In the Kitchen with Azusa

Hello! I am Azusa, a home chef, and blogger on Instagram (@azusasasakiho).
I was born and raised in Japan and moved to the US 13 years ago. My hometown is in the Shimane prefecture, a small fishing town that is also surrounded by beautiful mountainsides. My grandparents, from my father’s side, lived in a forest with rice farms and vegetable gardens, whereas my grandparents from my mother’s side, lived just in front of the ocean. My belated grandfather had a boat for fishing and I remember he often went to the water to collect sea kelps and seafood. To me, it was just a normal life of having fresh produce every day. I did not appreciate it until now, being so far away from those amenities and tradition. When I look back at all the memories, I truly feel lucky to experience them.

My cooking journey started when I was 5 years old by watching my mom cook in the kitchen every day. I don’t recall if she actually taught me to cook, but just being in the kitchen with a big curiosity encouraged me to learn the basic cooking skills and Japanese food culture.

I remember that my mom had extensive cookbooks and magazine collections. This is where I grew all my cooking interests and inspirations. I even made a few of my own scrap “books” with recipes I collected from magazines. 


I learned to cook by looking into those books. At a young age, every weekend, dinners were my treat to cook for the family. I started with classic Japanese food, experimented with new ingredients, and sometimes even baking cakes. My family always enjoyed my cooking and looked forward to it every weekend.
In high school, we had to bring lunch every day. I decided to wake up early to make a bento lunch for my dad, my brother and myself. It was challenging for a teenager, but my passion never stopped. Today, I am so proud that I did it every single day for the whole 3 years!


The importance of a bento for me would be: balancing nutrition and providing happiness. My dad was always buying lunch at the local convenience stores, which worried me about his health. Homemade bento is supposed to be a balanced meal with carbs, protein, and vegetables, combined in one box. Bento usually contains 4-5 items, which are tightly packed in a box. The more ingredients, the more colors present in the box. Lunchtime is the most favorite part of the day for many kids at school, for me at least! It is an exciting moment of the day when you open the box and see what’s inside. If the bento does not appear full of color, it is at least a comforting “home-comfort” food. A bento simply just makes you happy.

Being a home chef and making bento every day for my kids and husband, the color of the bento is also very important. I love simple designs because it evokes the color of the bento items. I also want bento boxes to be easy to clean. This is very important for busy moms! I choose the Takenata Bento Box because it meets all the needs. Another fun part of their boxes is that they have so many wonderful color selections. I have Spearmint and Tangerine Orange, both are my favorite colors by far.

Tofu Chicken Meatball with Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 lb Ground Chicken

1/2 pack Silky Tofu
(remove excess water with a Paper towel overnight)

2 tbsp Potato Starch

1 tbsp Sake



3 tbsp Ketchup

3 tbsp Rice Vinegar

3 tbsp Sugar

1 tbsp Soy Sauce

1/2 cup Water

1 tsp Potato Starch


1. In a bowl, mix the Ground Chicken, Tofu, Sake, Potato Starch, and salt, and make meatballs.

2. Pan fry the meatballs with some vegetable oil until cooked on both sides, then remove from the pan

3. Mix the sauce ingredients together

4. Heat the pan with medium heat, add the sauce in, then put back the meatballs, make sure the sauce is well coated on the meatballs


Instagram : @azusasasakiho
Photos by Shigeyoshi Takebe Photography