Category :

the potato things

As a semi-Irishman, I’m all but required to love potatoes.

I once ordered a basket of french fries and potato mochi at a Japanese pub (izakaya, 居酒屋), and my Japanese friend said “you’re so American! You eat so many potatoes!”


Oh dear.

I once had french fries for breakfast, but maybe that’s the American in me more than the Irish.

I swear I’ve eaten more potatoes here in the last month than I ever ate in a year back home. Maybe because I have to cook more and they’re really easy to cook. In the course of my Japanese kitchen foibles, I’ve discovered two no-fail potato recipes that I can do at a moment’s notice: sake soy sauce potatoes, and oven fries.

sake shoyu dressing for potatoes

The former came from one of the Japanese cookbooks I tried to read, and only needs four ingredients: cooking oil, potatoes, Japanese rice wine (NOT “sake,”* but “nihonshu” 日本酒), and soy sauce. The latter has been the Loch Ness Monster of my kitchen endeavors for years now. It wasn’t until this calendar year that I finally got it right. The secret? Dry the potatoes, and season them liberally. Also, use oil conservatively (only enough to make the seasoning stick to the potatoes.) Then bake the hell out of them.

*In the US, we say “sake” to mean Japanese rice wine. In Japan, if you say “sake,” you are literally just saying “alcohol.” If you want Japanese rice wine, it’s “nihonshu,” which ironically means “Japanese booze.” 

finished sake shoyu potatoes

sake soy sauce potatoes

makes 2 servings

This is a good side dish, or a starch to complement your main dish, and it’s crazy easy to make. I’ve found that white potatoes are easier to prepare than the various types of sweet potatoes. That being said, it would be interesting to try the same recipe with sweet potatoes.


4 small potatoes

2 Tbsp cooking oil

2-4 Tbsp rice wine

2-4 Tbsp soy sauce


Heat cooking oil in a large pan on the stove, high heat.

Slice and chop potatoes into half-moons (half-circles.) When the oil is hot, layer the slices in the pan, in only one layer. Let fry for 3-5 minutes, until starting to brown on the bottom.

Flip the slices and brown on the other side.

Mix together rice wine and soy sauce in a small bowl. When both sides of the potatoes are browned, dump the mixture into the pan and cover with a lid. Turn down the heat a bit and let the sauce evaporate.

Adjust to your liking. If the potato is black on one side, it will be amazing, I promise.

baked oven fries 2

oven fries

makes 2 servings


4 small potatoes

olive oil


seasoning of your choice


If using a conventional oven, preheat to 180 C/350 F.

Cut the potatoes as you wish, into wedges or sticks, etc. Dry between two paper towels.

Put the potatoes into a medium-sized bowl. Toss in some olive oil, just enough to coat the potatoes, but not too much.

Toss in salt, liberally, and your chosen seasoning. With your hand, mix the potatoes until coated in oil and seasoning, adding more of each as needed.

Toast fries at 1000 W (180 C/350 F) for 40 – 50 minutes, until considerably brown.

Let cool and enjoy.


Good luck,

Nick P.


Categories: potatoes, savory, side dishes

gluten-free poundcake


I spent nearly a month trying and re-trying various poundcake recipes because I’m stubborn and anal-retentive. I’ve never done so much recipe testing in my life. I’ve been making poundcake in my meager but endearing toaster oven for months now, and can do it successfully most of the time. But recently I wanted to find some alt-diet recipes. Praise be to Pinterest and Google, but goddamn this country’s lack of alt-diet ingredients.

I interned in a bakery in the dark ages of college. The bakery had started as a cake/cupcake food truck, and turned into a cake shop. Cupcakes had always been one of my least favorite pastries. They were too obvious and too sweet, and I couldn’t make a good frosting to save my life at gunpoint. All that changed when I started working here. I even started liking chocolate cake…well, vegan chocolate cake. And I discovered, finally, a gluten-free pastry that didn’t linger uncomfortably on my tongue after I swallowed. How surprised was I when the owners gave me the recipes: the vegan chocolate cupcake used canola oil to substitute both butter and eggs, and the gluten-free substitute was just rice flour.

