Listen, I’ve been here for a while. I have eaten like 90% of all those classic Japanese dishes and I love ‘em. Sushi and sashimi, okonomiyaki, yakiniku, ramen, oyakodon, tendon, katsudon, the list goes on. Lunch is pretty much always Japanese food. So while I think it’s great, wonderful stuff, I have no desire to eat it for dinner. You know? I don’t feel the need to eat miso soup and rice every meal like your average Salaryman Sato. When I cook for myself , I usually prepare something Western, Indian, or Chinese, but it’s a bit tough on the wallet to cook things using ingredients not traditional to Japan (like, say, all vegetables). Also, I have kind of a complex about preparing Japanese food because it’s kinda like Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce – it’s unpalatable when it’s not your mom making it.
Last year my good friend L introduced me to Budgetbytes, which is a great site with varied meals, simple and clear instructions with pictures added, and only minimal ads. Plus, the recipes all try to keep the price reasonable, but seeing as it’s based in the states, it’s rather hit and miss when buying meat or vegetables here. Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out whether a certain ingredient is even available. So what I’d like to do occasionally is write a simple how-to guide for finding ingredients from some of my favorite recipes. And hopefully, this will encourage me to cook a little more, since right now there are more lunar eclipses in a year than times that I cook.
Today’s recipe is a simple number, for quinoa with apples and nuts added. I had never eaten quinoa before this but it’s such a fad right now that I wanted to try it. It’s pretty amazing! It’s filling, has a great texture, and keeps well in the refrigerator for days (I made a batch on Monday that lasted til Friday with no problems). I don’t think you could eat it plain in a bowl like Japanese white rice, but I definitely want to substitute it for other rice-based dishes. It’s not that expensive here either, just a little tricky to find.
Visit Budgetbytes.com to find the recipe and ingredients here!
So, where do you find quinoa in Japan? Well, look for キヌア (ki nu a) – they’re all packaged with that name. I’ve had a lot of luck at foreign food stores like Kaldi and Jupiter, but I’ve never seen it in a normal supermarket. There are grains similar to quinoa that are harvested in Japan, called awa, kibi, and hie, which are most commonly found in a grain mix called 雑穀 (zakkoku). I’ve never tried them so I don’t know if they actually taste similar, but it could be an interesting substitution! Then again, Iwate is known for its zakkoku, so I’m not sure if other regions have it.
But the best way to buy quinoa is just by searching Amazon.co.jp or Google Shopping. I think the prices are pretty good (for a foreign imported grain), and if you use Amazon you can shop in English and pay at a convenience store. Quinoa is also great in savory dishes – in fact, that’s what it’s known for. It’s steadily gaining recognition in Japan, so hopefully someday we can buy it at any old market.