Oyster Sauce and Eggs: Versatility!

Before becoming accustomed to un-American foods, you could never have convinced me to eat something like oyster sauce. Even though I believed myself a consumer of just about anything, my scope was rather limited when I think about it.

Brussels sprouts? Sure! Asparagus? No problem. Poached eggs? As long as they didn’t have Hollandaise sauce, great!

Pickled duck eggs? Nope. Headcheese? I’ll slice it for you, but don’t expect me to eat it. Vegemite? It’s black. Are humans even supposed to eat black things? Entrails? Nah, I’m good.

So, why oyster sauce? It’s versatile! And you can enjoy its handiness in the recipe below from one of my most used books.  It comes from one of Japan’s popular food networks, Orange Page (Japanese only).

20190730_184201

Pork and Eggplant with Garlic Oyster Sauce
(豚肉となすのにんにくオイスター炒め)

150g thinly sliced pork / 豚こま切れ肉 150g
3 (or about 300g) eggplant, thickly cut /  なす(大) 3個、大きく切れ
2 green bell peppers, chopped / ピーマン 2個、短く切れ
1 clove of grated garlic / にんにく 1かけ、おろし

Sauce
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce /  オイスターソース 2 大さじ
1 tsp. sugar, rice vinegar /   砂糖、酢 1名小さじ

Serving size: 2

Coat your frying pan with sesame seed oil and fry up the pork first. When it’s about half-way done, throw in your fixings, adding the sauce after it’s all done. Once coated, cook for another minute or two until you’re satisfied. I added napa cabbage to mine for a bigger veggie boost.

Another versatile food item is the humble egg. Many countries have egg-based dishes and when you’re looking to have a change in your breakfast menu, I recommend scrambles. I like to think they’re wholesomely American as they can be catered to just about any taste. I even remember an ex-boyfriend making french toast flavored eggs for his son!

Here’s my take:

20190801_092237

Scrambled Eggs with Vegetables

2 eggs / 卵 2個
1 Tbsp. milk / 牛乳 1大さじ
2 slices of onion, chopped / 玉ねぎスライス 2枚、短く切れ
1 green bell pepper, chopped / ピーマン 1個、短く切れ
Large chunks of bacon / ベーコン、大きく切れ
3 white mushrooms, sliced / マッシュルーム 3個、スライスで

Serving size: 1-2

Warm up some oil in your frying pan. While it’s heating up, whip up the eggs and milk. When your pan is hot, start cooking the vegetables and bacon up. **NOTE: If you’re using raw bacon, cook that first!** When they’re just about al dente, pour in the eggs and scramble away!

Seasoning is optional. I used salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin.

***

Both of these recipes are useful for amateur cooks (like myself) and don’t take any time at all. Try them out for yourself and let me know down in the comments below what you think!

goodbye

Muffin’ Meats Meatmoaf

Nothing beats meatloaf. It’s one of the biggest comfort foods in America and when it came time to wrangling my cravings here in Japan, I was stumped. I couldn’t imagine walking into the supermarket and finding the Wall of Spice Packets for the Lazy Cook (though there are some hanging from an endcap somewhere – my favorite is for tandori chicken!).

It can be daunting for expats that have very little knowledge on how to cook. Gone are the days of instant macaroni n’ cheese, Hot Pockets, and frozen waffles. It’s especially scary when you can’t read ingredients or place names to the foods you’re looking at.

So if you’re here, looking for a helping hand, I’ve got your back!

Behold! The answer to my (and your) comfort food troubles. I was able to find a believable McCormick-type seasoning recipe here, making my own tweeks.

20190709_184932[1]

Muffin’ Meats Meatmoaf

200g ground pork and beef mixture
1/4 – 1/2 of an onion, chopped
1/2 of a green bell pepper or pepper color of your choice, chopped
1 egg
1/2 – 1 cup panko crumbs*
1/2 Tbsp. Heinz mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder or freshly ground garlic

*Add a little at a time until the meat is no longer watery in appearance. If you go overboard with the crumbs, add another egg.*

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit or about 160 degrees Celcius.

