avocado egg toast

2022-02-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- CNN's website had an article introducing breakfasts from around the world. One of Australia's favorites is avocado toast topped with egg. I had never heard of it, so we tried to make some.

This is what it is supposed to look like. From
CNN Travel Files, 2022-01-28, Casey Barber "Breakfast food around the world: How different places start the day".

First, I made eggs sunny-side-up, with molten yolks. 90 seconds in our combi oven.

Then we laid sliced avocados on sliced bread and toasted them together.

Finally we laid the eggs on top of the avocado toast.

Not confident that Aussies would approve, but it was a yummy first try!

mom's new year food

2022-01-02 KANAGAWA, JAPAN -- Mom served us family style New Year's food at her house.

A toast with the "friendly snowman", a
yokai (a spirit) who is said to carry your luggage over mountain ranges in exchange for small amounts of food.

My favorites are
datemaki (sweet rolled baked eggs) and kamaboko (steamed fish paste).

Mom baked us
mochi (rice cakes) on the dining table.

cooking class

2021-12-14 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I attended a cooking class for our combi oven.

On my way I prayed at the frog deities nearby.

I lost my way. I should have taken the side street on the right of the picture. Instead I stayed on the sidewalk of the main street. I arrived late. Shame on me.

Fujimak (a commercial kitchen appliance manufacturer) sells Rational combi ovens under the Fujimak name. Years ago, Fujimak was the sole distributor for Rational products in Japan. Their demo kitchens show the full spectrum of Fujimak products.

This is their latest model. Mine is a generation older. The new interface allows for more detailed controls and settings. The old interface is easier to see from across the room. The oven itself remains the same.

The instructor demonstrated 6 recipes. These are ingredients for
chawanmushi (egg pudding as a side dish, not dessert).

Chawanmushi requires precise temperature control. Too hot and bubbles form inside the pudding.

A page from the instructor's recipe and my notes.

Noriko and I experimented with the paella recipe that our instructor suggested.

Not bad!


2021-11-28 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We went to a yakiniku (barbecue) store near our house.

I had eaten here alone once before when I visited a showroom of an electric lighting appliance manufacturer nearby during the period that our house was being remodeled. I discovered that, although yakiniku stores are often pricey, one can eat fairly economically here.

Customers order plates of ingredients to be grilled at their table.

In the center of the table is a sunken grill. The grill combines the ease of natural gas (lower flame is better) and the flavor of cooking with charcoal (the liquid dripping from the ingredients burn and add smokey flavor). Surrounding the grill is a ring-shaped exhaust vent that sucks smoke from the grill. Your clothes and hair don't smell like barbecue when you leave the store. I wanted to install this appliance in our home when we were remodeling but alas our building (specifically the space beneath the floor, where the exhaust vent would be placed) could not accommodate it.

My ordering technique is to get a small number of high-quality ingredients, and add vegetables from the salad bar (price included in the meal).


2021-11-25 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- Japan is 17 hours ahead of the west coast of the United States. We celebrated Thanksgiving a day earlier than our friends in America.

We bought a 7-kilogram (15-pound) Butterball-brand frozen turkey at Costco, just like last year.

I followed a recipe that I found the day before, and, as a first for me, rubbed olive oil on the turkey's skin. Then I sprinkled paprika all over, just like my mom taught me.

I was astonished that the bird was ready after only 80 minutes in our combi oven.

We gave half to Noriko's sister, and the other half to mom. This was one of the fastest turkeys in terms of cooking time and eating time!

Mom gave us her hand-made
hoshigaki, which are persimmons that are peeled and sun-dried. I did not know until now that the word persimmon comes from the Algonquian language. There is the Algonquin Park near Toronto where I spent my early childhood.

The day after Thanksgiving, I made soup with the carcass.

temaki sushi

2021-09-28 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We had a temaki (roll-your-own) sushi party at home.

I am an awful sushi chef. My knife technique ranks only slightly above my trumpet technique.

Vinegar rice (which is what sushi means -- "su" vinegar, and "shi" short for "meshi" rice) no problem.

Noriko prepared the avacado and cucumbers.

We rolled so thick that we got full fast!

The nori came from mom.

grilled tuna

2021-08-19 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our combi oven grills fish so superbly that I have forgotten how to cook with a roasting grill over a flame.


