kruizing with kikukat

Monday, June 24, 2013

Restaurant Chatter: Restaurant Osaka

Restaurant Osaka, 762 Kanoelehua Avenue, (808)961-6699
If you ask the Ds where they'd like to go out to dinner, 9 out of 10 times, they will answer emphatically, "Restaurant Osaka!"  Restaurant Osaka opened in the mid 80s and originally served Japanese and local food.  I vividly remember when it opened because the owner was the brother of my then-boyfriend.  I missed the grand opening because I was away at college, but as soon as I came home for the summer, my ex-boyfriend's family hosted a dinner there.

The katsudon (tonkatsu or chicken katsu donburi) has been on the menu since the restaurant opened.  When I cannot decide what to order, I usually fall back on the katsudon. 

I cannot explain why the Ds cannot get enough of Restaurant Osaka.  We go there mutliple times a month, and I'm sure they Ds also go there with Mr. Dependable.  The nice ladies stopped giving the Ds menus years ago because they always order the same thing:  tempura udon with the tempura on the side (D1) and plain udon (D2).  I thought Betty was going to faint once when D1 ordered something else!

tempura on the side
tonk combo
Sometime around a decade ago, Restaurant Osaka changed ownership.  The new owner's wife, who is Korean, added Korean food to the menu.

The "tonk combo" is a popular selection.  It comes with teriyaki chicken, tonkatsu (or chicken katsu), fried mandoo, macaroni-potato salad, and rice.  I'm happy to report that there is not a speck of mustard in the salad.  They do give you a small dish of hot mustard (guessing its for the mandoo), but it is easily moved off the plate and across the table.

stir fried spicy ika (squid/calamari)
bi bim bap
I think Restaurant Osaka makes best bi bim bap in Hilo.  They also serve it in the heated ceramic bowl for a few dollars more.

Although I often cringe when the Ds suggest Restaurant Osaka for dinner, I will be the first to admit that Restaurant Osaka does an excellent job of frying their katsu.  It bothers me when I go out to eat and find that restaurants don't fry their katsu well.  Frying is something that many people do, but many people do not do it well.  Confounding!

Here are some tips for katsu making:
  • One mistake many people make from the get-go is not preparing the meat properly.  In order for katsu to fry evenly, the meat needs to be a uniform thickness, and it cannot be too thick.  A meat mallet is essential for making katsu.  Pound pork or chicken between pieces of saran wrap to make the job neater.  
  • Place flour, eggs, and panko in wide, shallow dishes to make the breading process easier.  Some people talk about using 1 had to work with wet ingredients and the other hand to work with wet ingredients.  I've had some success in doing this, but after a while, things get yucky anyway.
breading set up
  • Bread everything first, then fry. 
  • Its not necessary to deep fry katsu.  Oil at a depth of 1/2" in a wide skillet is ample for frying katsu.  
  • Use kitchen shears to cut katsu into strips.  A dull knife tends to remove the breading.
  • Buy good sauce:  Bulldog and Ikari are good brands.  If it looks like ketchup, it probably tastes like ketchup too.
  • The same breading technique can be used for shrimp, calamari, mushrooms, etc.  If using shrimp or calamari, blot excess moisture with a paper towel before flouring.
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     pork cutlets or chicken breast, pounded to 1/4" thickness
     salt & pepper
     eggs, beaten
     oil for frying

Sprinkle pork or chicken with salt and pepper.  Dust with flour, shaking off excess flour.  Dip both sides of floured meat in beaten eggs.  Immediately coat with panko.  Heat 1/2" oil in a skillet.  Fry katsu until golden brown on one side.  Turn over and fry other side.  Drain on paper towels.  Slice into strips and serve on a bed of shredded cabbage with tonkatsu sauce on the side.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Never Enough: Hijiki

Before I launch into the normal chit chat of my post, I'd like to give a big ALOHA to SN and the Ono Kine Recipes page on Facebook for sharing recipes from my blog.  The first 2 recipes shared were Korean Long Rice Salad and Warabi-Kamaboko Salad.  My buddy Dee messaged me and told me Ono Kine Recipes had posted two of my recipes.  I HAD to "like" the page after that!  If you have a facebook account, meander over to the Ono Kine Recipes page.  They have lots of recipes, including lots of yummy desserts.

Prior to summer getting underway, I made a list of foods I wanted to try making.  So far, I made only 1 thing from the list:  Zoku pops.  I have not managed to make anything more because I keep getting sidetracked.  The market hasn't been on my side either.  Gravlax was way up high on my list, but I can't seem to find fresh wild salmon.  Another item high on that list was sponge drops, soft vanilla cookies with a creamy filling sandwiched between two cookies.  The cleanup for that will be hell.

There was a holiday this past week. . .Kamehameha Day, and since I was already on vacation, the only difference was that D2 was home with me.  Doing an internship at a federal jobsite, D1 did not get Kamehameha Day off.  There were celebrations going on in Hilo and in Kohala, but I had no part of that.  Instead, I stayed home and cooked (and cleaned too).

