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A Cooking Class in Japan

A Cooking Class in Japan 300x225 A Cooking Class in JapanBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

One of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Japan, to date, was at a Kikkoman consumer cooking class held at the company’s Tokyo office on Friday. The theme was washoku, traditional Japanese cooking.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the class was taught by renowned chef Chisako Hori, managing director of Kikunoi, a restaurant group that was awarded three Michelin stars for its main restaurant in Kyoto. She is also chef-owner and nutritionist at the anti-aging restaurant, Rire.

I have a history with Kikkoman, having grown up with its soy sauce, as my mother and grandmother before me. Kikkoman is a family business that goes back 19 generations and if I could trace my family back to Japan, they were probably Kikkoman users, too. Continue Reading »

It’s Tea Time in Japan!

Its Tea Time in Japan 300x225 Its Tea Time in Japan!

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

As a dedicated coffee drinker, tea is an enigma to me. So I figured that investing most of a day at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms in the small town of Wazuka, at the southern edge of Kyoto prefecture, was a good start to my education.

Truth be told, I was also lured by arresting images of waves of green tea plants, with their characteristic spherical shape, planted in neat rows, clinging to terraced hillsides. From what I’d read, they are not accessible, except on a tour.

Just as the Napa Valley appellation speak to quality in wine, so does Uji, for tea. Wazuka is one of the major Uji tea producers, having grown tea since the Kamakura period (1192-1333). During the Edo period, Wazuka produced the tea for the Japanese Imperial family. Continue Reading »

A Taste of Japan Yakitori 300x225 A Taste of Japan:  YakitoriBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

In Japan, there’s nothing that will get mouths watering faster than the sizzle and smoke of yakitori. Yakitori, or “grilled chicken,” is skewers of chicken or chicken parts (like skin, liver or gizzards), dipped in a delicious basting sauce, then grilled.

The basting sauce, or tare (tah-ray), is a trade secret of each restaurant and is usually made with a combination of soy sauce, mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake), sake and sugar. That sweet soy sauce mixture sends up delicious aromas as the skewers hit the grill, the sugars caramelizing on the chicken.

To make yakitori, the chicken is grilled just until the juices begin to flow. Then the skewers are dipped in the tare and returned to the grill. With each successive dipping, the grilled chicken juices drip into the tare, improving its flavor. Continue Reading »

Anticipating Japanese Food

IMG 0304 300x225 Anticipating Japanese FoodBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I’m sure there are some poor cooks in Japan. I just haven’t run into them.

This is a huge generalization, having been to just two cities – Tokyo and Kyoto – and just once, for a two-week vacation. But it seems that everywhere we ate, from the exquisite tempura restaurant, to the casual mom and pop eatery, even to the 7-Eleven, the food was consistently good.

I hope I won’t be proven wrong on my second visit to Japan this week.

In anticipation of my trip, I’ve gathered a collection of 30-minute prep Japanese recipes from the Special Fork database for this week’s post, to get us all in the mood. Continue Reading »

Bath Street Inn Blintz 300x225 Recipes from a Santa Barbara B&B

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

There’s a palpable sense of calm and an air of gracious hospitality at the Bath Street Inn in Santa Barbara, California. So it didn’t surprise me to learn that Marie Christensen had worked as a licensed marriage and family counselor, and that Deborah Gentry had been in human resources before they became inn owners. Both are “people” people and it shows in the warmth of their welcome.

The 1890s house has been an inn for the past 33 years, and the current owners celebrated their 15th anniversary as its innkeepers this September. Steve and I were guests at the inn for a long weekend this summer. Continue Reading »

Caramelized Onion Fig and Goat Cheese Tartlets Sandy 300x225 A Tour of a Genetic Library and a Taste of Figs

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Many of us finally “got” the importance of plant diversity when we tasted our first heirloom tomatoes. Instead of the rock-hard, perfectly shaped and beguilingly red but tasteless supermarket variety, we were shocked to encounter an astounding array of colors and flavors.

These heirlooms came in a multitude of hues – yellow, green, purple, pink, orange, burgundy. Some were big and others were small, some were striped; most were misshapen. They boasted a range of tastes from sweet to tart. We experienced such variety that defied a single description of what a tomato should look like or taste like.

Those tomatoes were in danger of extinction until chefs took up their cause, farmers’ markets became fashionable and supermarkets caught the heirloom trend. Continue Reading »

Discovering Hatch Chiles

Chile Rellenos 300x225 Discovering Hatch Chiles

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Having returned from Special Fork’s annual summer hiatus, we’re back at work and raring to go! While we enjoyed our time off, all was not play since we were busy gathering material for upcoming blog posts, such as today’s exploration of Hatch Chiles.

My curiosity was piqued when I received a teaser gift package from Molly Stone’s Markets and Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Inc., announcing a schedule of Hatch Chile roasting days in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Not having cooked with Hatch Chiles myself and spurred by the invitation, I was at Molly Stone’s Pacific Heights market on the appointed roasting day to purchase my chiles at the produce counter. Then it was off to the parking lot to have them roasted in the rotating gas drum until the chiles were blackened and blistered. Packed hot into a plastic bag so they would steam in transit (which made our car smell heavenly), the chiles were ready to peel by the time I returned home. Continue Reading »

Gone fishin’

Summer break 300x300 Gone fishin

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Special Fork will return from summer hiatus next Monday, September 8, with new recipes, cooking tips and food features.

Please check back with us then. In the meantime, have a great, restful Labor Day!

Sandy and Dave

Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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