Tag Archives: japanese

Nikuman (Japanese Steamed Buns)

I still have a backlog of recipes/posts to share but got very excited about today’s bake so it jumped the queue. I’ve got several recipes for steamed buns (Chinese bao or Korean jjinppang) in my recipe archives but I went to my favourite YouTube channel, TabiEats, for a small batch of buns, especially as I was able to use up a container of leftover runza filling (shredded corned beef, sauteed red cabbage and shredded cheddar cheese) for them.

It’s also a very fast recipe … no yeast proofing, a few minutes to knead, 30 min bulk proof, shaping and a final 20 minutes to final proof. Steaming took only 15 minutes and my buns were ready to eat. I didn’t bother with the squid ink variation so I added a total of 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the dough in the kneading step.

Before proofing and after steaming

I had about 360 gm of dough so I divided it into six equal portions. There was a lot of filling (about 300 gm) but I shaped into tight balls and used it to fill the buns. There was a high filling (a bit under-seasoned) to bun ratio which was a plus.

REVIEW: Highly recommended recipe. There’s nothing I’d do differently.

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Dango, Mochi and Mochiko Flour

I thought I had it straightened out in my head … dango were Japanese confections in which (sweet glutinous) rice flour was mixed with water (and some sugar), kneaded and shaped into balls, boiled, threaded onto skewers in 3-5 pieces, and basted with soy sauce or topped with sweet red bean (anko) paste, as in mitarashi dango. Grilling the balls before topping was advised to get the maximum flavour out of what can be relatively tasteless, chewy balls.

Chichi Dango

Of course, there were exceptions like in the tricolour hanami dango (pink, white and green), which are served without a sauce to allow the colours to shine. Although one can use food colouring to get the respective colours, for the pink colour, strawberries pureed with sugar and added to the dango mixture adds both flavour and colour, while for the green colour, matcha powder serves the same function.

For dango, one of two particular types of rice flour may be used, mochiko and shiratamako. One of the blogs I read suggested that the latter was preferred but, since I could only get the former, that’s what I used for my experiments.

Mochi was more confusing. I read that the difference between dango and mochi was that the latter was made with cooked sweet glutionous rice which was pounded to make the mochi base after which sugar was added for flavour.

And then I ran across several recipes in which mochiko flour was used, for convenience. Cooking style varied as well. I’ve seen the mochi ‘dough’ cooked in a pot on the stove and, my favourite, microwaved mochi. There are many delicious Japanese confections called mochi, including the most traditional one in which cooked mochi dough is wrapped around a ball of anko paste. Other delicious fillings include sesame paste and ground peanut paste (NOT peanut butter). For a very special mochi, called “strawberry daifuki”, a whole ripe strawberry is covered with a thin layer of the anko and then wrapped in the mochi dough. The most recent, and likely westernized variation, wraps frozen balls of ice cream in the cooked mochi dough. When mochi ice cream started appearing in my local grocery store, I knew I had to actually try to make one of these confections.

I started with the simplest version of dango I found, a Hawaiian variation called “chichi dango” which is served for celebrations. I used a recipe that I found on the Youtube channel TabiEats for the dough but cooked it in the microwave using the power/timing suggestion on another Youtube channel, emmymadeinjapan. One of the chichi dango recipes I researched substituted coconut milk for the whole milk for added flavour. As I had some in my freezer, and only 2% milk in the fridge, I thawed the coconut milk quickly and used it in my recipe.

In the first picture, the dango ‘dough’ is mixed and ready to microwave. In the 2nd, the dango after 2 minutes in the microwave

Cooked dango turned out onto the cornstarch and patted out into a rough square. Then, the dough was flipped over before cutting with a plastic dough scraper, a freebie from my recent banneton purchase..

My cutting needs some work … oh well, there were lots of irregular scraps for sampling

Cooking: The video said to cook the mochi dough at 600 watts for 2 minutes, then to stir, and cook for an additional 40 seconds. My microwave power output is 900 watts at 100% power so I calculated that I should use 70% power (100% x 600 W/ 900 W = 67%) to achieve the same result. I stirred and ‘tasted’ the dough after 2 minutes. The ‘grainy’ texture and consistency led me to cook the dough for another minute. Although the consistency was better, the dough still tasted grainy. I ended up cooking the dough for a total of 5 minutes, which was probably too long on reflection.