Our current stock of tuna is sashi-grade.

grilled eel

2021-07-30 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I finally submitted an academic paper, and to celebrate, Noriko and I are having grilled eel tonight.

This is our 2nd eel this season. My brother sent them via chilled delivery.

The eel is pre-cooked. Most people probably boil or microwave them. We believe these delicacies deserve a serious steam and grill.

fresh veggies

2021-07-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our sister gave us a heap of fresh veggies.

We steamed and grilled corn.


We baked pizzas for lunch.

First watermelon of the season. Small pleasures remind us how fortunate we are.

roast beef

2021-06-11 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- I brought my mom home-made roast beef and store-bought bagels.

This batch of roast beef is the best we made since returning to Japan on 2020-04-11. Costco's meat department is hit and miss -- they sometimes (not too often) have good beef. We lucked out this time.

The price tag. For our USA friends, approximately 17 pounds at 6 dollars per pound.

Every time I visit my mom's house, I am glad that we improved the floor and arranged the furniture. The place is safer, prettier, and healthier.


2021-05-19 KAWASAKI AND TOKYO, JAPAN -- For the first time in our lives, mom, Noriko and I shucked oysters. I cannot believe we had never done this before.

iwa (rock) oysters come from an oyster farm in Okinoshima, a group of islands off the southwest coast of Honshu island (the main island of Japan), in between Japan and the Korean peninsula.

Because live oysters need to be enjoyed immediately, I packed oysters in ice packs, and rushed over to my mom's house. We watched videos and read instructions on how to open oysters. Turns out that techniques for opening oysters differ between the USA and Japan, and between species of oysters. The
iwa oysters we got have large, heavy, hard shells that need to be broken with pliers before a clam knife can be inserted. Full-grown iwa oysters can weigh over 1 kilogram. Ours were about half that.

Among the species of oysters that originated in Japan,
kumamoto oysters (called shikame oysters in Japan) are the most popular on the Oregon coast, and perhaps all across the USA. Kumamoto oysters are smaller, and easily confused with ma (true) oysters, because they look similar and are almost always harvested together. These are the species that are often breaded in panko and deep fried. Today, we had oysters on the half shell.

Top a bowl of steamed rice with an oyster, pour its brine (clam juice) over, and the scent of the sea comes to your table.


2020-11-23 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We celebrated Thanksgiving 3 days early, because in Japan today is a holiday while Thanksgiving day is a work day.

Costco in Japan sells frozen Butterball turkey, just like in the USA. I did not know that a Butterball turkey "contains up to 8% of a solution of water, salt, spices and natural flavors for tenderness and juiciness". Hmm, I prefer untreated birds!

Sprinkled paprika for color. Roasted for 3 hours, just to be safe.

Chopped onions and celery (hard to find in Japan) for stove-top stuffing.


Deliver to family. Sister lives downstairs. Brother lives a 35-minute drive north. Mom lives a 35-minute drive southwest.

baked apples

2020-11-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I baked apples for the first time at our house in Tokyo.

Baked apples are easy to make. I found that a knife and spoon are better than an apple corer because you can follow the core and seeds as they reveal themselves at an angle you cannot see from outside. With a corer it's hit or miss.

We hardly ever buy butter. This is the first time I bought butter in maybe a year?

Another first: I baked without wrapping apples in aluminum foil. The combi oven adds enough steam so the apples won't dry out. Some had to crack, hrrumpf.

We discovered that baked apples taste almost as nice as freshly baked when warmed in a microwave. Next time we bake apples, we'll bring some to our families.

copper grater

2020-11-10 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I treated myself to a copper grater for making daikon-oroshi (grated daikon).

Purchased at Kappabashi for 100 dollars! I might break even after grating 1000 daikon. Let's see ... 1 daikon per week, 50 daikon per year ... 20 years!

Medium grain on one side for daikon, fine grain on the other side for spices.

Ooya is a group of craftsmen that was incorporated in 1928. I bought a grater in size "2", 2nd largest.

Each point (too short to call it a spike, no curve or angle to call it a hook or barb) is chiseled by hand. The inherent unevenness in the angle of the hooks allows the daikon to be rubbed back and forth without needing to rotate the daikon. Machine-made graters have hooks that are perfectly aligned so that the daikon develops ruts or grooves that impede grating.

Tried it!

