Okonomiyaki Breakfast Semi-Fail

Both Flaneur and I love okonomiyaki, the doughy, eggy Japanese pancake stuffed with cabbage and most anything, then topped with sweet Worcestershire-like sauce, mayo, bonito flakes, nori flakes and pickled ginger. It’s usually a lunch or dinner item in my family, but ingredient-wise, okonomiyaki is pretty breakfast-friendly.

okonomiyaki breakfast

The other day, I fried up a giant specimen for breakfast and shared it with Flaneur, who was visibly happy to find an okonomiayki on his breakfast plate. Given that this was an unplanned breakfast, I didn’t have cabbage on hand, so I improvised with peppers, grape tomatoes, bacon and Vermont smoked cheddar (from Sugarbush Farm). It was perfectly serviceable, but I learned a lesson: Okonomiyaki needs cabbage, no matter what. Somehow, without the cabbage, the texture gets a little too doughy/pancake-like, which is not quite right for okonomiyaki.

I know better for next time.

Breakfast a while ago:

  • Okonomiyaki breakfast (grape tomatoes, pepper, smoked cheddar, bacon, bonito & nori flakes, mayo, okonomi sauce, pickled ginger)
  • I’m sure we had some fruits, but I don’t remember exactly what anymore.

Caramelized Soy-Butter Corn Eggs

A summer izakaya staple in Japan is soy-butter corn, plump corn kernels sautéed in butter and seasoned with soy sauce. As the soy sauce hits the hot skillet, it gets slightly caramelized and its umami and aroma intensify, coating the sweet corn with an amazing grill-like awesomeness. It’s a second best thing to getting corn on the cob, grilled on charcoal and brushed with soy sauce from a stand at night festivals.

caramelized soy-butter corn eggs

Yesterday, while I was making dinner, Flaneur diligently dislodged the kernels off two boiled ears of corn. A handful of them found themselves in soy-butter corn eggs this morning. I sautéed halved grape tomatoes and corn kernels in butter, splashed them with soy sauce (maybe a teaspoon?) and black pepper, and poured in the eggs.

Though I overslept by something like 45 minutes, this caramelized soy-butter corn eggs was quick enough to get us fed and out the door on time. Hooray! … Gee, I think I’m tired.

(Disclosure: I do normally get up a lot earlier than I absolutely have to, so oversleeping is not a huge deal unless I really go overboard. I just hate feeling rushed in the morning and worrying that I might not make it on time.)

Breakfast this morning:

  • Soy-butter corn eggs with grape tomatoes (scallions would be nice, too…)
  • Pumpkin-sesame toast
  • Apple (crisp pink)

Seasoned Sweet Miso Eggs (with Recipe)

When I went to Kagoshima this spring, the southernmost prefecture on the Kyushu island in Japan, I picked up a jar of pork miso. Renowned for its kurobuta, sweet, juicy Berkshire pork, Kagoshima is serious about its pork products. The pork miso–basically a slightly cooked-down mixture of ground pork, ginger, some root vegetables, sesame sees, peanuts, sugar and miso–served us well as rice topping, stir-fry seasoning and occasional breakfast addition for a couple of months, and I just ran out this morning when I made seasoned sweet miso eggs for breakfast.

seasoned sweet miso eggs

The pork miso was a variation of a super-versatile seasoned sweet miso that I’d made before, and recipes abound. I suspect it’s one of those things that each family has its own recipe, which gets handed down and tweaked through generations, unless I’m totally romanticizing the whole thing. It’s basically miso sweetened with sugar (or mirin, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, whatever you like) and supported by a few aromatics like ginger, scallions, etc.

Because it’s cooked with oil and contains lots of salt and sugar, it keeps well in the fridge, and makes a fun and versatile marinade, stir-fry seasoning, and so on. Top a piece of chilled sturdy tofu with this stuff, and you have a side dish in less than 20 seconds. Mix it with mayo, and it makes a delicious, vaguely Asian crudité dip. I like to use it in scrambled eggs, too, where it adds an amazing umami depth to the whole dish and goes beautifully with cheese, surprisingly enough.

The version I’d made (and absolutely loved) had a ton of shiso leaves and some subtle kick from a jalapeño. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe from, but here’s my version:

Seasoned Sweet Miso Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow miso
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 1-2 bunch shiso leaves, roughly chopped (Totally optional, but recommended. The result is about 87% more delicious.)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • A bit of ground pork or minced bacon (Totally optional.)
  • About a tablespoon of minced carrot, burdock root or a mixture (Totally optional.)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Steps

  1. Heat the sesame oil in a small non-stick pot
  2. Add the sesame seeds, jalapeño and ginger. Fry until flagrant, stirring frequently.
  3. If using, add the meaty ingredients and root vegetables. Stir-fry until cooked through.
  4. Add the miso, sugar and shiso leaves. Combine thoroughly and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for 5 minutes or so until the mixture gains a lustrous look.
  5. Store in a clean jar in the fridge. This should last for a month or so.

