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#1
Old 06-04-2014, 02:12 AM


Let's Cooking!

Howdy folks!

I'm one of the many young adults these days who has ventured out into the world without proper training in the arts of making delicious and healthy food. But now I'm doing my best to correct that mistake!

Are you a novice cook like me? Come share your experiences!
Are you an experienced cook? Come share your advice!

Last edited by Ferra; 06-04-2014 at 03:34 AM..

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#2
Old 06-04-2014, 02:12 AM

About my situation:

Any and all advice is welcome, but I have limited kitchen space and appliances at my disposal. Also, because I live in Japan, a lot of ingredients that are common in the West are hard to find and/or very expensive. So here's a few things to keep in mind:

Stuff I have access to:
- Stove top
- Microwave
- Mini Toaster Oven
- Rice cooker
- Fry pan, sauce pans, bowls, basic utensils
- Seasonal fruits and veggies (see post 8 for some examples)
- Lots of fresh seafood
- Lots of meat, except maybe steak since it's kind of expensive
- Most other basic supplies, sauces, and seasoning

Stuff I don't have easy access to:
- Oven
- Lots of counter space
- American measuring cups/spoons (mine use "cc" or "ml")
- Most cheeses (aside from powdered Parmesan and some basic white cheeses)
- Turkey
- Foods/seasonings common in Latin American food
- produce that is off-season in Japan

Last edited by Ferra; 06-04-2014 at 08:58 AM..

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#3
Old 06-04-2014, 02:16 AM

Current Goals:
  • Finish reading my beginner's cooking guidebook. It's written in Japanese about the Japanese method of cooking. I've already learned quite a few things that I wouldn't have thought of had I not bought it!
  • Master a few easy Japanese recipes to add to my repertoire.
  • Make up a weekly/monthly meal plan that successfully uses up my ingredients in a timely manner.
  • Cook more, even when I'm tired and lazy.

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#4
Old 06-04-2014, 02:17 AM

Feel free to post!

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#5
Old 06-04-2014, 03:26 AM

Ooh, this should gain some interesting posts! Got nothing helpful to offer myself at the moment, but good luck! How are things going so far with the cooking?

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#6
Old 06-04-2014, 03:41 AM

Thanks! I've been trying to gather advice and so far a lot of tips I've heard for beginners really helps. I haven't been able to find many English websites with recipes that would work well for me though, since they often require ovens and the measurements aren't the same.

So for recipes I've mostly been using a few Japanese books I bought. Also, my future mother-in-law is an excellent cook so almost every weekend we've been cooking together and I've learned a lot of things. It helps since she has a fully stocked kitchen I can access so I can try ingredients that I wouldn't feel confident buying on my own.

Mostly, I've just been paying more attention to flavor combinations and ingredients and trying out different combos. I'm not yet at the point where I can make a full Japanese meal since it requires so many side dishes that I don't think I'd be able to eat them in a timely manner unless I make a schedule and stuck to it every day.

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#7
Old 06-04-2014, 07:58 AM

Could you list some of the fruits, veggies, and meats you'd like to eat? I live in the American Midwest so I'd rather not guess what you could eat.

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#8
Old 06-04-2014, 08:36 AM

I like to eat anything! The only meat common in the US that is hard to find here is turkey, so there are few restrictions in the meat/poultry department. Japan gets a lot of fruits and veggies, even if they're not grown in Japan, but the domestically produced food tends to follow the seasons closely and will disappear from the supermarkets once that time is up. I tried to find some calendars showing the seasonal produce schedule, but unfortunately they're all in Japanese. But I found several with pictures to give you an idea of what kinds are available:





However, that doesn't cover foods that are available year-round or imported from other countries, so I'd say you can suggest anything and I'll let you know if it's something I can find or not. Heck, I can even get avocados cheaply since the local company owned by Wallmart imports them.

Last edited by Ferra; 06-04-2014 at 08:53 AM..

