Japan Eats

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.

Recipe: Nanohana and bacon pasta

A bittersweet spring dish.

Nanohana (or rape-blossom in English) is representative of spring. Like wild vegetables such as fuki (butterbur), taranome (the buds of Japanese angelica) and udo, nanohana is a seasonal vegetable with a slight bitterness. For this reason, nanohana goes well with two of the dish’s other ingredients: butter and bacon. These add a sweetness that offsets the initial bitterness of the vegetable.

I recommend adding a little butter to the olive oil (or vegetable oil) to sauté the nanohana.

Nanohana and bacon pasta

Nanohana and bacon pasta

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 80 g of bacon (thinly sliced)
  • 140 – 150 g of rape blossom (canola)
  • 150 – 160 g spaghettini
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 dried whole chilli pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 10 g of butter
  • 4 tablespoons of spaghettini‘s broth
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce

Method

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.

As soon as you start to cook the spaghettini, you should also start preparing the sauce. Cut the bacon into slices 3 – 4 cm wide. Remove 1 – 2 cm from the bottom of the nanohana‘s stem, and cut into pieces 3 – 4 cm wide. You don’t need to remove the bottom of the stems if they are fresh and still soft.

Break the dried chilli pepper into 2 – 3 pieces and remove the seeds. Place a frying pan with olive oil, butter, finely chopped garlic and dried whole chilli pepper on a low heat and sauté the mixture until it produces an aroma.

Next add the bacon and sauté for another 1 – 2 minutes on the same low – medium heat.

Add the nanohana (stems first, then the leaves) mixing and softening them quickly.

Turn the heat down to low, and add 4 tablespoons of the spagettini‘s broth, mixing well. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, mix again and turn off the heat.

Add the spaghettini, coating the pasta with sauce. Serve.

Recipe: Gyoza (pan-fried dumplings)

This Chinese side dish is hugely popular in Japan, and often associated with another import: ramen noodles.

Fried dumplings (yaki gyoza) are one of Japan’s most beloved dishes. They’re most commonly found as a side order in Chinese restaurants, as a beer snack at izakaya or even as the main meal at so-called “gyoza parties” held at people’s homes.

There are a number of variations on the recipe given here. Suigyoza are boiled gyoza, often added to Japanese nabe (hotpots) during the winter months. And there’s no reason you can’t alter the recipe to make the dish vegetarian.  Experiment with different fillings and let us know your favorites!

The yield for this recipe is 50 gyoza. That may seem like a lot, but you can always freeze them for cooking at a later date.

Fried gyoza

Fried gyoza.

Ingredients (for 6 – 8 people; makes 50 gyoza)

  • 400 g of pork mince
  • 400 g of cabbage
  • 70 g of Chinese chives
  • 6 tablespoons of green onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger (finely chopped)

Sauce for the filling

  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 – 3 pinches of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sake (紹興酒)
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons of cold water
  • 50 gyoza skins (10 cm in diameter)

Dipping sauce

  • 100 ml vinegar
  • 100 ml soy sauce
  • A few drops of rayu (spicy sesame oil)

Method

First prepare the filling. Place a bowl (20 cm or larger in diameter) and place the finely chopped cabbage, add 1 teaspoon of salt (not included in the ingredients) and mix well and leave it for 10 minutes. Then squeeze the water out.

Slice the Chinese chives 5 mm thin.

Folding gyoza

Folding gyoza. Try to pleat each skin 5 times.

Place a large bowl (26 cm or larger in diameter) with 400 g of pork mince, add all of the sauce for the filling except for the 3 tablespoons of cold water and mix them well for a minute. Add the 3 table spoons of cold water at the end, then mix well.

Add the finely chopped squeezed cabbage, chopped Chinese chives, finely chopped green onion and ginger and mix roughly, then rest the mixture for 10 minutes.

Prepare a cup of 150 ml of cold water (not included in the ingredients), divide the filling into four. The basic idea is to shape 15 – 17 gyoza from 1/4 filling.

