Grindz of the Day: Mochi, Natto, Bento, Prime NY Strip & Pig-in-a-Blanket

For the Grindz of the Day today, we begin with a tray of sweet mochi Diner C made herself and brought to share with us. To be honest, as much as I love Japanese food, I’m not much of a mochi fan, not caring for its glutenous, sticky texture and starchy flavor. Yet for what its worth, Diner C’s take on it was as good, if not better and certainly fresher tasting than any I’ve had from the stores.

Next up, contrary to my feelings towards mochi, I HEART (love) Natto!..

Which I know many folks who are Japanese that don’t like the stuff, so go figure. And they kinda’ trip when they see me eating it, being that I’m not Japanese. Well, by blood anyway.

Don Quijote carries an impressively wide selection of Natto, and I don’t know which one is better or what, but I just watch which brand the nihonjin folks tend to buy and I grab that one. Or the one on sale.

As you see here, they typically come packed in these little square trays, where most include the seasoning, with one packet of karashi mustard and the other packet a sort of sweet and acidic dashi and shoyu liquid.

You add both packets to the Natto and then you stir it vigorously in the tray to froth it up, where it end up looking like this…

I think more than anything else, folks who don’t like natto are offended by its “snot-like” texture. I’ve heard some say it smells bad, but I firmly disagree. I think it smells wonderfully savory and robust, kinda’ like “meaty” coffee beans if you will. And that’s kinda’ how it tastes!

You simply add it to some hot rice, add some garnish if you like, and perhaps some tsukemono and enjoy!…

On this occasion I’ve added an ume, Maui spicy takuwan and negi (green onion). Believe it or not, this is often what I have for dinner when I don’t feel like cooking or going out. Either this or nama Ramen. I told you I heart Japanese food.

It’s cheap too. You can buy a Natto 3 or 4-pack on sale at Don Quijote or Marukai for anywhere from $2-3. A little higher for some other brands. A tray of Natto and a serving of rice and you’re set. That’s like a $1 dinner, and best of all, it’s VERY HEALTHY.

Natto is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B2, and vitamin k2, which is useful for preventing osteoporosis. It contains compounds including phytoestrogen, selenium and others that may help prevent cancer, and also contains a powerful beneficial enzyme called nattokinase.

Nattokinase has been found to help prevent and reduce the risk of blood clots, as well as provide heart-protective benefits. Some studies suggest that nattokinase can also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Moving on to some things not so much healthy, but no doubt tasty, we have Zippy’s Chili Bento…

Diner A picked this up several weeks ago using one of Zippy’s Facebook coupons. I tell you, Zippy’s is sure getting lots of business from them Facebook coupons. Very smart way to bring in customers. I mean, who isn’t on Facebook nowadays? lol

But yeah, I never knew Zippy’s even had a ‘Chili Bento’. Add SPAM, add Fried Chicken and BAM! It’s a bento! This is definitely a welcome site after a day of surfing!

Next we have a pack of USDA Prime New York Strip Steaks I picked up at the Hawaii Kai Costco last month…

Prime Beef is a relatively new thing at Costco, or any supermarket for that matter, as previously this highest grade of cow were reserved only for finer restaurants. Doing some online research, I found out Costco was getting a lot of their prime grade beef supply from ranchers in Mexico, as was indicated on the label that said “Product of Mexico”.  Yet Costco is also resourcing their prime grade beef from right here in the good ‘ole US of A, as is indicated on the label of the steaks I bought which say “Product of USA”.

As you see, the price is $10.99/pound, which is a very good price, compared to say Foodland down the street, where they also had Prime grade New York Strip that was selling for $15.99/pound Maikai price.

Now take a look at that marbling. Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL! You just know that’s FLAVORTOWN USA right there folks. After letting it “age” a little in my fridge, I finally took it out and grilled it…

Costco isn’t always the cheapest place to buy meats, but they certainly are the best when it comes to cuts, always cutting their steaks “tick” (thick)!…

So this prime grade New York Strip measures 7″ in length by 1-3/8″ thickness. Now ‘das tick! You know this bad boy’s gonna’ be medium-rare ‘n juicy when it’s done!

