Oct 19, 2015

Not in tropical paradise ☆Pad Fuktong Sai Kai (stir fried pumpkin with egg)

When you are travelling abroad, is there anything you always do? Take a selfie at a famous sightseeing spot, duty free shopping, going to McDonald to find out how much a Big Mac costs compared to your country-- or do you instagram your entire trip?

I take a different approach and always make a point of going to a local food market when I go abroad. Even if I'm tight on time, it's fun to find some time and squeeze in going to a market to explore. It could be a supermarket, wet market or street market depends on the country, and these markets are filled with local food, which fascinates me all the time.  "How do the local people cook this?" "Wish I could buy this in the States!" Many things come to my mind, and I never get tired of looking at food in a market.

When I stayed in Chiang Mai earlier this year, a beautiful walled city in the mountainous northern part of Thailand, needless to say, I enjoyed the exotic food every day. Wet markets,  modern surpermarkets and street vendors became food paradise. Though I've been to Thailand before, many things felt new to me on this trip because Chiang Mai has a different food culture to the other parts of the country, such as Bangkok or the sea coast, due to the climate, culture and geography.

One day, I saw a huge pile of pumpkins sitting next to piles of fruits in a wet market.  I wondered how people eat this pumpkin because I've never seen dishes with pumpkin in restaurants around my hotel. The pumpkin was faded green, dry and dusty looking, with a round shape, and was 2-3 times bigger than my home grown Kabocha. While walking back to my hotel and wondering about the pumpkin, I came across a street hawker lady who was selling cooked pumpkin in a plastic bag. The pumpkin was cut into 3" pieces and there was dark color liquid on the bottom part of the bag. "Oh, I see! She's selling Kabocha Nimono (one of the most common Japanese pumpkin dishes in Japan) to Japanese tourists! Or maybe the locals buy this as Japanese food is the most trendy foreign food here these days...such things crossed in my mind.

I was brave and tried it and  found out that the pumpkin was surprisingly sweet as it is cooked with sugar, and the locals eat it with coconut's milk. Nothing like what I experienced in Japan.  I wouldn't have guessed this pumpkin and coconut combination and was surprised how pumpkin could be such a simple sweet.

Today's recipe is another unexpected combination which I encountered during this trip: pumpkin and egg. Pad Fuktong Sai Kai, which means stir fried pumpkin with egg in Thai,  is a typical street hawker food. This quick cooking, casual dish overturned my preconceptions about using pumpkin. People tend to think Thai food is always spicy or coconuty, but it's not. Pad Fuktong Sai Kai tastes mild and you can enjoy the simple flavor, which goes well with a seasoned accompaning dish. As I have one unmature Kabocha which is more like Thai pumpkin here, I will use it as a substitute. I'm hoping you enjoy this dish with a little of imagination of crowded steet food venders in Thailand.

Pad Fuktong Sai Kai, Kabocha with Egg Recipe


  • 7oz Kabocha (1/8 small size Kabocha)
  • 3oz Pork back ribs (thin sliced, boneless)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 garlic clove (finely minced)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2tbsp Nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 1/2tbsp sugar
  • 1/2tbsp vegetable oil

Serves 2
1.  Cut the Kabocha into easy-to-eat sizes.
★If Kabocha is too hard to slice, microwave the Kabocha until soft.

2. Cut the pork into 1 inch long strips. If you can not buy thin sliced pork, freeze pork rib, then half defrost and slice the meat thin. The picture below is the half-defrosted meat.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and pork, and cook slightly. Add the Kabocha, water, sugar and Nam Pla. Cover with a lid and cook over a medium low heat until the Kabocha is cooked. Remove the lid.

4. Cook over a medium high heat until the water disappears. Add the beaten egg and gently mix together. Cook over high heat until the egg is cooked.

Jun 24, 2015

Vegetable list 2015

Spring came late to the wilds of Pennsylvania this year, but time went by so fast. It's already the end of June, and "Garden to Table" is now in prime time.
Although we had  some late frost, an extremely dry spring and some heavy rain in May and June, everything has been growing well. Some gardeners in the east are suffering from drought and some in the south are challenged by flood and storm. I'm hoping everything returns to normal soon, so all can experience the joy of gardening.

