Archive for ‘Seasonings’

October 4, 2012

Aluminum free or not so free?

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.


When I bake, I always use Aluminum free baking powder, and I always wanted to write about it.  I do have baking soda at home, but that is not often used in cooking.


Baking soda can be used in many ways, from cleaning agent to deodorizer to cooking ingredients. You can polish your pots with it, clean carpets and make your cake rise. I usually use it to remove coffee stains from my cup, and it is always handy when you burn your pots! Just soak it overnight in boiling water and the burnt bit will peel off like magic!


Oooops, I’m getting off the track.


With baking soda, there are natural ones and artificial ones. Both substances are the same, but depending on the degree of refining, some are used for medical purposes, others are used as food additives or even for industrial purposes.

When used in cooking, baking soda will start reacting once it is heated, releasing water and carbon dioxide. This gas will act like a balloon and make the dough expand.

Compared to baking soda, baking powder is a mix of bicarbonate of soda and acidic ingredient. The acidic ingredient most often used in baking powder is cream of tartar or corn starch. When you add moisture to it, it will start reacting immediately. With baking powder, you can rest and leave your dough as much as you like, but with baking powder, you have to bake immediately after mixing! The speed is important. That is why you don’t put baking powder in cookies that you rest for a while before you bake.

Baking soda will expand the dough sideways, while baking powder will raise the dough upwards.

Sometimes you can mix them together, but in most cases, you want your dough to rise, so I usually use baking powder. Also, using too much baking soda adds bitterness to your food, so be careful when you are using it, more is not always better!


Aluminum free or not so free?


So what is so good about nasty free baking powder? It doesn’t contain Aluminum.

What is wrong with aluminum? It is not as bad as it sounds. Aluminum is unnecessary for human bodies so when you take it, your body will remove it naturally.

However, if you are giving it to someone with kidney disorder, or to small children who has not developed kidney fully yet, please be careful. In some cases, they may have neurological damage. I just think if you can cut it out, better not to have it in, although Aluminum free baking powder can cost twice or more than regular baking powder! How funny if it includes fewer ingredients, that it is more expensive!

June 21, 2012

How to make your own Miso

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.


It is midwinter today, and in Japan you are supposed to eat pumpkin on a midwinter day.

Also, we’ve been told to put Yuzu (a Japanese citrus that looks like lime but yellow on the outside and a bit sweeter) in out bathtubs. Both of them would keep our body warm and keep away the cold!

Today, I thought it is the right timing to mind my miso that I prepared in Feb/March.

Every year, I make my own miso, and this year I am giving it a try in Sydney for the first time.
20120621-142420.jpg Miso making is really simple. All you need is 3 ingredients.

-Soy bean


-Koji (rice malt)


My concern was, “I wonder if I can buy Koji in Sydney?”.


Luckily, one of the Japanese supermarkets in Artamon carried some dry Koji and I was able to prepare it at home!


Miso is supposed to be made during the cold season in Japan(Around October to March) and ready by autumn. I am following the Japanese calender but since the season is completely opposite, I was a bit worried how my miso would turn out.


When I did the “Tenchi-Kaeshi”, which means flipping the miso “up-side-down”, it looked OK, a bit softer than what I usually make.


I have to rest this for 3 more months before I can eat it. Hopefully, we can enjoy home-made miso this year!


If you are interested in making miso, I might do a miso-cooking class this year! The only problem would be that you won’t be able to eat what you’ve made for….6 months! It takes time, but this time gives it great taste, just like wine 🙂

April 25, 2012

Some basic ingredients

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.


I was looking in my pantry and wondering,

“What is the most important ingredient for me to cook Japanese/Vegetarian food?”

I’ve thought about this before, and time to time, mentioned about it in my blog, but the top 3 would be

1)Soy sauce


3)Sake (Cooking rice wine)


Today, I want to write about Miso.

Miso is a thick paste made from soy beans, salt and malt. You can make it yourself, and this year, I have “cooked” 4kg at home in Sydney.

Here, I prepared organic soy beans, macrobiotic sea salt and “KOUJI”, dried rice malt that I miraculously found in a Japanese grocery shop in Artarmon.


Malt is used in many forms in Japan. It is essential to create Sake(Japanese traditonal alcohol) ,Miso, Pickles, and even Soy sauce. Through fermentation, it gives a wonderful flavor that can not be expressed in words, and you can not imagine how happy I was to find this precious ingredient.

Unfortunately, I could only find it once, and is hoping that they will import it once again. Then, I can introduce how to make your own Miso on this blog too!


