Oishinbo

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Oishinbo (美味しんぼ, “The Gourmet”) is a long-running cooking manga written by Tetsu Kariya and drawn by Akira Hanasaki. The manga’s title is a portmanteau of the Japanese word for delicious, oishii, and the word for someone who loves to eat, kuishinbo. The series depicts the adventures of culinary journalist Shirō Yamaoka and his partner (and later wife), Yūko Kurita. It was published by Shogakukan between 1983 and 2008 in Big Comic Spirits, and resumed again on February 23, 2009, only to be put on an indefinite hiatus after the May 12, 2014 edition in the weekly Big Comic Spirits as a response by the publisher to harsh criticism of Oishinbo’s treatment of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Oishinbo is a drama featuring journalist Shiro Yamaoka who works for Touzai Shimbun. He is a cynical food critic who is tasked by the newspaper’s owner, along with the young Yuko Kurita, to provide recipes for the “ultimate menu”. During their search, the encounter Yamaoka’s fastidious and demanding father, Kaibara Yuzan, a famous gourmand who tries to sabotage Yamaoka’s project.

United States Release:

Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine, Vol. 1 (January 20, 2009)

Japanese Cuisine introduces us to the fundamental ingredients–rice, sashimi, green tea, and dashi (cooking stock)–that constitute the soul of the Japanese kitchen. In each story we learn about the proper preparation and presentation of different dishes, as well as their history and cultural significance. The result is a moveable feast of a book, as informative as it is engaging.

Oishinbo: Sake, Vol. 2 (March 17, 2009)

In this volume, the focus shifts from food to drink: specifically, to sake. For centuries different types of sake have played the same roles in Japan as wine and beer have in the West, from inexpensive everyday drink to refined single-batch rarities. Above all, sake has been enjoyed as an accompaniment to a meal, and after a revelatory moment one night, Yamaoka decides that drink pairings must be an integral part of the Ultimate Menu. So which foods go best with which drinks? Sit down, pour yourself a glass, and read on!

Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza, Vol. 3 (May 19, 2009)

Few foods inspire as much passion and partisanship as the dish of noodles in broth known as “ramen.” Hot or cold, plain or miso, from fancy fusion creations to humble roadside takeout, ramen is truly a beloved food, one that can give rise to fierce loyalty or fiercer criticism (not to mention the occasional fistfight). In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company inquire into the “soul of ramen,” from the flour used in the noodles to the chickens used in the broth. And where there’s ramen, there’s gyôza: little dumplings made with a variety of fillings and served as a side dish. Will Yamaoka be able to create an “ultimate” gyôza before Kaibara creates a “supreme” one?

Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi, Vol. 4 (July 21, 2009)

Yamaoka and his father, Kaibara Yūzan, have never enjoyed an ideal father-son relationship. In fact, it’s about as far from ideal as possible, and when they start arguing about food–which they inevitably do–the sparks really fly. In this volume of Oishinbo the subject of dispute is fish, starting with the question of whether mackerel can ever be truly good sashimi. Later, things come to a head during the “Salmon Match,” which pits father against son in an epic contest to develop the best dish before a panel of judges. Will Yamaoka finally defeat Kaibara? Or will he once again be left in his father’s shadow?

Oishinbo: Vegetables, Vol. 5 (September 15, 2009)

Weekly Time magazine sets up a series of culinary battles between the Tōzai News’s “Ultimate Menu,” represented by Yamaoka, and the Teito Times’s “Supreme Menu,” represented by Kaibara Yūzan, Yamaoka’s father and nemesis. The ingredient this time is vegetables, specifically cabbages and turnips. Who will win the Vegetable Showdown? Later, Yamaoka and Kurita help Tomii’s son get over his hatred of eggplant, and patch a rift between lovers using the power of asparagus.

Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice, Vol. 6 (November 17, 2009)

In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company look into the single most essential food in Japanese cuisine: rice. Cultivated for millennia, a staple meal in itself and the basis of countless other dishes, rice is an important component not only of the Japanese kitchen but also of Japanese culture. When Yamaoka is asked by Tōzai’s head chef for help in coming up with a new rice dish, what starts out as a simple culinary request rapidly grows into a disquisition into the past, present and future of Japan’s food culture.