REVIEW: The cooled and cut slices of chichi dango were a bit rubbery in texture but quite tasty and not too sweet. The chalky taste of the starch was a bit off-putting at first, but after brushing most of it off, I made my way through about a third of the dango, starting with the trimmings. I hope to leave enough to allow my nephew to taste it when he comes over some time next week. But that may not happen.

Ground Beef … Soup, Rice Bowls and Burritos

For the last few months, I’ve backlogged a number of new recipes I’ve tried and old recipes I’ve repeated with slight changes which I’m posting below. The theme to anchor these dishes … lean ground beef was used for each recipe.

Cabbage Roll Soup – This is a new one. Shredded coleslaw mix was used as the base for this delicious soup. The recipe used elements from several recipes I found on line with substitutions designed to use things I had in my pantry and/or that I liked.

Cabbage Roll Soup – serves 8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb/227 gm lean ground beef (or pork or ground turkey)
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced *
1 large carrot, chopped (1 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 cups coleslaw mix
1 cloves garlic, grated or finely mince
4 cups beef broth
1 cup tomato/spaghetti sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup pureed tomatoes
~1 tbsp packed light brown sugar (to taste to cut back on acidity of the tomatoes)
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano or 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh
1 bay leaf
4-6 tbsp raw long-grain white rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
water, as needed

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

* Used 3 tbsp sauteed diced onion from freezer

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up beef occasionally, until browned. Transfer beef to a plate lined with paper towels while reserving 2 tbsp of the rendered fat in pan, set beef aside.

Add onion and carrots to pan and saute 1 minute, then add coleslaw and saute 2 minutes, then add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.

Pour in beef broth, tomato sauce, tomatoes, brown sugar, Worcestershire, paprika, oregano, thyme and bay leaves. Return beef to soup mixture.

Season soup with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a light boil, then add rice, cover pot and reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.

Stir in up to 1 cup water or more beef broth to thin as desired (it will thicken as it rests and become almost like a stew), then stir in lemon juice and parsley.

Serve hot.

Mapo Tofu – Szechuan style ground beef, tofu and broccoli dish, served over long grain rice. I’ve made variations of this dish in the past.

Soboro Don – Japanese rice bowl topped with seasoned ground beef and peas. Recipe adapted from this one.

Beef and Bean Burritos – Seasoned ground beef with home made black bean refried beans. Top as desired.

Dorayaki (Japanese “Pancake” Sandwich)

Dorayaki is a delicious Japanese snack or confection which traditionally consists of a sweet red bean paste (anko) sandwiched between two ‘pancakes’. Slightly different versions of the recipe may be found on several blogs but this is the first one I ran across some time ago, on Nami’s “Just One Cookbook” site. It uses the Mochiko (sweet rice flour) that I mentioned in the previous post though I HAVE seen a recipe which used all purpose flour.

I made a half batch of the recipe, and, even though I forgot to add the water, which I figured out after the fourth pancake, I still ended up with some edible, though misshapen early results. The final six pancakes, after I added about half of the amount of water listed into the remaining batter, were perfect.

Dorayaki with Sweet Red Bean Paste

The pancakes are easy to make though you DO have to be careful about the cooking temperature (medium-low is definitely advised) since the sugar and honey can burn quite easily if you exceed the temperature suggested. Moderation in the amount of filling is also necessary. Too much and you won’t be able to shape the pancakes around it and gently ‘pinch’ the edges closed. I used a ‘coarse’ sweet bean paste with some bean pieces left in it to fill the pancakes. Definitely use the plastic wrap to help in the shaping.

  

I used red bean paste (purchased) for the filling, because I like the taste, but if you can’t get it or don’t like it, and want to try something else, a thick pastry cream, crunchy peanut butter and Nutella and very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit are alternative fillings.

Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)

I recently visited two different Asian grocery stores and came home with a treasure trove of staples for future, mostly Japanese based, goodies.

