Japan Eats

Recipe: Sweet potato kimpira

Satsuma imo, or sweet potato, is used in Japanese cuisine for both sweet and savory dishes.

Kimpira is a Japanese cooking style in which vegetables are sautéd, then simmered on a low heat. Kimpira is most commonly associated with gobo (burdock roots) or other root vegetables such as lotus roots, carrots, and sometimes daikon (Japanese radish).

The basic approach is to cut the vegetables into thin rectangular strips, and sauté them in the sugar and soy sauce. The saltiness of the soy sauce will bring out the natural sweetness of the potatoes, so there’s no need for much added sugar. For colour, sprinkle black sesame seeds over the sweet potato as a garnish.

This dish is hashi-yasume, which literally means “rest for the chopsticks”.

Sweet potato kimpira

Sweet potato kimpira

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4)

  • 200 – 250 g sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 table spoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 – 3 pinches of black sesame seeds

Method

Wash the sweet potatoes. Slice them diagonally into pieces 3 mm thick, then again lengthwise into strips 4 – 5 cm long and 3 mm x 3 mm wide.

Soak the strips in a bowl of cold water and rinse them, changing the water in the bowl 3 – 4 times to remove some of the starch.

Place a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on a high heat. Add the sweet potatoes to the pan after removing some of the the moisture with a paper towel. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring every so often.

Turn the heat down to medium, add sugar, sake , soy sauce and mirin then continue sautéing the ingredients until the sauce is almost gone. Add the sesame oil at the end, turn off the heat then mix well.

Place the slices of sweet potato on a plate, sprinkle the black sesame seeds, then serve.

Recipe: Hayashi rice

Hayashi rice, or hashed beef in demi-glace sauce, is classic yoshoku. But what is the origin of the recipe?

Based on European dishes introduced by visitors to Japan during the late Edo and early Meiji eras, yoshoku is Japanese-style western food. At that time authentic ingredients were hard to come by. As a result, Japanese chefs replaced certain ingredients or rethought the recipes, resulting in dishes know today as Japanese curry, hayashi rice, pork cutlets, omrice, Hamberg steak, etc.

As Japanese comfort food goes, hayashi rice is up there with indigenous dishes such as niku jaga. Typically, recipes call for strips of beef and sliced onion cooked in a thick sauce of red wine and demi-glace. Here, I’ve added shimeji mushrooms for added flavor.

The recipe’s exact origins are unclear. Some say that hashed beef was introduced by visitors to Japan, and the name evolved first into haishi, and then into hayashi. An alternative history has Yuteki Hayashi, founder of the Maruzen chain of bookstores, inventing the dish. According to this version, the dish is named after him.

No matter where the recipe originates, it is today a staple of Japanese home cooking.

Hayashi rice

Hayashi rice

Ingredients (serves 8 – 10)

  • 500 g of onion
  • 300 g of thinly sliced beef
  • 180 g of shimeji mushrooms
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 500 ml of red wine
  • 580 g of demi-glace sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tonkatsu sauce

Method

First, cut the beef into bite size pieces and season with 2 pinches of salt and black pepper. Slice the onion (with the grain) into pieces 1.5 cm wide and remove the roots of the shimeji. Tear the mushrooms into small pieces.

Warm 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium-high and sauté the beef until browned. Next, move the beef to a casserole dish and pour in 50 ml red wine.

Add the demi-glace sauce and 1 and 1/2 cups of cold water to the casserole dish. Warm on a medium heat. Once it has come to the boil, stew for 20 minutes on a low heat with the lid on.

While you’re waiting for the beef, prepare the onion and the mushrooms. Add 1 table spoon of vegetable oil to the frying pan, warm on high heat, then sauté the onion. When the onions start to soften, add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the sautéd onions and mushrooms to the casserole and stew it for another 20 minutes.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, tablespoon of soy sauce, tablespoon of sugar and tablespoon of tonkatsu sauce in a small bowl, then pour the mixture into the casserole dish.

Stew for another 10 minutes. Check the taste and adjust the flavor with the salt and pepper.

Serve with rice and pickles.

Recipe: Basil no tempura (basil tempura)

Dried shrimp and basil in a delicate tempura batter.

Basil works remarkably well in tempura. Here, the herb is combined with a handful of dried shrimp which adds some weight as well as texture to the dish.

When you mix the basil, tempura powder and ice water, be careful not to mix them for too long. There should still be pockets of dry powder in the mixture. In order to prevent the leaves from separating in the oil, hold the ingredients with the chopsticks until the outside of the ingredients become solid for 10 seconds.

