Category Archives: Japanese food

Bento Day after day Japanese food kids

Coming soon: Day after day of bentos

A chronicle of packed lunches for my first-grader in Tokyo during the summer

Challenge: To make a bento for my 1st-grade daughter to bring to gakudo (after-school club, which runs sort of like a day camp in the summer) for three weeks in a row.

Background: Thanks to the great healthy and well-balanced school lunches provided by Japanese daycares and schools, I have never been in a position where I had to pack a lunch for my daughter everyday. For daycare, we had to pack occasional lunches for day trips, but those were rare, so I would try to make them special and cute (see the penguin bento above). However, I don’t think I can do that day after day. How do other parents pack a lunch every single day for days/months/years on end?!? I need to develop such stamina and skills, and streamline the bento-making process while ensuring they are nutritious and appealing.

I will be posting my attempts at bento-making throughout the summer holiday, which is only 3 weeks long this summer because of the altered school schedule due to COVID-19.

Wish me luck!

Basic recipe Healthy cooking Japanese food Recipes Vegan/Vegetarian


Okayu with an umeboshi on top

Recently, with the cold season in full swing and my baby being weaned, I find myself making a lot of okayu, which is the Japanese version of rice porridge or congee. Okayu is often given to the ill as it is easier to eat and digest than white rice. In fact, when I was in the hospital after giving birth in Japan, I was given okayu instead of white rice for the first few meals. Then, in a weaning class several months later, I was taught how to prepare okayu as it is the recommended first food for babies in Japan. (In case you’re wondering, this is what okayu as baby food looks like; the different colors come from the different foods that can be added into the okayu as the baby grows, like broccoli, white fish, kabocha, egg yolk, tofu, etc.) Some people also like to use okayu as a way to lose weight by simply replacing white rice with the lower-calorie okayu.

Here, I will describe the basic recipe for okayu.

Japanese rice
Optional toppings (e.g., umeboshi (pickled plum), spring onions, etc.)

There are several types of okayu, which differ according to the amount of rice and water used and the final ratio of gruel to liquid in the okayu. Here is a quick list:

  • zengayu
    1 rice : 5 water (this gives gruel without any extra liquid)
  • shichibugayu
    1 rice : 7 water (this gives okayu with a 7 gruel : 3 liquid ratio)
  • gobugayu
    1 rice : 10 water (this gives okayu with a 1 gruel : 1 liquid ratio)
  • sanbugayu
    1 rice : 20 water (this gives okayu with a 3 gruel : 7 liquid ratio)

Cooking okayu
Cooking okayu

– wash rice until the water runs clear.
– add the appropriate amount of water and heat on high while stirring occasionally to avoid clumping of the rice.
– once the water is boiling, allow to simmer covered on low heat for 30 mins.
– add salt as needed
– serve hot with or without any toppings

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General Japanese food Ramen Ramen Ranking Restaurants

102’s Toronto Ramen Ranking 102のトロント ラーメン ランキング

Hello. I’m a Japanese male living in Toronto. While living abroad, I sometimes want to eat Japanese food very much, but it is difficult to obtain delicious authentic Japanese food, and I imagine that many Japanese people who are living abroad may also be struggling to get them.

Especially among Japanese people, ramen is very popular. However, there is little information about ramen restaurants in Toronto. I imagine that many Japanese people are disappointed in the taste of the ramen available in Toronto because of the differences in preference for ramen between Japanese and Canadian people. Here, I’d like to share the results of my ramen tasting in Toronto as a way of contributing to people who want to know which ramen shops have authentic and delicious Japanese flavor.


My ranking of ramen in Toronto is below. The details of each ramen will be written in the future.

1st Sansoutei Ramen             9 pt ★★★★★★★★★☆

2nd Raijin (tonkotsu)              8 pt ★★★★★★★★☆☆

3rd Guu                      7 pt ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

4th Santouka Ramen             7 pt ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

5th Ryoji                      6 pt ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

6th Raijin (toridashi)               6 pt ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

7th Kinton Ramen                            5 pt ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

8th Kenzo Ramen                             3 pt ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

9th Tohenboku Ramen                        2 pt ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

10th  Sukiyaki Japanese Delight        2 pt ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

11th Wakame Sushi                          1 pt ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆


This ranking was made according to my own personal preferences, so some people may not like the ramen with a higher rank, while some people may like the ones with a lower rank. Another point to note is that there are some restaurants that aren’t ramen restaurant in this ranking; I evaluated only the ramen and didn’t evaluate any other dish.


