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I’m Mari.
On Marivelous Me! you’ll find recipes, food gifts, food I’ve traveled for and food solutions. Poke around, maybe you’ll find inspiration for something you’re working on. Enjoy! 


Entries in Japanese (6)


Cooking with Mom: Kuromame - Japanese Black Beans

kuromame japanese black beansMy mom comes from Sasayama, a tiny country town within the Hyogo Prefecture, which is part of the Kansai region. Although the town is small, population +/- 44,000 persons, Sasayama is known throughout Japan for their kuromame (black beans), adzuki (red beans), wild boar, chestnuts, Matsutake mushrooms, and yams.

Similar to eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day and Rosh Hashanah, Japanese people eat kuromame as part of osechi ryori, an elaborate “bento box” meal specifically made just for New Year’s Day. The meal represents a wish for long life, health and energy during the upcoming year. So one might assume that if one had extra large black beans, one might have even more health and prosperity in the New Year, right? Well, the black beans from Sasayama are extra jumbo large, like an inch-long so they are extremely coveted for their part in osechi ryori. The black beans are considered to be the best in Japan, and not just by people from Tamba. Mom said a 200-gram bag (about two cups) might fetch $16. That’s a whole lotta beans for a handful of beans.

kuromame japanese black beans nails ironThe trick to getting them ink black is to cook them in a cast iron pot. Since my mom didn’t bring an iron pot with her from Japan 40+ years ago when she moved to this country, she uses nails to get the same effect and she’s been using the same nails ever since. Whether you use nails or an iron pot, iron leaches into the water and a chemical reaction occurs, giving the beans their distinctive tar black color and very, very slight metallic taste.

The next time you plan on making black beans, take a trip to the hardware store first. Tell them you’re making beans - can they suggest a box of nails that would compliment the meal?

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Cooking with Mom: "Chestnut" Shrimp Balls & "Pine Needle" Soba

Japanese food, like many other countries is very seasonally driven but the Japanese try and take it one step further. Sometimes they make foods as proxy for the real thing. Huh? A couple weeks ago, Mr. Mari and I went to my parents' home. As an appetizer, my Mom made us some fried shrimp balls that had bits of broken somen noodles on the outside of them. Yum! I thought - I love crunchy. I should have known better than to think it was just a textural thing since we are talking about my Mom and it was an autumn weekend. What she actually made was shrimp balls that symbolized chestnuts, an Autumn-specific food. In the wild, chestnuts have prickly outsides; those smooth nuts we normally see in markets are what're inside the burr.  

To further emphasize the Autumnal motif, Mom made some "pine needles" too - made of fried soba and seaweed. Obviously, they aren't just for decoration. Follow the jump to read the allegory - because of course it's something more than just being edible pine needles!

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gyoza za za!

gyoza pork dumplingsgyoza pork dumpling ingredientsgyoza pork dumplings uncookedWhenever Mr. Mari and I go out for ramen, we typically order a plate of gyoza (Japanese pan-fried pork dumplings) to share as an appetizer. I don't have any concrete evidence but I think gyoza is the appetizer to eat before slurping up a hot bowl of wavy noodles. Maybe it's because you get protein to chew on that you wouldn't otherwise get in your noodle bowl. Maybe it's to warm up your jaw muscles for all the slurp slurp slurping you'll be doing. Anyway, as much as I love ramen, sometimes I just want a big mountain of gyoza to eat for dinner. I don't know of any restaurant that serves a herculean-size dinner portion so to satisfy that craving, I make them at home...

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Sesame String Beans

This is my Mom's string bean recipe. It's one of those dishes that even finicky folks like. My mom uses regular green beans but I prefer haricot vert since I find them to be less squeeky.

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cooking with mom: miso soup

I make pasta sauce. You know, drizzle a little olive oil in the pan; sauté some chopped onions and garlic; add ground beef or turkey, a can of tomatoes, a handful of chopped herbs and maybe a gurgle of wine - if there's a bottle already open. It's simple and easy, to me that is. Similarly, my mom makes miso soup from scratch, but I buy instant packs of miso soup and she buys jarred tomato sauce. I'm sure it pains her that I don't make something that's "so simple to prepare". I like going home and having her traditional version but if I ever start making miso soup from scratch, I'll probably just use the miso paste as a base and add other things like TVP, diced slab bacon, chicken stock, chopped frozen spinach, or maybe barley. You know, something simple and easy.

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cooking with dad: handmade soba

I love noodles. If I had to rank Japanese noodles from favorite to least favorite - I'd say Gold: ramen, Silver: somen, Bronze: udon and then in 4th place: soba. (Can you tell I've been watching the Olympics?)

When mom said, 'Dad's making soba for dinner' I thought, okayyy... what's the big deal? The big deal was that it was going to be made from scratch. For seven people. For dinner. With a rolling pin. I think my dad's soba just bumped udon out of its Bronze medal position. Maybe even somen's Silver.

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