Hmm ... You still need arm-power. Elbow grease.

Daikon-oroshi topped with nametake-chazuke is surprisingly yummy with roast pork.

inductive range

2020-11-08 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our house is all-electric except water is heated with natural gas. Our kitchen has a steam-convection oven (also called a combi oven) and an inductive range (I grew up in Toronto so I say "range" instead of "stovetop"). Our inductive range is temperamental (didn't know that until after I bought it) and rejects many pots and pans that would work fine on other inductive ranges. Hrrumph!

Our inductive range destroyed our favorite enameled pot. Grrr!

I bought a metal disc that claims to be heated by inductive ranges and then heats whatever pot is placed on top of itself. A-ha!

The stainless steel disc is 220 millimeters in diameter. Smooth on the back side.

Yes, it works! At least some of our pots have been saved from the scrapyard.

imperial palace

2020-10-15 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I enjoyed visiting the Japan Camera Museum, walking near the Imperial Palace, and attending a cooking demonstration at Rational Japan headquarters.

The Camera Museum is deceptively diminutive, but has a massive collection and knowledgeable staff.

The Camera Museum is located next to the
British Embassy. The embassy faces the moat of the Imperial Palace. The embassy walls are Japanesque, and match the walls of the palace.

Although I live in Tokyo, I hardly know the place. I walked through Kitanomaru Park in the rain.

Shimizumon, a gate dating back to the early times of Edo castle, stands historic and surprisingly unnoticed in downtown Tokyo.

The moat looked menacing in the cold autumn rain.

Just several blocks from the palace, I got lost amidst the winding streets of downtown Tokyo. Sun blocked by clouds, horizon blocked by tall buildings, no way to get bearings.

Luckily, I came across a landmark, the Kanda Catholic church.

Haha, then I got lost again. My destination was a big, tall building, but it was hidden behind a row of smaller buildings. I walked around the block 3 times before I found the entrance.

Rational's demonstration kitchen is well-equipped with their latest products.

Rational has a reputation for feeding their customers well.

thai curry at home

2020-10-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- My brother gave an assortment of heat-and-serve curry sauces.


We steamed turmeric rice. Nice way to finish last year's crop of rice. We start enjoying this year's crop later this week.

Quick and delicious.

grilled tuna cheek

2020-09-26 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We grilled a pair of tuna kama, or cheeks -- that is, the 2 sides of a tuna head, from behind the eye and mouth to the leading edge of the gills.

The pieces are fairly large, about 30 centimeters across. The tuna probably weighed 50 kilograms.

Terrific bargain at only 500 yen per piece! In areas where fresh fish is plentiful and mundane (such as fishing villages, where sashimi comes with every meal while buttered toast is a delicacy), fish is cheap. Where we live, the opposite holds.

We add no flavoring. Grill at oven humidity 50 %, oven temperature 210 C, heat until core temperature reaches 65 C.

The meat shrinks and pulls itself off of bone and cartilage. Noriko likes the crispy parts (like well-done bacon that breaks and crumbles instead of bending or folding). I like the moist soft parts. Eating together we could not finish in a single meal. Tuna salad tomorrow!

sister gifts

2020-09-23 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our sister brought us lots of fresh veggies!

We begin with fresh ears of corn!

Steamed, no flavor added, superb!


2020-09-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We experimented steaming a whole smallish kabocha.

We usually cut
kabocha (Japanese pumpkin, colored green not orange, with unusually tough skin that can break knives) before steaming or baking. I am scared of cutting myself if I slip while cutting the tough skin. So tonight we steamed the kabocha whole.

We knew that steaming would soften the kabocha. What we wanted to determine was how messy it would be to remove the fibers and seeds. This step is easy when the kabocha is uncooked.

Turns out that the cooked fibers and seeds can be swiftly removed with a spoon or chopsticks. From now on we will probably steam kabocha whole for safety and convenience!

roast pork

2020-09-19 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are becoming better at roasting and delivering pork for our families.

First we steam through, oven humidity at 100 %, oven temperature at core temperature + 60 C, heat until core temperature reaches 60 C.

Then we crisp the skin and heat through, oven humidity at 50 %, oven temperature at 190 C, heat until core temperature reaches 72 C, let stand while meat continues to cook.

Meat shrinks (compare the gap with the picture of uncooked meat above). Sizable enough to feed a family for a dinner or two.