As I ran out of the Kagoshima jar, I might be making this one again pretty soon!

Breakfast today:

  • Sweet seasoned miso eggs with Cubanelle peppers and fried tofu
  • Peanut butter toast
  • Watermelon

 

Things I Don’t Own

In the Japanese minimalist circle, listing stuff you own or don’t own is quite a fad. The impetus appears to be to gain self-awareness about one’s values and priorities, but there’s certainly an undeniable element of voyeuristic fun for the reader, which is probably a part of why the lists are popular among minimalist bloggers: They bring page views, and page views bring ad revenue.

things I don't own

Though I don’t get revenue from this blog, I’m curious what I’d discover about myself through listing what I don’t own. So. Here’s a quick list of things I don’t own:

  • Hair dryer: Call me a slob. I can’t take the heat and don’t care about my appearance that much. (To be fair, I’m probably born lucky with hair that doesn’t go crazy without hair dryers.)
  • Microwave: I don’t need one, and I don’t have the space in my 600 sq place.
  • Rice cooker: You don’t need one. Pot on a stove does a better job faster anyway.
  • Most makeup-related things: See above on hair dryer. I have a lipstick I never use, a MUJI all-in-one moisturizer and a tub of Nivea. That’s it.
  • Laundry machine: One thing on this list I wish I owned.
  • iPhone case: Nude is the best.
  • Car: Also I don’t have car insurance, alternate parking nuisance, oil changes, inspections, breakdowns, gas expenses and car taxes. I also don’t have the freedom to drive out on a whim on a weekend, which sucks, but Car2Go and rental cars are good enough.
  • House: I can’t afford the expense in much of NYC within manageable commute from work. Plus, I strongly suspect neither I nor Flaneur are made for home ownership (read: Did I mention I’m a slob? I’m also decidedly not handy, with too many other fun things to do than mow the lawn and fix the window leak, or whatever).
  • Cable
  • Landline phone: I don’t need one except for catastrophic emergencies.
  • Cats: Another thing on this list I wish I owned. Maybe more than a laundry machine.

I suppose I don’t own a private jet or a chalet in the Swiss Alps, either, but I think that’s kind of implied.

Coming up with a list of things I don’t own was actually pretty hard. The first three came to me quickly, but after that, it took a bunch of thinking, and placing myself in different rooms to imagine what a typical person would have in each room. To me, not owning a hair dryer is so completely normal that I don’t ever think about it (until I need one to remove the stick-on mount for my Moment telephoto lens for the iPhone… Grr). This listing exercise perhaps makes it visible that my normal is not everyone’s normal, and attempting to look at my normal from the viewpoint of other “normals” creates a distance and awareness about what I value and don’t value in stuff. Theoretically.

This was definitely an interesting experiment, though I’m not sure if I learned anything other than what I already know about myself–that I’m usually motivated by sloth, find it fun to improvise without resorting to unitaskers, generally dislike spending time and money on appearance beyond making myself look good in my own eyes (and I guess I have lowish standards, haha). I’m thinking of doing another list, for things I/we own but I would like to try living without. Now that might be interesting.

“Uniformizing” the Work Clothes: Toying with the Idea

In the Japanese minimalist circle, making one’s outfits into “uniforms” appears to be a common thread these days. (Dare I say, a fad?) I don’t know where this minimalist approach to work clothes all started, but the basic idea is to come up with a couple of set outfits for the coming season, and just wear those, every day. Some apply the principle to work clothes while others use the “seasonal uniform” strategy for their personal, non-work clothing.

160627_uniformization_unsplash
Image by Hanna Morgan via Unsplash.

I’ve been thinking about pros and cons of minimalist work clothes, and I must say, this “uniformization” strategy for work clothing has certain appeal.

Merits of Minimalist Approach to Work Clothes

  1. Theoretically, your “uniforms” consist of pieces you really like wearing, while having more clothing usually means you have some that aren’t on your “A list.” With the “uniform” approach, you get to wear your favorite pieces every day, rather than rotate through a mixed bag of favorites and so-so’s. And you get to wear your favorite pieces more often, because you don’t wear (or even own) the so-so ones at all.
  2. Your outfits are already constructed, ready to go; in the morning, you just need to grab one and throw it on. No need to stand in front of the closet and spend 5 minutes trying to figure out what to pair with what.
  3. That means you save time, and far more importantly, you aren’t expending your precious brain capacity on clothing choice for the day. (Decision fatigue is a real thing; see Jobsian black turtle necks.)
  4. It also follows that you don’t have “ugh, this outfit doesn’t quite work but I gotta go now; I feel kinda crappy” days.
  5. Thinking about a few people in my daily life who seem to have just a couple of outfits that look pretty similar to each other, I think of them as “the cool people who knows what their personal style is,” not as “the sad people who have to rely on just a few pieces of clothing.”
  6. No closet space issues. A minor but nice bonus for space-constrained New Yorkers.
  7. You aren’t constantly on the lookout for the next cool piece to add to your work wardrobe. This saves time, money and again, your brain capacity. One person described this benefit as “never feeling hungry for more” because you know by default that you already have all the pieces you need. This seems like a great place to be. (She actually used a slightly stronger word than “hungry,” more like “famished.”)
  8. There’s too much produced on sweatshop labor, shipped with fossil fuel and discarded in landfill. If I purchase fewer pieces, I might contribute marginally less to that global problem.

