Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

WaFooD: Konnyaku Day Roundup

May 30, 2006, 11:36 PM

I promised a roundup for Konnyaku Day… Alas, thanks to my rather late announcement, there are only a couple of entries (at least so far). A number of people wrote in that they were planning to participate, so hopefully there will be a few more. However, I’d be happy to add anything that comes in this week. Just post a comment and I’ll add yours.

From Obachan’s Kitchen & Balcony Garden comes two treats: Konnyaku no miso ni and sashimi konnyaku. Konnyaku no miso ni is a clever variation of a typical braised vegetable dish, most commonly applied to eggplant. I definitely want to make this dish.

I’m also jealous that Obachan has access to unusual flavors of “sashimi konnyaku” which aren’t readily available in the U.S. She made yuzu konnyaku and aonori konnyaku with a sumiso (vinegared miso) sauce.


Amy of Blue Lotus took advantage of the noodle incarnation of konnyaku. With a bit of sakura-ebi and shiso, it’s an example of contrasting textures and flavors in each bite.

Sakura-ebi Shiso Itokonnyaku

From Hiromi’s blog (in Japanese), we have Houtou with Konnyaku. You may remember Hiromi made Houtou shortly after we came back from Japan in March. She did the hard work on this as well, though I helped twist a few of our konnyaku slices into twisted shapes following her instruction.


I’ll extend the Konnyaku day roundup if anyone has some other dishes, even if you’re just getting around to posting your entry this week… Post a comment and I’ll add you!

WaFood Konnyaku Day: Get your entries in

May 29, 2006, 10:51 PM

There’s still time to get your Konnyaku day entry in… post a comment or use the Email link above.

Konnyaku Day Announcement.

Two other okazu

May 23, 2006, 11:01 PM

Over time I’ve developed the ability to incorporate atypical ingredients into Japanese preparations of food without turning the dishes into bizarre monstrosities. In order to make such dishes work, I try to think of the function of each ingredient, rather than on self-consciously “inventing” something new and dramatic. This allows for a kind of natural evolution of possibility, without the excesses of drama-first fusion cuisine.

Sea beans, a local seaweed, substitutes neatly for hijiki in this side dish with abura-age and carrots. It has a kind of light brininess, but the real highlight is the freshness and slightly crisp texture of this seaweed compared to reconstituted hijiki. It also requires less cooking time than hijiki usually does.


Garlic shoots and shiitake


Ninniku-me or garlic sprouts do exist in Japan, though they are not an everyday vegetable for most Japanese. These ones had surprisingly large bulbs on the top. This dish is simply sauteed briefly with some sliced fresh shiitake. On trips to Japan when I have the option to cook, I like to blanch them and use them as a kind of ohitashi, but occasionally I saute them like this.

WaFooD: 5/29 is Konnyaku Day!

May 20, 2006, 11:54 PM

Update: For those of you coming from elsewhere, the roundup so far is posted here. Please send me your entries by Sunday and I can include the procrastinators...

A couple of weeks ago on eGullet, member Hiroyuki noted that May 29 is Konnyaku Day.

5/29 could be read “Go Ni Kyuu” in Japanese, which sounds very roughly like “Konnyaku”. That little dajare, or wordplay, is as good an excuse as any for the Japanese konnyaku farming industry to celebrate the gelatinous products of the devil-tongued root.

Since the non-Japanese blogging world is probably oblivious to such events, I thought it might be fun to invite a few English bloggers to make their favorite konnyaku dish, or try something completely new. It’s a bit short notice, but if you have a blog and you would like to join in, send me a link to your “5/29” celebration anytime from now until May 30. Contact me using the “Email" link at the top of my blog, or just leave a comment below. I’ll round up anyone who participates and include them in a roundup starting on May 29. This will be the first event in a series I’ll call WaFooD, explorations of Japanese cooking ingredients and techniques.

Dengaku Konnyaku with Sansho

Konnyaku dengaku

What is Konnyaku? Wikipedia says it’s a tuber valued for its starchy corm, which still leaves me bewildered, and I actually cook with konnyaku relatively often. I guess I must not spend a lot of time with corms.

You might be surprised to find out that konnyaku’s starch is processed much the same way that corn for making tortillas or hominy is treated: subjected to some torture by limewater, the starches from the plant are apparently converted to something magical.

Insanely gelatinous, but relatively low in calories on its own, konnyaku is popular in Japan as a diet food. People believe that it expands in their stomach and keep them feeling full, though I suspect most of that expansion has happened already when it’s processed. I'm not really into food as medicine; for me, it's just another fun ingredient.

Popular applications include blocks of konnyaku which can be used for dengaku konnyaku or any number of other treats, thinly sliced konnyaku for “sashimi”, tied konnyaku for oden or nimono (poached, simmered dishes), noodles called shirataki popular for one-pot meals called nabe. In Taiwan, some manufacturers have turned konnyaku into yet another vegetarian "meat."

