Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bachan's Cheese Macaroni

Bachan is the nickname commonly given to Japanese American grandmothers.

O-Baachan is the correct term for grandmother in Japanese, but our family fondly calls my mother-in-law Bachan.

My mother-in-law's signature dish is Cheese Macaroni--thus I've given it the name

Bachan's Cheese Macaroni.

Cheese Macaroni--that's what she calls it.

It's different from Macaroni and Cheese, as this dish doesn't have a creamy sauce.

I haven't quite figured out if calling it Cheese Macaroni instead of Macaroni and Cheese has something to do with Bachan mainly speaking Japanese and the order of the words translating to how she interprets Japanese to English or if that's actually the name of the dish as she learned it.

My understanding of the Japanese language is weak, even though I went to Japanese language school when I was little.

As she gets older, my mother-in-law speaks more and more Japanese and less English, sometimes I get a little confused with what she tells me.

Cheese Macaroni is fast and simple to make and everyone in my family loves it!

My niece Hayley and my mother-in-law (her name is Tomiko but I call her Bachan too) came over the other day to cook.

We had a lot of fun cooking together.

We learned something new about Bachan that day!

She told us the story of how she learned how to make Cheese Macaroni.

I'll tell you that little story at the end of this post.


1 lb. macaroni
1/2 lb. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 - 3 tablespoons butter
3 slices bread

Bachan's Cheese Macaroni is simply macaroni and cheese layered in a casserole dish with a little bit of onion and a topping of bread soaked in milk. The bread topping gets crispy in the baking from the dotting with butter.

Simple and delicious.

Cook the noodles al dente according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Chop onion and grate cheese.

Butter a baking dish and dot the bottom with butter.

Here's a video of Bachan and Hayley putting the casserole together.

This is the second layer of macaroni, onion, salt, pepper and cheese.

You make 3 layers.

For the topping, you use about 3 pieces of bread, tearing them into small pieces then soaking them in milk to soften them.

Bachan says you make a "hedge" around the casserole first, then add the bread to the middle.

Here, you can watch the bread topping being applied to the Cheese Macaroni.

Dot with butter to finish the casserole.

Place into a 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes.

To brown the bread on top, turn the oven to 400 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes.

This is the finished Cheese Macaroni.

It's one of our family favorites!



Tomiko came to the US when she was 26 years old, about 1949.

She came to visit her sister who was married and living in San Francisco.

This is not a picture of her on the boat she came over on, but I think it's a nice idea of what it could have looked like.

When she came to San Francisco, Tomiko lived with a family on Vallejo Street--The Thompsons.

Tomiko was a 'School Girl'--living with the Thompsons and helping Mrs. Thompson with some cooking and light house work--and going to school to learn English.

It was Mrs. Thompson that taught her how to make Cheese Macaroni.

This is a picture of Tomiko (on the left) and her sister from San Francisco, circa 1970.

This is Tomiko with her dog Cha-Cha.

Hayley and I loved cooking with Bachan and listening to her story about how she learned to make Cheese Macaroni!


Bachan's Cheese Macaroni


1 lb. macaroni
1/2 lb. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 - 3 tablespoons butter
3 slices bread

Cook macaroni al dente according to package directions and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a casserole dish and put dots of butter on the bottom of the dish. Layer macaroni and onion, salt and pepper the macaroni, and add cheese. Do this three times.

Break bread into small pieces and soak with milk until soft, then make a 'hedge' around the top of the casserole with the bread first then fill in the center.

Bake for 25 minutes, then turn the heat up to 400 for 10 minutes to brown the topping.


  1. Don't you just love that!!!! I can taste it...oooh.... and crispy, crunchy bread on top....would be my favorite part. Did anyone save some for me?

    It must have been exciting to Tomiko to move to the U.S.....and she stayed. Yay!

  2. What a great story! I loved reading this post. And I'm certainly bookmarking this cheese macaroni. It looks spectacular.

  3. You did a great job Bachan! I understood every word, but Hayley was a nice bonus because I need to hear everything twice anyway. It looks delicious!

  4. TFS - love to try new recipes but love your stories about bachan even more.