In addition, this ranking was made based on the taste of ramen in Japan, so you may find the evaluations strict.


Let me share my comprehensive impressions of ramen in Toronto.


1. Tonkotsu ramen in Toronto tastes better than the other flavors

I’m not sure whether tonkotsu (pork bone soup) is popular in Toronto or not, but the rankings for tonkotsu ramen were generally higher than those of the other flavors as they tasted pretty good. For your information, I prefer shoyu (soy sauce) ramen the most, and the order of my preferences for ramen soup flavors is: 1st shoyu, 2nd miso, 3rd tonkotsu, 4th shio (salt). Nonetheless, tonkotsu ramen restaurants seem to rank highly on this list, so I think the tonkotsu ramen in Toronto is good.


2. Soups are watery, and the noodles are softer

I’m not sure whether that’s a Canadian preference or not, but many ramen restaurants’ soups are watery and have a lighter taste. Thus, Japanese people may feel that something is missing in the soup. Also, the noodles are much softer compared to the ramen in Japan. As I see it, these differences may be attributed to Canadian’s preferences.


3. No white rice on the side menu

When I go to ramen restaurants in Japan, I always order rice with ramen and enjoy them as ramen-rice (eating white rice with ramen soup, toppings and noodles), but in Toronto, almost none of the ramen restaurants have rice (or half-sized rice) on their menu. Some of them have pork rice bowls or chicken rice bowls, but they don’t offer simple white rice. We can’t enjoy “ramen-rice” in Toronto, so I feel a little disappointed.


4. No seasonings on the tables

In Japan, ramen restaurants usually offer seasonings, like garlic, white pepper, sesame seeds, etc., on the tables. Customers can add these seasonings to the ramen they ordered however they want. However, none of the ramen restaurants in Toronto have this system. I hope ramen restaurants in Toronto will implement this service in the future.


I will add new ramen restaurants to the ranking whenever I eat ramen at other ramen restaurants.


If you want me to try another ramen restaurant, please feel free to leave a comment. I will try and taste it whenever possible and add the ramen to the ranking and write a review.






第1位  三草亭               9点★★★★★★★★★☆

第2位  雷神(とんこつ)          8点★★★★★★★★☆☆

第3位  グー                 7点★★★★★★★☆☆☆

第4位  山頭花                7点★★★★★★★☆☆☆

第5位  リョウジ               6点★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

第6位  雷神(鶏だし)            6点★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

第7位  金とん                   5点★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

第8位  ケンゾー                 3点★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

第9位  唐変木                 2点★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

第10位 すきやきジャパニーズデライト  2点★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

第11位 ワカメ寿司               1点★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆























Japanese food Recipes Travel eats

Kiritampo nabe

Kiritampo nabe
Kiritampo nabe

I love surprise parcels, especially those involving food! So when we received such a parcel from my sister-in-law, I was ecstatic; she had sent us a set for making kiritampo nabe, a type of hot pot from Akita prefecture in Japan, complete will the soup base, raw hinai-jidori (free-range chicken from Akita that is famous all around the country) meat, vegetables, and of course, kiritampo.

Kiritampo is made from mushed-up cooked rice (if authentic, of the delicious Akita komachi variety, of course!) wrapped around a cedar stick and toasted. It can then be slid off the stick to be used in nabe. The set also included damako mochi, which is similar to kiritampo, but instead of cylinders, the mashed rice is formed into balls about 2 cm in diameter.

Kiritampo nabe set
Kiritampo nabe set- ingredients all included!

The soup base was included in the set, but since this nabe set is not available everywhere, I will describe the recipe for making the soup base from scratch, as well as the ingredients used in kiritampo nabe. As with all nabe, there is no strict rule for the amounts of ingredients that must be used, but here is a guideline that can be changed according to the ingredients on hand, and personal tastes.

