A classic Japanese rice bowl that’s a cinch to prepare.
Donburi, rice bowls topped with fish, meat or vegetables, are one of Japan’s most popular lunchtime meals. Their appeal lies in the fact that they are quick to prepare and can be made from just about anything.
This recipe calls for rice topped with chicken coated in a delicious teriyaki sauce. The addition of pickled ginger ties the dish together beautifully.
Ingredients (for 2 people)
- 100 – 120 g green onion
- 300 g chicken thigh
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 20 – 30 g of pickled ginger (half finely chopped, half thinly sliced)
- 2 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons of sake
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of mirin
First, cut the green onion into pieces 4 – 5 cm in length. Fry in pan on a medium heat without any oil. Once they have become brown, remove the pieces to a tray.
Prepare the chicken by chopping it into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over the chicken and let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove any liquid that comes out of the chicken with a paper towel.
Next, cover the chicken with 1 tablespoon of flour. Make sure the pieces are evenly coated.
Pour 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a frying pan and place this on a medium heat. Saute the chicken until it has browned on one side. Turning the chicken over, place a lid on the pan and allow the second side to cook.
Now for the teriyaki sauce. Mix the sake, soy sauce and mirin in a small bowl. When both sides of the chicken are brown remove any extra oil from the pan with a paper towel then slowly add the sauce from the edge of the frying pan. Cook until the sauce has thickened and has completely covered the chicken.
Finally, mix a bowl of cooked rice with the finely chopped ginger and 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Cover with a layer of chicken and garnish with the thinly sliced pickled ginger.
Soboro is an ideal topping for rice, noodles or even salads.
Soboro is seasoned ground meat that’s usually eaten on rice (soborodon) or in noodle dishes such as tantanmen. It has a salty-sweet flavor, with some recipes calling for the addition of chopped ginger to balance the flavors.
For most Japanese, the word soboro conjures images of torisoboro, made from chicken which is then spread over rice and served as part of a bento. However it also makes an excellent addition to salads, particularly when they contain sprouts like those of radishes, broccoli or kale. The sprouts add a sharpness which cuts through the flavor of the seasoned meat. The following recipe uses pork and a seasoning that includes both soy sauce and doubanjiang, a Chinese paste made of fermented fava beans.
It’s important to cook the soboro immediately before preparing the salad. Mix into the salad when the soboro is still warm. It will slightly soften the leaves of the vegetables and help bind the ingredients together.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 200 g of red cabbage
- 50 g of red-leaved chicory
- 50 g of red radish
- 100 g (1 package) of radish sprouts
- 100 g of pork mince
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon of doubanjiang (Chinese chili bean paste)
- 1 teaspoon of douchijiang (blackbean chili paste)
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar
- 3 teaspoons of sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons of roughly crushed peanuts
First, prepare the vegetables. Rinse the red cabbage and red-leaved chicory then slice into pieces 1 mm thick (cut against the grain). Rinse the red radishes and slice them thinly. Cut off the root part (sponge bed) of the radish sprouts, the cut them into half, leaf and stem. Use leaves later as a garnish.
Fill a large bowl with enough ice water to cover the red cabbage, red-leafed chicory, red radish and radish sprout (only the stems) and rinse the vegetables for 5 – 6 minutes before draining.
While you are refreshing the vegetables, prepare the soboro. Place a frying on the stove with a tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic.
Turn the heat to low and saute for 1 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of doubanjiang (Chinese chili bean paste) and 1 teaspoon of douchijiang (paste) to the pan and saute till they give you the spicy aroma. Then add pork mince and turn the heat to medium, fry them till they cooked and crumbly. Finally, add ½ teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and mix thoroughly.
Now for the dressing. Mix ½ teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar in a cup, then add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and mix again. At the end of this process, add 3 teaspoons of sesame oil. Stir thoroughly.
Prepare the garnish by placing a frying pan on a low heat and roasting the sesame seeds slowly for 5 minutes.
Place the vegetables in a large serving bowl, then sprinkle the roasted sesame seeds and crushed peanuts over the leaves. Next, place the soboro and radish leaves on top the vegetables. Finally pour the dressing over the vegetables. Mix the whole salad evenly before eating.
