Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Instant fried rice: Instant delight!

You can find these fried rice mix at Marukai in Santa Monica.

Ever wonder what the secret behind Japanese fried rice is? How modest yet present flavors meet to sing in perfect harmony, creating a fried rice that's so addictive? Katsuobushi (bonito flavored stock) is part of the equation, but why spend time trying to figure out the secret recipe when you can walk into any Japanese supermarket and buy instant fried rice mix! And these powdered mix packets taste like the real thing: The roasted garlic mix is mild yet smoky, while the shrimp and crab flavored ones taste a little fishy (in the best possible way!) and just like the sea.

With packets like these, you can create some outstanding and unforgettable *chahan dishes while saving on cooking time! Add an egg, some chopped onions, carrots and celery (we love adding mushrooms too!), and your chahan will be ready in less than 10 minutes.

No one has to know your famous, well-loved fried rice is coming from a packet either. This will be our little secret!

* chahan means fried rice in Japanese

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tofu with pork and kimchi sauce

Meaty and spicy sauce poured over silken tofu makes this protein anything but boring! This quick tofu with pork and kimchi shows how a simple block of tofu can be transformed into something spectacular.

Serves 4 people


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 blocks of tofu
  • 150 grams of pork, finely sliced and cut bite size
  • 150 grams of kimchi, chopped bite size
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp, finely chopped ginger
  • 1clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp  sake
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp potato starch mixed with 1tbsp cold water


  1. Wrap tofu in paper towel and leave for 10 minutes to remove excess water. Cut into bite size cubes and set aside.
  2. In a large pan over high heat, add vegetable oil, garlic and ginger. Fry for 2 minutes. 
  3. Add pork and cook for 2 minutes, until cooked through. Add kimchi and cook for another minute.
  4. Add chicken broth, sake, soy and miso paste, and stir well. Turn down the heat to a simmer.
  5. Add tofu cubes and stir well.
  6. Add potato starch mix and stir well until the sauce thickens (add more if you prefer thicker).
  7. Turn the heat off, add sesame oil and scallions and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve with warm white rice.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Morimoto's tips on good sushi

Who better than Iron chef Masaharu Morimoto to teach us about sushi! As one of the celebrity chefs invited recently to teach at the Culinary Institute in New York, chef Morimoto took the students on a step-by-step journey from gutting, deboning and slicing an entire tuna all the way to the finishing touches of what makes first-rate sushi. 

Photo by Laura Togut

1: The brighter the color, the fattier the tuna is likely to be.
2: Slice tuna filets in one long, clean stroke with a long knife.

3: Sushi is supposed to be finger food, so use your hands.
4: Dip sushi fish-side-down into soy sauce so the rice doesn't sog up.
5: Eat your nigiri whole.

Maki (Rolls):
6: Dried sheets of nori have a shiny and dull side. Work dull-side-down for stability.
7: Shape the rice delicately. Don't press down hard.
8: If working from larger cuts of tuna, little scaps and end bits are perfect for maki.
9: Use a bamboo rolling mat after shaping by hand for best results. Don't use the map to shape the roll initially.
Photo by Laura Togut

10: If using fresh wasabi, slice it for less heat and grate it for more heat.
11: The fattier the tuna, the more wasabi it can take. And DON'T mix your wasabi with your soy sauce!
Photo by Laura Togut

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Butter and soy: Japan's favorite mix

A very simple yet delicious pasta with soy, butter and mushrooms.

And not only is it a Japanese favorite, it's also one of chef Jean-George Vongerichten's favorite flavor combinations. Complementing each other to a tee, butter and soy can be used in many different ways, and with many different ingredients, such as this pasta with mushrooms recipe. Pan fried daikon with soy and butter is also terrific or mixing worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground pepper with this combo to make a delicious steak sauce. Lots can be achieve with these two simple ingredients; share your own recipe and we'll post it on our blog!

