while cooking at home is usually healthier than eating out, there might be a few things you can do to make it even better. here are a few things to consider next time you cook.
Five ways you can be healthier by cooking homemade Japanese food. You’re listening to the Daidokoro video podcast. Hi, I’m Pat Tokuyama. And you’re about to discover some of the tastiest ways to feed your mind, body and soul. A pharmacist by training you may know me as the founder of all day I eat like a shark, the food blog YouTube channel or as author of several Japanese cookbooks, if you desire to live a healthy life and are looking for a different way forward with a hunger for growth, then this video podcast is for you. Daidokoro is a Japanese term for kitchen. And I’m glad you’re here with each episode, we’re going to be bringing clarity to your cooking by blending Japanese tradition and life lessons into bite sized bits that even a shark would enjoy ready to make some magic happen.
So I admit, when I was younger, when I first started cooking, I used to use a lot of different box mixes. One I didn’t really know how to cook from scratch. And two, they were very convenient. And I didn’t really care too much about food at the time, I just wanted it to taste good. And to be done quickly. Now that I’m a little bit more aware of the foods that I eat and I’m trying to be healthier, there’s a few things that I wanted to share with you that you can try doing if you’re not doing them already.
So the first is going to be to not use any kind of a pre made or boxed mix. Yes, it is very convenient to use Japanese curry roux that comes pre made ready to use. All you need to do is add water for example, or maybe even like a box maple tofu sauce or mentaiko pasta sauce. I know if you’re in a pinch and you don’t really feel like doing something from scratch, it can save a lot of time. But if you’ve ever looked at the ingredients on those mixes, you might be surprised to know that they contain a lot of different things that you may not be familiar with. So you might have heard that saying, If you can’t pronounce it, maybe it’s something that you shouldn’t be eating. And a lot of these extra ingredients might be extra salts, maybe some sort of fat and unhealthy fat at that. And maybe some sort of sort of preservative, some sort of a coloring agent, basically things that you might not want to eat. I mean, for example, if you’re able to get these things in a powder form at your local supermarket, chances are you wouldn’t be adding these ingredients individually to your own food, would you. So that’s the first thing.
The second thing is to use vegetables in season, I think this is going to help you in several ways. One, it’s going to allow you to eat your colors or eat the rainbow, which is always a good thing. Because all of those different colors correspond to different sorts of healthy compounds that those vegetables inherently make, they’ll benefit you when you eat them. Plus, it’s going to help you eat a variety of diet. Because as the seasons change, so does the produce, you’re going to be forced to cook with different ingredients during the summertime as compared to during the wintertime. Of course, it depends on where you live. Because I know here in Orange County, we have a lot of our produce imported from Mexico or elsewhere in the world. And we can get all kinds of different things almost a year round. If you can sort of understand what it is that’s in season and what’s not in season, then I think that’ll help you to cook seasonally.
There’s a few ways that you can get a clue as to what’s in season if you’re totally confused, like I get it. One is to buy what’s on sale. So usually when things are in season, and things tend to get discounted when there’s plenty of supply. Second thing is to go visit your farmers market. So usually the farmers that are local are only going to be growing whatever it is that’s in season. And then the third thing is just to become familiar with the types of foods and dishes that are usually going to be served or cooked. In the fall versus in the springtime you can get an idea from maybe a menu or if you’re traveling somewhere like Japan, for example or food is very seasonal, you’ll be able to understand what it is that might constitute a winter dish for example, nabemono or Japanese style hotpot.
So the fourth bonus tip is to join a CSA or community supported agriculture, which basically is sort of like a subscription service where you can get a bunch of produce sent to you from a farm. So kind of like a farmers market, but you don’t have to go to the farmers market because you either get the produce sent to you, your house or you can go pick it up locally. So you can sort of decrease the amount of sodium that you are eating and your food. The other thing is to use a little bit less Ajinomoto or dashi no moto, so Ajinomoto if you’ve never heard of it or seen it before, it’s a white powder, which is basically MSG, you can find it at a well stocked Japanese market or Asian supermarket and dashi no moto is the powdered form of Dashi, the soup stock or soup , broth, whatever you want to call it. But that also contains MSG at least when it’s in the powdered form, maybe you can use a little bit less or try to be a little bit more selective in terms of which dish is easy for.