This coriander-packed Thai salad makes a great appetizer, but it’s just as good as a spicy sandwich filling.
To give the salad a fresh, crispy texture, it’s important to rinse the sliced vegetables in ice water. It’s also best eaten within 24 hours.
When you mix the ingredients in the bowl, use both hands. The taste will be much better than if you mix using utensils (wood, metal or otherwise).
Ingredients (for 4 – 8 people)
- 500 g of chicken breast
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of sake
- 200 – 250 g cabbage
- 120 g cucumber
- 50 – 60 g red onion
- 40 – 50 g celery
- 20 g of roughly chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 red peppers (dried and finely chopped)
- 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil
- A pinch of salt
- Roughly chopped fresh coriander
- 4 – 5 tablespoons of crushed peanuts
First we’ll prepare the chicken. Remove any excess moisture with a paper towel then sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and black pepper onto all sides of the chicken breast. Place the chicken on a plate then rest it for 5 minutes. Pour 2 tablespoons of sake over it then wrap the plate with cling film (2 layers) before cooking it in the microwave for 5 ½ minutes. Take the plate out of the microwave and allow the chicken to rest until it is cool enough to touch.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the dressing. Mix all of the ingredients other than the peanut oil and salt in a large bowl. Now add the peanut oil. Do so slowly stirring the dressing with your other hand. Check the flavor and add salt to taste.
As the chicken cools, prepare the vegetables. Rinse the cabbage then slice into pieces 1 – 2 mm thick. Rinse the cucumber and cut into slices approximately 1 mm thick. Peel the red onion then slice thinly, following the grain. Remove the strings from the celery and slice the stems diagonally into 1 – 2 mm pieces. Cut the leaves into pieces 1 – 2 mm thick.
Fill a large bowl with ice water (enough to cover the cabbage, cucumber, red onion and celery) and rinse them for 5 – 6 minutes before draining.
Once cool, break the chicken breast by hand into bite-sized pieces (follow the grain). Add this together with the liquid on the plate into the bowl containing the dressing.
Now add the vegetables to the chicken/dressing mixture.
Add 20 g of roughly chopped coriander and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint to the bowl. Combine all the ingredients by hand.
Decorate the salad with fresh coriander and crushed peanuts before serving.
This Thai style appetizer balances sweet, sour and spicy.
As the weather becomes warmer, I find myself preparing Southeast Asian dishes. Deep fried eggplant with sweet chilli sauce is a favorite.
A note on the preparation: the pieces of eggplant will be smaller when they are cooked, so its worth cutting them into pieces slightly larger than bite-size.
- 400 g eggplant
- 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint
First prepare the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl – mix the sweet chili sauce, lemon juice and nam pla together.
Next, heat approximately 3 cm of vegetable oil in a deep fryer to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut the eggplant diagonally and immediately deep fry the pieces for about 1 minute without batter. Note that if the temperature of the oil is too low, the eggplant will absorb too much of the oil. When they have browned and are cooked right through (use a skewer to check) fish them out of the oil and drain on a tray.
Add the eggplant to the bowl containing the sauce. Stir so that the eggplant is fully coated. Cool in the fridge for roughly 15 – 20 minutes.
Finally add 2 tablespoons of mint and mix well. Be sure to let the eggplant cool down first or you risk changing the mint’s color and aroma.
The Japanese potato season may be early summer, but now’s the time to take advantage shinjaga – baby potatoes.
Shinjaga is short for shin jagaimo, or baby potatoes. Currently in season, they are outcasts of sorts: farmers sell them to make room for their larger brothers and sisters. They taste delicious, however, and are particularly suited to sopping up sauces like this combination of garlic, butter and soy.
Today’s recipe makes either a great appetizer or a main course. Two tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter will result in a lighter dish. Add pancetta or bacon, on the other hand, and it can stand on its own as a main meal.
- 800 g baby potatoes
- 40 g finely chopped garlic
- 20 g butter
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
First, wash the baby potatoes. You don’t need to peel their skins as they’re very thin. If you use a brush when you wash them, the skins will come off easily.
Place a pot with a liter and a half of cold water, 2 – 3 pinches of salt and the potatoes on a high heat. When the water comes to the boil, turn the gas down to medium. Allow the pot to boil for 10 – 15 minutes.
