Scrumptious Shrimp and Vegetable Okazu (GIFT #6)

Scrumptious Shrimp and Vegetable Okazu (GIFT #6)

posted in: Food, Grandma Inspired Fantastic Treats (GIFTs), Main Dishes | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Our last Grandma-Inspired Fantastic Treat (GIFT) was for a Perfect Rich and Sweet Blueberry Crumble. Today’s GIFT is for Scrumptious Shrimp and Vegetable Okazu. In Japanese, the traditional definition of okazu is a general name for anything that is served with steamed rice. Growing up in our house, okazu was defined as a meal consisting of some kind of meat cooked with a mix of vegetables covered in a sauce served over steamed rice. It was and still is a family favorite.

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Our grandma would cook this dish for us at least once a week. She never had a written recipe for her okazu, she used whatever meat and veggies she had on hand. The only consistent part of this dish was the sauce and the white rice. Even then, replicating the sauce was difficult since she was like every other grandma and just mixed things together, tasted it and that was it. No measurements were ever done. It took a lot of practice to perfect the sauce to taste the same as how it tasted when she made it. The recipe below is a loose guideline. Feel free to take liberties and change it up to make okazu how you like it.

First, slice up your veggies. For this recipe, we used celery, carrots, onion, and cabbage.

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Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and add the sliced veggies.

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Cook veggies for about ten minutes on medium heat. Then add chopped shrimp. The shrimpies cook fast – they only need about two minutes.

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In a large bowl, combine the chicken stock, soy sauce, ginger powder and cornstarch (for thickening). Yummy yummy sauce.

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Add the sauce to the pan and cook until sauce has thickened and mixture is bubbling.

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Serve with rice!

Scrumptious Shrimp and Vegetable Okazu

Scrumptious Shrimp and Vegetable Okazu


  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 4 c sliced cabbage
  • 2 lbs shrimp, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 T garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 2 t ginger powder
  • 1 1/2 T cornstarch


  1. Heat large fry pan and olive oil to medium heat.
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery and cabbage.
  3. Cook vegetables until almost done then add shrimp.
  4. Mix stock, soy sauce, ginger powder and cornstarch.
  5. Cook until shrimp are pink.
  6. Increase heat to medium high, add liquid mixture and cook until bubbling and thick.
  7. Serve over steamed rice.
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Woof Trekking Dispatch #4: Japantown and Lombard Street, July 2012

Woof Trekking Dispatch #4: Japantown and Lombard Street, July 2012

posted in: Dispatches, On the Road, Woof Trekking | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Our fourth dispatch from our very first Woof Trek is from San Francisco. You can check out our previous entries in this series here. You can check out our new book, Woof Trekking, on Amazon and Kobo.

We started off the day by going to Japantown, located in the Western Addition district of San Francisco. Prior to 1906, there were actually two Japantowns since San Francisco was the main port of entry of Japanese immigrants, but after the 1906 earthquake only one survived. According to Wikipedia, Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest enclave of Japanese residents in the United States.

The earthquake of 1906 is an important time in our own family history because both of our maternal great-grandfathers witnessed the destruction caused by the earthquake as they were arriving by boat from Japan (our grandma’s father) and from Hawaii (our grandpa’s father).
san francisco, japantown peace plaza, peace pagoda
We found a nice parking spot at the corner of Sutter Street and Buchanan Street and walked across Sutter to wander around.
san francisco, traffic light, street sign
Our first stop was the Japantown Peace Plaza. This Plaza holds several events throughout the year marking Japanese holidays. At the heart of this Plaza is the Peace Pagoda. The Pagoda was built in 1968, designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi and was a gift from the people of Osaka, San Francisco’s sister city in Japan.
san francisco, peace pagoda, japantown peace plaza
After walking around the Peace Plaza we ventured into the Japan Center East Mall. We went into a couple of shops, but our favorite was Daiso Japan. They had all sorts of household items but the most impressive section was these colorful containers, arranged in perfect order. It was quite the sight to see.
daiso japan, store, japanese, store, Japan Center East Mall
While walking around the mall, we stumbled across this fabulous mural of Japanese umbrellas.
Japan Center East Mall, mural

After doing some shopping, we hopped back into the car and set off to see Lombard Street.
san francisco, cars, road, hill,
This street is dubbed, “The most crooked street in the world.” It is located in the Russian Hill neighborhood. We took the slow, winding route down the hill. You can’t go too fast with all the switchbacks in the street. In the distance, you can see stately Coit Tower. You can also see Yerba Buena and Treasure Island further out into the bay, accessible via the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
san francisco, cars, road, hill,
The homes lining along this street seemed quaint. This the biggest and probably the oldest bougainvillea we have ever seen! Very beautiful in full bloom.
san francisco, cars, road, hill,

Another shot, a few turns down the street.

san francisco, cars, road, hill,

You can take a virtual tour of Lombard Street on Google Maps.

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Woof Trekking Japantown and Lombard Street

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Happy Boys’ (Children’s) Day and Let’s Make Mochi!

Happy Boys’ (Children’s) Day and Let’s Make Mochi!

posted in: Food, Side Dishes, Travel | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The fifth of May is well known in America as Cinco de Mayo, which is sometimes also referred to as Cinco de Drinko.

But for Japanese families, May 5th is Boys’ Day, also known as Children’s Day. The celebration has transformed over time to celebrate not only boys but all children on this day. Girls’ Day is celebrated on March 3rd, also known as Dolls’ Day.

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According to Chinese legend, it is said that carp (koi in Japanese) that swim through the Dragon Gate rapids in the Yellow River turn into dragons. (For more, read The Animal in Far Eastern Art by T. Volker (1950).)

On Boys’ Day, families in Japan proudly display carp windsocks affixed to a pole, one for each parent and one for each child. When the wind catches the carp it appears as though the fish are swimming.

carp, koi, boys day, childrens day, japan
A koi windsock pole we picked up in Japantown in San Francisco.

A traditional celebration of Boys’ Day includes the eating of mochi which has gained more popularity in the US over the past decade. For those unfamiliar with mochi, it is sweet rice that has been cooked in water, pounded into a thick, sticky paste and then formed into disks. On it’s own it can be kind of bland. You might say it is an acquired taste. I like to consume it in a brothy shoyu soup with shrimp and spinach. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water.

Zojirushi Mochi Maker

The process of making mochi is pretty easy now since we have mochi making machines (pictured above) that cook the rice and beat or “pound” the rice to the correct consistency. All you have to do is soak the rice in water overnight. Watching the mochi spinning, round and round is mesmerizing, as you can see in the video below.

The only difficult part is once it is done, it is an extremely hot (like molten lava hot) mound of rice paste. It can be difficult to handle if you have sensitive hands, but the end product is totally worth it.
The mochi needs to be portioned out into smaller servings before it has cooled and hardened too much. This is the time to put sweet red bean paste in the center of your mochi if you enjoy daifuku.
You can read more about how to make mochi with a mochi maker with step by step instructions at Of Rice and Ramen.
If your mouth is watering too, here’s a great recipe for Mochi Ice Cream from Just One Cookbook. The recipe uses Mochiko, sweet rice flour, which is a much quicker method than using a mochi maker.

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