MOTOism: Homemade Miso

As you may know, we recently bought a country house in the deep woods of Connecticut. We now own 9 acres of land, and my imagination goes wild with what to do — from building a chicken coop to a greenhouse, to planting yuzu and plum trees — an all Japanese vegetable garden.

Unfortunately these things cost a lot of money and right now our focus is inside of the house, not outside. Maybe next spring, I can start a vegetable garden (which would need to be completely fenced in due to the deers in the neighborhood).

When you own a country house, you have to do things like pickling, canning, and for us Japanese, making miso, right?

I’ve always wanted to make miso, but for some reason or the other, I never did.  Thanks to the shio-koji boom, you can easily find koji here and I also brought bags of koji from Japan that have been sitting in my pantry for a while. So I decided to finally make miso.

Making miso is actually very easy.  All you need is some kind of bean (in order to be called miso, you must use soy beans, but you could use any bean of your choice actually), salt, and koji.

The ratio of the ingredients are also not so strict.  Generally, beans : koji : salt ratio is about 1 : 1 : 0.5.  But you can try different ratios and see if it makes any difference.  The only problem here is, your miso won’t be ready for at least six months, so you should write down how much of what you used.

Anyhow, here is what I did.

I used chickpeas. And not the organic kind either, but just a couple bags of chickpeas by Goya (a cheap Mexican brand). Wash beans and soak them in water for a day or so.


For salt, I used sea salt with lots of minerals.


This rice koji is from Japan, but you can use the American kind as well.


After soaking the beans for a day in water, your beans will be twice as large as when they were dry.


Boil them until they are very tender.  How tender?  Try to squeeze a bean using your thumb and pinky and if it easily breaks down, it’s ready. Soy beans will take longer, but chickpeas took about 1.5 hours. Make sure to keep about 2 cups of cooking liquid. You’ll need this later.


Now mash the beans. You can use a potato masher, food processor, a food grinder, or you could just put them in a bag and punch them. This part is the most labor intensive but I realized I have a food grinder, and it made this step so easy.


Once all the beans are mashed, this is how it looked. You want to cool it a bit since if you put the shio-koji mixture into the hot beans, the mold will be killed. Yes, koji molds need to be kept alive in order to have a full fermentation process.


The koji I used was in a brick shape, so I needed to break it down completely.


Mix the koji now with salt (keep a handful of the salt aside for later), until you feel a bit of moisture from the shio-koji mixture.

Then add them to a cooled beans (warm to your touch is perfect. Hot to the touch is too hot). Then mix the shit out of it.


Add cooking liquid so that the texture is similar to the softness of your earlobe.


Then make balls.


Then throw each ball into a sterilized container. How to sterilize? After washing, pour a tiny bit of vodka and wipe all surface areas with a paper towel.


By throwing each ball into the container, you try to have as little air pocket as possible, since the air pocket will cause mold issues during the fermentation process.

Sprinkle the salt you set aside on top.


Cover the miso with plastic wrap tightly, then close the lid. Leave it in cool dark place for about three months. After three months, you want to turn the miso around and get rid of any mold at this time. Miso should be ready after about six months. So my miso should be ready to debut sometime in September.


After this first trial, I wanted try different beans, so I used great northern beans and made another batch.


For this one, I used American-made rice koji.


I will report again in six months on how my miso turns out.

Next I may make my own soy sauce. My koji project may make me a billionaire. Moto’s miso, Moto’s shoyu. Again, my daydreaming takes me everywhere.

The post MOTOism: Homemade Miso appeared first on Umami Mart.

MOTOism: Living on Deadlines


Apologies for my long absence, my life has been a bit chaotic. As you know, I teach cooking classes to Japanese ladies (some gents), and temaki sushi-making class for Americans. The sushi class is pretty consistent since I follow the same routine for each session, but coming up with recipes for the Japanese class occupies most of my time. My cooking has always been the Eyeballing Method — now, whenever I try to create a new recipe, I have to grab a measuring spoon, instead of my usual free-pouring system. I teach about 9-10 classes a month, and once a class starts, I start thinking about next month class menus. It’s never ending story.

