Linkskey! 2/7/2014 – 2/22/2014

The internet is grain information and too sour for a discerning palette. Let us distill some of it into a nice glass of linkskey (links + whiskey).

We here at Easy Distance are purveyors of only the finest distilled internet. Cave Twitter aged in Facebook Charred Oak, bottle conditioned with Instagram filters into premium Vimeo bottles and shipped right to your reader, inbox or RSS feed, even Linkedin. We Stumbleupon only the finest ingredients to make Easy Distance Linkskey including: Bloglovin, Google Search,  Wordpress reader and even regular news sites as well. We take our internet seriously at Easy Distance and today we have brought the very best that your time can buy. Easy Distance Linkskey is best served with one ice cube and a splash of fresh spring water served in a crystal Tumblr. Now sit back, bask in the fine distilled internet aroma, and enjoy the easy taste of Easy Distance.

Travel

Japan

Another shot of Yotei-san from the summit.

Another shot of Yotei-san from the summit.

We definitely brought some Tokyo flavor with Reverse Cinderella – Shoe Shopping in Japan and Tokyo Adventures 2: Tokyo: Past and Present.

It may seem like we are posting a lot about snowboarding because we are. Here is my trip to Niseko and the most complete lists of Tohoku area snow resorts (in English).

Tohoku is really getting some great articles on japantravel.com. There are snowball fights in Miyagi, a paper balloon festival in Akita, a write up of Zuigan-ji in Matsushima, a visit to the Matsuo Basho Memorial Hall in Yamadera and a cuteness’plosion in Zao at the Zao Fox Village.

Not Japan

General: Some how we were not recognized as top bloggers for 2014, but the year is young, there is still time…

India: A fellow ALT posted this experience recently about some time she spent in the Indian countryside.

America: Seneca Rocks, Monongahela National Forest from Wandering Westy. Some awesome views and pics from a gem in West Virginia.

America:  @BeyondMyDoor on twitter and from his blog a cool view of Shenandoah Valley which is near and dear to my heart.

Canada: Also in North America Hecktic Travels are exploring some of the finer elements of winter in Alberta. @HeckticTravels. That’s ok with me. SNOW ON!

Spain: A peek at Costa Brava from Go See Write.

ESL teaching

I came across this cool little website packed with free English teaching tests that you can adapt for ESL. As always double check free content for accuracy before you put it in front of students.

Cooking in the shower

Yakisoba Deluxe is the recipe of the week here at Easy Distance. Give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Humor and Cool Stuff

liebsterWe were given a Liebster Award this month by Introvert Japan. You can check out our answers to his questions here, and his Liebster award post here.

Here is an awesome compilation of Okinawan music from Elisa at Audiographer whom I awarded the aforementioned Liebster award to as well.

Why you should date a girl who travels. Sorry fellas, but this one is off the market.

Uncovering Japan wants you to experience wearing a kimono.

Lines of Control Episode 2 is out! Check it out on Epic TV or on the SoulRyders page.

Lastly, in case you are unaware, this little guy is the worlds cutest pomeranian.

Cooking in the shower – Yakisoba Deluxe

yakisobaI feel like every time I add a new recipe here, it’s some kind of wonderful Japanese dish that I never got to try in the states. There are so many facets of Japanese cuisine, I discover something new every month. Since I moved here in March, I have been enamored of yakisoba, a Japanese-style chow mein that is available in every market and convenience store. It is also a staple at any festival or street market. My favorite breakfast while traveling in Japan is a plate of cold yakisoba from 7-11.

Why am I cooking in the shower? It’s not for the flavor…

My first attempt to cook this at home was a sticky failure. For one, I didn’t have the right sauce, and for two, I assumed that because “soba” was in the name, I could use soba noodles in the dish. Wrong. Do not use soba or other buckwheat pasta. Soba can easily become gluey, which is exactly how my mangled clumps of noodles turned out.

Easy yakisoba from the grocery store

Easy yakisoba from the grocery store

Frustrated, I gave up on them. Since it’s so easy to find yakisoba in Japan, I simply bought some when the craving appeared. But a few weeks ago, I spent an amazing weekend with some friends in Tokyo. One night we stayed in, and some Japanese friends made fresh yakisoba. Combined with the cheerful company and the Japanese ume-shu, our communion of this homemade yakisoba made it taste a million times more delicious.

