Tag Archive | okonomiyaki

Pounding More Than Pavement: My Frustrations of Job Searching

Unless you’re looking for work, there’s no way you could understand how difficult it can be just to find a decent job.

If I submit 20 applications in a week, you would think that at least one of those would result in an interview, right? It’s a 5 percent success rate. That’s what I hope for, and I’ve turned up empty-handed.

The hardest part is just filling out the application. I have to fill out information for at least 8 different jobs, more if I want to list repeat performances at the same employer. Some places expect a phone number and the name of a manager. My work history spans over 12 years, and includes a store that filed for bankruptcy and closed. At least one of my past supervisors has retired, while others have moved around to different store locations and others have just moved on to other companies. And then, one of my more recent employers happens to be the brother of my ex fiancé, so I’m nervous about any biases he might have against me. If I have to fill out an application where I can’t just import data from somewhere else, I’m spending an hour flipping between tabs in Firefox just to review all of my employment information, with another tab to Google for phone numbers for all of these jobs. And to be honest, I really don’t remember exactly what I had been getting paid, other than my lowest has been $6.25 an hour and my highest has been $12 per hour.

My experience puts me in a bad spot. I have a lot of experience as a sales associate and cashier working in retail environments. I don’t have a lot of management experience. For some places, I’m going to be seen as overqualified. With my experience, I could ask for higher wages. Unfortunately, companies could hire someone who they can pay less. So if I apply for a low-rung management job, I’m up against people with more management experience than I have, which looks better to an employer. In that sense, I’m actually unqualified. It’s like the fact that I have an Associates degree, in that I’m not seen as qualified for a position that requires a Bachelors degree even if I do have the knowledge and experience required.

So if I’m not getting interviews, it looks like I haven’t done anything.

That’s when people step in and offer advice, such as, “have you tried actually pounding pavement? Some places won’t post their jobs online.”

Thank you! I did spend a day trying to pound pavement. Between four different Asian restaurants, I filled out one application, left my name and phone number at two locations, and at the fourth location I was told they weren’t hiring and just sent away. I figured an Asian restaurant would give me an excuse to work on my Japanese, possibly even whipping up okonomiyaki in the kitchen if I was able.

At another restaurant, I asked for an application and was handed one to fill out, and then I was told to complete the form outside of the establishment. This was in the afternoon, and the restaurant was absolutely not busy, so they could have allowed me to sit at their bar or one of their tables and made it look like they were working. I’m fairly certain that my application was filed in the circular filing cabinet anyway, just based on how the one waitress acted towards me.

“Well do you have any waitressing skills?” No, but I could be a dishwasher, or I could bus tables. Does it matter what my skills are? You probably asked me to apply everywhere that was hiring, even though I’ve been trying to find work related to things I know I can do.

Which brings me to my next issue, and that’s the people who act like there is someone, somewhere, who is handing out jobs, but they can’t seem to tell you who that person is. I’m already dealing with my own thoughts about my debt, the bills I have to pay, the ways I’ve probably messed up an application, the fact that I’m not getting phone calls for interviews. Adding to my stress by making me feel like I’m not already spending enough time on job applications, or that I must be making mistakes that no normal person would ever make, is not helping my situation.

And then there’s McDonald’s.

Anyone who suggests that I should work at McDonald’s is the most infuriating person I could meet. I’m not saying the work is beneath me. I will say that there are easier positions that pay more. I just worked at a call center, getting paid $11 to sit in front of a computer and call people. If they were angry, I just had to hear them complain before they hung up the phone as forcefully as they could manage. If I work at McDonald’s, I might be lucky to make $9 an hour, but I certainly won’t be given a full-time shift of 40 hours a week. If I get 20 hours a week, I’ll have to deal with the possibility of hot grease burns on my skin, I’ll have to deal with customers who are irate,…

Actually, let’s talk about McDonald’s customers. People who unleash their temper over an ingredient being put on a burger that they didn’t want, even though they’re not allergic to that ingredient. People who throw things at the employees because things didn’t go their way. People who say the workers are incompetent, even if they make simple mistakes that can easily be fixed if the customer had any patience. People who leave their trash on the tables because they don’t feel like picking up after themselves.

