Tag Archives: japanese

U is for Udon (Noodles that is)

Noodles are ubiquitous in many cuisines and udon, a soft, thick and chewy wheat noodle, is one of the many Asian forms I hadn’t tried until I found them fresh at my local, cut-rate, grocery store.

Vacuum sealed in individual portions, they’re removed from the package and added to a pot of boiling water where they take only three minutes to cook to the al dente stage. Rinsed thoroughly in cold water and then well drained, they can be served either hot or cold.

Closeup

Dan Dan Noodles … the noodles are topped with the meat sauce, sambal oelek and green onions … stir it up and dig in.

Tofu and red miso soup served over a half package of udon noodles with a poached egg for garnish.

Hokkaido-Style Corn, Chicken and Milk Miso Soup

A recent purchase of a bundle of kale and a sparse pantry led to some net surfing where I ran across a recipe for this hearty version of miso soup.

It’s similar to a corn chowder, which can be kept vegetarian with tofu as the protein instead of the chicken the recipe called for. I included both as I had some diced tofu in my freezer, as well as what turned out to be 6 oz of diced chicken breast. The recipe called for cabbage as the vegetable. Funnily enough, kale is considered a member of the cabbage family. (I did NOT know that.)

Hokkaido-style Corn, Chicken, Milk and Miso Soup – serves 5

4 cups of water and 1 vegetable stock cube (or 2 tsp dashi powder)
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 cup white cabbage, finely shredded (or kale)
1 green onion, white only, finely sliced
1 cup of fresh, canned or frozen corn
1 tbsp butter, vegetable or sesame oil
6 oz (~ 200g) chicken breast or leftover cold chicken, cut into pieces (or firm tofu, TVP or quorn)
1 tbsp dried seaweed, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water, drained and julienned
~1/2 cup of white miso** (adjust for taste)
salt and pepper (white or black) to taste
green onion tops, sliced thinly, for garnish

** All I had was red miso paste so that’s what I used

Heat up the water in a pot and dissolve the vegetable stock cube or the dashi powder in it.

Prepare the veggies while the water comes to a boil.

Saute the cabbage and onion in a large saute pan with the butter or oil until it’s just turning limp. Add  the chicken cubes if added raw and brown briefly. Add the corn and briefly saute at the same time.

Add the soup stock to the saute pan and simmer until the chicken is just tender.

Place the miso paste in a small bowl and add about 1/2 a cup of hot stock. Mash up the miso as much as possible. Add an additional 1/2 cup of stock and stir until the miso paste is dissolved.

Add the milk to the saute pan, and bring up to a simmer. (Add the cut up chicken if using leftover chicken and heat through.)

Add the dissolved miso and drained seaweed to the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Garnish with green onion tops and serve.

Repeated … Asian Themed Dishes

I’ve been craving sushi again … and you know what THAT means.

I make a bunch of my favourite Chinese and Japanese dishes, take pictures of them and share them with you all.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) – I diced some fake crab legs (surimi) and added it to the pancake mixture. The cooked strips of bacon are added to the top of the pancake before it’s flipped over and the top is cooked. I’m wrapping the two I made and freezing them away for future meals.

Szechuan shrimp and broccoli over longevity lo mein noodles – 3/4 of a pound of white Pacific shrimp in a spicy sweet and sour type sauce. I bought a bundle of broccoli cheap (88 cents). It was most mostly stem and very little florette so I threw in all the florettes and froze some of the stem for vegetable stock.

Sticky Asian drumsticks

Sushi hand rolls (temaki sushi) – A shiso (perilla) leaf gives these hand rolls a great fresh flavour. And they’re so inexpensive. Cook up a cup of sushi rice and you have enough rice for 8-10 hand rolls.

All you need is a drizzle of soy sauce before devouring these beauties.

Shiso (Perilla) and Mitsuba Seeds

This post features my first attempts to germinate shiso and mitsuba seeds … the timing isn’t the best but I think I learned a lot for next spring.

As a fan of Japanese dishes, especially sushi, I’ve heard of shiso, also known as perilla, and its various uses in both its green and red forms.

Most simply the green version can be included in hand rolls or as an edible garnish under sashimi. The red form is most famously used for coloring pickled plum, or umeboshi. I happened to whine express my culinary interest in acquiring some in correspondence with a blogging Swiss friend and she offered to send me some seeds from her plants. I emailed her my snail mail addy, and as it was almost the end of summer, thought I’d have something to look forward to in the spring. I was pleasantly surprised to find an envelope in the mail in almost no time as well as detailed growing instructions and the assurance that more seeds would come for spring planting.

So, with nothing to lose, I gave it a shot.

