While on vacation, my wife and I have been stepping away from modern conveniences in our life and trying a slower paced life in a small rural town. This being the case, I had the idea to cook rice in an old-fashioned way for dinner. An electric rice-cooker is available here too but I prefer to go with an earthen pot today, even though it takes more time. Boiling rice in earthen pots makes each grain puffed up, soft and shiny.
As the dinner of the day, I picked wild vegetable mixed rice. This simple meal should be a good way to enjoy the fresh taste of local ingredients. The wild vegetables used were leaf bud, lotus, bracken, mushrooms, carrots, potherb mustard, etc.
As side dishes we had fried mackerel and pickled mustard greens that is a specialty product of Karuizawa called “Nozawana”. The texture of the fried mackerel was crispy outside but plump and soft inside. These were all prepared, except the rice, and sold by a local but modern grocery store near our cottage. How convenient the store is!
OOPS!!! I had cut corners again, while I forgot that we had been avoiding all modern conveniences in our life!
I will post the recipe for how to cook rice the old-fashioned way. The steps below should be followed very carefully:
- Rinse the rice a couple of times and let the water drain then let the rice sit for 30 minutes
- Put the rice into the pot
- Use 1.2 times more water than rice
- Turn the stove on high until the water starts boiling
- Turn the heat down to medium low and continue boiling for 5 minutes
- Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 4 minutes
- Turn up the heat to maximum for 3~5 seconds
- Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 10 minutes for steaming
*** Never open the pot all the way of cooking, even if you are curious about the inside***
My wife and I went to visit Karuizawa a town that is the most popular summer resort in Japan. Karuizawa is located at the foot of Mt. Asama, a volcanic mountain. The height of the mountain is 2,568 m (8,425 ft). It has been more active recently and there was a small eruption this past June. The first photo is the view of Mt. Asama from a cabbage field near the cottage where we stayed. The altitude here is about 1,100 m (3,600 ft). Since autumn was coming, trees were beginning to turn red and it was chilly at night.
A few minutes drive from our place took us to a construction site where supposedly Bill’s mega mansion is (pictured above). Which Bill? The Bill from Microsoft. When I got closer to the place, I got questioned by a security guard. If you are interested in this topic, you could find more information by googling “Bill Gates and Karuizawa”.
This is the bullet train called “Shinkansen” on which we went to and from Karuizawa. It can travel speeds up to 280 km/h (160 mph). It only took us 40 minutes to go the 120 km from our place to Karuizawa. The train was crowded because it was a during 5 day holiday called “Silver Week”.
I ordered two servings of sushi for my wife’s birthday. Sushi is one of our favorite meals but it was not the only reason why I chose it. The take-out sushi doesn’t need any cooking and looks sumptuous. So sushi is the best meal for cutting corners!
When you think of sushi, you might image a sushi roll wrapped with a seaweed sheet such as a California roll. However, when we Japanese talk about just “sushi”, it generally means hand-formed sushi with a topping of seafood shown in the pictures here.
Well, I will tell you how to use soy sauce for sushi. Sometimes I see visitors from overseas dipping sushi deeply into soy sauce from the bottom which is the rice part. Absorbing the sauce, the formed sushi rice starts to crumble, which then becomes difficult to keep holding the rice together and this makes it taste so salty.
The second photograph is showing one of the right ways to put soy sauce on sushi. Sushi must be turned upside down, and then dipped from the seafood part for just a second. Although chopsticks were used in this photograph, you may use your fingers instead, which is also a more traditional way of eating sushi.
I made herbed pork and apples. Three kinds of herbs, which were thyme, rosemary and marjoram, were used for this meal. Marjoram is less common than other herbs, since it was sold only at one grocery store out of four near my house.
According to the recipe two pounds of pork loin is required, but I thought it was too much for just my wife and me. So I decided to make half of that amount. Cooking with foreign recipes is so complicated! The quantity of each ingredient is indicated in different units such as lb. Even the measuring utensils are different too.
Finally, I managed to make it. The meat looked almost the same as Japanese style roasted pork which is served on ramen noodles. The herbs stimulated my appetite and got rid of the gamey smell. The tartness of the apples reduced the sweetness of the brown sugar and maple syrup. This was a new taste for me, because usually we don’t cook fruits. Because I ate this with rice, it might have tasted sweeter, so I will make it less sweet next time. It was delicious!
P.S. I forgot to add a very important herb in this meal. It is SAGE.
Check the recipe at http://www.gottobenc.com/promotions/recipes-nutrition/cooking/Herbed%20Pork%20and%20Apples