Tag Archive: Japanese cuisine
Oyakodon (親子丼), which means “parent-and-child donburi” in Japanese, is a rice bowl dish topped with boneless chicken, egg, and scallions. It is one of Japan’s favorite comfort foods. In my numerous attempts to recreate a Japanese dish such as oyakodon, I often used to wonder why I keep missing that special sweet taste. I used the best soy sauce, added a bit of sugar, and dashi. But that distinct sweetness still eluded me. When I was taught how to cook some traditional dishes by my Japanese boss’ aunt, I was amazed to find out that mirin was the secret!
Oyakodon. | miyagawa
Mirin (味醂 ) is an important ingredient in most Japanese dishes. It is a type of rice wine that consists of 40% to 50% sugar. It is similar to sake, only sweeter and with a lower alcohol content.
Here is a simple recipe for oyakodon that you can try.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 t grated ginger
½ c flour
1 c Japanese breadcrumbs (Panko)
½ c Vegetable oil
1/4 c soy sauce
3 T Mirin
2 c water
A pinch of dashi
3 T Brown sugar
Thinly sliced leeks for topping
Mirin. | Lec
Wash the chicken breasts and pat dry. Season with salt, pepper, and grated ginger. Coat the chicken breasts lightly with flour. Beat one egg in a bowl and mix in about a tablespoon of water. Dip the chicken breast in the egg mixture then coat it with the Japanese bread crumbs. Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick pan in medium heat. Fry the chicken breasts until golden brown. Drain off any excess oil.
Combine the soy sauce, mirin, dashi, water, and sugar in a saucepot. Let the ingredients simmer for 10 to 15 minutes in low heat until the alcohol in the mirin evaporates and the sauce reduces.
Cut each chicken breast into strips. Place one cut up chicken breast in a small non-stick pan. Pour in half a cup of the prepared sauce and allow it to boil in medium heat. Break an egg in a bowl and beat. Pour it on top of the chicken and sauce, top it with some leeks, and cover for a minute or two until the egg is cooked.
Place cooked rice in a bowl, then slide in the chicken, sauce, and egg on top. Repeat the procedure for the other breasts. And there you have it: delicious oyakodon. Enjoy!
Recently, the KCP Winter term cooking class, together with Hosei University students, had a chance to make tasty oyakodon. For more photos, visit our KCP Cooking Class Photo Set.
Every country has at least one food type associated with it. For example, Italy = pizza, India = curry, China = dimsum, and Japan = sushi. Trying the new gastronomical delights the world has to offer can be quite daunting. For many of us, food should be comforting, hence the popular term “comfort food.” It recalls to us the tastes and smells of familiar things we grew up with.
Onigiri (お握り) wasn’t something I was familiar with—not part of what I ate when I went out to a Japanese restaurant. But when I had my first taste of it, it was a match made in heaven! Onigiri is typically made from white rice and molded into triangular or oval shapes. It is filled with anything salty or pickled (natural preservatives). Since it’s filling, delicious, and easy to eat on the go, it’s a popular Japanese snack.
Onigiri. | jekert gwapo
I use a special contraption to make a perfect triangular onigiri. It’s available in most Asian groceries and is so easy to use. It makes my creations seem like something you would buy at any convenience store in Japan. Here’s a simple recipe you can try.
4 cups cooked Japanese rice
2 pieces Nori (seaweed) cut into 2 inch wide strips
Salt to taste
Use any traditional filling such as bonito flakes mixed with pickled plum (umekaka), flaked cooked salted salmon (shake or shiozake), cooked salty cod roe (tarako), or pickled plum (umeboshi).
The easiest filling (and a personal favorite) is 1 can of tuna or salmon in brine seasoned with a dash of soy sauce and sugar.
Onigiri on display. | avlxyz
The secret—use freshly cooked, hot rice.
Moisten your hands and fingers before handling the rice so it won’t stick.