As soon as you find the tempura are crispy, take them out of the oil. Deep frying for too long will kill the aroma of the basil.

This dish pairs well with a dry white wine like chardonnay or a sake such as Tateyama Junmai Ginjo.

Basil tempura.

Basil tempura.

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 25 g of fresh basil (leaves and buds)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of sakuraebi (dried shrimp)
  • 3 – 3.5 tablespoons of tempura powder
  • 2 tablespoons of ice water

Method

Wash the basil leaves, shake off any water and place them in a bowl. Add the dried shrimp.

Gently sprinkle the tempura powder over the ingredients and add ice water. Mix  roughly so that the ingredients will hold together in the cooking oil.

Place a deep-frying dish containing 2 – 3 cm vegetable oil on a medium high gas and heat it to 170℃.

Next, separate the tempura ingredients into 5 – 6 portions. Deep-fry one side of each portion for about a minute. Once the ingredients become crispy, turn over and deep-fry for a further 30 seconds.

Remove the tempura from the oil and place on a paper towel so any oil drains away.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt and serve.

Recipe: Teriyaki pizza

A culinary mashup found on pizza menus throughout Japan.

Long before the ramenburger or the matcha croissant there was teriyaki pizza, an East-meets-West hybrid destined to become a staple of delivery menus across the country. Who would have thought pizza topped with chicken in a sweet and ever-so-slightly salty sauce would have proved so popular?

Teriyaki sauce is a combination of soy, mirin and sugar. In Japanese cuisine it’s traditionally paired with chicken (see our recipe for teriyakidon) or sometimes blue fish. It’s also delicious on baby potatoes or as a tare for meatballs.

This recipe for teriyaki pizza doesn’t require a great deal of time in the kitchen. We used a bread machine, but you can knead the pizza dough by hand if you’re so inclined.

To prevent the topping from being too dry, we recommend a dressing of  yuzukosho mixed with olive oil and lemon juice when pizza comes out of the oven.

Teriyaki pizza

Teriyaki pizza is a year-round favorite.

Ingredients (for 6 people/3 square pizzas)

Pizza dough

  • 280 g of hard wheat flour
  • 15 g of butter
  • 180 ml of cold water
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of dry yeast

Sauce

  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce

Topping

  • 300 g of chicken thigh
  • 2 tablespoons of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 100 g of eringi mushrooms and maitake mushrooms
  • 150 – 200 g of shredded cheese
  • 1 cup of thinly cut nori (3 – 4 cm length, 1 mm thin)

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon of yuzukosho
  • 1 tablespoon  of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Method

Prepare the sauce and topping first.

Mix the mayonnaise and soy sauce together in a small bowl. Tear apart the mushrooms with your hands. This shouldn’t be difficult if you’re using eringi mushrooms and maitake mushrooms. Otherwise, slice whatever you use thinly.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, slice the chicken into pieces 1 – 1.5 cm thick and then again into bite sized pieces. Evenly sprinkle 2 pinches of salt across the surface of the chicken, wait for 5 minutes and then remove any excess liquid with a paper towel. Place a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on the medium heat and sauté the chicken for 2 minutes. Once the pieces have browned, turn them over then sauté another 2 minutes with the lid on. Next, remove any liquid remaining in the frying pan with paper towel. Mix the sake, soy sauce and mirin in a small bowl, then pour the mixture into the pan. Turn the chicken over frequently until the sauce has reduced.

Next, prepare the pizza dough. We used a bread maker to mix the ingredients, following the machine’s instructions. If you don’t have a bread maker, you’ll need to modify the ingredients and knead the dough by hand.

Once the dough is ready, lay it out on a wooden board coated in a thin layer of flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Separate the dough into 3 even portions, then use your hands to work the dough into smooth and round balls. Set them 10 cm apart on the board then cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Allow the dough to sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into rectangles 2 mm thick and 25 cm x 15 cm. Do this on a sheet of backing paper. Lastly, puncture each rectangle roughly with a fork.

Now it’s time to dress the pizza with its topping. Coat the dough with a thin layer of the mayonnaise and soy sauce. Next, add the teriyaki chicken then the mushrooms. Finally, sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly onto the top of each pizza. Bake them at 200℃ preheated for 12 – 15 minutes.

Serve the pizza with nori as a garnish. Add yuzukosho dressing and serve.

Recipe: Shiso pesto

It may surprise you, but green perilla is an excellent substitute for basil when making pesto.

