Video: Fire Ramen in Japan

炎のねぎラーメン

Watch video at You Tube (0:40 minutes) . . . . .


Chinese-style Braised Pork Belly

Ingredients

600 g pork belly
300 g lotus root (sliced)
1 large cube red fermented tofu
1 clove garlic (crushed)
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 cup water
sugar to taste

Method

  1. Cut pork belly into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok. Stir fry the lotus root until fragrant. Remove and set aside.
  3. Saute garlic and ginger with some oil in the wok. Add pork belly and stir fry briefly. Return lotus root to the wok and mix in the fermented tofu. Toss until the fermented tofu dissolves.
  4. Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down heat and simmer until the pork and lotus root are tender.
  5. Season with sugar according to taste. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

In Pictures: Foods of Kerokerokeroppi Cafe

けろけろけろっぴのコラボカフェ

The Character

Food Scientists have Discovered a Surprising Principle behind Good Recipes

Given the number of ingredients that humans eat, the total number of ways to combine them is on the order of 10 to the 15th power. And yet the actual number of recipes we eat is around one million—a small fraction of the total. That strongly suggests an organizing principle that, in recipe terms, sorts the wheat from the chaff.

So an ongoing challenge for food scientists is to discover laws that govern flavor combinations and use them to create new recipes yet to be experienced by human taste buds.

Today, Tiago Simas at Telefonica Research in Barcelona, Spain, and a few pals say they have discovered an important principle of flavor combination by studying foods of different cultures. This new insight could help create novel recipes.

The background to this group’s discovery is the hypothesis of food pairing developed by the chefs Francois Benzi and Heston Blumenthal. At first glance, foods such as chocolate and blue cheese can seem as different as it is possible for foods to be. And yet, these foods share 73 different flavor molecules.

That’s why at certain high-end restaurants, you’ll sometimes find blue cheese and chocolate in the same dishes. The thinking is that when ingredients contain the same flavor molecules, they can be successfully paired. The idea is that shared flavors help blend ingredients more effectively. Food pairing immediately suggests a novel way to create new recipes, which is why it rapidly gained influence among a certain breed of gastronomist.

Then in 2011, a curious piece of research revealed that food pairing was only part of the explanation behind successful recipes. In this work, a team at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, analyzed the network of links between ingredients in recipes from all over the world. In this network, ingredients are nodes in a web, linked when they share flavor molecules.

This approach turned the food-pairing hypothesis on its head. When recipes from North America and Western Europe are analyzed in this way, the networks reveal that food pairing is an important factor. But when the team analyzed recipes from East Asia (Korea and Japan, for example), they found exactly the opposite. These cuisines seem to combine the very foods that do not share flavor ingredients. Clearly the food-pairing hypothesis is just part of a bigger picture and in need of a serious upgrade.

Enter Simas and his colleagues. These guys have looked a little harder into the web of flavors behind recipes and discovered a deeper principle at work. The basic idea is that when two ingredients do not share flavors, the team look for a third ingredient with flavors in common with each of the first pair. In this way, they were able to identify flavor chains and explore how recipes in different parts of the world use them.

For example, apricot and whiskey do not share flavors with each other but do have flavors in common with tomato. This creates a flavor chain that links all three ingredients, making them suitable to be used in the same recipe.

The team call this food bridging. They define it as “the ability to connect a pair of ingredients, that may or may not have a direct connection, through a path of non-repeating ingredients.”

This has an important impact on recipes. While food pairing intensifies flavor by mixing ingredients in a recipe with similar chemical compounds, food bridging smooths any contrast between ingredients, say Simas and co.

So what role does food bridging play in recipes from different cultures? To find out, Simas and co examined the flavor networks of cuisines from various parts of world and then analyzed the respective roles of food pairing and food bridging in each cuisine.

In Latin America, for example, recipes exploit both food pairing and food bridging, while East Asian food seems to avoid both principles. Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai and Vietnamese seem to rely only on food bridging, while North American and Western European food use only food pairing.

That’s interesting work that extends the principles behind the way we create recipes. Indeed, it reveals that food pairing is really a special case of food bridging in which the number of nodes in the flavor chain is 0.

A better understanding of these principles should help chefs create new recipes in specific styles. But it is by no means the be-all and end-all of cooking. Successful recipes have a wide range of different parameters in addition to flavor. There is the texture of the food, its temperature, its mouth feel, and its color, to name just a few.

Food bridging can certainly help with new recipes. But a truly universal tool for recipe creation will need to be much broader to incorporate these other factors into its model. That will require significant work.

But step by step, food scientists are learning how humans prune the list of all possible combinations of food to produce the combinations we actually end up eating.

Source: MIT Technology Review

To Help Ward Off Alzheimer’s, Think Before You Eat

Judith Graham wrote . . . . . .

