Utilitarian Baked Chicken Recipe

In keeping with the theme of stripping paleo/primal recipes down to their bare bones and slapping the word “utilitarian” in the title I’ve decided to grace you all with basic instructions for baked chicken. Anyway, less talk more utility.

And a picture

Less talk, more utility, and a picture. That oven needs a clean too.

Ingredients

  • Chicken 300-1500g (I often use the pre-cut “karaage” chicken thigh chunks that you can find at any supermarket here, but this works with an entire thigh, breast, etc. The amount is flexible too)
  • Some kind of oil (suggestions below)
  • Some kind of spice (suggestions below)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220C, 35 minutes
  2. Chuck everything into a bowl and mix with your hands. If you’re not pressed for time (ha!) or an organised person (lolz!) then you can leave it marinading in the fridge for up to 24 hours (might be an idea not to preheat the oven for this long though)
  3. Arrange on a baking tray and put in the oven.

Geez this is so easy I can’t believe I actually bothered to type it up for you slackers. Just don’t bookmark this page in case someone is looking through your bookmarks one day and is like “wth?!”

Pro Tip: slash the skin

Oh yeah, oils and spices! There are no real rules here – get creative! eg

Italian

Oil: Olive oil

Spices: Oregano, basil, thyme, salt and pepper (maybe some garlic salt, if you can get it over here).

A Little Spicy

Oil: “Lite” Olive oil

Spices: Cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper (optional: Tabasco sauce)

Five Spice

Oil: Macadamia or coconut oil

Spices: Salt, five spice.

…aaaaaand that’s where I stop.

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$how Me the Mone¥!!!

Who said perseverance doesn’t pay off?

My Amazon Associates application finally stopped being rejected.  That means every time you take me up on one of my highly-thought-out, awesome product suggestions (eg like on my Definitive Primal Shopping Guide) I can get paid.

Diving around in money

You and me both, buddy

 

If you’re living over here in Japan and are thinking of doing some blogging you might want to sign up for the local Japanese Amazon Associates program too – https://affiliate.amazon.co.jp/ If there is some interest I may give some instructions in a future post, but the initial signup form is almost identical to the English one and there is only one free-form text field (you might even be able to use English here, not sure).

In case you were wondering, the thing that seemed to be the cause of all the pain was the fact that I didn’t mention anywhere on this site that I use Amazon Associate links. It’s not in the boiler-plate rejection response, but it’s a requirement on point 10 of the Japanese version of the contract. Adding it to the “Disclaimers” section seems to have solved the problem.

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Sensible Primal and Abenomics

This isn’t going to be a post about the pros and cons of the Abe cabinet’s fiscal policy since the LDP came to power in 2012, but rather a calm look at the facts and some suggestions as to how primal enthusiasts can navigate the reality under Abenomics.

This post has been in the back of my mind for about 12 months now. Prices of imported foods in this country have always been notoriously high, thanks to the various tariffs and other protectionist mechanisms in place. Having said that, prices had at least stabilized and become more competitive in the months leading up to Kuroda’s announcement in late 2012 that he was committed to debasing the value of the yen.

My Observation

As a massive consumer of imported Australian grass-fed beef I noticed the impact almost immediately, with said beef prices shooting up 30% over two months as the US Dollar surged against the Yen – a dollar which previously bought less than 78 yen now was buying over 100. Other imported ingredients also rose, but at least the price of locally-produced vegetables, plus locally-caught fish remained somewhat stable.

Then in April this year the Abe government raised Sales Tax from 5% to 8%. So something that previously cost 105 yen (about a buck) would now cost 108 yen, right?

Wrong. Countless websites have documented the fact, matching my own observations, that prices have risen on average by about 25% across the board with regards to food and restaurants.

Two months ago Bloomberg published an article which echoed my man-on-the-street observations with regard to food prices:

“The price of everything we eat on a daily basis is going up,” Tatsunami, 70, a retired kimono dresser, said while shopping in Tokyo’s Sugamo area. “I’m making do by halving the amount of meat I serve and adding more vegetables.”

The Facts

The article goes on to give us the actual overall year-on-year inflation as 3.6%, with food prices having risen 5% overall, 10% for fresh food (this 10% is the figure we should care about – we don’t give a shit that Pop Tarts have only risen 5%). And a little further down they confirm my observations with regard to imported beef:

The cost of imported beef rose to 230 yen ($2.24) for 100 grams at stores in central Tokyo in April from 187 yen a year earlier, government data show.

What to do?

I think that the wrong answer is to lower the quality of the food we consume. Just because the price of heavily-processed 90% of foods you find in Japanese supermarkets have “only” risen 5% year-on-year doesn’t mean you should go out and take advantage of these awesome savings.

The biggest advantage you have is that as a regular forager you are acutely aware of the quality, price and nutritional value of the products in the supermarket. You have an innate sense of when something is suspiciously expensive, compared to when it actually represents good value. Imagine the poor suckers who wake up one morning and find their instant noodles have risen in price and they are trapped as they feel they have no other options for calories! You’re already 100x better off than these folks.