Serving size: about 3 patties or 1 bread pan’s worth

If you’re going the toaster oven route, check every 15 minutes or so. The loaf will have a nice, relatively dark crust once it’s done. Also, beware! If you like to smother your loaf in ketchup before baking, COVER IT WITH FOIL or you’ll run the risk of sparking oils and catching your machine on fire.

Let me know down in the comments below what you like to do with your meatloaf!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 6

Hello, again! It’s me with your school lunch update. You’ll have to excuse my tardiness. On Fridays, I want to ignore everything I’m meant to be doing. Unfortunately, that means remaining in a stale state, staring dumbly off into the distance.

20190411_122939
Thursday’s Lunch

It’s Monday again and I need to shake off the funk. I present to you Thursday’s and Friday’s lunches! Let’s kickstart today’s entry with Thursday. That day, I was at one of my elementary schools and was once again, greeted with sekihan (see here). Can you guess at the other items on my tray?

Fried Fish
It’s fried fish. What more can I say about it? Can one even cook it poorly? I suppose, if I recollect hard enough, I have overcooked fish before. But that’s for another time and is an incident I hope to never repeat.

Anyway, the fish is always nice and tender in the school lunches. This time around, there were no bones to unpleasantly poke my gums, either. Ashley Rating: 7/10shake it off

Clear Vegetable Soup
The joys of not having the menu in front of me means I get to come up with some Original Titles and Names for these foods. Is “clear vegetable soup” catching on yet? No? Well, maybe some day.

 

This soup had seaweed (wakame), carrots, enoki mushrooms, fish cakes, and… a kind of green. I think it’s 小松菜 (komatsuna), Japanese mustard greens. The broth must have been fish-based as well. If I ignore the fact that my lunch was cold by the time students were done dishing themselves up, it was quite good. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Cherry Blossom Goodness
This dessert is among my favorites that appear in kyushoku. It’s a very simple affair, really. Frozen, cut up strawberries mixed into a strawberry Jell-O and topped with a precious dollop of whipped cream. You can guarantee I hoard that cream until the last possible moment so it’s the only flavor lingering on my tongue. Need I mention that, among the students, the Rock-Scissors-Paper competition is fierce when there are some cups left over? Ashley Rating: 9/10

Overall rating: 7.8/10

Thank you for sticking with me up to this point! Are you ready for Friday’s lunch?

20190412_122807
Friday’s Lunch

That soup looks rather unpleasant, doesn’t it? I wasn’t too offput because it had pork in it and my Southern upbringing can’t refuse anything pig-related. This time, I DO have the menu description with me.

  • 小松菜ご飯 (komatsuna gohan, rice mixed with mustard greens and carrot)
  • 花形和風ハンバーグ (hana-gatachi wah-fuu hanbaagu, flower-shaped Japanese-style hamburger)
  • キャベツのみそ汁 (kyabetsu miso shiru, miso soup with cabbage and pork)
  • 桜ぜリー (sakura zehrii, cherry blossom Jell-O)

Rice with Mustard Greens and Carrot
I enjoy mixed-up rice. Takes the boredom with plain rice away. I also feel the rice becomes a little bit healthier for me when there’s goodies in it. Ashley Rating: 7/10

america
OK, so Stephen isn’t holding a hamburger, but a hot dog is close enough.

Japanese-style Hamburger
Japanese-styled anything American-related is fun for me. I still crave the 100% beefy wonderland that is one of the symbols of the US, but Japan does try. This hamburger patty, though filled with nourishment, was not one of my favorites flavor-wise. I wonder if the recipe changed?

Anyway, you can put money down that it had tofu in it. Ground chicken, bean flour, onion, carrots, and ginger were also mixed in. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Going off on a tangent here, but there is a young celebrity named Mr. Shachihoko (Maeda Teruyoshi) whose wife, Miharu, fiercely enjoys cooking on a budget. I kid you not when this woman made a whole appetizer, entree, and side menu deal with daikon as the main ingredient. It’s kind of insane when you make something mimic something else. Did I mention she’s 23 years older than him? That still blows my mind, but love is love, right? Moving on.