My garden June 24 2015

Today I made a list of vegetables I am growing on my blog. If you have any questions, please contact me with the contact form. I'm also happy to answer your questions about other kinds of vegetables and cooking.

Vegetable List 2015
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Brussels sprout
  • Cabbage (Japanese cultivar)
  • Carrot(Japanese and Western cultivars)
  • Cherry tomato
  • Chive 
  • Cilantro
  • Cucumber (Japanese cultivar)
  • Daikon
  • Daikon ba (Japanese leaf radish)
  • Daizu (Japanese edible soybean)
  • Dill
  • Edamame (Japanese cultivar)
  • Eggplant (Japanese cultivar)
  • Garden bean (Japanese and Western cultivars)
  • Garlic
  • Gobo (Japanese edible burdock)
  • Green peas
  • Green pepper
  • Japanese garlic chives
  • Kabocha(Japanese winter squash)
  • Kohlrabi
  • Komatsuna
  • Kong xin cai (water spinach/ water morning glory)
  • Lettuce
  • Mitsuba
  • Mizuna
  • Nebuka onion
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Red pepper
  • Rhubarb
  • Shanghai cai (you cai/chingensai)
  • Shungiku (Japanese edible chrysanthemum)
  • Shishito pepper
  • Shiso
  • Spinach (Japanese and Western cultivars)
  • Sugar peas
  • Sweet potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Takano tsume (Japanese hot pepper)
  • Tomato
Water spinach

Mar 3, 2015

Soup which you don't get in a restaurant ☆Kabocha and onion Miso soup recipe

Every Japanese restaurant has a typical Miso soup made with tofu and wakame (a kind of seaweed). Many times I find these soups disappointing. They often have no aroma and are over cooked with badly textured wakame. Some people may think this is a Miso soup. Yes, it is. But if you cook Miso soup properly at home, you realize how aromatic and tasty Miso soup really can be.

Miso is a traditional seasoning made from fermenting soybeans, salt and Koji fungus. Miso soup is a popular dish in Japan which provides warmth and nourishment, and which can easily be cooked at home. All what you need is Dashi soup (bonito stock), Miso and your favorite ingredients. Basically everything can be an ingredient--eggs, carrots, spinach, pork, salmon....  There are some common combinations--tofu and wakame, spinach and egg, pork, chinese cabbage and eddible burdock root, Kabocha and onion...etc.
I will introduce this Kabocha and onion combination recipe as it is a common winter Miso soup, and I have some left over Kabocha here in my kitchen.  This is a soup you don't find in Japanese restaurants in the USA.

Both Dashi soup powder and Miso can be found at Asian supermarkets, some big American supermarkets which carry international food, or Amazon. There are three major types of Miso sold in the states, Aka Miso (red Miso), Shiro Miso (white Miso) and Awase Miso (mixtures of different types of Miso). I recommend buying Awase as it is all-purpose.

Low sodium Miso from my home town. It's made from rice and barley.

Trivia: There is a great variety of taste and apperarance of Miso in the different regions of Japan. For example, in the western part of Japan where I grew up, we use Awase Miso containing barley.  You don't find this in the easten part of Japan, including around Tokyo. In Kyoto, Shiro Miso made from rice is most commonly used. Strangely enough, in my hometown, we use Shiro Miso on only one occation---meals served at a wake and funeral. Every time I have Shiro Miso soup at a restaurant or my friend's home, I feel a bit sad.

Kabocha and onion Miso soup.
Sweetness of Kabocha and onion make the soup mild.

Kabocha And Onion Miso Soup Recipe


  • 1 2/3 cup Dashi
  • 3.5oz Kabocha  without seeds
  • 1/4  Small size onion
  • 2" Long green onion (scallion)
  • 1 1/2 - 2tbsp of your favorite Miso

Serves 2

1.  Cut Kabocha 1/4" thick and slice onion into easy-to-eat sizes. Finely chop the green onions.
★Leave the green skin on Kabocha. It is delicious and contains carotene.