Place a sheet of gyoza skin on your palm place a heaped teaspoon of filling onto the center of the skin using a butter knife or teaspoon. Dip a finger into a cup of water, wet it and coat the whole edge of the skin with the water. Now fold the skin in half, shaping the gyoza by making 4 – 5 pleats on one side (refer to the photograph on the left). Don’t worry if you mess up the first few – after 50 gyoza you’ll be much better!

Gyoza, ready for cooking

Gyoza made with shop-bought skins. These are thin and best for frying. Homemade gyoza skins are usually thicker and better for making boiled gyoza (suigyoza).

Pinch the skin together securely, otherwise you will lose the juice when you cook them.

Once you have shaped the gyoza, line them up on a dry plate or cutting board. Repeat the procedure until you use up either the skins or the filling.

Now it’s time to cook the gyoza. You’ll need a frying pan which has the perfectly matched size for the number of gyoza as well as a transparent lid.

Place a frying pan (20 cm diameter) with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on a medium heat and move the pan so that it’s surface is coated in oil. Once the pan is warm, place the gyoza base-down in the pan. Usually 8 – 10 gyoza will fit inside a fry pan 20 cm in diameter, but if you have a larger pan, add more vegetable oil (perhaps 2 tablespoons) and cook 15 – 18 gyoza at once.

Fry the gyoza until the base of the gyoza tuns brown. Check the color by picking one up with your fingers.

When they have turned brown, turn the heat up high. Add 1/2 cup of water (not included in the ingredients) and close the lid immediately. The water-level should reach a third of the height of the gyoza.

While the gyoza cook, prepare the dipping sauce. Pour both the soy sauce and the vinegar into a small dish. Add a little rayu for spice.

Gyoza cooking

Before adding water, make sure the base of each gyoza is dark brown.

When almost all the water in the fry pan is gone, open the lid. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil (not included in the ingredients) and extend to add the aroma and make the base crispy again.

Turn off the heat and use a spatula to serve.

Recipe: Tarako butter spaghetti

A quick and easy pasta dish

Tarako (salted pollack roe) is often used as an ingredient in onigiri (Japanese rice balls). If you visit a Japanese supermarket, you’ll find a similar product called mentaiko. It’s also salted pollack roe, but is seasoned with tougarashi – red chili powder.

Tarako spaghetti is a dish that’s easy to make and is particularly popular with children. The saltiness of the tarako is a good match for the sweetness of the butter, together producing a wonderful flavor. I recommend a garnish such as shiso or radish sprouts to add a sharpness to the dish.

Tarako butter spaghetti

Tarako butter spaghetti

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 160 – 180 g of spaghettini (1.7  mm)
  • 160 – 180 g of tarako
  • 60 g of butter
  • 1 sheet of nori ( 20 cm x 20 cm dried sea weed)
  • 10 sheets of shiso (green perilla)

Method

Place a large pot with 2 liters of cold water on a high heat. Once it comes to boil, add 10 g of salt and cook the spaghettini based on the introductions on the package.

While you’re cooking the spaghettini, prepare the sauce and the garnish. Cut the butter into 1 cm square cubes and put these in a large bowl.

Next, place the tarako on the cutting board and cut the skin. Use the back of the knife to scrape the eggs into the bowl.

Cut the nori into pieces 3 – 5 cm wide, then place these in a stack and cut into 1 – 2 mm strips with scissors.

Slice the shiso leaves 1 mm thin.

Once the spaghettini is cooked, drain and quickly add them to the bowl, mixing well so that the butter melts with the heat of the spaghettini. Make sure that you keep a little hot water when you drain the noodles – it can be used to adjust the sauce. If you think it needs to be more smooth or still has lumps of butter, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of hot water to the bowl.

Plate the pasta, garnish and serve.

Recipe: Tebasaki to daikon no kurozuni (simmered chicken wingtips with daikon)

The perfect antidote to those winter blues

This is a popular (and inexpensive) dish usually eaten during the colder months in Japan. It can be served as either an appetizer or as a main course.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the browning of the chicken wings is important in giving the dish it’s deep and savory smell. I recommend you to adopt a similar approach when cooking thick negi (spring onions) or deep-fried tofu to be used in nimono or nabe.

Add the kurozu (black vinegar) to the chicken stock at the very end when cooking the chicken.

