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East Series

East Series, Food, Main Dishes, Salads

Zaru Soba {Cold Soba Noodles}

There are very few things in life that are better on a hot day than a cool serving of zaru soba.

This recipe brings me to the last installment of the Japan segment of my East Series (What!) which is pretty damn exciting. The next segment I’ll be featuring is China, where I’ll be exploring some delish Chinese recipes.

But first, let’s talk about this nourishing noodle dish.

A lot of East and Southeast asian dishes call it like it is when it comes to names, and Zaru Soba is no exception. A zaru is a bamboo tray or basket used to drain the noodles in the preparation and presentation for this dish; soba, of course, is the type of noodle. Soba translates to buckwheat, but it’s most commonly used in reference to soba noodles in Western cultures.

Despite the fact that most mainstream supermarkets carry soba noodles in their “International” aisle, I highly recommend hitting up your local Asian markets instead. You’ll get the best quality of soba noodle there, and if you can get your hands one soba noodles that are 80 per cent buckwheat (hachiwari soba), do it. Not only are these noodles more delicious, but they also pack a nourishing punch.

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East Series, Food, Pescetarian, Soups + Stews

Easy 15-Minute Miso Soup

The belly-warming broth, the nourishing wakame, the silky soft bits of tofu… miso soup is something I’ve never been able to pass up when dining in a Japanese restaurant. (Especially after eating my weight in sushi.) For dessert, I would resist the green tea ice cream and happily sip at a some soothing miso soup instead.

Of course, in true Dana fashion, my adoration for this soup eventually developed some serious curiosity. After my meal, I’d whirl my spoon around in the mesmerizing cloudy broth to disrupt the suspended miso and wonder if this good stuff was something I could easily whip up in my own kitchen.

Fabulous news, friends: it is *so* easy.

(No really, it’s pretty effortless.)

With a few easy-to-acquire ingredients and 15 measly minutes, you can be delving into your very own bowl of restaurant-quality miso soup in the comfort of your own home.

You don’t even have to put pants on for this.

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East Series, Food, Pescetarian, Sides, tapa-tizers + snacks

Agedashi Tofu

Whenever I dine at a Japanese restaurant, exploring the appetizers is one of my favorite parts. It’s impossible to pass up on Japanese-style gyoza and lightly salted edamame. Of course, every once in a while, we order something we’ve never had before and are completely blown away — like agedashi tofu.

If you dig tofu and you frequent Japanese restaurants, you’ve probably had your fill of this crispy and pillowy goodness. If not, your proverbial socks are about to be blown off.

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East Series, Food, Main Dishes, Pescetarian, Soups + Stews



Much like the Okonomiyaki I made back in December, I’d never tried Ochazuke until I whipped it up for this series. If this series has taught me anything, it’s that if you find yourself intrigued by a dish you’ve never had before, you can still attempt it at home and totally nail it. So okay, you lack the satisfaction of a proper comparison, but when you dig in and take that first bite you will definitely know whether you’ve done the dish justice or not. Just follow a solid recipe from a trustworthy source! *ahem*…

Ochazuke (ocha meaning tea and zuke meaning submerged) is like nothing I’ve ever had before, and I mean that in the best way. It’s a fuss-free lazy day fave amongst the Japanese (and now me) that is typically served in an overly large bowl, because let’s face it: the bigger with some foods, the better. This is why bowl meals are trending, folks. But a large mug, cereal bowl or soup bowl will work just fine. The idea is to be able to curl up and get comfy with this bad boy, so if you have a vessel that allows you to do that, all is right in the world of Ochazuke.

Common toppings include savory ingredients like salted salmon, shredded nori, wasabi, pickled vegetables, mitsuba, toasted sesame seeds and broken Japanese rice crackers for a salty crunch; it’s all about preference.

Two major things drew my attention to this recipe while researching dishes:

  1. Comfort food. Everything I’d read about this dish suggested that it was total comfort food and, seeing that it’s February and winter is still daunting us, that’s what we’re after. Best of all, it’s a cinch to make — so if you’ve had a long day or simply want to bask in some weekend laziness, Ochazuke is where it’s at.
  2. Tea as a broth. I would have never thought to use straight up green tea, or any tea, as a broth for a savory dish — but here we are. Part of me feared the green tea would drown the dish in a sea of muted flavors, but as long as you use a quality tea like Arbor Tea’s Organic Genmaicha (pronounced GEN-my-cha), you’ll end up with an earthy flavor that is cozy and soul-soothing.

There *is* another variation of Ochazuke that replaces green tea with dashi stock, but between the Spicy Shoyu Ramen and the Okonomiyaki in this series, we’ve seen dashi aplenty. I wanted to honor the simplicity of this dish and, even more so, give this whole green tea as a broth thing a whirl.

I’m thrilled to report that it. was. ah-mazing.