I went to Italy to meet up with my mother in September. This is a picture of my mom after I dragged her to the Trevi fountain.


Mind you, we didn’t throw in coins, since we were NOT planning on coming back. It was pretty, but not pretty enough to merit a return visit. And the fountain was so hard to find. 

Instead of enjoying Italy, I should have stayed home to come up with new menus. It was a mistake to travel, because in October, right after I came back from Italy, I suffered.


The theme of the month was, of course, pumpkin. I had the table decor centered around the pumpkin and everything.

I usually come up with a recipe, in my head, imagining this or that would taste good, without actually making it. Since I had been in Italy, and had to send an announcement two days after returning, I sent the menu, thinking they would be good, but without actually trying them out. I knew some would be good from past experiences, but I had doubts about few of the other recipes.

Here’s the first course of the October menu. Butternut squash soup, with crispy butternut squash ravioli (store bought) with truffle oil, and pumpkin terrine.


I’ve made this soup numerous times, so it was a breeze. The terrine on the other hand was a bitch!  I thought I would know how to make it, but my first idea totally sucked. The second idea sucked as well, and as I was about to forget about the terrine, I came up with the final product, as you can see on the right side of the dish. It’s easy, nice-looking, tastes good and again, easy.

Since I decided to use pumpkin for every course, and the entree was Pork Wellington, I used pumpkin as part of the layer. Plus pumpkin gnocchi as a side dish.


When you teach cooking, what you want to hear is, “Teacher, I’ve made what I learned last month, and everyone loved it, so I’ve already made it three times!!” Pretty satisfying comment, don’t you think?

For November, obviously the theme was Thanksgiving. I wanted to create a harvesting centerpiece, but didn’t want to use real fruit. These look like a bunch of grapes, right? I used a fruit bowl as a vase.


A fabulous flower arrangement is also important to impress students.

Turkey was on the menu everywhere.


In the crystal bowl on the left is an inside-out pigs in a blanket. Get it? I wrapped brussels spouts with ground turkey, and cooked it in tomato juice. Pretty genius. In the middle on a spoon is a pinwheel ham and cheese pie. Puff pastry is so useful. On the right is turkey, cranberry and eggplant lasagna roll with gravy. I made dishes using Thanksgiving elements, but with a different approach.

Brined turkey breast roll with stuffing and spinach.


This is SO MOIST, thanks to brining. The roll was served with hasselback potato, with a gravy-meets-tomato-juice sauce. This was extremely well received by students, and many of them made for their own Thanksgiving. I also made this for my own Thanksgiving feast this year as well.

Oh, and we recently bought a country house, and the first hosting gig was my annual Thanksgiving feast with friends. As I was plating appetizers, we had a little photo shoot.


Unlike NYC, the country house is unbelievably large and the dining table is 10 feet long, and there are always 10 chairs (this is the extended version, and shrinks down to a 4-top as well). Since we are still setting up the house, I had to work with a limited supply, but it turned out pretty good.


And now it’s December, and I am teaching a holiday-themed class, with some of the most ideal desserts for the season — like the Christmas tree shaped Mont Blanc.


You may think it’s hard to make, but it’s actually not that difficult if you can follow all the steps.

This is my life now. I create recipes, teach them, and once I start teaching, I create the next recipes. The pressure is high to come up with something new, fun, easy and exciting — then all the countless testing to perfect it, can all be frustrating. But whenever I hear students get excited with exclamation marks in their voices (yeah, I can tell if they are really impressed, versus they are just saying it to be nice), all the effort is worth while.

2013 has been a fulfilling year, and I would hope to continue to grow in 2014.

