Cook,Eat, Repeat: Revisiting Japan through food- Ramen

A couple of years to turning forty, I often find myself thinking about regrets that I may or may not have. And while there certainly are things that could have gone better or slightly differently, I don’t have much to complain about. But one thing that I really regret is not having a good camera during my stay in Japan (and not buying one as well) and on top of that, losing more than 95% of whatever photos I had to a case of ‘laptop in the bathtub’ 🤦🏾‍♀️ Before you start wondering…I was working on an assignment  that was nearing its deadline, sitting on the edge of this deep bathtub, while soaking my feet  when a moment of carelessness resulted in a soaking laptop. It was near the end of my stay as well and so I lost most of the photos and a few other stored documents in that mishap. I still cannot believe that I was, to put it as frankly as possible, dumb enough to do that. But that’s what happens when you take the laptop to the bathroom and later question your reasoning!

I haven’t visited many countries yet and so I cannot say with absolute certainty but from whatever I have seen  of Japan and the experiences I gathered during the time I lived there, I can say with a good amount of confidence that it is one of the most beautiful places one could ever visit. And it’s beauty does not merely lie in its mountains and seas, the coming and going of the seasons, the traditional homes, the perfectly landscaped gardens, beautiful castles that are spread throughout the country…it transcends this physical part and seeps into the way of life there. There is a feeling of serenity and contentment in the beauty that enraptures one when in Japan -be it through the mesmerizing Sakura, the sight of women clad in kimonos, in the discipline that they exhibit in their daily routine, in the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, in their sense of aesthetics that ranges from how they dress to how their dining table is laid out to the placing of the hashi (chopsticks) to the way they say itadakimasu (I humbly receive – a phrase they say right before eating)…the list can be endless. I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to work there for two years and immerse myself in the culture and cuisine with the help and love of people I was fortunate to have crossed paths with.

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I fell in love with Japanese food pretty easily and have never  not liked anything that I had except for Ikura (salmon roe) and natto (fermented soybeans), with the latter being a bit too out of my comfort zone! I have made meals with and shared those with my colleagues, my students, amazing neighbors and every time the experience has been rewarding, to say the least. A name that stands out from all the wonderful people who I made memories with is Chikako Yasunaga- a woman who embraced me with open arms and heart and showered me with her kindness and love and called me her fourth child (she has three kids)! I never know how to describe her as I feel any words I use would not do justice to capturing her true essence and the wonderful human being she is. The day before I left Kobe, she came to meet me and obviously brought me food! When we said goodbye, she hugged me tightly and said ‘Chatterjee, daisuki desu‘ (I like/love ‘Chatterjee’- my last name), I suddenly realized I was leaving family there who I probably would not be able to see again and that thought was heart wrenching. I also remember crying a lot after she left. I have watched her cook and cooked with her, shared innumerable meals with her family and I owe a lot of my love for Japanese food to her and so not mentioning her here would be dishonoring her.

Arigatou Sensei.

 

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Yasunaga sensei with her husband (another wonderful person, a professor of law by profession) in Naples! We still send each other little life updates and it is just as easy talking to her over the phone with her broken English and my very rusty Japanese (that she had made me conversational in during my stay in Kobe!) as it was 12 years back!

 

 

So, for this month’s first recipe I am sharing a pretty simple recipe of Ramen that both my husband and I love and is a staple in our home during the winter months! It reminds me not only of Yasunaga sensei’s kitchen but also of my amazing neighbor Tom, who was a ramen enthusiast and we often explored various ramen places in our neighborhood! Those made for some great conversations, long walks and some wonderful food!

This is a version that we make at home and is not an absolute authentic Japanese one, in terms of the way some ingredients have been modified. It is a version that suits us best and also does not deviate a lot from traditional methods of making it. It tastes pretty good too!