Arbor Teas

Since green tea is a prominent ingredient in this recipe, I wanted a high-quality blend that would provide a natural and earthy flavor. Nothing overly potent, but certainly not something that would leave the dish watered down. Arbor Teas selection of tea in general is impressive, and their greens are absolutely perfect for Ochazuke. Needless to say, when Arbor Teas and I decided to partner up for this post, I was elated; I get to shed light on an ingredient that is not only tasty, but sustainable and fair-trade. High five! It’s also worth mentioning that Arbor Teas’ packaging is backyard compostable. So, you know, if you respect the earth you walk on, double high five.

When it comes to selecting a type of green tea, Ochazuke gives the warmest welcome to Houjicha, Genmaicha and Sencha. After spending a rainy afternoon blissfully sipping these teas to test them out (blog life is haaaaaard), I decided that Genmaicha was the one.

Ochazuke | Killing ThymeSome may think that green tea is green tea no matter how you blend it or brew it — but any tea snob who has consumed enough quality teas (Quali-teas? #Qualiteas — can we get that trending?) will tell you otherwise. Even I myself, a devoted coffee drinker, could notice subtle differences between the three blends. That, my friends, is good tea.

So, why Genmaicha? Arbor Teas’ blend is made up of organic green tea and organic toasted brown rice giving it a toasty flavor that is light-bodied and carries minimal bitterness; broth-y perfection, y’all!

And will you just look at those swoon-worthy tea leaves and toasted rice pellets?

Ochazuke | Killing Thyme

Though the concept of this dish may seem far-off from the bowl of feelgood soup that you’re used to, the similarities are undeniable. The heartiness from the rice and salmon are reminiscent of your standard chicken and rice soup; the hot tea, which you can add a tablespoon of soy sauce to for extra flavor, is as belly-warming as any other soup broth out there. And, if you dig salty crackers in your soup, we’ve got that covered with Japanese rice crackers.

This dish is a total win, and though you won’t find it on many restaurant menus outside of Japan, you can easily find the ingredients at your local Asian market to make it in the comfort of your own kitchen.

(And you totally should.)

To see more of what Arbor Teas has to offer, you can check out their Website. Don’t forget to like them on Facebook and Instagram as well!


In this series, I’ll be covering dishes from Japan, China and Korea to cover East Asia, followed by dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to cover Southeast Asia.

Making this recipe? Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram: @Killing__Thyme /#killingthyme. For more delish eats, follow me on INSTAGRAM + PINTEREST.


Ochazuke is a comforting Japanese dish that includes rice, a hot broth of green tea and various savory toppings.
Cuisine Japanese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 1
Author Killing Thyme


  • 1 3 oz fillet of sustainable salmon salted
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1-2 TBSP broken/roughly chopped Japanese rice crackers
  • 1 tsp shredded or thinly sliced nori dried/roasted seaweed
  • 1 tsp furikake Japanese rice seasoning
  • 2 TBSP strands of mitsuba trefoil, chopped; or 1 thinly sliced scallion
  • Wasabi optional, for taste
  • 1 cup of Arbor Teas Genmaicha Sencha or Hojicha green tea, prepared as per instructions on package
  • 1 TBSP Kikkoman soy sauce optional


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In the meantime, prepare/cook the rice.
  3. Salt the salmon fillet and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Prepare the tea and set aside.
  5. Once the salmon is done, flake it with a fork to break it down into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Place the rice in a large bowl and top with the salmon and your selection of savory ingredients.
  7. Add soy sauce to broth if desired.
East Series, Food, Main Dishes, Pescetarian


Despite the belief that people “eat with their eyes” first, taste is the boss of all senses when it comes to food. But in the case of okonomiyaki, it doesn’t matter much. This savory Japanese pancake is dressed to kill and will make your tastebuds dance in a fit of frenzy; this savory Japanese pancake is life.

When I first started doing my homework for this series, okonomiyaki was the first dish that jumped out at me. With all of it’s golden crisp goodness and striking trimmings, how could it not? I’m a sucker for anything that is crunchy, savory and bursting with umami, and without ever having tried this gem before I could already tell how it would taste; flippin’ delicious. So, undeterred by my lack of familiarity with it, okonomiyaki was the first thing I penned on my list for the Japanese segment of this series. After all, this series is about becoming familiar with East + Southeast Asian food beyond the Americanized menu and encouraging others (yeah, you!) to tap deeper into these culture’s cuisines.


Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

The name okonomiyaki translates to “grilled how you like”. Some restaurants that specialize in okonomiyaki boast a diner-style counter where the chef prepares the dish in front of the patrons; other restaurants pride themselves in being a grill-it-yourself establishment where the server gives patrons the chance to be their own chef with a bowl of uncooked ingredients + hotplates on their tables — similar to Korean BBQ or Shabu-Shabu restaurants.

There are several versions of this dish, including modan-yaki (served with a layer of fried noodles) and negiyaki (a thinner pancake that incorporates a lot more scallions), but okonomiyaki is the most predominant throughout the majority of Japan. Most of the ingredients are common and include eggs, flour, cabbage and dashi, but there are a few shining ingredients that might be new to you.

The nagaimo, Japanese mayo and pickled red ginger.


None of these are essential ingredients, but they’re highly recommended for best results. Your tastebuds will thank you.

