Konbu Tsukudani

Just made dashi and have left-over konbu and katsuobushi? Tired of eating plain rice? Konbu tsukudani is the answer.

Tsukudani is just the name for a style of cooking where the ingredients are cooked in mirin, soy sauce and sugar.


  • Leftover konbu from dashi
  • Leftover katsuobushi from dashi
  • Mirin
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar

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Dashi – 101

Dashi is to the Japanese as pasta is to the Italians. It’s the heart of hundreds of Japanese dishes.

Fortunately, it is not like other broths that you have to leave boiling for hours. Dashi is simple to make and only takes 20 minutes.

What you’ll need:

  • About a 10cm square piece of dried konbu, about the size of your hand.

Konbu (kelp) is a type of seaweed. It’s better to buy wild konbu as it’s more flavourful and goes further.

  • 10-15g (1 generous handful) of katsuobushi.

Katsuobushi are the fish flakes that you sprinkle over okonomiyaki. It’s Skipjack Tuna or Bonito that has been cooked, smoked, pressed, preserved into a block and then shredded.

  • 1 litre of water.

1. To begin, place the konbu in a pan with cold water. The konbu is quite tough so it needs a slow approach to release the flavour. Start with a low heat and leave the konbu to warm lightly. When the pan shows signs of boiling the konbu stage is done.

Note: If you’re a vegetarian strain out the konbu and stop here. This is a vegetarian safe dashi that still has the taste of the sea from the fragrant konbu.

Drain after it’s simmered if you’re a vegetarian.

2. Leaving the konbu in the pan, add the katsuobushi. Turn the heat up a little to bring it to a slow boil, as the fish flakes are so light it doesn’t take long for the flavour to escape and over boiling it can ruin it. After it’s started boiling, or when the flakes have sunk to the bottom, turn the heat off and let it rest for a minute.

A generous handful of katsuobushi.

3. All that’s left is to strain out the konbu and katsuobushi and it’s finished.

The finished product.

(Tip: Save the leftover konbu and katsuobushi in the fridge or freezer to make konbu tsukudani another time)

Dashi can be used for loads of other dishes, Tamagoyaki, Miso soup and as a base for Udon to name a few. You could even have it as is, enjoy!


Dan is a first year ALT who enjoys nothing more than a tabe-nomi houdai. He loves Japanese food, travelling and snowboarding.   

On a Roll: The Internationalization of Sushi

No matter where in the world you come from, chances are you ate sushi even before moving to Japan. The sushi boom worldwide has led to the achievement of something once thought impossible: an international devotion to raw fish and cold rice. Sushi is now a basic bourgeois staple in the West, and trends seem to indicate that it will continue to become even cheaper and more accessible abroad. But how did sushi become so popular outside of Japan?

Sushi actually has humble origins as a working-class food. Portable, eaten without the need for utensils, and long-lasting due to the introduction of salt and vinegar (which kept the rice and fish from spoiling), sushi made a good meal for laborers who would tuck an oshizushi into their pocket on their way to work or pick up nigiri from a food stall on the way home. As with pizza and the hamburger, history and technology took its course with sushi in Japan and elevated its status to expensive delicacy. First, in the 1950s the fatty belly cuts of tuna once considered suitable only for cat food were popularized through a governmental marketing campaign put into action to address tuna shortages. Nowadays, these cuts, known as ootoro or shimofuri, are considered the finest meat available on the fish and can only be purchased from the highest quality fishmongers. Next, sushi restaurants introduced the conveyer belt to enhance the speed and efficiency of sushi delivery in restaurants. This innovation allowed restaurants to serve more customers, and the domestic popularity of sushi increased dramatically.

Kaitenzushi, making the rounds from Japan to Perth, Australia (where this photo was taken).

Sushi launched abroad when Japan’s economy boomed in the 1960s, giving sushi chefs the chance to try their hand at making sushi for Japanese expat communities in the Americas. Emigrant sushi chefs were often forced to alter their sushi to make up for the lack of certain ingredients and to make it more appealing to the American palette. Perhaps the most famous product of this alteration is the California Roll, attributed to Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef at Kaikan restaurant in Los Angeles. The California Roll eliminated or downplayed certain ingredients considered to have an “ick-factor” among picky Americans: the uramaki (“inside out”) roll featured an outer wrapping of rice rather than nori and a filling that substituted high-fat avocado for traditional raw tuna. Changes such as these transformed sushi from an unappealing foreign import to haute cuisine.