HOW TO MAKE

Ingredients

  • Ramen noodles – 2 packages (store bought) Only the noodles will be used
  • Ginger- Thinly sliced , about 3-4 tsps
  • Garlic- Grated, 2 tsps
  • Onion- Thinly Sliced, 1 medium
  • Lemongrass- 1 stalk
  • Shitake Mushrooms- Sliced, 1 cup (I prefer to cut but you may want to keep them whole)
  • Carrots- Cut into matchsticks , 1 cup
  • Scallions- Chopped, 1/2cup
  • Eggs- Hard Boiled 1 or 2 (Typically the egg should not be hard boiled but should have a runny yolk. However, this time I boiled the eggs till they were absolutely well done. The runny yolk does taste delicious though;)
  • Chicken Tenders -6 or Thinly sliced chicken breasts – 3 (Again, typically Pork Belly is used for Ramen or any other cut of pork but I never have that when I feel like making Ramen and so we always have made it with chicken!)
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth- About 4 cups
  • Water- 2 cups (or as needed)
  • Miso soup powder- 2 packets (store bought) [ Miso paste is traditionally used in making ramen but I have never tried that simply because I have not been able to buy it and so I buy miso soup powder packets. But I do intend to use miso paste in my next attempt and for that I am hoping I will remember to buy it before hand;)]
  • Mirin- About 1/4 cup
  • Soy Sauce- 2 tsps
  • Sesame Oil- 1-2 tsps
  • Salt- as needed
  • Sugar- 2-3 tsps
  • Sriracha- Optional ( I do not use it but my husband does and it adds a slight zing to the ramen)

 

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Method

  • In a cooking pot that is deep enough, heat the oil on medium low flame.
  • Add the ginger and onions and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic. Keep stirring. Add the mushrooms and stir for a couple of more minutes. Add salt and stir again.
  • Add the soy sauce and mirin and about 1 tsp of sugar.Stir.
  • Add the broth and the stalk of the lemon grass and let the whole thing boil for about 10-15 minutes on low flame. The broth will be infused with all the flavors in your pot and letting a ramen broth simmer for long is key to making it savory. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or sugar as you prefer.
  • In a separate bowl, add the miso powder and make miso soup according to the instructions on the package. Once done, add that to the pot.

 

 

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  • Meanwhile, in a separate pan, prepare the ramen noodles according to package instructions…do not use any powdered stuff that may be inside. We just need the noodles. Once softened, add it to the boiling broth and let the whole thing simmer for an additional 2-3minutes.
  • While your broth is simmering, put the chicken in a 350F oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes or till the internal temperature reaches 165F. (You can bake the chicken either right before starting the broth or simultaneously or after the broth is ready…your choice! ) I marinate the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, a bit of lemon pepper powder, chilli flakes and 1/2 tsp of mayonnaise…it keeps the chicken wonderfully moist. Once done, slice it and keep it aside.

I was in a hurry and I cut the chicken really sloppy…please excuse that!

 

  • Check for seasonings in the broth. I like my ramen broth to be ginger heavy, so if needed I often add some extra ginger (just smash it with the back of the knife and let the broth absorb the flavor for a couple of minutes. Be careful to take that chunk out before serving just like the lemongrass stalk!).
  • If you are using Sriracha, stir that in now.
  • In your ramen bowl, pour the desired quantity of broth and add the chicken, carrots, eggs and scallions (I forgot to add in my bowl!).
  • Slurp! (Did you know that in Japan slurping on the ramen and broth is actually not frowned upon even when eating in a restaurant? It is, in fact, taken as a sign of compliment to the chef! I found this out when I had ramen for the first time, back in 2006!)

 

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Gochisosama deshita!

(For the unnitiated, the Japanese end every meal by saying this – it is a way of showing their appreciation for the food they just had and also for the person who cooked…it means “thank you for the meal or that was delicious”)

What is your take on Japanese food?Are you a fan or do you stick to sushi only when it comes to this cuisine? Do you cook Japanese food at home? Which ones?  Is there a favorite restaurant you go to? What is your favorite Japanese food? What about sake? Have you visited Japan? Do you have stories to share? I am eager to hear your association with this country and its food, both of which I have come to love dearly! Please share anything that you want to in the comment section or write your own post and share your story, photos, recipes….anything that you can think of! It will be wonderful to read:)

Here’s how to participate:

  • Create your own post with your recipe, photos, story anything that you might want to share, representing this month’s theme
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or leave a link in the comment section
  • Join whenever you can!

 

Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Motivation

Although Monday is almost over here and the Tuesday morning sun has risen in many parts of the world, still  here I am!