A $2 cut in pay and being scheduled for half as many hours is not worth having to deal with all of that. I’d rather work at the porn store and deal with an armed robbery. If you work in fast food, I really hope the minimum wage goes up and you get paid what you deserve.

If you were wondering, I’ve been trying to work with staffing agencies as well. My last staffing agency hasn’t returned my call after I found a position I was interested in applying for. I just met with another staffing agency today which has two positions lined up that would work with my skills. I’m hoping for that to be my silver lining in all of this, and even if it’s not a permanent position, it should hopefully be something to get me back on my feet for a little while.

I want to be more than I am. I just need an opportunity to show what I can do in the meantime.

Japanese Food Is Expensive In The States?

I have, on numerous occasions, had people advise me not to shop at the Asian food stores that I might visit once a month. This advice comes after I’ve been to the Asian food stores and have picked up a few things for myself.

Their reasoning is simple. My friends don’t want me spending more money on food than what’s necessary. They’re not wrong, there are some things that are on the pricier side in regards to imported food. However, I manage to keep my shopping trips under $50 by buying food items that I’ll make last longer than a week.

And yet, lately it’s like I’ve been eating Japanese food for about half of my meals.

I’ve been making the same three things in rotation: okonomiyaki, omuraisu (omelette rice), and curry. That’s not to say I’ve eaten the same three things all the time, or that there aren’t variations to keep things interesting. Besides, the ingredients for each can be used for other recipes, and some ingredients are probably in most kitchens already.

Your basic shopping list will look like:

  • flour
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • cabbage
  • cooking oil (extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, your choice)
  • ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • rice
  • carrots
  • green onions/scallions
  • cooking onions
  • potatoes
  • chicken
  • bacon
  • mayonaise (in a squeeze container)
  • Japanese curry mix (I’ve seen Walmart and Wegmans carry Golden Curry in their Asian food section, so it is possible to buy it at a regular grocery store)
  • instant ramen, any flavor (the brick form, not cup, and you won’t be using the flavor packet anyway)

If you want to get fancy, and by fancy I mean you have an Asian market near where you live, then look for these items:

  • okonomiyaki flour (you won’t need the flour, baking powder, and sugar from the above list if you choose to get okonomiyaki flour instead)
  • okonomi sauce (you won’t need Worcestershire sauce)
  • straight ramen noodles
  • udon noodles
  • Japanese mayonaise
  • yakisoba sauce
  • nori sheets (yes, dried seaweed sheets used for sushi and such)

Chances are, you probably have many of these things already, making a run to the store even less expensive.

If you already have rice, eggs, ketchup, cooking onions, and chicken, you can make omelette rice! That’s probably the simplest recipe I could pass along, not to mention that it might be the only one where you already have everything you need. Start by making a lot of rice, maybe about 2 or 3 cups of cooked rice. Honestly you could make 10 cups of cooked rice for all I care, but unless you’re making a lot of omuraisu, you won’t be using it all right now and can save it for some of the other recipes. Once you have some cooked rice, even if you just cooked it or it was left over from another recipe or last night’s Chinese takeout, set it aside. Chop about half of an onion, more if you’d like, less if you don’t like onion. Cut a chicken breast into small pieces, then cook the chicken with the chopped onion in a pan with a tablespoon or two of cooking oil until the chicken is cooked. Add about two cups of rice, and maybe about two or three tablespoons of ketchup, in with the chicken and rice and stir it all together. Add more ketchup until it’s light pink, but not too much because you want it to hold together. If you add too much ketchup and the mix won’t hold together, add the other cup of rice if you reserved any. Put this mix aside and get out a skillet. Grease the skillet with butter, cooking oil, or nonstick cooking spray, your choice. In a small bowl, beat two eggs until scrambled. Fry the eggs in the skillet, though I personally recommend only cooking the eggs halfway and leaving a tiny bit of runny egg. The next part, you can do this as you’re supposed to or you can do my lazy technique. You’re supposed to press the rice mixture into a bowl so it takes on that shape, then flip the bowl onto a plate, and then put the omelette on top of the now-shaped rice. Trying to cut down on dishes, or maybe I’m boxing it up for work, I just press the rice mixture into a bowl and then put the egg on top of the bowl (runny side down, so the egg mixes in with the rice a bit). With some extra ketchup, you can draw on top of the omelette, or just add a little bit as a topping.