Anatomy of a California Roll: cucumber, crab, and avocado wrapped in nori with an outer layer of rice and toasted sesame seeds.

Upon its introduction to the West, sushi had an air of exclusivity: it was foreign in origin and used expensive, unconventional ingredients. Those wealthy and brave enough to sample squares of seaweed; raw fish; tart, vinegared rice; and wasabi became “initiates” in a food trend that quickly spread among Los Angeles celebrities. Celebrities were the perfect incubators of the sushi trend. The aesthetic of sushi appealed to those who could afford to go out to eat and wait for the chef to meticulously prepare a dish that was just as much a work of art as a meal. Furthermore, the small portions and healthfulness of fresh ingredients tantalized famous devotees of diets and health food.

In fact, the international spread of sushi is in part due to the advocacy of actor Robert De Niro, a close personal friend of restauranteur Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Matsuhisa began his career abroad in 1973 in Lima, Peru, where he developed his signature fusion style due to the unavailability of Japanese ingredients in South America. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he met De Niro. De Niro convinced Matsuhisa to open a restaurant with him in New York City. Matsuhisa did so, and the restaurant, NOBU, became a sensation and the flagship restaurant of the Nobu Chain of sushi restaurants. Masuhisa and De Niro now co-own the Nobu Chain, which has 11 American locations (think Aspen, Beverly Hills, Lanai) and 18 international locations (think Dubai, Hong Kong, Milan).

“You’re welcome.”

Now U.S. consular offices in Japan issue over 1,000 visas a year to chefs, tuna buyers, and other members of the global sushi industry—and it truly is a global industry. In the words of Japan scholar Theodore Bestor, “A 500-pound tuna is caught off the coast of New England or Spain, flown thousands of miles to Tokyo, sold for tens of thousands of dollars to Japanese buyers in Tokyo…and shipped to chefs in New York and Hong Kong? That’s the manic logic of global sushi.”

As sushi trickles down from its high-tier status to the proletariat, innovations in the industry abound. My own hometown of Santa Rosa, California, has become infamous as the spawning point of anthropomorphic pineapple Guy Fieri‘s sushi-fusion empire. At Mr. Fieri’s Tex Wasabi’s Rock n’ Roll Sushi Barbecue restaurant downtown, you can consume outlandish “Gringo Sushi” creations such as Big Bird on Fire (barbecued chicken and french fries wrapped with sushi rice), Jackass Roll (barbecued pork and avocado with chili garlic mayo), and Hog Tied King (salmon, bacon, cream cheese, sriracha, and unagi sauce).

"Hey...he does kind of look like a pineapple!"

“Hey…he does kind of look like a pineapple!”

A ways down the 101 Freeway in San Francisco, you can buy what’s called a “sushirrito“—if that sounds to you like a combo of sushi and burrito, you are correct. Thus, sushi has come nearly full circle from cheap, portable working class food to expensive haute cuisine and back to cheap, portable delight of the cultured masses.

The “sushirrito.”

The spread of sushi abroad has not come without consequences, however. Worldwide demand for certain fish like red snapper and tuna has led to overfishing of these species, causing environmental concerns. Sushi has been called the leading cause of “the inevitable collapse of wild fishery,” and it is uncertain whether farm or ranch fishing will be able to satisfy the needs of the international sushi market—the slow growth rate of tuna is one concern for farm fisheries. The emerging rarity of certain species coupled with unabated consumer demand has resulted in deception on the part of sushi chefs; often chefs will intentionally mislabel more common species of fish as their fancier, more expensive counterparts, which can expose diners to higher levels of mercury and other health risks. (For example, in the past some chefs have swapped white tuna for escolar, which causes gastrointestinal issues in humans.) A more scrupulous response to the jeopardization of the ecosystem is the rise of the sustainable sushi movement, which addresses the vulnerability of certain fish species and wasteful fishing practices in the creation and distribution of ethical sushi. The sustainable sushi movement puts the responsibility in the hands of the consumer in choosing restaurants and dishes that abide by rules protecting the diversity and productivity of the ecosystem.