Check if the potatoes are cooked by using a skewer on the largest one. When they are done, drain.
Place a large frying pan containing butter and finely chopped garlic on the stove. Turn the heat to low and sauté for 1 minute, taking care so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Once the it begins to produce a strong aroma, add the boiled baby potatoes to the pan and sprinkle a pinch of salt. Sauté on a medium heat until each potato is coated with butter and garlic.
Mix 1 tablespoon of mirin and 2 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce in a cup. Add this sauce to the pan. Flip the pan so that the potatoes are completely coated in the sauce.
Once the liquid has been reduced, turn off the heat and sprinkle finely chopped parsley over the potatoes. Mix well and serve.
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.
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
- 700 ml of chicken soup stock
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon shokoshu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Cilantro (coriander)
- Black pepper
- Rayu (chili oil)
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.
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.
- 8 stalks of asparagus
- 10 g of butter
- 1 teaspoon of yuzukosho
- A pinch of salt
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
Enhance a dish’s flavor with shio-kouji.
Shio-kouji has a long history as a method for enhancing a dish’s flavor. It has recently come back into fashion, no doubt due to it’s versatility – it adds umami to just about anything. Shio-kouji makes an excellent marinade for fish (cod or salmon) pork, chicken or even vegetables. Here, we’re using it to marinade yellowtail, but as we’re coming into spring, a good alternative would be Spanish mackerel.
- 300 g kome-kouji
- 90 g salt
- 2 slices of yellowtail (about 100g per slice)
- 3 tablespoons shio-kouji
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Pickled ginger (garnish)
Prepare the shio-kouji 1 – 2 weeks ahead of time. Add 90 grams of salt to 300 grams of kome-kouji (rice kouji – essentially rice to which the kouji spores have been attached). Mix well then place in a container with enough water to cover the rice. Leave the container out of the fridge, stirring once a day.
Method (Sautéed yellowtail)
Remove any extra moisture from both sides of the yellow tail with kitchen paper. Next, place the fish in a clean plastic bag and coat with the shio-kouji. Leave it in the fridge overnight (or for a minimum of 3 – 4 hours).
Deep fried and served in a soy and vinegar sauce, mackerel makes either a satisfying appetizer or a main course
Although Japanese often prepare mackerel at home, the silver and blue-skinned fish tends to be overshadowed by more popular varieties. Perhaps this is because mackerel has a reputation for being oily, or because it lacks the visual appeal of tuna or salmon.
The key to this dish is to remove the bones carefully. If you don’t want the bother, sardines can be used instead. Their bones are thin so you needn’t be nervous about it.
Powder the fillets with starch just before deep frying. It’s worth noting that any blue fish will taste good with the ginger and soy sauce. Here, it’s horse mackerel, but Pacific saury (sanma) would do just as well.
The marinade will soak into the batter, but it should retain enough texture to prevent it becoming soggy. The ginger is important as it balances out the flavor of the the fish.
Ingredients (serves 2 – 3 people)
- 150 – 200 g horse mackerel (filleted)
- 50 g onion
- 50 g carrot
- 10 g ginger
- 2 tablespoons of potato starch
- 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of cold water
- 1 tablespoon of sake
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 piece of dried whole chilli pepper
First, prepare the marinade for the horse mackerel. Remove the seeds inside the chilli pepper and slice into pieces 3 – 5 mm thick. Place the chilli in a bowl together with all of the other ingredients for the sauce.
Slice the onions into thin slices. Now slice the carrot into thin pieces.
Next, prepare the horse mackerel. If it hasn’t already been filleted, divide the fish into three slices. Cut each slice into a further 2 – 3 bite-sized pieces, being careful to remove the bones.
Put the bite-sized pieces of horse mackerel and the potato starch into a bag. Blow air into the bag so that it inflates like a balloon then shake so that the mackerel is completely coated in starch.
Heat a deep fry pan filled with vegetable oil to 170 degrees centigrade.
Remove the extra potato starch from the horse mackerel and deep fry for about 3 – 4 minutes. When they become crispy and have turned a light brown, retrieve and drain and a tray. Marinade them in the sauce while still hot.
Place the thinly sliced onion, carrot and ginger on the mackerel. Carefully mix the mackerel with the vegetables and serve.