That’s the most basic way to make omuraisu. You can also add peppers or other vegetables to your liking, or you can use spicy ketchup instead of regular ketchup. There’s also a bacon omuraisu recipe on the internet, which I’ve tried and approve of (at that point, you’re eating breakfast because you’ve got bacon and eggs). You did buy bacon for the okonomiyaki, right?

One head of regular green cabbage will make about 6 to 8 cabbage pancakes, or okonomiyaki. It’s not difficult to find the recipe, either: if you bought the okonomiyaki flour, the recipe is on the package. If you bought the okonomi sauce, the recipe is on the package. If you bought an okonomiyaki kit, the recipe is on the package and your portions are measured out. But there’s so many recipes out there, depending on how you want to make okonomiyaki, and this is one I haven’t done completely from scratch before. Start by chopping your cabbage into short, narrow strips. To that, add okonomiyaki flour, water, eggs, and scallions, and mix everything together. Grease a skillet or griddle, then put some of the cabbage mix onto the heated skillet, press it down until it’s about an inch thick and top with bacon. After a few minutes, flip the okonomiyaki and let the bacon get cooked. Serve it bacon-side-up after topping with mayo and okonomi sauce.

Hiroshima-yaki is okonomiyaki cooked in layers. Instead of mixing everything together, you make a circle of pancake batter and put the shredded cabbage on top of that, and then other toppings including your bacon, then put some of the batter on top so it holds everything together when you flip everything. Don’t make Hiroshima-yaki if you’re trying to impress someone, at least not until you’ve made it a few times without making a mess of your stove.

Modan-yaki is easy to make and is quite good. Start with the regular Osaka-style okonomiyaki, but before you throw down your bacon, cook some noodles (ramen, udon, soba, whatever you have) and then mix those noodles with either some okonomi sauce or even yakisoba sauce. Put that noodle mixture on top of the cabbage mix in the skillet and spread it out to cover the cabbage, and then put the bacon on top of that. Once everything has cooked and you put it on a plate, fry an egg or two (scrambled, over-easy, I personally don’t care. It’s supposed to be over-easy, I believe) and then put the egg on top of the bacon and noodles. Finish by drizzling the mayo and okonomi sauce over the top of everything.

Since we’ve been neglecting the rest of the rice you made, because you insisted on making 10 cups earlier, we’ll serve it with the curry. Mild Japanese curry is really mild, so if you’re worried about spiciness, I can assure you that you will enjoy it. But first, chop an entire onion. One onion is supposedly not enough based on the directions, but my friends keep telling me it’s too much onion because you can smell it across the house. Anyway, one diced onion is enough unless you want more onion, I’m not going to stop you. Cut a chicken breast into small pieces, or you can use beef or seafood instead. Cook the onion with the meat until browned, at the very least. Next, chop up some potatoes, carrots, and any other vegetables you want to add. Pour in the recommended amount of water, although I suggest adding a bit more than that because my curry always seems to be between a stew and barbecue pulled pork. Cook everything together until your potatoes are tender, and then add in the curry seasoning and remove from heat. Once the curry seasoning has dissolved and everything is mixed together, it’s ready to serve alongside rice or udon.

Do you still have rice? Make onigiri, or rice balls. Basic onigiri is rice that’s shaped into a triangular ball, and a rectangle of nori is wrapped around the bottom. You can also fill the rice balls with chicken or seafood, you can mix seasonings into the rice, and you can make the balls as large or as small as you want.

Do you still have cabbage, noodles, carrots, and some yakisoba or okonomi sauce? Make yakisoba! It’s like Chinese lo mein, but the flavor is a bit different. Also, if you’re starting with okonomi sauce, add more soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or it might taste too sweet.

And now you’re making Japanese food! And unless you bought ingredients from a specialty store, you made Japanese food for cheap!

Okay, I’ll admit I kept the necessary ingredients to a minimum. To make some of these things so they’re closer in taste to what’s in Japan, there are some harder-to-find ingredients involved, and your costs will also go up. Also, if you substitute ingredients because of allergies or dietary restrictions, it will change the cost of the ingredients as well. But if you stick with what I’ve listed, then you can make simple Japanese food without spending too much money.