Spoon some rice into the onigiri shaper, then about 1 tsp of filling, top with more rice, and then make the form.
Remove the onigiri from the mold and gently press on it until it is packed and firm. Wrap seaweed on one end of the onigiri.
You can also sprinkle some black sesame seeds around the rice for added visual appeal.
If you don’t have an onigiri mold, you can still form triangular or oval-shaped onigiri using your hands by cupping the rice and molding it. Onigiri can be any shape you want, with whatever filling you like best. Whichever you choose, it will make a perfectly healthy and filling snack you can enjoy!
Onigiri snowmen. | seelensturm
Whenever I’m hungry, whipping up a delicious bowl of katsudon always fills the spot. It’s everything you could possibly want in a meal to get you through the day. Hot rice, a crunchy slice of pork, tasty sauce, all topped off with an egg. A hearty meal that won’t ever leave you wanting more.
Katsudon (カツ丼) is one of Japan’s more popular foods. Its name was derived from the Japanese words for pork cutlet (tonkatsu) and a rice bowl dish (donburi). Katsudon is a bowl of steamed rice topped with a tasty slice of deep fried pork cutlet, a special sauce, and an egg. Several variations of katsudon come from different parts of Japan. There’s the specialty of Okayama, which is a demi-glace (a rich brown sauce common to French cuisine) and green peas, Niigata’s version is shōyu-dare katsudon which uses soy sauce, and Nagoya’s special version uses miso.
Katsudon. | jetalone
Katsudon is a favorite dish among Japanese students–they have made it a modern tradition to have it as a meal the night before taking an important exam. They believe they will have a better chance of getting a good score or passing because the word “katsu” is pronounced the same as the Japanese verb for being victorious or to win.
Here is a simple and easy recipe for katsudon that may just get you that coveted high grade.
Slices of boneless butterflied pork cutlet, about ½ in. thick (I usually use 1 slice per serving). Use a meat tenderizer to pound each slice.
Flour, cornstarch, or half of each (I like using cornstarch because the end result for fried food is usually crunchier).
Season the slices of pork cutlet with a little salt and pepper. Don’t over-season the cuts of meat because the soy sauce is already salty.
1 egg, beaten (once beaten, add 1 tablespoon of water).
Japanese bread crumbs (Panko)
Pork cutlet with seasoning. | pittaya
I didn’t include precise measurements. Just ensure that all the meat slices are coated well. Coat the slices of meat with flour or cornstarch, dip them in the beaten egg and water mixture, coat with panko, then deep fry. When the meat is golden brown, drain it on paper towels.
1 cup water
6 T soy sauce
4 T mirin
Katsudon in the frying pan. | pittaya
Mix all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the mixture into a pan and turn on the heat to low. Slice the pork cutlet into 1-in. strips. Crack an egg and beat it. When the mixture in the pan comes to a boil, put in the pork strips and pour the beaten egg on top of it. Allow the egg to cook. When it’s done, pour it on top of steamed white rice in a bowl. Top it off with thin slices of spring onions. Ta dah, a steaming bowl of perfection. Enjoy!
Sushi probably defines Japanese cuisine; it has been enjoyed by the Japanese for many centuries. It was first developed as a way to preserve fish in rice but it used to be a lengthy process, taking many months to cure the fish. Eventually the process contracted into hours with the use of rice vinegar and wooden box press-molding, but sushi still took hours to make. There are several types of sushi; nigiri sushi is the most popular.
A Brief History
Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) is credited with inventing the nigiri (hand-formed) sushi toward the end of the Edo period. A son of green grocers, Yohei learned the art of sushi making. During this period, sushi was made fresh from the catch of the day out of Tokyo Bay. Since tuna belly consists of fatty meat that would easily spoil, Hanaya Yohei would marinate the fish in vinegar or soy sauce and cook them slightly to make the fish last longer (refrigeration had not yet been invented). He would then form balls of sushi rice and top them with the marinated and cooked slices of fish. Many Japanese thought that Yohei’s technique was far from the traditional Japanese sushi they had been accustomed to, but his fresh style quickly became preferable to the old fermented taste.