The dish the world has come to know and love as Pesto alla Genovese is traditionally prepared with fresh basil, pine nuts in olive oil, garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese). In Italy, many recipes also call for the addition of Fiore Sardo cheese (Pecorino Sardo) to give the paste an even sharper, saltier flavor.

What you may not know is that fresh shiso leaves (also referred to as green perilla) can be used in place of basil. The result: a texture that’s very similar to the original paste, but with a wilder, spicier flavor.

This particular recipe makes enough shiso paste for 6 – 7 servings. If possible, try to use wild rather than supermarket-bought shiso – this will guarantee maximum flavor. And like any vegetable dish, look for the freshest shiso leaves available.

Eat the pesto fresh over pasta or refrigerate for later (in which case, cover with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent discoloring).

Shiso pesto

Spaghettini lightly coated in aojiso sauce.

Ingredients

Shiso paste (makes 6 – 7 servings)

  • 120 ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 – 15 g of garlic (1 clove)
  • 40 – 50 g of aojiso (green shiso, also known as ooba)
  • 2 – 3 sheets of aojiso as a garnish
  • 40 g of pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

 Pasta (for 2 people)

  • 160 g of spaghettini
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons of aojiso paste (refer to the following method)
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of the broth leftover after boiling the pasta

Method

First prepare the aojiso paste. Place the pine nuts in a frying pan and roast them on a low heat for 3 – 4 minutes before allowing them to cool. Wash the aojiso and then remove any moisture with a paper towel. Next, remove the stems and then roughly tear the leaves into pieces.

Chop the garlic roughly, then place the pine nuts, aojiso, garlic, salt and olive oil in a bowl and blend with a hand mixer (e.g. Bamix)  until the ingredients combine to form a paste.

If preparing the pesto ahead of time, pour the paste into a clean transparent container and seal the surface with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not included on the ingredients list) to prevent discoloration.

Now for the pasta. Place a large saucepan with 2 liters of cold water on a high heat and bring it to the boil. Add 20 g of salt, then cook the spaghettini based on the particular pasta’s instructions.

While cooking the spaghettini, prepare the aojiso sauce and garnish by pouring 4 – 5 tablespoons of aojiso paste and 4 – 5 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese into a large bowl and mixing well.

Next comes the garnish. Slice 2 – 3 aojiso leaves into strips 1 mm thin and rinse them in a bowl of cold water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain.

Once the spaghettini is cooked, drain and quickly add to the bowl with the aojiso pesto. Mix well and adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding a tablespoon or two of the water used to cook the pasta.

Plate the spaghettini, garnish and serve.

Recipe: Tebasaki no karaage (deep-fried chicken wings coated with soy sauce and sesame seeds)

Nagoya’s contribution to the world’s great bar snacks.

Tebasaki chicken – deep-fried chicken wings coated with soy sauce and coated in sesame seeds – is a dish closely associated with the city of Nagoya, where it is a popular form of otsumami (dish to be eaten while drinking). The wings are full of flavor, thanks to the ingredients of the tare: vinegar, soy, sake, mirin, a little sugar, garlic and ginger.

The key to the dish is deep frying the chicken twice. This gives the skin it’s distinctive crispy texture.

Here we’re using the traditional seasoning, but feel free to experiment. Cumin, roughly-grated red peppers, cayenne pepper or Japan Eats favorite yuzukosho will add even more flavor.

While usually eaten hot, they can also be refrigerated eaten the next day.

Tebasaki chicken

Ready to eat: tebasaki chicken

Ingredients (for 2 – 4 people)

  • 10 chicken wings
  • 2 – 3 pinches of salt and grated black pepper
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of potato starch
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Tare

  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 table spoons of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tea spoon of vinegar (rice vinegar)
  • 5 – 10 g of garlic (1 clove, crushed)
  • 5 g of ginger (sliced)

Seasoning

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
  • 2 – 3 pinches of roughly grated black pepper

Method

First, remove the chicken wings from the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature.

While waiting, prepare the tare, or sauce. Place a small pan with all of the tare ingredients on a low heat and warm slowly. Maintain the level of heat and reduce for 5 minutes, during which you’ll see small bubbles rising from the bottom of the pan. Pour the tare into a cooking tray and allow it to cool down naturally.

Next come the chicken wings. Remove any excess water with kitchen paper. Sprinkle 2 or 3 pinches of salt and grated black pepper evenly over both sides of the chicken wings and gently rub it into the chicken.

