Category: Japanese (Page 2 of 2)

Not Chicken Teriyaki Boy’s Glazed Beef Patties and Chicken Thighs

When I hear the word “teriyaki,” I think of Larry David’s Chicken Teriyaki Boy or that goopy, cloyingly sweet sauce also known as teriyaki.

My experiences with teriyaki sauces have been limited to that awful stuff that often slimes airplane chicken meals or sad stir fries.

However, my view of teriyaki changed as I flipped through Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking and Harumi’s Japanese Cooking, written by Harumi Kurihara.  Although I borrowed these books from the library months ago, they inspired me by making Japanese cooking approachable and accessible.  I drooled over Harumi’s recipe for petite beef patties that glistened with a simple teriyaki sauce made from mostly soy sauce and mirin.

Instead of incorporating bread crumbs into my ground beef, I used ground, instant oats.  This resulted in meat patties that reminded me of baked, Lebanese kibbe.

I have glazed turkey burgers with reduced soy and mirin with delicious results.  This was no exception. I created this recipe as I cooked so my best advice is to taste as you go, following the recipe as basic guidelines.  Since I cooked with small quantities of meat, double the recipes as needed.

2 chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat (I used bone-in, but boneless would be fine)
1/2 onion, sliced

1/2 pound ground beef (or turkey)
Oil or butter
1/2 onion, minced
3 button mushrooms, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 egg
Wocestershire sauce, 2 dashes
1 small squirt of ketchup
1/2-3/4 cup instant oats, pulverized in a blender of food processor

Teriyaki Glaze
Soy sauce
Grated ginger
Spritz of fresh lemon juice
Optional: Cayenne or other hot peppper

To prepare the teriyaki sauce
In a small saucepan, reduce equal parts of soy sauce and mirin.  Add a little grated ginger.  Gradually add more sugar until the sauce is not too salty.  Gently reduce until the sauce is glossy and coats the back of a spoon.

If the sauce seems to salty, add more mirin, sugar, or water.  If it seems to sweet, add more soy sauce.  Spritz in some fresh lemon juice for brightness.

To prepare the chicken
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Preheat a skillet with oil to medium-high.

Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry.  Trim off the extra skin.

Season the skin-side of the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the preheated pan, skin-side down.  Let the chicken cook until the skin renders to golden brown.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a lightly oiled baking dish, on top of the sliced onions, skin-side up.

Bake for about an hour or until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink.  As the chicken cooks, baste with the teriyaki sauce and pan juices.

To prepare the beef patties
In a pan over medium heat, saute the minced onion and mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper.  As the vegetables cook, grate in ginger and stir.  When the vegetables are translucent and the ginger is fragrant, remove from heat.  Grate in the garlic, stir, and allow to lightly cook.

Roughly pulverize the oats in a blender or food processor.

In a bowl, incorporate the ground meat, sauteed vegetables/ginger/garlic, egg, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt, and pepper.  Add the ground oats until the patties hold together.  Test the seasoning by sauteing a small amount of the meat.

Form the mixture into patties and sear over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and baste with the teriyaki sauce as the patties cook through.  Add a little water to the bottom of the pan, as needed so the teriyaki sauce does not scorch.  Cover the patties with a lid for faster cooking.

I served my glazed meats alongside Thai sticky rice, sauteed mushrooms, and green peas.

Sacramento Day Three: Morning Horchata, Eel, Turkish Food, & One Last Breakfast

I’m not one who craves coffee enough to make it myself, but when it’s waiting outside my door in the morning, I can’t help but to indulge.  After my cup of blond coffee, I ate half a broiled grapefruit and french toast drizzled with real maple syrup, sauteed plums, fresh kiwi, and crispy bacon.

My family decided to accompany my brother to Tahoe so he could snowboard.  The thought of spending the whole day in a car was more than I could stomach physically and mentally (plus I am prone to getting motion sickness as a passenger).  So my folks and brother made the nearly three hour drive to Tahoe while I explored the city.
After breakfast, I headed to Davis, a 20-minutes drive from Sacramento, to stroll through the city’s year-round, outdoor farmers market.  Davis was heaven and I beamed as I walked through cozy neighborhoods and shuffled through crunchy leaves.

I wandered through the many vendors and marveled at the fresh, local, and organic produce.  Vibrant fruits such as pomegranates and persimmons, considered exotic by Midwestern norms, were commonplace.

At the end of market were vendors serving a variety of hot foods.  I bought a jalapeno and cheese tamale and horchata from Montoya Tamales.

