Pomme no Ki – Kamata

I love omu raisu!  It is a great complete meal for lacto-ovo vegetarians, and there are so many great options.  One of my favorite omu raisu restaurants is Pomme no Ki (ポムの樹), a common chain restaurant found in many department stores.  Pomme no Ki is great because they are vegetarian-friendly!  The ketchup fried rice they use has bacon in it, but all you have to do is say “bacon nashi onegaishimasu” and they will make it with no bacon for you!  One thing to note is that there are several rice options… butter rice and ketchup rice are usual and sometimes there are limited menu items with special rice.  I always get the ketchup rice without bacon.

During my last visit, there were some special menu items based on Italian food.  I got the ketchup rice option of Italian Tomato, which had Italian tomatoes, baby leaf lettuce, avocado, and an Italian-based tomato sauce.  So yummy!

Pomme no Ki, Kamata:
Address: GranDuo Kamata West Building 7F; 7-68-1 Nishi Kamata; Ota-ku, Tokyo 144-0051
Phone: 03-5713-6279
Hours: 11:00-22:00 (L.O. 21:30)
             Open every day that GranDuo is open
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Autumn Heaven

Anyone who has ever lived in Japan for even a short time knows that Japan is a country of 4 seasons. Every season is completely different – not just in terms of the weather, but also in terms of what food is eaten. For me, Spring is mountain vegetables like zenmai; Summer is white peaches; Autumn is matsutake; and Winter is mikan.
Now, it is officially Autumn. The Autumn Equinox is today, and my husband and I were feeling especially seasonal when we spotted some matsutake for sale at a small grocery store. I first ate matsutake when visiting Kyoto, and fell in complete love with a dish known as dobinmushi, a type of soup made with matsutake and served with mitsuba, ginkgo nuts, and sudachi. Heaven, indeed!
Well, unfortunately matsutake are very expensive! We got 4 for 2500 JPY, about $25.00. These came with 1 sudachi. Not enough citrus for me! That’s okay, we visited another grocery store and got the other ingredients. So, here we go. Our recipe was:

Matsutake mushrooms. We only used one mushroom for the soup. We used another to make matsutake rice, and stored the last two wrapped in paper for the next day.

Konbu. This is essential for the broth, especially if you want to make a good vegan broth.

Our broth wasn’t vegan, as we added Katsuobushi. I know, not even vegetarian! But we only used it for the broth, and I am okay with dashi – it is sort of a requirement in Japan.

Mitsuba. Chopped finely – a key ingredient to make the flavor of the dobinmushi.
Ginkgo nuts – we bought them in a clear plastic bag (this many were about 700 JPY) and repackaged in a Ziploc as they go bad quickly. We used 6 nuts for the soup.
Sudachi. One per person is how we do it – we both love citrus!

Dashi Recipe:

800 ml water
12 g konbu
10 g katsuobushi (if you are going vegan, try shitake mushrooms instead, maybe…)
-Wipe konbu with a wet cloth, but don’t wash
-Put konbu into cold water and heat
-Just as the water comes to a boil, remove konbu (if you leave longer, it will taste bitter)
-Over weak heat, add katsuobushi
-Boil lightly until katsuobushi begins to float
-Filter katsuobushi from dashi
-Cool
Dobinmushi Recipe:
3 cups dashi
1 matsutake mushroom, cut into small slices – DO NOT WASH! Wipe with wet cloth.
2 tablespoons cooking sake
3/4 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ginkgo nuts
2 tablespoons mitsuba, chopped
2 sudachi
SERVES 2
-Boil dashi, soy sauce, salt, and cooking sake, then add ginkgo nuts.
-Pour into pre-heated dobin pot
-Add matsutake, cover, and heat about 7 minutes
-Remove from heat, add mitsuba, and serve with cups and halved sudachiClick here for a great video of matsutake no dobinmushi preparation. (Not me!)
How the matsutake should look. Make sure you cut off the bottoms, too.
Our konbu strips, before cooking.
Katsuobushi, in the strainer, being weighed. That’s a lot!
Straining the dashi after cooking.
Cracking the ginkgo nuts – they are hard to crack!
After cracking/shelling, before cooking.
We boiled the ginkgo nuts for a while (about 2-3 min in water – until the brown/white membrane peels off and you are left with the green nuts) – we froze the ones we didn’t use.
We sadly don’t have dobin pots. Instead, we used our tea pot. I know, pathetic!! Also, we had no way to directly heat the pot, so we improvised by using a vegetable steamer in our biggest pot and steaming the tea pot and dobinmushi that way.
Our finished – and DELICIOUS dobinmushi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In a tea cup to sip, with a sudachi on the side. We got about 2 cups each, so I used a whole half of a sudachi in each serving. YUM!
Usually, you eat the stuff from the soup first. Our tea pot didn’t allow for that because the opening was too small. We put our delicious matsutake, mitsuba, and ginkgo nuts into the tea cups and ate this way. YUM!!!

Obento

With the economy as bad as it has been lately, I decided that I would start making my own lunch to take to work. Obento are Japanese style lunches, and are ever popular in Japan. Moms compete to see who makes the cutest bento lunches for their kids and even adults take their own lunches, neatly made up into healthy and attractive portions. Apparently, having five colors in your meal is ideal – it means your meal is more balanced. Even in America, bento-style is catching on.

I went to the dollar store (actually, the 100 yen shop) and got myself a sandwich box, a bento box, and a pair of portable chopsticks (much more eco-friendly!). Total cost: 330 yen (about $300). As you see, it is very plain, but cute, too!

I aimed for 5 colors, with protein, carbs, and a little fat. My choice for carbs was genmai onigiri coated with gomashio instead of the more traditional nori. On the side, I added two little umeboshi. So far: white, black, red.

For the rest of the meal, I wanted lots of veggies and a little protein. Genmai does have protein, of course, but I added tamagoyaki (hubby made this for me, as I have never made it before) for extra protein and some fat. I cut up some fresh cucumbers and washed some cherry tomatoes (both red and yellow ones, but they are hidden by the grapes) and added a small bento-sized Kewpie as the “dressing” for my salad. I lightly steamed some sliced carrots. For dessert, some fresh grapes finished my meal. So here I add: green, orange, yellow, and purple. I had 6 colors! Yay!

The meal was yummy – not bad for my first attempt at making bento! Plus, altogether it was way cheaper than buying something at the local conbini or going to a restaurant. Hopefully I will be able to make better looking obento in the future.