A sustainable seafood chart from NAB Communities.

If it weren’t for environmental factors, the global rise of sushi would certainly persist, with increased affordability and accessibility worldwide. However, it’s not clear whether extant supplies of fish will satisfy consumer hunger. Sushi could easily retreat back into exclusive, expensive territory, available only to those who can afford to purchase such a delicacy.



Wikipedia: California Roll (Wikipedia)

Sustainable Seafood (Wikipedia)

How Sushi Ate The World (The Guardian)

Raw (The New York Times)

How Sushi Went Global (Foreign Policy)

Sushi: Globalization Through Food Culture (東アジア文化交渉研究)

Sustainable Sushi in San Francisco: Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar (NAB Communities)

Karin is a first-year ALT who enjoys fighting evil by moonlight and winning love by daylight. Her favorite sushi is kappa maki (cucumber roll). 

Cooking with Koji: Cooking Class Thurs, January 24th

Foodies of Ishikawa, you’re in for a treat! Yuka Kokon is offering a class next week at Noppo kun restaurant about how to make and season foods with salt koji, an Ishikawa specialty. What is salt koji, you may ask? Koji is a trendy fermented seasoning (like miso) made of steamed rice and the same fermenting agent used in sake and soy sauce.

In this class, you will be taught how to make your own salt koji and also how to use salt koji in other recipes.

Class Information

When:  Thursday, January 24th, from 10 am to 12:30 pm.

Where:  Noppo kun Restaurant and Natural Foods Market in Nonoichi

Cost: 2,500 yen. This includes lunch!

Contact:   koji.seminar(at)gmail.com

The organizer of this event is English-proficient and will be on-hand during the demonstration. Both the chef and the organizer are excited to share this little-known specialty with Ishikawa’s foreign residents, so even if you can’t attend, pass word along!

Salt Koji Cooking Seminar (ENG)


A Taste of Home in Ishikawa

As a foreigner living in Ishikawa, no matter how much you love Japanese food, there comes a point when you’ve had enough pickled vegetables, fried cutlets, and petrified fish.  Have you been wanting to prepare recipe from back home, but can’t find the right ingredients? Well, here is a collection of shops in Kanazawa which will help you put together a taste from home.

Yamaya – やまや

This is a major chain of mass-produced goods. It offers the fundamental ingredients for typical Italian, Southeast Asian, Tex Mex, and Indian meals. You’ll also find imported American potato chips and snacks, matzo ball soup, pancake mix, maple syrup, peanut butter, garbanzo beans, flour tortillas, hot sauce, and tons more. This place is enormous and my listings are items that stand out to me, so I encourage you to take a look at the inventory for yourself. Personally, I think their strength lies in their assortment of alcohol. They have a decent selection of imported beers that you won’t find in any Japanese market or conbini and an impressive selection of spirits at very decent prices; I’ve found the spirits here to be 10-30% less expensive than in the US. There are many branches across Japan, including one in Nanao, three in Kanazawa, one in Nonoichi, and one in Komatsu. Click here for a complete listing and hours of operation. http://www.yamaya.co.jp

Diamond – ダイヤモンド

Ah, the elusive Diamond market. Often described as “the foreign goods store on the second floor of Omicho Market.” To some it’s a myth and many go searching for it in vain. Let me be your guide. Enter the market through the Cafe Arco Mercato entrance facing M’za (see picture), turn left and head towards the butcher shop, there turn right, and then turn right once more. Diamond will be on your left hand side. Walk inside and proceed upstairs to their foreign goods section. It is only accessible by going inside the store. Diamond has a plethora of foreign goods similar to Yamaya, but on a smaller scale and better curated. Highlights include hundreds of spices,  ghee, dry pastas, sun dried tomatoes, baking goods, shredded coconut, agave syrup, Cherry Cola, and cooking oils (avocado, grapeseed, walnut, almond). Hours of operation follow Omicho Market’s weekly schedule. http://www.daiya-net.co.jp/index.html


