Tasty Summer Reads: Claws of the Cat

Thanks to fellow historical fiction author Kim Rendfeld (author of THE CROSS AND THE DRAGON) for tagging me in the Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop!

Here’s how it works: Each participating author invites other authors to answer five questions about their current summer release or work in progress and also post a tasty recipe that ties into the book. I’ve linked to all of the other participating authors, and my unwitting victims friends at the end of this post.

Before we get to the questions, here’s a little more about my current release, CLAWS OF THE CAT: A Shinobi Mystery (Minotaur Books, July 2013):


When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro Hattori has just three days to find the killer before the dead man’s vengeful son kills both the beautiful geisha accused of the crime and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest that Hiro has pledged his own life to protect. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they quickly learn that everyone from an elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery.

It’s got ninjas, weapons, dead guys, female samurai, a Portuguese weapons dealer, an ornery maid, a gaggle of geishas, and one rather feisty kitten thrown in for good measure. Did I mention the ninjas? Yeah, I thought so.

On with the questions!

When writing, are you a snacker? If so, sweet or salty?

I’m definitely a snacker, though not as much when I’m writing because I tend to read my work out loud and because I hate cleaning debris out of the keyboard. I’ve always got a cup of coffee, a glass of water, and sometimes also a soda by the computer, though, so what I lack in snacks I make up in drink cups.

When cooking, do you follow a recipe or do you wing it?

If I haven’t made a dish before, I normally use a recipe. After a couple of rounds, though, I leave the paper behind and go freestyle. I love to cook, and usually cook dinner 5 nights a week, but I use recipes only 3-4 times a year.

What is next for you after this book?

Another book! Another Shinobi Mystery, to be exact. I’m under contract with Minotaur for two more mysteries featuring Hiro and Father Mateo, and after that we’ll see where the series goes.

Last question…on a level of one being slightly naughty and ten being whoo hoo steamy, how would you rate your book?

The book does have a hint of naughty but if you’re looking for “onstage sex” I’m afraid you’re begging at the wrong pantry. That said, if you’re looking for ninjas, death by exsanguination and a fast-paced romp through the streets of medieval Kyoto, I’m your gal.

Now, how about that recipe?

Since my ninja detective, Hiro, loves Japanese noodles (udon in particular) I thought I’d share a little about udon, and a recipe, below the fold:

The Japanese have many types of noodles, most of which have been around since at least the medieval age. Udon, soba, and ramen are the most common, but since many Western palates consider “ramen” a freeze-dried cube of college-kid fare and don’t have a solid reference point for soba, I decided to let udon be the noodles Hiro loves.

Udon are long, thick noodles made from wheat flour – the type you usually see in Japanese soups.

In fact, the simplest form of Udon (called “kake udon”) consists of noodles served in a flavored broth composed of soy sauce, dashi (a Japanese fish stock) and a low-alcohol content rice wine known as mirin. The soup is sometimes topped with scallions, fish, or shrimp.

The simplest recipe for udon (aside from “order in restaurant”) is simply adding udon to your favorite broth or soup. Most udon don’t require much cooking a couple of minutes is usually enough, but be sure to check the package directions for proper preparation of the variety you buy.

Traditional Udon Recipe:

  • – prepackaged Udon (I prefer fresh, but they come in frozen varieties too)
  • – 2 cups dashi
  • – 1 Tablespoon each of soy sauce, mirin (or rice wine), and sake
  • – 1 chicken breast, cut into half-inch cubes
  • – 1 scallion, chopped or cut on a bias
  • – pinch of salt

Heat the dashi almost to a boil, and then add the soy sauce, mirin, and sake, as well as the salt. As the mixture comes to a boil, add the chicken. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the udon. Simmer for 2-3 minutes (or according to package directions).
Transfer the udon and soup to bowls. Sprinkle with scallions. Enjoy!

Traditional Japanese street food usually featured fish instead of chicken, so you can substitute chopped shrimp or fish if you prefer a more authentic flavor. But those of you (like me) with the misfortune to be allergic to fish can use chicken, substitute chicken broth for the dashi, and have a cluck-worthy alternative to the traditional dish.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of menu at these other participating Tasty Reads Blog Hop blogs: 

Christy English
Donna Russo Morin
Nancy Goodman
Lauren Gilbert
Lucinda Brant
Prue Batten
Anna Belfrage
Ginger Myrick
Jo Ann Butler
Kim Rendfeld
Cora Lee
Jessica Knauss

And I’m tagging three good friends who know a thing or two about tasty reads:

Heather Webb, Marci Jefferson, and L.J. Cohen! What’s for dinner, ladies?