Pumpkin coconut soup

So fall/winter/the holiday season is upon us, and I am really excited to share this recipe with you!  It is a luscious, rich soup that makes me happy that it is so freezing outside!  It was originally going to be adapted from Global Gourmet, but as usual, I have tweaked the recipe to my own tastes and to more accessible items in the Japanese supermarket–in particular the 金時人参 (きんときにんじん) kintoki ninjin, or Kyoto red carrot.  This carrot is a blood red color and is so sweet and much better than the regular carrot!  The recipe also calls for only using the white part of the scallions, which apparently have a more mild flavor than the green part.  The accompanying photo was taken by my talented friend Cat.  I got to be a model for a day.  Please check out her website!


pumpkin coconut soup
Soup in a breadbowl!

Pumpkin coconut soup

Prep time: 20 minutes                Cooking time: 20-25 minutes              Servings: 6

Budget for ingredients: ¥1000


1 grater
1 masher
1 pot


1 kabocha pumpkin (the only kind you can get here, with the green rind)
2 kintoku carrots
1 T fresh grated ginger
1 T chopped garlic
3 blocks of consommé
1 bunch of scallions (only the white part), chopped
1 can coconut milk
1 package Italian parsley, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and white pepper to taste


1. Remove seeds from the pumpkin.   Wash and place in pot, and add enough water that 2/3 of the pumpkin is covered.  I leave the pumpkin in halves.

2. Chop carrots into coins and drop it in the pot.  Add grated ginger,garlic, and consommé.

3.  Bring to a boil, and remove pumpkin peel with tongs after it has softened.

4. Although this is probably not the correct procedure, I usually just stick my masher in at this point to mush up the mixture.  Much faster than just stirring with a wooden spoon!  Slightly dangerous but whatever.

5.  Turn down the heat, and add in chopped scallions and coconut milk.

6. Heat the soup through without boiling.  Add parsley, juice from the lime, and salt and pepper to taste.


Chiffon cake

In the early summer, I went to the grocery store and by coincidence, there was a special bakery with a stand.  They had the MOST delicious light fluffy moist cake that came in coffee, matcha (green tea), and vanilla.   It was chiffon!  All were tasty but I decided I HAD to make it myself instead of buying it.  What can I say, not everything is a means to an end!

This cake goes perfectly with berries or fruit on top.  Currently in Japanese supermarkets there are no berries, so I opted for the last of the summer nectarines.  Conveniently timed was my friend Maggie’s son, Daigo’s third birthday!  I decided to pair it with a vanilla honey buttercream, because I LOVE honey.  It was my first time making an egg foam successfully (I have failed on various meringues previously) that makes it so spongey!  Cream of tartar, which an acid salt that is commonly used to fluff up beaten egg whites, was difficult to find.  I had to go to another bigger supermarket, but luckily, found it on sale for ¥100!

Chiffon Cake

Happy Birthday Daigo!

Chiffon cake with vanilla honey buttercream frosting

Prep time: 25 minutes                Baking time: 40-45 minutes/cake              Servings: 6

Budget for ingredients: ¥1000

1 pan (I used a ring pan)
1 pot
1 bowl
electric mixer


For chiffon cake:

2 c flour
1 1/2 c white sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c vegetable oil
7 egg yolks
3/4 c cold water
2 t vanilla extract
1 t lemon juice
7 egg whites
1/2 t cream of tartar

For frosting:

3 c powdered sugar
1 c butter
1 t vanilla extract
2 T whipping cream
1 T honey


1. Preheat oven to 150C. Wash your pan in hot soapy water to make sure it is totally grease free.

2. Separate the egg yolks from egg whites.  This is REALLY important as any hint of egg yolk in the egg whites will completely ruin the cake.  We are going to make a chemical reaction later!   If you need to watch a video tutorial, Howdini has a good one here.

3. Measure the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix well in your bowl.  Then make a well, which means to make a little hole in the middle to make a little lake of the liquids!  Add oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon juice in the order that is given. Set aside.

4. In the pot, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very stiff.

5. Using same beaters, beat egg yolk batter until smooth and light. Pour gradually over egg whites, folding in with rubber spatula. Do not stir. Pour batter into angel food tube pan.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

7. While the cake is baking, use the pot to blend the butter and powdered sugar for the frosting.  Then add the vanilla, whipping cream, and honey.

8. Take the cake out of the oven and invert pan until cool.  Then cover with frosting and fruits!

Egg molds

So, back to my bento dreams!  The wieners didn’t work out as well as I wanted them to which is a shame because I was really into buying the cutters in cute shapes.  In anycase, I did find this next piece of the puzzle in bentos to be really adorable and easy to work with–EGG MOLDS!  I got these in a 2 in 1 package in Daiso.  The process is super simple,  all you have to do is hard boil some eggs, and after that, peel the shell off and cram it into one of these molds.  Then insert into a cold water bath. 
molds cooling

Molds cooling

After 10 minutes or so I popped out the eggs into my fresh salad.  You can’t help but smile back when your salad is smiling at you! 
egg salad

My salad is cuter than yours.

Bento Envy, Chapter 2

First off, Happy O-Bon!  I have been spending my time in the states (where I am from) so sorry for the lack of updates!  This is a piece I started before I left, so I thought I would post!

While in Japan last month, I went to a  local Daiso and purchased wiener cutters, egg molds, and onigiri (rice balls shaped like fat triangles) molds.

While talking/panicking to a friend on the phone  about the wieners not turning out right, I realized I needed to actually do some research before I continue onto this subject.  As a result, I was overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of information about this subject.  What did I get myself into?