To season it, all I put on it was Kauai salt ponds red alae salt and fresh cracked pepper. That’s it. Nuff. Keep it simple and let the beef speak for itself.

Sorry but I didn’t get a shot of the finished, grilled steak, but let me just say it was worth the extra price. Totally worth it! So ono!

I tell you, that marbling really makes a difference in the flavor as the fat “capsules” melt into the fibers of the meat. After eating Prime grade, I’m having a hard time going back to choice. Yeah, I sound like a spoiled brat, but hey, it’s true! Actually, if I only insisted on Kobe, then you can call me spoiled!

But yeah, next time you’re in the mood for a steak, and I don’t mean any steak, I mean a SUPER-DUPER GOOD steak, fork out the extra cash for the prime grade stuff. It’s totally worth it!

Finally we have a couple Pig-in-a-Blanket that Diner A brought for lunch…

No, these aren’t from Costco or the supermarket, but from where else? The  public school cafeteria! Remember those?!! I sure do. But these are like Pig-in-a-blanket kicked up notches unknown to swinekind (is that a valid word? lol). They’re awesome!

Diner A’s wife works at a public school and bought him a couple to try after raving about them herself. What’s all the fuss about? The bun is AWESOME! Here, take a look inside…

It’s kinda’ like a hybrid of Portuguese Sweet Bread and French Bread, being more crusty and glutenous like French Bread, yet still delicate and of course a little buttery and sweet like local style Portuguese Sweet Bread.

Seriously, this is one of, if not the best Hot Dog Buns I’ve ever tasted. And the hot dog itself, which is an “institutional brand” not found in stores is very tasty as well, being somewhat on the salty side, while having a slight hint of smoke to it and overall very “beefy”. Nice, nice, NICE!

Them public school cafeteria ladies, I tell you, they still get ’em! Hair net and all! lol 5 SPAM Musubi on da’ “new school” Public School Cafeteria Pig-in-a-Blanket!

Well, that was quite a diverse variety of “Grindz of the Day”. 🙂


23 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Mochi, Natto, Bento, Prime NY Strip & Pig-in-a-Blanket

  1. Pomai, I will try natto now and will head to Don Quijote for some. Pig in Blanket and Hamburger Stew is what I missed most when I was in public school. I got to have my sister make some for me and family now. I am a big mochi fan and like all kind of mochis.

  2. You got to try mixing the natto with that bottle wet seaweed, a raw egg, diced green onions and a dash of shoyu. And of course the small package of mustard that come with the natto. Over hot rice. So ono.

  3. If you ever see black bean natto, give it a try (they have it in the Japanese stores here in the Bay Area, so I don’t think it’s a rare specialty). It adds a kind of earthy quality to the usual natto-ey goodness!

  4. Hawaii’s school cafeteria lunches were amongst my fondest memories when I lived in Hawaii for three years as a youngster. And it’s good to see that the lunch ladies are still able to make magic in their kitchens!

    Black bean natto? That sounds worth checking out!

  5. After your description, will definitely have to try out Natto. Can’t be all that bad as some people say. Takuan, Ume, and Negi coupled with hot rice sound like “enhancers” to the frothy bean.
    Memories for me of public school treats from the cafeteria were short bread cookies and some kind of sweet toast the workers handed out during recess. Good stuff!

  6. I’ve been enjoying your blog for quite some time now, but this is my first time commenting. I LOVE natto too and am always trying to spread the word of its goodness to my friends, but not many takers. It’s wonderful that you’ve introduced such a tasty “delicacy” to your readers!

    I buy my natto at Don Q as well, but it’s unfortunate that the freshness is somewhat lost during the freeze/transport process. I enjoy mine with raw or poached egg, nori, shiso or green onions, and sometimes kimchee.

  7. Pomai, at Mckinley High I remember they made their own hamburger buns on hamburger day lunch with own chocolate cake too. Kids in Hawaii don’t know how good they had it. Natto is great with kimchee and rice . I also into mochis of all kind.

  8. Pomai, at Mae Mae they made the best shortbread cookies which all kids loved very much. I like their teriyaki meatball with rice and cooked bean spouts. All breads and rolls fresh made in school. Glad you showed pig in blanket it all best in schools with butter. School do not serve catup or mustard just butter darn good with hamburger and hotdog bun.

