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Tag Archives: snacks


Baked shiitake wontons

What are your top 5 favorite foods?

It’s so hard to choose. I know avocado would be on that list, but filling in those other 4 spots gets fuzzy. Eggs? Yogurt? Strawberries? I like all of those things and eat them frequently, but I don’t know if they count as favorites just because I eat so much of them.

close up wonton

I think I could pretty confidently put mushrooms on that list though. My love for mushrooms is deep and passionate. I love the way they smell, the way they feel, the rubbery sound they make when you slice into them, and of course I love the flavor. I simply swoon over dark, earthy, smoky flavors. A hot cup of pu-erh tea. An oily glass of scotch. B-grade maple syrup. Crisp bacon. Miso…

baked shiitake wontons

I have tried so many mushrooms in search of my favorite, and among many fine contenders, that title deservedly goes to the shiitake. It’s just perfect. No trace of muddiness, a little sweet, and with a strong earthy perfume that can knock you over if you inhale too eagerly.

Bag of shiitakes

I’m always looking for new ways to use shiitakes so that I can savor them in endless ways. This is a recipe that’s been on my mind for a while but that I’ve only just now gotten around to testing out. I decided to bake these shiitake wontons because I hate deep frying. It’s such a process and then there’s the whole ordeal of figuring out how to store the leftover oil when you’re done. Not to mention, it’s not the healthiest cooking method.

I think people get similarly intimidated by making dumplings (filled wontons totally count as dumplings.) It’s just so not a big deal once you try it. Just make a filling, put a dollop of it onto the wrapper, wet one edge and fold it over, press firmly and you have a dumpling. Repeat that a few more times and you have a meal. I used to make pork potstickers for dinner all the time and it was one of my quickest to put together meals. Once you get over the fear of it, you see that it’s really very simple.

Shiitake mousse on wonton

Folded shiitake wonton


If you’ve never tried making dumplings before, this recipe is a good place to start. The filling comes together quickly and the oven does all the work of crisping these little babies up. And the smell in the kitchen! If you love the smell of mushrooms as much as I do, you’ll be positively enamored with the aroma that’ll be wafting through the house as these bake. It’s warm and woody and damp and dark.


Baked shiitake wontons

Crispy wontons are baked rather than fried and filled with an earthy mixture of shiitake mushrooms and tofu.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • a half block (8oz.) firm tofu
  • 6oz. shiitake mushroom caps (remove stems)
  • 2 large scallions (chopped)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. mirin
  • 1 package frozen wonton wrappers
  • spray canola oil or other flavorless spray oil
  • salt to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Allow wonton wrappers to thaw on the counter for about an hour to become pliable before use.
  2. Break apart tofu into a tea towel and wring as much of the liquid out as you possibly can.
  3. Add the tofu, along with the shiitake mushroom caps, the scallions, and the garlic to a food processor and pulse to combine.
  4. Add soy sauce and mirin and process until a mousse-like texture is achieved.
  5. Apply a small teaspoon-sized amount of the mixture to the center of a wonton wrapper, dab a small amount of water onto 2 adjoining edges, fold over into a triangle, and press around the edges to seal.
  6. Arrange wontons on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spray liberally with a canola oil spray or other flavorless oil spray.
  7. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes on the first side, flip wontons over and spray again with oil, then bake for an additional 8 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle wontons with salt as soon as they come out of the oven, while still hot.


Protip: Don’t eat shiitake stems! They’re edible but really twiggy and unpleasant. The measurement for the shiitakes in the recipe above is for the weight of the caps alone, remove stems before measuring! And if you don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh out the correct amount, just shoot for around 20 or so medium sized caps. A little more or less is totally fine.

Shiitake wonton bite

I am extremely fortunate to be able to buy shiitakes for a very low price at a local market – I can get a whole bag full of them for around $3. This allows me to load up on the little gems every week and feast on them to my heart’s delight. I’ve seen them listed very expensively at most places though, so if shiitakes are prohibitively expensive in your neck of the woods, just substitute half of them with criminis. Not white button mushrooms though. Button mushrooms have their place, that place is on pizzas, sliced on salads, and occasionally as filler in a creamy mushroom sauce alongside a better mushroom – like the crimini. Not to mention button mushrooms are always so filthy! The leathery texture of shiitake caps seems to naturally repel dirt, so there’s another point in their favor.

Hope you love these as much as I did. Reheat them in a toaster oven to bring back that crispiness, if there even are any leftovers!

Are you a mushroom lover? What are some of your top 5 favorite foods?



Broiled grapefruit with ginger sugar

Ok, I need a break from talking about the book for a while. I’m sure you guys are ready for something new too. šŸ˜‰

Who’s ready for spring?!! I don’t know about you guys but I am counting down the days until short sleeves, sunny walks, and refreshing warm-weather fruits. I’m craving berries. Every time I go to the farmer’s market and pass the table packed with those little green plastic cartons overflowing with plump red strawberries, I have to force myself to keep walking and not fall for their ruse. It is not berry season. Those strawberries will be watery and sour and unsatisfying.