Butter and soy spaghetti:

1 lb dry spaghetti
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms
1/4 lb beech mushrooms (bunashimeji) or other Japanese mushrooms
1 tbsp sake
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp neutral oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pasta water
fresh ground black pepper
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to the boil.
In a large pan over high heat, add oil, 1 tbsp butter and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes and add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add half of the parsley and mix well. Turn heat off and wait until the pasta is cooked. While the pasta is boiling, reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain your pasta and add to the pan of cooked mushrooms.
Turn the heat to low and add the remaining chopped parsley. Mix well and add soy sauce, butter and sake. Mix well again, making sure all the pasta is coated with all the ingredients. Add a good amount of fresh ground black pepper and a little bit of the pasta water to make the sauce more unctuous.
Serve with fresh parmesan.
Recipe taken from

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This weekend - Bamboo recommends you try these rolls

Some yummy combinations Chef Toshi's come up with! We've got classics and new creations straight from Bamboo's kitchen, using only fresh ingredients.

To see the whole sushi and roll selection, click here.

Baked Crab Roll

Made with avocado, asparagus, masago and crab. Quickly baked and brushed with soy and butter. Decadence without the guilt. We like!

Dragon Roll

Classic goodness! Ours is made with shrimp tempura, cucumber, freshwater eel, avocado and brushed with sweet soy for added umami.

Salmon Skin

Delicious AND great for the skin! Baked salmon skin, cucumber, yamagobo, onion and katsuo bushi meet in this truly unique creation.

Shrimp tempura

Another classic we all love, and this one is perfectly executed! Shrimp tempura, cucumber, masago with a little sweet soy.


Is there anything better than deep fried soft shell crab? This roll is crunchy, warm, moist and incredibly flavorful! Deep fried soft shell crab, cucumber and masago. No bells or whistles needed when you have an ingredient as special as soft shell crab!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What is Umami?


It's one of the five basic tastes. We all understand sweet, sour, salty and bitter very well since they were explained to us and have been part of our vocabulary for as long as we know. Umami on the other hand didn't really come into the picture until recently (even though the taste was identified in 1908 in Tokyo by professor Kikunae Ikeda, who one day noticed that the taste of kombu dashi, kelp broth, was different than any other basic flavors). It wasn't until 1985 that it became recognized as the fifth basic taste. Nowadays, the term is widely used in anything from TV commercials, articles and cooking shows. 

The quick way to explain umami is that it has a meaty, savory, long lasting taste. The reason why it's so difficult to describe is because there is no translation for the word (the literal translation is close to 'pleasant savory taste.') Umami's role is to enhance and round the flavor of a dish (think of MSG). Umami stimulates the mouth and throat, creating a mouth watering feeling. On its own, umami doesn't taste that great, but mixed with other flavors and ingredients, it amplifies the taste intensity.

Understanding Glutamate (the basis of umami)
taken from

The amino acid glutamate could well be called "nature's flavor enhancer" because it conveys the umami taste in foods. Glutamate is also well known among food and nutrition professionals as one of the most common "building blocks" of protein. As such, it's no surprise that most foods contain some amount of glutamate. Protein foods, such as meat, fish, cheese, milk and some vegetables are especially good sources of glutamate. Not coincidentally, these foods also have a lot of umami taste. In some foods, the amount of glutamate they contain—and their flavor—increases as they age or ripen. For example, according to research, aged ham and aged cheese have much more glutamate than their "younger" counterparts. A tomato is also a good example. As it ripens from green to red, its glutamate content increases dramatically. The superior flavor of the ripe tomato can be attributed, in part, to its higher glutamate level.

Foods containing lots of umami (glutamate):
soy sauce, mushrooms, cheeses, cured meats, fish (sardines, oysters, shrimp paste), seaweed,
ripe tomatoes, soybeans, truffle, green tea.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quick and healthy spinach and eggdrop soup recipe

Bamboo Izakaya's quick and healthy recipe of the week!