I added a spicy, red salsa to the tamale and settled on a park bench.  The tamale was light and fluffy and streamed with melted cheese and spicy chili.  I used to think I hated tamales because the only versions I had eaten in the Midwest were leaden and dry.  Traveling through central Mexico redefined tamales and this version was every bit as delicate and spicy.

After spending time at the market, I visited Oto’s Marketplace, a Japanese grocery store in Sacramento.  Many sources online sang Oto’s praises, mentioned their deli and sushi offerings, and spoke of Japanese individuals who considered the market worth a long drive.

I parked in the tight parking lot, reminiscent of Trader Joe’s parking lots of death, and wandered the store’s aisles admiring their large selections of sauces, noodles, and tea.  Full and limited to a small carry-on, I was tempted by giant slices of baum cake, poke and sake.

At the deli, I ordered eel and tuna nigiri which was freshly made by Ray Yamamoto.


I’m not a sushi expert, but compared to every version I have ever consumed, this was the best.


The rice was delicately shaped and room temperature.  The tuna was plush and naughtily silky.  The eel was caramel-colored and melted in my mouth.  The lack of a sticky, sweet eel sauce let the eel’s rich savoriness shine.
Prelude to Dinner
Full, I returned to The Amber House and took a long walk through the adjacent neighborhoods and to the downtown area.  After I collapsed into a firm nap, the phone rang and thus began the dinner negotiations.
The folks were exhausted from the long drive and anticipated a 3:30 a.m. wake up call to catch their flight home, so they asked me to choose a restaurant near Rocklin.  I’m not sure if they were really ready to accept my choice of a restaurant for dinner.  The non-chain restaurants were limited to international options and my father balked at my first suggestions.  When I defeatedly threw out “The Cheesecake Factory,” my dad insisted we go.  I burst into laughter when I heard my brother let out an exasperated uggggh. . . nooooo. . . Somehow, someway, my brother and Joan took over and convinced my Dad to meet me at Antolian’s Table, a Turkish restaurant in Rocklin.
Jeni’s Vacation Rule #2: Avoid eating at chain restaurant unless it’s a local chain.  
6815 Lonetree Blvd
Rocklin, CA 95765
Having never eaten Turkish food, I excitedly flipped through Anatolian Table’s extensive menu.  I started my meal with piping hot tea served in a little glass cup and we were brought to complimentary hummus and bread because our order took longer than expected to arrive.  While the bread did not seem to be of a special Turkish variety, it was freshly baked and straight from the oven.
The hummus was really fantastic and buttery smooth.
Joan and I ordered our waiter’s suggestion of Yogurtlu Betyi Kebap, which he recommended as one of the restaurants spiciest entrees.  The entree came with a fresh salad made of shredded, non-ice burg lettuce, cucumber, shaved onions, and tangy red cabbage.  I stirred the vegetables together and the salad perfectly complimented our rich entrees.
The Yogurtlu Betyi Kebap consisted of a kabob of slightly spicy, moist ground lamb wrapped in flat bread.  The kabob sat in a cool yogurt sauce and was topped with a mild tomato sauce that may have included creamy eggplant.  Online, there was some mention that the owner makes his own yogurt and if this is accurate, I wouldn’t be surprised as it tasted quite special.

Even the two more hesitant eaters reluctantly agreed that it was delicious even though they had to be cajoled into taking bites.

My brother ordered the Tavulku Pide, described as “chunks of tender chicken meat mixed with spices on crusted dough.”

While the chicken was indeed tender, the meat’s sauce and seasoning struck my brother and I as a little bland.
Overall, we enjoyed our meal, belly dancer and all.  The food took longer than expected to arrive at our table, but we appreciated the complimentary bread and hummus and I especially enjoyed my lamb dish.  Anatolian Table is a worthwhile restaurant to visit and a unique option amongst an ocean of chains and insanely expensive, frou frou options.
My Last Breakfast

Fresh fruit salad dressed with a sweet, tangy, and spicy dressing similar to the chili-lime flavoring in Mexico.

Below is a crustless vegetable quiche made with roasted red peppers, spinach, and salty feta cheese accompanied by more crispy, seasoned potatoes.

A wonderful sendoff back to the frozen tundra.

Sacramento Day One: The Worst Airport Hot Dog, The Amber House & a Walking-Distance Bento (Plus a Couple Bonus Rants).

The game of airplane seatmate roulette makes me nervous.

Regarding flying, I’m not so preoccupied with fears of mechanical failures but sweat at the thought of a mystery seatmate.
I grew up as the daughter of an airline employee and spent a lot of my childhood in the air.  And throughout my quarter-lifetime, my seatmates have ranged from drunk, professional athletes, to the horrifically malodorous and over-perfumed, to the overtly hostile, to the sobbing.
During past flights, I have had my aisle seat stolen multiple times (in my less assertive days) and seen two rows of individuals beg the flight attendant to move their seats away from a particularly angry, loud man.  My flight history has been mostly free from oversharing individuals who insist on conversing the entire flight, though, the man behind me was not so lucky.