Toro nigiri sushi (tuna belly). | www.bluewaikiki.com
Nowadays, nigiri sushi is often served with other kinds of sushi on a combination platter to give the diner’s palate a play of tastes of the many varieties. Hanaya Yohei’s legacy of nigiri sushi is still carried on today and is considered to be one of the most popular Japanese gastronomic marvels, known all around the world.
Assorted nigiri | Mike Saechang
Nigiri sushi is typically made with fresh fish and sushi rice. The rice is formed into something that resembles a football (but a lot smaller) that is then topped with a fresh slice of raw fish. Some other varieties of nigiri sushi use a strip of toasted nori (seaweed) to hold the rice and slice of fish together. The fish used for topping is called neta and is usually eel, tuna, haddock, octopus, shad, or shrimp. The neta can be served raw, batter fried, or grilled.
Want to see how nigiri sushi is made? Take a look at this how-to video:
Click image or: http://youtu.be/cdQzX9SR_gk
Dining on the delicious meal called shabu-shabu is a great way to warm the belly while enjoying the company of family and friends. The name comes from the sound of the meat being swished around in the broth as it is cooked. This Japanese version of a hot pot is a delightful assortment of meats and vegetables. Meats may include beef, crab, duck, fish balls, or lobster. Vegetables may include Chinese cabbage (hakusai), nori (sea weed), chrysanthemum leaves, welsh onions, green onions, garlic, mizuna, carrots, shitake mushrooms, bean noodles, or lotus root.
Shabu-shabu has a special broth made by boiling (for around 30 minutes) at least three inches of sea kelp (kombu). The broth may also have some saki and salt mixed in. Shabu-shabu comes with two types of sauce. Commonly, one sauce is made with sesame paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, water, and fine garlic pieces, while the other sauce is a combination of lime juice, soy sauce, and chopped long green onions.
Dining on shabu-shabu. | Gustavo Verissimo
To prepare shabu-shabu, start with the meats, cooking beef first. Submerge a thin slice of meat in the boiling kombu broth until cooked: you’ll know when, because the meat changes color. Then, dip the meat in either one of the two sauces and eat it with rice. Continue until all the meat is consumed. If foam or impurities form on top of the broth, skim them off. When all the meat has been eaten, add the vegetables into the kombu broth and eat them the same way. The taste of the cooked meat will spice up the kombu broth and give more taste to the vegetables as they cook. All the cooking happens in a big pot placed on a portable stove to keep the broth constantly hot, and it is situated at the center of the table for easy access to everyone.
A shabu-shabu meal, | jimg944
Shabu-shabu restaurants are all over Tokyo. An example is Shabu-Zen, which was featured in the film Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Shabu-Zen is known for its tranquil atmosphere and Japanese-chic restaurant design. The set menus may start at ¥ 3600. Mo Mo Paradise in Shibuya is another popular spot known for its shabu-shabu. There, customers pay around ¥ 1500 for 90 minutes’ worth of eating shabu-shabu.
Kani-shabu is a shabu-shabu variation. It serves crab meat, usually shell-less crab legs. | w00kie
Tempura (天ぷら or 天麩羅 ) is a delicious Japanese dish that includes a light, crispy, and deep fried batter. It usually is made with vegetables or seafood, shrimps being the most popular.
Tempura was first introduced to Japan as early as the middle of the 16th century by the Portuguese. It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu, first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, loved tempura. During this period, similar dishes made with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) such as tonkatsu (pork cutlet) were also introduced.
Tempura prawns | avlxyz
One theory of the origin of the word “tempura” is that it comes from the Latin word “tempora” which means “time” or “time period.” The word “Tempora” was used by Portuguese and Spanish missionaries to refer to the Lenten period. Catholics observe fasting and, on Fridays and other holy days, abstain from eating meat, choosing fish or vegetables instead. Another theory is that it comes from the Portuguese word “tempero,” which refers to a spicy condiment. The term “tempura” became commonly used in Japan to connote any type of food prepared using hot oil.