Mochiko, is a sweet rice flour used for dango, mochi and, this post’s focus, “senbei” or savoury Japanese rice crackers. The same recipe was found on several web sites so I’ll post a link to only one.

Senbei

For additional umami, wrap your cracker in a strip of toasted nori.

Furikake (rice seasoning) was added to the dough before it was kneaded into a compact ball.  To ensure even sized crackers without weighing out each one individually, I cut the ball of cracker dough in half and then cut each half into eight wedges.

To make sure that the final cut was accurate, I formed each of the eight wedges into a ball (~16 gm) and then cut it in half before rolling it into a final hazelnut-sized ball (~8gm). The balls were placed between two sheets of sturdy plastic (a freezer bag cut along the two sides works well) and pressed flat with the lid of a large canning jar. I ended up with 32 thin disks (2 1/2-3″ in diameter) which were baked at 350 deg F for 8 minutes before being flipped over and baked for another 8 minutes until lightly golden.

For a final flourish, the oven was turned off, and the crackers were brushed with a mixture of soy sauce (aged, dark soy sauce or regular) and mirin and returned to the turned off oven for another 3 minutes. After cooling the tray on a rack for 15 minutes, the cool crackers may be stored in an air tight container to maintain crispiness, though you’ll nibble on these simple, but ‘morish’ crackers quickly enough that they won’t go soft.

REVIEW: Delicious and well worth making even if a bit time consuming. One batch of the dough gave me 32 crackers, which weighed about 170 grams.

Umeboshi Onigiri (Sour Plum Rice Balls)

Umeboshi are pickled sour ume, a fruit often identified as a plum though it is more closely related to the apricot. They are most commonly eaten with rice which mellows their salty and sour taste. Purple leaved perilla, which colours the ume red, is sometimes added during the salting process. A more modern preparation of umeboshi includes honey to slightly sweeten the finished fruit. I thought I’d dip my toe in the umeboshi pool so I bought the latter.

Recently, I visited a local Japanese grocery store and came home with some goodies including a container of the honey version of the umeboshi and made a batch of umeboshi onigiri.

Clockwise from the top: Adzuki beans, mochiko (sweet glutinous rice flour), katsuobushi (shaved dried bonito flakes) and umeboshi with honey. The sushi rice was purchased from my local grocery store chain because the price was better (8 kg for $13.99).

I DID make a traditional triangular shaped onigiri with the pitted umeboshi in the center but my preferred presentation was made by adding diced umeboshi to the cooked sushi rice and shaping the rice into rounds. Normally one shapes the onigiri using dampened hands sprinkled with salt to season and help in the preservation of the onigiri. However, the salty umeboshi added to the rice eliminates the need for the additional salt.

For the sushi rice cooking instructions, check out previous sushi and onigiri posts.

Whole and pitted umeboshi

Umeboshi onigiri served on home grown green perilla (shiso) leaves.

The onigiri may be wrapped in a half sheet of nori, along with a perilla leaf for flavour, wrapped with plastic food wrap and frozen for quick meals. Or, if you like your nori crispy, wrap the onigiri separately and add it to your lunch box/bento along with a half sheet of nori. You may serve the onigiri with a bit of soy sauce, if you prefer.

Spoiler Alert: Mochiko flour is an ingredient in a number of sweet or savoury Japanese treats. Just sayin’

Omurice in a Mug

The classic omurice (watch Tampopo for an intriguing Japanese food referencing movie) is basically an omelette wrapped around fried rice … a delicious repurposing of the leftover rice dish. Ketchup features prominently in seasoning the rice and garnishing the omelette.

TabiEats has a delicious, made from scratch version, which is made in a microwave, in a lot less time. The only tricky part is the wattage of your respective microwave but, after your first omurice, you can adjust quickly.

I’ve written out the list of ingredients and instructions from the video below, with some clarifying information, so you can make your own, but watch the video linked earlier. It’s informative and fun.