Wrap and deliver.

We eat some too.

fresh delights

2020-09-19 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We decadently opened fresh jars and tins purchased at Costco.

Peanut butter has been in short supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Nutella impostor costs half of the real thing, but more importantly, less viscous, and easier to scoop and spread.

Tastes pedestrian, like Yorkshire tea, just the way I like it.

fall is in the food

2020-09-15 TOKYO, JAPAN -- You know autumn approaches when you crave warm food.

Wonton soup replaced hiyashi-chuuka (chilled noodles) today as our lunch.

Hiyashi-chuuka just 3 days ago. We're sure that there will be plenty of hot days over the next several weeks.


2020-09-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- On my way home from the doctor (routine checkup) I bought cakes for Noriko and Kero. A year ago this would not have been a big deal, but nowadays shopping at stores is rare.


Kero declares "Yum!".


2020-09-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Mom's friend sent her a box of satsuma-age (fish paste fried in oil). We got to taste some, and they were so good that Noriko and her sister ordered a box each.

Sotto voce: These are the priciest satsuma-age I have ever seen.

Our box came with a pink sea bream, thought to bring good fortune.

We grilled the fish cakes along with eggplants, shiitake mushrooms, and atsu-age (fried tofu).

No flavoring needed! Great with beer.

lekker belegde broodjes

2020-08-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- In 2 days it will be 6 months since my last day at work. Today I submitted yet another job application.

Noriko celebrated by getting us fancy sandwiches (belegde broodjes) from a
nearby bakery that she and her sister like.

Almost like taking a virtual trip to Belgium!

We reminisced over life in Antwerp with onion soup in
UA (Universiteit Antwerpen) mug. Good days!


2020-08-13 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Mom's friend sent mom a box of satsumaage (deep fried fish cakes). Mom gave us some to eat at home.


Instead of boiling them (as is customary) we baked them in the oven. Delicious!

5 months since retirement

2020-07-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Today is 5 months from my last day of work at Hokkaido University. The 29th of each month is a temporal milestone for me. Not that I did anything special ...

I hung toy aircraft from the ceiling. Battery-operated fans make the plane fly in circles.

A red light flashes on this helicopter. Silly things like this make me happy.

Easy cooking with our steam convection oven. Throw all ingredients (uncooked macaroni and all) in a pan.

Stick the pan in the oven, do something else (like taking a bath) and dinner is served.

cookie monster

2020-07-25 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko got me a box of maple syrup cream cookies.


I spent my early childhood in Ontario Canada. My top favorite sweetness is maple syrup. Absolutely delicious!

In one sitting ...

deliver dinner

2020-07-14 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- We delivered grilled yellowtail to my mom.

steam convection oven and its temperature probe grills the fish to perfection.

Noriko wrapped the fish in aluminum foil, and placed it in an aluminum grill pan. These pans are unavailable in Japan. We brought them from USA years ago.

I feel like a pizza delivery person! Wish I could chat with mom for a while, instead of dropping of food and driving away.


2020-07-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- After what felt like 20 years, although in reality probably around 10, I finished a big bag of umeboshi my mom lovingly made for me.

Each umeboshi is the size of a chicken egg yolk.

Umeboshi are horribly (sorry mom) salty and sour. I was unable to eat them until recently when Noriko began to soak them in hot water.

The sodium and acid would leach into the water that I could drink as a refreshing beverage after physical exercise. Then I would eat the not-so-salty-or-sour umeboshi.

Incidentally, we do not add salt to our cooking. The salt in whatever sauces or prepared food we use is enough. We have yet to finish a 100-gram jar of salt that we bought in 1996.

The humongous bag of umeboshi is finally empty. Noriko is wondering what to put in the special corner of our refrigerator that was occupied for so long by this bag. I am not asking mom for a refill!

cool dessert

2020-06-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- On hot humid days, cold desserts cool mind and body. We enjoyed mango jelly in a Thai pot (originally for serving steamed rice). 203 yen for 1 kilogram, if i remember correctly.


tortilla pizza

2020-06-24 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We baked pizza using tortillas instead of pizza dough. Excellent if you like ultra-thin pizza. Stack 3 tortillas if you like thicker crust. Sandwiched pizzas are fun too.

We drew with pizza sauce.

Tortillas puff up during baking.