So the fourth thing that you can do when you’re making Japanese food at home is to leverage the power of umami. Umami is sort of a hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Which if you’ve had Japanese food, chances are you’ve experienced umami it can be naturally found in vegetables like mushrooms, Japanese, shiitake for example, or even tomatoes, which are also full of umami as well as things like kombu or Japanese kelp. So the way that umami works is it helps it enhance the natural flavor of the food that you are cooking with for example, if you put vegetables and dashi broth that’s going to naturally help to improve the flavor of the vegetables because Dashi is full of umami.
Other Japanese ingredients that are full of umami include things like miso paste, which is fermented soy beans mixed with other ingredients, as well as sake, which is your favorite alcoholic beverage, if you drink sake also shio koji, which is a fermented rice, also ama koji, which is the sweetened version of that fermented rice. And mirin is another sort of alcoholic beverage, but it’s mostly used for cooking these days. So in addition to umami, well, you’re also going to want to be doing when you’re cooking Japanese food, of course, is to use Japanese techniques. So a couple examples for using Japanese cutting techniques when you’re making your food or preparing it. One is something called rangiri, which is a random cut.
So if you’ve ever seen some of my cooking videos where I’m doing the rangiri at I’m giddy, it’s a random cut where I rotate the vegetable, cut it in angle, rotate it in another quarter, cut it again at an angle, rotate it another quarter and then cut it again, it gives it an irregular shape. It’s mostly used for hard vegetables, and it’s great for dishes that you’re going to be simmering those vegetables for a long time. The reason is because it helps to maintain the shape and also absorb the flavor of whatever it is that you’re cooking it in. And the reason for doing rangiri is to improve the surface area so that more the flavor from the broth that you’re cooking those vegetables in gets absorbed. And then the other thing that you can do is also score your vegetables. So things like konnyaku or maybe even something like daikon radish, which is very thick. If you score or make a bunch of little light hatch marks on the vegetable prior to cooking it that’s also going to help to make it quicker. So thick pieces of daikon radish, for example, will cook quicker if it’s scored. And it’s also going to help to improve the flavor or the penetration of the broth into the vegetable because it has more surface area several Japanese ingredients naturally enhance the flavor of food with the power of umami, plus a couple of Japanese cooking techniques, so you can try next time you’re cooking. And it doesn’t have to be Japanese food, you can use it for any kind of cooking.
And two other bonus Japanese cooking techniques that you can also try if you haven’t already one is going to be using the auto shootout which is sort of like a dropped lid literal translation. And basically it’s different from a regular pot lid because a regular pot lid sits on the rim of the pot, whereas the Otoshi that actually sits inside on the interior of the pot against the food that you’re simmering, so it’s mostly going to be used for things like nimono or simmered foods. And the way that it works is it helps to circulate the aroma of the food as it evaporates from the bottom, the aroma filled and flavor filled vapor is going to hit the bottom of the lid the auto shutoff because it’s on the food and it’s going to circulate back down kind of like rain and go back into the broth to concentrate and also at the same time it’s going to help to make the food that you’re cooking more flavorful because that vapor as it goes down and gets concentrated, it also gets absorbed into the vegetables or being cooked in it.
The last thing that I have for you is rice rinse water also known as togijiru in Japanese. Basically when you’re rinsing white rice, you might notice that the water gets all cloudy, well you can actually save it not only cooking purposes, but cosmetic purposes as well if you’re into beauty and all that stuff you might have heard of using rice rinse water for your face for your skin or for cleaning. And you can definitely use it for that. But as far as cooking goes. One of the main ways that you can use togijiru or rice rinse water is to remove some of the bitter flavors of vegetables like daikon radish. So daikon radish can be boiled in rice rains water for about 20 to 30 minutes, and that’s going to help to remove some of the bitter flavors, the unpleasant flavors that are naturally found in it. If you’re super sensitive to daikon radish and the bitterness of it, maybe you can give that a try next time you cook it.