Oishinbo: Izakaya: Pub Food, Vol. 7 (January 19, 2010)

Izakaya occupy the same vital space in the Japanese culinary landscape as tapas bars in Spain or tavernas in Greece. Unpretentious, frequently boisterous, they’re places to meet with friends or business partners to unwind over drinks and small dishes that range from hearty standards to refined innovations. In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and Kurita investigate classic izakaya foods such as edamame and yakitori, devise new dishes to add to the menu of an old shop, and discover how the concept of “play” is essential to the enjoyment of food.

Sources: Oishinbo manga, Wikipedia

Sushi Definitions for Foreigners

Definitions:

Neta –> The commonly used term for sushi toppings, such as seafood ingredients. The salmon that sits on top of your nigiri? Yep, that’s neta! 

Shari –> Sushi rice is called “shari”. It’s commonly flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Shari plays a very crucial role in the flavors of sushi and shouldn’t be overlooked!

Murasaki –> Murasaki” is the Japanese word for the color purple, but in the sushi world, it’s the term used for soy sauce. It’s said that during the Edo period (1603-1868), soy sauce was referred to as murasaki because of its purple color. It was also believed that, as soy sauce was regarded as a luxury ingredient in olden days, it was dubbed “murasaki” due to the view of purple as a symbol of wealth in Japan.

Sabi, Namida –> Other ways to say wasabi. “Namida” means “tears”, and it was named this because it can cause one’s eyes to start watering after eating a bit too much of it at one time or getting a huge whiff of its sharp, distinct smell.

Nigiri –> is what most people think of when it comes to sushi – sushi rice seasoned with sugar, vinegar, and salt, then topped with items like seafood or egg. 

Gunkan –> is a type of sushi in which a strip of seaweed is wrapped around the rice to form a “boat” shape then topped with a neta. The name “gunkan” (or “battleship”) comes from its boat-like appearance.

Zuke –> “Zuke” is derived from the words “tsukemono” (Japanese pickles) or “shoyuzuke” (soy sauce marinade), a preparation method that was born in olden times with the aim of preserving food for long periods of time.

Gyoku –> Gyoku is another way to read the first character of the kanji characters for tamago (egg). Sushi topped with tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelet) is one of the standard choices for sushi. It’s even said that you can determine the skills of a sushi restaurant’s chefs by the quality of their tamagoyaki.

Gari –> If you ever go to a sushi restaurant, you’ll almost certainly see these thin slices of pickled ginger, which are called “gari”. They have a slight sweetness with a little kick of spice, which has the effect of washing away any residual flavors from fatty fish so that you can taste your next bite of sushi with a clean slate.

Omakase –> You’ve probably experienced difficulties deciding what to order at a sushi restaurant. With the omakase, you’ll not only be rid of the burden of poring over the menu, but you’ll also be served all the sushi chef’s top neta recommendations! The sushi is served one at a time to ensure they are enjoyed at their peak state of deliciousness, and it often features seasonal ingredients and seafood stocked fresh daily.

Agari –> The hot green tea served at sushi restaurants at the end of the meal. The word “agari” includes the meaning of “the last item”. The type of tea served differs by sushi restaurant, but Japanese green tea and bancha (coarse green tea) are the most common. You’ll feel nice and relaxed after wrapping up your delicious meal of sushi with a cup of hot green tea.

Hanarenkon (Flower-Shaped Lotus Root)

  • 3¼ ounces lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons  rice vinegar

Vinegar Mixture

  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients for the vinegar mixture, except
lemon juice, in a saucepan. Place it over low heat to
dissolve all the sugar and salt. Allow to cool.

Peel and slice lotus root into 1/4 inch thick rings. Soak
immediately in water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to prevent
discolouration. Make flower cuts and drain before using.

Boil a pot of water and add the other tablespoon of vinegar.
Add sliced lotus root flowers and boil for 5 minutes.
Remove lotus root and allow to cool.

Add lotus root slices to vinegar mixture and lemon juice in
a resealable bag. Remove any air from the bag, seal and
refrigerate for a minimum of 2–3 hours.

They are better on day two after the sweetness and contrasting sourness become more prominent.