The shiso seeds are small and round, similar to basil seeds in size. And like with basil seeds, you get the first embryonic leaves peeking through a light covering of soil about 4-5 days after planting. Wait until the first TRUE leaves appear and the stalk is about an inch in height before thinning and transplanting the seedlings into larger pots. I planted 10 seeds and got 5 germinating.

Shiso seeds were planted in the back row … you can see the first 3 seedlings.

D-shaped embryonic leaves with more normal oval shaped leaves in the middle.

Shiso leaves have their 2nd and 3rd set of ‘true’ leaves. Only one of the mitsuba seedling has its first set of ‘true’ leaves. They were planted at the same time.

Also included in the package were seeds for mitsuba, also known as Japanese parsley, which is said to have a celery like flavour with a number of uses, including as a garnish in soups and as a sushi ingredient.

Mitsuba seeds are long, thin and black, similar to cumin seeds. I attempted to germinate about 10-12 seeds but only 3 sprouted. The embryonic leaves reminded me of leaves of grass so I wondered if I had actually managed to sprout one when the first hint of green peeked through the soil. Only the husk of the seed coat, which was still attached let me know I had succeeded.

At first I thought only one seed had germinated but over the course of the next 10 days, a second and then finally a third sprout was seen. It took almost 3 weeks for the first ‘true’ leaf to appear.

And even longer before I felt confident enough to transplant them into pots. Parsley like ‘true’ leaves.

ETA: 10/10/2016 Since I was having so much trouble with the mitsuba germination, I tried a method suggested by the friend who sent me the seeds to germinate the shiso – on damp cottonballs misted with water daily after 2 days of refrigerating.

It took a bit over 3 weeks but 2 out of the 11 seeds germinated… so far. I covered 6 of the seeds with a damp paper towel as well, as a test.

International Cooking

What country/nationality’s cooking, other than your own, do you enjoy?

I live in Canada and other than poutine and butter tarts, I can’t really claim that I cook anything that is particularly CANADIAN. Throwing maple syrup into a dish doesn’t make it Canadian, does it?

I enjoy a variety of national cuisines. This past week … I made Chinese (kale and white miso soup), Japanese and Tex-Mex dishes.

Donburi, or Japanese rice bowls, are a great way to use up leftover sushi rice. Chicken is one of my favourite proteins to top the rice bowl. The beef version was a new one for me though I didn’t have the paper thin fatty beef that is usually used and ended up with some chewy strips of sirloin steak. It still tasted good, though.

Chicken katsu (cutlet) with scrambled egg poached in the simmering sauce …

… and gyudon (beef) with egg. In Japan a raw egg is broken over the hot rice bowl but our eggs aren’t safe to eat raw so I poached mine. Paper thin cut fatty beef is preferred for quick cooking time and flavour. I garnished the rice bowl with shredded pickled ginger and green onion. And the pink, white and green colours looked pretty too.

I made a half dozen crab stick and avocado hand rolls with the rest of the sushi rice.

As for Tex-Mex … well, it’s better than going to Taco Bell. (Even if it IS an occasional guilty pleasure.)

Beef fajitas

Tamales are more Mexican than Tex-Mex but I’m going to throw them into the mix.

And, lest I forget … an iced Thai coffee to beat the heat. One of these days, I’ll make a more expansive Thai menu.

Iced Thai Coffee

Make double strength coffee and let cool to room temperature. If you like cardamom, a pinch or two added to the coffee while you’re brewing it is tasty.

In a tall glass, add a few ice cubes, 1-2 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk depending on how sweet you like your coffee. Pour the coffee over the ice cubes.

Re-imagining Basic Recipes

So much for my ‘break’. But I’ve been having a lot of fun and couldn’t resist sharing some pictures.

Taking a recipe and re-thinking some elements to come up with something new and exciting is important for the daily cook. And those of us on a budget who can’t run out and buy exotic or expensive ingredients.

So, adding beet puree (only 2 tbsp to a 2 egg pasta recipe) to a basic pasta recipe and coming up with a very pretty pink pasta doesn’t take a lot of money, just some imagination, or google-fu in case your imagination is as limited as mine.

Making the Beet Pasta

Dressing the resulting pasta is another fun pastime.

Shrimp Scampi … a very romantic shrimp supper for two

Browned Butter and Sage … a more modest meatless pasta dish with a generous grating of Grana Padano cheese

No changes in this dish from the basic recipe I posted before, but the pictures are MUCH nicer.

I haven’t made these onigiri (Japanese rice patties) in ages. You can leave them plain or fill them with anything from the classic umeboshi which are a type of pickled ‘plums’, dried bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce or a very Western tuna salad. The onigiri may also be eaten as is or grilled, basted with soy sauce and then grilled again briefly. Wrapping a strip of nori around the rice patty keeps your fingers clean, but you’ll want to wait til the last minute so the seaweed stays nice and crispy.

