Japan Eats

Recipe: Suratanmen (hot and sour soup with noodles)

It’s spicy. It’s sour. It’s suratanmen.

Also known as sanratanmen, this sweet and sour noodle dish is a popular Japanese adaptation of the Chinese classic.

Much of its flavor derives from the black vinegar, which adds umami and a mild acidity. As the acidity of the vinegar will dissipate during the cooking process, a dash added to the soup just as soon as you turn off the heat will bring some added flavor.

Suratanmen

Suratanmen

When you cook noodle dishes, preparation is very important. In order to serve the dish quickly, prepare the ingredients before you actually start cooking. It’s all in the timing!

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

  • 240 g of ramen noodles
  • 30 – 40 g carrot
  • 30 g shiitake mushrooms
  • 30 -40 g bamboo shoots (boiled)
  • 2 – 3 g dried kikurage (wood ear)
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of shokoshu (Chinese sake)
  • 1 teaspoon of potato starch
  • 60 – 70 g pork (sliced into strips 2 -3 mm thick)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 egg
Soup
  • 700 ml of chicken soup stock
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of black vinegar

Soup seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon shokoshu
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Garnish
  • Cilantro (coriander)
  • Black pepper
  • Rayu (chili oil)

Method

Cut the carrots into 4 – 5 cm lengths. Cut them lengthwise with the grain, so that you create rectangles about 2 mm thick. Now lay them on their sides and slice them again so they form 2 mm x 2 mm strips. Next, prepare the bamboo shoots. You may find boiled bamboo shoots at the supermarket. If they are already cut into thin slices, you don’t need to do anything but remove the water. If they don’t come pre-sliced, cut them up so they are in pieces roughly the same size as the carrot.

Next, slice the shiitake mushrooms into pieces 2 mm thick and soak the (presumably dried) ears of kikurage in 200 ml of cold water to rehydrate them.

Now we’re going to prepare the pork. Slice it into strips 2 – 3 mm thick, then place the pieces in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of shokoshu (or Japanese sake if shokoshu is unavailable) and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Gently mix the pieces of pork with your fingers so that they absorb the sauce. Add 1 teaspoon of potato starch and mix again. Once the pork is coated in this preliminary seasoning it will maintain its umami flavor throughout the cooking process.

Prepare a second bowl with the ingredients for the soup seasoning. 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of shokoshu and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and mix well.

Take a cup or small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of potato starch and 1 table spoon of cold water. Mix well. This will be your starchy sauce.

Next comes the soup itself. Place a large pot with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil on a low heat. Once it has warmed, add the pork and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes, then add the carrot and bamboo shoots. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes so that the pork is cooked through.

Add 700 ml of chicken stock and turn the heat up to medium. Once it comes to the boil, add the soup seasoning, a pinch of salt (to taste) and black pepper, mix well then turn the heat down to low and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.

Return to the starchy sauce and give it another quick stir before pouring it into the pot.

At about this point you want to start cooking the noodles according to the directions on the packet.

Break an egg into a small bowl and mix it well. Gently pour the egg into the soup. Do so slowly, stirring the soup with your other hand. At this point be sure that the soup is on a gentle boil.

Once all of the egg mixture is in the soup, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of black vinegar. Mix the soup well.

Drain the noodles and place them in a serving bowl. Pour half of the soup over the noodles, then sprinkle a pinch of black pepper followed by 1 – 2 teaspoons of rayu. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

Recipe: Grilled asparagus with yuzukosho butter

It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

Yuzukosho. As we’ve mentioned before, it can be used to add a citrus ‘zing’ to just about anything. And when it’s mixed with butter, it makes a great addition to baked dishes – potatoes, fish, and so on.

Here, we’re using yuzukosho butter to enhance a spring favorite – grilled asparagus.

Prepare the dish immediately before serving to maximize the flavor of both the yuzukosho and asparagus.

Grilled asparagus with yuzukosho butter

Grilled asparagus with yuzukosho butter

Ingredients

  • 8 stalks of asparagus
  • 10 g of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of yuzukosho
  • A pinch of salt

Method

First prepare the yuzukosho butter. Remove the butter from the fridge and let it come to room temperature, then use your fingers to mix the butter with 1 teaspoon of yuzukosho.

Cut 1 or 2 centimeters from the bottom of each stalk of asparagus. Ideally, the stalks will be of equal length. Now peel the outer skin from the bottom 4 -5 centimeters of each stalk. Use half of the yuzukosho butter to coat them. Again, it’s best to do this with your fingers.

Line up the asparagus on a plate, and cover the stalks with the remaining yuzukosho butter. Sprinkle a pinch of salt.

Grill for 8 – 10 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. Garnish with a slice of lemon (to be squeezed over the asparagus immediately before eating).

 

Japan Eats Podcast, Episode 17: “There’s something about kōji”

This week, the panel talk kōji – what it is, where to get it, and what to do with it.

The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below:

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You can also subscribe to the fortnightly Japan Eats feed via iTunes or directly with our RSS feed.

Find the Japan Eats Facebook page here. Have something to say? Drop us a line.

Here are some links to what we discussed this week:

You can e-mail us at lovitt@japaneats.tv

Follow us on the Japan Eats Twitter feed. And please “Like” Japan Eats on Facebook.

Restaurant review: Old Thailand (Iidabashi)

Solid Thai food for those who prefer to be stirred rather than shaken.