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#9
Old 06-04-2014, 02:07 PM

Cheap avocados \o/ Cheap even though they're imported! ...

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#10
Old 06-05-2014, 07:34 AM

Well, I just had some painfully hot ramen that I'm pretty sure contained Satan's dandruff in it, so I'll go ahead and suggest cucumber salad with the hot cucumbers!

It's a copycat recipe of Noodles and Co. and I order that salad every time I go there. Every. Single. Time.

Quote:
Cucumber Tomato Salad

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 0 min
Total time: 5 min
Yield: 2-3
Difficulty: easy
Recipe type: Side dish, veggies, salad

Ingredients:

1/2 large Tomato
1/2 large Cucumber
1/4 Red onion
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Honey (optional, I left it out)
1/4 tsp Ground ginger
3 dashes Chili powder (more or less, depending on spice taste)
pinch Salt
1/2 tsp Sesame seeds
Freshly grated ginger if you have it

Directions:

In a small bowl combine oils, vinegar, honey, and spices; whisk to combine
Chop the tomato into wedges, slice the cucumber and remove the seeded portion, and slice the red onion thinly
Add veggies to a large bowl and pour dressing over
Let sit for at least 5 minutes to marinate
Serve with grated ginger over the top!
Adding a few pieces of julienned hot house cucumber would raise the spice deliciously. This would be a good side to some grilled fruit or eggplant and some simple pan fried fish.

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#11
Old 06-05-2014, 10:35 AM

Ooo, that sounds nice! I'll have to try that out sometime. I'm pretty sure I can get all of the ingredients but I'm wondering if tsp and tbsp are the same size in Japan as they are in America. That's something I'll have to look into! Thanks for the recipe.

By the way, my beginner's cookbook recommends soaking cut onions in cold water for at least 10 min. before serving if you're going to eat them raw. I guess that takes a lot of the bite out of them. Do you do that or do you recommend keeping the onions strong since it's meant to be spicy?

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#12
Old 06-06-2014, 06:40 AM

I never really thought about that. I know where I live it's hard to find a good sweet onion, so as I chop I wipe the knife blade and run it under water so I don't go blind, that or I wear swimming goggles while I chop and open a window. In this recipe, if you want it spicy, I'd suggest making the vinaigrette first, adding the sliced onions, then taking your time with the other veggies and letting them soak evenly. Letting the onions soak longer than the rest will help reduce the teary juices. To me it doesn't matter because I love raw onions. I just added some to my mac n cheese and heating them in the microwave together took some of the sting out pretty well.

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#13
Old 06-13-2014, 01:04 AM

One of my easiest ways to make a meal is to add some veggies to a boxed pasta/rice thing. I don't know how common things like that are in Japan (obviously the flavors would be more regionalized if they were), but I'm talking Pastaroni type stuff. Just get the mix going according to its instructions, sautee up whatever veggies you like (and meat, in your case), then stir them together and you have a full meal that you didn't even need to season.

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#14
Old 06-13-2014, 05:13 AM

There are boxed meals and semi-prepared meals you can buy, but I really want to start making most of my food from scratch or fresh ingredients. Especially since those box things tend to have a lot of excess salt/preservatives in them and it's probably better to avoid eating them if you can avoid it. But I do eat semi-prepared meals a lot currently since I'm lazy and there's tons available for people who live alone and want easy meals.

I feel like as soon as I get a handful of recipes down that use several similar ingredients I can make them over and over again each week and gradually try out new things. The main reason I haven't done that so far is that I'm not really sure how to make a menu like that yet that is based around traditional Japanese food (since I'm going to be cooking for my fiance pretty soon).

A typical Japanese meal almost always includes the following all on separate dishes: a main dish, a side dish, a staple food (i.e. rice, or maybe bread if it's "Western style"), and a soup (usually miso soup unless "Western style"). Exceptions are if the main dish includes one or two of the other categories (like curry or ramen or pasta).