Tebasaki to daikon no kurozuni (simmered chicken wingtips with daikon)

Tebasaki to daikon no kurozuni (simmered chicken wingtips with daikon)

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 600 g of chicken wings
  • 500-600 g of daikon (Japanese radish)
  • 30 g of ginger
  • 4 boiled eggs

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of sake
  • 4 tablespoons of soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 2 tablespoons of black vinegar
  • 2 cups of cold water

Method

First, prepare the chicken wings. Cut off the very tip of the wings tips. Use the knife and cut the gristle, then break it with your hands. This is both for looks and to make the wings easier to eat.

Next, prepare the daikon. Peal it and slice into pieces 2 – 3 cm thick, then cut into half rounds or quarters. Now peal the ginger and cut it into 1 mm slices.

Place a casserole dish on the gas table, pour 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pot and warm it on the low to medium heat.

Remove the liquid on the chicken wings with a paper towel and then sauté with the skin face down until they are browned.

Be patient and don’t turn them around often so as to brown them. Don’t worry – the skin won’t stick to the bottom of the casserole if you brown them enough.

Add all the ingredients for the sauce  except the kurozu (black vinegar). Next, drop the ginger and daikon into the casserole dish and turn up the heat to medium-high.

Once the liquid comes to the boil, turn it down to a low heat and put the lid on. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the daikon becomes soft.

While you’re cooking the soup, prepare the boiled eggs. I am sure that everybody knows how to do that…!

Once the eggs are cooked, move them to a cold bowl of water and let them sit in the bowl for 2-3 minutes, then remove the shells.

Confirm the daikon is soft and add the kurozu and the boiled egg. Cook for another 10 minutes with an otoshibuta (a drop lid made from paper) over the ingredients. For instructions on how to prepare one, click here.

Serve the chicken wings, daikon and egg halves, taking care to arrange the ingredients so they look good on the plate.

Recipe: Tsukemen (dipping noodles)

Tsukemen may have started out as summer dish, but you can eat it all year round.

Tsukemen is a dish featuring ramen-style noodles, a dipping sauce and usually some kind of garnish. Served separately, it’s the diner who dips the cool or luke-warm noodles in the hot soup. It’s a fun twist on ramen, and increasing popular in Japan, particularly in Tokyo where the dish is said to have originated.

Tsukemen

Tsukemen

This particular recipe has a distinctly Chinese flavor, thanks to the mix of chilli bean paste and tianmianjiang sauce. Note that the soup should be a little salty as the noodles and garnish will water down the flavor. Experiment with boiled cabbage, boiled spinach and fresh coriander as a garnish.

This dish involves a little preparation, but comes together quickly at the end.

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4 people)

Tsukejiru (soup)

  • 100 – 130 g minced pork
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped ginger
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of doubanjiang (Chinese chilli bean paste)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of douchijiang (blackbean chilli paste)
  • 400 ml chicken soup stock
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of tianmianjiang (sweet soybean paste)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped green onion
  • 2 – 3 pinches of black pepper

Garnish

  • 50 g string beans
  • 50 g carrot
  • 100 g bean sprouts
  • 30 g radish sprouts
  • 10 stalks Asatsuki chives

Noodles

  • 100 – 120 g Chinese noodles per person

Method

First prepare the garnish. Cut off both sides of the string beans. Place a pan with 4 – 5 cups of water on a high heat. Once it comes to the boil, add a pinch of salt and boil the string beans for 3 – 4 minutes. Drain and cool them down in a bowl of cold water; drain again and cut them diagonally into 4 – 5 cm lengths.

Cut the carrot into 4 – 5 cm sections. Cut lengthwise, with the grain, so that you can create rectangles 2 mm thick. Now lay them on their sides and slice them again so they form 2 mm x 2 mm strips. Place a pan with 2 – 3 cups of water on a high heat. Once it comes to the boil, add a pinch of salt and boil the carrot for 1 minute. Drain and cool in a bowl of cold water, drain again.

Put the bean sprouts in a bowl and cover them with water to prevent the color changing. Pluck away the roots. Place a pan with 4 – 5 cups of water on a high heat and once it comes to the boil, cook the bean sprouts for 1 minute. Drain and cool them in a basket.