Use a teaspoon to coat the chicken in the tare.

Use a teaspoon to coat the chicken in the tare.

Now warm the vegetable oil in the deep-fryer on a medium heat until it reaches 160 – 165°C.

Coat the chicken wings with a thin, even layer of potato starch (pour the starch through a strainer) just before deep-frying.

Deep-fry the chicken wings in oil at 160 – 165°C for 5 minutes before removing and resting them for 3 – 4 minutes. Next, heat the oil to 175°C and deep-fry the chicken wings a second time for about a minute.

Once you remove the chicken wings from the oil, remove the excess oil carefully and place the wings into the cooking tray. Add the seasoning and mix well. Finally, coat the chicken with the tare using a teaspoon and serve. Preferably with a cold drink!

Recipe: Koumiyasai no somen (somen with aromatic herb salad)

When Japanese think summer, they think somen.

Somen are very thin noodles made from wheat flour. They are usually eaten cold during the summer months, often with a garnish of grated ginger, asatsuki chives and thinly sliced miyoga.

This recipe combines the fine texture of the noodles with the refreshing flavors of sudachi, a Japanese citrus grown in southern Japan, and yuzukosho, a condiment made from dried yuzu, green peppers and salt.

If you’re having trouble sourcing the ingredients, you can substitute limes for the sudachi, and Yuzusco dressing for the yuzukosho.

For something completely different, try adding nampla and cilantro to give the dish a Thai flavor.

Koumiyasai no somen (somen with aromatic herb salad)

Koumiyasai no somen (somen with aromatic herb salad)

Ingredients (serves 4 people)

  • 130 – 150 g cucumber
  • 60 – 70 g miyoga (Japanese ginger)
  • 130 g radish sprouts
  • 12 sheets of shiso (green perilla)
  • 8 tablespoons of sakuraebi (dried shrimp)
  • 2 teaspoons yuzukosho
  • 2 sudachi, cut in halves
  • 200 g somen (50 g each)
  • 400 – 600 ml mentsuyu (Japanese condiment traditionally poured over somen)

Method

Fill a pot with water and boil. Once at the boil, add the somen and cook according to the instructions on the package. Next, drain the noodles using a fine colander or sieve. Rinse them in ice cold water and drain. Repeat several times, changing the water each time.

Now that all the starch has been removed from the somen, it’s time to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Slice the cucumber diagonally into pieces  1 mm thick.

Cut the roots from 130 g of radish sprouts and slice the mioga in half lengthwise and then again into thin strips.

Slice the green shiso leaves into strips 1 – 2 mm in width. Rinse the cucumber, radish sprouts, mioga and shiso together in a bowl of iced water for between 1 and 2 minutes. Mix them well while in the water.

Now divide the noodles between four serving bowls. Drain the vegetables and heap them onto the somen. Try to do this as artfully as possible. Sprinkle dried shrimp evenly over the vegetables and gently pour the mentsuyu into the dish, trying not to crush the vegetable garnish.

Add a half-teaspoon of yuzukosho to the side of each dish. Slice the sudachi into halves and add one half to each bowl. Serve.

Recipe: Snow pea salad with black sesame dressing

Snow peas coated in a tangy, spicy dressing

Here’s another dish that compliments the warmer weather. The peas provide the texture, while the dressing gives the dish it’s flavor.

To prepare the dressing, use a suribachi (Japanese mortar) to grind the sesame seeds. It’s also possible to do this in a food processor – just be sure not to overdo it. Ideally, you want to keep some of that rough texture.

If you feel the dressing is too strong, add another 100 g of snow peas (or until there’s a good balance between the flavor of the peas and the dressing).

You can also use snap peas, which are thicker and rounder than snow peas but have much the same flavor.

Finally, the type of vinegar used for the dressing will determine how much sugar to add. Here, I chose grain vinegar and mixed in 1 tablespoon of sugar. If, however, you use rice vinegar you’ll need to reduce the amount of sugar. Start with half a tablespoon and little by little add more until you’re happy with the taste.

Snow peas with black sesame sauce

Snow peas with black sesame sauce

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 300 g of snow peas
  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped ginger (roughly 30 g)
  • 2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds (half glazed)
  • 3 tablespoons of grain vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of doubanjiang (Chinese chilli bean paste)
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil

Method

Raw snow peas

Raw snow peas

Place a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds on a low heat. Warm the seeds until they give off an aroma.

Now, grind the black sesame seeds in a suribachi or mortar.