Omurice in a Mug – makes 1
from TabiEats

1 1/2 oz/42.5 gm chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/8 onion, finely chopped (or 1 tsp fried onion)
2 tbsp mixed vegetables (frozen corn, carrots, peas)
3 tbsp ketchup, plus an additional 1 tbsp ketchup for garnish
salt and pepper, to taste (1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp to start)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup Japanese shortgrain or sushi rice, washed well and drained
1/2 cup water
1 large egg

Put all ingredients, except the egg, into a large mug. (The mug should have a 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cup capacity.) Give the contents a good stir so the ingredients are combined.

Crumple a sheet of parchment paper and lay it on the surface of the rice mixture. Loosely cover with a sheet of plastic wrap.

Microwave for 2 minutes 30 seconds at 600 watts (60%). Carefully open the plastic wrap and give the contents a quick mix. Cover and microwave at 300 watts (30%) for 10-12 minutes. (NOTE: Depending on your microwave, you can use defrost mode, which is 30% in my microwave.)

Carefully peel off the plastic wrap and take out the parchment paper. Discard the parchment paper.

Whisk the egg well and pour it over the top of the rice. Cover the mug loosely with the plastic wrap and microwave for 2-3 minutes, at 200 watts, until egg is cooked. Don’t overcook!

Serve the omurice with a tablespoon of ketchup and garnish with peas.

Here’s a picture of the traditional omurice from a previous post.

And the contents of the mug turned out into a soup bowl … you can kind of see the chicken, carrots, peas and corn.

Niko (Beef) Udon Noodle Soup

In a recent search through the freezer I ran across a single serving of velveted beef, broccoli and mushrooms which I transformed into a filling pot of noodle soup … enough for three servings.  Although I already had the seasoned beef and vegetables, I’ve included a recipe (found online) for cooking the beef and mushroom mixture from scratch. If desired, you may add a cup of prepared broccoli florettes to the recipe.

Niko (Beef) Udon Noodle Soup – serves 2-3

1 portion of seasoned beef and mushrooms  (RECIPE follows)

Soup Base Recipe

4 cups dashi stock
1-1 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1-2 pkg udon noodles**
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
2-3 green onion tops, thinly sliced for garnish
shichimi powder, to taste (Japanese chili pepper)

** I added one package of fresh udon noodles which only need to be cooked for three minutes.

In a medium sized soup pot, add the dashi stock, ginger, salt, soy sauce, mirin and sake. Bring to a boil over medium/medium-high heat.

Add the seasoned beef and vegetables and stir until warmed through. Add the udon noodles and cook according to package directions. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Divide among two or three bowls and garnish with green onions and shichimi powder.

Seasoned Beef and Mushrooms Recipe

2-3 tsp vegetable oil, as needed
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3-4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
225 gm/ 1/2 lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce

In a large saute pan, heat two teaspoons of oil over medium/medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until golden on both sides. Remove to another plate. If needed, add another teaspoon of oil, heat and then add the onions and saute until softened and translucent. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Don’t move the beef around until it has seared and loosened from the bottom of the pan. Once all the beef has been browned, add sauteed mushrooms, the sugar and the soy sauce and let it caramelize a bit.

Add the beef and mushroom mixture to the soup base.

“Jiggly” Japanese Cheesecake… Trial 1

I’ve been curious about this cheesecake for some time and finally got around to giving it a try.

“Jiggly” Japanese Cheesecake

Since some recipes called for as many as 8 yolks and 12 whites, which I didn’t want to commit to the recipe, I looked for one which seemed more restrained in its egg use, and didn’t give complicated baking instructions involving adjusting the temperature during baking.

As a final complication, I didn’t want to make a full sized recipe.

I don’t have the 7 or 8 inch diameter springform pan (mine is a 9 inch) called for, in the first place, and, secondly, a full sized cake is too much for a single person. Based on the recipe, I used, I guesstimated that a full recipe, would make about 4-6 cups of batter. So, I thought that the batter from a half recipe would distribute nicely among three or four one-cup ramekins with room for souffleing. I prepared four, to be safe, and added four inch tall parchment paper collars to accommodate the expected souffleing. (The collars didn’t turn out to be needed.) I filled each ramekin about three-quarters full and baked the ramekins in a water bath for 40 minutes, at 320 degrees Fahrenheit. A wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of a cheesecake came out clean, at this point. Even though the top was as pale as when I put the cheesecakes in the oven, I decided not to bake any further and shut off the oven, leaving the cheesecakes in the oven for another 30 minutes to cool and set fully.