While I unfortunately cannot always replicate these conditions in my apartment, I decided to make it again (correctly) and just think about my good friends while I ate it. It turned out fantastic! If you have never tried it, you must make some! Once you have the right ingredients, it’s as simple as… well, I was going to say pie, but pie is an art-form and definitely not simple. Why do we say this, as well as “piece of cake”? All baking in general is detailed and precise. Perhaps it is meant to be sarcastic, like “Clear as mud.” Or “Easy-peasy Japanese-y,” because Japanese is in no sense of the word easy. Sorry, I digress…

Here’s what you need:yakisoba

Ingredients:
Chukamen noodles: also called egg noodles, they are similar to ramen noodles but noticeably more yellow. In Japan, and any good Asian market, you can buy these fresh in vacuum sealed packs. In Japan, they usually say “yakisoba” 焼きそば on them. Fresh is best.

Sauce: Also in Japan, yakisoba sauce is sold at any market, labeled: ソース 焼きそば (sauce, yakisoba) and usually in yellow packaging with a yellow squeeze-top. If you can’t find this, you can make your own. One cook recommends oyster sauce mixed with tonkatsu sauce (a thick sauce used for breaded pork) but that still requires a trip to the Asian market. Other cooks state that you can use a mix of ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, mirin and Tabasco. Basically you want a dark, slightly thick sauce with a flavor you like.

Cabbage: chopped roughly

Carrot: thinly sliced or peeled

Yellow or white onion: thinly sliced

Toppings (optional): 
Katsuobushi: (dried bonita flake)

Aonori: (powered seaweed)

Beni shoga: pickled ginger. This is a different type of pickled ginger than you usually see accompanying your sushi. It is cut into matchsticks, is bright pink and tastes more pungent because it is pickled in the same liquid used in ume-boshi, a very tart pickled plum. I don’t particularly love this stuff, so I skip it altogether.

Extras: I also added some sliced green onion and enoki mushrooms because I had them lying around. “Traditional” yakisoba doesn’t include this, but it tasted nice, so why not?

How to:

Heat a pan medium-high, add a little vegetable oil and sauté your veggies for a couple minutes until softened. Add your desired amount of noodles. You don’t need specific measurements for this recipe, just buy as many noodles as you want and chop veggies for around a 50/50 ratio, equal veggie to noodle.sauted veg

Then add your sauce, enough to coat the noodles. If you are worried about overdoing it here, just start small and taste as you go. Use two pasta spoons, or tongs, to toss the noodles and coat them more effectively. Turn the heat up to high for a minute to heat through. I add a dash of soy sauce at the end to give them nice dark color, but it’s not necessary.

Once plated, sprinkle a little of each topping and enjoy. Make sure to cook extra so you can have some for breakfast, hot or cold they are delicious! This is the basic vegetarian version, but feel free to add some meat of your preference. Thin sliced pork, chicken, beef or shrimp are a great addition. I hope you enjoy one of my favorite Japanese street foods!

いただきます – Itadakemasu

Cooking in the shower – Imoni, Nabe, and Shabu Shabu

Miyagi imoni

Miyagi imoni

I didn’t realize that Japan has so many hot pot dishes. All you ever see in the states is miso soup, ramen, and now a few chic Shabu Shabu spots. Sometimes you can find sukiyaki in the States. I never thought of Japanese cuisine having a lot of soups and stews until I moved here, and it wasn’t until fall of 2013 that I particularly noticed.

Our imoni host Tatsuya (left)

Our imoni host Tatsuya (left)

This was my first autumn in Japan, and living in Tohoku made me aware of a special dish from the area, imoni. Imoni is not only a dish, it is a time to cook with friends and family. It can best be related to the American tradition of Thanksgiving, which is non-existent in Japan (obviously, no pilgrims and such). I had the good fortune to be invited to an imoni party hosted by the Tohoku Gakuin International Club. On a clear, crisp day in October, a large group of students gathered in a park and cooked huge pots of stew for everyone to share. Miyagi imoni is made with miso and pork, Yamagata-style is soy sauce and beef. We tried both and had a wonderful time eating and chatting with lots of English majors in the club. Imoni is so important in Yamagata, that they often make a huge pot during their autumn festival, that can feed thousands of people. I’m not kidding. 30,000 servings.