Did you know that the very bento boxes I blogged about in chapter one are actually a source of competition for mothers ?  Or that what I am actually talking about is called Kyaraben (pronounced like CHARA from character)?  Or that there are Japan-wide bento competitions?  Did you know that I suddenly feel like I could potentially have found one of my life’s callings, as I am both addicted to all things cute, food, and producing both?

If you want to read more on the culture surrounding mothers and Kyaraben in Japan from a foreign viewpoint, Salon has an interesting article.   Great insight to the Japanese way of life!

If you opted out of reading, scroll down as I give you a what’s up with wiener cutters.  We are going WILD today!

Tulip cutter

Tulip cutter


Wiener penguin death yard

Basically, you have to get your mini wieners 10 minutes in the freezer and then put it in the cutter, then boil.  However, nothing came out perfectly!   My conclusion is that these wieners might come out cuter if I tweak with them with a tiny knife instead, which I will do in Chapter 3 of Bento Envy!  Stay tuned.

Steamed white melon and tofu

I found these melons that are called 白瓜 (しろうり) shiro-uri.  Literally, it means white melon but every search result led me to winter melon.  For the life of me, I couldn’t find an English name for these!  They taste like cucumbers and remind me of calabash. They look like this in the supermarket.

white melon

Cousin of the cucumber!

I decided to braise them like a Chinese dish my mom makes.  The white melon can also be used in place of cucumber in your salads.

white melon with tofu

Healthy and light dish

Braised white melon

Prep time: 10 minutes               Cooking time: 2o minutes              Servings: 4

Budget for ingredients: ¥600


Glass bowl
Steaming stand


2 pieces fried tofu
2 white melons
2 T dried shrimp
1 t salt
1 t white pepper
1 T ponzu sauce
1 t sesame oil


1. Peel white melons and quarter lengthwise,  then slice.  Place into bowl.

2. Slice the tofu.  Add tofu, dried shrimp, salt and pepper.  Mix!

3. Pour the ponzu sauce and sesame oil over the mixture.

4.  Fill up pot with water up until the level is right below where the steaming stand is.

5. Place glass bowl in the pot, and bring to boil for 15 minutes.

Eggs florentine

I used to stumble out of my bed in New York for brunch at restaurants—OH WAIT.  Restaurants in Japan don’t serve brunch.  EVER!  So what was I supposed to do?  No more all you can drink and sunday brunch with friends, talking about the shenanigans from the night before?  I say NO THANK YOU, I will create sunday brunch (which, by the time I actually cooked, was linner time) myself.  So tada, I have a recipe for eggs florentine!  Ooh, hollandaise sauce, お久しぶり!

I also overcame a huge fear when creating this dish–I was scurrrred to the bone by poaching because it WAS difficult even after watching hours of tutorials via youtube, but thanks to tips from friends, not an egg wasted.  It was over easy.

Three very important notes:

1. I am introducing a new tool I picked up at Daiso which allows me to steam and double boil!  I call it a steamer stand, since I kind of can’t find anything online that is comparable.  It is called a 2 way 蒸し蓋落し蓋 (mushibuta otoshibuta), meaning two way steamer and cover, although it is not what a traditional cover looks like .  In fact I am not sure it can be used as a traditional otoshibuta??  Here is what it looks like:

Steamer stand

Another useful thing from Daiso!

2. I have discovered that there are lots of things on sale in the MORNING when the supermarkets open, so I was able to get 10 eggs for 100 Yen ($1)!  I guess the early bird does catch the worm.

3.  My friend Jeffrey had mentioned before I started on the Hollandaise sauce that it was ”All in the wrist”.  BOY, was he right!
Eggs florentine

Our Linner.Photo credit: Cat

Eggs florentine

Prep time: 20 minutes                Cooking time: 25-30 minutes              Servings: 6

Budget for ingredients: ¥600

1 pan
1 bowl (I used my glass one)
1 pot
Slotted spoon


For Hollandaise sauce:

4 egg yolks
1 T water
2 t lemon juice
12 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper

For Eggs florentine:

12 eggs
1 T rice vinegar
1 bunch of spinach, cut into thirds
12 slices roasted ham (forgive me, there was no thicker cut than the sandwich slices)
6 English muffins


1. Fill your pan with water to about 1 inch ( 2.5 cm) and get the water simmering.

2. Beat the eggs and water together in a glass bowl until it becomes fluffier and add the lemon juice.

3. Whisk until the volume doubles, and can coat the back of a spoon.

4.  Place the bowl on top of the steamer stand, (water should NOT touch the bowl) and whisk quickly because you do not want the egg yolks to cook!

5.  Drop the butter in a couple pieces at a time and continue to whisk quickly until they melt.  The sauce should double in volume!

6. Take off from the heat and add in the salt and pepper.  Onto the poached eggs!

7.  Fill a pot up with water and add the rice vinegar.  Vinegar is added because it cooks an egg faster than just water alone.  Bring to a boil.

8. Crack an egg into the water, be careful not to break the yolk, and lower the heat into a simmer for a couple minutes.  If that doesn’t work, turn the heat completely off.  Remove your eggs via slotted spoon.

9. Toast English muffins with ham in a toaster oven for 5 minutes at 140C.

10.  Saute the chopped spinach in the pan.

11.  Layer: English muffin, ham, spinach, egg, Hollandaise sauce.  Done, and hens forth, I will not lay on anymore puns.  Eggscrutionarily lame, sorry!