ETA (03/30/19): Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before eating. The cold temperature sets the cream cheese and improves the flavor and texture. Store any remaining cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap the cake tightly with plastic food wrap and then a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.

For aesthetics, I brushed some apricot glaze, made from stirring together 1 tbsp of apricot jam with 1 tbsp of warm water until smooth, over the top of the cheesecake.

I ate the first one warm because … well, I couldn’t wait until the next day to eat it cold.

Review: The recipe isn’t very challenging technique-wise, especially if you’ve ever made meringues or any cake involving folding flour etc into a fluffy egg white base to minimize deflating. It was very tasty warm, with just a bit of added sweetness from the glaze to contrast with the slight tang from the lemon juice and cream cheese. I liked the texture which was more similar to a moist pound cake than to a classic cheesecake.

NOTE: Refrigerating the cheesecake overnight transformed the cheesecake. It became more CHEESECAKEY and less ‘cakey’.

Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 3 – Japanese Hamburger Steak (Hambagu)

The last post on the theme of easy Japanese dishes features a Japanese version of the classic Western hamburger, hambagu, or hamburger steak patty. I’m including a couple of miso soups, a vegetable side dish and some pudding (or purin, in Japanese) to finish things off.

The recipe for the hamburger comes from TabiEats and the result was meant to be used in a bento box. Instead, I used it as a topping for leftover Japanese mixed rice.

Hamburger Steak Mixed Rice Bowl

Hamburger Steak Patty – for 2 patties

100 gm /~1/4 pound ground beef or chicken
30-40 gm enoki mushroom base, shredded
1/8th finely diced onion (or 1 tsp fried onions)
1/4 tsp salt
few grinds of pepper

Ground beef and shredded enoki mushroom base

Mix all the hamburger patty ingredients together well. Shape into patty to get out the air. Divide into 2 and reshape into hamburger steak patty. Make a small depression in the center as the middle puffs up during frying. Pan fry over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil for a few minutes on the first side and then turn and finish.

Since the burger on its own seemed a bit dry, I borrowed a recipe for a wine reduction hamburger steak sauce from Nami’s Just One Cookbook. Halve the ingredient amounts for the sauce, from the recipe below, if you’re only making two patties.

Hamburger Steak (Hambagu) – for 4 hamburger steak patties

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 hamburger patties, about 90 gm each
~1 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Sauce for the hamburger steak

3 tbsp red wine
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)

Heat a cast iron or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the hamburger patties and fry 3-4 minutes on the first side. Flip, and add a couple of teaspoons of red wine into the pan.

After you flip, pour 2-3 tsp red wine into the saucepan and then lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minute, or until the inside of the patty is no longer pink. Take the lid off and increase the heat to medium-high to let the red wine cook off. When the pan is almost dry, remove the patties to a serving plate and reserve.

Combine the liquid sauce ingredients in a bowl. In the same pan in which you fried the hamburger patties, add the butter the and sauce ingredients and mix well. Lower the heat to medium low and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. With a slotted spoon, remove any meat bits or scum from the sauce so it’s nice and smooth.

When the sauce has thickened to your liking, pour it over the hamburger steaks.

Serve with vegetable sides and rice.

Shira-ae is a tofu ‘dressing’ made of ground sesame seeds/tahini, miso and tofu and added to shredded vegetables.

I used it to dress some blanched broccoli florettes and served it with one of the hamburger patties and a bowl of miso soup.

Two kinds of white miso soup … egg drop/egg flower and tofu or a clear soup.

To finish up … dessert. Cause you ALWAYS need to finish up with something sweet. (Ok, I like cheese and fruit and nuts too but they weren’t in my budget nor did I know any savoury Japanese afters.)

Dessert was pudding, or purin, in Japanese. Both these desserts were made with the same vanilla bean custard mixture. For the flan/creme caramel, I made a hard caramel and poured it into the bottom of the large ramekins. The smaller ramekins were turned into creme brulee and bruleed under the broiler.

Vanilla Bean Flan/Creme Caramel and Creme Brulee