Pickled Cucumber with Konbucya [きゅうり昆布茶の浅漬け]

Pickle_KyuriKonbucya_2

Summer is time for growing vegetables that can be turned into pickles. Well, at least I have that in my mind when deciding what to plant in my little garden. Hence, I am sort of doing experiments on pickling cucumbers at this moment. I played with the seasoning, the size of cucumber and the duration of pickling. The easiest, and well-accepted pickle recipe is this konbuchya pickle. Pickles made with konbucya is rich in unique umami from konbu, flavorful and easy to make. This time, I make my pickle with sliced cucumber but if you prefer chunky type, go ahead with it. 

Konbucya [昆布茶] is a mixture made with main ingredients ground konbu and salt. Obviously, it does not contain any tea component as its name suggested but Japanese drink it as tea. It is also and important seasoning in Japanese cooking,  rich in konbu umani and easy to use. Bear in mind that, konbucya is NOT kombucha drink! They are not the same thing. I have asked a few friends of mine here and none of them seems to know about kombucha drink.

Pickle_KyuriKonbucya_1

Ingredients:
2 kyuri (Japanese cucumber), about 200 g
2-3 dried chili (small), cut into rings
1/2 tsp konbu-cya
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp rice vinegar

Method:
  1. Wash cucumbers, cut 5mm slices and dry it under the hot sun for 1to 2 hours to dehydrate it. With this step, there is no need to soak it with salt solution to remove excess liquid from the cucumber.
  2. Put cucumber into a zip-lock bag, add in all other ingredients and mix well.
  3. Seal the bag, squeeze all air out if possible then keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Transfer to serving plate and serve it as appetizer.

Pickle_KyuriKonbucya_3

Notes:
  1. Don't worry, dehydrated cucumber will turn crispy after soaking with vinegar, super crisp. 
  2. If konbu-cya is not available, you can replace it with the konbu for making dashi and salt. Cut konbu about 5 cm of konbu into strips, and add about 1/2 tsp of salt. And, the pickle should be kept in the refrigerator overnight for the flavor (konbu) to release.
  3. For chunky pickle, the pickling time will be longer the specified in this recipe. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Next, I wanna share a look-alike photo. This tree is outside my boy's primary school, and it looks like this during spring. When my boy saw it for the first time (after it trimmed), he was very excited that he spotted an animal. Do you see it too?

Look alike?

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麻辣凉拌笋子 [Spicy Bamboo Shoot Salad]

Bamboo_MaLaLiangBan

Spring in Kyoto is not only about sakura, but also the delicious spring vegetables. Bamboo shoot is considered as one of the local products/vegetables from Kyoto and it is now in season. We have received five batches of bamboo shoot so far, and expecting more to come in following weeks.  We were invited to the bamboo farm for the harvest last year, looking forward to this year's outing.

For the last three years we lived here, we always received home-grown rice, vegetables and fruits of season. It is really a privilege of living in a small town surrounded by mother of nature and friendly people,  I am loving this neighborhood more now.

Now, talk about bamboo shoot. Chinese and Japanese both love to eat bamboo shoot, but I found that Japanese is more passioned in this unique ingredient and use it in many dishes. I remember when I was little, we only eat bamboo shoot during Chinese New year. Japanese prepared bamboo shoot in many ways, including this bamboo shoot condiment called "menma" (麺麻/麺碼 ) that is commonly used as topping for ramen.

Fresh bamboo shoot has to be boiled before turning into delicious dishes, here is how I prepared my bamboo shoot Japanese way. Kind ojicyan even included a pack of ground rice hulls when he brought us some bamboo shoots. Oh yes, the good news is you do not have to peel the bamboo shoot layer by layer. Fast and saving space in the rubbish bin too.

BambooShoot_1

How to prepare fresh bamboo shoot:
  1. Peel the bamboo shoot as shown in the picture above.
  2. Put it in a pot, fill in enough water to submerge the bamboo shoot. Fill a tea bag with 2 tablespoons ground rice hulls and drop into the pot. If you do not have it, use the water from washing the rice.
  3. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour. Turn the heat off and let it stay in the pot for another 30 minutes.
  4. Remove water, rinse and ready to eat.
  5. To store:Put boiled bamboo shoot in a container, fill with enough water to submerge it and keep in the refrigerator. It can be kept in the refrigerator for a week, but need to change the water daily.
I have prepared this sort-of salad dish twice, hubby and friends loved it. My Japanese friends simply called it "kimchi" as it looks like one to them. Stuff mix with chili is often referred to as kimchi. I corrected them a few times, it is Chinese style "salad", or similar to Japanese “あえ物” but did not insisted. Most important, everyone enjoyed it.

Ingredients (2-3 servings):
200 g boiled bamboo shoot
2-3 prigs coriander
2-3 tbsp seasoned chili oil (调味入麻辣油)
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt to taste


Method:
  1. Submerge bamboo shoot in iced water for about 10 minutes, pat dry with paper towel then cut into thin slices.
  2. Cut coriander into 2-3 cm in length.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Add extra salt to adjust the taste if necessary. Mix well.
  4. Transfer to serving plate and serve immediately.

* * * * *

Here, few photos of Sakura 2015 I took last month. This year, the whole week of sakura season in our area was hit by bad weather days. Cloudy, and rainy.In fact, I had to bring our laundry to coin laundry three times in a week to use the dryer there.
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Pumpkin Dumpling (かぼちゃ団子)

Pumpkin Dango 

Japanese love to eat pumpkin not only for its nutrition but also to add colour to dishes, especially in the bento. A small cut of pumpkin in bento can really have the brighten up effect and make it looks more appealing. Hence, pumpkin is available on the shelves all year round. This time, I added pumpkin in traditional Japanese sweet called shirotama dango (白玉団子). Shirotama (literally means white ball), original version is white in colour (plain) but green tea (matcha) flavour is also popular.


Dango (dumpling) is often served with sweet red bean paste, brown sugar syrup, and kinako (soy bean powder). It is delicious too, to serve it western way with icecream (eg: parfait). My elder son loves them all, but younger boy votes for western sweet. 

Ingredients (3-4 servings):
100 g pumpkin (without peel and seed)
100 g glutinous rice flour (I used Japanese type)
Warm water

Serving:
4-5 tbsp Sweet red bean
Kinako (optional)
Green to garnish

Method:
  1. Steam and mash the pumpkin.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix together mash pumpkin and glutinous rice flour. Add in warm water slowly to form pliable soft dough.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, divide and shape dough into small balls.
  4. Drop dumplings into boiling water, once they are floated remove and put them in a bowl of iced water.
  5. Drain well. Arrange a few dumplings on a serving plate, serve with a heap tablespoon of sweet red bean. 

*  *  *  *  *

Next, sharing few photos of Mount Hiei (比叡山) covering in snow I took during Japanese new year holiday.  We went there by public transports, train + bus + cable car. Boys were excited to see such thick snow, it was our main purpose there actually. 

Entrance


Dragon!

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Star covered in snow


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