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Friday, June 8, 2012

Japanese Garden Inspiration
Inspiration for creativity, solutions for problems small and large, and opportunities for adventures are all around us.  A recent bout of anxiety over some of life's challenges was perfectly counter balanced with my first visit to The Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, California.  This 6 1/2 acre "Garden of Water and Fragrance" is remarkably freeway close (405 at Burbank Blvd.) while at the same time a world away from the noise, bustle, and pressures of city living.  Positive energy trumping negative energy, smack dab in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.

Authentic dry gardens, lakes, stone lanterns, plants, trees, flowers, and a beautiful Japanese tea house provide the perfect meditative environment to refocus and reflect on life and nature's simple pleasures.  Dr. Koichi Kawana, the garden's creator, succeeded in adapting this oasis to be true in Japanese detail while still compatible with the adjoining water reclamation plant and administration facility, "thus achieving what he termed mystic profundity".  Yin and Yang, so glad to see you again.

The garden provided many things, especially a much needed sense of peace, and of course a little culinary inspiration as well.  My favorite, easy, Japanese recipe is tempura veggies (and fruits) so I made up a batch using Veggie Sweet Mini Peppers and sweet potatoes.  Since I've been working on creating a homemade veggie burger recipe I thought it would be fun to take some of the same vividly purple Okinawa Sweet Potatoes from Melissa's I used in the first recipe and make them into Tempura Fries to accompany some mini burgers.  (Until my own burger recipe is ready to publish, please choose any of the very good veggie burgers available at your supermarket to recreate this dish.)

Purple Okinawa Tempura Fries 
2 large Okinawa sweet potatoes
2 large regular sweet potatoes
tempura batter mix
vegetable oil
teriyaki sauce + ketchup

Fill a bowl with cold water.  Peel the potatoes, cut them into traditional fry shapes or rounds if you prefer, and place them into the cold water.

Make the tempura batter according to instructions on the box and set aside while oil heats.   In the meantime, drain the potato pieces on paper towels and thoroughly pat dry.

In a heavy pot heat the vegetable oil, at least 2 inches deep, until a drop of batter sizzles.  Dip each potato piece into the batter, let some drip off, then gently drop into the hot oil.  Repeat with more pieces but don't overcrowd the pot.  Cook 2-3 minutes per side, remove finished pieces to a pan lined with parchment paper, and repeat until all the potatoes are cooked.

Allow the fries to cool slightly then serve with both teriyaki sauce and ketchup, alongside your veggie burgers.   

More Japanese and American yin/yang synchronicity:
Last week while getting my 18 year old Volvo repainted I explored the Mitsuwa Marketplace on Western in Torrance and found these amazing Egg Salad Donuts.  The donut isn't sweet, more like a fried bread filled with super delicious egg salad.  Amazing!


  1. Love the way you tied together the Japanese Garden, the recipe and the Japanese market. Yakir said it would have been perfect to go to a Japanese market after the garden but as far as I know we don't have one in the Valley.

    Great idea photographing the tempura on the kale. I bet the tempura is so delicious with those yummy Okinawan purple sweet potatoes.

    Can't wait to see your veggie burger!

    1. Thanks Faye - that was such a nice day. I can't believe how many people I've talked with who didn't know the Garden was there.

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