Do you already cook Japanese food? Leave a comment with any other simple recipes you wish to share, because I’d like to make a few more things but don’t know where to begin. And if you do shop at Asian grocery stores, leave a comment about what you like to buy most often that you can’t seem to get just anywhere.

White Snow Day

I’ve known about White Day for a few years, but never really remembered when it was. Of course, being a geek and an American, March 14 celebrations on my Facebook are all about Pi Day, referring to the date being the same as Pi to the hundredth digit (3.14).

Now that I’ve started following more things about Japan, I’m reminded that it’s White Day, the day when guys return the favors bestowed upon them on Valentine’s Day. I’m not expecting anything, since my valentine was nice enough back in February with his response to my e-mail, and I doubt he would follow a Japanese tradition for this white American girl.

But first, my Monday The Thirteenth was spent at the store. I was reminded that there’s going to be a snowstorm to end all snowstorms and it was on its way. Really? This is Syracuse. There was a movie called Snow Day that was set (but not filmed) in Syracuse, because we’re known for our snow. I’m a native to this area. I was literally born during a snowstorm. And yet, if there’s going to be about two feet of snow (almost 61 cm), and the governor is calling for a state of emergency and is asking for no unnecessary travel, then alas, we must fetch “bread, milk and eggs.”

I went a bit silly with the storm supply shopping, as I went to Han’s to fetch some Asian goods. I did get bread there, as they had the Hokkaido cream-flavored bread rolls that I often picked up at Mitsuwa. Mitsuwa carries more flavors, but they also have more floor space, so I didn’t mind that I couldn’t get the coffee-flavored bread at Han’s because they really have nowhere to put it. I grabbed a few more things, like some drinks, another pack of noodles, and they had the creme brûlée KitKats so I had to get those as well.

I also bought a bar of white chocolate for myself. I’ve read that white chocolate is the flavor of chocolate that’s given to girls on White Day. I don’t mind white chocolate, I prefer dark chocolate. But it’s for White Day so why not?

The wrapper is lighter in color than that. The room is illuminated by music videos on YouTube playing on the television. I’m still trying to adjust my sleep pattern now that Daylight Savings Time is back in effect and 1 am is now 2 am, so I’m not even tired as I write this and take pictures of what I bought. But I digress.

At the regular American grocery store, where I have to buy regular American groceries, I bought a loaf of bread, a 36-pack of eggs and a gallon of milk, along with things to make dinner. I was told by my friend to prepare for a storm, and to get something for dinner since she didn’t have anything thawed. When I got back and carried in everything, I was told that her significant other had also gone to the store. Supposedly she forgot that she asked him as well, but it’s easily plausible that she figured he would forget something or not go to the store altogether, so I was kind of a backup. He didn’t buy more milk because he knew there was already a full gallon in the fridge, he did buy more eggs and another loaf of bread, and he bought things to go with the meatballs I bought a few days ago to make spaghetti and meatballs. Since he really didn’t feel like having spaghetti (the idea was a go-to based on things that were already in the house), he opted to make chicken soft tacos based on all of the taco fixings I had picked up.

For how quickly food is eaten in this house (three adults, one teenager and two young boys), the storm supplies will be more than enough to get through Tuesday if everyone is home, and Wednesday if the weather is so bad that everyone is home for a second day in a row, and then last for a little while after that. Not to mention, everything I’ve been making lately requires at least two eggs (okonomiyaki calls for two eggs in the batter and at least one more fried egg if I do modan-yaki, omelette rice needs a two-egg omelette on top), so those eggs won’t get a chance to spoil.

But now, we wait. We wait for snow.

White snow, on White Day.

I could think of better things I’d want to get on White Day. After all, I never said I was a fan of snowfall, just that I was used to it.

I’m off to sleep. Maybe I’ll awaken to something nice for White Day. If nothing else, there’s Himuro, there’s Hyde, and there’s a bar of Meiji white. I’ll study my hiragana in between everything else I need to do. I could always wake up and decide to eat Pop Tarts and Lucky Charms, as I kick myself for not having picked up a pie while I was at the store. It all depends on what I feel like celebrating once the sun is up and I am as well.

Then again, why not celebrate all the things?