Similar to miso soup but made with a clear broth, spinach, tofu and egg drop soup is easy to make and great for those looking to shed a few pounds, without having to give up on good flavors! 

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 bag of pre-washed spinach (about 4 handfuls)
  • 1/2 box of silken tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
  • scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 8 cups bonito broth (I use powdered bonito and use about 1/2 tsp per cup)
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  •  salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring the broth to boil. Meanwhile, chop the spinach into strips
  2. (chiffonade style, by stacking the leaves and rolling them into a tube, then
  3. chopping them into strips). When the water is boiling, add the mirin and soy,
  4. stir well. Break the eggs in a small bowl and lightly whisk. Turn the heat down
  5. so the broth is simmering, slowly add the eggs and gently whisk while stirring.
  6. Add spinach, scallions and tofu. Cook for another 5 minutes, season with salt
  7. and pepper, and serve.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wasabi beer anyone?

Last week we shared with you a list of bright and summer cocktails to sip and share among friends, while enjoying the beautiful beach view. Today, to celebrate yet another lovely sunny weekend, we're showing you 3 very interesting craft beers from Japan served and loved here at Bamboo. Kampai!

#1. Wasabi Pilsner 

Not for the faint of heart, this green colored beer does taste like wasabi and packs a spicy punch! The flavors are herbal, spicy and earthy with a light and smooth finish.

#2. Tama no Megumi 

Tama no Megumi beer - meaning 'the blessing of Tama', is brewed with natural underground springs of the Nishitama area. There's no filtration nor pasteurization process, only the genuine taste of pale ale with a fruity aroma and smooth finish.

#3. Coedo sweet potato lager

From the Kawagoe region, this beer is made with roasted sweet potatoes and high quality malts. It  then ferments for a long period of time to fully develop its flavors as well as bring an alcohol content slightly higher than your average beer. The finish is smooth, slightly sweet with low to medium bitterness.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dos and Don'ts of Izakaya dining

Always pour drinks for others and let others pour for you.

Planting chopsticks in rice is a big no no because this is how it's served when people die.

Ever worried that you might offend someone by unknowingly disrespecting their customs?

Here are a few basic and popular customs good to know if you're planning a trip Japan or visiting a traditional Japanese establishment. We've listed them so you can show off your knowledge of Japanese culture next time you're out dining with friends at Bamboo!

The 'unwritten' rules of izakaya dining:

Some izakayas require you to take off your shoes upon entering the dining area (but not here at Bamboo). It's customary to either walk barefoot (or with socks) or grab a pair of slippers if they are offered at the entrance.

When sharing plates of food, the proper way to take your share is to use the opposite side of your chopsticks so that your mouth isn't touching the communal plate. 

Do not rest your chopsticks on a communal plate, only rest them on your own dish. It's also frowned upon to plant your chopsticks in a bowl of rice since this is how rice is given to the dead.  

The tradition is to never pour for yourself when you are sharing a bottle with others, although this custom is largely disregaded among close friends. Use both hands to pour for others and let others pour for you. Lift your glass to thank the person pouring.

Reacting aggressively toward an angry patron is also frowned upon. Japanese people perceive this as you making the situation more disruptive and troublesome. Instead, take the high road by simply ignoring or distancing yourself from such patrons.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cocktails by the beach

You've come for the food but have you seen the selection of fun and vibrant cocktails Bamboo Izakaya is also offering? Made to pair with our dishes and to be shared and sampled between friends, these cocktails will make your taste buds dance with glee!

The smoking rosemary

Ilegal Mezcal, prickly pear nectar, shaken and served with a freshly cut rosemary sprig.

The Tokyo Manhattan

Classic Manhattan made with Yamazaki 12 years Japanese whisky, pressed brandied cherries and oranges.

The Karita

Cazadores Blanco tequila, Domain Canton ginger liqueur, shishito peppers, fresh lime, jalapeno Tabasco, served on the rocks with togarashi salted rim.

