Eat This Word: Kombu



WHAT? Japanese food staple. The Internet is filled with websites praising the health benefits of the seaweed kombu (also konbu), known in English as kelp and in Latin as Laminaria. Whether or not kombu is a cure for cancer or has natural cholesterol-lowering abilities, it is certainly one of the foundations of Japanese cooking. To make the stock, dashi, which is at the base of most Japanese cooking, a piece of dried kombu is simmered in water. The kombu is removed and flakes of katsuoboshi (dried and smoked bonito) are added, simmered, and strained out. Kombu is also used to marinate fish. Kombu grows in clear, shallow ocean water, such as that found off the coast of Hokkaido in Japan or Hawaii. It can reach 30 feet, but it’s usually cut to lengths of a few inches for sale. There are, of course, different varieties for different purposes, but all contain an impressive amount of natural monosodium glutamate that accounts for its flavor enhancing and transformational marinating... Read more >

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Eat this Word: Gyoza

gyoza-by-matthew-mendozaWHAT? Japanese potstickers. Like many Japanese culinary traditions—chopsticks, noodles, and soy sauce, to name a few—gyoza, or pan-fried pork dumplings, were borrowed from the Chinese. Even the Japanese name is derived from the Mandarin jiaozi. A relative newcomer, it's believed gyoza arrived in Japan sometime in the 1930s, after the Japanese invasion of China, and were popularized around the country during the 1940s. Today, the Japanese dumplings have a more heavily seasoned filling and thinner dough than their Chinese cousins. Fried on one side until crisp then steamed until tender, gyoza are one of the few non-noodle dishes found on menus in ramen shops in Japan, where they are served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame or chili oil. There are also gyoza restaurants. True gyoza lovers should find their way to Ikebukuro's Sunshine City complex where part of the Namco Namjatown amusement

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The Bookshelf: Everyday Harumi

Everyday HarumiHarumi Kurihara wants Japanese cooking to come naturally. In her introduction of her new cookbook, Everyday Harumi, she writes, "I would like to see people around the world...being able to say, 'I feel like eating Japanese food. What shall I make?'" For those of us who have trouble making the food reach our mouths when using chopsticks, Harumi's mission may sound like a pipe dream. But she tries her best to keep things simple: while her list of pantry essentials adds up to 16 items, almost all of them can be found at upscale grocers like Whole Foods. And true to the book's title, the light soups, salads, and mains are largely uncomplicated—once you've made them, they can easily join your weeknight repertoire. When we spoke with Harumi, she revealed that her favorite Japanese staples include

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