Two Americans with a love for Japanese food, Allison Day and Rachael Hutchings bring you Miso Hungry, a podcast all about Japanese food.
Allison is half Japanese and grew up with Japanese-American food; Rachael spent several years living in Japan and fell in love with their food and culture. Together, they work to make Japanese food familiar and accessible to everyone.
Episode 31: Tsukimi, the Moon Viewing Festival
Tsukimi or Otsukimi (月見)literally means "moon-viewing," and refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The days for the celebration of the full moon and the celebration of the waxing moon normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar.
The tradition is thought to date back to the Heian era (794—1185) when Japanese aristocrats would gather to recite poetry under the full moon of the 8th month of the lunisolar calendar, known as the “Mid-Autumn Moon.” Since ancient times, Japanese people have described the 8th lunisolar month (corresponding to September on our calendar) as the best time for looking at the moon, since the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon cause the moon to appear especially bright.
On the evening of the full moon, it is traditional to gather in a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate with Japanese pampas grass (susuki), and serve tsukimi ryori, etc., plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest.
There are specific terms in Japanese to refer to occasions when the moon is not visible on the traditional mid-autumn evening, including Mugetsu (literally “no-moon”) and Ugetsu (“rain moon”). Even when the moon isn’t visible, though, Tsukimi parties are held.
White rice dumplings called tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. The dumplings were traditionally thought to bring happiness and good health, and the offering is not only for the moon’s beauty, but as an expression of gratitude for the autumn harvest.
Seasonal produce is also displayed as offerings to the moon. Sweet potatoes, satoimo (taro root), kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), beans, chestnuts, and tsukimi dango are offered to the moon.
Tsukimi udon and tsukimi soba are soba or udon noodles topped with a raw egg, maybe a bit of nori and scallions, and then covered with broth. These aren’t necessarily for moon viewing parties, but the word tsukimi is used in food because the cracked egg resembles the moon.
Makes approximately 4 servings
For the shiitake kombu dashi:
7 cups water
1 piece kombu (approximately 12-square inches in size)
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
For the soup broth:
shiitake kombu dashi
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
14 ounces fresh udon noodles, prepared according to the instructions indicated on the package
4 large eggs
2 tablepoons thinly sliced scallions
shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice), to garnish (optional)
Make the shiitake kombu dashi: Place the kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms in a pot with the water. Bring the water almost to a boil and then turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the stock stand for 3 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms to release the stock they have soaked up, then strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside.
Make the soup broth: Mix the dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and salt together in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Divide the prepared udon noodles into four bowls. Ladle the simmering soup broth over the noodles. Crack an egg on top of the noodles in each bowl, and then garnish each bowl with the thinly sliced scallions. If you prefer, you can poach your eggs separately before adding them to the soup.
Episode 30: The Yaki Imo Girl!
This week we have another special guest - Kate, aka the yaki imo girl, aka our #1 Miso Hungry Podcast fan, from Eat Recycle Repeat!
She's joining us to talk about her very favorite food - Japanese sweet potatoes!
(Our apologies in advance about the sound quality this week - Kate was Skyping with us all the way from Japan, so sometimes the connection wasn't the greatest.)
Kate lives in Japan, and has fallen madly in love with sweet potatoes in her time there!
Did you know that sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing? What they label "yam" in an American supermarket is almost guaranteed to be a sweet potato. Actual yams don't grow in the US - they only grow in Africa, but they're starchier and less sweet than sweet potatoes.
Types of Japanese Sweet Potatoes
Satsuma imo: yellow inside, dark, purply skin, starchy with a well-rounded flavor.
Beni imo: from Okinawa, deep purple; sweet, great for baking/desserts. (Called murasaki imo when used in desserts.) For some reason, they won't allow you to take raw beni imo out of Okinawa.
Anno imo: orangey color; kind of like American sweet potatoes, used in winter. You can buy them baked, also often found dried (hoshi imo).
Sweet potatoes are really good for you, taste great, are great comfort food, travel well, and are great for people with food allergies and intolerances.
In Japan, there's a yaki imo truck in the fall and winter, which is kind of like the Japanese version of an ice cream truck.
They're extra good when it's freezing cold outside (especially if you're at one of the yaki imo festivals in Okinawa or Kawagoe City), and can double as a hand-warmer.
Saved by the yaki imo truck! We're positive Kate has a yaki imo guardian angel.
Sweet Potato Recipe Ideas
Fudgy sweet potato truffles
Dairy-free sweet potato soft cream
Sweet potato pudding spread
Sweet potato cakes
Daigaku imo ("University sweet potato")
Sweet potato tempura
Sweet potato sushi
Satsumaimo kinton (a type of wagashi)
Sweet potato tarts
Did you know that if you eat a lot of sweet potatoes, you'll get "running bursts" that will make you go faster? This is what Japanese kids tell Kate...
Chestnuts are considered the "sweet potato" of nuts - no wonder they go together so well!