Having done this, string the snow peas and wash them in a bowl of cold water.

Place the peas in a pot containing 1.5 – 2 liters of cold water on high heat and add 2 – 3 pinches of salt when it comes to the boil.

Boil the snow peas for 1.5 minutes. Spread them on a basket and allow them to cool until they reach room temperature.

Mix the ingredients of the dressing and then add the snow peas. Mix roughly, coat the snow peas evenly with the dressing and serve.

Recipe: Kizami-kombu to satumaage no nimono (stewed kizami-kombu)

Kombu is used for more than just dashi.

Whether it’s as an ingredient in miso soup or as a wrapping for onigiri, seaweed is synonymous with Japanese cuisine. Kombu (kelp) is best known as one of the main ingredients in dashi, but is equally good served as part of salads or stews. It’s loaded with umami, and therefore dishes in which kombu is an ingredient don’t require added flavor. Kizami-kombu is dried kelp which is shredded to produce a stringy texture. Usually it’s simmered with thinly sliced vegetables or used in asazuke (Japanese pickles) to add umami.

Satsuma-age (fried fish cakes) add volume to the stew. Made from ground fish, flour and seasoning, satsuma-age originate from southern Kyushu, but are found throughout Japan.

Thinly sliced deep-fried tofu pouches, shiitake, boiled edamame (soy beans) are also nice additions to this dish.

Kizami-konbu to satumaage no nimono

Kizami-konbu to satumaage no nimono

Ingredients (for 6 – 8 people)

  • 25 g of kizami-kombu
  • 80 g of carrot
  • 2 sheets of satsuma-age (120 g)
  • 400 ml of dashi soup
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1.5 – 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce

Method

In 1 liter of cold water, rinse the kizami-kombu and soften for 5 minutes (refer to the instructions on the kizami-kombu’s package) before draining.

Next, place the satsuma-age in a colander and pour 100 ml of hot water over the fish cakes to remove any excess oil.

Cut the carrot into 4 – 5 cm long square strips so that they resemble matchsticks

Place a saucepan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil on a medium heat, and sauté the carrot for 2 minutes. Add the kizami-kombu, mix well and sauté  for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the satsuma-age and mix again.

Pour in 400 ml of dashi soup, 1.5 – 2 tablespoons of sugar and soy sauce. Turn the heat down low, simmer for 15 – 20 minutes with the lid on and serve.

Recipe: Hijiki no nimono (stewed hijiki)

This classic seaweed dish is simple and healthy. Add it to your next bento, or serve it alongside rice as a main meal.

Hijiki is a well known seaweed in Japan. There are two kinds: me-hijiki, (hijiki buds) which is relatively easy to prepare, and naga-hijiki, the stem of hijiki seaweed. Naga-hijiki takes longer to soften but has more texture.

Hijiki no nimono is considered to be “mother’s home cooking” (“ofukuro no aji“) and is rich in fiber, iron and calcium.

This dish usually contains carrots and deep-fried tofu pouches. Small pieces of chicken, shiitake mushrooms and edamame (boiled soy beans) can be added to the recipe.

This is a dish is good on the day it is prepared and even better the next.

Hijiki no nimono

Hijiki no nimono

Ingredients (For 6 – 8 people)

  • 25 g of me hijiki (dry)
  • 1 deep-fried tofu pouch
  • 80 g of carrot
  • 80 g of burdock roots
  • 80 – 100 g of boiled soy beans
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 3 and a half tablespoons of soy sauce

Method

Fill a bowl with 1 liter of cold water and soak me hijiki for 15 – 20 minutes (refer to the me hijiki‘s package) before draining the seaweed.

Cut the carrot into rectangular strips 4 – 5 cm long and 2 mm x 2 mm wide.

Fill a small bowl with 500 ml of cold water and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Wash the burdock root and cut it into long thin strips, shaving it as though sharpening a pencil. Soak in the bowl of cold water to remove any bitterness and drain.

Pour 100 ml of hot water onto the deep fried tofu pouch and remove the excess oil. Cut into pieces 5 mm thin and 3 – 4 cm in length.

Place a pan on a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the carrot and burdock root, then sauté for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the me-hijiki, mix the ingredients well. Sauté  for a minute more. Finally add the aburaage.

Add 200 ml of dashi soup,and turn the heat up to medium-high. Once it comes to the boil, turn the heat back down to medium-low and add 1/2 table spoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin and 3 and a half tablespoons of soy sauce.

Simmer until the liquid is almost gone and serve.