On our last sojurn to Little Tokyo, we purchased a Japanese cookbook, with an emphasis on home cooking as opposed to those pretty and fancy dishes you get in fusion books. Since we’re kinda cack-handed, bog-standard Japanese fare sounded mighty fine to us.
Since then, we’ve only used the book once, a lack of time and the necessary ingredients being our main excuses (of which we have plenty). And the last time I dragged P out to Little Tokyo, he didn’t stop whingeing about the super-long bus ride for weeks, so that was pretty much out of the question. But I’ve since done a little digging online, and found a little Japanese enclave so close to us, we could hit it with a cricket ball (in our dreams, I hear the skeptics exclaim).
So last Friday, we hauled our arses off the bus a third of the way home from work and took a small detour down Sawtelle. We despaired of finding any open shops until, all of a sudden, clusters of Japanese shops and restaurants revealed themselves. A merry little jig resulted when my eyes laid rest on an Iwatani stove (absolutely essential since the New Year’s Eve debacle with the fucking oven). And while some of us were confusticated by the array of sweeties on offer, I unthinkingly grabbed a bag of crappy Japanese biscuits from my childhood:
As a result of this find, our diet this weekend has been fairly healthy (apart from multiple experimental waffles, which will be photographed when we get them looking remotely like waffles).
Dinner 1: sea bass and noodles in a clear dashi soup, spinach with sesame paste, and burdock (shop-bought). I particularly liked the way the cookbook suggested cooking the sea bass: lay the fish in a colander and pour boiling water over (I used about 6-8 cups in a kettle), followed by cold water to stop the cooking process. The fish can then be warmed up in the boiling soup when everything else is ready. Major plus: fish that isn’t overcooked.
Dinner 2: agedashi tofu. With the leftover spinach and burdock.
My only grouse about our meals: we didn’t put that much thought into what would go together, more on what dishes we could cook given the contents of our refrigerator. So the sesame-coated spinach didn’t go all that well with either the fish soup or the fried tofu. The Japanese seem to be more in touch with the changing season, possibly as a result of centuries of etiquette trickled down from a culture-obsessed royal court, and they eat accordingly. In our modern society, on the other hand, you can get just about anything at any time of year, air freighted in from everywhere. And it doesn’t help that this is Southern California, where you can still get fresh fruit and veg even in the dead of “winter”. And I also seem to have forgotten dinners from my childhood, where although less-stylised, our Chinese dishes were still matched according to which flavours worked together. Time to apply some attention to menus instead of individual dishes.
Cross-posted on akatsukieats.