So that means every day I'll need to have a different main dish and I should alternate between side dishes at least every other day. I can adjust the rice/soup slightly, but it's fine if the base is essentially the same every day. I know how to do that in theory, but in practice it's still kind of intimidating, especially since I don't know how to make portions appropriate for just one person and how to store the leftovers and use them up properly while they still taste good.

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#15
Old 06-13-2014, 06:42 AM

Maybe schedule meat days? Meat isn't always the most important, but it's a good starting point to centralize dishes if you don't want to focus too much on a single fruit or veggie. Let's say

Sunday: fish (something with scales)
Monday: chicken (grilled)
Tuesday: beef/pork
Wednesday: fish (bottom feeder)
Thursday: chicken (baked/fried)
Friday: fish (rotating between scales and squid/octopus/urchin)
Saturday: beef

With the beef you can go ground, like for burgers, or steaks whenever you want. Chicken is nice for a routine, and when it comes to the fish, so long as you know what type of fish you want to use, you can plan whatever you want; boiled, raw, grilled, fried, baked... whatever fills your crave that day. (you definitely don't have to take my advice, I can hardly follow it what with the way I buy groceries and skip meals!)

A meat schedule will also help you rotate between noodles and rice. I've tried making that ramen you see in anime and it's freaking delicious. I always use chicken, though, so I'm not really creative. And maybe switch it up on cultures a little bit? Maybe one or two Western days a week. It fits in your current wheelhouse and would be a nice treat! Also- bread. I LOVE BREAD.

I want to keep talking about this, but it's making me super hungry, so I'll end this post with two dishes I love: Goulash and Curry. Tomorrow (or at this point later today) I'm making myself a nice little pot. I'm not sure if I'll use a crock pot or stove top, but there's just something wonderfully filling about egg noodles, seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, onions, corn, peas, and stock all mixed together. And back to the subject of bread; one of my favorite treats is buying Golden Curry Mix, mixing everything together (including the rice) and eating it in a bun like a one-meal sandwich. I think I'm going to go out running and buy some...

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#16
Old 06-16-2014, 12:27 AM

Oh my goodness, all those different dishes... That sounds like so much work. I'm definitely no help here. @[email protected]

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#17
Old 06-16-2014, 12:44 AM

@Alex: Yeah, I think I'll probably use meat as the main dish most meals, using whatever is cheap and/or in season.

I just bought yet another book about cooking. I'm up to four books now. But what I like about this one is that it gives tips about how to store things properly in your freezer with a bunch of recipes specifically targeted to quick-fix meals you can make by pulling out stuff from the freezer and cook right away or nuke in the microwave. Since I'm a total n00b and always worry about if food is still good or not to eat, I like the table in the back that tells you how long different ingredients last once they've been frozen.

I think if I combine freezing with some easy recipes from my other books I can probably minimize waste of excess ingredients.

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#18
Old 06-16-2014, 04:38 AM

Definitely! I've never frozen meals because I don't want to screw it up, but I do freeze ingredients. Gotta watch out for freezer burn, and sometimes the moisture building up affects the cook time after they've been frozen. Watery veggies like celery don't freeze well, so make sure to buy those fresh when you go to use them.

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#19
Old 09-11-2014, 11:10 PM

Update! I've successfully made a few dishes by myself. I made a dish called "nikujaga", Salmon Meunière (similar recipe to this one), and various versions of miso soup. They're all pretty simple, but just knowing that I made something yummy all by myself boosts my confidence a bit.

I'm still taking baby-steps and following my mother-in-law's lead, but I'm starting to believe that I can handle recipes on my own once it's time to take charge. I just need to make up a menu since I'm not good at randomly deciding what to eat based off of left-over ingredients yet.

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#20
Old 09-12-2014, 03:32 AM

The nikujaga looks good! And miso is always delicious.