There are definitely a whole bunch of articles offering tips on how to do this:

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes

Principles of a Practical and Functional Minimalist Wardrobe

I’m definitely feeling the temptation, but not completely sold yet.

Disadvantages of Minimalist Approach to Work Clothes

  1. During the week, the only things I wear are my work clothes and pajamas. If I stuck to just a handful of preset work outfits, would I be losing the (admittedly dubious) fun of self-expression through clothing?
  2. Wearing uniformized work outfits would eliminate the “Ugh, I feel crappy in this outfit that didn’t quite work out…” days. It can also eliminate the “Wow, this combination totally kicks ass. I feel like a super-capable person!” days. Do I want to lose those moments of triumph?
  3. Given our laundry schedule of about once every two weeks, I’d need far more than 2-3 work outfits, most likely 3-4 pants and at least 5-6 shirts, if not more in summer. That’s not a huge reduction in the amount of work clothes currently in my closet. Is this minimalist approach to work clothes still worth the effort?
  4. How do I deal with weather variations and different indoor/outdoor temperatures I might encounter on different days? Do I need to pre-figure out all the possible weather and A/C combinations in order to construct uniforms for the two-week rotations? Hmmm… this seems like a lot of upfront effort with maybe a dubious payoff…

It seems the points 1 and 2 can become non-essential if I manage to construct work outfits that make me feel great. And, really, I should be feeling great about myself because of the stuff I accomplish at work, not because of how I dress (though I wouldn’t totally dismiss the latter–dress is an integral component of playing a part, which is what work is.)

The real stickler is probably 3 and 4. Just yesterday, I had to throw a shirt in the laundry bag after wearing it just once (I usually wear shirts twice before washing them), because it was so humid out that it was completely soaked through (a few times over, actually–yuck). How do I deal with a curve ball like that?

But You Know What? I’m Going to Try This.

With all that said, though, I’m curious to try. Today happens to be our laundry day, so I can start fresh next week. I could hang the pieces that comprise my “uniforms” in the front of the closet and all the other pieces in the back and see what happens.

Let’s see if this takes me to a happier place!

Japanese Spring Cabbage & Kale Salad

spring cabbage and kale salad

For some reason I’ve been craving cabbages lately. It doesn’t seem to be a thing here in the United States, but spring cabbages, far more tender and sweeter than the regular cabbages the rest of the year, are a prized vegetable in Japan. Seeing a lot of blog posts about them might be why my head has been full of cabbages these days. I picked up a small Suzuki Farm specimen from a Japanese grocery store on Saturday, and made a quick spring cabbage and kale salad with a Japanese tilt.

Japanese Spring Cabbage and Kale Salad

  1. Tear up cabbage and kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Blanch cabbage and kale. Drain, let cool and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
  3. Mix mayo and yuzu chili paste (yuzu kosho, a delicious and versatile mixture of yuzu zest, green chili and salt) in a bowl.
  4. Add the cabbage, kale and bonito flakes. Season with salt and pepper.

Breakfast today:

  • Spring cabbage and kale salad
  • Boiled egg
  • Costco’s giant cherry danishes (remember the giant Costco cheese danishes?)
  • Strawberries & white nectarine

Incoherent Breakfast: Korean Jeon & Peanut Butter Toast

Hubby left before the crack of dawn to catch a red eye flight, which means breakfast was just for myself, which means I might not have been as motivated to make a coherent breakfast. So there goes: incoherent breakfast!

incoherent breakfast

Japanese people (of which I am one) are masters of mix-and-match meals where world’s culinary traditions mingle happily (or unhappily) on the same table. A meal of chicken schnitzel accompanied by a bowl of rice, miso soup, Chinese-style quick cucumber pickles and maybe a cobb salad, for instance, wouldn’t be too outside the norm at Japanese family tables. That’s my justification for this low-effort breakfast.

Breakfast this morning:

  • Korean pancakes (garlic chives and fake crab meat)
  • Toast with peanut butter
  • Raspberries

A bowl of rice instead of the toast might have made it a bit more coherent. The good news: That’s what I’m having for lunch. The bad news: That’s what I’m having for lunch.