200 g raw boneless chicken meat
1 leek
1 carrot
200 g maitake (Grifola frondosa or hen-of-the-wood mushrooms)
1 burdock root, peeled and sliced
1 bunch seri (Japanese parsley/dropwort greens)
400 g shirataki noodles
Kiritanpo (about 2/person)
Damako mochi

For making the soup:
1.5 L chicken stock or water
50 ml soy sauce
75 ml mirin
Salt (approx. 1 tsp or as needed)

– add the burdock root and chicken to the water/soup stock in a pot and bring to a boil
– add the soy sauce, mirin and salt, and allow to boil
– add the maitake, carrot and shirataki, then simmer for about five minutes
– add the leek, kiritampo and damako mochi, and simmer for several more minutes
– place seri on the top and allow to cook for a minute
– serve hot!

Kiritampo nabe and rice
Kiritampo nabe and rice

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Japanese food Meat Recipes

Miso fried chicken

In this recipe, chicken is marinated in a miso sauce and fried in a frying pan. I like this recipe because it is so easy to make and is very flavorful. I’ve made it without letting it marinate when I didn’t have time and it was still delicious.

Miso chicken
Miso chicken

600 g chicken
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar or mirin
Oil for cooking

Cut chicken into the desired sizes.
Combine miso, soy sauce and sugar.
Add the sauce mixture to the chicken and combine until chicken is well coated.
Allow to meat to sit for several hours in the fridge, wrapped.
Heat oil in frying pan.
Place chicken in the pan and fry until golden brown.
Flip the chicken and fry the other side.

Fry until brown and thoroughly cooked.
Serve hot.

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Fusion Japanese food Recipes

SPAM onigiri (rice ball)

SPAM onigiri (rice ball)
SPAM onigiri (rice ball)

You read it right. This post is for spam rice balls. Spam, as in the processed meat, which is popular in the heavily american-influenced southern Japanese island of Okinawa. Incorporating the American canned meat into their Japanese food, spam onigiri is an interesting fusion food that is simple to make, and is handy for bentos.

Cooked rice
Salted water
Cheese (optional)
Ketchup (optional)
BBQ sauce (optional)
Teriyaki sauce (optional)
Omelet (optional)

-cook white rice as usual
– slice spam horizontally into ~3/4cm thick slices

– fry spam on both sides in a pan

– lay out the spam and place optional ingredients onto the middle of the spam slice

– prepare rice by using hands wetted in salt water to form rice balls about the same shape as the spam slices.
– place rice on top of the spam

– lightly press the meat and the rice together
– wrap a strip of nori around the rice ball

Eat hot or cold. These are great for bentos, or simply wrapped in plastic wrap, they are easily portable.

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Japanese food Recipes

Teriyaki buri

Buri, or Japanese amberjack/yellowtail is a fish that is known for its high fat content, and is widely used in foods like sushi (hamachi), and in hot pots. This recipe describes a recipe for teriyaki buri.

Teriyaki is a sweet sauce basically made of sugar, soy sauce, and mirin.


Buri fillets
Salt (a little)
Sake (a little)
Vegetable oil
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs mirin

Marinate fillets in sake with a little salt for about 5-10 minutes.

Heat oil in a frying pan.

Fry fish until sides are lightly browned.

Frying buri
Frying buri

Remove oil from pan.

Mix mirin, sugar and soy sauce, add to the fish in the pan and allow to simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

Remove fish from pan, and spoon a few tablespoons of the teriyaki sauce over the fish before serving.

Japanese food Recipes

Easy-peasy curry (Japanese curry)

The Japanese adaptation of curry is a mild, creamy, and slightly sweet concoction, with chunks of meat and vegetables swimming in a thick gravy. And, surprisingly, Japanese curry typically comes in a box! Another example of a convenience product for the busy home cook.

Most Asian grocery stores now carry boxes of the instant curry sauce. In each box are cubes of concentrated sauce (in essence a thickened roux). Just add water! Since this is a quick, easy and fail-safe meal to make, I always have a box in my cupboard for emergencies. Although the label says it makes 10 servings, I find that half a box (4-6 cubes) of the instant curry mix is plenty for 6-8 servings.

The curry comes in mild, medium, or hot versions, none of which are really spicy. Meat, potato, carrot and onion are the standard ingredients for a Japanese curry. Since I like my green veggies, I often also add broccoli, bell peppers, and peas. These ingredients add a brightness to an otherwise starchy dish.