Kero inspects his creation.

masked mom

2020-06-07 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- We delivered roasted pork to my mom this morning. Alas we were forced to wear masks, and to part in less than 2 minutes. I felt like a newspaper delivery person.

Truth be told, as far as family is concerned, I can hardly wait for COVID-19 to become less of a concern.

I have few complaints other than being unable to see my friends and family. We were planning to quit my job and stay at home anyway. However, I confess that our house is not being organized or improved at the speed I promised myself.


kama and saku

2020-06-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Tonight's menu: grilled yellowtail.

The temperature sensors adjust heating.

I set the finishing core temperature to 72 degrees Celsius, clearly meeting and exceeding guidelines for safe food preparation.


The cheek is called
kama, literally meaning sickle, due to the curved shape of the gill cover. The filets are called saku, meaning wood blocks, again due to the boxy shape resembling wooden blocks or planks.

We delivered to our sister who lives downstairs. What a shame that we are forced to leave the food outside the front door so that she can bring it in. I haven't talked to her in months.

grocery shopping

2020-06-02 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- We rented a car, walked at a bayshore park, and shopped at a hardware store, supermarket, and Costco. This is our 3rd time going shopping since we returned to Tokyo on 2020-04-11.

We watched ships enter port.

$500 worth of groceries. I'm becoming numb to grocery bills, haha!

Items that were scarce are returning to shelves (or, at Costco, on pallets): rice, toilet paper, pasta (spaghetti and macaroni), and hygenic masks (I know the proper term is surgical mask but few people buy them for surgery). I could not find peanut butter. Good news: tomorrow we are grilling fish!

I wish we had a car with a big refrigerator. The weather is getting hotter day by day.


2020-06-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are pleased with ourselves for cleaning our refrigerator.

Years ago we needed to defrost the fridge. Ironically fridges (or reefers if you prefer that term) were cleaner back then because you would periodically empty the fridge and wipe it down. Today's fridges are frost-free, so we tend to forget to clean them.

We bought our fridge 25 years ago, when I began my PhD program.

We emptied our fridge. Noriko washed all the shelves and boxes. I wiped the fridge itself with bleach.

Spick and span!

Our fridge door is decorated with frogs (one plays trumpet) and my plaque for my food processing certification (which allows me to operate a restaurant).


2020-05-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We polished a silver-plated bronze trivet that Noriko received as a wedding gift.

The trivet was hand-made by an artist named Michael Aram.

We replaced the felt pads with synthetic cork that was originally intended for my trumpet's waterkey valves. (A waterkey valve lets water flow out of the trumpet tubing.)

The new feet are softer, quieter, and raise the trivet away from the tabletop.


2020-05-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We ordered sushi delivery. Yummy!


Enjoy life!


hone knives

2020-05-18 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Weather was bad. Instead of running, I exercised by honing kitchen knives.

Can you guess which knives are my favorite?

In the above photo, from left to right: (1) Noriko's heavy Chinese chopping and crushing knife, (2) my favorite Japanese nakkiri (veggie chopping) knife that was a gift from my mom, (3) my favorite Japanese gyuto (meat) knife that I bought in Sapporo about 15 years ago, and (4) Noriko's mom's Japanese deba (meat and bone) knife, which alas is beyond repair.

3 photos of nakkiri showing detail after sharpening.



3 photos of gyuto showing detail after sharpening.



cooking for family

2020-05-13 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Now that our pantry and refrigerator are full with food, it's time to feed the family!

I made diabolically hot mabotofu. Oops!

Baked sweet potatoes. These are beniharuka potatoes. Big and sweet.

Roasted beef. I improvised a roasting rack out of a yakitori (skewered barbecue chicken) rack and chopsticks.

We shared food with our sister and her family. I wish we could eat together! 10 meters away but not a word exchanged face to face.

an immovable feast

2020-04-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are ordered to stay indoors for 14 days except for medical emergencies. Our sister can leave the house for grocery shopping and exercise. But we cannot, because we returned from the USA, which is deemed an area of concern by the government of Japan. So we dine splendidly at home!

Sushi delivery! Seen with red suitcases in the background.

Delivery rice pot! Complete with soup.

Our sister Keiko bought us fresh produce for us to cook.

Our cousin Satoko sent us fish and roe.

Fresh steamed rice!

Well-stocked pantry.