Fortunately, my seatmates to and from Sacramento were completely lovely.

Earlier this year, my brother surprised us all by moving to Northern California and this was our first visit to his new home.  Early Wednesday morning at four a.m., I awoke to make a three and a half hour drive to the Minneapolis St. Paul airport where I flew to Phoenix and connected to Sacramento.

Jeni’s Ranty Rant on Airlines
Let me point out that the costs of plane tickets have not decreased over the years, yet the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport wanted to charge me to access wireless Internet in the terminal for 10 minutes (free wifi is available at the Phoenix and Sacramento airports).  Many of the major airlines like US Airways charge $25 to check a single bag.  US Airways also wanted to charge me $13 to access the Internet on a two hour flight and $6 for a non-existent snack pack they understocked on the flight.  How do you under-stock snack packs?
Worst Airport Hot Dog Ever
During my short layover in Phoenix, I bought a desperation hot dog from Jody Moroni’s Sausage Kingdom.

For $8, I bought what turned out to be a foot long hot dog and fries.

The employees placed the hot dog on the grill and frozen fries from a bag into the fryer.  Somehow, this tube of meat defied physics by literally sitting on the grill for 10 minutes and hardly charring.  See the phantom grill marks in the photo above.  The hot dog didn’t taste inedible, but its texture was mushy and I gave up after eating half.

The fries were actually quite good and nicely seasoned with a tasty seasoning salt.  I felt unsettled after eating the hot dog, so I only ate a few fries and snapped these horrible photos before boarding my flight to Sacramento.

My First Evening
I stayed at The Amber House Bed and Breakfast Inn tucked into the Midtown neighborhood, a short distance from the downtown area.

Of all my stays at bed and breakfasts, The Amber House ranks in my top two experiences, alongside The Elephant Walk in Stillwater, MN.  The Amber House truly became my home away from home, if even for a few days.

I was given a discounted rate for booking last minute and enjoyed my cozy, pink room simply adorned with a couple of chairs, cabinet, small desk, queen sized bed, and bathroom including a large claw foot tub and shower.  The room was also equipped with Direct TV, wireless Internet, and included an off-street parking spot.

Every evening, the staff delivered a tray with my choice of hot beverage and freshly baked cookies.  I looked forward to this nightly snack.

Once I settled into my new room, I walked to a nearby Japanese restaurant.  A female staff told me she felt comfortable walking at all hours of the night and she was right.  The sidewalks quietly bustled with families, couples, individuals, and dogwalkers.  Restaurants and bars buzzed with friendly laughter.  I was completely happy to be walking around in a friendly neighborhood dotted with bars and restaurants with only a sweatshirt while it was about 12 degrees in North Dakota.

As I transition to life in Fargo, I am perplexed by the wacky zoning.  Fargo-Moorhead lacks cozy neighborhoods with and without friendly bars, coffee shops and restaurants.  For example, a public library is perched in a strip mall, between a liquor store and pharmacy and I have even seen a plastic surgeon’s office next to an ice cream shop (and down the strip mall from a liquor store).

I also miss seeing people walking around outside.  Fargo seems to hate pedestrians and crossing streets, even with walk signals, has proven to be a harrowing, hair-raising experience, as I have almost gotten hit several times.  Some people walk around outside, but this activity seems mostly restricted to the downtown vicinity and university campus.

Tamaya Sushi Bar & Grill
2131 J Street
Sacramento, CA 

At Tamaya Sushi Bar & Grill, I enjoyed a very peaceful, solo dinner.

For $4, I sipped a small hot sake.

For dinner, I ordered a $16 bento box combination and chose sashimi, tempura, and grilled mackerel among other options.  To begin, I sipped a cup of comforting miso soup which arrived authentically, sans spoon.

Shortly after, I received my bento box.  Let’s break it down, beginning with the salad.

The ice burg lettuce was cold and crisp, garnished with cucumber and orange slices and covered in a creamy, sweet dressing.

Though the dressing wasn’t the standard ginger dressing, it was scandalously addictive and I found myself dipping everything in the excess dressing.

The five slices of sashimi tasted fresh, though I am unsure what kind of fish they were though my best guess is tuna.  I was too hungry and tired to investigate, and by investigate, I mean ask one question.  The redder pieces of fish included tough connective tissue that was difficult to chew.

The tempura included onion rings, yam, kabocha squash, zucchini, and a large shrimp.