Sometimes konnyaku is processed into sweet confections with fruit flavors, but a skittish FDA forced recalls after discovering cases of a dozen or so people that carelessly swallowed the snacks whole and choked. The remaining products in that category were reformulated, and the remaining examples of those products in the US barely have any konnyaku in them. I guess Jello Jigglers weren’t considered dangerous, but these mysterious foreign vegetable products had to be stopped!

Eat small bites, but be adventurous! A few extra grams of fiber can’t hurt you.

OK, get in touch with me and tell me about your konnyaku creations. They can be Japanese-style, fusiony, or adapted to your local cuisine. If you’ve got photos, even better! See you May 29…

To make it easier to find you, you may also include a technorati tag for WaFooD in your post, just like below:


Little filo shreds and cannelini soup with kurogoma

May 17, 2006, 11:08 PM

I’m fond of kadaif or kataifi, which is essentially shredded filo dough, as the base for little hors d’ouevres similar to canapes. Apparently, the most typical application for kataifi is in canola-like cream filled desserts, but I tend to use the pastry for more savory purposes.

A while back I made channa gobi masala nests, and I tend to make similar dishes with other fillings when I need a dramatic take-along dish for a party. Last weekend I brought such a dish to a party filled with asparagus and morels… but I didn’t use up all of my kataifi dough.

We took advantage of that excess a couple of nights ago, and made a variation with a filling of asparagus, garlic, tomato, and a couple of cheeses.

Asparagus tomato kataifi

We wanted a little soup, too, so I boiled some canellini beans with garlic and bay leaf, then pureed the beans with some sauteed onions and celery, and adjusted the seasoning to make a simple soup. I snuck a few drops of toasted sesame oil, and heated up some kurogoma in a dry pan to add some contrast and flavor to the soup.


Things to do with eringii

May 12, 2006, 10:15 PM

Eringii mushrooms have great visual appeal. It’s possible to compose dramatic looking dishes with them, but I think they taste best with simple preparations.


I usually serve them as a side dish with two or three other options.

This dish only takes a minute of active preparation, as I can just slice some in half, set them in a skillet with a bit of sizzling butter on medium heat, let cook until slightly browned on one side, flip, and after a minute or so, finish with a splash of soy Japanese sauce.

Butter and soy sauce is a magical combination.

Introducing MoriAwase.com and the debut of my "other" blog

May 11, 2006, 10:53 PM

Pursuing My Passions has always been focused on my life after Microsoft, about indulging my passions for good food, contemporary Asian craft, and travel while somehow trying to build a business around those obsessions. But except for the occasional comment on a restaurant here an there, I haven’t spent much time looking outward at what other people are doing.

I wanted to build a bit of a community focused on changing contemporary Asian lifestyles, as well as on food, crafts, and design. Of course, with my ever-increasingly insane schedule, I never put the necessary amount of time into the project. But I’ve decided I will bite off a little at a time, much like I did originally with this blog… and for now, I’ve decided to create a blog wholly focused on an assortment of such things, rather than just on what I’m up to myself.

The first couple of entries on that blog are now up on MoriAwase.com. If you have any sort of enthusiasm for rustic-contemporary Asian craft, contemporary Asian art and design, for Asian cuisine and travel, please take a look, and consider signing up to participate in the MoriAwase.com Forums.

Pursuing My Passions will continue, focused mostly on what I’m cooking, where I’m traveling, and what I’m doing with my business, as it always has… MoriAwase will be a bit more focused on the world around me, and perhaps more traditionally blog-like with links to interesting content outside of my narrow little sphere.

Little eggplants in the spring

May 9, 2006, 11:04 PM

These small “Indian” eggplants from Uwajimaya remind me of kyo-nasu (Kyoto eggplant). I love using these small eggplants for elegant side dishes. It’s a little early for great eggplant, but they’re starting to be quite respectable again.

But I chose to lean toward spicy…. Nothing terribly complicated; just fresh and full of little contrasts.

Eggplant marinated with lime

Eggplant and cilantro

Thai chilies, shallots, and lime juice marinated with briefly fried halves of eggplant, with fresh cilantro leaves. I salted the eggplant and rinsed to keep them reasonably shapely. Pleasantly tart and exciting the first night, they have an even better flavor on the second day. Just add the fresh cilantro at the last minute for a nice balance of flavor.

Eggplant and tofu with thai basil

Eggplant and atsuage

Extra soft atusage (fried tofu), braised eggplant, seasoned with a little green curry paste, and basil, served dry. A little indulgent, but somehow comforting.

Savory bread pudding with chevre

April 30, 2006, 11:55 PM

Hiromi and I sometimes find it challenging to use up a full loaf of bread before it loses its charm. Since we tend to favor local Seattle artisan bakeries, that can become a bit expensive.

I usually like to use slightly old bread as croutons or French toast, but our other meal plans somehow distracted me from that kind of frugality. But as of last Saturday, I realized I had accumulated a fair stash of bread remnants. It turned out I had not one, but three potentially irreconcilable bits of dry bread around… one piece was the end of a baguette, one was from a walnut whole wheat loaf, and a third was a very nice rye bread from Essential Bakery, studded with pieces of onion.