MOTOism: Ramen Burger

When it comes to waiting for food, New York is turning into Japan. The Cronut for example, a pastry mashup of croissant + donut created at the Dominique Ansel Bakery, is apparently so good that people line up at 6am to score the precious two pieces per person. There is even a Craigslist black market where you can buy a Cronut for $25 a piece, and there are already many counterfeit Cronuts out there already. Insanity. I am not a big fan of donuts so I don’t think I will be trekking down to Spring Street at 6am anytime soon.

The other “most talked about” food item around here is the Ramen Burger. It’s at Smorgasburg on Saturdays, and people wait for a couple of hours to taste this hamburger version of ramen which apparently sells out in 15 minutes. Ramen in NYC is out of control right now, from traditional Japanese styles, to outrageous, soup-pasta ramen, and new shops are popping up weekly.

This burger, however, is pretty clever. It uses noodles for buns, and the patty is flavored as something similar to chashu (this is what I heard, since I will never line up for 3 hours to get a burger). I’ve made rice buns for my MOTOburger many times, and the process of the Ramen Burger intrigued me and decided to make my own version.

Sure, you can use cheap Maruchan noodles if you want, but if you have access to raw noodles like this, do get them.

This is the same brand of noodles as the original Ramen Burger, and are definitely far better than any other ramen noodles. They are also made in USA, so even better! Sun Noodle provides noodles for many ramen joints throughout the country.

I chose shoyu (soy sauce) flavor.

The package includes two servings of raw (not fried) noodle, and liquid soup packets.

1. Boil water, and dump in the noodles, just like when you cook pasta. The instructions say to cook for 2.5 minutes, but I took them out after 2 minutes.

2. Drain and wash lightly with cold water. Crack an egg into a bowl and mix well. Dump the noodles in it. After a couple of trials, I found it very good to add 1 tsp of soup packet into the noodle, to flavor the bun with the shoyu ramen flavor.

3. Mix together well.

4. Each serving of noodles can be divided into two, but I prefer thinner buns, so I divide them into three (yes, one burger would be open face, but oh well).

5. Place noodles in ramekin, or any flat bottomed container, lined with plastic wrap.

6. Close the plastic wrap, and place a smaller ramekin on top to weigh it down. Put this in fridge for at least 15 minutes. It’ll be pretty gooey at first, but the noodles will absorb all the liquid from the egg, which will act as a binder, and will make a bun-like firmness at the end.

This looks like a burger bun, right?

7. Heat a pan with a drizzle a bit of sesame oil. Fry buns, about 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

8. Meanwhile, make the patties. I used 7:3 ground beef:pork ratio. Also, as you can see, this ground meat is pretty fatty.

9. Sprinkle a bit of white pepper, and add an egg yolk. Mix together well, and form patties.

10. Pour the soup packet (sans 1 tsp used to mix with noodle) into a bowl, and mix with 1/2 cup of water.  Set aside.

11. Cook patties, and when they are cooked through, add the above liquid, and cook them down. Glaze patties with the sauce, which will flavor them with shoyu ramen flavor. It’s better to make flatter, larger patties since it shrinks when cooked.

Here is how to assemble the burger:

Lay a noodle bun on a plate.

The original burger uses arugula, but I didn’t have any. I am growing shitload of shiso on my balcony, so I chopped up a few leaves.

Put patty on top of shiso, then top with chopped scallions.

Top with noodle bun.

It’s portable ramen! Well, thanks to the liquid soup packet, it added shoyu ramen flavor to both the buns and patty. It truly tastes like you are eating dry ramen. This is clever, and it’s not hard to make it at home, instead of waiting a couple of hours.

It seems every food-hype only stays alive for about a couple of months (which is also very much like Japan). What’s next?? Soba-ger, anyone?

MOTOism: A Glimpse Into My Cooking Class

Just about a year ago, I left my day job to become an entrepreneur. Similar story to the Umami Mart ladies. Well, I haven’t been featured in any major newspapers, nor do I get interviewed left and right, but it’s just a matter of time before I have my own Food Network show (well in my dreams at least).