Tempura for sale at Isetan, Shinjuku | istolethetv
Tempura is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I always use shrimps and vegetables like carrots, okra, eggplant, string beans, and even sweet potato. I also use the same batter and panko bread crumbs for tonkatsu. The secret in making a great tempura is the batter. Here is a quick and simple recipe to satisfy your taste buds:
1/4 cup rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t umami
1/2 t baking powder
1 whole egg
2/3 cup ice water
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the ice water and egg together. Slowly mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Set aside ¼ cup of the batter with 1 tablespoon of ice water. Make sure to keep the batter cold by putting the bowls on crushed ice.
Heat vegetable oil to 375° F in a fryer. Dip your seafood and vegetables in the thicker batter and fry. With the thinner batter, use your finger to scatter batter onto the fryer around the shrimp to give the tempura more volume and crunch. Cook one side until light and fluffy (not golden brown) and flip onto the other side. Drain with paper towels.
Tempura vegetables | thebittenword.com
1 beef cube
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
Grated daikon radish to taste
Grated ginger to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pot except for the grated daikon radish. Bring it to a simmer in low heat. Allow the sauce to cool before serving. Add the grated daikon radish and ginger according to your taste. Enjoy!
Eating pufferfish, or fugu (河豚 ) in Japanese, may just be one of the thrills in a daring adventure in Japan. The pufferfish has the poison tetrodotoxin, which is a potent neurotoxin with no known antidote, and it can be lethal. The poison is a sodium channel blocker that paralyzes the muscles the entire time a victim stays conscious. The victim cannot breathe and eventually asphyxiates. The only thing that can be done for a victim of pufferfish poison is to be placed in respiratory support until the poison is excreted by the body.
Pufferfish in a tank | iMorpheus
Scientists at Nagasaki University have developed a non-toxic variety of fugu by altering its diet. They successfully raised 4,800 non-toxic fish that taste the same as the fish that carry toxins.
Fugu chefs undergo training
Fugu chefs in Japan have to train for seven to ten years in the art of preparing pufferfish and removing all the toxic parts properly to avoid them from contaminating the meat. Japanese law strictly controls the preparation process of fugu, and only qualified and licensed fugu chefs who have undergone this careful training are allowed to prepare pufferfish.
Fugu is popular as chiri nabe (a hot pot dish) and as sashimi. The liver is said to the most flavorful, but it’s also the most poisonous, and serving or selling it has been prohibited in Japan since 1984. Is pufferfish really that delicious to make people want to risk their lives for a taste of it? Or is it the thrill of knowing just how dangerous this delicacy is that make many want to eat it all the more?
Fugu sashimi | tsuda
Fugu and Japanese culture
A famous Japanese poet, Yosa no Buson, wrote this haiku:
I cannot see her tonight.
I have to give her up
So I will eat fugu.
It sounds similar to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: lovers destined to be apart who would rather succumb to poison rather than live a life without one another. In this case, the pufferfish plays a pivotal role as the antitdote for heartache.
Fugu restaurant in Shibuya | Kojach
The Japanese have been eating fugu for many centuries. The bones of pufferfish were discovered in kaizuka (shell mounds), which yielded a plethora of information on how the Japanese lived as far back as 2,300 years ago during the Jōmon period. The consumption of fugu was banned in Edo and some areas during the Tokugawa shogunate period (1603-1868), but soon after the shogunate’s power weakened, people started eating it again. The Meiji Era (1867-1912) brought forth another ban on the fish in various areas of the country. In current times, the Emperor of Japan is absolutely forbidden to eat fugu.
To eat fugu, or not to eat fugu, that is the question.