Cabbage-pork Miso
The disturbing color is from the miso that was used. Don’t let it upset you too much. The taste was pretty basic, albeit a little sweet. The sweetness was surely from the cabbage. With the pork thrown in, it was rather hearty. For me personally, I prefer something palette-ly refreshing to wash out the starch of the rice and the thickness of the burger. Overall, it wasn’t my favorite miso to date. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Cherry Blossom Jell-O
Please don’t confuse this with the Cherry Blossom Goodness. This had no whipped cream, but was truer to the flavor. All this was was cherry blossom-flavored Jell-O with small bits of cherry in it. It was a light and revitalizing way to finish off the lunch. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Overall rating: 8.3/10

Please be sure to catch up on the latest School Lunch episodes by cruising Cuisine of the Middle Class. and either searching for “school lunch” or looking at Most Recent on the right.

See you next time!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 5

Good afternoon, everyone! We’re finally getting a bit of those April showers here in Japan. The downside to that is that it’s chilly. Soon we’ll be wishing it back when summer beats down on us.blerf

Anyway, I hope your lunch hour went well. What did you eat? I remember eating fried chicken and potato salad the majority of the time when I was working my previous job. Remembering that grease fest makes my stomach churn.

The meal I ate today was relatively vegetarian friendly. Let’s take a closer look!

20190410

Today’s lunch:

  • White bread
  • Tofu nuggets (mashed tofu mixed with various vegetables)
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Minestrone soup
  • Banana

White Bread
I have yet to see anything but white bread step up to the lunch plate. Sometimes, we’ll get rolls with raisins or chunks of apple inside, but that’s about as classy as a student lunch gets. Since I’ve been trying to eat healthily for the past month (or thereabouts), I really wasn’t looking forward to choking the processed wheat down. Ashley Rating: 5/10

Tofu Nuggets
It’s certainly not unusual to see tofu-based products be served. In fact, I really enjoy the tofu hamburger my school makes. The combo today was carrots, ground chicken, hijiki (a kind of black seaweed), and leek. They were dipped in an egg-flour wash to be fried up and topped with ketchup. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Pickled Cabbage
Pickles are pickles. I briefly researched pickling methods in Japan and one of the favorite ways to do it via salt, but today’s menu says only sugar was used. My belief system is sketchy. (You can learn more about the common Japanese pickles here.) While some might appreciate the sour crunch, I couldn’t handle the squeak on my teeth. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Minestrone Soup
I’m an amateur soup eater. If I’m hungry, just about anything will taste good. Compared to most professional soups, the school’s soup is very plain. The flavor that greeted my tongue was lackluster and basic. Perhaps the bacon was its only redeeming factor. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Have you read the latest episode? Be sure to follow me or check back every day for a new lunch! See you next time and happy eating!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 4

Before we get started, have you read my other entries on school lunch? Please be sure to catch up by reading Episodes One, Two, and Three.

And awa~y we go~!

20190409_122632

School lunch is back! And bo~y am I grateful. Just because a new school year starts doesn’t mean school lunches are immediately in effect. When they do kick into gear, the first lunch of the year is typically a kind of Good Luck fiesta. All of the best dishes come into play.