1 chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped broccoli
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 – 3.5 cups hot water
4 cubes (half box) of curry sauce mix
2 tbsp cooking oil
Heat the oil in a large pan or pot, and brown the chicken pieces. Add onion, potato, carrot, and pepper and stir fry for 1-2 mins. Add the broccoli and peas. Top with hot water, until everything is just covered. Add the curry sauce cubes and stir gently, until the cubes start to melt. Cover and simmer for 10-15 mins, stirring once midway through. Serve over rice.

Japanese food Meat Recipes

Panko Fish

Remember when Shake ‘n Bake was the newest thing? Or those Chicken Tonight commercials? Well, frankly this post really has nothing to do with a dancing chicken… it just came to mind semi-randomly…

I’ve been experimenting with Panko (a Japanese bread-crumb like product). The texture is lighter and more airy than its western counterpart. In North America, panko is often used as tempura batter (which is different than real Japanese tempura) to create a flaky, crispy crust. And since I don’t tend to keep bread crumbs in the house, I thought panko would be a more versatile product to have in the cupboard.

Panko is available in most mainstream supermarkets now (at least, here in Toronto). It’s usually in the “ethnic” aisle, next to the noodles. I also see it freqently by the meat and fish section, next to little tubes of wasabi and jars of pickled ginger (suggestive product placement, I suppose:)

Because panko is delicately crisp, and doesn’t require a lot of oil to cook, it’s perfect for this baked fish recipe.


2 tilapia fillets, cut lengthwise in half
1 cup of panko
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Pre-heat oven to 375 F. In a large flat-bottomed bowl or a plate, mix the panko, oregano, parmesan, salt and pepper. Drizzle the fish fillets with oil and coat all sides. Then cover each fillet in the panko mixture. (I prefer this technique over tossing in a bag, since it helps the panko stick better, while using less oil.) Lay the fillets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top with the remaining panko mixture. Bake for 10 mins, flip over, and then for 10 mins more.

This particular night, I served the fish with portuguese style rice and vegetables. I also made a lemon-dill sauce to go with it. A healthy, tasty meal!

Bento transition: For anyone interested, all the food in the picture above (on the plate), was packed into the lower container in the picture below. Exact same food, and exact same portions (About 1/2 cup of rice, 3 oz of fish, 1/2 cup of vegetables. Also in this bento: carrot sticks, pickled diakon and gherkin, 1/4 slice of swiss roll cake, 2 fingers of bosc pear, 2 cubes of cheese)

Fusion Healthy cooking Japanese food Recipes Tools and kitchenware

Tajine nabe

Tajine pot

Tajine nabe seems to be very popular in Japan now, with frequent appearances on TV and in special displays in stores. There are constantly new recipes popping up here and there, iand t is hard to miss the craze.

You would be led to think that Tajine pots were invented in Japan with the way they are promoted here with large signs saying “Made in Japan”, and pictures of Japanese ingredients floating around them. In fact, Tajine pots originated in Morocan cuisine, and are used to simmer dishes and stews of meat, beans, and vegetables.

The Japanese version of the tajine is used mainly for steaming foods. It is heralded as a new healthy way of cooking in which foods are steamed in very little water, and so they retain more of their vitamins and nutrients. And of course, oil is not needed. The food is often cooked with only a little salt or soy sauce for flavour, and when eaten, can be topped off or dipped in a sauce, such as ponzu, soy sauce or sesame sauce.

Cooking Tajine nabe is an easy process. Simply arrange the desired vegetables and meats on the base, add salt or sauces if desired, add a little bit of water, close lid, and heat on the stove until steam comes out of the pot, and ingredients are cooked to desired consistency.

Mushroom, carrot, fried tofu (atsuage), and slices of bacon (before/after cooking)

Cabbage layered with bacon, and carrots with meat balls (before/after cooking)

Some popular ingredient include:
Cabbage with bacon slices slitted between leaves
Eggplant slices layered with minced meat
Lotus root (renkon) slices layered with a minced meat mixture
Mushrooms, leek, bean sprouts, garlic, and slices of pork

Slices of eggplant layered with garlic miso