Why am I cooking in the shower? It’s kind of a funny story…

For Christmas, we attended a nabe party. Nabe, or nabemono, is also a hot pot dish meant to be cooked in a group setting. Usually, a special burner is placed in one’s living room and the soup is cooked in a clay pot. While imoni is more of a hearty stew, nabe is a lighter broth in various flavors. Some key ingredients in imoni are potatoes, daikon, taro root, negi (Japanese onion) and konnyaku (a gelatinous mass of “yam” fiber unique to Japan). Nabe is lighter, with leafy cabbage, spouts, sliced carrot, enoki mushrooms and negi. A variation of nabe is chankonabe, also known as sumo stew because it is a traditional diet staple of the sumo wrestlers.

Not a clay pot, but it works

Not a clay pot, but it works

You can make the broth for nabe from scratch, or buy it at the grocery store. In winter, the stores in Japan stock tons of this stuff. A bag will run around $2-$3, and serves four, so I definitely recommend saving yourself the trouble and buying it. I don’t know about Asian grocers in the USA, but just look for something like this bag on the right:

Seafood nabe ingredients: mushroom, bok choy, carrot, tofu, scallop, clam, shrimp and fish

Seafood nabe: mushroom, bok choy, carrot, tofu, scallop, clam, shrimp and fish

The different flavors of nabe will determine what else you add in. Seafood broth will obviously compliment shrimp, scallops, fish or all three. Kimchi nabe is a little spicy, and works well with beef, pork or chicken. Tomato broth is delicious with just about anything, and I have seen onion and bean sprout flavors as well. Tofu is a nice addition, especially if you want a vegetarian nabe.

The best thing about making nabe is time, since it takes hardly any. Actual recipe: Heat the broth and toss in your choice of chopped veggie and meat. Stir occasionally. Serve hot.

The stores in Japan will also sell pre-packaged mixes of chopped vegetables, seafood and other collections of ingredients for nabe, so it is quite possibly the easiest dinner you can have. Traditionally, if you are eating the nabe with a group of people, you remove just the fillings, and leave most of the broth in the pot. Then you can throw in new ingredients to cook, while you enjoy the previous batch. Since I usually cook for just two, I treat the nabe more like soup and eat it broth and all. I also usually make a little rice to go on the side, but it’s not necessary. The next morning, I add the leftover rice to the pot and reheat the remaining soup for breakfast.

So far, my favorites have been tomato and kimchi broths with chicken. There are many different brands, but it seems that the slightly more expensive bags o’ broth ($3) have better flavor and are not quite as salty. We have this dish at least once a week now, when I don’t feel like cooking, and I’ve discovered a type of mushroom that Andrew will eat (enoki!) so it’s a win-win. Make a nabe pot for yourself tonight and experience a delicious and healthy taste of Japan.

いただきます (Itadakemasu)

Cooking in the shower – Mapo dofu

Mabodofu

One of my favorite aspects of traveling is getting to have totally new culinary experiences. I love trying new dishes, and experiencing new ingredients. The best thing about living and working in a foreign country is getting to eat dishes that you wouldn’t come across as just a tourist. The lunch provided at our Japanese schools is always filled with delicious “homestyle” dishes that you would never see in a restaurant. So far, I’ve experience some delightful things like chestnut rice (kuri gohan 栗ご飯) Japanese pumpkin topped with anko (sweet red bean paste) and okara, tofu pulp which sounds awful but is quite yummy and very healthy.

Why am I cooking in the shower? – It’s kind of a funny story.

Andrew’s favorite new dish discovered through school lunch is Mapo Tofu, often written as Mapo Dofu, and pronounced like Mabo Dofu. I was very shocked to learn that Andrew favored this dish, as it consists of tofu (which he usually shuns) and has a gelatinous texture. One week when I wasn’t feeling well, I asked Andrew to do the grocery shopping and make something for dinner. He chose to make mapo tofu, which you can buy premixed at any grocery store in Japan. It was pretty tasty, but since I’m not a huge fan of prepackaged food, I figured we could make it from scratch next time.