All of the vegetables and shrimp were fresh but the batter was slightly heavy and greasy enough that I only wanted to eat a few small pieces.  The tempura dipping sauce was light and lovely.

But the mackerel.  Oh, the mackerel.

This piece of fish was more than heavenly.

The fish’s skin was as light and crisp as a sheet of crepe paper and the both the skin and flesh tasted fresh, lacking the strong, oily flavor typical to mackerel.

I savored the crispy fish spritzed with the accompanying lemon wedge.

Deep, Closing Thoughts
Pleasant service, affordable prices, and decent food.  Not perfect but decent enough and a short walk away from The Amber House.  The sake was cheap and the mackerel and salad dressing were really outstanding.

After paying my tally, I walked back to my pink room and promptly crashed, thus ending my long day.

Tanpopo Noodle Shop: Sake, Soba, & Spinach

Tanpopo Noodle Shop
308 Prince Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

Remember how I said I often crave Americanized Chinese food at any given time?  I always crave Japanese food.  No matter the time, date, place, or weather, I find comfort in Japanese food.  And after I eat Japanese food, I literally beam with joy.

When I interned at Redeemer Center for Life, I facilitated cooking lessons with children from the after-school program.  We learned how to cook foods from different cultures, while parents and neighbors often served as guest chefs.  A friend taught us how to make miso soup with pork and gyoza.  I have tried to replicate the handmade gyoza filling and wrappers on my own with minimal success.

One evening, a young man who worked in the after-school program helped me cook bolognese sauce.  To my dismay, he added a melange of seasonings while my back was turned.  After dinner, many children complimented the sauce as the best they’d ever tasted.  Upon later investigation, I discovered that MSG was a major component of the mystery spice blend.

Typically, I have fulfilled my cravings for Japanese food by enjoying Obento-Ya’s happy hour with friends, and enduring long wait times for dinner. Despite multiple lengthy wait times in Obento-Ya’s crowded entryway, Jake and Jeni still can’t remember to make reservations.  Friday evening, we ventured to Lowertown to try Tanpopo Noodle Shop for the first time.  At 7:30 p.m., the restaurant was fairly slow and we were seated immediately.

To begin, we ordered a couple shot-sized servings of cold Sake.  To the right is the nama honjozu , shunsetzu “Spring Water,” $2.75, and to the left is the tokubetsu junmai, housui “Fragrant Water,” $2.85.

The “Spring Water” was smooth and slightly sweet.  Jake’s serving of “Fragrant Water” had sweet and sour notes as described by our waitress, and a little more bite.  Generally, I prefer warm sake.

At first bite, I adored Tanpopo’s Spinach with Sesame, $5.75.  Tender, lightly-cooked spinach was combined with a “freshly ground sesame sauce.”  The nutty, slightly-sweet sauce tasted well balanced and gave this cold salad an addictive quality.

One of my other favorite foods in the whole, wide world is Agadashe Tofu, $4.75.  Four-five pieces of fried tofu arrived in our order, sitting in a mild broth.  Unlike versions I have previously enjoyed,  the portion of tofu was both generous, and showered with chewy bonito fish flakes that tasted of smoke.

Jake ordered a bowl of beef udon soup, $8.95, described as “simmered beef with onions and wakame.”  Jake and I savored the delicious soup broth which embodied richness and lightness, simultaneously.  The broth’s oniony sweetness distinguished the soup from others.  We slurped chewy udon noodles and tender slices of slow-cooked beef that reminded me of beef brisket and pot roast.

Per usual, I ordered the Shrimp Tempura Soba, $9.25.  For the first time, I ordered soba instead of udon noodles.  I preferred the thinner soba noodles, enjoying the grainier texture and nutty, buckwheat flavor.  I immediately fished one shrimp tempura out from the steaming broth to avoid soggy batter.  However, I discovered I also enjoyed the shrimp left to bathe in the broth.  The shrimp firmly snapped upon each bite.      
The flavor of the broth was savory and seaweed gave the broth an oceanic quality.  The broth also contained mushrooms and scallion.  I struggle with “cooked seaweed-ambivalence,” unsure about whether or not I enjoy it’s murky flavor. I ate as many pieces of seaweed from my bowl, as quickly as possible, to mute the seaweed flavor (as a general rule, I save the best for last).  When I reheated my leftover soup, the broth was even more flavorful, and the seaweed note was mellowed.  
We left Tanpopo satisfied.  I still love Obento-Ya’s sushi and Japanese bar food, but enjoyed Tanpopo’s short wait time and affordable prices.  I would return in a heartbeat for either of the soups we ordered and look forward to trying more items such as their broiled mackerel and Nabeyaki Udon.    
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