命の出汁 – broth of vigour

an adventure in japanese cuisine, an obsession with the izakaya

Leave a comment

Sensational Ice work . . .

I love dense crystal clear ice in my drink. Am coming to the end of my latest Japan trip and have found solid clear blocks of ice in some of the better supermarkets here. But the guy in the video below just takes the championship.

I am a bit concerned about his use of a soba-bocho (knife for cutting soba noodles) to reduce the size of his chunk of ice, but his blade work is insanely exceptional.


Leave a comment

knife meets wagyu

I tripped over the following item on the YouTube channel of a Japanese Restaurant Supplier in the USA called MTCKitchen. As a lover of Japanese Knifes as well as their cuisine I have looked at a number of this companies videos before; there are numerous videos on sharpening and the use of Japanese restuarant equipment. This particular video shows using a Japanese Sujihiki trimming an insanely gorgeous piece of Wagyu beef. Whether it is the knife or the beef this will likely cause significant drooling.

Leave a comment

Uncle Tetsuya’s happy trout

Tetsuya Wakuda is one of Australia’s most recognised Japanese Chef’s and no surprise the owner and executive chef of restuarant Tetsuya in Sydney. His signature dish has been for a long time a confit of ocean trout. In this youtube video below he explains the process for creating this incredible dish at home including substitutes for certain japanese ingredients that you may not be able to find outside of Japan.

The only change I would suggest to his approach would be to perform the confit process in an oven for more success. Particulary a good idea if, as he points out, you have a gas stove rather than an induction cooker. One of these days I will get back to his restuarant and try this in person, until then I will have to resort to my own version. A written version of the recipe is available here.

Side Note: In my recent travels to Japan and France on business I have had the delight in seeing a fantastic documentary on Tetsuya on TalkAsia on CNN. If you have cable or access to CNN I would check this out (or transctiption here, video here. Not only does it give an interesting profile on his background but shows an insight into his restuarant and some of the recipes. WARNING, it may cause you to put money away from those vital mortgage payments to save up for a session in his private dining room.

Leave a comment

one cd, one sushi and one beer

Forgive the George Thorogood reference but I couldnt get that song out of my head as I was climbing up the series of escalators in the Tower Records building in Shibuya. The Japanese market seems to be incredibly big on almost everything and for me this provides the opportunity to get some good Jazz music. Most of the 6th floor is dedicated to Jazz and believe me it is a huge range. My haul this time was smallish (4 cds and 3 SACD’s) and then I went in search of a late afternoon brunch.


I felt like some sushi. Not cheap sushi, not Jiro sushi, but some good sushi. I wandered a little around a couple of blocks in Shibuya and say a sign on the side of the Seibu building that mentioned a sushi place on the 12th Floor (along with a whole pile of other squiggles I dont understand). The pictures look good which unlike in western food advertisements normally means the food will be similar. The Japanese take everything from a streetside yakitori to 3 Michelin star dining almost as seriously.

Wandering up the myriad of escalators to the 354th floor (ok the twelth but I was almost getting motion sickness from the circular wandering) I came across a couple of sushi restaurants. One was a sushi train and while the food didnt look so bad the chef with the microphone constantly screaming about what was available didn’t really gel as the quiet lunch I was hoping for.

Around the corner I encountered a far more traditional (and silent) sight with a noren hanging over a door and a the warm indication of “English Menu Inside”. WOO-HOO 😉


I ordered one of their lunch specials, the larger one, as it was my breakfast and my lunch. The set came with two items called “custard” and “clear soup”. As my luck would have it I was able to be seated at the counter and watch the entire extravaganza.


The making of the sushi was enjoyable for me to watch. A few interesting touches included the making of a small roll with two fillings where the sushi chef cut right down the centre between the two fillings he put into my roll; no tuna in the wierd grass section, no grass with my tuna. Skills!


The lunch plate looked spectacular and sat very nicely with a cold draft beer.

Another neat installment was how the raw octopus was cut to make the sushi topping; from a relatively cylindrical piece of sashimi grade octopus tentacle the chef cut almost all the way through, flipped it over and cut another piece almost all the way through, and one more time. The result being a single piece of octopus to lay on top of the rice for sushi.


The clear soup was a very simple but incredibly tasty dashi with some tofu and wakame seawead.


The final and surprise package of lunch was a cup of green tea with a small dessert. The surprise was in the desert both in its existance (probably not looking at the set menu to realize) and the flavour; balanced green tea taste with an extra punch of green tea from the match powder coating the cubes.