The Natsukaze

Tsukasabotan organic mountain yuzu sake, Thai basil, tall on the rocks with tapioca pearls and basil garnish.

The Giddy Geisha

Ketel One vodka martini shaken with lychee juice and passion fruit purée.

The Sumokaze

Grey Goose vodka and muddled shiso leaf, shaken with Japanese yuzu juice, served up with a shiso leaf garnish.

The Monica

Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, grapefruit juice and rose water, served on the rocks.

The Ronin

Makers Mark bourbon, ginger purée, blood orange juice, ginger ale and housemade candied ginger stick, on the rocks.

The Suzushi

Nolet’s gin with muddled cucumber, fresh lime juice, served on the rocks with housemade basil syrup and lime zest.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sashimi - first order of your izakaya feast

You are comfortably seated at your table and ready to order a feast for everyone to share. So what is the proper way to order at an izakaya?

Is there an order to all these options?


Sashimi comes first.

Why you ask?

Because of its delicacy. Order sashimi first so your palate can fully enjoying the delicate and natural sweetness of the fish. Since most izakaya menu items are quite savory, we recommend you start with the most delicate items first and gradually move on to more savory dishes.

The cut of the sashimi is also important - the chef will decide what cut is appropriate for what fish. For example, chu toro, or fatty tuna is usually served in blocks so you can enjoy a hearty melt in your mouth bite, for full effect. Squid is served in strips because it's tougher, so a smaller and easier way to eat it is encouraged.

Don't ignore the garnishes!

Garnishes served with sashimi or sushi are there to be eaten. The most common garnishes are wasabi, shiso leaves, daikon and micro greens. Add a little on top of your fish to brighten up the flavors.

To soak or not to soak?

Do NOT soak your sashimi and sushi, that is considered a cardinal sin in the world of sushi masters!! The proper way to eat sushi is not to dip the rice, but rather flip the piece over and only dip the tip of the fish in soy sauce. The same is expected of sashimi.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cherry blossom festival

Who doesn't like looking at the beautiful cherry blossoms! They are such a big part of Japanese culture as they celebrate the arrival of spring time and symbolize the extreme beauty and fleeting nature of life (cherry blossoms quickly bloom and die), which comes from Buddhism.

Hanami, which literally means flower viewing, is a popular activity all across Japan. Families and friends will bring a picnic and settle under a fully bloomed cherry blossom tree, spending the day enjoying the weather, eating bento style food and drinking sake. There are also hanami festivals and foods created specifically for this event. Kit kat makes a special cherry blossom green tea flavor only available during that time as well as Starbucks with a special cherry blossom and white chocolate frappuccino. In fact, it is such a popular practice that meteorological agencies track the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) to alert the population of the arrival of hanami.

Cherry blosson green tea Kit Kat only sold during hanami season.

Nowadays, cherry blossom trees and festival have become popular in the United States and other countries too. You can usually find a hanami festivals where there's a large population of Japanese immigrants, such as CaliforniaNew York City and Washington D.C, which has the largest amount of cherry blossom trees in the country.

Hanami usually happens between March and May, so this is the time to go for a picnic and enjoy the beauty of spring with its bright pink flowers adorning our parks and streets.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cucumber and seaweed salad

cucumber and seaweed

This is a very delicious and healthy seaweed salad recipe perfect for a side dish or to snack on.

Seaweed (or kelp) has more minerals like calcium and zinc than any terrestrial vegetation! This makes seaweed exceptionally high in nutrients and vitamin A, B, C and E, essential for hair growth and stimulation. This includes the nori, or dried black seaweed wrapped around sushi rolls, seaweed in soups (like miso or osuimono), dried nori snacks now found in many supermarkets, salads, etc..

A little seaweed goes a long way - You only need to eat about 1/3 of a cup a day to reap the benefits, so make a habit to include a little seaweed in your daily diet for strong hair and nails.

Note: For dried seaweed, don't let the seaweed sit in water for too long - 5 minutes should do it, otherwise it will get slimy.