Fu-do – 風土

For the health-conscience, Fu-do stocks a variety of brown rice (玄米) harvested exclusively by a dozen farmers across Ishikawa prefecture.  A kilo of rice averages from 400-600円. Should you be interested, they also offer rice bran (ヌカ) free of charge, which you can use to cook bamboo shoots or pickle-ferment vegetables! If you are not familiar with cooking brown rice in your rice cooker, simply give it a rinse and let it soak in cold water for 5 hours prior to turning it on. Fu-do is located in the basement of M’za near the Andersen bakery. Hours of operation are 10am-8pm and follow M’za’s holiday schedule. https://www.facebook.com/fuudokanazawa

Yaoya -八百屋

This tiny produce market is owned by Matsuda-san, a friendly fellow who lived in Canada for a brief period and who speaks some English.  He carries an assortment of seasonal produce from Ishikawa as well as some items from overseas. Shop highlights include passion fruit, fresh coriander (cilantro), jalapeños, zebra tomatoes, tomatillos, purple cauliflower, round squash, and cherimoyas. He typically receives new inventory on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but if you are coming from out of town, he recommends giving him a call to ensure the product you are looking for is in stock. Produce is subject to change with the seasons. Yaoya is located near the top of Shintatemachi. He is open from 8am-6pm and closed on Sundays. http://www.yaomatsu.jp

Cheese Oukoku – チーズ王国

This cheese stand, located in the basement (デパ地下) of Daiwa, carries an impressive variety of cheeses (ricotta, Gouda, cheddar, blue, goat’s, brie, Parmesan, mozzarella, Camembert, feta, the list goes on). This shop is not cheap, but the quality and selection is excellent and incomparable to than anything you’ll find at any supermarket in Ishikawa. While you’re here, the market around the corner from this cheese kingdom sells pine nuts if you are interested in making pesto from scratch. Hours are from 10am-7pm. http://www.cheese-oukoku.co.jp/

The Meat Guy

The Meat Guy is an online meat provider based in Nagoya. Not exactly in the neighborhood, but if you are looking for meat, this is your guy. You can find most meat products on there: 100% beef patties, lamb chops, turkeys, alligator sausage, rib eye steaks, suckling pig, real bacon, and more. Shipping is a reasonable 650円 and they can usually deliver within 2-3 days of your order.  Occasionally they’ll offer free shipping deals. Check them out at http://www.themeatguy.jp.

This listing is Kanazawa-centric as this is with what I am familiar, but it should cover many of your bases. I invite those who live outside Kanazawa and everyone else to chime in with your recommendations in the comments section.

Here is a map I’ve put together of all of the shops mentioned.

Mauricio Cobian is a 2nd year ALT in Kanazawa who, despite this entry, cannot have enough of Japanese food.

Master Cooking in Japan with The Ishikawa JET Kitchen

NOTE: As of October 2013, the Ishikawa JET Kitchen Cookbook is temporarily unavailable.  Sorry for the inconvenience!


Are all the new foods you’re finding at the supermarket a bit overwhelming? Have you been wracking your brain trying to convert your favorite chocolate chip recipe to your metric measuring cups? Are you sick of not knowing which flour you need for what kind of cooking?

Cooking in Japan can be a challenge, but now it just got a little bit easier with The Ishikawa JET Kitchen, an interactive digital cookbook from Ishikawa AJET. This cookbook is the brainchild of former Anamizu CIR Leah Zoller. With the help of a dedicated group of recipe contributors and testers, the penultimate cookbook that every JET should own. Whether you’re new to cooking, or a culinary whiz you will benefit from the wide range of traditional Japanese and homegrown recipes from Ishikawa JETs around the world.

Recipes for people with dietary restrictions have been tagged for easy searching – so whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, or keep gluten-free you can find what recipe will work for you in no time.

For only ¥1000 you can get over your fear of the supermarket and use your kitchen like a pro. All proceeds from The Ishikawa JET Kitchen will go to Second Harvest charity. If you like the cookbook, make sure to tell your friends, family and coworkers!

To get the Cookbook, please transfer your payment of ¥1000 to the Ishikawa AJET account:
Bank name 北國銀行(ほっこくぎんこう)
Branch name 宇野気支店(うのけしてん)
Acct number 381962
Acct name エージェットイシカワシブ
Please send an email with the subject line “Cookbook Payment” to ishikawaajet[at]gmail.com with your name as it appears on your bank book. We’ll email your copy of the cookbook once payment is confirmed.

Please not that a direct “buy now” option is no longer available.