And the fifth tip as far as eating healthier with homemade Japanese food is this same from Okinawa. Hara Hachi Bu which you may have heard of before. It’s basically translated to stomach 80%. And that is to eat until you’re 80% full. If you’ve ever traveled to Japan, you may have noticed that the culture as it pertains to food is a little bit different. For example, traditionally, when you are going to eat a meal, one of the first things that you’ll say is that you must which means I will take it and sort of taking a moment to appreciate the food that you’re about to eat. And then also after you’re finished, you’ll say Gochisou sama deshita and other sort of way of saying thanks. Especially if you’re being treated by somebody, if they bought you a meal, for example, or even just the restaurant. It’s just another way to say thanks.
So going back to how to actually be eating until you’re 80% full, eating slowly, eating mindfully, not being distracted by other things like your phone, your TV, or whatever else you got going on. I know it’s difficult sometimes to take a moment and just sit down for 20 or 30 minutes and focus just on your food or maybe your eating partner or your kids or whatever. But if you eat slowly that’s going to give your body a little bit more time to catch up and tell your brain that you’re starting to get full. And maybe you should stop eating so that you don’t overeat and feel bloated or gross because you ate too much.
So in summary, ditch the TV ditch your phone ditch your kids or your partner, just kidding, you don’t need to do that just be a little bit more aware of what it is that you’re doing when you’re eating so that your body knows that, hey, we’re getting full soon, so you can slow down and maybe even just take the home, take the rest home as leftovers. One of the things that works, for me, at least when I’m eating is to really focus on the food. So just taken a look at it, Ooh, that looks good. I want to eat you and then maybe taking a small bite, she would slowly one of the things that my grandmother used to say was chew your food 20 times before swallowing it. So that’s something that I tried to do 20 times is a lot though, if you’ve ever counted that many times of one mouthful of food. But I do try to take my time enjoying the flavor, the aroma, the visual aspect of it, the texture, the overall experience, so that I could really fully appreciate what it is that I am eating. And also be more mindful about it while preventing any kind of overeating, which I used to do almost all the time. If you’ve ever been around cows or horses, maybe that’s another good visual for you as far as chewing goes, because all they do is go. And then you just stand there and then they chew. But I guess they’re not distracted by all the things that we are.
And a little side story, I guess about that when I got injured. Back in 2016 if you know my story, I wasn’t able to walk and I had to cancel my search trip to Costa Rica, one of the things that we did instead was take a road trip to Glacier National Park and actually rode a horse for the second or third time. But this time, obviously, I couldn’t walk. So that’s why I went horseback riding and one of the things that I noticed is that my horse just wanted to eat all the greens on the side of trail like all the time. So I finally got what I meant to eat like a horse because that’s literally what all horses do, in case you’re wondering.
And a bonus sixth tip for you that isn’t necessarily specific to Japanese cooking. And homemade Japanese food is portion control or portion sizes. Being mindful of that. If you’ve been in Japan or even elsewhere in Asia, you might notice that the portion sizes are a lot smaller than what is found in the US not something that you have control direct control over at home, maybe consider trying to serve a little bit less when you’re serving yourself, use a smaller bowl or container, a smaller plate, a smaller serving spoon, I think that also helps as well if you are used to eating a large amount of food, maybe more so than you need to. And also, I think one of the other things that I know some people might have been raised to do is to sort of clean your plates so that you’re not wasting any food. And that might be a difficult mentality or a barrier to overcome, especially if you were raised that way sort of been indoctrinated in you and your identity, maybe it might take a little bit of practice to be able to either throw away the food or save it for leftovers rather than clearing your plate and stuffing yourself beyond full so that you can clear your plate.
So the good thing I guess if you actually truly are hungry after mindfully eating, you can always get seconds if you’ve ever gone to Japan to eat a kaiseki-ryōri meal, which is sort of like a multi course meal where they serve lots and lots of little dishes. Or if you’ve ever been to like a fine dining restaurant where they serve lots of little courses, that might have also been a good way for you to practice to eat smaller portions and eat more mindfully because you’re focusing so much on just a little bit of food. So maybe we’ll talk more about that in a future episode.
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