I have to say, the routine of eating cereal for breakfast has long gotten old. It's true that on weekends when I wake up motivated I alternate between a strawberry puff pancake and eggs with toast and sausage, but that still leaves five days of the week with the same boring stuff. My wife dislikes cereal -- she says that my Cinnamon Life piled high with strawberries is too sweet, which is probably true -- but she admits that her own usual breakfast is equally boring: white rice with fermented soybeans (natto). Every day, the same thing.
But in the morning, when we allow ourselves to spend an extra five or ten minutes in the kitchen, there's some amazing and healthy eating just waiting to be had. We need to have the proper ingredients in our fridge and cupboard, but there are enough variations of this that it's still an easy breakfast.
For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese cooking, get your pens and paper and write down ochazuke. Ocha (お茶) in Japanese means "tea" and zuke (浸け) means "soaked." Although you can buy instant ochazuke in many Asian groceries, it's much more satisfying, not to mention healthier, to eat what you've prepared on your own.
Some friends I've introduced this to are dismissive of its potential to satisfy. "It won't stick to my ribs," they scoff, then high-five each other and do two or three jumping chest-bumps. "Whoot!" they shout before finally settling down. (They're American. They're also full of caffeine and sugar). Well, it's true that it won't stay with you the same way that a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and a dozen pieces of buttered toast would. But I do believe that it'll keep you sated for just as long as cereal will.
If you can find the ingredients for ochazuke, try it out. If not in the morning, then have it as a snack. It is salty, but other than the high sodium content it's generally very healthy. Personally, I feel that the combination of all the ingredients pictured below is not only delicious, but it's fun. Texturally and flavor-wise, this is great stuff.
And here in Hawaii, where a 21 oz. box of Cinnamon Life cereal costs $8 with tax at Foodland, all these ingredients are comparable in price, if not cheaper, on a meal-by-meal basis.
1 umeboshi (pickled plum)
5 takuan slivers (pickled daikon radish)
1/2-sheet nori (dried Japanese seaweed), folded and crumbled
1 or 2 pieces shiojake (salted salmon)
Wakame furikake (dry mix of kelp-based seasoning for rice), handful
Green tea, boiled
Takuan (left), boiled rice (center top), and shiojake (right)
Nori pack (left) and wakame furikake pack (right)
1. Steam rice. (Or, if you're like us, microwave pre-made rice stored in the freezer.)
2. Add a big, juicy pickled plum. (Luckily for us, our umeboshi were hand-delivered by guests from Japan, who had obtained them from a renowned umeboshi maker from Kyushu. If you can, buy a kind that is known for being slightly sweet. Most umeboshi are face-puckeringly sour and quite salty.)
3. Crumble a half-sheet of dried seaweed and scatter it atop the rice and pickled plum.
4. Add a handful of takuan.
5. Add one or two small pieces of dried salmon. (Too much salmon overpowers the other ingredients, so start off conservatively.)
6. Boil a small pot of green tea. (We prefer loose leaf Japanese tea, as the flavor is strong and clean.)
7. After pouring the boiled green tea about 2/3rds up your bowl, add a handful of furikake seasoning. (While there are many kinds of furikake, we had wakame [kelp] furikake on hand.)