I’ve started my own agency, Moto Creative Services, with hopes to one day become the next Martha Stewart. It’s a long journey, but I am slowly growing my empire.

[Read more...]

MOTOism: Food in France

I went to France for the first time. As I packed for the trip, all I could think about was the scene from The Devil Wears Prada where Anne throws her cellphone into a fountain. Everyone looks so stylish in that scene, or in any other film set in Paris – going around the Eiffel Tower in their limo or Vespa. Hence I packed all my stylish clothes, colorful jackets, and shoes that are for showing off (not for walking).

When I started walking to the Champs-Elysees, I realized my driving moccasins weren’t comfortable for walking on cobble stone roads — but they were the most comfortable shoes I brought with me for the entire trip. We walked from our hotel to the Triumphal Arch, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, and back to the hotel in one afternoon. If that weren’t painful enough, Europe was suffering from a heatwave (85˚F in Europe was scorching, especially since they are not equipped with industrial A/C units).

[Read more...]


















暑い日が続きますね。 これでも日本より暑さはマシなのでしょうか。 先日フランス旅行から帰国したのですが、フランスも暑かった。 しかもヨーロッパはクーラーがあんまり発達していないので、外も中も暑くて辛かったです。 こちらは暑くて死にそうになったら、店に入って涼めるというプラスはありますよね(店の中は寒すぎるという声もありますが)。
さて今回の料理教室のテーマですが、アメリカの夏と言えば裏庭でのバーベキューという典型的なイメージを元に「ザ・アメリカ」というタイトルにします。 アメリカと言えば(全く個人的な考えですが)肉、トウモロコシ、ポテトチップ、といった物が頭に浮かぶので、そういった物を使った夏らしい料理を作りたいと思います。 オシャレな料理も重要ですが、手をドロドロにしながら肉にかぶりつく、というのもアメリカ的で面白いかと思います。

ご参考まで、先月の教室の模様をKyokoさんがいつものように素敵な写真でブログしてくれています。 ぜひご覧ください。


7月30(火),31(水),8月1(木),2(金),3(土), 4(日),5(月),6(火)
住所:99 John Street Apt 2303, New York NY (最寄り駅は、地下鉄各線のFulton駅、タクシーの場合はJohnとGoldと指定するとビルの角です。ビル一階にはJubileeというスーパーがあります)
 遠いダウンタウンという立地、地下鉄のスケジュールが遅れたり、来なかったりというのも十分理解しますが、できるだけ時間通りに始めたいのでなるべく時間前に到着してもらえるよう尽力いただければ幸いです。 また遅れる場合はテキストなど頂ければ、いつまでも待つ必要がなく、他の方にご迷惑がかかりません。 ご協力どうぞよろしくお願いします。

申し込みはmoto@motocs.comまでお願いします。 その際は



申し込みの確認は頂いたメールに返信します。平等にするため、メールのインボックスに入った順番に返信させていただきます。 (速攻の返信はしませんのでご理解ください) できるだけ返信漏れのないように確認はしているのですが、もし翌日になっても返事がない場合は督促のメールを頂ければ助かります。

キャンセルについてですが、できるだけ代理を探してください。 どうしてもキャンセルしなければならない場合は3日前までに連絡をお願いします。

なおドタキャンなどが出た場合の空席案内の業務連絡をMoto Creative Servicesのフェイスブックサイトで連絡していこうと思っています。 ついてはFBご利用の方は当サイトを「いいね」していただければ、ラストミニットでクラスに空席が出た場合などのご連絡をさせていただきます。それでは、皆様にお会い出来るのを楽しみにしています。

Moto Creative Services

Conbini Cabaret: My Inconvenient Conbini Town

Conbinis are everywhere in Japan. Lawson, 7-Eleven, AM/PM, Yamazaki Daily, to name a few. You throw a rock, and you would probably hit three conbinis simultaneously. Well, let me tell you, that only happens in urban Japan.