Akajiso No Shiomomi (Salted Red Shiso Leaves)

6 tablespoonsfine white sea salt
½ pound red shiso leaves

Spread a layer of salt in the bottom of a small crock. Stack the shiso leaves by 10s and lay the first stack of 10 leaves on top of the salt in the crock. Sprinkle more salt on top of the leaves, just enough so the leaves have a light salt coverage. Alternate leaves and salt until you have placed all of the leaves in the crock. Finish with a last layer of salt to cover the top leaves so none are exposed. Cover with a piece of muslin cloth and weight. Store in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks to a month.

Shichimi Tōgarashi (七味唐辛子): Seven Flavor Chili Pepper

2 tablespoons sanshō or finely ground Szechuan pepper
2 tablespoons dried yuzu peel or orange or lemon peel
4 tablespoons chili powder (the Korean variety if possible)
2 tablespoons aonoriko (nori seaweed flakes)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
2 tsp teaspoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container.  These amounts are just a guideline and adjust seasonings to your taste.

Mushiki (蒸し器): Bamboo Steamer

Bamboo steamers consist of interlocking baskets that stack on top of each other, with a lid on top. The entire setup is placed over a wok or pot of simmering water, and the steam rises through the open ridges at the bottom of each basket, up through the layers to cook whatever’s inside. Steaming, as a cooking method, is as important in Japanese and Asian cuisine in general as baking or roasting is in American or European cooking. A bamboo steamer can steam not just buns and dumplings, but also breads, vegetables, rice, proteins, and cakes and other desserts.

How to use a bamboo steamer:

Fill your wok or pot with water

Place the bamboo steamer into your wok and fill it with enough water to come up above the bottom rim of the steamer by about a quarter inch to half an inch. The water must come up high enough to submerge the bottom rim of the steamer in water and prevent it from scorching.

Line the steamer

If you’re placing food directly on the steamer bed (as is the case with buns or dumplings, for instance), you will need something to line it with to prevent the food from sticking to the bamboo. You can use large, soft napa cabbage leaves, lettuce leaves, layers of cheesecloth, or even squares of parchment paper. When steaming meats, especially with sauces use a heatproof bowl or plate.

Place food in your bamboo steamer

When placing dumplings, buns, etc. in the steamer, do not overcrowd them. Always leave 1 inch between dumplings, and about 1 1/2 inches between larger buns. If you’d like to steam something in a bowl or plate, there is no need to line the steamer. Make sure that there’s enough open space around the bowl or plate to allow the steam to rise up and circulate around the food.

Steaming food

You can place steamer in cooking vessel either over lightly boiling water or over cold water. In general your default is the latter. Once the water in the pot is simmering, it will start to evaporate. Allow the food to steam for as long as the recipe indicates, but keep an eye on it and add boiling water as needed.

Care for your bamboo steamer

To clean your bamboo steamer, wash with a sponge and mild dish soap, immediately rinse thoroughly. Let the steamer air dry for at least 2 days before storing to prevent any mildew. Do not put your bamboo steamer in the dishwasher. Do not soak it in water in the sink for more than 5 minutes.

Makisu (巻き簾): Bamboo Sushi Mat

The makisu is a kind of small bamboo mat made by weaving fine bamboo stems with a cotton string. Makisu is used mainly for the preparation of maki sushi, but also tamagoyaki or to drain the leaves of spinach after cooking.

If you wish to buy these utensils, for your preparations or as a gift, you will find your happiness in the artisans shops of the Kappabashi district in Tokyo.

The makisu mat will allow you to wrap the Maki during preparation. You can also use it to prepare vegetables like spinach or compress tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) to give it a square shape.

Hangiri (半切 or 飯切)

A Hangiri (or sushi oke) is a traditional Japanese wooden tub that is used in the final steps of preparing sushi rice. Its wide flat bottom aids in spreading out the hot rice to help it cool quickly after pouring in the sushi seasoning while simultaneously fanning and mixing the rice with a rice paddle. This helps to give the sushi rice a slightly shiny appearance and speeds up evaporation and absorption so the rice doesn’t get mushy.

A quality one is normally made of uncoated cypress wood or cedar and is bound by two copper bands. They can come in sizes ranging from 1 foot to 3 feet, but for general home use 16 inches in diameter and 4 inches high is ideal. This size is good for 10 to 12 cups of rice.