    My family when I was little brought rib steaks or flat iron steaks for it was affordable and still very tender when cooked.

  9. Amy, there’s a company here called School Kine Cookies that feature school cookies for used for fundraiser drives. What I remember so fondly was the smell of baked bread from even from the outside as  you walked towards cafeteria.
    Kelike, Natto with Kim Chee eh? OK, I’ll give it a try!
    Ai, glad you finally said something. Welcome to the party! I once featured FRESH Hama Natto from Iwamoto Natto Factory in Paia, Maui. Good stuff! Can’t get it here on Oahu though. Bummers.  I’ll have to try it with a raw egg. How do you do it? You add the raw egg and mix it with the Natto, or you put the raw egg on the hot rice first (to cook it)? Or do you put the Natto, then the raw egg on top? Let me know. Arigato.
    Paki, check out them School Kine Cookies folks.
    Molly and Debbie-Chan, I just got back from Don Quijote Kaheka and looked for black bean Natto, but couldn’t find it. I can’t read Japanese, except to know black is “Kuro”, but didn’t see any natto with “Kuro” in the name, nor picture of it on the label. I was waiting for nihonjin shopper to come by so I could ask them which one it might be, but there weren’t any nihonjin in the aisle at the time. I’ll try again on another visit.
    Lance, what’s the name of this wet seaweed you’re talking about? Where would I find it in the supermarket? In the refrigerator section where the tsukemono are? As I asked Ai, how exactly do you apply the raw egg? I wanna’ make sure I do it right and not get sick!
    Kimo, at my elementary school, they called the hamburger stew “Mulligan’s Stew”. It was one of my favorites!

  10. Oh, natto. Sorry, Pomai, but I just can’t do it! One day I’ll get over the appearance and the smell, but not today.

    Hey, but what I want to know is how you cooked that wonderful steak. You mentioned “grilled,” so was it charcoal or propane? And how long did it take you to get to medium rare? I LOVE grilling, and am familiar with the rules of thumb for temperature, but the subtle variations of everyone’s grills (especially when using charcoal) always leaves me curious with regard to the experiences of others.

  11. How old is that tape measure, 1970’s? Da buggah get metrics on one side of the tape! Comes in handy when you gotta measure those big centipedes! lol

  12. Pomai, i noticed that you always mention seasoning things (like that steak) with Kauai salt and being a Kauai girl and only knowing Kauai salt (even living in montana i have my mom send me a few bottles every once in a while) what is so great about Kauai salt? I love the stuff and treat it like gold but then again i also have never known any different. So please, fill me in, what is the distinction?!

  13. Chiemi, great question. No, not really anything different, at least flavor-wise from store-bought “Hawaiian” salt. Of course it has that wounderful light pinkish color from the red dirt on the ground. If anything, perhaps a little more “potent” or intense and somewhat more briny (like the ocean). Or maybe it’s just psychological or more “marketable sounding”…. “Kauai Salt Ponds Ala’e Salt”. LOL!
    Diner A, eh, not even. That tape measure is one contractor grade Stanley model. Da’ most expensive one! No ack, you buggah you! lol
    Brian, another great question! I use a combination of Kingsford Charcoal and local Kiawe wood… like one BIG log. Buggah get’s supah hot. Only problem is, the Weber 22½” kettle grill at mom’s place has a chrome-plate steel cooking grate, and not the more superior cast-iron cooking grate, so I don’t get as pronounced sear markings as I always  hope for.
    Still great taste though! The raw Kiawe wood burns much hotter than charcoal, so I definitely get the burn-your-okole (and your hands!) temperature that’s ideal for a great medium-rare steak. Another “secret” is that I always let my steak sit out until it reaches room temperature before throwing it on the grill. This ensures that the center won’t be “raw” tasting, while also allowing the fat throughout to “melt” properly. Very important that you do that. Many people cook their steaks COLD from straight out of the refrigerator. Big mistake. Let it “thaw” first to room temp’. Especially important for Prime grade beef with all that fat marbling.
    You know what’s my other secret is that I didn’t mention, but I’ll mention it now?! Shoyu. Shoyu, baby! I drizzle just a small amount of shoyu on both sides and wipe it on the surface of the steak before applying the salt and pepper. This gives the steak that “IT” factor. That “Umami” (tasty) factor. That “what the hell did you put on this steak that makes it tastes so GOOD!” factor! Only very little shoyu. Not too much, as you don’t want it to taste like Teriyaki. The shoyu just acts as a flavor enhancer, not flavor provider. Try it! Gauranz’ winnahz!