Cut the roots from 30 g of radish sprouts and rinse them in cold water.

Cut the asatsuki chives into 4 – 5 cm lengths.

Place a small pot (enough to hold 500 – 600 ml) with 1 table spoon of sesame oil on a low heat. Once it has become warm, add the finely chopped garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 – 2 mins. Add the minced pork, turn the heat up to medium and cook well. Turn the heat down to low and add 1 – 2 teaspoons of doubanjiang and douchijiang. Mix and sauté for another 1 – 2 min until the mixture gives off a spicy aroma.

Now add the 400 ml of chicken stock. Once it comes to the boil, add 2 tablespoons of sake, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 – 3 tablespoons tianmianjiang and 2 – 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and mix well.

Turn off the heat, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped green onion and 2 – 3 pinches of black pepper.

Finally, cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain them and cool in a bowl of cold water. Wash the noodles carefully while still in the bowl, changing the water a couple of times so you can remove the starch.

Serve the noodles, garnish and soup separately. When eating, choose your favorite garnish and place it in the soup with the noodles.

Recipe: Kajiki to natsuyasai no ponzu sarada (swordfish with summer vegetables)

A light dish, perfect for the last days of summer.

Swordfish has a delicate flavor and works well tomato, mustard or teriyaki sauces.

Here we’re going to coat the swordfish with a sauce blending the refreshing citrus of ponzu and the spiciness of wholegrain mustard.

In order to reduce the smell of the fish, sauté with garlic and rosemary. You can add any vegetables you like, but take into account the overall texture and the vegetable’s affinity with the dressing. Personally, I prefer mild-flavored vegetables such as zucchini. It’s also important to cut the ingredients into pieces of the same shape and size.

Swordfish with summer vegetables and ponzu

Swordfish with summer vegetables and ponzu

Ingredients (serves 2 – 4 people)

  • 150 g of swordfish (two slices of swordfish )
  • 50-70 g of red pepper (red paprika )
  • 50-70 g of yellow pepper (yellow paprika)
  • 50-70 g of string bean
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salad dressing

  • 3 tablespoons of ponzu
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of mustard (with seeds)
  • ½ tablespoon of olive oil

Method

Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a bowl.

Cut the string beans into 5 cm lengths and boil them for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and allow them to come to room temperature.

Next, slice both the red and yellow peppers into strips roughly 5 cm long.

Now cut the swordfish into 1 x 5 cm slices.

Peal the garlic and then squash it. Together with the rosemary and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, gently heat the garlic in a frying pan.

When they begin to give off a strong fragrance, increase the heat to medium and sauté the swordfish until it becomes lightly brown then add the fish (except garlic, rosemary and extra olive oil) to the dressing bowl.

Use a sheet of kitchen paper to clean up the oil in the frying pan then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the string beans, red pepper, yellow pepper on high heat for 1 minute. Add to the bowl.

Mix all the ingredients in the bowl carefully and cool them down in the refrigerator for 30 – 60 minutes. Serve.

Recipe: Marinated zucchini in ponzu sauce

This citrus-flavored side salad is the perfect accompaniment to a summer barbeque.

Ponzu is a well balanced sauce, but you can add other flavors to suit your own taste. Here, tobanjan has been added to produce a Chinese-style spiciness. You could also add 1 or 2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard, a few teaspoons of sesame oil or a pinch of chopped garlic.

Japanese supermarkets stock a wide variety of ponzu, and a bottle makes an ideal souvenir for overseas visitors.

Marinated zucchini in ponzu sauce

Marinated zucchini in ponzu sauce

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4 people)

  • 350 – 400 g green and yellow zucchini
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Ponzu sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of ponzu
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon tobanjan
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Method

Mix the ingredients of the ponzu sauce in a bowl. Slice the zucchini into 1 cm thick rounds. Place a fry pan in the gas table with one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Warm it on a medium heat then saute the zucchini until they’re browned.

While they’re still hot, pour the zucchini into the bowl containing the ponzu sauce. Mix thoroughly.

Finally, place the bowl in the fridge and cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Teriyakidon (chicken teriyaki rice bowl)

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.

Teriyakidon

Teriyakidon

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

Teriyaki sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin

Method

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.