What a panda eats

Did you ever wonder what pandas eat in a day? Okay, probably not. But I haven’t updated in about 10 days, and the only pictures I’ve taken recently are of food, so I guess that’s today’s post topic.

Breakfast

breakfast!

Kiwi and Blue Cheese Bruschetta on Vanilla Sponge

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but this incredibly tasty and delicious meal comes courteously of Bron Marshall and her gorgeously photographed blog. This was so easy and simple to make I recommend you all try it at least once. The hardest part is waiting a day for the vanilla sponge to “age” to perfection without eating it!

One little Japan-esque twist to this story is that while the original recipe calls for feta cheese, I visited the three different stores in my city that carry it (such cheeses are not as readily available in most parts of Japan as they might be in other countries) only to find that the cheapest price it was being sold for was a staggering 1800 yen (around $18 USD) per 100 grams…!. Needless to say, I took a pass, because I had already spent a fortune on the kiwis (around 600 yen for three) and another 600 yen or so on the eggs and castor sugar. If I’m going to spend 3000 yen ($30) on breakfast it’d better come with a cook :) . So instead I went with a(slightly) cheaper blue cheese (a relative bargain at only 1000 yen per 100 grams), but the end outcome was a little stronger than I would have liked. So use the feta as the recipe calls for, unless you live in Japan in which case I feel your pain, and do let me know if you find a place that sells it for less than an arm and a leg :)

Lunch

lunch!

Honey Pepper chicken and Pumpkin mash with Wakame Soup.

This was a really easy meal to make. For the chicken I just took a couple of drumsticks and coated them with a glaze made from a touch of olive oil and honey and a pinch of salt. Then I baked it in the oven for about 35 or 40 minutes at around 180 C, then seasoned with freshly ground pepper.

For the pumpkin, I took a Japanese pumpkin (which look different than the pumpkins I remember in the US – perhaps someone more skilled in the art of pumpkin-ry can tell me the difference?) and cut it in half. After scooping out its guts, I microwaved it for a minute or two just to make it soft enough so i could slice off most of the thick rind. Then I cut it up into chunks, and boiled for a little while. After that, I drained the water, then mashed it with a bit of butter, pepper, some mustard and salt to taste. I think I might have added a bit of ranch flavor dressing powder I had laying around too, I forget, but this step can probably be safely skipped unless you also mysteriously find random flavour packets laying around in your house from places and benefactors unknown. Hoorays! Mashed pumpkin.

For the veggies I just cut up some Komatsuna which wikipedia claims is a type of turnip. Anyway, I have never seen it sold in the states when I lived there, but you could easily substitute Bokchoy or even spinach. Then I added a few left over mushrooms I had in my fridge (also sliced) and then stir fried it on high with a touch of sweet chili sauce for a minute or so.

The soup in the foreground is just regular wakame (seaweed) soup, which is sold in packs here, but also in most asian grocery stores in the states. I added in a few little cut up bits of the komatsuna and the mushrooms (boiled just enough to make them soft) to add bulk to the soup.

The egg was just a regular hard boiled egg. :)

And the earthenware is the pottery I made during the recent trip to Mashiko which explains why it’s a) lopsided and b) heavy as all hell. Seriously, my dish alone weighs like a kilogram. :P

Dinner

breakfast!

Tofu Burger with spinach and pasta

Since I assume everyone here can cut up spinach and boil pasta, I’ll instead focus on the tofu burger, which was delicious and satisfying even to an avowed meat eater such as myself.

I got this recipe from a macrobiotic cookbook my friend gave me. I’ve translated the recipe below, but since I didn’t have access to the appropriately macrobiotic “natural” flour I was supposed to use, I substituted regular flour instead. So I guess technically this might make the dish non-macrobiotic, but it’s still a hell of a lot healthier than regular meatah burger. Another issue that might arise in the west is where to get lotus root. It’s sold all over here, but I have never seen it in the grocery stores that dot the rolling green hills and cow fields of the midwestern state from whence I came. And I have no idea what you can substitute for it, so if you don’t have it, you might have to ask someone more in the know about cooking than I :)