A couple of years back I was fortunate enough to see a musician friend play Tokyo’s famous Blue Note Jazz Club. It was a great show, and afterwards we sat down to talk about how the gig went. As we ran through the set and talked about the players, I made some off-handed remark about how much I loved the opening piece – a wild, cacophonous explosion of sound, the likes of which is rarely heard at a Japanese club. “Yeah, the chaos,” he replied “it’s the one thing we’ll play like that in Japan. Back in the States, most of our set is like that. But after years of playing here, we learned that Japanese audiences don’t go in for chaos. Now we dial it down when we play Tokyo.”

Khao soi

Chiang Mai's famous khao soi.

Anyone who’s explored Tokyo’s so-called ‘ethnic’ food scene will spot the similarity to what happens when a Thai, Indian or even Vietnamese restaurant opens. Strong flavors, be they spices like chili or cumin, or herbs such as cilantro (coriander) are quickly brought down to a level more acceptable to the majority of Japanese customers.

Prior to visiting Old Thailand, we were assured that despite being part of a restaurant chain, their dishes were pretty authentic, and certainly the familiar ‘chili scale’ illustration (one chili meaning not particularly hot, three meaning pretty darn hot) suggested that we’d be swabbing our faces with oshibori in no time.

The lunch menu offers all the Thai standards, and then some. Khao man gai (boiled Thai-style chicken with steamed rice),  kaeng khiao wan (green curry), and tom yam-flavored noodles head up the menu. Elsewhere, a ‘new lunch menu’ offers a green curry with shrimp and avocado, as well as a personal favorite – khao soi (noodles in a soupy chicken curry).

We ordered khao soi and pad ga prao kai (minced chicken cooked in basil) and were impressed when both dishes arrived in a matter of minutes. The khao soi was a pretty good approximation of what one would find on the streets of Chiang Mai, albeit somewhat oilier and containing the kind of thin ramen noodles which tend to clump together. Still, pretty good for a dish that many Japanese are yet to discover.

But it was the ga prao that dominated conversation. It was surprisingly bland, with none of the flavor we were expecting. Where was the promised ‘three chili’ spiciness? Clearly, this was a case of a Thai classic being modified to suit local tastes. Now, this isn’t always a bad thing (the Japanese have reworked countless foreign dishes to great effect) but here the result was mildly disappointing.

Old Thailand delivers plenty of ambiance, and the long lines suggest this is a popular destination for Iidabashi’s office workers come lunchtime. But if, like me, you like your Thai liberally seasoned with chaos, I suggest you ask ahead.

Directions: Turn left from Exit B2A of Iidabashi station. It’s 3 minutes walk across the bridge and on the second street to your left.

Tel:03-5212-4566
2-3-8 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo-to, 102-0071
Hours: 11.30 – 15:00 (L.O. 14.30) and 17.30 – 23.00 (L.O. 22.00)
http://www.sscy.co.jp/oldthailand/


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Recipe: Takenoko no tosani (Tosa-style bamboo shoots)

Welcome spring with this healthy dish of bamboo shoots and kinome leaves.

Spring has finally arrived, and what better way to usher in the warmer weather than with a light, seasonal dish of bamboo shoots soaked in dashi and garnished with kinome leaves?

While the dish is relatively easy to prepare, it’s worth noting that you’ll need to get started the day before you plan to serve it to your guests – the bamboo shoots need to soak overnight.

If you are unable to source kinome leaves, there’s no reason to panic. You can still enjoy the rich flavor of the soup combined with dried bonito flakes.

Takenokono

Takenokono

Ingredients (serves 2 – 3 people)

  • 800 g bamboo shoots
  • 400 ml – 500 ml dashi
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of sake
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 5 g – 10 g dried bonito flakes
  • Kinome (the young leaves of Japanese pepper) as garnish

Method

Begin by washing the bamboo shoots and scraping off the tough base. Slice off the tips and make a shallow incision the length of the section covered by skin. Next, place the bamboo shoots in a pot of water together with 2 handfuls of rice bran and 2 red peppers. Bring to the boil, then cover with a drop-lid (the instructions for which can be found here). Keep the pot on a low heat until the hardest parts of the bamboo soften. Take the pot off the heat and allow it to cool. Now rinse the bamboo shoots in a bowl of cold water and soak overnight to remove any unwanted earthiness.

Soak the bamboo shoots in water overnight.

Soak the bamboo shoots in water overnight.

The next morning, peel the husks and cut the bamboo shoots into 3 sections:

1. The top third of the each shoot should be sliced vertically into 4 equal pieces.

2. Slice the middle section into 2 pieces resembling half moons, 1 cm thick.

3. Cut the bottom section into quarter rounds, 1 cm thick.

Place the bamboo shoots and dashi soup into a pot, cover with a drop-lid and boil over a high heat. When it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, sake, soy sauce, mirin and increase the heat to medium. Continue to simmer for about 45 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced to a level roughly 1 cm from the bottom of the pan, turn off the heat and remove the drop-lid. Add the dried bonito flakes and mix well so that the flakes completely cover the bamboo shoots.

Now for the garnish of kinome leaves. Here there’s a special technique: put each pinch of kinome on your palm and quickly clap your hands together before sprinkling the leaves over the bamboo shoots. This maximizes the kinome‘s fragrance.

Japan Eats Podcast, Episode 16: “Size doesn’t matter”

This week, the team talk about kitchen storage and the types of rice used to make sake.

The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You can also subscribe to the fortnightly Japan Eats feed via iTunes or directly with our RSS feed.

Find the Japan Eats Facebook page here. Have something to say? Drop us a line.

Here are some links to what we discussed this week:

You can e-mail us at lovitt@japaneats.tv

Follow us on the Japan Eats Twitter feed. And please “Like” Japan Eats on Facebook.