2. In a small pan, combine Kabocha, onion and Dashi.

3. Heat at medium low until vegetables are cooked. Reduce heat to low, and dissolve Miso.
★Put a small amount of soup in the ladle and dissolve Miso. Never add Miso directly into the pot.

4. Wait until the soup is just starting to boil. Add green onions and remove from heat.
★Never boil Miso because high heat kills the aroma and beneficial bacteria. 

Mar 1, 2015

Winter-must-have vegetable ☆Nebuka onion

After the last few cold,  gusty, and miserable days, I trudged down to my vegetable garden which is blanketed with a foot of snow. Nebuka onions lie dormant under this snow and are ready to go from my garden to kitchen. Never heard of Nebuka onion? It's a tasty winter-must-have vegetable, and one vegetable that you'll never regret growing.

Nebuka (which means "deep rooted" in Japanese) onion is a kind of Japanese bunching onion, which doesn't develop a bulb (onion). We usually don't use the green leaves but use the long white stalk for cooking. At maturity the stalk is 15-20" long and up to 1" in diameter. The stalk of Nebuka onions are essential to Japanese, Chinese and Korean cooking. They're used for grilling, stir frying and  in traditional winter dishes, such as hot pot and soup. They taste sweet and smooth when cooked and spicy when raw. Therefore we usually use uncooked onions as a small portion of garnish. In Korean cooking, however, there is a raw stalk salad, which makes a use of its spicy characteristic, and goes well with Korean BBQ. The Nebuka onion isn't only a great support actor, but can also be the star, depending on how you cook. Although Nebuka onions are sold in the supermarket all year round in Asia, their prime seasons are fall and winter. When Nebuka onions are exposed to cold temperature, they start retaining sugar in the stalk to avoid freezing. This produces their characteristic  sweet taste.

Under the white blanket.

As the ground was frozen, half of the stalk could not be harvested.

It's a little known fact that the white long stalks of Nebuka onion are "man made".  Commercial growers dig a deep dich to plant then cover and re-cover the stalk with soil 3-4 times as it grows. The stalk isn't exposed to the sun and doesn't photosynthesize, so it becomes white and soft. This unique growing method is not commonly known, even by Japanese. Though Nebuka has the best flavor in winter, they can be an all year round vegetable. They can be harvested at several growing stages, and  used many different ways depends on how tender is the leaf or how long is the white stalk. If you omit the "man made" process, and harvest when they're still tiny, you can use Nebuka just like Scallions (green onions/ spring onions) sold at supermarkets in the states.

The cultivar of Nebuka onion I grow here in northern Pennsylvania is Ishikura Long Winter, which has about a 15-17" white stalk with about 12" long leaves when mature. I bought quality seeds at KITAZAWA SEED CO. They are easy to grow,  resistance pests, the flower attracts bees, and are extremely cold hardy. Here it gets -20F with continuous,deep snow, but they survive without any protection. I'll post more about how to grow Nebuka onions and recipes later.

Feb 26, 2015

Bring color to your table ☆Kabocha and chicken with sweet sour sauce recipe

Today's lunch was chicken with sweet sauce, a very simple, quick cooking dish. I still have Kabocha which was harvested last September, and have been using them for everyday cooking ever since. Sadly, only one is left in my basement. I won't have my home grown Kabocha for the next seven months!

I ordered Kabocha seeds last November, made a plant label, secured a space for Kabocha in my 2015 crop rotation picture in last December, and dream about how well Kabocha will grow this year....  To the gardeners Spring is a long time coming.  

In the other posting, I said Kabocha can be stored for a long time. Yes, Kabocha is an excellent vegetable in that respect and a good,  nutritious value. Kabocha also does another great job for your dish---adding color. Food's natural color is one important tool in presentation.  Green from the skin of Kabocha gives the impression of freshness.  The orange interior also provides a warm, colorful, active image, and as a whole, these colors stimulate appetite.