Even in Japan, not everyone makes miso at home. People like me who enjoys cooking would do so, so I do have a group of friend making miso every year. After “cooking” it, we have to wait at least 6 month for the fermentation process to happen, but I believe it’s worth the wait, and the more you wait, the better taste it becomes. It’s like wine! You need patience, love and passion to make these kind of things.


If you are more practical, and would like something handy, I recommend to buy either Barley miso or Shiro-miso.

 I am out of my Barley miso, so here is a photo of my Shiro-miso. Shiro-miso means “White miso” and compared to most miso, it is a bit sweeter. This is why you can use it in other cooking apart from miso soup!


Some of you may have realized that in Japanese cooking, we add sweetness by using raw sugar or Mirin(sweet cooking wine). In Japan, I hardly used sugar, but living in Sydney, and introducing Japanese food in English, I thought “Hey, I’m using way too much sugar”. This is because most Japanese food in Sydney is made much sweeter than it is in Japan, and I thought I should cook something to match your taste.

However, now that Yumi is eating like us, and I don’t want her sugar consumption to increase, so I am shifting a bit back to my basic cooking, and try to use less sugar. So, in that way, I would be using shiro-miso more often in my food. I hope you can find it and learn to use it!


Miso is not only for miso soup, it has many more possibility to it, and I hope you can find your favorite cooking with it! Enjoy your cooking!


NOTE: The brand I buy is called SPIRAL, and I bought it at Mr. Vitamins for under $9 a pack. You can buy other brand shiro-miso from places like Honest to Goodness, an organic shop that I buy most of my beans from. At Honest to Goodness, a 400g packet was $14.50 online, so it is not that cheap, but the taste is definitely worth it!


April 15, 2012

Vegetable Tempura for Parties

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.

I was changing the design for my blog, which took a lot of time from cooking, but finally it’s done! I hope you find it easier to read!

Today, I would like to introduce are recipe for parties,  a new way to enjoy Tempura.

I cook tempura often at home, but when people come over to eat, there is one small problem.

It’s about the dipping sauce! Tempura can be eaten in different ways, and at most exclusive tempura restaurants in Japan, it is fried right in front of your eyes and usually served with salt. This way, you can enjoy the crispiness and the flavor at the same time. It is difficult to do the same at home, unless you stay in the kitchen and cook as you serve the guest. I sometimes do that but you miss out on the conversation which is a pity.

So what happens is when you serve at home, you serve with a dipping sauce which is made from Dashi broth, soy sauce, mirin and raw sugar, but there are two problems for me when I prepare the sauce. One, I  never know how much to prepare because some people like to have a lot of sauce to dip their tempuras, while others don’t use much at all. And second, I don’t have enough bowls when I want to serve at a party!

To overcome this, I changed my state of mind. Instead of serving it as a sauce, I covered the tempura with it! This is good for parties, when you want to serve them on a small plate or as finger food, just place this sauce next to the tempura with a small spoon, like the way jams are served near breads on a breakfast bar.

The way to make this sauce is quite simple, just prepare the sauce like usual, and add some edible gelatine. The sauce can be used in other dishes, it goes great with eggplants, tofu and other steamed vegetables. I hope this idea help you challenge tempura at home!


-100cc Dashi broth (Soak 7cm square konbu kelp or 2 dried mushroom in water for over night, bring to boil and take out konbu/mushroom before serving)

-1 Tablespoon  Soy sauce

-1 Tablespoon Mirin

-1/2 Tablespoon Organic raw sugar

-1-2 teaspoon Edible gelatine

-2 Tablespoon water

Step 1: Soak gelatine in water and rest 5 min

Step 2: Boil dashi and add gelatine, add soy sauce, mirin and sugar, mix well and cool

Step 3: Mix with fork before serving

March 26, 2012

Tomato and Miso Paste

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.

When you try to cook “foreign” food, one of the difficulty you face is where and how to prepare the ingredients. I had a similar experience many times, especially when trying to cook Asian foods. Their recipes tend to use exotic spices and fresh produces that are too difficult to find or substitute!

The next difficulty you face is, how to use up some ingredients! You only need “2 teaspoon” or “1 tablespoon”  of spices and sauces to make a particular dish, but it is so essential you buy a packet/bottle/box of something, and it lies in the kitchen for,,,, how long?

Sensible part of you tells you not to buy so many new flavor, yet the cooking desire is sometimes too strong and irresistible, you can’t help yourself reaching for a new taste.

I understand those feelings sooooo well, today I am going to show you how to “use up” some seasonings. The topic for today is Miso.