Gyoza (ギョーザ, ギョウザ), the Japanese version of a pot sticker, is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I like the texture of the gyoza—crunchy at the bottom part and softer and more tender on top than a Chinese dumpling. The cooking technique of gyoza involves pan frying the dumplings with water and very little oil instead of steaming. This makes preparation easier and more convenient. But other common ways to prepare it are by steaming and deep frying.
Gyoza was initially from China and was called jiaozi. It was said to have been invented by Zhang Zhonging, an expert in traditional Chinese medicine. Jiaozi is shaped like a horn, hence its name “jiao” which means “horn” in Chinese. The Japanese word “gyoza” is from the Shandong Chinese dialect (giaozi). The main difference between Japanese gyoza and Chinese jiaozi is the richness in flavor. The gyoza has a prominent garlic taste and its wrapper is thinner, while jiaozi is lighter in flavor with a slightly thicker wrapper. The dipping sauce also makes a difference in the taste. Gyoza sauce is tangy— usually soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar—while jiaozi is dipped in soy sauce with chili. Gyoza is also made with less meat and has a lot of healthy vegetables like cabbage and carrots which I miss in the Chinese version.
Gyoza | adactio
Making gyoza is not as difficult as it may seem. Probably the hardest part is wrapping them up in nice, neat little nuggets of pure delight and mastering the pleating method. The Japanese make their food with such artistic care and preparation; I always make it a point to appreciate the meticulous aesthetic beauty of each dish before gobbling up everything on my plate.
Here is a simple and easy recipe for gyoza that will surely leave you wanting more!
1 T sesame oil
2 cups chopped cabbage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 lb ground pork
1 T vegetable oil
1 (10-oz.) package wonton wrappers
pinch of salt and pepper
Uncooked gyoza | Tare Panda
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
Heat sesame oil in a pan and mix in cabbage, onion, garlic, and carrots. Cook until cabbage is soft.
Mix in the ground salt, pepper, pork and egg and cook until pork is ready.
Allow the meat mixture to cool. Put about a tablespoon of meat mixture at the center of each wonton, then pleat to close.
When you are done making all the dumplings, freeze them for about an hour. When the dumplings are hard enough, set aside the ones for cooking. Transfer the rest to a freezer bag and freeze until you’re ready for more.
Pan frying process
Position six pieces of gyoza in a line on a non-stick frying pan. Pour in about half a cup of water. Turn on the heat to medium and cover the pan to steam the dumplings. Check every now and then if the water has evaporated. Once it does, pour in a teaspoon of oil and allow the dumplings to cook until the bottom parts are golden and toasty.
For the sauce, mix ¼ cup of sauce and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar. There are also ready-made gyoza dipping sauces available in most Asian groceries. Enjoy!
KCP often holds cooking classes and just this February, KCP students learned how to make gyoza.
To watch a video on how to make gyoza, click here.
A California roll, or California maki, is a kind of sushi roll—one of the most popular kinds in the U.S. and in some other countries. It’s usually made of imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, and mango, all of which are rolled with rice and nori, the seaweed wrap commonly used for sushi.
A Short History
The Tokyo Kaikan was one of the first sushi bars in Los Angeles in the 1960s. The restaurant’s sushi chef at the time was Ichiro Mashita. He used avocado and other ingredients, which eventually led to the California roll as we know it today. Traditional sushi is almost always wrapped with the nori outside, but the California roll is wrapped “inside out” because Western patrons did not like the nori on the outside of the roll. Its popularity rapidly spread all across America by the 1980s and soon led to the growing desire for even more exotic types of sushi.
California maki| jekert gwapo
How I Make California Rolls
Making a California roll is pretty simple. When I first started to make them, the rolling part was the easiest. It’s the slicing of the roll into bite-sized pieces that’s the most difficult. I ended up crushing several rolls in my repeated attempts to get it right. Here are a few simple, useful techniques I learned along the way.
- Wrap your bamboo mat with plastic wrap so the rice won’t stick to it.
- Wet your hands prior to rolling so that the rice won’t stick to your fingers.