Cucumber and seaweed salad recipe
Serves 4

For the dressing:

4 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp dashi stock
2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp mirin


1 English cucumber, cut into sticks
1/4 cup dried seaweed


Put cucumber stick in a tupperware and sprinkle generously with salt. Mix with your fingers and let sit for about 20 minutes. Quickly rinse in cold water and dry with paper towel Set aside.

Soak the dried seaweed in cold water for about 5 minutes, no longer than that. Drain well, transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite size. Divide among 4 bowls and do the same for the cucumber sticks.

Put all the ingredients for the dressing into a bowl and mix well. Pour evenly among 4 bowls and serve cold.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Make Japanese rice at home

Japanese rice is essential to Japanese cooking. It's used in dishes or served as a side, or at the end of a meal.

Most households in Japan use rice cookers because they're convenient and easy to use. For those who don't own a rice cooker, you can use a pot and still yield good results. It may not be as easy as a rice cooker but it's possible to create good, fluffy Japanese rice with just a pot, water and a basic stove top.

Some extra work is required and the cooking process is slightly different:

This will make about 3 cups of Japanese rice.

Rinse 1 1/2 cups of rice, swish it around with your fingers in circular motion until the water becomes really cloudy, changing the water until it runs almost clear. This removes the starch of the grains which, if left unrinsed, could end up sticky and slimy.

Drain with a strainer and leave it for about 15 minutes (in the strainer) to absorb some water.

In a medium size pot or pan (about 2.5 qt/ 2/4 liter) add the rice and 1 1/2 cups of water, and leave another 15 minutes. Tightly cover the pot or pan and bring to a boil (do not lift the lid!)

Cook on high for about 7 minutes. It's important to leave it alone, do not stir! The rice will bubble and steam, that's the way you want it. Lower the heat and cook for another 8-10 minutes. This slowly cooks the center of the rice. Crank up the heat again for about 10 seconds to evaporate what water is left.

Turn off the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes to finish the cooking process.

With a wooden or plastic spatula, fold the rice in big chunks from the bottom (do not stir or knead).

Japanese rice can be frozen in individual sized Tupperware and reheated to eat with pickles or spicy tuna, etc.. You can even make onigiri (rice balls) and freeze them for later. It's a great time saving, pre-made food to have around!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bamboo Izakaya meets world's best sushi

Did you know that Bamboo Izakaya owner Jeremy Umland is one the executive producers of the top Netflix documentary 'JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI'? When the idea of creating a documentary about an old man who's only dream in life is to create the most perfect pieces of sushi, Jeremy couldn't resist and got right on board with it!

The documentary follows the life of Jiro Ono, an 85 year-old sushi master who owns a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo. Though he's already been crowned as the best sushi chef in the world, Jiro continues his quest to perfect the art of sushi. Working every single day with his two sons Takashi (who eventually goes on to open another sushi restaurant in Roppongi Hills) and Yoshikazu, this documentary focuses on the relationship between Jiro and his eldest son, who fails to live up to his father's expectations, and the constant pursuit for perfection.

Nominated at the Tribeca film festival and winner of the Detroit Film Critics Society, this documentary will make you want to hop on a plane to Tokyo for a bite of the world's best sushi.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Who wears short shorts?

Bikini season is upon us and we all feel like it's time to step it up by dropping a few pounds and looking fit for the beach. The best way to lose weight without feeling like you're restricted is to cut out a minimal amount of options and instead focus on eating smaller portions. Japanese call this 'hara hachi bu' - eat until you're 80% full. It's a technique that's being practiced in Okinawa for the past decade and has resulted in a lower BMI (body mass index) and longer life expectancy amongst its population.