I just made my own miso this weekend, the taste test will be held 6 months from now, and looking at the 1.8kg batch (second time this year, so I have nearly 4 kg miso for next season!) I felt so happy! At the same time, I was thinking, if you only new how to use miso in a miso soup, you would never be able to use it up.

Usually, miso is sold in a 400-500g packet, and to make miso soup, you would use 1/2 Tablespoon per person to season it. So, unless you drink miso every day, it would take quite a while to use it up.

I use miso in a lot of my recipes, something different from soy sauce, and it goes well with many vegetables. Today, I will recommend how to make tomato and miso paste that  can be used in different recipes and  is handy to have in the fridge (will last for a week to 10days kept in a sterilized jar)

Ingredients (to make 3-4 dishes)

-2 Tomatoes

-2 Tablespoon Miso

-2 Tablespoon Olive oil

-1 teaspoon Soy sauce

Step 1: Burn the skin of tomatoes until black, peel off skin and cut into 1cm cubes.

Step 2: Mix everything in a bowl and keep in sterilized jar.

To use this sauce, here are some simple recipes.


Cut broccoli into small bite size, stir fry on non stick pan for 3min, mix 2-3 Tablespoon of the sauce and cook for extra 1min over heat and serve! You can do the same with round beans or asparagus.

This sauce can be mixed 1:1 with vinegar and makes great dressing that will match anything from tofu to noodles to  steamed vegetables.

Very tasty and very healthy. I hope you enjoy it!!

February 27, 2012

Sweet Chili Chicken Noodle

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Is it only me that buys different sauce and seasonings to cook new flavors, but don’t know how to use it up before it goes bad? Living in Sydney for almost 6 months, I used up more than 3 bottles of soy sauce, 2 bottles of sake(cooking rice wine), 1 bottle of vinegar, 1 bottle of sesame oil and 2 packets of miso. So these things, I know how to use everyday.

However, I have bottles of fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, tomato sauce, and many other sauces that I don’t know how to use very much.

Sweet chili sauce, I bought it to make Vietnamese rice paper roll, and I think I made it more than 3 times, but the sauce is still here. Today, I decided to make some noodle from this, and believe it or not, it is YUMMY!


Ingredients (for 2 people)

-1/2 Onion

-1/2 cloves Garlic

-1 bunch Coriander

-Leftover vegetables (I used, 1/4 Carrot, 1/4 Red Capsicum, 2 Tomatoes, Lettuce)

-2 bunch of Organic Somen Noodle

-1 1/2 cups Asian Chicken Stock (Home made)

-2 Tablespoon Sweet Chili Sauce

-1-2 Limes


How to Cook:

Step 1: Cut all the vegetables into thin strips, in a large pot, stir fry onion, garlic and half the coriander using a little bit of oil. Add all the vegetables EXCEPT lettuce and cook.


Step 2: Pour the chicken stock and sweet chili sauce; in a separate pot, prepare the noodle.


Step 3: Put the noodle in a bowl to serve, pour over the soup, garnish with lettuce, remaining coriander and leftover chicken meat.


Enjoy with lots of limes and beer! YUM 🙂

I used lettuce, but you can use bean sprouts to make it more Vietnamese. Or even cucumber. The point is to have some fresh (Uncooked) vegetable on top as a garnish to give you some texture while you are eating.

This Asian Chicken Stock is sooooo handy, yet I forgot to introduce it! Will do so soon 🙂


February 22, 2012

Making Basic Chicken Stock

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

Hi this is KK, Sushi Artist / Healthy Muffin Maker / Mum 🙂

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Cooking is about love and patience, someone told me, and even though I never thought myself as a very patient person , I do put love in the meals I cook.

This Basic Chicken Stock is something I started to make when I moved to Sydney. Yes, you can buy soup stocks from the shelf, but I wanted to make something that I knew what was inside, and I also wanted to use celery leaves! What a funny reason to start 🙂




Ingredients for Basic Chicken Stock

-2 BONES from Free range or Organic Chicken Drumstick

(As you can see, I have separated the meat from the bone. This meat will turn into a different dish tomorrow! )

-5 Mushrooms

-2 medium size Onions

-1 small Carrot

-1/4 Bunch of Celery leaves (when I buy celery, I cut off the leaves and freeze it! )

-1 Bay leaf

-Salt, Pepper and Soy sauce to taste


Step 1: Cut all the ingredients and put in a large stove pan

Step 2: Cover the ingredients with water, make sure everything is soaked under the water plus 1-2cm extra.

Step 3: Cook on low heat until the water has halved in volume.