Whenever I try a new dish and want to replicate it at home, I do what every home cook would do: turn to the internet for advice. Since moving to Japan, I have found a few wonderful cooking blogs that include authentic Japanese recipes, the real “homestyle” items I mentioned earlier. Here are the sites I have come to rely on: Just One Cookbook, Savory JapanNo Recipes.

The recipe I use is the Japanese-style mapo tofu from Marc Matsumoto on the No Recipes blog, here. It is really simple, quick and filling. You won’t need to prepare anything else for dinner besides the rice. Mapo tofu originated in China, and was quite spicy, so obviously the Japanese rendition is totally bland. I like a little more heat, so I tweak the recipe slightly, as well as add some mushrooms and yellow onion for extra substance.

What you’ll need:

Ingredients

Ingredients

Sauce:

1/3 cup mirin: the original recipe calls for 1/3 cup sake, but since I can never manage to keep drinking sake in the house long enough, I substitute this sweet cooking rice wine

2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp red miso
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

1 1/2 tbsp tobanjan (a spicy miso bean paste, also written Doubanjiang): I also add a hefty spoonful of garlic chili paste. You can basically use whatever spice you like, sambal oelek, Sriracha, Korean gochujang paste, or real chili peppers of course. I can’t get any here in Japan. The original recipe calls for only a teaspoon of tobanjan. Just taste as you go and add more if needed

1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch: the original recipe calls for less, but I find that it needs more to firm up the sauce

Mix all the above with a whisk or fork.

Mapo tofu sauce

Mapo tofu:

My rice cooker tells you "Oh" when it's ready

My rice cooker tells you “Oh” when it’s ready

sesame oil
green onion
thin sliced white or yellow onion, whole small
minced ginger: measure to your preference, I usually add over a tablespoon
minced garlic: since I like the spice, I do at least 2 cloves, add less or more to your preference
1/2 pound ground pork
sliced mushrooms
350 grams of packaged firm tofu: the original recipe calls for silken, but I’ve always used the firm style (called momen もめん) since I keep it in the house for miso soup. It’s denser and holds its shape. If you want more delicate tofu, go with silken. Drain it with a paper towel and cut into cubes

Let your white rice cook while you make the mapo tofu. You can make the sauce ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. I start with one cup of dry rice for two people, but usually have leftovers. This recipe can serve four if you pair it with some veggies.

In a larger frying pan or wok, heat a splash of sesame oil. Sauté the white onion slices until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add the ginger and garlic, heat together for thirty seconds.

Mushrooms, onions saute

Add the ground pork and cook through. When no more pink remains, add your sauce and cook for a few minutes on high to thicken.

Mapo tofu

Lower the heat and add your tofu, heating thoroughly.

Stir in a handful of green onions and serve the mapo tofu on top of your cooked rice. I always put a bottle of garlic chili paste on the table, too, in case it needs more heat.Mapo tofu

If there are any leftovers, save them along with some rice. In the morning, fry it all up together for a fantastic Chinese-style jambalaya. You could even top it with a fried egg.

For crispy rice, flatten the mixture across the frying pan and let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes. The rice will brown up quite nicely and add a nice contrast to the soft tofu.

I hope you enjoy this authentic non-restaurant dish, and be sure to check out my other recipes and the blogs above for more fabulous Japanese cuisine!

いただきます (itadakimasu – I humbly receive)

Cooking in the shower – Miso Butter

Grilled veggies with miso butter

Grilled veggies with miso butter

Before I moved to Japan, miso paste was an ingredient I rarely used. Now I must have it in my fridge at all times, and I am constantly finding new ways to utilize its delicious umami powers. My new favorite miso incarnation: miso butter. I know I am really late to this culinary party; miso butter was in all my cooking magazines a couple years ago, but since I rarely grilled, I didn’t know what else it could be used for. If you too are not already on the miso butter train, hopefully this will inspire you to take a ride.