And, just between you and I, I don’t like being responsible for bringing my lunch to school. ¥281 (about $3.00) for a full meal is very convincing and, not to mention, cheap!

giphy

Today’s lunch was:

  • Sekihan (赤飯, sweet red sticky rice with adzuki beans)
  • Teriyaki chicken
  • Isobe-ae (磯辺和え, pickled vegetables with roasted seaweed)
  • Sumashi jiru (すまし汁, a clear broth soup)
  • Strawberry stick cake

Sekihan
Red sticky rice is a fun upgrade from the every day white sticky rice. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s even healthy to eat. To bring out the sweetness, salt and black sesame seeds are added. Hefty, textured, complemented the soup nicely. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Teriyaki Chicken
I wish I could say that I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like teriyaki chicken, bu~t you should never count your chickens before they hatch. I watched a boy sitting next to me at the lunch table struggle to eat his. He’s not the first I’ve seen to shy away from The Original White Meat. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Isobe-ae
Either these vegetables were cooked in vinegar water or they weren’t pickled for very long. Any vegetables can be used, but today’s lunch included lotus root, cabbage, and carrots. I honestly felt today’s salad was more of a boiled vegetable medley more than anything. Ashley Rating: 5/10

Sumashi-jiru
For me personally, clear broth soups are a pain for me to achieve. I’m sure there’s a trick that only being raised in Japan can give you. The soup itself is normally very deep tasting and takes on the ingredients’ personalities. Today’s was very earthy as it used mushrooms and onions. Unfortunately, mine tasted… interesting. There was a lingering something that remained on my tongue. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Strawberry Stick Cake
The texture was good — nice and spongy. My only complaint is that it was too sweet. Because I don’t think it has appeared in school lunch up to this point, for now, I’m not a fan. Ashley Rating: 4/10

What kind of things did you look forward to when you ate school lunch? Did you even eat school lunch or did you bring your mom’s homemade goodness? In my case, it was my dad’s slap-it-together fun boxes. I’ll have to introduce you to the PBB&J sandwich.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next update!

If you’d like to stay more on top of what’s going on, please follow me on Instagram @ashleyinjapan and on Facebook Page Ashley in Japan: From Sin City

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 3

20181213_115044
Good morning, everyone. It’s Friday here in Japan and the sun has just crested over the hills. The temperature is 7 degrees (C) but it feels a lot colder. What’s even more upsetting is that the school refuses to turn on the heater.

Please excuse me while I slowly wither away inside.

This is a lunch I had two weeks ago. There’s rice and milk, the regular players, but let’s introduce the others.

  • Stir fry – made from bean sprouts, a green vegetable (I can’t recall the name) and bacon. I had seconds, so it must have been tasty enough. Ashley Rating: 8/10
  • Pineapple Jell-O (パインゼリー, pah-in zeh-ree) – This is pretty easy to understand. It’s pineapple flavored Jell-O that was, unfortunately, frozen before being served. I chuckled as the students complained that it was more like pineapple sherbert. Ashley Rating: 6/10
  • Curry-flavored mabodofu (カレー麻婆豆腐, kah-reh mah-boh-dohfu) – Containing carrots, tofu, and various other vegetables with ground pork, this wasn’t as greasy feeling as its restaurant counterpart. With the rice, though, it tasted bland to me. Some would swear that it’s the best school lunch has to offer. Ashley Rating: 7/10

School Lunch, Ep. 2

Good afternoon, everyone. I hope your day is going well. I’m making use of this blog today in order to fight the after-lunch sleep crunch. As an ALT, I do not participate in student-teacher-parent conferences and… that’s what’s going on this week before Winter Break starts. My afternoons are totally and utterly free.

Here is a lunch I ate last week.

20181206_114725

It consists of fried fish, rice, and miso soup. But this day was a bit special due to the presence of a Japanese dessert and Goody Rice (no, Goody Rice is not a thing. It’s just my thing).

  • Japanese dessert: くずまんじゅう(kuzumanju); kuzu is a kind of plant that gives its roots to be dried and powered. When water is added, it creates a starch and then is used to surround a filling; in this case, matcha paste. It was a little too… プニプニ (poo-nee poo-nee, squishy) for my taste and I’m not a fan of matcha even though I can tolerate drinking green tea. Ashley Rating: 6/10.
  • Goody Rice: 揚げ豆腐 (agedoufu) and corn; this is usually a relatively plain tasting Goody Rice but is decent where nutrients are involved. Ashley Rating: 6/10.
  • Main dish: fried fish; I think cornstarch is the main boss in the batter. It wasn’t heavy like flour is. I can’t recall if there was seasoning or not. But c’mon, it’s fried fish. Fried anything is delicious! Ashley Rating: 8/10.
  • Miso soup: 豚汁 (tonjiru); miso soup with vegetables, pork, and tofu. A typical tonjiru contains burdock root, carrots, and daikon. When made well, it’s my favorite thing to eat in the winter. Ashley Rating: 9/10