Right now I’m combatting this need for refreshing fruit flavors with the last of winter’s citrus. I just annihilated an entire red grapefruit with lunch, sliced into wedges like an orange, making little smiles of rind as I chomp down on each one. I never eat grapefruit like that for some reason. I always see grapefruit served so preciously, either sliced into thin naked supremes on top of a fragile salad, or as I’ve chosen to serve it in the recipe I’m sharing with you today – broiled with a sugary crust, each shining bite precisely carved out with a sharp little spoon.

sliced grapefruit

But you guys know I can’t just broil a grapefruit and be done with it, right? I’ve gotta find a way to insert one of my favorite asian flavors in there somehow. This is a common springboard for me as far as recipe creation goes – I take an already delicious food and make it marvelous with a fun new flavor.

This time, I’ve used spicy grated ginger to balance with the sweet sugar andĀ bitter grapefruit. I debated for a long time wether or not to feature ginger as one of the highlighted ingredients in The Japanese Pantry, and ultimately decided to let it play a supporting role instead. It certainly shines in this recipe though.

ginger sugar

I loved the smell of the ginger sugar as I was making this. The fresh wetness of the grated ginger soaked right into the sugar, lightly dissolving it into the texture of wet sand. It makes a grainy slushing sound as it mixes together, like the sound of walking through melting snow.

ginger sugar

I ended up broiling this in a toaster oven. I tried it once before in a regular oven and the fruit was too far from the heating element, it just kind of melted rather than caramelizing. This time though, the toaster oven crisped the topping up nicely and just barely browned the edges. I love how the fruit blisters in the heat and bulges up out of the rind. The ginger flavor was definitely present but not at all overpowering.

Broiled grapefruit with ginger sugar

I must confess though, that even with this typically “precious” presentation, it was not eaten daintily. I hacked it up with my blunt little spoon before turning it inside out and biting the rest off in big chunks until only a ragged pithy peel was left. It definitely satisfied my desire for summery flavors. I see myself having this bright little breakfast weekly until my beloved berries are finally ready.


Broiled grapefruit with ginger sugar

Gingery sugar encrusts juicy bitter grapefruit for a sweet and lightly spicy treat.

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 medium red grapefruit
  • 2 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice grapefruit in half, remove any large seeds, and place cut side up on a heat safe dish or tray lined with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together ginger and sugar until it is the texture of wet sand.
  3. Top each grapefruit half with half of the sugar mixture and pat with the back of a spoon to spread it out to the edges.
  4. Toast in a toaster oven for 12 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. (The toast setting on my toaster oven only goes up to 6 minutes, so I just left it in for 2 cycles.)


Are there any spring and summer foods you’re desperately craving?



Teaser recipe: Crispy “Popcorn” Edamame

Thank you all for the incredible response I’ve received to the news of my cookbook, The Japanese Pantry, finally going on sale. It feels really good to hear that so many of you were excited about it and had been anticipating it for some time. And thank you to each of you who have already purchased a copy or intend to soon. Every sale feels like a validation that I’ve created something interesting and worthwhile. I’ve been very hypercritical of every recipe, every story, every photo that went into this book because I know that I’m still a novice at this and have so much to learn. Already, as I plan for the next two (yes two!) books that I have in mind, I see ways in which I can improve upon this first endeavor and produce something even more informative and beautiful next time.

I thought today I’d share a recipe from the book that’s incredibly easy to put together. These crispy “popcorn” edamame were so good that even though I nailed the recipe the first time I made them, I ended up making another test batch “just to be sure.” I might have eaten the whole batch in one sitting.


Crispy "Popcorn" Edamame

From the book:

“We all love crunchy snacks. For some it’s crispy chips, for others it’s crackers, and for still others only a bowl of buttery popcorn will do. But all that carb-laden junk food is just that – junk. It’s hard to find a healthy snack that satisfies the craving for salt and fat without busting your gut. These crunchy roasted “popcorn” edamame come close. They have all the crispiness of a potato chip and are endlessly poppable, but contain just a scant teaspoon of oil. The delightful texture and bright flavor will have you snacking happy.”

And here’s how simple they are to make…

Crispy "Popcorn" Edamame

A poppable snack that makes for a healthier alternative to chips or crackers, but with all the satisfying crunch.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: makes about 2 cups


  • one 12oz. bag of frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • the juice from half a lemon (about 2 tsp.)
  • sprinkle of salt (to taste)

Cooking Directions

  1. Allow frozen edamame to thaw on the counter or under lukewarm running water.
  2. In a large bowl, toss edamame with oil and lemon juice.
  3. Bake at 375F degrees on a foil-lined baking sheet for 40 to 45 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.
  4. Sprinkle over salt to taste while edamame are still hot. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

I love that edamame (young soy beans) are found in almost all major grocery stores these days. They are a really tasty snack food that even children love, despite resembling other less yummy green vegetables. This is one Japanese ingredient that has definitely made its way into the mainstream. Maybe someday kids will be snacking on pickled plums instead of candy too. Seriously doubt that one though.