Total cook time is probably less than five minutes, and the prepared miso butter will last basically forever in the fridge. What you need:

IMG_2122

My ingredients are all in Japanese, since I live in Japan, but these are all easy to find in a typical supermarket

Miso paste: yellow or white miso lends a sweeter flavor, I haven’t tried using the red miso so I can’t attest to the difference

Butter: Real, unsalted butter. No margarine! Unsalted is important too, since the miso paste is naturally salty

Brown sugar: light or dark, either is fine

Mirin: this is a slightly sweet Japanese cooking wine, similar to sake. If you can’t find mirin, feel free to use rice wine vinegar, sherry, sake, or white wine vinegar. Anything light with acidity

The basic proportions are 1:1 on the butter and the miso, so if you want 1/4 cup of miso butter, use two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of miso. Then add one tablespoon each of the mirin and brown sugar. You can add more or less to taste, depending on how sweet you want it. The mirin will add sweetness and also give the consistency a smoother texture. The miso butter when warm should be soft and spreadable, similar to melted caramel. Here’s the cooking process:

Melt your desired amount of butter on low in a small saucepan. You can also microwave the butter quickly until it’s soft, I just don’t have a microwave so I do it on the stove.

IMG_2123

Once it’s soft, add the same amount of miso paste. Whisk to combine, and if you are using the stovetop, take the pan off while you combine. You don’t want to heat the miso too much, boiling will hurt the miso’s flavor and texture.

Once the two are integrated, the sauce will look a little clumpy, but this is okay. Add your brown sugar and mirin and whisk to combine. Now the sauce should look and feel like caramel. Pour into a bowl if you are using immediately, or pour into tupperware and store in the fridge.

In the fridge, the butter will firm back up to a more solid form, If you want to use it for brushing on vegetables, just pop in the microwave for a second or dip the bottom of the tupperware in hot water for a minute.

IMG_2133

Now what can you do with your miso butter? Its most popular use seems to be a marinade for grilled vegetables. Simply brush the butter on mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, onions, etc. and set over the flame. Since I find grilling inconvenient most nights, I brush it on my veggies like asparagus, and roast them in the oven. I also use it straight from the fridge as a condiment for corn on the cob or steamed green beans. You can also use it on meats and fish. Brush on before grilling, brush on after cooking like a glaze, or use it during cooking to add flavor and moisture. I like to wrap my salmon fillets in foil and cook them in the oven. I add a little liquid (white wine, lemon juice, chicken broth or a little IMG_2135vinegar) to keep them moist, and I put a small dollop of the miso butter on top before closing up the foil packet. If you enjoy baked acorn squash, you can put the miso butter in the hollowed out center while it bakes, instead of the traditional butter and brown sugar.

Once you taste how delicious it is, you may just want to slather it on your morning toast! The uses are vast; think of any savory dish you make with butter and see if you can substitute the miso for a new flavor twist. Use it to make quick appetizers: brush it on warm French bread, top with avocado and a drizzle of olive oil, or chili oil for spice. If you discover a new great way to use miso butter, be sure to let me know so I can try it too!

Itadakimasu

 

Cooking in the shower – Octopus Carpaccio

IMG_0284

Before I came to Japan, I was convinced that I did not like octopus. My first and last experience with octopus in the states was a very chewy slab of tentacle on nigiri sushi. After trying to chew it for what seemed like five minutes, I gave up and decided it was inedible.  Therefore, I was hesitant to waste my money here in Asia to try octopus again, but one night on our vacation in Korea, we were served grilled octopus with our Korean barbeque.  Since it was free, I gave it a try and was instantly converted. It was fresh, soft and delicate, and without a strong flavor of its own so it complimented the spicy Korean chili paste. I spent the rest of our trip searching for octopus restaurants, and tried a really nice dish in Wakayama at Wara Wara, a chain restaurant here in Japan with cheap drinks and all food items under $5. Sounds corny, but it is actually quite tasty and served a dish of lightly grilled, thinly sliced octopus with a citrus vinaigrette. It inspired me to come home and create a similar dish, which can either be described as octopus ceviche or octopus carpaccio.

