Japan Eats

Tuna cutlet

This year-round dish is delicious accompanied by tartar sauce and a salad of fresh lettuce and sliced onion.  It’s worth pointing out that when buying the tuna, there’s no need to select the most expensive as it is going to be cooked before being eaten.

Serve with salad and tartar sauce

Serve with salad and tartar sauce

Ingredients

Cutlets

  • 150 to 200g sashimi tuna (ie raw).
  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 2 cups of breadcrumbs

Tartar sauce

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tea spoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/6 of an onion
  • 6 to 8 pickled shallots
  • 1 boiled egg
  • 1 to 2 pinches of chopped parsley

Method

Prepare the tartar sauce first.  Mince the boiled egg, the pickled shallots and the onion. Blanch the onion for 3 minutes. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix them together.

Next, sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on the block of tuna. Prepare three dishes with flour, the beaten egg and one in which to shake off excess flour.

Dip the tuna in the beaten egg, and place the cutlet onto the bed of breadcrumbs. Cover the other side of the tuna with breadcrumbs, pressing down gently with your hands. Shake off any excess breadcrumbs.

Preheat the oil (170 degrees centigrade) and let the tuna slide gently into the oil. When the surface of the tuna turns brown, turn the cutlet around so that it cooks evenly.

As the tuna would normally be eaten raw, it can be cooked quickly on a medium heat.

Once both sides are evenly brown, take the tuna from the oil and drain it on a tray.

Finally, cut the tuna into bite size strips and pour a dash of the tartar sauce over it. Serve together with a salad of fresh lettuce and sliced onion.

What We’re Drinking: Sapporo x Royce Chocolat Brewery

Oh my, they certainly weren’t kidding when they named this one.

Normally in such a collaboration, the secondary or nominal ingredient is there for branding more than anything else and is sometimes barely even noticeable. Not so, in this case. While the beer, of course, contains no finished Royce product, it most certainly contains chocolate. I popped open the can, poured it into a frosty pilsner glass, started to raise it towards my face and WHAM! Read more

Japan Booze Blind: Third type beer

Guests Joe Nakamura and Rachael White join host Christopher Pellegrini in deciding which beers aren’t beers at all…

Japanese style spaghetti with spinach and mushrooms

This simple dish makes an excellent appetiser but it can just as well be served as a main course.

Naturally, other types of pasta can be used instead of spaghetti, however those cooking the dish in Japan will find it difficult to get their hands on much else (despite an awareness of Italian cuisine, the average Japanese supermarket still only stocks thin spaghetti and macaroni).

Spaghetti with mushrooms and spinach

Spaghetti with spinach and mushrooms

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 160g spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100 – 150g spinach
  • 100-150g mushrooms (use shiitake mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms or eringi mushrooms – 2 kinds would be best)
  • 20g butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Boil 1.5l water. Once it’s bubbling add a pinch of salt and then cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package. Pour the 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan and add the minced garlic. Cook it on a low heat.

Wash the spinach and then drain away any excess water. Cut away the roots then slice the remaining leaves into large pieces. Now cut away the stems of the shiitake and cut the remaining mushrooms into slices around 2 to 3 mm thick.

Put the them into the frying pan and sauté them for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach and mix this together with the mushrooms. Next, season the sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Drain the spaghetti, saving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the water. Pour this liquid into the frying pan and mix with the other ingredients.

Now pour the spaghetti into the frying pan and fold the sauce into the pasta. Pour 2 tablespoons of soy sauce into the inner surface of the frying pan and mix into the spaghetti.

Finally, turn off the heat and add the 20g of butter. Allow the butter to melt using the remaining heat and mix the dish together quickly. Test the sauce, and if necessary add a touch more salt. The dish is now ready to serve.

Boozehound: Bar Albatross (Shinjuku)

If it weren’t for Tokyo’s ongoing economic troubles, Golden Gai – that shanty town wedged between Shinjuku’s Hanazono Shrine and Kabukicho – could well have been turned into condos or (worse!) a Mori-style shopping precinct. After all, it was repeatedly targeted by developers in the bubble years. Somehow this ramshackle collection of bars (about 175 at last count) survived the heady 80s and early 90s. Hanazono Hills was not to be.

But perhaps the most surprising thing about Golden Gai is that it manages to be both determinedly nostalgic whilst never lapsing into self-parody. Anyone who has visited Harajuku or Yokohama’s Chinatown will be familiar with Japan’s penchant for Disneyfication (take something unique, extract anything controversial and wait for the tour buses). Thanks to a new generation of bar owners, however, Golden Gai retains what made it interesting in the first place – individually-themed bars, cramped seating and the whiff of a sordid past.

Hidden on dimly-lit 5th street is a two and a half storey wooden building that enjoys all of these qualities. Bar Albatross resembles a dolls-house with its scaled down furniture and narrow wooden stairways. Burgundy walls are adorned with picture frames and a chandelier hangs from the upstairs ceiling. Make it all the way to the ‘attic’ space above the second floor and you’ll get a great view of the regulars chatting and drinking below.

The bar has a fairly extensive menu mostly priced around the 700 yen mark. There are beers, shochu and a wide variety of spirits on offer. On my last visit I stuck to the relatively unadventurous Moscow Mule, but you’d do well to sample some of the bar’s other cocktails.