gluten-free poundcake 1

Fortunately, both of those exist in Japan. They wouldn’t survive without some high-quality rice flour, and multiple varieties of it. Unfortunately, xanthan gum is not a thing in this country. Fortunately, gelatin works just as well. With my first attempt at gluten-free poundcake, I was successful, and all I had to do was substitute rice flour (komeko, 米粉) for all-purpose flour (1:1 ratio), and throw in a bit of agar-agar (kanten, 寒天). There are other varieties of rice flour, for different purposes: dango flour (dango-ko, 団子粉) for the sweet, skewered rice dumplings; and mochi flour (mochi-ko, 餅粉) for glutinous rice buns, among others.


gluten-free toaster oven poundcake

based on the basic recipe in Many Poundcakes in One Poundcake Mould, by Yoko Wakayama (「パウンド型一つで作るたくさんのケーク」、若山曜子)

makes one 18 cm cake (18 cm x 7 cm x 6.5 cm), or two 12 cm cakes (12 cm x 5.5 cm x 5 cm)

This is the most basic recipe, to which you can add whatever suits your fancy. Make sure butter and eggs are at room temperature. Leave butter out for a few hours just until it becomes pliable. You can put the eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water to bring them to temperature for a few minutes while you’re preparing. Once the batter is prepared, work quickly, because the baking powder works instantly.


100 g unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature

100 g granulated sugar

2 eggs (~100 g), at room temperature

100 g rice flour

1/2 tsp baking powder (~3 g)

3 g agar-agar

Extra mix-ins or flavors (cocoa powder, green tea powder, etc.)


If using a conventional oven, instead of a toaster oven, preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F.)

Measure out all ingredients in small bowls. Combine the flour, baking powder, and agar-agar in one bowl. Crack the eggs in another.

Line your poundcake mould with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Gradually beat in granulated sugar and keep beating until consistent, another 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Beat for another 2-3 minutes. Like the sugar, gradually beat in the dry mixture, just until fully combined.

Using a wooden or rubber spatula, fold in extras and flavorings. If using extract, cocoa powder, etc., that need to be fully mixed in, use the electric mixer.

Scrape batter into poundcake mould(s), and cover loosely with tin foil.

Toast at 1000 W for 30 – 45 minutes, until firm in the center, then remove foil and toast for 5 more minutes to brown the tops. To test, insert a wooden toothpick into the center (all the way.) If it comes out clean, the cake is done. You should also be able to smell the cake. If using a conventional oven, bake at 180 C for 40 minutes.

When finished, remove from the oven and let cool before cutting.


Enjoy! Tanoshinde ne.

Nick P.


Categories: alternative diet, cake

a new and messy beginning

Good morning! Or evening, or November, depending on where you live.

This is actually the reincarnation of my old blog. I used Google Blogger, which is great if you’re just starting out, but after four years doing the blogging thing, I was ready for the next step: WordPress. The two of them dominate the blogging scene, and WordPress holds reign over the professional and business blogosphere, while Blogger is still a popular choice for individuals.

Also, WordPress is a lot f***in harder to set up than Blogger. I don’t even remember half of what I did to get here, but if it weren’t for Laughing Squid’s amazing hosting and help, I would’ve been an retiree for sure.

I have a tendency towards self-deprecation, hence the title of the blog, and an even stronger tendency towards tripping over my own feet…hence the blog title. I once put sour cream and oats on my face hoping to clear up my acne. Turns out that doesn’t work so well. I once cracked my skull a little walking into the corner of a brick wall because I wasn’t looking. It really didn’t hurt. I once, no…thrice, set off my apartment’s smoke detector making croissants (though in one of those instances, I was actually making Dutch babies.) It’ll be a miracle if I make it to Christmas without setting off the alarm in my current apartment.

And all that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In my first blogging life, the majority of my posts were about mistakes. I had no recipes to show for it, too. But since my first steps, I’ve learned a thing or two, and this blog is the all-growed-up incarnation of my adventures as a Kitchen Klutz. There will be recipes, attached to many an entertaining clumsy story. There will be useful tips based on life experience. And because I can’t seem to let go of my precious D3100 (I call it Bink), there will be photos.

For more information about me specifically, check out the page coincidentally titled “about the klutz” at the top.

Y’all come back now, y’ hear?

Nick P.

Categories: about me