The naigaimo is a Chinese yam. Despite it being an optional ingredient, it adds a fluffiness to your pancake that you *don’t* want to miss out on. Most large Asian markets carry it, but if you can’t find it, you can still cook up a stellar okonomiyaki. In fact, I came across several okonomiyaki recipes throughout my research that didn’t include it.

Something worth mentioning is the alarming texture of this yam. (Yes, alarming.) When you first cut into it, it seems like no big deal; it’s like cutting into an apple. But once you start to peel it and expose the inner flesh, it gets slimy and when you grate it… well, you’ll see. Think of me when you do it, and allow your mind to go into the deepest of gutters. *casually sips tea*

Japanese mayo is similar to regular ol’ American mayo, except not. (Whut.) Kewpie, which is Japan’s Hellman’s, has a smoother texture and a tangier flavor than it’s American kin. This is due to the fact that Kewpie increases the egg count, decreases the egg whites, uses vegetable oil, swaps the usual white vinegar for rice vinegar, and adds MSG. Yes, that last ingredient is often disputed, but if you want the true flavor of Japanese mayo, it’s necessary — plain and simple. If you’re the type to hiss at the idea of MSG, don’t fret; stick to what you’re comfortable with.

Onto the ruby-hued pickled red ginger. It’s a thing of beauty, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t fancy the ethereal pink slices served next to sushi. It must be the plum vinegar. Either way, I was originally going to skip out on it, but I’m so glad I didn’t. It adds an incredible zip to the pancake that I can’t picture it without.

Though this dish intimidated me at first, I can say with confidence that it was a breeze to put together and it’s super simple to cook. Due to the girth of each pancake I assumed they’d be difficult to flip without breaking, but everything worked out swimmingly.

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

Of course, the easiest part was devouring the damn thing.

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme

Okonomiyaki | Killing Thyme


In this series, I’ll be covering dishes from Japan, China and Korea to cover East Asia, followed by dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to cover Southeast Asia.

Making this recipe? Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram: @Killing__Thyme /#killingthyme. For more delish eats, follow me on INSTAGRAM + PINTEREST.


Okonomiyaki is a glorious savory Japanese pancake that will blow your mind with it's varying textures and umami flavors.
Servings 4 servings
Author Killing Thyme



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 inch piece of Nagaimo/Yamaimo
  • 3/4 cup dashi or 3/4 cup water with 1 tsp of dissolved dashi powder
  • 1 cups large head of cabbage approx. 8
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup roughly choped shrimp chips or tempura scraps Tenkasu/Agedama
  • 1/4 cup pickled red ginger Kizami Beni Shoga, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil

Okonomiyaki Sauce:

  • 1.5 TBSP honey
  • 2 TBSP oyster sauce
  • 4 TBSP Sriracha sauce if you want to avoid spicy, you can use ketchup
  • 3.5 TBSP Worcestershire sauce


  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Katsuobushi
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Nori Komi Furikake or dried green seaweed powder
  • Thinly sliced pickled red ginger

Adding meats:

  • Some folks enjoy the addition of meat to their okonomiyaki. I like to add cooked and roughly chopped shrimp to mine but you can also use squid or any other meats you fancy. Simply add your meats to the top of the pancake when you initially spoon it onto the pan and press down with a spatula to secure. I always cook my fish prior to this step to avoid it from being undercooked.


Okonomiyaki Sauce:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, oyster sauce, Sriracha and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder; whisk until well blended. Set aside.
  2. Peel the nagaimo and grate it into a small bowl. Die a little, then wash your hands.
  3. Add the grated nagaimo and dashi to the bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk until combined, cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. In the meantime, you can cook any meats you plan to add, prepare your Okonomiyaki Sauce and mince your cabbage, core removed. If your cabbage is very moist, press with a paper towel and set it aside to let the moisture evaporate so that it doesn't dilute the batter.
  5. Once the batter has been in the fridge for an hour, remove it and add the eggs, the chopped shrimp chips or tempura scraps and the pickled red ginger. Stir until well-combined.
  6. Add the cabbage to the batter approx. 2 cups at a time. Stir well before adding the rest.
  7. In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over moderate heat.
  8. Carefully spoon the batter in a circle on the pan (approx. 2 cups worth).
  9. If using meat, place is on top and lightly press into the wet batter to secure. Cook covered for 5 minutes.
  10. Once the bottom side is nicely browned, carefully flip it over.
  11. Gently press down on the okonomiyaki to reshape (if needed) and keep it together.
  12. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  13. Flip over one last time and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
  14. Transfer to a plate or baking sheet and continue with the others until done.


  1. Brush the Okonomiyaki Sauce over the top surface of the pancake, then drizzle the Japanese mayo over it in zigzag lines. Sprinkle some katsuobushi over it, followed by your other toppings. In my case, it was Nori Komi Furikake, thinly sliced scallions and thinly sliced pickled red ginger.

Recipe Notes

* There is one hour of idle time for this recipe. * Okonomiyaki freezes well. Once cooled, wrap each in aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag. When you want to eat one, take it out, let it thaw and put it in the oven at 350 degrees until it reaches your preferred temperature.