Any other time I had some excessively crusty bread, I might make a bread pudding, but I thought the onion would be a bit of a dealbreaker. I can almost imagine making a dessert built on a caramelized onion jam, but working with onions trapped inside someone else’s loaf of bread would make for a bit of a stretch.

So I went the other direction, creating a savory bread pudding instead.

Savory bread pudding with soft chevre


After soaking the breads in a fair amount of milk until they were moist, I cut everything into bite-size chunks. In a separate bowl, I whisked together a couple of eggs, and folded them into the chunks of soaked bread, along with some extra walnuts, some soft chevre, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. I added a nice pinch of salt to compensate for the addition of the eggs, but bread is usually fairly well-salted, so I didn’t need much.

I baked it at about 375F in small souffle ramekins until they looked set and slightly browned, probably about 25 minutes. If I were picky, considering it’s a custard, I might have stuck an instant read thermometor into one of the puddings and make sure it had reached at least 140F, but I decided that I trusted my eggs and neither Hiromi or I are pregnant or otherwise have immune problems right now. Besides, it looked done.

After cooling a bit, I carefully extracted the bread puddings from their forms and put them on a plate, slathering them with Irish butter and topping them with a reasonably indulgent helping of sour cream. It turned out better than I expected: rich, custardy, smooth, aromatic with the help of the nutmeg, and studded with capricious chunks of chevre and flavorful pieces of onion. 

Asparagus season kicked off in earnest last week, so I also roasted about 12 spears of good Washington asparagus in the oven on a grill pan while waiting for the bread puddings to cool a bit.

In a small saucepan, I let some butter melt and sizzle with some miso, and, when the butter melted, added some milk. It thickened up without the aid of flour, and I spooned it over the roasted asparagus. Maybe 8 or 9 years ago I first encountered a really clever polenta dish at a restaurant on the Harbor Steps in Seattle, topped with a miso bechamel sauce… I’ve been hooked on the butter-miso combination ever since.

We had a nice brunch, and incredibly frugal, with the help of things that might have otherwise gone to waste combined with seasonally inexpensive local vegetables.

I didn’t realize it until after Hiromi and I had plowed through our bread pudding last weekend, but it turns out that An Obsession With Food is hosting an Is My Blog Burning event this weekend, Give Us This Day Yesterday’s Bread, also known as “Good Uses for Stale Bread.” So, I convienently have a relevant contribution for this month’s Is My Blog Burning 25 event. I’ve been completely distracted the last few months, so this is a first time I’ve been able to contribute for a long time. Hopefully circumstances will be so fortuitous next time…

Tuesday night at Lark

April 27, 2006, 12:07 AM

I’m really learning to appreciate dining out on weeknights.

Last Tuesday, we dined at Matt’s in the Market. If we had attempted to do so on a Friday or a Saturday, we would have waited for at least an hour, I’m sure. I’m increasingly disinclined to go out for dinner on weekends without reservations (at least at places that take them) because restaurants that have above average food and atmosphere (and even some that don’t) require a lot of waiting, and some of my favorite places in such categories don’t take reservations at all.

One such restaurant, Lark, also generally only allows walk-ins. It offers such a quintessentially Northwestern kind of dining experience that visitors to Seattle really should place high on their list of priorities. Lark’s chef, John Sundstrom has a very pan-Pacific consciouness, with a somewhat Japanese approach to ingredients. To me, this means allowing the ingredients to do most of the work but sort of awakening their fundamental characteristics with careful preparation and usually gentle flavoring techniques. At the same time, he emphasizes local and artisanally-produced ingredients, and conscientious production practices.

I’ve wanted to take Hiromi there but we’ve always missed an opportunity to go there, either because I forgot they aren’t open on Mondays, or because we didn’t have the patience to wait on a weekend. I haven’t been there since my Dragon Beard Candy tour when Bamboo Garden visited in December 2004 and we celebrated the tour on the last night of their trip.

Last night, Hiromi and I met with a friend of hers from Japan who has made it through the first two rounds of auditions for the Seagals. I thought it would be a good opportunity to make our way to Lark.

As with my previous experience, everything was lovingly prepared and spot on. We had an interesting creamy farro dish with pickled spring vegetables, including some fiddlehead fern fronds. We had a selection of cheeses with almonds, quince, and olives (one sheep, one goat, and one blue cow’s milk cheese; the details I’ve forgotten, but the sheep milk cheese bore the cutesy name “Ewephoria.”)

I like their sort of unconventional habit of serving cheese as a mouth opener rather than as a final course, although I suppose that’s really just an Americanism born of dinner party culture. We had some very nice mozzarella and artichokes. We also had their signature Rösti, and some sauteed mushrooms. Hiromi and her friend ate some raw oysters with a citrusy dressing, salumi from Salumi, and a braised short rib dish. We also had a smooth, creamy panna cotta topped with a wine jelly and a lacy cookie for dessert.

We each ordered an unrelated glass of wine owing to our idiosyncrasies, but everyone left happy.

Afterward we made a brief stop at Chapel for cocktails, which was reasonably busy but not insanely crowded, perfect for a relaxed evening out.

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