Diets designed to boost brain health, targeted largely at older adults, are a new, noteworthy development in the field of nutrition.

The latest version is the Canadian Brain Health Food Guide, created by scientists in Toronto. Another, the MIND (Mediterranean DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, comes from experts at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Both diets draw from a growing body of research suggesting that certain nutrients — mostly found in plant-based foods, whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetable oils and fish — help protect cells in the brain while fighting harmful inflammation and oxidation.


Everyone who gets to middle age should have a doctor check their B12 levels.

— Martha Clare Morris, originator of the MIND diet


Lowering the Risk of Alzheimer’s

Both have yielded preliminary, promising results in observational studies. The Canadian version — similar to the Mediterranean diet but adapted to Western eating habits — is associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet — a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) — lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53 percent.

Researchers responsible for both regimens will study them further in rigorous clinical trials being launched this year.

Still, the diets differ in several respects, reflecting varying interpretations of research regarding nutrition’s impact on the aging brain.

A few examples: The MIND diet recommends two servings of vegetables every day; the Canadian diet recommends five. The Canadian diet suggests that fish or seafood be eaten three times a week; the MIND diet says once is enough.

The MIND diet calls for at least three servings of whole grains a day; the Canadian diet doesn’t make a specific recommendation. The Canadian diet calls for four servings of fruit each day; the MIND diet says that five half-cup portions of berries a week is all that is needed.

We asked Carol Greenwood, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto and a key force behind the Canadian diet, and Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center and originator of the MIND diet, to elaborate on research findings about nutrition and aging and their implications for older adults.

Nutrition and the Brain

It’s not yet well understood precisely how nutrition affects the brains of older adults. Most studies done to date have been in animals or younger adults.

What is clear: A poor diet can increase the risk of developing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, which in turn can end up compromising an individual’s cognitive function. The corollary: A good diet that reduces the risk of chronic illness is beneficial to the brain.

Also, what people eat appears to have an effect on brain cells and how they function.

“I don’t think we know enough yet to say that nutrients in themselves support neurogenesis (the growth of neurons) and synaptogenesis (the growth of neural connections),” Greenwood said. “But pathways that are needed for these processes can be supported or impaired by someone’s nutritional status.”

Essential Nutrients

“Several nutrients have been shown to have biological mechanisms related to neuropathology in the brain,” Morris said.

On that list is Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant found in oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains and leafy green vegetables, which is associated with slower cognitive decline, a lower risk of dementia, and reduced accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins — a key culprit in Alzheimer’s disease.

“The brain is a site of great metabolic activity,” Morris said. “It uses an enormous amount of energy and in doing so generates a high level of free radical molecules, which are unstable and destructive. Vitamin E snatches up those free radicals and protects the brain from injury.”

Also on her list is vitamin B12 — found in animal products such as meat, eggs, cheese and fish — and vitamin B9 (folate), found in green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts and beans.

Because aging affects stomach acids that facilitate the absorption of B12, “everyone who gets to middle age should have a doctor check their B12 levels,” Morris said. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to confusion and memory problems, while folate deficiency is associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts oils, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are highly concentrated in the brain, where they are incorporated in cell membranes and play a role in the transmission of signals between cells.

“A primary focus has to be maintaining healthy” blood vessels in the brain, Greenwood said. “So, heart health recommendations are similar in many ways to brain health recommendations, with this exception: The brain has higher levels of Omega-3s than any other tissue in the body, making adequate levels even more essential.”

Other studies point to calcium, zinc and vitamins A, C and D as having a positive impact on the brain, though findings are sometimes inconsistent.

Foods to Avoid

For the most part, the Canadian and MIND diets concur on foods to be avoided or limited to once-a-week servings, especially saturated fats found in pastries, sweets, butter, red meat and fried and processed foods.

As for dairy products, “there’s no evidence one way or another. If you like your yogurt, keep eating it,” Morris said. Greenwood adds a caveat: Make sure you consume low-fat dairy products as opposed to whole-fat versions.

Other Helpful Diets

Randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have a positive impact on various aspects of cognition, although neither was created specifically for that purpose.

“At the end of the day, our [Canadian] diet, the MIND diet, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are not that different; they’re all likely to be helpful,” Greenwood said.

The Pattern Counts

Studies promoting the cognitive benefits of drinking tea or eating blueberries have garnered headlines recently. But a focus on individual foods is misguided, both experts suggested. What matters instead is dietary patterns and how components of various foods interact to promote brain health.

The bottom line: Concentrate on eating an assortment of foods that are good for you. “As long as people are eating a healthful diet, they shouldn’t have to worry about individual nutrients,” Greenwood said.

Source: Next Avenue


Today’s Comic