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Did someone say sashimi?

This month we traipsed off to Japan by way of Wakoshu, a fab expat cookbook by Elizabeth Andoh.

Check out our special foodscapes page for close-up images of some of our favorite ingredients! If you're looking for images from previous episodes, visit our archives!

The art of pickling can yield so much more than the garlicky gherkin sliver you find wrapped up in wax paper and laid out next to your deli sandwich. We've discovered that both Indian and Japanese cuisines routinely include homemade pickled fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, cucumbers and onions. This month's menu included Impatient Pickles, so called because this delicately brined mixture of cabbage, Japanese cucumber and a rhizome called myohga can be made in as little as three hours before mealtime.

We made two variations of tonkatsu, or deep-fried pork cutlets. The first was filled with shiso or ohba leaves and mashed umeboshi, or pickled plums. The second with a leek miso paste and nori. Both were rolled, coated in flour, egg and panko bread crumbs, deep-fried and served at room temperature as part of a tasty appetizer. Awfully cool looking and pretty easy to do!

Miso, a fermented soybean paste, comes in dozens of varieties. One of our recipes suggested maru miso, made with barley. As you can see, it has a rich and tempting golden hue - and a hefty price tag.

In the end, we settled on a more economical selection of generic red and white miso and spent our capital on an extra selection of sashimi.

We trekked out to the suburb of Arlington Heights to explore the Japanese grocery store Mitsuwa and came back with staples of the Japanese pantry, including: bonito flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, iriko (dried sardines), miso, konbu and panko bread crumbs!

Restaurants sometimes serve up octopus that is tough and flavorless, difficult to chew and hardly worth the effort. However our octopus - which was preserved in liquid and sold in a sealed plastic bag - turned out to be tender and delicately flavored when paired with a spicy mustard miso sauce and some pleasantly bitter radish sprouts.

Daifuku, one of Stacey's dream desserts, is usually sweetened red adzuki bean paste surrounded by soft and chewy mochi, a pounded rice confection. This one was melon flavored, bright green, and had a mystery center.