I Cooked!

I landed in Japan on 1st of October and on 1st of November I was having a late lunch with my new friends at the nearby AEON foodcourt when we realized a month had passed already! In that one month, I have become so tired of the school cafeteria meals. So I went shopping for utensils and food to cook.

Generally, I am not a fan of cooking, although I love eating very much. I cook out of necessity and not the mere pleasure in the art of preparing the meal, but for this one time, I was totally excited and couldn’t wait to make my first meal in Japan. I got all my food (rice, fish, onions, tomatoes, etc..) from AEON (very big supermarket), as the fresh fish (food) market is 20 minutes by bus away.

How to prepare the fish? I wondered. I Googled some recipes but some were suggesting I broil it. I had to Google broiling but unfortunately I have neither an oven nor a broiler. That was when I remembered LeoTunapika run by my good friend, at least I could understand the ingredients and methods she uses, and could ask her for clarification if need be. So I decided to stew it, it looked quite simple, stewing fish in coconut milk. However, I did not have coconut milk but you will see how I solved this problem (and ended up ruining the stew) later. As for vegetables, my plan was to sprinkle some of them into the stew so they cook together, save energy, time and at the same time enhancing the stew flavour. Genius! So here is my recipe.

Recipe: Fish in No-Coconot Milk (Serves 2)

Ingredients: fish cut into pieces, onions, tomatoes, carrots, assorted veges, any other thing you want to include.

Ingredients for Fish Stew

Ingredients for Fish Stew


Defrost the fish, and while it is defrosting..

Cut up the onions, tomatoes, etc..

First, fry the onions in low (or is it medium, do whatever feels right) heat

Frying onions

Frying onions in low heat

Next, cut up the tomatoes and carrots and add them when the onions have cooked.

Tomatoes and carrots on a chopping board

Tomatoes and carrots on a chopping board

Trying to do this like a pro.. so here is a close up of chopped carrots haha

Trying to do this like a pro.. so here is a close up of chopped carrots haha

Detour: Do you guys know how hard it is to take pictures while cooking? I nearly dropped my phone into the stew, into the sink or onto the electric cooking pan!

Next, add the chopped stuff into the onions and let them cook for a few minutes.


Looks nice, huh?

Do you remember the assorted vegetables? So I got this pack of already chopped veges.. cabbages, carrots, mushrooms and some sea weed that’s a popular vegetable here. I picked a few and added to the pot.



Time to add them in:

Vegetable stew

Vegetable stew

Now, the next step is very critical.

Whatever you do, DO NOT substitute cow milk for coconut milk! I got this idea from home, because from time to time we add milk to fish stew and it is delicious. However, when I added the milk, it went sour immediately, sticking to the sides of the pot. I had come too far so I wanted to know how the end result will taste like.

Salt the fish lightly, then add the pieces into the stew. Let it simmer for a while.

Letting the whole mixture stew

Letting the whole mixture stew for a while until the fish is cooked

Next, cook the rice. No recipe here! Just boil the rice, add some salt and a little oil.

I cannot multitask, generally speaking. I am the exception that proves the rule that all women can multitask. So I prepared the fish first, then the rice. However, it’s better to start with the rice, then as it requires no intervention while cooking, stew the fish so it all cooks around the same time.

After I set the rice to boil, I remembered then that I had some pilau masala I ought to have added to the stew. I added it to the rice instead to add some flavour: Japanese rice is sticky and tasteless, I miss pishori rice.

Pilau masala

Pilau masala

Now it was time to wait for the rice to be ready. I decided to set the table with my new crockery and cutlery. The wine can also be sipped as you wait for the rice to cook.

Fruits are really expensive in Japan. One apple costs like 250 Ksh. The cheapest are bananas at Ksh 150 for 3 bananas! This is bananas!

Setting the table

Setting the table. I included the chopsticks, they are quite an art in themselves.

Finally, bring in the food for that final picture. Serve half, if you are alone, and save the rest for lunch/dinner the following day. Don’t forget to say the grace. In Japan, they say, itadakimas(u). Also, don’t forget to post on Instagram.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

Verdict: It was average. The milk ruined the sauce, but the fish was tasty. The rice with some masala was OK. All washed down with wine, it was the perfect first meal!

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15 Responses to I Cooked!

  1. Caroline N. says:

    I learned the coconut milk substitution lesson the hard way too! Great post


  2. John waweru says:

    Please check the ‘leo tunapika’ link. Had to search for it on google.


  3. Mackel9 says:

    We never know till we try ey?


  4. woolie says:

    A great effort and lovely results for a beginner! Rice and fish are also a good way for the novice to move into the art of cooking. You may have found it all difficult but your pictures were pretty cool and they allow the story to go with a flow. Savvy, it is also almost impossible to cook enough just for one as you may feel hungry later and how terrible it would be if you had finished it! Always cook a reasonable amount (kiasi) and if you find you are full -no problem- save it for later.

    This post reminds me of a great Kenyan who used a Japanese phrase to spread an amazing message across the globe with her work. Check out the word ‘Mottainai’ and see if you know who I mean.

    Stay well.


    • savvykenya says:

      Thanks Woolie! To be fair, the prospect of sitting down to a home cooked meal with *wine* really motivated me, and I did enjoy the results. The food was so much, I had enough for the following day as well. I can’t cook little food, it doesn’t make sense to cook for only one person when we are quite generous with our guests, anytime they come!

      This first attempt gave me so much confidence that I cooked for my friends ugali with beef stew the following day and it was also a smashing success!

      Amazing, on Monday I have to give a presentation about my country, and of course Wangari Maathai will definitely be featured in the “famous people” tab. That woman was quite an inspiration, if only I could have an eighth of her generous spirit.. Thanks for the hint about the phrase, I will definitely include it in my presentation.


  5. MrsMwiti.com says:

    That was bold! Fish is not easy. You get one step wrong and you could end up with (fish) porridge. 🙂 The only way I know how to make fish is deep fried fish fillet….where you put the fillet pieces in egg then roll them on seasoned flour (or breadcrumbs) and then deep fry.

    I also recently learnt to make tatar sauce. Together , fish and tatar sauce are a match made in heaven. Just as my kids. “Mum, you are the best tatar sauce maker ever!” 😀

    The best coconut fish I have had, is the one they make at Kosewe (*Salivates at the thought*). I would pay premium for that recipe.

    Enjoy trying more recipes!


    • savvykenya says:

      Hi Mrs Mwiti,

      Thanks, I will try deep frying soon, that is like the same recipe for making fish fingers, right? Where you roll the fish in flour/breadcrumbs. What is seasoned flour anyway? Still learning.

      How do you make tartar sauce? Please, do a post on it!


      • MrsMwiti.com says:

        Yes. Same as fish fingers. Seasoned flour is flour with seasoning. 🙂 That is you can season with salt & any other spice you like.

        Tatar Sauce Recipe ( Makes 1 cup)

        1 cup mayonnaise.
        1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish (Didn’t include it mainly because I couldn’t find it at my local supermarket).
        1 tablespoon minced onion.
        2 tablespoons lemon juice (This was listed as optional. However I
        added a little more than the recommended. I squeezed in all the juice from 1 lemon)
        Salt and pepper to taste.

        In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish,
        and minced onion. Stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before


      • savvykenya says:

        Thank you, I am definitely going to try my hand at making this


  6. pitzevans says:

    i agree on the dont like cooking part.


  7. Pingback: Book Review: Broken by Karin Slaughter | Savvy Kenya In Japan

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