  14. Pomai, wow so many fond memory of school lunches made me thought of my fav. it soy sauce chicken with rice in school made with soy sauce and sugar and water and they braised for a certain amount of time . It was Lanakila School the one near Liliha Bakery great field trip too. The school at one time made lau lau for all to enjoy for lunch too and musubi also.

  15. Hi – I usually put the raw egg in the natto, then mix it, then put it on the rice. But sometimes I put the natto on the rice, crack an egg on top of it, then break it down with my spoon as I eat. ( By the way, I believe I’m taking a risk everytime I eat raw egg, but if you prefer, pasteurized eggs are safer if you can find them at your grocery store).

    Thanks for the reply and keep doing what you love! 🙂

  16. Omg! I’m so happy to hear you say natto has a coffee-like smell/taste. I thought that too when I first tried natto but everyone told me I was crazy! I just might have to give natto another try now. 🙂

  17. To me, natto has a very rich, buttery scent, so I don’t get it at all when people complain about the smell!

  18. Only used to eat natto when I was drunk! In Oki I had a foreman that when he felt overweight would eat just a packet of natto for lunch every day. He did lose weight!

  19. Hi Pomai-

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a great blog about one of my favorites subjects; food. I always look forward to a new post from you.

    Thanks also for all the natto love. I still have bad memories from college when my roomates would tell me how disgusting I was when I would eat it. LOL.

  20. imuy, delighted to hear you enjoy it here. Natto love is where it’s at! I think I’ll make myself a bowl right now! You shouldn’t have let your closed-minded college roomates spoil the fun. If it were me? I would have put Natto in their Chili when they had a little too much to drink (if they ever were in that state). I bet they would have LOVED IT! LOL!
    Nate, see my response to imuy.
    Debbie-chan, I concur 100%. Rich and buttery is a great way to describe Natto’s scent. That’s kinda’ what I get with olfactory senses.
    kasey, no, you’re not crazy. Shoots, we should start a Natto Lovers Club here!
    Ai, domo arigato gozaimasu for replying with your method. I’ll try it! And no, I’m not at all worried about getting sick. I’m an eggs sunnyside-up with yolk running through the rice kinda guy!
    Aaron, if there’s one thing I remember about the food from the public elementary school I attended, was that the Hawaiian food wasn’t very good. At least I never cared for it. I was into the “junk” food back then. lol

  21. Pomai, It’s called seasoned seaweed paste – tsukudani. You’d mix it all together, including the raw egg. The tsukudani is found on the self next to the bottled enoki(I think)mushrooms. Sorry, I don’t know the japanese name of the bottled seasoned mushrooms. If you’d like to try something with the bottled mushrooms, try this. Lay the firm tofu flat and cut across into three layers. Not the cube way, but right across so you’d have three flat pieces. Pan fry. Slice eggplant thinly and dip in egg wash and pan fry. Layer the tofu, then eggplant and top with the seasoned mushroom and a dash of shoyu. Very refreshing.

  22. Lance, arigato for getting the name for me. I’ll be sure to try the Tsukudani out with my Natto. I’ll also try that Tofu, Eggplant and Mushroom recipe you provided. Sounds totemo oishii desu!
    Thanks again!

  23. Hi Pomai, I love natto too and also eat it for dinner as you described. Beans and rice…is nice! Hehehe… I agree about the bottled enoki mushrooms. Love. It.

    Try this for a “slimey goodness” meal:

    Natto, bottled enoki mushrooms, tororo (grated yamaimo), egg yolk, and green onions. All on top of steaming hot rice! Shoyu and togarashi is optional. Yum.

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