Thursday, 25 January 2007

"Can you really make a cake in a rice cooker? Surely that will taste like ass?"

I was dubious until I tried it, but now I'm a believer. It's not quite the same as an oven cake, and for my money I'd prefer the latter, but there is something beautiful about the simplicity of whipping together a batter in the rice cooker bowl itself, pressing a button and coming back to a warm homemade cake.

This banana cake recipe below can be thrown together in about 15 minutes, and makes a moist, heavy cake that's even better cold the next day.

Recipe: Ricecooker Banana Cake

75 grams butter (バター)
2/3 cup of sugar (砂糖)
3/4 tsp of lemon zest
1 egg (卵)
2-3 bananas, the riper the better (バナナ)
1 3/4 cups of plain flour 
2 1/4 tsp of baking powder (ベーキングパウダー)
1/2 tsp salt (塩)

Optional - dried fruits, nuts, grated coconut, spices, chocolate chips or anything else you like with bananas.

Ricecooker Banana Cake Ingredients

  • Soften the butter and cream together with sugar, egg, bananas and lemon zest using an electric mixer (about 1000yen from your local electronics store, or try the recycle shop.)

  • Gradually add the dry ingredients while continuing to stir the batter.

  • Transfer the mixture to the ricecooker bowl if you weren't using it as the mixing bowl.

  • Don't worry too much about smoothing down the top, it will level out by itself as it cooks. The finished batter should look something like this:

Cake batter close up.

  • Press the start button and go enjoy yourself. When the ricecooker switches into 'warming' mode or turns off open the lid and check on the progress of your cake. The original recipe says one cycle will be enough, but in my experience the cake really needs two. If it's still runny, just close the lid and press start again.

Ricecooker Banana Cake

When the cake is done (test with a skewer or chopstick, if it comes out clean you're good to go) turn out onto a plate and eat a slice with a warm milky coffee. I always enjoy the cake better cold, as the flavor really improves overnight.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

'eaten in translation' は 何ですか?

Basically: Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I moved to Japan a year and a half ago and have been experimenting with Japanese food ever since. Eaten in Translation is a collection of recipes, musings and advice for others learning to cook Japanese food in Japan.

Some of my favorite Japanese tastes: crunchy yellow daikon pickles, asari miso soup, okonomiyaki cooked on a table grill with friends, salty fresh edamame served with an icy beer, the clean taste of just-prepared salmon sushi, zaru soba, spicy nabe on a cold night, quick, cheap lunches of oyako-don & katsu-don, the smell of freshly brewed green tea, tender, rich simmered pork belly, cones of nori, rice and fillings rolled at the table, grilled squid with mayonaise, sashimi with plenty of wasabi.

Contact me: Questions? Corrections? Want to meet up with fellow Tokyo foodies? Leave me a comment or email me on clbrowne at gmail dot com.

When I first arrived in Japan in 2005, I had no experience cooking Japanese food and only moderate experience in eating it.

Melbourne doesn't have a large Japanese population and I'd grown up with the stronger flavours of Chinese and Thai. Sure, I'd eaten my share of sushi handrolls, teriyaki chicken and the occasional sukiyaki don from the uni-student mecca Don Dons on Swanston Street. But had this prepared me for my first forays into a Japanese supermarket? Absolutely not.

Everything was an adventure, and picking out a salad dressing took the better part of half an hour. A lot of the fish and produce were new to me, and I couldn't recognise the different cuts of meet. I couldn't even fall back on frozen food, for the most part, because the instructions were incomprehensible. To make matters more difficult, for the first 8 months my kitchen looked like this:

First Apartment

plus a microwave. That was it.

For the first few months I ate a lot of salads, grilled salmon and ready made sushi. But eventually, I got myself a bigger apartment and a few cookbooks. I read about Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques on the internet and found other bloggers describing what they were cooking. When I needed help translating what I'd learnt in English into practice, I asked my Japanese friends and co-workers, who generously drew me diagrams, took me to the supermarket and into their kitchens and shared their recipes. Sharing and talking about food with the people I've met has been one of the highlights of my time in Tokyo.

So even though I'm not an expert, and some days I'm barely competent, I wanted to write about everything I'm learning about eating and cooking in Japan. There's a lot of information about Japanese food on the internet, but much of it is written for people living outside Japan (nabe in an oven?) or assumes a working knowledge of Japanese and Japanese ingredients that most new arrivals don't have. Hopefully other new residents will stumble across this site and find something helpful, the way Amy, Lucas and other food bloggers encouraged me to give it a try.