Wednesday, October 02, 2013

30 Things You Should Know and/or Will Love about Japan Series: # 14

#14 Cooking in Japan/Japanese Kitchen

It is always a steep learning curve when you try to cook your go-to-meals at home in a new country.  Things you've made for years and watched your mom make, just don't turn out the same. First, ingredients are sometimes different or need to be substituted.  Second, the cooking tools and equipment are often different.

This is definitely true in Japan.  Japan does not have a baking culture and most kitchens (ours included) is teeny-tiny.

In Japan, most kitchens don't have an oven of any kind.  We had to purchase a "table top" convection oven/microwave combo, which definitely takes some getting used to.  It's the size of an US microwave, but it also works as an oven.  Roasting a turkey or making more than one dozen cookies is often challenging.

Most appliances are very smart here and it has all sorts of options, like our rice cooker and stovetop, but we regularly just use one or two buttons.

For our stove top, we now have IH.  The trick we learned in the first few nights in our apartment, was that the cooking vessel needed to be on the burner for it to work and that half of our pots/pans weren't IH compatible. But, it is really safe and cooks evenly.

Most Japanese kitchens have a built-in fish grill like you can see here:

Grilling on balconies is forbidden.  Everyone dries their clothes on their balconies and if one grills on their balcony, it is not being considerate of their neighbors (rightfully so).  Who really wants smoky barbecue smelling clothes?

This little grill is great.  We use it weekly, mainly for fish, but it's also great for garlic bread and pizzas and broiling cheese on top of a cheese steak sandwich, as seen below:

The one we have now is smarter than the one we used to have with many different features you can see that we've labeled.  (There are quite a few things labeled in our house.)

A rice cooker is also a common appliance in a Japanese kitchen.  We use ours regularly, as well.

Part of the fun of moving from country to country is learning first hand about a culture's cuisine, but we also have learned how to replicate our favorites from home as well.  Over the years, we've perfected pulled pork, rye bread, many Tex-Mex dishes and a lot of other things that we can't easily get here.

This is Lola's thumb's up/wink.
Oishi-des!  Yummy!
Ooh, and I just thought of another interesting Japanese kitchen feature - the refrigerator.  It's a lot smaller/skinner than most US refrigerators, and the freezer is on the bottom - this only poses a problem when you live with a two year old.  But, the cool feature of this otherwise ordinary appliance is that most of them open on both sides.

So, dear family, if you're thinking about heating up some food while we're at work, it's a little tricker than it may seem, but not impossible... Or even easier, just run to the convenience store or coffee shop, we'll give you the directions.

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