If you don't have a Kabocha, other vegetables can be substituted, or you can cook only chicken with sweet sour sauce. But just think about addding a bit of color in your dish to enjoy it with your eyes, too. Especially if you're in a cold climate area where it is all too white outside!

Chicken And Kabocha With Sweet Sour Sauce Recipe


  • 10oz Chicken breast 
  • 5oz Kabocha
  • 1/2  Small size onion
  • 1/8 Red sweet pepper
  • 2tbsp Potato starch
  • 1/2tbsp Sake
  • 1tsp Sesame oil
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil

Sweet Sour Sauce
  • 3tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 3tbsp Low sodium soy sauce
  • 3tbsp Light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp Ketchup
  • 2tbsp Sake
  • 1tbsp Mirin
  • 4tbsp Water
  • 1tbsp Potato starch
Serves 2
1.  Cut the vegetables into easy-to-eat sizes.
★If Kabocha is too hard to slice, microwave the Kabocha until soft.

2. Slice the chicken by making small, thin diagonal cuts, then marinate in the mix of sake, sesame oil, pinch of black pepper and potato starch.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine all 8 ingredients for the sweet sour sauce. Mix well.

4. Heat the half the tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add the Kabocha and cook until slightly charred and soft. Remove the Kabocha from the frying pan and set aside.

5. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan. When hot, stir-fry the chicken for about 3 minutes, until tender. Add onions and red peppers. When all is cooked, add sweet sour sauce mixture.
★As potato starch will stay in the bottom of  the bowl, mix the sweet sour sauce well again right before adding.

6.Mix well with the chicken, vegetables and sauce until the sauce boils and becomes thicker. Remove from the heat. Add the cooked Kabocha and gently mix together.
★Unlike corn starch, liquids thickened with potato starch should not be boiled too long because the viscosity will be reduced. Potato starch is good for warm dishes with a clear finish soup or sauce.

Feb 22, 2015

Orange is the new salad ☆Kabocha salad recipe

Kabocha Salad Recipe


  • 10 oz Kabocha (1/4 of a small sized Kabocha)
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1/3 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup Raisins 
  • 1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Japanese Mayonnaise is better)

Serves 2-3

1. Wash Kabocha well and remove seeds. Cut Kabocha into 3'' square pieces. Place into a heat resistant container with water. Put on the lid and microwave about 4-5 minutes until cooked.

2. Remove Kabocha's skin with a spoon.

3. Combine Kabocha, yogurt, raisins and mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl until the Kabocha is slightly mashed.

Feb 15, 2015

The most common dish ☆Kabocha nimono recipe

What is the most common Kabocha dish in Japan? My answer is "Kabocha Nimono". I'm sure that almost all Japanese will tell you the same thing. Kabocha Nimono is very basic, but very tasty and it reminds me of my mother's home cooking. 

Nimono is a simmered dish in Japanese cooking which is cooked with a small amount of liquid combined with dashi soup, soy souse, sake, mirin etc. Usually we cook until the liquid is absorbed well into the ingredients. It is much easier than making sushi!

Kabocha Nimono
You can eat green skin which contains carotene and fiber!

Kabocha Nimono Recipe


  • 1.5lb Kabocha
  • 1 1/4 cup Dashi soup
  • 2tbsp  Low sodium soy sauce
  • 2tbsp Sake
  • 2tbsp Mirin
  • 1bsp Sugar
Serves 4-5

1. Wash Kabocha well and remove seeds. Cut Kabocha into 3'' square pieces.
★If you cut Kabocha into too small, they will lose shape in the pot.

2. Combine dashi, soy sauce, sake and mirin in a cooking pot and bring it to boil. Put Kabocha tightly in the pot. Green skin side down.
★Use a pot just big enough to put Kabocha to avoid losing shape. Green skin helps to hold the shape and can be eaten!

3. Cook Kabocha covered (sligtly make a gap between lid and pot) until tender at medium low, about 20-30 minutes, depending on how hard your Kabocha is.