A great haul of cd’s and a great lunch. Just for kicks have a look at the chef slicing small red raddish with a yanagiba, absolutely incredible and he still had all his fingers. 😉

Leave a comment

breakfast is served

Back in Tokyo this week on business. I am not normally a breakfast person and after the first morning I was here and experienced the “buffet of doom” I reviewed the back of the little breakfast coupons I was given for each day to get fed (one of the joys of working for a large global company that negotiates lots of things into their hotel rates). There was a second option to have a Japanese Breakfast in one of the Japanese restaurants in the hotel.

There was more on this breakfast bento that I could eat (am in Great Lent vegan fasting time as an Orthodox Christian) than in the aforementioned buffet of western grease. Very fresh and healthy looking, tasted fantastic.

I wonder where I will be having breakfast for the rest of my stay 😉


Breakfast at Japanese Restaurant “Kakou” inside Hyatt Regency Tokyo (Shinjuku)

Leave a comment

Got ice?

I love the way you can still get hand crafted ice balls in many Japanese bars apart from the quality of the ice and the slow melting times (low drink dilution scale), if you plant yourself in a good spot you are in for a great show. Fortunately the bartenders tend to drink less than you do and I am yet to see any real injuries.

This one comes from my most recent trip to Japan (Feb 2013) as I sat for a quiet meal up at the bar of an Izakaya in Yoyogi-Hachiman near Shibuya.

1 Comment

Champon – ちゃんぽん

Champon (ちゃんぽん) is one of my favourite noodle dishes of all time and part of a long term search to reproduce at home. I first encounterd this dish at Narukyo (なるきよ) as a “finisher”; a final dish at the end of a great night of food and shochu (is there eanything else to drink at an isakaya?). The combination of ingredients and the stock made me stand up and take notice, much more than any ramen, laksa or miscellaneous soup noodle combination.


It appears that the dish is a Chinese / Japanese fusion concoction that first came to life in Japan in the city of Nagasaki. The combination of pork, seafood and vegetables when well picked is quite a balanced dish and adding seasonal produce makes almost every Champon a new experience. At Narukyo (なるきよ) I have experienced a deluxe version made for a friend of mine. Well, several deluxed versions, usually with Uni (Sea Urchin Roe) for him but I have had additions of soft roe of cod or even ikura (salmon roe) to build up the luxurious content.

After my first Champon experience I tried to have a crack at making it on my return home and ended up with a reasonable noodle soup, but not Champon. Some of the key (well regular) ingredients are hard to get in Australia (mostly the particular type of fish cake) and my first few attempts probably did not have the balance of noodle / vegatable / pork & seafood. Over time my recipe is getting closer based on constrant laboratory and field research.


OK, this is not going to be measured to the microgram kind of recipe, it is still a work in progress and it is more fun to play with the variations.

  • Stock 500ml to make two servings
  • Lard
  • Standard Meat  /Seafood – sliced pork fillet, slices of fish cake, squid or calamari slices, soft roe of cod
  • Vegetables – cabbage, carrots, beanshoots
  • Additives (Deluxe) – sliced abalone, prawns
  • Toppings (Super-Deluxe) – salmon roe (ikura) or sea urchin roe (uni)
  • Champon (or ramen) noodles

The best ratio I have found is to have an equal volume of noodles / seafood & meat / vegetables with stock to fill the bowl.


Cooking Instructions

  • Fire up the wok, and I do mean fire. Should be smoking hot
  • Add the lard and swish around to melt, making sure the smoking hot theory is still in place
  • Add the seafood / meat pieces (pork and fish cake at a minimum) and toss in wok for around 2 minutes
  • Add the vegetables and any of the deluxe additives that need less cooking than the meat, continue to toss wok like a madman
  • Scoop in the stock from your secret sauce bucket, throw on the noodles tossing everything through
  • Cover with a lid and let cook for around 2 mins
  • Serve into bowls by placing noodles and items neatly with chopsticks. Scoop in broth with other contents
  • For Super-Deluxe version add a “garnish” of salmon roe (ikura) or sea urchin roe (uni). Some ground sesami seeds may also be used.
  • Consume. Go to the top and start again 😉


A Note on the Stock

So far my best efforts have been based on trail and error with a handful of suggestions obtained at the end of a long line of spent shochu. I start with a good chicken stock and for this I actually use a recipe from How to cook like Heston. This makes a fantastic chicken broth keeps well frozen (ideal for when you come home and decide you need champon). To this I would add some pork bones from the butcher, even some pork belly if nothing else comes to hand. You should end up with a milky appearance to the stock and a tonne of body added by the pork.

This recipe I am sure will be a work in progress and upgraded on every trip. Look for updates! Comments welcome!