500 Calories Lunch: My Mom’s One Plate Lunch

My mom’s one plate lunch comes with lots of colors and flavors. It has Japanese green (Komatsuna), onion, red pepper, bitter melon, Shimeji mushroom, pork, anchovies and walnut bread. She places the ingredients, except anchovies and bread, on a plate and covers with saran wrap. She places the plate in microwave and pushes the button. After four minutes, she hears “ding”. It’s ready to eat!

I’m visiting my home town, Tokyo. My mom lives alone after my dad passed away 2 years ago. Yes, she still does cook healthy food for herself. Remember? She likes to watch Japanese TV shows where they talk about healthy food. She buys local produce and most of them are organically grown near her house. She buys high quality fish and meats from the store. Her favorite (my favorite, too!) is pork from Tokyo X. It’s like Iberico pork from Spain. It is delicious! It is tender and juicy, and yet the fat from pork does not get greasy! I was amazed to find out how easy it was to clean the dish.

My mom doesn’t call it cooking. Her cooking method is “ding ding train” like chew chew train. Microwave cooking is popular in Japan. Because it’s easier and quicker compared to traditional stove top cooking. It is also safer for elderly where they tend to forget to turn off the stove. My mom admits that microwave cooking isn’t the best healthy method. But it is too much trouble to do traditional cooking just for herself. Therefore, she uses lower power level, like 500 watts, when she cooks her meals in microwaves.

When Japanese people microwave food, they say “do ding” because ding is the sound when the microwave is done. There are many cooking books and TV shows about how to cook with microwave. According to a study, microwave cooking is more effective to prevent losing nutrients from vegetables than stove top cooking. You do not need to add water, therefore it becomes steaming method. Remember? Soluble vitamins and soluble dietary fiber get dissolved in water, and destroyed by high heat. The best cooking method for vegetables is steaming followed by boiling, stir-fried, fried, and deep fried.

My mom has a small pot that is made out of silicon. The dish has been very useful for her to cook in microwave. I like the silicon pot compared to glassware or plastic container because of so many reasons. It is light and easy to clean. It requires less time to microwave because it holds heat well. It doesn’t get too hot to touch the silicon when cooked in microwave. I was not so sure about cooking vegetable in microwave, but I have to admit that my mom’s microwave cooked dishes are very tasty. She also has a microwaveable rice cooker. But, it hasn’t been successful. Water tends to overflow and make a mess on the turntable. Also rice tends to be undercooked.

My mom does not use salt for cooking. Instead, she uses ingredients that has natural salty flavor. For example, she adds anchovies to the one plate meal. Later, I learned that eating bell peppers with anchovies removes bitterness. How did she know? I also think that bitter melon isn’t so bitter if I eat with anchovies. Is this coincident? Sometimes she uses bonito flakes and canned tuna to add more flavor to her meals. Eating different flavors and textures of the ingredients does not make me crave for salt. I am often surprised how sweet vegetables can be. My mom’s cooking resets my palate.

No matter how my mom cooks, she never gains weight and always maintains a healthy weight until almost 80! Great job and thank you, mom!