Japanese food is known for having much smaller portions than their American and European counterparts, and because of that, have a low percentage of obesity. Fast lunch options are also healthier; instead of hamburger and fries, a Japanese person can walk into a noodle shop and order a hot bowl of soba with seaweed and fish cakes. Tired of soup and sandwiches? Not in Japan; you can buy a delicious bento box made with vegetables, brown rice and a piece of salmon. For dinner, many flock to izakayas to catch up with friends and share an array of small dishes while drinking their favorite beer.

Some izakaya dishes can be high in fat and calories but because the portions are small and usually shared amongst a group of people, create little negative impact on the overall dinner you're eating (as long as you balance heavy with light.) Bamboo izakaya likes to promote healthy living - for us it's finding the perfect balance between work, play, healthy eating and spending time with family and friends. Each element is complemented by the other to create harmony. It's one of the reasons why izakayas have been popular for so many decades in Japan, and why they are quickly becoming the next big thing in food here in America.

Here's a list of our top healthy dishes and recommendations for those looking to shed a few pounds. Toss in a couple of guilty treats in there and you'll still look hot to trot!

Bamboo healthy menu recommendations

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't skip the ginger

Photo: Jodi Torpey

Did you ever wonder why sushi always comes with a side of pickled ginger?

Its purpose is to cleanse the palate so people can enjoy the distinct flavors of every piece of sushi served. It's also there to promote good digestion since ginger is very soothing for the stomach.

Here are a few other perks we can all benefit from by eating ginger.


  • Eases digestion, bloating and gas.
  • Is great in reducing motion sickness and morning sickness for pregnant women.
  • Aids in lowering cholesterol.
  • Reduces the production of cancer cells.
  • Reduces inflammation with ailments such as arthritis.
  • Boosts your metabolism and aids in breaking down fats and protein.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Healthy and easy dinner - Yakiniku

Yakiniku means grilled meat. 

It's a mini indoor barbecue that's enjoyed in most Japanese households by using an electric hot plate and grilling meats, vegetables and seafood. The food is served with a barbecue dipping sauce such as Ebara Yakiniku tare.

This is a very easy and healthy meal to prepare - A little chopping and grilling and you're done! If you don't have a hot plate, similar results can be achieved by using a really hot pan with just a little oil.

  •  Thinly chopped vegetables such as carrots, squash, green peppers, onions, shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, cabbage and sprouts.
  •  Meats and seafood such as beef, shrimps, squid, scallops, chicken and pork.

Cooking Directions

Brush hot plate with just a little oil or if you don't have a hot plate, use a frying pan and once the pan is very hot, add just a little oil and fry the vegetables in small batches, until they are a little charred. 

Dip in the sauce as you eat and serve with a small bowl of rice.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

PRETZ please!

Pretz - Melon pan flavor

Recognized as one of the most popular snacks in Japan, Pretz (pronounced Purittsu) are crunchy biscuit/pretzel sticks dusted with over 75 different flavors (mostly savory ones). Sold either in a box (4 packs) or as individual snacks (1 bag), Pretz are about as addictive as a tube of Pringles. Most flavors are only sold in Japan so next time you find yourself inside a Seven Eleven in Tokyo, see how many flavors you can find!

Chicken wing Pretz

Some specific flavors are only sold in certain parts of Japan to showcase the region's specialty - Fukuoka for example has giant Mentaiko (spicy cod roe) flavored Pretz because they make the best mentaiko. Hiroshima Pretz is Okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza), Kyoto is wasabi, and the list goes on. 
Pineapple Pretz

So far we can say that Super Butter Pretz (which can be found in most Japanese supermarkets in the States) and Bacon Pretz are favorites of the Bamboo staff. We also love the savory Tomato Pretz and Salad Pretz, while Corn Pretz and Roast Pretz are go to options when craving something sweeter. Some flavors are definitely strange at first, but because they're so lightly dusted with seasoning, the wonderful taste of the cookie is what you're always left with in the end. Now look at the list below and see how many flavors you've tried!

Corn bacon Pretz      

PRETZ FLAVORS - Can you think of more that are not on this list?

  • 11 TYPES MIXED SALAD PRETZ