Furthermore, fortunately there is a driving force of Japanese who demand quality at a reasonable price. Obviously there will be a limit to how low they can push prices, but this is a large enough faction that producers cannot afford to ignore them. These folks are going in to bat for you every day, making decisions that are somewhat in line with what we are trying to achieve as Primal devotees.

So what are some concrete things you can do in order to keep afloat?

  1. Substitute vegetables for meat. Like Tatsunami above, you can just cut back on the amount of meat you eat and this will make a significant impact. Of course, you want to keep an eye on the amount of protein you are consuming to make sure you don’t unnecessarily lose lean body mass (unless that is your goal – see below)
  2. Increase your consumption of fat and oils. You already know the benefits of the various “good” fats and oils out there. In particular they satiate one and so are a good source of calories when calories are tight. If you’re currently consuming less than 35% of calories from fat and are feeling the pinch, I’d personally increase consumption to anywhere up to 60% (if you don’t get sick of eating first). Remember, your body is fat-adapted and in pretty good shape overall – it knows what to do with the calories you don’t need. Japanese statistics for inflation have calories from rice as a large component of the calculation, so the relative cheapness of this food group is hidden from the official stats.
  3. Increase consumption of other “inferior” meats. If I was in my home country I’d be suggesting everyone go out and stock up on offal, but unfortunately Japanese offal tends to sell for prices comparable to mainstream cuts. Still, there are “unpopular” cuts that you can take advantage of. Chicken breast comes to mind immediately – you can still find this for under 30 yen/100g. The price of certain bone-in cuts also has risen less than their fleshy counterparts (try pig neck, pork ribs prepared by a Chinese butcher), and there are a few offal offerings that Japanese steer clear of but Chinese would have thousands of delicious ways to prepare.
  4. Be more vigilant than ever with regards to choosing local produce. You have to make every mouthful count, especially if you are increasing your fat consumption at the expense of vegetables and meats. Imported fruit and vegetable produce tends to be less nutritious due to having been picked while still unripe, left to ripen in the shipping container over here (ethanol spraying optional).
  5. Decrease your Lean Body Mass. Sacrilege? Maybe. It’s more a suggestion the for protein-shake-gulping, gym-five-times-a-week mega-macho folk. I know you have worked hard to get where you are, but if your muscle addiction is causing you to either go broke or eat low quality food then you might want to consider leaning down a little. Remember, Japan is a different world now compared to two years ago, so if you don’t absolutely need those massive pecs it might be time to reconsider your priorities until at least we all receive the promised salary increases.* And we’re going for “lean” here, not “flabby.”
  6. Substitute protein shakes for meat. Not recommended as a complete replacement for your protein requirements. And make sure you find one without any added sugar. Note that this is the only item in the list that I haven’t done myself, but I have a buddy who has due to a short bout of underemployment.
  7. Fast. If you’re not already fasting intermittently then this is a good chance to start. And if you are already doing intermittent fasting then this is a chance to increase the length of the fast. Remember, skipping all meals for a day a week saves you 1/7th, or 14% off your food bill. Depending on what you were eating previously this may be the only change you need to make!

When I have a look at my YNAB** spending over the last two years I can see I have managed to keep my produce spending fairly consistent without limiting my eating pleasure much. Small changes add up, and sensible substitutions and compromise are key here.

So what about you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments some sensible changes you have made to tighten your belt while adhering to a primal way of living!

 

* I know, I said I wouldn’t make this political. Sorry.

** You Need A Budget, budgeting/kakeibou software. Highly recommended.

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Worst Coffee in the World Found Here in Japan

I learnt a couple of valuable lessons recently:

  1. If a store has “meat” in the name then you shouldn’t be surprised when their coffee beans taste like ass
  2. Even grinding your own beans, if the beans are bad enough to begin with then it’s possible the final coffee will remain undrinkable.
You taste like ass

You taste like ass

Here’s the calculation I used to trick myself into thinking this would be a good idea

Specialised Roasting House Beans: unmatched flavour, 500 yen for 100g.

Organic Beans from Kaldi: delicious, significantly better than Starbucks if you grind your own. 500 yen for 200g.

Beans from Hanamasa: if these are even drinkable then I’ll be happy: 500 yen for 400g.

However…

Ok, saying the resulting cup of coffee tastes like “ass” is not really fair. Not really fair on asses, that is. This Hanamasa blend has a truly vile flavour, something like bitter mildew with an overpowering burnt rubber aroma. I tried it weak, I tried it strong, I tried making it with the Aeropress and as a regular drip coffee, and each time it just came up undrinkable.

And that wasn’t even the worst part. I got the jitters, which some in the primal/paleo community would put down to mycotoxins, and I’ve always thought the whole mold/mycotoxins thing was a bit of a scam until I drank the worst coffee in the world. Couldn’t focus on my work for the rest of the day after that (maybe add “3. don’t experiment on yourself in the office” to my lessons learnt above) and had trouble sleeping.

Then to top it all off I had trouble getting the stench out of my grinder, even thought about throwing it out #fail

For what it’s worth the blend was made from Indonesian, Brazilian and Vietnamese beans which raised no alarm bells for me at the time.