The staff are friendly without being overbearing. If downstairs is full, latecomers are encouraged to go upstairs where there is a second bar with space at one long counter. It can be somewhat nerve-wracking watching tipsy guests wobbling up the rickety wooden stairs to the second floor, but most seemed oblivious to the threat of falling.

Given that the seating fee is a low 300 yen per person,  the bill works out to be inexpensive. And the sit-down charge includes a small otooshi – nimono or some similar nibble to balance all that alcohol.

With places like Bar Albatross, Golden Gai’s future has never looked brighter.

Bar Albatross is located in Golden Gai, Shinjuku. Go out of the East exit of Shinjuku Station and turn left. Cross Shinjuku-Dori and make your way to Yasukuni-Dori. Turn right and then left into the park beside Mr Donut. Go through the park and then continue past Champion. The bar is on the right side of 5th street, four narrow alleyways after the karaoke bar. Look for the sign above the door.

Address: Kabukicho, Golden-gai (5th street), Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3203-3699
Home Page http://www.alba-s.com
8:00pm-05:00am

February ‘10 Magazine Roundup

This month it’s all about winter warmers – ramen, cream stews, okonomiyaki and winter seafood dishes. Here’s our roundup of Japan’s food magazines for February 2010.

Christel Takigawa trades the newsroom for the tatami room in this month's Otona no OFF.

Christel Takigawa trades the newsroom for the tatami room in this month's Otona no OFF.

This month’s Cuisine Kingdom (970 yen) focuses on seasonal seafood dishes. Japanese as well as international chefs explain how best to cook winter seafood using their own recipes. The magazine also interviews several Kyoto-based chefs and asks what inspires them.

Dancyu (860 yen) asks ‘where in Tokyo does one go to get the best beef or cream stew?’ The magazine’s February edition also looks at that perennial Japanese favorite, okonomiyaki. They introduce seven well-regarded okonomiyaki restaurants as well as recipes for their most popular dishes.

This month’s Syokuraku (860 yen) focuses on ramen. They nominate the ‘ten best ramen restaurants in metropolitan Tokyo’ and then the ‘top ten restaurants for various types of ramen’ (tsukemen, thick soup, etc.). There’s also a ‘top ten ramen restaurants which serve great side dishes’ and (clearly concerned they had left someone out) a ‘top ten ramen restaurants serving great drinks’.

The magazine also devotes space to the humble nabe, and suggests where Tokyoites can sample regional versions of this seasonal dish.

Tokyo Calendar (680 yen) dusts off the crystal ball to predict the year’s dining trends in the Japanese capital. The magazine nominates bistros where one dining alone can eat at a counter, Nouvelle Chinois cuisine and Shitamachi restaurants as three major trends of 2010.

Finally, dessert arrives courtesy of Ryori Tsushin (980 yen), which dedicates its February issue to sweets. Using patisserie Aigre Douce (Mejiro) as an example, the magazine’s authors make the case for sweets to be made from only the finest ingredients. The magazine also looks at traditional German sweets, noting that German confections are growing in popularity.

And also…

Nikkei’s Otona no Off (680 yen) examines the basics of Japanese etiquette. Just how does one behave when eating kaiseki? What are the rules at a tea ceremony? There are even tips on how one opens fusuma (traditional sliding doors).

Video release schedule

Japaneats.tv has been up and running for a couple of months now, and we’ve been thrilled by the response to the site. Looking at the stats, its clear that there’s an audience for what we’re doing, and we want to thank you for your support.

A number of people have been asking about our video release schedule. How often do we release episodes to the site/iTunes?

We’re aiming to release our videos every two weeks, usually on a Wednesday morning (Tokyo time). Naturally, this won’t always be possible due to public holidays or key personnel running off overseas. Nevertheless, we’ll do our best be consistent with our video updates.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the shows. You can leave a comment on the site itself, or on our Vimeo/YouTube pages. And don’t forget we can also be found on Twitter (@japaneats and @japaneats.tv).

What we’re drinking: Delirium Christmas

Delirium Christmas

Oh look, the pink elephant is ice skating. Deja vu.

Drank this beauty this past weekend at my local haunt, Duke. Delirium Christmas, also commonly labeled as Delirium Noël, comes with a few different versions of the pink elephant on the front.

Truth be told, I ended up drinking this Belgian strong dark ale two nights in a row. I got the pink elephant on a sled the second time around. I was informed that there is also a version of the label that has a bunch of elephants pulling a sleigh.

I know it tastes exactly the same, but I will not rest until I try that one as well. You have my word on that.

Oh, and as a little quiz, how many elephants are there on a typical Delirium serving glass?

Anyway, this beer was just as irresistible as I had anticipated. I’m a huge fan of Delirium Tremens (who isn’t?), and this seasonal ale did not disappoint.

The nose on this beer was lovely–a blend of fruity esters and a faint spiciness to bring everything together. The spice lingers and makes the phenolic aspects of this brew pleasant and generally not distracting. The dry finish is a nice relief and rounds out the experience almost perfectly.

This is another must-try from the Delirium lineup in my opinion although you may have to wait several more months to find it again.

In the meantime, just keep yourself busy with another wintery delight, atsukan.

Boozehound: Keel (Shibuya)

It’s Men-Only (except on Sundays), we’ll put that up front.

Keel is a nice combination of local and stylish. The owner hangs around dispensing wisdom and recommendations on shochu, which is what this bar is all about. (Umeshu – including a lovely yuzu-infused delight – and beer are the other options. The only other options.) Read more