30 Questions with Azusa Ho
Azusa Ho is a project manager in the construction industry, a home chef and a mother of three beautiful children. She spills the secret of cooking on a budget, her journey and her future plans as she chats with Shristi.
1. Hello Azusa! It’s a pleasure to have you with us today. How did your food journey begin?
It’s a pleasure to meet you here too!
My food journey began when I was 5 or 6 years old. Watching my mom in the kitchen, and reading cooking magazines made me interested in food. Then I started cooking and baking for my family almost every weekend. When I was in high school, I packed lunch for my dad, brother and myself every day in the Japanese “Bento” style.
I also liked collecting recipe pages from magazines. I remember I made one or two own cooking books filled in with the favourite recipes using the pictures from the magazine.
During my college, as I started living on my own and my eating habits changed. I struggled with Anemia and skin troubles. Then I learned how important it was to balance myself from eating, and why home cooking is always the best solution. Also while I had time during summer break, I travelled to Asia, Europe, and Australia, and learned about different food cultures. It gave me a lot of food inspiration.
Now I have my own family and I have decided to leave cooking notes for them, hoping they remember my food and carry on to their family in the future.
2. You love cooking for your family. As a mother of three, what food struggles did you face and how did you overcome them?
My kids are currently 4, 2, 0-year-old and they are all at different growth phases. Also, they have their own preferences of the ingredients, portion, and cooking style. But I try to bring the same food to the table, and eat together (except for the youngest one as she only eats baby food now). One kid eats everything, and the other doesn’t, or sometimes they both don’t like the food. But it’s OK. I’m grateful enough to gather at the dining table and enjoy the conversation of the day.
And if I was lucky, they may eat the food in the lunch box the next day with friends that they didn’t eat at the dining table.
Only thing is that my husband claims that he feels like he is a garbage disposal, helping to eat all of the leftover food! (Laughs)
3. What’s the secret to making children eat healthy foods?
Cooking with them, or just being in the kitchen with them. They learn not only the procedure of cooking, but also about the vegetables, seasonings, cooking utensils, etc. They see, listen, smell, feel and become curious about food.
I am not too focused on “healthy” food when I cook, but more on a well-balanced meal, i.e., balanced in protein, starch, vegetables, fruits, and dairy. Especially when they are small, it’s a great opportunity to learn about as many ingredients as they can have.
Taking them to the farm, growing vegetables in the garden at home would be another good experience for them to get to know about food.
4. Name three dishes that are healthy, wholesome and easy to cook.
Japanese curry, Tofu-burg and Vegetable pancake.
5. For someone who’s travelled a lot, how do you think are the food cultures of Japan, Hawaii and California different from each other?
I grew up in Japan, so Japanese food is in my blood.
Hawaii has a lot of Japanese infused dishes because there is a history of Japanese immigrants moving to the island.
California is more diverse. And you could have any country’s food. I never had a Burrito, or pho until I moved here, but I love them now. I am very spoiled to have so many options for the food here.
6. What’s your favourite cuisine and why?
Japanese cuisine, because I grew up with it.
7. What’s your favourite food styling tip?
I like using simple and plain plates. It evokes the art of food.
8. Tell us a food secret from California, Hawaii and Japan that you haven’t told anyone.
Difficult question! I have spilled my experiences in question #5.
9. Which cuisine according to you is the healthiest?
Japanese food. There are many plant-based ingredients and fermented food. They have many seasonal dishes using fresh seasonal ingredients, too.
10. Name 3 places across the globe you’d love to travel to explore its food and culture.
Taiwan, Greek and France.
11. A food trend that you firmly believe in is…
Flour alternatives – almond flour, cauliflower powder, cassava, etc. I am curious to try all kinds for my future cooking.
12. How do you work and what’s your biggest inspiration?
All the work is done by myself including cooking, photography and managing the social media.
My biggest inspiration is travelling. Unfortunately, not this year, though. Instead, I try to remember all the food experiences from my past trips to Japan.