Sweet potatoes have a very low impact on your blood sugar. They're high in Vitamin A and beta carotine, and are as nutrient-dense as broccoli (but a whole lot tastier!) The skins (which are great if you bake them after taking the flesh out) are high in fiber.
Kate got to help out with a sweet potato harvest this year, which sounds pretty cool (especially when you get to take some home!)
Anyone have a good idea for a Miso Hungry yaki imo shirt?
Kate gave us a quick and easy recipe she often uses to make sweet potatoes to use in other dishes:
An Easy Way to Cook Sweet Potatoes
1 cup water
Put sweet potatoes and water in a crockpot, cook on high for 4 hours.
Use for anything where the texture isn't super important (ice cream, baked goods, etc.)
(P.S. Kate is giving away an entire box of sweet potato goodies to one lucky winner, so go check out the giveaway post on her blog to see how you can enter!)
Episode 29: Japanese Grocery Stores – an interview with Spilled Milk’s Matthew Amster-Burton!
This week, we were lucky enough to have Matthew Amster-Burton agree to do an interview with us.
You might know him from his fantastic podcast, Spilled Milk that he does with Molly Wizenberg, his blog Roots and Grubs, or his book Hungry Monkey.
We gave him the option of choosing whatever topic he wanted, and he chose... grocery stores!
It's a longer episode this week, but trust us, it's totally worth the listen.
We talk about things like really cool ladles for unagi sauce...
And Japanese TV shows where they send really young children, followed by camera men, off to the grocery store to run errands:
All in all, it was tons of fun. Thank you so much, Matthew! We can't wait to have you on again!
Episode 28: Bento Buddies!
We love them. You should too.
You can get bento boxes pretty much anywhere in Japan. Train stations, convenience stores, department stores... and they're almost always guaranteed to be delicious.
One of our favorite things about bento boxes is the variety of foods you can get in a single bento. Rice, meats, veggies, tsukemono... all sorts of things.
Bento is a great way of using up those little bits and pieces that weren’t finished off the night before. You don’t need to have a lot of any one ingredient, but you do need variety of taste and texture. You also have to choose dishes that are tasty even when cold, ones that will not go off quickly and ones that are not too watery.
It is common to have both meat and fish in one bento box, though one is usually more predominant than the other. Deep-fried seafood or chicken is always very popular, as is teriyaki fish or meat.
Vegetables are crucial for a good bento. Crunchy, lightly cooked green beans, carrots or broccoli are all fantastic additions, providing color and texture.
Kyaraben or “character bento” are typically decorated to look like popular Japanese cartoon (anime) characters, characters from comic books (manga), or video game characters.
Oekakiben or “picture bento” are decorated to look like people, animals, building and monuments, or things like flowers and plants.
There are a bunch of bento blogs out there. Just Bento, Lunch in a Box, Happy Little Bento, Bento Lunch, and Feisty Bento (Yvo hasn't blogged there for a while, though she still does talk about bentos on her main blog) are some good ones.
We've got silicon saibashi winners!
Congratualtions to Iryna and Carla! Check your emails for messages from us so we can get your shipping info and get these saibashi sent your way. ^_^
Episode 27: Going cookbook-crazy in Japan, and noodle bowls the size of your head!
We only had two more days together in Tokyo before Allison and Son headed to Kyoto for a few days and Rachael and her family stayed in Tokyo, and there was a lot for us to do!
First off, sushi. Because hello, we're in Japan... but we hadn't had sushi yet! (I know, what's wrong with us?)
We headed off to a good kaiten sushi place ("conveyer belt" sushi) where we ate our fill of good, but super-inexpensive sushi.
(Kaiten sushi, or "conveyer belt" sushi, is a type of sushi bar where the sushi chef(s) stand in the center and make the sushi, and then place each plate on a conveyer belt that revolves around them. The customers sit at a bar around them, and take a plate off the conveyer belt anytime they see something they want to eat. You pay by plate (sometimes they color-code the plates; here all the plates cost the same amount, except for a few specially-marked ones) so at the end of the meal they just tally it up for you.)
The mango pudding also really hit the spot on this hot, hot day!
Look how much we ate!
After lunch it was a bit of shopping (where we picked up the two pairs of silicon saibashi that we're giving away!), then made a stop at a combini to get these "Coolish"... ice cream in a pouch. Yes, they're just as awesome as they sound.
And then, off to a bookstore in Roppongi Hills... to buy waaaay too many cookbooks.
(It's all Rachael's fault.)
Rachael and her family had a dinner with Mr. Fuji's work at a super expensive place, so Allison and Son decided they would pass and instead take Rachael's recommendation to go to her favorite udon place.
As Rachael describes it, "the bowls are the size of your head." Seriously. It was so good.
(If you're ever in Japan, it's called Tsurutontan, and there are several locations. Rachael loves the Nabeyaki udon, Allison adores the curry udon. Really good noodles... and cat-approved! ~_^)
The next day was our last day together... and we spent it doing more shopping!