I grew up in Wakayama, in the middle of the mountains. The holy Koya mountain is about an hour away, and a cat station master resides about 15 minutes away. Recently, CNN featured this article about Wakayama as Japan’s hidden gem. Great article! But the reality is that I grew up in the middle of nowhere, where conbinis don’t exist.

While growing up, I had to make a mad dash to buy everything I needed before my neighborhood store closed around 7pm, or someone had to drive me out 30 minutes to the larger stores that were open until 9pm. Open 24/7? Forget it. There were only 9,000 people in my hometown, so there was no need to serve our needs 24 hours a day. Regular operating hours of 9am-7pm was plenty enough for my town. The closest conbini was about a 25 minutes drive, and the shitty kind, Yamazaki Daily (which doesn’t even exist in that location any more).

Every time I go home, I’m reminded that things haven’t changed. There are still no conbinis in my hometown. Sure, instead of a 30 minute drive, it’s now only 15 to get to a 24/7 Lawson, but it’s definitely not within walking distance.

This is perhaps why I LOVE going to conbinis for no particular reason whenever I can get to one by foot. Whether in Tokyo or Osaka, while staying at a hotel or a friend’s apartment, I will walk to the nearest conbini and buy a pack of Mammy, just because I love that fake yogurt taste. Or I will buy savory bread stuffed with potato korokke (croquette) or yakisoba, or I get some dried fish snacks, or their “freshly made” fried chicken, or hair gel, manga books, anti-hangover drinks, along with a bottle(s) of booze, say either wine or shochu.

I am hoping U-MART will carry my favorite Japanese snacks, White Lolita. Japanese snack names are pretty weird. No, Japanese naming anything is weird. Gatsby is a well known line of men’s grooming products, and I happened to just finish the book Great Gatsby. There’s no point in boasting his life as the “coolest” as these Japanese products try to claim. He is one of the saddest characters I’ve ever read.

Anyway, conbinis are awesome, and I am so happy for Oaklanders to have U-MART close by. It may not open for 24/7, but it will be the go-to place for Japanese stuff. When you have a craving to squeeze Kewpie mayo into your mouth, go to U-MART.

*Conbini Cabaret celebrates conbini culture, in preparation for the opening of U-MART on Tuesday 6/25. Umami for life! -KA

MOTOism: My Vegetable Garden

As you’ve seen from my previous posts, my current apartment has a nice-sized balcony, which gets wonderful sunlight. I make the most out of this luxury by hosting barbeque dinners, and make my own dried mushrooms and umeboshi. When you have outdoor space, you gotta grow some vegetables, right?

Here are my babies:

I brought back shiso seeds from Japan (probably illegal), and planted them. 

Since you are supposed to have one or two stems per pot, I’ve been plucking these small guys out to use as micro green for garnish. Pretty convenient.

Shiso used to be sold solely at Japanese grocery stores, in small packs of about 10 leaves. Now throughout the summer at the Greenmarket (NYC’s farmers’ market), you can buy a bundle of them for very cheap, so it’s almost unnecessary to keep shiso in your vegetable garden. But I am growing them specially for their seeds at the end of the season.

Ah, this is my prize piece of the season:

I was at Mitsuwa about a month ago, and there were guys outside who were selling seedlings of Japanese vegetables. Guess who it was?? It was the one and only Mr. Suzuki of Suzuki Farms. If you live in East Coast, you know who Mr. Suzuki is. The farm is in Delaware, and they grow Japanese vegetables (apparently they’ve been doing it for 26 years) and thanks to them, the Japanese vegetable supply is so much better now here in the northeast. Now we can buy fresh daikon with its own leaves, which is pretty nice.

Anyhow, he was selling seedlings of okra, nasu (eggplant), shiso, pepper, etc. Nasu drew my interest, and he told me each seedling will yield 50 Japanese nasu during the season. I bought two of them, which should yield 100 Japanese nasu this summer! Let’s see how it goes. They are growing crazy, and the nasu flower is very cute.

Do you know myoga? It is a little ginger-like vegetable to put on top of many dishes.