13. What’s the worst kitchen gadget most people splurge on?
Difficult to tell…but I don’t have a mixer. I do all the hard work to mix the food until getting cramps! (Laughs)
14. As a food blogger, what differentiates you from the rest?
As I am from Japan, cooking with Japanese ingredients is my unique point. Sometimes I cook basic Japanese food, but I also like to experiment with mixing or combining with many other ingredients.
15. Tell us about your favourite food experience so far.
Eating fresh vegetables from my grandma’s farm. She has a rice farm and vegetable garden. Especially in summer, there are many vegetables you can freshly pick and eat in a row, such as Tomato, Cucumber, Eggplant, Paprika…In autumn, we pick sweet potatoes, chestnuts and roast them with leaves outdoors.
16. Three essential items you must have in the kitchen are…
Rice cooker, Chopsticks and Knife.
17. If you could only have one food item for the rest of your life, it’d be…
18. The key to cooking tasty food is…
Adding Love! It means to imagine who’s going to eat the food, and put effort and think about how to make them smile.
19. Which is your favourite restaurant and why?
Da Hawaiian Kitchen is a local Hawaiian restaurant. Their fried chicken is so tasty! I would never be able to copy the dish.
20. Did you ever think of becoming a chef or perhaps launching your own cookbook?
I thought about launching my own cookbook. As mentioned, I loved collecting recipes from magazines and made recipe books when I was a child. Also, I am hoping my recipes could carry on to my kids’ next generation.
21. What’s your favourite meal of the day?
Breakfast. My favourite breakfast combo is Matcha Latte and a toast of Japanese milk bread with butter and sweet red bean. I am a sweet tooth. And eating something sweet is a treat of the day in advance, and giving me a lot of energy.
22. As a tea lover, which is your favourite tea?
Matcha tea. My mom had a friend, she was 80-years-old at that time, and had such a sweet tooth that she loved to eat Japanese confections every single day. But she never had diabetes or any sickness. And she told her secret was to drink Matcha 3 times a day.
23. What would you recommend to students: home-made meals or eating out?
Home-made if you can! It’s more budget-friendly, also easier to control the nutrition balance.
24. A magic ingredient that makes all meals tastier…
25. What’s your all-time favourite comfort food?
Ramen Noodle Soup.
26. What advice would you give to our readers who have fussy kids/teenagers?
Cook for them or have their favourite snacks together. It depends on the reasons for the fussiness. But food solves problems most of the time for my kids.
27. Which food blogger are you eager to collaborate with?
There are so many great bloggers and it’s difficult to choose one. I always hope to collaborate with Japanese food companies. It would be great to learn about new ingredients and try new recipes. This would help the Japanese food culture to be spread out to the world.
28. One food habit you’re trying to quit…
I don’t have any habit of quitting…I enjoy every meal, either if it is healthy or unhealthy. Overall, my food is mostly wholesome, but sometimes I crave for greasy food and sugar-overloaded snacks, too. I believe striking a balance is important.
29. Which is your favourite cookbook and why?
Aloha Kitchen by Alana Kysar. All dishes remind me of the food I had in Hawaii. And I can learn about the culture and food history.
30. One recipe you’d like to share with our readers…
Roasted Kabocha with Miso Glaze
- 1/2 pcs Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin)
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Mirin (Sweet Cooking Rice Wine)
- 1 tbsp Miso
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
- Heat oven to 375°F.
- Slice Kabocha into 1-inch wedges, coat with vegetable oil.
- Place them on an oven tray, then cook them for 20-25 minutes.
- In a pan over medium heat, add soy sauce, mirin, miso, sugar and stir well until sugar is melted.
- Add the Kabocha into the pan, make sure all Kabocha get coated with the glaze.
- Top it with black sesame seeds and serve.
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Shristi is an avid reader, recipe developer and wellness enthusiast. She’s probably making a mess in her kitchen right now.