I know some of you will ignore my bean-buying suggestions here and actually go out there and buy these things just to see how bad they actually are. You have been warned…

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Power-up Your Primal Outing

Here’s a tweak that works no matter where you are: Organise a meetup where everyone leaves their phones at home.

For us it was a Meat-up at Barbacoa Grill in Aoyama with a few of my meat-loving buddies. The verdict? We’ll be doing this again in future.

The two biggest observations were:

  1. how you can “reckon” stuff and not face scrutiny of having it looked up on Wikipedia straight away, and
  2. how usually at one of these things, once everyone is stuffed full of meat and salad* and there is a collective protein-tainted sigh the default action is to pull out the phone and see how popular we are (and hence our worth as a human being) thanks to the pics we uploaded of lunch, then upload a new round of pics of dinner and wait for the comments and Likes to come rolling in. Not having this distraction meant we could continue talking for the full allocated two hours until we were kicked out.

The other notable event was one of the guys getting lost on the way to the venue with no way to let us know, no way to bring up a map. How did he resolve this issue? He used a skill that our primal ancestors would have used on a daily basis and spoke to people on the street to ask directions ZOMG!!

Incidentally, the reason we went phone free was because one member’s phone was damaged in the torrential rain as the heavens opened over the Adachi-ku Fireworks on Saturday. The rest of us were like “awesome!” and then we were like “let’s do this,” and decided on this +1 primal power-up which you can use any time either on your own or as a group.

 

* minus the salad.

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Utilitarian Ribs Recipe

This is a no-bullshit recipe for slow cooker ribs that you can prepare in Japan.

Ingredients

  • Ribs 1.8kg (less works, more works too. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly)
  • Salt & Pepper (or some kind of fancypants rub)
  • Vinegar 2 tablespoons
  • Soy sauce (gasp!) 1 tablespoon
  • Water 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Preheat the slow cooker to “high” lol. Set it to about 5 hours
  2. Rub the salt and pepper (or rub) into the ribs meat
  3. Put the vinegar, soy sauce and water in the bottom of the slow cooker
  4. Stand the ribs upright in the crockpot. They don’t have to be standing straight like soldiers – leaning around like lazy layabouts about to get devoured by a giant is probably more appropriate.
  5. Cover and come back in about 4 1/2 hours to make sure they aren’t too dry (they never are)

THIS RECIPE WILL NOT MAKE RIBS THE SAME AS IF YOU DID THEM IN AN OVEN!!! But because of the low liquid they are less stewed, more baked than other methods. They also rank quite high on the melt-in-your-mouth scale,* and this recipe is easy to modify (eg make a tangy sauce down the bottom of the slow cooker which you cover the meat with afterwards)

 

* Not an SI-approved unit of measure

 

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Ribs in Japan? Sourcing the Rack

While chopstick mastery for a foreigner is to be politely applauded, and exercising different (hand) muscles would be in line with primal guidelines, there comes a time* when you need to pick up your food using “nature’s chopsticks” (ie bones) and tear into it like our ancestors.

Australia doesn’t have the ribs culture that my North American friends seem to take for granted. My mother never cooked them and I never chose them at a restaurant because my impression was that they were expensive and mostly bone, and you always end up being the only person eating in their fingers.

Fortunately Tokyo has a few decent options for eat-out pit-style ribs, but what if you want to make these badboys yourself?

One of the things I noticed when I first arrived in Japan was how, besides chicken, pretty much all the meat at the supermarket here is bone-free. The thinly-sliced shabu-shabu meat I understand (and mince, obviously), but to find out that I couldn’t get a steak or roast with a bone still attached was quite a shock. I don’t think I even saw a rack of ribs for my first 12 months here but now I know that while it requires bit more hunting and foraging there are still a few options out there.

Costco

If you have access to a Costco then why are you even reading this? You probably also have a massive oven and no doubt eat ribs several times a day. What’s that? I can’t hear you because you have some show-off caught in your teeth.

Costco does a 35cm strip of baby back ribs for about 2200 yen.

Specialty Supermarkets

Tokyo has a couple of supermarkets where you can walk in off the street and pick up a raw rack of yum. But bring your wallet – these stores are expensive! I’ve seen racks being sold at Nissin World Delecatessen and National Azabu.

Meat Guy

For those of you not near a Costco, and not near a specialty supermarket, I’m afraid your only option might be Meat Guy. Actually, that’s not quite fair – Meat Guy has an awesome range, albeit a little expensive.

Poor Man’s Ribs – Hanamasa

Once again my favourite oroshi supermarket comes to the rescue. For some reason Hanamasa has always stocked bone-in Canadian Pork ribs but they are not in “rack” form – they’re already cut, probably assuming customers barbeque them along with their other yakiniku-style strips of meat. It’s like, all the pieces are there – meat, bone and fat – but there’s just something not right about having them pre-cut like this.

(Depending on the store you go to you may be able to request them uncut and they’ll go out back and prepare them for you. The one at Shinkawa offers this service).

I get these from time to time, and while I have an oven I also developed a utilitarian slow cooker recipe for when you need no-fuss ribs in your mouth or have a similar ribs-based emergency.

 

* weekly occurrence

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