Just remember: the worst you can ever do is make it unpleasant to eat. No explosions or deaths (plausibly, anyway ), and your fiance won't call off the wedding for a bad dish. I know you're practicing a lot, but I know it's also under guidance/instruction. Though this is definitely helpful if you don't know the first thing about what you're doing, it can also provide a lot of pressure to do well. If you don't already, try making some meals by yourself, in your free time. That way if you mess up, you have no one to answer to about it but yourself. No embarrassment!

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#21
Old 09-12-2014, 04:43 AM

Ah, I think I should have clarified! Those three I mentioned are dishes I made completely by myself, with no guidance or involvement from my mother-in-law aside from her providing the use of her kitchen. I've made loads of dishes with her help, but I wouldn't consider them something "I made" just yet for that reason.

But I agree with you. I shouldn't pressure myself into performing up to her level since she's been cooking for 40 years or more and I'm a beginner. But I like observing and helping her when I can because it's really helpful to me to see a visual example and get some hands-on experience while also being able to ask an expert questions when they come up instead of just making my best guess. I'm gotten better about not worrying about things being perfect, but I should probably lower my standards at least little bit more so I don't stress so much.

My two short-term goals are: 1) try to mimic MIL's way of peeling veggies and 2) successfully flip omelets/tamago-yaki by myself with chopsticks.

I take forever when I peel potatoes (among other veggies) and then I see my MIL peeling them all beautifully in one nice spiral motion. I need more practice.

And egg dishes are hard since you have to flip them quickly or they burn, so after a few failed attempts my MIL will take over and I don't get a chance to practice. I'm fairly confident I could flip them with a wooden spoon or something, but any time I try with chopsticks like she does, I accidentally break the egg up a bit and then it become even harder to flip. Plus, she usually makes a giant omelet for 4 people that she cuts up into appropriate sizes rather than individual small ones, making them harder to flip. So far no dice, but I think I'll get it eventually. And luckily they taste fine even if they look kind of funny.

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#22
Old 09-12-2014, 09:48 PM

Ohh, okay!

I think another reason to cut yourself a break is, in addition to not having 40 years experience, you don't even have a lifetime experience of eating this type of food. Cooking has come somewhat easily to me just because I make similar foods I grew up eating. I already know how to make a good soup because I already know what tastes good in soup and spent so much time as a kid watching my mom make them. But you probably didn't grow up eating a lot of Japanese foods and watching your mom make them, so you only have a couple years experience even being around that food. So things like cooking with chopsticks aren't just new to do, they're a new concept entirely.

Flipping a four person omelet with chopsticks? Just how?! If she won't bug you about it, I'd say definitely start with a larger utensil. She's doing some next-level stuff there!

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#23
Old 09-14-2014, 06:16 AM

I've seen that on TV and I can hardly EAT with chopsticks, much less cook with them. I wish I was better at cooking Asian foods, they're so tasty. I have found a good flavor combination though! I've started making ramen with noodles, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha paste, small cut onions, carrots, peas, chicken broth, and/or chicken. I never expected something fish to taste so yummy. Do you use it for anything?

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#24
Old 09-14-2014, 12:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherry Who? View Post
Ohh, okay!

I think another reason to cut yourself a break is, in addition to not having 40 years experience, you don't even have a lifetime experience of eating this type of food. Cooking has come somewhat easily to me just because I make similar foods I grew up eating. I already know how to make a good soup because I already know what tastes good in soup and spent so much time as a kid watching my mom make them. But you probably didn't grow up eating a lot of Japanese foods and watching your mom make them, so you only have a couple years experience even being around that food. So things like cooking with chopsticks aren't just new to do, they're a new concept entirely.

Flipping a four person omelet with chopsticks? Just how?! If she won't bug you about it, I'd say definitely start with a larger utensil. She's doing some next-level stuff there!
True! I think I've managed to get a good sense of Japanese food over the years since that's mostly all I eat these days, but there's still a lot of flavors and ingredients that I'm not very familiar with. And there are some things that I've eaten tons of times but only recently now that I'm learning how to cook can I actually put a name to the flavor. I've discovered that I quite like myogaMyoga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, for example, which I'd never really heard of until I bought a "how to cook Japanese for dummies" textbook. It makes miso soup taste awesome, among other dishes. I have a better appreciation for regular ginger and daikon oroshi too. With a little bit of soy sauce, those can add a flavorful punch to a lot of different foods.