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Be true and be you… be kind and be gentle…be kind and be patient. It is a much better place for you to be in and for others who are in your circle.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Cook, Eat, Repeat- With Love, From Japan

When I was thinking of doing this ‘cultural exchange through food’ in the form of a monthly challenge, I knew it would be daunting and I would have to keep myself really motivated. And just a month into this, I am only beginning to get a feel of that. And then life throws curve balls at times that you don’t always know how to deal with and so extra energy goes towards dealing with that! Unfortunately, this month is something of that. And while I have recipes ready, I do not have the time to sit and type it all up and let you take a peek into my pocketbook of memories through the stories. And I don’t want to put in a halfhearted effort and just write something for the sake of posting. So, while half of the month is gone and I haven’t shared anything with you yet, I will be doing so shortly. Maybe post a couple of recipes together! But first, I need to gather my thoughts and claim my mental space back from some unnecessary and unsavory issues. While I deal with that and work on sharing my stories with you, I will let you know about this month’s theme- ‘Japanese Cuisine’- my second most favorite cuisine in the whole wide world!!!

So, if you have any favorite recipes that you want to share, or your experience of trying and loving (or not) the cuisine, any photos you may want to share or recommend any blog that has delectable recipes from Japan, please do so through a post of yours and leave a link in the comment section for me and the others to find! I would be so happy to read them:)

I will be back midweek with two recipes and share snippets of my experience while living in this land that I fell in love with.

Here’s how to participate

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photosanything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month- JAPANESE CUISINE
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or maybe leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some of the other posts shared.

 

Thanks for stopping by and I will be back soon!

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Simple Joys

How often do you get the feeling that you are running against time and that you will never win! I have been getting that feeling a bit of late and this is not meant as a complaint..it comes from a place of gratitude as there is so much to be done…possibilities are endless! It is Thursday evening and I am so close to missing the deadline for posting but Sandy gives such a great topic that I did not want to miss it.

I was scrolling through some old photos and these surely brought a very big smile on my face…thinking of the simple times and the simple joys that came with that. Thank you Sandy, for such a heart warming topic:)

 

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Taken way back in 1992, this is me and my brother in the sea side town of Digha, West Bengal. A simple slide brought a lot of joy for sure:)

 

 

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Taken in 1994 in the beautiful hill station of Ranikhet in Uttarakhand, India. I remember that as a kid, Baba would take us on trips every summer, some near and some far and while we grumbled at times and got upset when things did not go our way, looking back I now know how valueable those family trips were!

 

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A boy and his tub of cream;)

 

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Is there any thing more simple and innocent than the joy when you take the first lick!

 

 

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Or when you are able to get hold of the remote;)

 

Thanks for stopping by! Simple moments bring in simple joy that is often unmatched. Friendly Friday Photo Challenge is back and that is a matter of wonderful joy as well!

 

A Photo A Day: Last 30 days or so

Time for the monthly a photo a day update! As I was scrolling through the phone for photos taken, I realized I wasn’t going out as much and also it being winter, the scene is a bit dismal. We also did not have a lot of snow this year (and I am not complaining even a tiny bit!) and so there isn’t a lot of pretty white stuff to capture as well. White and black, gloomy and bright, transient yet imperishable these were my moments during the last thirty days or so!

 

These were people moments and the best ones, obviously! The little guy turned five, did not cry at the dentist’s office, has been feeding his little sister and being all other kinds of awesome…being a superhero is just a small part of that:) And the little sister has been active a lot as well, coming up with ingenious ways of mischief  and running after her is easily making my Fitbit congratulate me for my 10,000 + steps! Brother-sister duo have been making their own memories as well as they play with each other for longer than before and ‘read’ books together:)

 

Celebrations and food have been a big part of the month gone by. On top of that, I had the rare opportunity to sit at the table, read a couple of pages of a very favorite book and have lunch….a surreal feeling almost 😉 Cook, Eat, Repeat started last month and I look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come!

 

Happiness on finding flower petals from a special occasion inside the pages of a book  and the ‘are-you-kidding-me’ feeling that comes when ‘unpaired’ socks come out of the the dryer, co- existed in harmony and I am grateful for that.

Just one foot in front of the other is okay. Along the way, our moments keep us company- moments that are silly; moments that make us question our faith in the bigger scheme of things; moments that hurt; moments that make us pause and soak it all in; moments that lift up the spirits and make us push a bit harder; moments where inspiring stories from around the world and this platform that I have come to love so dearly, make us look at things from a whole different perspective; moments where kindness and a friendly ‘hello’ make us smile; moments that don’t make sense and moments that are just perfect.

What have your moments been this past month? Would love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by:)