What I ended up cooking were a bunch of snacks and side dishes.  The 8-pound brisket The Help smoked on Sunday lasted us well into the week, so I put my effort into snacks for the family as well as other things we could eat with the brisket.  And even though we stopped eating the brisket, a huge chunk of it lives on in the freezer.  I'm gonna need to work up a lot of nerve to tackle it for round 2.  Harumphffff.

One of the side dishes I made, which has absolutely no coherence with smoked brisket, is hijiki (seaweed).  I knew there was no chance of D2 touching smoked brisket so I figured I'd make her something to have along with microwaved frozen rice.  D2 loves hijiki, and I am certain many people have enjoyed hijiki at a sit-down Japanese restaurant at some point in their lives.  Even Japanese restaurants in small town Hilo serve it regularly. 

Hijiki is often presented as one of the small morsels diners are served as a complimentary appetizer.  And no matter which Japanese restaurant you go to, the tidbit-sized portion is never enough.  During spring break, I took the Ds and D2's friend KN to Restaurant Miwa for lunch.  At the end of the meal, after D2 finished her udon and my hijiki, she announced that the next time we ate there, she would just order a bowl of hijiki and some rice.  And that's exactly the reason why making hijiki at home is such a good idea. . .you can eat all you want! 

Restaurant hijiki usually just contains seasoned seaweed.  When you make it at home, you can add in other stuff.  Hijiki is not difficult to make, and it takes just a little forethought.  Aside from soaking the hijiki, the most time-consuming part is chopping the aburage and konnyaku.  Because everything gets cooked in one pan, clean up is also minimal.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 pkg (2 oz) hijiki (wash and soak in water for 30 minutes or according to package directions)
     1 tbsp oil
     2 aburage, finely chopped
     1 piece konnyaku, sliced thin
     3 tbsp sugar
     1/4 c mirin
     1/4 c shoyu
     2 tbsp sesame seeds

Heat oil in pan.  Fry aburage till crispy.  Squeeze out water from hijiki.  Add hijiki, konnyaku, sugar, mirin, and shoyu to aburage.  Cook until liquid is absorbed.  Mix in sesame seeds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Curry Chicken Salad

Summer is now well underway.  D2 is in a summer program at her school, and D1 is doing an internship at the US Department of Agriculture (thank you, Aunty 3M).  D1 hasn't gone to her worksite yet, so I'm not sure what her hours will be and for how long.  D2's summer program ends before June ends, so I'm going to need to find something for her to do.  Maybe she can work on a guest blog post.

Yesterday, I plotted our schedule for the summer (D1, D2 & mine), and every weekday of the summer is encumbered with an activity/obligation for at least one of us.  I need to plan a trip to Honolulu for back-to-school shopping, and I'm fearful that we will run out of summer before we can go.  In spite of being so busy here, none of us are too distressed by the flurry of activity (but we all see the need to get to Honolulu).

I've gone to my new school site three times so far.  My room isn't ready yet, but I've been meeting with coworkers in developing pacing guides for our courses.  This is a totally new thing for me, so if you know anyone out there who is willing to share 9th and 12th grade English/Language Arts pacing guides aligned to the Common Core State Standards, then send them my way.  I will share a special recipe with them for their kindness.

A year ago (I went back and reread my post), I was lamenting/bitching about having to go in to work and feeling like all of it was a waste.  What a difference a year makes!  What a difference a job makes!  The High Commander is a fantastic person, and she could be even more effective.  I will miss her dearly, and I will never forget how well she treated me.

My new job site is NOT unfamiliar.  In fact, close to 2 decades ago, when I moved to Hilo from Honolulu, that was my place of employment!  I left to take a resource position with the state, and to escape a witch of an administrator (not a kama`aina and sooo detached from the faculty, students and staff. . .bless her heart).  Now that I'm going back, I feel like there is wind in my sails once again.  I'm excited, and that's likely the reason why I've been willingly giving up time during my break.

Like my new job. . ."if its a good thing, its worth repeating". . .this chicken salad recipe is also worth repeating.  The pictures here show it stuffed in a hollowed out tomato, but its equally great when used as a sandwich filling.

And speaking of tomato. . .last Thursday was gardening day at Summer Academy.  D2 said she pulled weeds and harvested vegetables.  At the end of the work session, she and her classmates shared the fruits of their labor with their families.  D2 brought home a cute beet and a cute tomato.  I added the beet (root and greens) into a pot of ribollita.  The tomato made a Lilliputian* vessel for curry chicken salad.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3 c diced, cooked chicken breast (1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless breasts)
     1 tsp salt
     1/2 c chopped celery
     1 c chopped apple (fuji or honeycrisp)
     1 tsp grated onion
     1/4 tsp pepper
     1/4 c whipping cream
     1 c mayonnaise
     1/2 tsp curry powder

Place chicken, salt, celery, apple, onion and pepper in a mixing bowl.  Whisk together whipping cream, mayonnaise, and curry powder.  Pour over other ingredients and toss gently until well blended.  Chill for at least 2 hours.  Serve with mango chutney.

I'd like to congratulate D1 for making the cheerleading squad for the coming school year.  She got the great news on Friday.  Thirteen other girls and a boy will be joining her.  Congratulations go out to all of them!  I'm sure their parents are proud (and $300+ poorer).