School Lunch, Ep. 1

Here is another attempt to bring you something interesting from my life in Japan: school lunch. After watching the 22-minute educational video provided by Life Where I’m From, you’ll be shocked to hear that “school lunch” is a recently added institution. Granted, after WW2, there was a lot of “recent activity” going on in the countries that participated. But, I digress.

Upon my arrival to Japan and having school lunch recommended to me brought back childhood horrors of soggy grilled cheeses, plain-bunned hot dogs, and the dreaded Special K cereal. Given a choice between an American lunch and a Japanese one, I’d pick the Japanese one in a heartbeat.

(As I’m writing this, I’m having the funny feeling I’ve talked to you about school lunch before… or at least mentioned it. Anyway!)
20181129_114828Let’s take a minute to exercise your brain and calm your nerves before you freak out and say, “OHMYGOD I am NOT eating THAT!” What do you see? Something white, something kind of brown, and green vegetables and carrots in a broth. Basically, a starch, a protein, vitamins, and minerals.

In the upper, left-hand corner, there’s plain rice. Next to it is a local milk. Below that are potstickers or gyoza (餃子). They look a tad stiff, don’t they? Poor things. They were deep fried before being served. The filling is a simple pork and veg mixture. Next, there is a salad of stirfried bean sprouts with some bacon for flavor. Last, there’s the soup. Green leafy vegetables, carrots and onions make up the bulk of it while quail eggs add a hit of protein.

A lot of my cooking at home resembles this structure.

See you next time!

Kimchi, Pork, and Tofu

20180911_192004

It dawned on me that I should probably write about my meal before posting it to Instagram saying there is, indeed, a blog post detailing the ingredients. Also, I think my butt will start looking like rice if I keep eating as much as I do. Funny how one carb was switched out for another…

Even a boozy brain can figure this one out. You take kimchi, thinly sliced pork, and tofu, throw it into a hot, oiled up pan and go. Actually, I wouldn’t recommend getting the pan too hot because I had to finally toss my favorite one out due to… peely circumstances. PSA: Be nice to your pans, folks.

I suppose if you want more flavor, you can fry up your pork with a touch of salt and pepper to give the vegetables and soy more flavor… but when you’re hangry, the quickest option is sometimes the better one. And before you diss kimchi (nee kimchee), it’s good stuff. You can even get it tailored to your preferred spice level. All it is is pickled napa cabbage in a balance of spice and sweetness… or, if you’re like me, your optimum is more sweet than spicy.

Go ahead. Give it a shot! Happy cooking.

Cabbage and Hot Dogs

IMG_20180830_113308_511

Many of you may have been directed here from my Instagram account. Thank you for coming! Let’s get down to business.

(English) What you’ll need:

  • Cabbage
  • Hot dogs (or you preferred kind of sausage)
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (Instant macaroni and cheese is optional)

Heat the oil in a frying pan. While the oil is getting hot, chop up the hot dogs and cabbage. Cook the hot dog pieces first, getting a nice browning on them. After, toss the cabbage in with the hot dogs and cook in a stir fry fashion (wrist flicks required, haha). Dash with a bit of salt and pepper.

(日本語) 必要なもの:

  • キャベツ
  • フランクフルト(好きなソーセージもOK!)
  • 料理の油
  • 塩とブラックペッパー
  • (パスタはオプションです)

フライパンで油を温める。一方でキャベツとフランクフルトを短く切る。最初にはフランクフルトを煮えて、美味しそう茶色になるまで。キャベツを入れて、炒める。塩とブラックペッパーで振りかける。