I learned a fun way to shape/pack sushi rice into a round ball. Simply take 2 small round bottomed bowls, rinse them with water so the rice doesn’t stick, add your rice to the bottom bowl, put the other bowl on top and SHAKE back and forth for a minute or so.

Crack open the ball of rice on a moistened sheet of food wrap over which you’ve sprinkled some salt, and add your filling. Tighten the plastic wrap around the ball and filling and squeeze it tightly, then form into a triangle shape.

Plain Onigiri – wrap a strip of nori around the patty before eating

Yaki Onigiri – I like to add a bit of wasabi to the onigiri before wrapping the nori around it and eating.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies become cookie cups … I used 3-4 tbsp to make balls which were placed into muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray. The cookies and cups were baked together for 15-16 min at 350 deg F and then I used the bottom of a shot glass to press down the cookie in the muffin tins to make a ‘cup’. The cups were allowed to cool for 5 minutes before being removed from the muffin tins and transferred to the cooling rack to cool completely.

I’ll fill the cups and share pictures soon.

Mushroom Miso Soup with Butternut Squash Ravioli

You can whip up a great soup in 15 minutes with a few simple pantry and fridge/freezer ingredients, like this white miso soup with fresh mushrooms and frozen butternut squash ravioli. A sprinkle or two of green onions and you’re all set.

Mushroom Miso Soup with Butternut Squash** Ravioli – serves 3, generously

6 cups chicken, vegetable or dashi stock (6 cups water and 2 tsp dashi powder)
2 tbsp white or red miso paste
1 tsp dried wakame (seaweed), soaked in 1 cup cold or warm water, thinly sliced
5-6 sliced white button mushrooms
9 frozen butternut squash ravioli
1-2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced as garnish
salt and pepper to taste

** Use whatever kind of ravioli, tortellini or wontons you have available

Place the miso in a small bowl.

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium sized soup pot. Add the soaked seaweed and mushrooms to the pot. Season with about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper.

With a ladle, transfer about a cup of the hot liquid to the miso in the bowl and mix gently with a spoon or whisk to dissolve the miso.

Add the frozen ravioli to the remaining hot liquid in the soup pot, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes until the ravioli are tender.

Take the soup pot off the heat, and stir in the dissolved miso. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Spoon a couple of cups of soup into each bowl and add 3 ravioli per person. Sprinkle green onion over the top and serve.

Japanese Trio

I’ve had a sushi craving for a while now, but the budget doesn’t allow for an outing as I’m saving up for b’day dim sum next weekend. So, I dug into my freezer (duh!) for a couple of ingredients.

No recipes cause they’re all things I’ve posted YEARS ago, so you’ll have to go looking. (I’ll try to add links back to the recipes.)

I started with a savoury pancake, okonomiyaki, which features shredded cabbage (I used a bagged coleslaw mix as a time-saver) and sliced surimi aka fake crab ‘legs’. Instead of the sauce from the recipe, you can use bbq, tonkatsu or eel sauce, as I did.

Following up with inari sushi, which are seasoned fried tofu pockets filled, traditionally with sushi rice. I topped them with spicy fake crab legs and egg salad. I was tempted to make a third topping of tuna salad but I’d made too much of the other two toppings for the leftover inari from the can which I’d frozen away. For an interesting and tasty variation, you can fill your tofu pockets with somen noodle salad.

The spicy crab was garnished with masago (capelin roe) and the egg salad with shichimi togarashi (chili pepper condiment).The inari was served with the last of my sake. The bottle is pretty too. 🙂

And since I had a couple of cups of leftover cooked sushi rice, I decided to make a donburi or rice bowl. For a topping, I used one of the larger chicken cutlets/katsu made previously and an egg poached in the simmering sauce. I only used 1 cup of the rice so I think I’ll freeze away the rest. The only recipe you need is for the simmering sauce as the topping choices for the rice bowl are very flexible.

The egg stuck to the bottom of the pan while poaching so I lost a lot of the yolk to the simmering sauce. Oh well. What was there was still somewhat runny, the way I like it.

Chicken Katsu Curry Donburi

Earlier in the week, I had butterflied a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and turned them into chicken fingers along with the tenders from 6 breasts. Coated in  a simple home made version of ‘Shake’n’Bake’ using regular dried breadcrumbs and baked in the oven, they were delicious. But … I had a craving.

A craving for chicken katsu.

A thin cutlet of chicken breast, floured, egg washed and dipped in Panko. And FRIED!!

So that’s what I did late Friday evening with the 2 chicken cutlets that I had set aside. One was a bit too thick and uneven but I didn’t bother pounding it down so it would be even. Cause it was  late enough that I just didn’t care.

The next day, I served it in one of my sushi bowls over hot sushi rice. Even though the crust had lost a lot of its crunch, it was still good. And worth frying.

No Japanese beer but the Moroccan mint iced tea was lovely.