Neither name is accurate, since I don’t use raw octopus, but the concept of thinly sliced meat with seasoning is the same. Total cook time is under ten minutes, and I have impressed actual Japanese home cooks with this dish, so I can declare it tried and true. If you are skeptical about octopus, this is a great, inexpensive way to give it a try, or to impress your dinner guests. Here’s what you need:

IMG_2147

Octopus: In Japan, it is easy to find cooked legs of octopus at any market. In the states, you will have to try an Asian market most likely. Once its cooked, the flesh will become opaque and lightly soft yet dense to the touch. You don’t want to buy a whole fresh octopus and cook it yourself, it is a ridiculously involved process and you will have more octopus than you’ll know what to do with. Just a small leg will do

Fresh basil: While it can be hard to find in Japan, the basil really makes this dish. I’ve made it before without the basil, using green onion instead and it is still pretty yummy, but opt for basil if you can. Only a small amount is needed

Lemon juice: If you can’t find fresh lemons in Japan, you can opt for the stuff they sell in bottles, or try buying yuzu instead

Olive oil: every grocery store in Japan seems to offer olive oil now.You don’t have to buy anything expensive, simple olive oil is fine

Ground black pepper

Chili oil (optional)

To prepare the octopus, I take a sharp knife and remove the suckers. I find them to be too chewy for this dish, so just trim along the edge of the leg until it is smooth.

Now use your knife to make thin, round slices down the leg. The thinner the better. If you have a very sharp mandoline you can try using it instead. Once you have the whole leg sliced, arrange the pieces spread out flat on a plate.

Sprinkle the octopus with lemon juice, and feel free to be generous. Now drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Top with fresh ground pepper and basil chiffonade.

To slice your basil chiffonade, simply stack the leaves, roll them up and make clean vertical slices to create ribbons of basil.

Final optional touches are a couple drops of chili oil, balsamic reduction, or both! I like to add these to the edges of the plate for a nice visual touch. Serve as an appetizer or side dish to dinner. I find this particularly refreshing in summer, but as long as you can find octopus for sale, you can make it. Hopefully, you will discover how delicious octopus can be! Perhaps soon you will be as addicted to it as I am.

Itadakimasu

Tako carpaccio with pork, salad and zucchini fries

Tako carpaccio with pork, watermelon salad and zucchini fries

Cooking in the shower – 5 Minute Miso

Miso shiru

Miso shiru

For the first time in my life, I eat breakfast every day. After years of crazy college class schedules and restaurant work until all hours of the night, I have a “normal” schedule which requires me to get up at 5:30 every day. If I don’t eat breakfast, by the time school lunch is served at 12:35 I am cranky and ravenous, so I’ve learned to allot some extra time every morning to making breakfast. For the past couple months I have been on a self-imposed diet to burn off all the tonkatsu, tempura, ramen and curry rice that is oh-so-delicious but oh-so-sad for my waistline. This meant eliminating my go-to carb breakfasts of cereal and toast, and I found myself turning to the Japanese staple breakfast, miso soup. While I worried that miso preparation would not only be time consuming but boring after a few weeks, I am proud to say that miso is still delicious, and I have found a method that only takes five minutes. Without further ado I present to you “5 Minute Miso Shiru.”

Clockwise from back: dried wakame, fresh wakame, miso paste, firm tofu, instant dashi

Clockwise from back: dried wakame, fresh wakame, miso paste, firm tofu, instant dashi

Ingredients:

1 cup water

Miso paste: I prefer the white or yellow miso, as opposed to the red paste

Instant dashi: Instead of making true dashi, which is very time consuming, many Japanese cooks turn to instant. You can find it anywhere in Japan and most likely any good Asian market in the US. Look for the label “Hondashi” in the red and white packaging from Ajinomoto

Fresh wakame

Fresh wakame

Firm tofu: In Japan, this is labeled “momen” tofu, and holds up well in soups. In the states, any firm tofu is good. Once you open the tofu and slice, it only stays fresh for a few days, so the smaller package the better

Wakame: a type of seaweed abundant in Japan, wakame is usually sold dried in flakes. If you find fresh wakame, you can use it instead

Prep: for this recipe to be truly five minutes in the morning, you will need to do a few minutes of prep the night before, but it is equally easy. First, place your wakame (dried or fresh) in some hot water to soak. While it’s soaking, take your tofu out of the packing and drain the liquid. Then place it on a plate with paper towels and cover to absorb the excess liquid. Some recipes call for placing a heavy pan or such on top of the tofu, but I find this step to be unnecessary.

While the tofu sits, drain your wakame and either squeeze the extra water out with your hands or between a few paper towels. Place on a cutting board and chop into rough flakes, not too small, between the size of a quarter and a nickel (or 100 yen to 50 yen here in Japan). Place sliced wakame in tupperware.