This time, a trip to Kappabashi, the street that is home to Tokyo's cooking district. Tons of cookware to look at and buy (and wish we had room in our luggage to take more back!)
After that, it was off to Ginza... to get lost.
Eventually we found the yakitori place we were looking for (which was in a basement, and you entered from an alley, so it was pretty had to find).
The yakitori place - Torigin - was seriously good. All sorts of delicious grilled foods!
And then it was time to say goodbye. We wish we could have had more time together! But there's always the next time... and until then, we can promise you there will be tons of episodes about all the delicious things we ate in Japan!
We're having a contest!
You can enter to win one of two pairs of silicon saibashi (cooking chopsticks, like these) that we brought back from Japan.
Today is the last day of the giveaway, so don't forget to go enter!
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on Episode 25's post.
One entry per person. You have until 11:59PM on Monday, September 24th, 2012 to enter. We will ship internationally, so anyone may enter. The two winners will be chosen using random.org.
Episode 26: So much good food… oh, and a typhoon.
We just have to say, we have the most awesome fans ever. Seriously, you guys rock. While we love you all, you'll get to see who currently has the ranking of #1 fan in just a bit...
Our next few days in Japan involved a lot of great food... oh, and a typhoon.
(If you missed the first part of the trip, you can listen here!)
(Our 3rd day together was Allison's 5th day in Japan, which is why the day numbers might seem a little off sometimes...)
So first things first, Allison just had to try the Shiro Cream Puff from Beard Papa's that Rachael had been raving about.
Made with tapioca flour and a cream cheese filling, she was instantly obsessed.
Since Rachael and her family got to spend our day 5 (a Sunday) seeing old friends at church, Allison and Son ventured to Don Quixote, which we describe as "Wal-Mart on crack".
Then we went to Bassanova! Green curry soba for the win!
But the much more exciting part of this was getting to meet Kate!!!
We're still flipping out over the fact that we get to not only say that we have fans as cool as Kate, but that we have a #1 Fan!
Kate, you rock, and we think you're totally awesome.
This was the day we attempted to go Tsukiji fish market.
And by attempted, we mean what actually happened was a comedy of errors where Allison and Son got stuck in their hotel, got slightly lost, then ran around looking for Rachael (whose alarm hadn't gone off!)
Ah well. At least it was a pretty morning.
So after we all got a little more sleep, we headed off to Hamarikyu park where Son did a bit of filming...
And then we took the waterboat from Hamarikyu, up Sumida river, to Asakusa where walked up the street to Sensoji temple.
On our way, we got to try all sorts of goodies - taiyaki, sweet potato age manju, and (of course) ice cream!
After letting the girls play in a park a bit, it was off to Kaikaya by the Sea for dinner - a place that Rachael has been RAVING about for ages.
We finally got to try the ginger ale in copper cups that she goes on and on about...
And happily, the tuna ribs (along with the rest of the meal) lived up to the expectation that she had set.
(The buttery fried goatfish was another huge winner in that meal!)
Did we mention it was typhoon season when we went?
And like any sane person would do, we went to the zoo on the day the typhoon was supposed to hit. And dragged poor Kate with us!
Zoo food in Japan is surprisingly good, for a ridiculously inexpensive price.
Allison's maple syrup-filled pancakes with blueberry jam were fantastic, and the chicken karaage that Rachael got for the girls was crazy good.
But the best thing ware the homemade roasted sweet potatoes (yaki imo!) that Kate brought for us.
Because she's the yaki imo girl!
(P.S. Go follow her on twitter. Tell her we sent you. Be prepared to find out why we adore her so!)
That evening we actually got to meet Keizo (since he wasn't there when all we went to Bassanova) and go out for monjayaki!
Monjayaki is like okonomiyaki, but waterier. However, still delicious.
After dinner, the Fujis went back to their hotel (smart people - there was a typhoon coming, after all!) but Son was still hungry, so we went for ramen with Keizo and his girlfriend.
And then it was a sprint back to the rain station, against the rain and wind that were getting stronger by the minute!
Yeah. There was a typhoon. Thankfully we were all safe in our respective beds by the time it actually hit. What a day!
We're having a contest!
You can enter to win one of two pairs of silicon saibashi (cooking chopsticks, like these) that we brought back from Japan.
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post.
One entry per person. You have until 11:59PM on Monday, September 24th, 2012 to enter.
The hosts really have good chemistry
Really like this!!! Its interesting & they do answers questions. Very fun to listen to. Cant wait for the next podcast.
Informative, light-hearted, genuine!
I love this podcast. It's soothing and relaxing to listen to, and Rachel and Allison are genuine hosts who are clearly passionate about the topic! After listening to this podcast I have been inspired to revisit Japan in the near future (and hopefully visit some of the places they recommend) :)
Such an excellent podcast
This is the podcast to listen to for Japanese cooking advice. I learned alot about how to properly cook rice and it came out perfectly. It's worth giving a listen to.