Also, I have to admit that my mom, by her own admission, has never been much of a cook. She's an excellent baker, which is her job actually, but she rarely cooked dishes from scratch. Generally she'd buy the meat and veggies but use premade sauces or flavoring. Don't get me wrong, I was well fed and healthy since we had salad and fresh veggies a lot too, but she never did the kind of cooking that my MIL does every day where she buys almost everything from scratch and spends hours cooking multi-dish meals with tons of ingredients.

According to MIL, I have to use a minimum of 30 ingredients a day, making special care to include both root and leave veggies, to make sure we're getting proper nutrition. She's probably right though... At least she's been giving me helpful tips for how to throw veggies into meals when you feel like being lazy.

Anywho, how about your cooking adventures? Have you made anything particularly tasty lately?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander J Luthor View Post
I've seen that on TV and I can hardly EAT with chopsticks, much less cook with them. I wish I was better at cooking Asian foods, they're so tasty. I have found a good flavor combination though! I've started making ramen with noodles, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha paste, small cut onions, carrots, peas, chicken broth, and/or chicken. I never expected something fish to taste so yummy.
Mmm... that sounds yummy!

Well, there's no reason you can't start learning more Asian cuisine dishes! But you might want to be careful where you get the recipes if you want something authentic... Then again, it can be hard to get all the ingredients for authentic recipes, so maybe not.

I think fusion food is tasty too and even my MIL, who is a senior Japanese housewife who has never left Japan, will make "foreign" dishes sometimes. One thing that amazes me is that she makes delicious dishes like tandoori chicken despite never having eaten it outside her home. I hope that one of these days I can start making some Mexican or Tex-Mex food at home since that's something I miss from the US. I really want to eat Greek food, like gyros, too, but I think those ingredients would be even harder to find.

Quote:
Do you use it for anything?
Use what? I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to. I haven't mess around with sauces too much yet. Most of the recipes I've made so far just use the standard Japanese flavors: soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, and cooking sake (plus salt and pepper, of course). But I think Worcestershire sauce can add a nice touch to a lot of dishes. Sriracha is nice too, but you don't really see it here outside of import food stores. One of these days I might buy a bottle to play around with spicing up recipes, but for now I want to learn the basics before I start making up my own flavors.

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#25
Old 09-15-2014, 06:32 AM

I really want to, we have a very nice specialty store in fact and I found out upon further inspection that they carry eel and other such products for more serious at-home chefs. I really want to ask the woman more questions when I'm in there, but I'm an awkward little ginger grabbing packs of super spicy ramen and pot stickers. Next time I'm getting kimchi. There are also these really big jars of pickled things, like larger than my head, but I don't want to waste anything if I don't like it...

What do you know, I've never left America! Though in retrospect I'm not sure what that is on the scale of impressive when Japan is the size of Montana. (Just refound a tumblr thing showing how Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, a corner of France, and a couple of other countries all fit into Texas) Well, I have gone to Canada, which is pretty much Cold America. So pretty much I know nothing of authentic food, save maybe bullets and bangs. No seasonings to be found in those!! (So good though. Plain bread and a soup that's just beef meatballs served in a water broth. I squirt ketchup into mine) And I've heard of tandoori chicken, but I haven't tried it yet. Sounds good, though. Do you find yourself having to get used to the spice pallet, or are you already a fan of spicy food?

Sorry about that! I meant the fish sauce. I was nervous to try it, but it's like a slightly thicker, less salty soy sauce with something I can't put my tongue on... a fishy-meaty thing? I've never heard of mirin, though. And sriracha's a little different. There's the sauce, the hot paste and the garlic paste, and I've recently seen the mayonnaise! It looks perfect for sandwiches.

 


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