starch goes into your blood like a race car, as a bolus in medical speak. You might as well inject several milliliters of sugar straight into your veins. Why is this a problem? Your body as not evolved to handle huge boluses of sugar. It “scrambles” to pull the sugar out (insulin is the messenger to the cells to let the sugar inside) because high sugar in the blood is “toxic” to the vessel walls, causing damage over time. When this happens and the body has put out insulin enough to deal with this sugar overload, it overshoots and then blood sugars drop. Low blood sugar is bad news too because the one organ in your body that is a sugar-freak is your brain. Low blood sugar equals stress to the brain and even [tag]coma[/tag] and [tag]death[/tag].

The key to a healthy body and a healthy life lies in one huge word – BALANCE.

Eating [tag]high GI[/tag] foods pushes your system out of balance. Over time, with a diet consistent in sugar [tag]bolus[/tag]es, your insulin response becomes impaired and you develop pre-diabetes and then diabetes and then your systems begin to fail.

I am going to begin to integrate low GI cooking into my family’s diet. We all need to lose weight too so the diet will also tend towards less fat but I do not want to be a fat nazi. I also do not want to be the food nazi either. I want the family to enjoy the food while also, hopefully, appreciate trying new foods and in the end, lose some weight.

If you are interested in doing this there are several things to do: learn about GI, learn about the GI rankings of your favorite foods, access your diet, find a way to do some [tag]exercise[/tag] every day (walking lowers your blood sugar, another tool in your management of sugar-rich living).


I went to Amazon and got these two books below, there are MANY others. You will have to decide whats right for you. In the future, I am going to try to give lists of relevant blogs, for your educational pleasure.

There is A LOT more to learn, especially about glycemic loads and how protein rich foods have high GIs. Read and read some more.

GI ranking:

The authors of the GI book above also have a fantastic website that will help you understand GI but also to find your favorite foods (if tested) in their GI database.

Diet tracking:

If you are so inclined, you can track your food intake and calorie expenditure over time at various websites. The only one I have experience with is Fit Day.

I wish you all the luck if you too are having to deal with this. Its a process, it can be depressing, it can be overwhelming but it can not be ignored.

Bhutanese red rice onigiri with tofu and split peas

Recipe: Bhutanese red rice onigiri with tofu and split pea puree

In our family, we eat potatoes (high GI) only rarely. We tend to eat rice as our starch. The problem with that is that white rice (sticky is my all time favorite) is very bad when it comes to GI. To keep rice in our diet, an easy peasy starch, I am going to introduce rices that are lower GI. This would include brown rice, red rice, and wild rice. It also means introducing rice-like alternatives like pearl barley and bulgar wheat.


(The Rice Plant: Wikipedia source – public domain)

The GI rankings for several types of rices (and alternatives) are:

  • Jasmine rice, made in rice cooker 109
  • White rice, boiled 45
  • Brown rice, steamed 50
  • Red rice 59
  • Wild rice 54
  • Pearl barley, boiled 35
  • Bulgar wheat 47

I picked up some Bhutanese red rice (produced by Lotus Foods) recently and wanted to test it in a recipe where I would have normally used sticky jasmine rice.

Bhutanese red rice is:

“An ancient colored-bran short-grain rice grown 8,000 feet in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Irrigated with 1,000 year old glacier water rich in trace minerals, this exotic rice has a nutty/earthy flavor, soft texture and beautiful red russet color.” SOURCE

Lotus Foods has lots of very interesting wholesome products as well.

Visit the Lotus Foods site for more information.

I decided to make onigiri, a Japanese food that is essentially a ball of rice with one’s favorite bits added to it. Often, it is wrapped with nori but I didn’t have any on hand so I used, as a substitute, the Vietnamese rice paper used to make spring rolls (spring roll wrappers).

I also served tofu (essentially zero GI) and a split pea puree (25 GI) to increase the green and protein.


  • 1 C Lotus Foods Bhutanese red rice
  • 3 C cold water
  • sea salt, pinch
  • 1 spring roll wrapper
  • basil leaf, sliced into ribbons
  • black and white sesame seeds
  • Roasted chicken slices, about an ounce
  • extra firm tofu, cubed
  • olive oil to saute
  • minced ginger
  • minced garlic
  • sea salt, pinch
  • 1 C green split peas
  • 4 C cold chicken stock
  • sea salt, pinch


In a heavy stock pot put 1 C red rice and 3 C cold water, bring to a boil. Cover rice and put on low for about 1 hour. This will cook it longer than the package directions so that the grains pop a bit and the rice is easier to form later. When done, uncover, fluff, and allow to cool.

At the same time, put 1 C dried split peas in 4 C cold chicken stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer on low (loose cover) for about an hour. You may need to remove some of the liquid toward the end to make the puree your desired thickness. Keep warm but covered.

Once rice is cooked, spoon some into an onigiri form, leaving some room for the chicken slices in the middle. I have some pictures of the onigiri form below.

This type comes in two halves and this one makes two onigiri at the same time.

Onigiri form

The top is pushed down over the rice, compressing it into the cake like shape desired.

Onigiri form

The bottom half of this form has some little openings that you can use to push the onigiri out.

Onigiri form

Using this mold transforms onigiri construction into a dream. To see how you make onigiri by hand visit this site – How to make onigiri.

Because I did not have the nori to wrap the onigiri, I improvised and added a strip of hydrated spring roll wrapper around it. This isn’t necessary but I wanted to approximate it. I trapped some basil leaf ribbons and black sesame seeds between the wrapper strips and the rice.

Wrap your tofu block in some paper towels and press with something heavy to remove some of the water it comes packed in. Cube the tofu and cook as you like. The way I like is with some oil (sesame or olive oil or both), some garlic, ginger, and some onions. I saute to get some tan color and then add some soy sauce. I simmer the tofu a bit longer and then serve warm.

Serve as desired and enjoy!

Bhutanese red rice onigiri with tofu and split peas

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Wash your mouth out with soap

March 28, 2007 in Fish, Food Porn, Japanese, Off Topic, product, seafood

sushi soap

I found these really cute sushi soaps at The Paper Source and thought I would share.

One day, I spent a couple of hours driving around looking for some guest soaps for the bathroom and find NONE! I was so darn frustrated.

With these soaps you can satisfy the need to spiffy up the bathroom for yourself or guests and have a bit of fun while your at it.

This is a link to the sushi soap page at The Paper Source sit, where it says:

Yum, we love this keen sushi soap. They even come with kamaboko and wasabi soap. Scent free, these glycerine soaps are naturally moisturizing so they won’t dry your skin out and, no animal testing is involved. They make such a wonderful thank you for a hostess and a clever welcome gift for any visitors who drop by. So realistic you could just eat them up, but don’t do it!

Includes one of each soap:

I also really like their tag line, “Do something creative every day.” I think it would be nice to be able to do that but, like many ideals, it is not a trivial task!

[Note: I get nothing if you click these links, this is all just for fun!]