A good Hangiri can be moderately expensive. One that is around 1 foot should cost about $75.00. The best ones are made out of cypress or cedar, are bound by real copper bands and are made in Japan. If the one you are looking at is less than $50.00 then it is probably a cheap knock-off that is made out of pine with the copper the bands that are actually made of plastic. You will be replacing this one in a year or two at most if you make sushi rice of any kind on a regular basis. The cost of an authentic hangiri is definitely worth the price if you are more than an occasional sushi rice maker.

Seasoning your Hangiri:

Think of seasoning your Hangiri as being similar to seasoning your cast iron skillet; except you use water and rice vinegar instead of bacon grease or lard. It is also necessary if you want to do everything properly and treat it right from the very beginning.

To season, fill it with water and 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and let it sit overnight. The next day pour the water out and dry it well before putting it away.

Before each use:

Fill the hangiri with water and let it sit while your rice cooks or for at least 30 minutes before you plan to use it. Pour out all of the water before putting any hot rice in it. It is probably a good idea to turn it over to drain for a few minutes so there won’t be so much water in it that the rice can soak it up and get mushy.

Since most quality ones are made of untreated cypress, if rice were put in it without first soaking it in water the rice would stick to the wood. The water has a non-stick affect on the wood and also keeps the tub from soaking up too much of the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt mixture. While you’re soaking the tub, do like the pros do and soak your wooden rice paddle and at least one scent free kitchen towel to cover the prepared sushi rice.

After each use, wash and dry your Hangiri thoroughly:

If there is rice stuck to it when you get done, then put warm water in it and let it sit. It is ok to use a sponge or brush to remove stubborn spots, but don’t use any kind of steel or wire brush; it will damage the wood.

After washing, dry thoroughly with a towel and then turn it upside down in a dish drainer or prop it on the side of a bowl to get air flow underneath. If stored while still wet the hangiri may develop mold spots. Don’t dry the tub in the sun, it may warp. If seasoned and cleaned thoroughly after each use, a good quality hangiri will give you many, many years of service.

Preparing Japanese Rice Properly (米の炊き方)

Rice is an essential food for the Japanese. Rice is not just a side dish, rice is as important as the rest of the meal. More than 300 varieties are grown in Japan, but those that are short-grained and high in starch are preferred. For this exercise we’re preparing four servings.

4 Servings
300 g (12¾ oz), or 2 gou, of Japanese white rice
430 ml (15 fl oz/1¾ cups) water

The gou is a Japanese unit of measurement: 1 gou equals 150 g (5½ oz) of rice or 180 ml (6 fl oz) of water. The amount needed for a bowl of rice for 1 person is 75 g (2¾ oz), or 90 ml (3 fl oz), so 1 gou is the ideal quantity for 2 people. To make this step easier, find a glass that holds 1 gou, you’ll need 11/5 glasses of water for each glass of rice. The weight of rice increases by 2.5 times when cooked, thus 75 g (2¾ oz) rice becomes about 190 g (6¾ oz).

Washing
Place the rice in a large bowl. Pour in some water and mix with your hands, then immediately discard the water. Sharpen the rice. This is the Japanese term for removing the excess starch by washing the grains. Cup your hand and plunge your cupped hand into the rice and turn it about 20 times, in small circles. Pour more water into the bowl; it will turn cloudy. Discard this water immediately and “sharpen” the rice again. Pour in some water and discard. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until the water in the bowl is clear.

Draining
Drain the rice in a strainer and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Soaking in water
Place the rice in a heavy-based saucepan with a lid, so the rice doesn’t burn. Pour in the required amount of water. Let the rice soak briefly so it absorbs some water before cooking.

Cooking
Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Lower the heat to low and cook for about 12–13 minutes (do not remove the lid after reducing the heat). Take the pan off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes. This ensures that the rice swells up properly. Remove the lid and use a spatula to stir the rice, going right to the bottom of the pan without mashing the grains—if the grains stick, wet the spatula.

Rice Cooker
If you want to buy a rice cooker, choose a Japanese model, because Chinese rice cookers are generally designed to cook Chinese rice, which has lower levels of starch and water.