Chicken Katsu Curry Donburi – serves 1

1 serving of hot cooked sushi rice
1 serving of Japanese curry
1 chicken katsu, sliced on the diagonal in 1/2 inch strips
Tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog brand isn’t bad)
garnish with ~1 tbsp thinly sliced green onion

Chicken Katsu – serves 4

4 chicken cutlets, thinly sliced and pounded 1/4 inch thick
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper as needed
2-3 cups vegetable oil

Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper on each side

Place the flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs each in their own large and relatively flat bowls

Dip each cutlet first in the flour, shaking off the excess, and coating each side. Then dip each side of the cutlet in the beaten egg, letting the excess drip off. Finally, coat the egged cutlets in the Panko bread crumbs, pressing the Panko into the cutlet so it will stick.

In a large cast iron skillet add enough vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2-3/4 inch. Heat the oil to 350 deg. Fahrenheit (medium-high on an electric stove if you don’t have a deep frying thermometer). Add a couple of cutlets at a time and fry until they’re a golden brown colour (5-7 minutes), turn and repeat.

Drain on a cooling rack set over a plate with several layers of paper toweling to absorb the oil. Do not place the cutlets directly on the paper towels as the crust will get soggy and you want a nice crunchy crust.

Japanese Vegetable** Curry – serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, cut into roughly 1/2 inch chunks
1-2 cloves garlic, finely mince
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups water
pinch or two of coarse sea or kosher salt
1 package of curry paste (Glico brand is my favourite and the $1.99 it costs is worth it for the convenience)

** If you want a meat curry, cut chunks of chicken, pork or beef into bite sized pieces and brown in the oil before adding the onions. About half a pound of meat is plenty. For a tougher cut of meat, like the beef, you may want to simmer the meat for 10-20 minutes before adding the vegetables so they don’t get too mushy.

In a large saute pan, stir fry the onions over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until tender and getting browned. Add the garlic, salt, carrot and potato chunks and stir fry for another few minutes.

Add 2 cups of water (you may need more to just cover the vegetables) and bring the water to a boil. Cover with the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and take the saute pan off the burner. Break up the cubes of curry paste and stir into the vegetable mixture. The residual heat will help dissolve the cubes and thicken the mixture. When the cubes are completely dissolved, put the lid on and let the curry sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot with rice, pasta or bread.

Korean Inari Sushi (Yubu Chobap) and a more traditional version

Inari sushi or pockets of fried tofu are filled traditionally with sushi rice, as I’ve done here and here and somen noodles or non-traditionally with grains such as quinoa. You could even use couscous if you wished, I think.

It’s been ages since I made any however, and I keep running across a can of the pockets in my pantry. I did some net surfing and ran across a very tasty sounding Korean adaptation of the classic Japanese recipe.

You can use sushi rice for this recipe but the recipe I based this on used a medium grain Arborio rice which is used in Italy for risotto or even a Spanish paella. And, the rice is flavoured with a combination of sauteed and seasoned vegetables that make it suitable to serve as a side dish or even a single dish meal.

And here are some more traditional inari sushi I made last week with plain sushi rice and topped with spicy shredded fake crab legs, masago (capelin roe) and egg salad.

Korean Inari Sushi (Yubu Chobap)

1 can (16 pockets) or 1 package (20) seasoned frozen bean curd pockets

Rice – enough rice to fill 16 to 20 tofu pockets or as a side dish to serve 4-6 people

1 cup Arborio rice
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp rice vinegar

In a large bowl, rinse the rice several times in cold water, using your hand to stir the grains. Drain.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Stir in the salt and the drained rice. Stir, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer.

Cook for 20 minutes, stirring several times.

Remove from the heat and sprinkle the rice vinegar over the top, folding the vinegar gently through the rice with a spatula. Allow to cool, uncovered.

Seasoning Sauce for rice

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Vegetable Mixture – fills ~20 bean curd pockets

1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 medium (1/2 cup) carrot, minced
1 medium (1/2 cup) onion, minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
6-8 dried shiitakes; rehydrated, drained, and minced or 4 oz cremini mushrooms, minced
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine or mirin

Furikake for garnish or stir 2 tbsp into the rice and vegetable mixture at the end

NOTE: Instead of the mushrooms, you can use 1 green pepper or 4-6 green onions. For a meat version, use 1/4-1/2 pound ground beef.

Heat oil in large saute pan on medium high heat. Cook the carrots first for about 1-2 minutes, push aside and add the onions. Saute until the vegetable are tender. Make a well in the center, add the shiitakes and garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the sauce mixture to shiitakes and the Shaoxing wine. Mix all the vegetables together in the pan.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.

Mix together the rice, vegetables and furikake, if desired.

Fill the bean curd pockets with as much filling as you want!

Serve hot or at room temperature.