It’s the second most expensive Japanese vegetables you can get here (next to fresh wasabi), and each piece costs $4. Some lucky people are growing them in their backyard and apparently myoga is very easy to grow. Through a black market connection, I got myoga rhizomes. Sure enough, they are growing so tall, and hopefully it will yield much myoga this summer.

Finally, these are shiso from last year’s planting.

For some reason, second year shiso doesn’t have much flavor, so I’ve been using them as garnish. Eventually I will plant the other shiso here to grow.

Growing vegetables are fun, especially when all you have to do is to water them (and a once a week feeding).













うっとおしい日が続きますが、おかげで週末は4日間アリゾナに行って留守にしていたのですがベランダに植えた茄子の苗も元気に花を咲かせています。 ちなみに、アリゾナ、ハマるかもしれません。 あそこまでイメージ通りのサボテンだらけで、石ゴツゴツした山、東海岸では想像できないシーンがおもしろいです。

さておかげさまで予約が取りにくい料理教室になってきてしまい、予約に漏れてしまう皆様には申し訳ないのですが、今月も8日連続クラスを開催しますので、できるだけお早めにお申込みいただければ幸いです。 それでは来月の料理教室のメニュー及び日程は以下の通りです。

ご参考まで、先月の教室の模様をKyokoさんがいつものように素敵な写真でブログしてくれています。 ぜひご覧ください。

今回のテーマは「多国籍のアジア料理」というタイトルにします。 日本では無国籍料理などとも言われ、色んな国の料理の良いところを混ぜあわせ、日本人好みにするという、いかにも日本人が得意な「普通なものを、すごく素敵にする」タイプの料理を作ってみたいと思います。


ちなみにご存知の方もいると思いますが、私はパクチーがだめです。 アジア料理はパクチーがないと食べる意味がない!とおっしゃる方は教室にパクチー持参してもらっても全く問題ありませんので。





6月10(月),11(火),12(水),13(木),14(金),15(土), 16(日),17(月)

住所:99 John Street Apt 2303, New York NY (最寄り駅は、地下鉄各線のFulton駅、タクシーの場合はJohnとGoldと指定するとビルの角です。ビル一階にはJubileeというスーパーがあります)

遠いダウンタウンになり、地下鉄のスケジュールが遅れたり、来なかったりというのも十分理解しますが、できるだけ時間通りに始めたいのでなるべく時間前に到着してもらえるよう尽力いただければ幸いです。 また遅れる場合はテキストなど頂ければ、いつまでも待つ必要がなく、他の方にご迷惑がかかりません。 ご協力どうぞよろしくお願いします。



申し込みはmoto@motocs.comまでお願いします。 その際は



申し込みの確認は頂いたメールに返信します。平等にするため、メールのインボックスに入った順番に返信させていただきます。 できるだけ返信漏れのないように確認はしているのですが、もし翌日になっても返事がない場合は督促のメールを頂ければ助かります。

キャンセルについてですが、できるだけ代理を探してください。 どうしてもキャンセルしなければならない場合は3日前までに連絡をお願いします。

ドタキャンなどが出た場合の 空席案内の業務連絡をMoto Creative Servicesのフェイスブックサイトで連絡していこうと思っています。 ついてはFBご利用の方は当サイトを「いいね」していただければ、ラストミニットでクラスに空席が出た場合などのご連絡をさせていただきます。



PS ご参考まで、来月以降の教室の日程を(変更があるかもしれませんが)お知らせしておきます。基本的には月の第3週と考えていただければ良いですが、夏場は自分の旅行の計画もありますので、少しイレギュラーな日程になります。


Moto Creative Services

MOTOism: Artful Deco Roll

The craze for sweets in Japan is so peculiar. There’s always, “This Year’s #1 Dessert!” which will inevitably be forgotten about next year. Sweets like macarons and other delicate pastries are kicked up a notch or two once they enter Japan land. Its level of sophistication is nothing you will see here in the States.

[Read more...]

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