Remove tofu from paper towels and place on cutting board. Depending on the size of your block, make cubes about the size of dice. Anything smaller may break up in the soup. Place tofu in the same tupperware and store in the fridge.

Morning of:

Tools you will need: small pot, one-cup measuring cup, whisk or fork, spoon

Measure one cup of water (I use the same boiled water I make in the morning for coffee since it’s still hot, further speeding up the cooking process) and place in the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of dashi, depending on how salty you like the broth. Whisk to combine.

With the heat still on low, add your desired amount of wakame and tofu. Since it’s only one cup, this doesn’t have to be a lot. I add a little extra tofu to make it a more substantial breakfast. Your tofu and wakame will be cold from the fridge, so give it a minute to warm up in the broth. Once it has returned to a simmer, use the same measuring cup to scoop a little bit of the hot broth from the pot. You only need about a tablespoon or two, and don’t worry if some of the wakame comes with it.

Using your spoon, take a heaping spoonful of miso paste (about a tablespoon and a half) and add to the measuring cup. Whisk (using a fork is okay) until dissolved and fully incorporated. Now add this miso liquid back into the pot, being careful not to let the pot come to a boil. Boiling the miso hurts its composition and flavor. When I add the miso I actually turn the heat off altogether. Stir to combine, place in a bowl and eat with the same spoon you used on the miso to avoid extra dishes.

Clean up: if you rinse the measuring cup, whisk (or fork) and pot out with water immediately after use, you will have virtually no dishes to do after this meal. You don’t even have to apply a sponge or soap, so don’t be lazy and save yourself some clean up in the future.

Why should you eat miso for breakfast? You might be asking yourself, even if it only takes five minutes, do I really want to go through the trouble? YES, you should! Miso is a great breakfast for so many reasons:

1. It’s healthy. Miso paste is a natural pro-biotic, meaning it helps your stomach keep digestion smooth and gives your body healthy bacteria, like yogurt, to fight off infection. Also coming in at only an average of 64 calories a cup, it is a great way to stay full on less.

2. It’s easy. If all you can be bothered to do in the morning is add milk to cereal, then yes, this recipe might seem work intensive. But if you have ever cooked anything, it will seem very simple. If you don’t cook, this is a great starter meal to ease you in.

3. It’s warm. With fall upon us, we all know “Winter is coming.” Your body will be very grateful to have a hot meal that will warm your core and get you ready for the day.

4. It’s cheap. Really. Even packaged cereal and milk will set you back more than this soup. Let’s do the math:

Miso paste, usually a large tub that will last for weeks, if not months in the fridge: $3-$4

Instant dashi, a small jar that will last for months of miso soup: $4-$5

Tofu, can last for five days of miso soup: $3

Wakame, the dried flakes last forever and will provide for months of miso: $3

Even without any fancy accounting, you are looking at less than $1.25 a day. Now tell me what other delicious, healthy and substantial breakfast can compare with that? You may have seen lots of instant miso soup packets at the store, and will be asking why don’t I just use those? Wouldn’t it be even faster? Perhaps, but as I have said before, when you can help it, NO PROCESSED FOOD. The problem with any “instant” or packaged goods are the preservatives and added sodium, sugars, etc. Plus they are a one-trick pony. You can’t do anything else with instant miso other than make miso soup. However, if you have miso paste, tofu and wakame in your fridge, you can do all kinds of other things with your cooking! So please, no instant miso.

Superfood breakfast

Superfood breakfast

Final thoughts: Since this dish is low in calories and not meant to serve as a whole meal, eat your breakfast miso with a little side something to keep yourself full ’til lunch. I add a side of fruit, and maybe a piece of cheese, but if you are not on a particular diet, feel free to add some toast, a hard-boiled egg, or if you want to go full Japanese, a small bowl of rice. I love to have apple in the morning with a small drizzle of balsamic reduction. It’s tasty and keeps my mind off peanut butter!

Now you know everything you need to enjoy five minute miso! You heard right, folks! That’s five breakfasts for five dollars in only five minutes! You’re going to like the way it tastes, I guarantee it!

Itadakimasu