- To slice your rolls, use a cutting board and a *sharp* sushi knife .
- When slicing, hold the roll lightly and cut by sliding the knife instead of pressing down.
Your kitchen may not be equipped with the things you’ll need to prepare sushi. You may have to invest in a sushi knife and a bamboo mat. But since sushi is so delicious and healthy, it’s all worth it!
Imitation crab sticks
Cucumber slices with skin on, cut lengthwise
Mango slices, cut lengthwise
1 cup Japanese rice
¼ cup sweet mirin
¼ cup Japanese vinegar
Sesame seeds (lightly toasted)
Flying fish roe (tobiko; optional)
Sushi rice on nori on top of bamboo mat | quinn.anya
Close up of cali maki | Loozrboy
- Wash the rice three times and cook in a rice cooker. While waiting, cut the cucumber, mango, and avocado into long thin slices.
- When the rice is done, transfer it to a bowl. Pour in the mirin and vinegar, and mix until the rice absorbs the liquid. Take care not to crush the grains of rice when mixing.
- Take one piece of nori and spread the rice on one side. Make sure that the rice is not too thick, and leave about half an inch of nori at the bottom part so you can flip it on to the other side. Before turning it over, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the rice.
- On the other side, layer slices of cucumber, avocado, crab sticks, and mango, and then squeeze some Japanese mayonnaise over all. Make sure that you start layering from the bottom to make it easier to roll.
- Take the bottom portion, and using the mat, fold it all the way to the middle and roll again. Tighten the roll with the mat to make it more compact, but not to the point of crushing the filling.
My Japanese mentor always told me that the best sushi rolls have rice kernels that are not crushed. Also, the rolls are compact yet when you bite into it you can still feel each piece in your mouth; they are not clumped up and mushy. I usually top my rolls with flying fish roe, which adds a perfect balance to the mixture of flavors. Enjoy!
Growing up, I never used to like mixing sweet with savory tastes. I have always associated sweetness with desserts and savory dishes with a meal. A cardinal rule I always had was that the different types of food on my plate should not touch each other because some minute part might end up mixing with another. If they did, I would vehemently refuse to eat anything at all! Times have changed, and so have my eating habits. Nowadays, I don’t care if my whole plate looks like a jumble of an unimaginable mess just as long as it tastes good.
Teriyaki chicken with rice | La Melodie
A good example of a sweet and savory dish that is one of my favorites, and is probably one of the reasons why I suddenly became a convert, is teriyaki chicken. Teriyaki is commonly associated with many types of international cuisine nowadays, but it actually is a type of Japanese cooking. “Teri” in Japanese, means luster, while “yaki “means to boil or grill.
Teriyaki chicken stall | avlxyz
The ingredients of a Japanese teriyaki dish are usually marinated then roasted or broiled while being basted occasionally in the teriyaki sauce. It’s also the teriyaki sauce that makes the food shine and look more appetizing.
Teriyaki Stir Fry Sauce: Blue Dragon Brand| MiranRijavec
Teriyaki sauce makes almost everything taste good. It makes bland food taste delicious. Teriyaki sauce is widely available as a bottled condiment in most oriental groceries, but authentic teriyaki sauce is very easy to make. When I used to work in a Japanese restaurant, I remember preparing chicken teriyaki like there was no end to it. Every Monday, I remember signing for the delivery of chicken breasts. I would laboriously trim the fat off each piece of chicken. I’d then marinate them in the teriyaki sauce, and the customer had the option of adding some onions to make the chicken tastier. I would then prepare the teriyaki sauce, an old family recipe of my Japanese boss. Below is the teriyaki sauce recipe that makes everything it touches taste great.
Teriyaki Sauce (just mix all the ingredients):
1½ cups Sake
1 ½ cups Mirin
1 cup Soy Sauce
1 ¼ cups Sugar
1 ½ water from dried shiitake mushrooms
Ginger Juice to taste
Potato starch to thicken sauce