Last Chance for Shaved Ice… or is it?

The end of summer vacation is in sight, and the weather seems to be conspiring. With average temperatures since the weekend hovering around 27 degrees (down from the mid 30s a week ago), it’s hard to believe its still August. At this rate, we can expect the disappearance of these quaint little blue-and-red banners from storefronts any day:

The "ice" flag (read: Shaved Ice Sold Within)

Summer is the season of kakigori (かき氷 – shaved ice). First recorded in writings from the Heian Period (784-1185), this popular icy treat continues to make an annual appearance in cafes, convenience stores and festival stalls across Japan from June through August. It comes in fruity flavors like melon and peach (my favorite is strawberry with condensed milk), as well as Japanese classics like macha (green tea) and azuki (sweet bean).

If, like me, you find yourself experiencing the childish desire for shaved ice season to last forever, you might consider making your own. Kakigori ki (かき氷機 – shaved ice machines) are available in a number of colors and models at house ware purveyors (think AEON, Komeri, Don Qihote and PLANT 3). Until this year, I had always dismissed this kind of thing as a silly extravagance, but I was surprised to see how cheap they were. Even without end of summer discounts, you can expect to spend between 900 and 3000 yen (those that are electric or are covered with images of Pikachu, Anpanman, or Micky Mouse tend to run a little higher than the plain, hand-crank varieties).

My electric shaved ice machine was 1900 yen at PLANT 3 in Tsubata.

Ingredients are surprisingly simple – just ice (most machines are fine with regular old ice cubes) and syrup. For that brightly colored carnival effect, flavored syrups are available at most grocery stores. Alternatively, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own! For a homemade plum syrup recipe, check out Hokuriku Expat Kitchen.  Go enjoy the stuffing out of summer – and, as always, happy cooking.

Kakigori with homemade plum sauce and condensed milk. I wish I had done this much earlier.

Chelsea is a second year CIR in Tsubata. She writes a blog, and will probably be posting shaved ice recipes through December.

Edible Cure for Summer Fatigue (not for the faint of heart)

With this being the summer of energy saving, even those havens of heavy AC use like Kahoku AEON are a few degrees warmer inside this year than last. On the flip side, this summer has seen a surge in countermeasures against summer discomfort which don’t use electricity, but employ instead the powers of nature and the human psyche.  For example, the sound of a fuurin (風鈴), a glass windchime, draws one’s attention to the breeze and is said to create a cooling effect. (I had one last year, and I have to say, I found it very pleasant.) Another example that you may have noticed around your town is the Green Curtain (グリーン・カーテン) , leafy vines trained to grow on a net in front of a window. Of course,  this blocks hot sunlight from the interior of a home or office, but the real selling point is psychological – green leaves waving gently in the wind are meant to make the veiwer feel cool and energized.

Now, one issue is that there aren’t many attractive vines that live long and prosper when forced to grow along a scorching exterior wall in the middle of summer. With a lot of TLC, morning glories and cucumbers do okay, but the champion of the green curtain is goya.  A relative of the cucumber, goya (or bitter melon) is native to tropical and sub-tropical locations around the world. It produces a fruiting body that resembles a cucumber with the measles. While theoretically edible, the bumpy goya is one of the bitterest foods out there. Recipes that use goya, such as Okinawan chanpuru, usually include steps to remove some of the astringent taste, and mask the rest with the mild flavors of eggs, meat or tofu.

If they’re so bitter, why bother? Here are five reasons why you might consider giving goya a try:

  1. Something to write Mom about – the folks at home love food stories (especially if they’re bizzare and unfortunate)
  2. Your friends and coworkers will be impressed
  3. Goya are cheap (in fact, someone you work with will probably give you some for free if you put the word out that you’d like to try one)
  4. Goya are extremely high in Vitamin C (don’t succumb to scurvey!)
  5. Goya is said to combat summer fatigue

Whether that last one actually has any scientific backing, I’m not sure. But like I said, power-saving summer comfort is as much psychological as it is material.

Ready to give goya a go? Check out the end of this blog post  for a chanpuru recipe – it’s easy, filling, and (most importantly of all) completely edible.

Chelsea is a second year CIR in Tsubata. She enjoys meeting other food people through her blog, and is always up for trying new veggies.