Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Being sick is never fun.  Especially when it's the stomach flu.  I often joke about wanting this awful bug so I can lose a few lbs, usually post vacation, when I have to reacquaint myself with portion control.  Well...I will never wish for the stomach bug again, because I had forgotten just how horrible every waking minute is.  I'll spare you the details.  

So after I was feeling better, I decided to make a pot of Okayu, which is a Japanese porridge, made with rice and water.  It's very easy on your stomach and terribly bland, which is perfect for when you're sick.  My mom would always make it for me when I was sick, so aside from being easily digestible, it's somewhat of a nostalgic dish for me.  Since I'd stocked up at the Japanese market last week, in my refrigerator were the Japanese pickles that were just waiting to be served with the Okayu.  Oh yeah, and the garnish of dried anchovies and salmon (Chirimen Sake - pronounced sha-keh in this case) drizzled with about 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce.

The saltiness of the pickled vegetables are offset by the blandness of the porridge.  I know it can be an acquired taste, but since I grew up with it, I absolutely love it.  I was so glad to have made the trip to Nijiya Market.

Okayu Recipe:

1/2 cup Japanese rice
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse the Japanese rice once and drain.  Place rice and water into a pot.  Not to brag, but I have a rice cooker, so I just hit "cook" and I'm done.  You guys, with the regular pots, will want to bring the rice and water to a boil over medium heat, covered, leaving a little room for steam to escape.  After the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 35-40 minutes.  Add salt before serving.  I paired the Okayu with my favorite pickled vegetables:

Back row from left: Pickled Radish (Hinata) in salt, sugar and vinegar.  Pickled Turnip (Hinona) and Ginger (Myoga) in salt, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine).  Pickled Plum (Umeboshi).  Front row: Japanese cucumber pickled at home for 45 minutes by washing, then rubbing generously with salt, then wrapping in aluminum foil.  To serve, wash off salt, then slice into 1/2 inch thick bites.  Baby Burdock (Yama Gobo) pickled in soy sauce.

I understand these pickled vegetables can be very foreign to most of you, but they're so common in Japanese culture.  And if you don't like Okayu, I know you'll like Miso Soup because who doesn't!  You can make Miso Soup with many different ingredients.  I used wakame (seaweed) and tofu with green onions and mitsuba (Japanese parsley) as a garnish.  

I looked online and realized Miso Soup variations can be taken to another level, as it was here.  Very impressive!

And last, but not least, a Japanese meal is not authentic if you don't have green tea to sip on!  When choosing green tea at Nijiya, and you can imagine they have a ridiculous assortment of brands and types, I came upon a brand, Yamamotoyama.  Long word.  The selling point wasn't the gorgeous cup of tea pictured on the package.  It was the "Special Occasion" part that got me.  This box was $6.49 and the box beside it was $5.29 and it didn't say "Special Occasion."  I thought to myself, "I want to feel special every time I drink green tea!."  In the 20 seconds it took me to make my decision, I imagined I'd bought the cheaper tea to save a buck.  I even went insofar as to, in my mind, boil the water and place the tea bag in my cup. What I concluded was that every time I'd go to make the $5.29/box tea, I'd be thinking how much better the Special Occasion tea would taste.

It was worth every extra penny.  This tea is delicious.  They weren't kidding.  And now I feel a hundred times better, thank you for asking.  I never want the stomach flu again, but I will be having Okayu (or regular rice) often this week since the pickled vegetables need to be consumed!  

Remember to take your vitamins so you don't get sick.  And if you feel off, I personally feel better by taking Wellness Formula vitamins (in tablet form).  They taste gross, but help your immune system.  Stay healthy!