Tryouts were a grueling 2 weeks, and D1 maintained perfect attendance.  She was marked down during her cheer audition in the cafeteria  for voice projection.  We are still trying to comprehend how she didn't get a perfect score for voice projection.  Could she have been TOO loud?

*My teaching line for the coming school year consists of 4 periods of 12th Grade Language Arts.  The literature focus for 12th graders is British Literature, so I'm trying to get into it.  I think Mrs. Tanabe (my senior English teacher) will freak when she finds out what I'm teaching!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Look out, Spud! Homemade Fish & Chips first official post of summer!  Yeah!  On paper, I have 2 whole months of vacation (we report on either July 30 or 31).  I am totally exhausted and drained from work, and I will definitely need every minute of those 2 months to recover.

Last week was probably one of the most intense weeks of work this year, and it was only 3 days long.  For the first 2 days, teachers from schools in the complex area got together and worked on content-specific common core pacing guides.  At least that was the way it was supposed to work.  Immediately after we got into our groups, one of the teachers made a formal request that she be permitted to work ONLY with teachers at her school.  What a joke because the other school actually had their shit together!

The Edison consultants, who were likely paid a ton of money to assist in the process, were likely paid a ton of money to sit on their asses in a corner of the classroom while everyone else (yes, even the grumblers) worked their tails off.  I know this was the case in at least 3 classes I peeked in on.  I must say that in the end, the teachers came through and produced what was expected of them.  One of my coworkers said his session refused to put anything on the flash drive to give to the High Commander.

The common core draining went on for 2 days, and it was followed by a day of culture-based education, lunch, and a grueling reflection session with the High Commander.  The culture portion of the day was held at the school of the "haves" (versus the "have-nots", a.k.a. the DOE), Kamehameha Schools Keaau Campus.  Teachers were warned repeatedly about our status as invited guests and we were not to take any food or drink into Lunalilo Hale.  Teachers are dang good at following directions.  Unfortunately, two administrator-level people (one school and one district), were seen eating and drinking within Lunalilo Hale.  Both were spoken to by teachers, and both shook off the admonitions.  The High Commander's deputy saw at least one of them violating the rules and did nothing.   

Well right now, all that is behind me.  At 3:00 pm on Thursday, I walked out of the office.  Of course, some people were blocking the exit, but I just pushed past them and didn't look back.  I am gone. . .not just for the summer. . .I am gone.  I managed to secure a transfer during the Teacher Assignment and Transfer Period (TATP) 2.  I'm looking forward to the new adventure.

And speaking of adventure. . .my cousin Kent and his awesome wife Julie go fishing in Alaska every year.  Usually, they give me salmon (remember the gorgeous salmon in the batayaki post), but this time, there was a package of rock cod in the mix. I knew immediately what I would be making with cod. . .fish and chips.

Before I get into the recipe, I need to share how I became a fish and chips aficionado.  Sometime in the 80s, I went to Seattle to attend orientation at U-Dub.  One of the places Uncle George took me to was Spud Fish & Chips on Alki Beach (West Seattle).  This was the first time I had eaten fish & chips which weren't on a school lunch tray and the fish wasn't in "stick" form.  I watched with fascination as Aunty Char squirted malt vinegar all over her fish.  From that moment on, all fish & chips I consume are judged against Spud.  While Island Fish & Chips (Waikoloa Kings Shops) does a good job, the fish is not the same as Spud.  I do love the cole slaw from Island Fish & Chips.  Ivar's and Long John Silver don't even come close to Spud.

Without even leaving my home (Kent and Julie can do that for me), I can make superb fish & chips.  The key, in addition to the best cod you can find, is the batter.  The batter needs to be crisp and remain crisp as the fish and fries are cooked.  I hate soggy, oil-laden batter!  The batter recipe was given to me by Kikukat Mom.  I believe she got it from the wife of one of Kikukat Dad's golf buddies.  I have used the batter to coat all sorts of things:  shrimp, soft shell crab, broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potato, pickles. 

Fish is only part of the story, so for the best fries, use Anthony Bourdain's method.  The fries were made according to his New York Restaurant, Les Halles.  The fries/frites recipe can be found in multiple places on the internet.  I cannot stress enough that you MUST do the 2-step frying process.

For most of my life, tartar sauce was right there next to the vile condiment on my list of detested foods.  I think its because many permutations of tartar sauce contain the Devil's sauce.  Blecchhhh.  The tartar sauce in the pic, and one of the two versions I eat, is made by The Help.  He uses mayo (Best Foods, of course), sweet relish (the kind with pickles only), Worcestershire sauce, and a touch of lemon juice.  I am certain he would not dare slip in Grey Poupon or French's!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 box (40 oz) Bisquick
     1 pkg (10 oz) potato starch (might be labeled "katakuriko")
     1 box (1 lb) cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Store in refrigerator.  When ready to use, combine (only the amount needed) with cold water until desired consistency is reached.  Fry between 350-375 degrees until golden brown.

The only other tartar sauce I will eat is served at Hilo Bay Cafe with their Fish & Chips.  Like The Help's tartar sauce, it is also very "white".