The amount of the vegetable varies in the amount of bones I have. This will make about 2-3 times worth of strong and tasty chicken stock. By using this in the cooking, it makes things taste really good! I usually save these stock in the fridge using milk cartons!

Just cut the bottom of the milk carton into 5-8cm height, pour in the stock, cover it with wrap and put it in the fridge. I tried using jars but it takes longer to thaw, and with milk cartons, it is much easier to push it out of the container when you are in a rush 🙂


Hope you enjoy this handy recipe too!

February 18, 2012

Essentials in cooking Japanese Food

by 田草川(たくさがわ)かおる

When you want to cook “exotic” cuisines, there are some essentials that you need to prepare in your kitchen. For Japanese food, some of the main ingredients would be:




-Vegetables, especially green leaves and mushrooms


Today, I would like to focus on seasonings, and make some suggestions of what you should buy in order to start cooking.

Here is a list of basic seasoning necessary in Japanese cooking.

1. Soys sauce: a dark salty looking sauce that  most of you are familiar with. The most basic soy sauce  is made only from 3 ingredients; soybean,  malted rice and salt. You can buy soy sauce in most super markets in Sydney for around $2-$5(250ml). I do have a “special” soy sauce at home, an organic one, which is very expensive ( 😦 ) and used sparingly…

2. Miso : a brown colored paste made from the same ingredient as soy sauce; soybean, malted rice and salt. One day, I would explain the difference between these two, for the time being,  please just note that this paste is necessary when making miso soup! You can but it at large super markets in Sydney, or at most Asian grocery stores for $4-$7(400g). Once open, keep it in a container inside a fridge. They last for a while but be careful that the don’t get too dry.

3. Konbu(dried kelp), Dried Shitake Mushroom,  Dried Sardines, Dried bonito flakes; these “dry” ingredients are necessary to make “broth” that is one of a key factor in Japanese cuisine. An authentic restaurant would have different type of dried kelp to suit the menu they are preparing. Many vegans and microbiotics would cook using kelp and mushroom. I found dried shitake mushroom sold at Woolworths the other day, but unfortunately, kelp and sardines and bonito flakes are only available at Asian grocery shops. They do last for quite a long time, and we do use a lot of it in the cooking, so it may be worth to invest in it and store it in your pantry.

4.Salt and sugar: I prefer and recommend to use mineral salt, finer the better in most Japanese food. By using good quality salt, you will be able to “pull out” the taste of vegetable and make it tastier without using other seasonings. For sugar, instead of using white sugar, we use raw sugar or brown sugar at home. We do use sugar in many of our cooking, but this can be substituted by using Mirin (see below).

5.Sake and Mirin: Sake is Japanese cooking rice wine, and can be  bought at most Asian grocery stores. Mirin is an alcohol made from  glutinous (sweet) rice, and can add the extra sweetness to your dish without using sugar. Mirin also adds gloss to your teriyaki, and although it can be substituted with Sake + Sugar, I recommend having a small bottle in your cupboard somewhere 🙂

6.Sesame oil and other oils: I used to use rapeseed oil when I was in Japan for my basic cooking, and sesame oil to add that extra aroma to my dressing and stir fries. Try to use oils that are organic and cold pressed if possible, it is rich in aroma and tastes good even when the meal gets cold. I do use olive oils and grape seed oils  as well in my cooking. The more variety, the better, but if you just want to stick to the basic, go for sesame oil.

7.Vinegar: one of the things I miss most from Japan is “Yuzu”, a citrus that we often use in cooking. It is sweeter than lemon, but not a fruity sweetness like orange, can’t find a substitute for it yet. I will keep my eyes open! You can buy “Pon-Zu” and “Aji-Pon” at Asian grocery stores, it is a mixture of yuzu and soy sauce, but you can never beat the real fresh thing. Vinegar is used in cooking rice for sushi, and added to a lot of our dressing. I keep apple vinegar (not apple cider vinegar) and rice vinegar at home, white vinegar is fine, but I find it a bit tangy for Japanese food. I will try and find the best mix and recommend it soon…


So, 8-10 items necessary for Japanese food. I don’t know if you consider this too many, but things like salt, sugar, and vinegar must be lying around in your kitchen anyways, so just change those to start with. Soy sauce and sesame oil are used in other Asian cooking as well. If you don’t have Sake(rice wine), you can use dry white wine instead and Mirin can be substituted with Sake(or dry white wine) and raw sugar, so Miso is the only seasoning that you may not be familiar with!

I hope this works as some advice to your next shopping list 🙂 !


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