Okuizome

To celebrate my little man’s 100 days on earth, I prepared a feast for his “first eating” or okuizome as per the traditions of my ancestors. The okuizome is a Japanese weaning ceremony held 100 days after birth to celebrate the tiny person and wish him an abundance of good food throughout his life. Since eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I wanted to make sure my little man would have an abundance of deliciousness throughout his life. Of course, little man does not have any teeth yet, nor is he eating a dungeness crab, so we just pretended to feed him. Yes, I pretend fed a toothless baby a celebratory crab carcass. Then I took photos as per another proud Japanese tradition of enthusiastic photo-documentation.

Though traditions vary with region, according to my mom and the interwebs, a typical okuizome meal includes red bean rice (osekihan), a whole red snapper with head and tail intact (tai) to symbolize a strong neck, other auspicious foodstuffs such as octopus, lotus root, beans, or pickled plum (umeboshi), and a smooth round pebble to symbolize strong teeth.

In Japan, babies are dressed in fancy kimonos and have okuizome dining sets with tiny dishes for the occasion. For example, check out my cousin Anna’s little man’s okuizome portrait with his whole fish!

Here in Davis, I had to improvise a bit. My local supermarket did not sell a red snapper or any whole fish with the head and tail intact except for a limp looking rainbow trout. Clearly, you cannot have a proper celebration without a proper carcass. So I went with a dungeness crab instead. I figured it’s reddish in color, a proud celebratory carcass, a nice nod to the region and season, and I got to eat it afterwards. I asked the guy at the fish counter for one baby octopus which I boiled. I included a slice of melon on the tray because Japanese people love melon (don’t really know why) and placed a smooth rock that I found on a beach in Hawaii in the dish. Oh and I actually made osekihan from scratch!

Osekihan is eaten during special occasions in Japan and made with mochi rice and azuki beans which give the rice a pinkish color. It is the Japanese version of beans and rice. In general, I am not a big bean fan and I had never made beans and rice in my life. I also always thought osekihan was made by pouring some prepackaged “osekihan” powder into cooked rice which turned it pink. But for my little man, I actually soaked the azuki beans overnight and prepared osekihan for him. Here it is sprinkled with black sesame seeds and salt (gomashio) and served in little man’s special rabbit bowl.

Little man’s okuizome may have been a wee unconventional, but it had some California flair and it’s really the effort and spirit that counts.  And even though I know this is a food blog, I had to include one picture of my little man.

Shellfish Holiday

We three squabbling asians have a different idea of celebrating Independence Day.  This year, in celebration of Yuan’s new real job, he decided to blow his paycheck on shellfish and he, along with Little Miss, showed up to Davis with a giant cooler full of blue crab, spot prawn, lobsters, clams, and oysters.  Then we cooked it all and ate ourselves into a shellfish stupor.   First, Little Miss and Bjorn had the brilliant idea of conducting a spot prawn race on a papertowel track.  Turns out tiny legs and large bodies do not allow them to travel very far – or really at all outside of water.  Next time, they should try the friskier blue crab.

We made a decadent paella with the spot prawn, crabs, and clams.  Here, one of the blue crab is attempting an escape.

We split the lobsters, then grilled them with herb butter.  The oysters were eaten on the half-shell by everyone but me due to my gestational state.  I’m bitter about it so I am not including any pictures.

A shellfish feast!

Ginger Scallion Crabbiness!

Yuan’s Amazing Ginger Scallion Crab

  • 2 large live Dungeness crabs
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 4 green onions, chopped, separate and reserve about a tablespoon of the green parts
  • 3 tbs minced ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • ¼ cup water

Sauce

  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Steam the crabs over high heat for 14 minutes and cool immediately by rinsing crabs with cold water.

Crack open the crabs and discard top, break the body and legs into sections. Use a heavy rolling pin to crack legs slightly.

Combine corn starch and water mix into a slurry.

Combine ingredients for sauce and have it ready.

Heat a wok to medium high heat. Coat the wok with oil and stir fry scallion, ginger and garlic until lightly browned.

Add the corn starch slurry and sauce and stir to combine.

Let the mixture cook for about a minute to thicken, taste at this point and add salt and pepper if needed.

Add the crab sections back in and stir to coat well. Cook for about a minute. Add the reserved green scallions and toss.

Shellfish and Dumpling Birthday

To celebrate another glorious year of Little Miss, Yuan and I decided to cook up a nice birthday dinner. Little Miss, not one to turn down any dinner, immediately demanded “shellfish and dumplings!” We were happy to oblige since we also enjoy shellfish and dumplings. We decided on a menu of familiar Little Miss favorites.

Yuan bought two dozen sweetwater and one dozen kumamoto oysters for the occasion. He could not shuck them fast enough before the rest of us sucked them down with a perfectly vinegary mignonette he concocted. Those little, lusciously briny sea creatures were milky and amazing.

Little Miss likes making dumplings almost as much as she loves eating them, and our nimble fingers created a batch of the always popular pork gyoza. Yuan pan fried them and made a dipping sauce, and I made an accompaniment of shrimp fried rice, an old Little Miss favorite.

Yuan ceremoniously dispatched a pair of dungeness crabs and made this AMAZING ginger scallion crab. (See recipe above!!) There was crab flying everywhere as Little Miss and I fought to eat every tiny morsel of crab possible. I was literally licking the crabby ginger sauce off the bottom of the platter at the end of the meal. We finished the meal with a two layer French yogurt cake smothered in whipped cream frosting (hey, it didn’t look pretty but it tasted good) and a champagne toast to Little Miss. Happy Birthday Little Miss and cheers for another joyous occasion for us to celebrate with yumminess!

Crabby Hush Puppies

These hush puppies are stuffed to bursting with delicious crab, which is in season in the Bay Area starting in mid-November. They are particularly delicious when dunked in remoulade. We made them as a Thanskgiving appetizer with cornmeal my mom sends from the Graue Mill in Oak Brook, Illinois, where they grind the corn between two giant stone wheels powered by a waterwheel. Apparently it was also a stop on the Underground Railroad (you really do learn something every day). Their cornmeal is delicious, sweet with a chunky, uneven grind that only comes from doin’ it the old way.

Crab Hush Puppies

  • 6 cups, ish, vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c plus 2 tbsp well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 c cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • indulgent fistfuls of lump crabmeat – I think we used around 3/4 lb

Heat oil to 375 in a wide, heavy 5-quart pot over medium heat. While oil heats, mince and mash garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt, then whisk together with eggs, buttermilk, and scallions.

Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl, then stir in buttermilk mixture until just combined. Stir in crabmeat – we pretty much put in as much as we thought the batter could take without falling apart.

Working in batches of 10, carefully drop tablespoonfuls of batter into the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Keep them warm in the oven if you can keep your hands off them long enough for them to get cold.

Remoulade

  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped coarse
  • 1 1/2 tsp sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced fresh parsley

Pulse all ingredients in mini-chopper until well combined but not yet smooth, about 10 1-second pulses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

…..fried crab niblets….