Ingredients

  1. Cotton Tofu – 100 grams*
  2. Lotus Root – 150 grams
  3. Onion – 100 grams
  4. Dried Shitake Mushrooms – 40 grams**
  5. Flour – 10 grams
  6. Bread crumbs – 20 grams
  7. Nutmeg – a touch
  8. Salt – to taste
  9. Pepper – to taste
  10. Sesame seed oil – a few tablespoons
  11. Soy sauce – a touch

*If you don’t know the difference between the different kinds of tofu, read more here. However, most of the tofu sold in the states is even firmer than the “cotton” tofu needed for this recipe, which for our purposes, works out well (basically the firmer the better, since you want this to have a bit of mass and substance)

** I used regular, non dried shitake since you’ve gotta revive them anyway, so why bother with the dried stuff?

The Recipe

1. Immerse the mushrooms in water until they revive. Drain the excess water from the tofu, then wrap it in paper towel or a regular clean towel, then place it on a cutting board, then stack some plates on top of it and let it “sit” for an hour or two. We want to drain all the excess water from inside of it. When it’s done, it will have shrunk to about half its size and be a lot firmer.

2. In a big mixing bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands (mush it the heck up).

3. Peel the skin off the lotus root, then grate it all up and drain the excess moisture that is produced. Remove and toss the stems from the mushrooms, then finely dice the rest of them up, along with the onions.

4. Add a tablespoon of sesame seed oil to a frying pan and on low heat, cook the mushrooms. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce and continue to cook until it absorbs the flavour and most of the liquid is gone. Remove from the pan and set aside.

5. In the same pan, add another half teaspoon of sesame seed oil then cook your diced onions over medium heat until they get soft and yummy, adding in a pinch of salt along the way.

6. Now add the mushrooms, onions, grated lotus root, nutmeg, flour and breadcrumbs to the bowl containing the crumbled tofu. Mix it all together so it’s nice and happy. I actually added a little bit more flour than the recipe calls for at this stage to help it “stick” together a bit more.

7. In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil. Form some of the tofu concoction we just made into a “hamburger patty” shape, then put it in the frying pan. Cover it immediately and cook it over low heat for 10 minutes (it’s going to get this awesome crispy meat-like surface on the bottom).

8. After 10 minutes, remove the cover, and flip the burger over to cook the other side. You can turn up the heat to medium or so at this point to finish giving each side a nice crispy coating.

9. And that’s it! You’re done! It’s just as good as real meat, isn’t it? Mmmm… Add a side of pasta, some spinach lightly tossed in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh ground pepper and maybe a panda doll to watch you eat, and you’re good to go on one very internationally confused culinary adventure!

Epilogue

Okay, that’s it! Thank you for reading! And if you have any delicious recipes you’d like to share, I’d love to see them!

Now listening to: “Paul Oakenfold – The Goa Mix [Radio One, December 18th, 1994]“

60 Reactions

  1. Buffy

    I mean this with no malice whatsoever.
    I hate you.
    Or rather, I hate that you are such a super cook when I’ve only learned to prepare three meals in my entire life – and I tired of those over a year ago.
    HELP!!
    Point me in the right direction oh benevolent panda.

  2. ashan

    ditto what she said above.
    also, you need to make a “food” section in your blog so you can teach people like us to make fantastic yummy food like you do.
    fanx.

  3. ashan

    oh, and in reply to your comment:
    the govt is making it ever harder for me to stay :( it seems I must prepare myself for the possibility of leaving; perhaps I go to japan too eh?
    in contrast, the exercising is going much better. I signed up for a full pass and am now attending classes at least once a week. unfortunately I am also eating twice as much. :/

  4. mlo

    Your food looks so professional! Mine always looks lumpy and unappealing. I eat it anyway.
    You know, you could buy surplus US navy pants, they tend to have the front placket. But the quality I am not sure of.

  5. lizb

    pandaaaa! you make me so hungry. that’s fucking delicious! how i wish i had time and a kitchen. your pottery looks pretty solid to me. it looks better than anything i ever threw on the wheel..and i had hours of class time to figure it out. :P