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While my husband and I have moved from Japan since my last post, our palate for Japanese food has not faded! This summer we took the trip of a lifetime paddling for two weeks down the Kongakut River in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. With nothing but a few grizzly bears, migrating caribou, a herd of muskox and a small group of close friends to keep us company, we paced our away from the rivers icy headwaters to the Beaufort Sea. While I have a good deal of river experience, it is my husband who has the expedition background between the two of us. And although I was willing to let him call the shots on the majority of our gear planning, I was bent and determined to break his habit of eating instant mashed potatoes and stuffing for every meal in the backcountry!

With a well thought out trip to the Berkeley Bowl in California and New Sagaya in Anchorage before we left, we equipped ourselves with some Japanese food essentials that would satisfy us for 16 days in the arctic. Our Japanese shopping list included:

soba noodles
seasoned nori
marinated tofu
2 tubs of miso paste
instant miso soup individual packets of dried kombu-dashi (kelp-based soup stock)
shichimi togarashi (Japanese hot pepper 7 spice mix)
sesame oil
sesame seeds
soy sauce & brown rice vinegar


Of course, we brought more than this, but our goal was to satisfy our palate and nutirtional needs by incorporating Japanese flavors and ingredients into every meal. We often started out each meal with a hot cup of miso soup as a more filling substitute to tea. We would snack on toasted nori as we waited for water to boil, and we sliced marinated tofu into our noodle dishes each night.

My favorite Japanese meal ended up being a miso-marinated arctic char grilled over a hot fire on the beach.  We were lucky to have two fishermen on the trip who caught both grayling and arctic char every couple of nights for dinner for the group. After filleting the fish, we mixed together a sweet and savory miso marinade which bubbled and popped on the fire. So here we go, so-easy-you-could-make-it-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-arctic miso marinade!

Recipe: Miso Marinade

2 tablespoons of a darker miso
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons of rice vinegar
a tablespoon of brown sugar
1 clove minced garlic
a half-thumb of minced ginger
a shake of shichimi togarashi

Combine ingredients in a small camp cup, spoon the marinade over the fish fillets in the pan (the longer they can soak without spoilage, the better) then grill to desired consistency over a hot fire!
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