Japan Eats

Japan Macros Posing as Craft Beer

Suntory will debut its "Craft Select" line in May 2015.

Suntory will debut its “Craft Select” line in May 2015.

Finding decent beer in Tokyo used to be as bitter as a custody hearing.

But beer lovers have more to smile about these days. Domestic craft breweries have stepped up, and importers are sourcing decent brews at (increasingly) reasonable prices. Don’t believe me? You can’t do better than to read through the Japan Beer Times for ongoing commentary on Japan’s growing relationship with craft beer.

Unsurprisingly, macro brewer Kirin recently purchased Yo-Ho Brewing in order to stay abreast of the trend towards small(er) batch beer and drinks with more complexity and depth. Nagano-based Yo-Ho makes the surprisingly easy to find Yona Yona (American Pale Ale) as well as Aooni (American IPA), Tokyo Black (Porter), and several Karuizawa Kogen branded labels. Now that they’re privy to Kirin’s distribution network, look for them to pop up just about everywhere in the coming months. They won’t blow a true beer otaku’s kilt up, but they’re a good deal superior to anything that the macros have ever made.

Shots have been fired, so to speak. Consider this the first obvious example that Japan’s biggest brewers are going to start absorbing decent craft outfits. Expect several more before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, all of which will stab beer geeks straight through the heart.

Another one of Japan’s macros, Suntory, is about to throw its hat into the ring with a pair of “craft” beers on May 12th. They plan to offer canned pale and brown ales to their suddenly choice-flooded fans under the “Select Craft” label. The pale ale allegedly uses cascade hops which guarantees that many folks will try at least one.

All of this raises an important question, however. Should beer lovers be receptive to the sudden change of face on the part of the macro breweries? After all, they’ve resisted, and in many cases actively thwarted, the rise of Japanese craft for about 20 years, a mirror image of what’s happening in many other parts of the beer-adoring world. Sam Calagione, the head of the inimitable Dogfish Head, argues that we most definitely should not give them our money because their endgame is to limit choice.

And at this point, Japan Eats agrees. Remember, the battle to find good beer in Japan isn’t nearly as bitter as it used to be. So no matter where you are, support your local brewer.

Recipe: Lotus and burdock root salad

This healthy winter salad makes a great accompaniment to a hearty stew

Gobo (burdock) root is high in fiber and has an earthy flavor. It is thought to have first come to Japan as a Chinese medicinal herb several centuries ago. Lotus root, meanwhile, is also a winter vegetable, coming into season between October and March. It is part of New Year dishes throughout Japan, the holes in the root allowing Japanese to ‘see a bright future’.

I suggest you serve the salad alongside wine-based meat stews (think stewed beef in demi-glace sauce).

Lotus and burdock root salad

Lotus and burdock root salad

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 150 – 200 g lotus roots
  • 100 g burdock roots
  • 50 g kidney beans
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of miso (barley miso)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pounded white sesame seeds
  • 2 – 3 pinches of white sesame seeds


Rinse the lotus root in a bowl of cold water.

Rinse the lotus root in a bowl of cold water.

Fill a bowl with 500 ml of cold water, and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Peal the skin off the lotus roots, cut into 1 mm thick slices, then soak in the bowl for 10 minutes to remove any bitterness.

Fill a second bowl with 500 ml cold water, and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Wash the burdock roots with a brush, then cut it into long thin strips, shaving each root as though sharpening a pencil with a knife. Soak the roots in the water for 10 minutes, again to remove any bitterness.

Place a pan with 1 liter of cold water on high heat, and when it comes to boil, add a tablespoon of vinegar. Add the shaved burdock and boil for 1 minute, then add the sliced lotus roots and boil them together for another 1 minutes (2 minutes in total).

Drain then and cool them down in a colander. Place a pan withe 500ml of cold water on a high heat. When it comes to boil, add a pinch of salt, boil the kidney beans for 2 minutes. Soak the kidney beans in a bowl of cold water till the kidney beans cool down to stop the color change. Once they cool down, slice them 2 mm thick diagonally. Place a bowl and mix the following ingredients to cook the dressing: 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of mayonnaise 1 teaspoon of miso (barley miso) 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon of pounded sesame seeds.

Add the lotus roots, burdock and kidney beans to the bowl of the dressing and mix the them entirely. Serve the salad with 2 – 3 pinches of sesame seeds on.

Japanese cuisine inspires beer, wine, and shochu creativity

Japan imported 2,458,013 cases of sparkling wine during the first nine months of 2014. That’s a 10% increase over the same period last year, and overall craft beer sales were up seven percent through August. This is no doubt splendid news for consumers, but these trends represent tart slices of a migraine pie for Japan’s brewers and distillers.

Beer for "washoku."

Beer for “washoku.”

Izakaya revelers and grocery cart pushers alike are enjoying an agreeable selection of wine and whiskey at bargain prices, and the craft beer selection is perpetually at an all-time high. That’s all well and good, of course, but don’t expect manufacturers to quietly cede territory to alcoholic upstarts and recently arrived, exotically labeled tourists.

Indeed, maturity in all segments of the market is inverting old marketing principles and allowing restaurants and bars to more carefully cater to discerning palates. Japanese food, drink, and advertising companies have reacted to the changing landscape in varied ways, with equally varied success.

Big trends in the drinks industry this year? Well, it seems that one of them is creating the perfect mealtime beverage.

Suntory, makers of one of the pricier macro-brewed beers in Japan, tried earlier this year to market a product that pairs well with washoku, or traditional Japanese dishes. “Wazen,” Suntory’s watery attempt at home-cooked food and beer harmony, has since disappeared from most store shelves, so we may not know until next year whether Wazen sixers were able to steal shopping cart space from Asahi’s bestseller, Super Dry.

“Wa” went well with wagyu, too.

Earlier this year the Westin Hotel in Ebisu hosted a sushi and white wine pairing to show off a collaborative effort by Australia’s Jacob’s Creek winery and Ginza Sushiko Honten. The tandem created a white wine that pairs well with sushi, and “Wa,” the label released in 2013, makes a good argument for inclusion in any sushi establishment’s drinks list.

Guests were not only treated to several plates of Ginza Sushiko’s finest sushi, but also to head chef Sugiyama’s commentary on the process of blending the perfect wine to complement different types of fish and soy sauce. Participants started with spoon sushi, before being treated to everything from squid and sea urchin to tuna and halibut.

The white wine was inspired by Sugiyama’s desire to find new pairing possibilities for the sushi that he serves in Ginza which averages US$200-300 per head. He collaborated with winemaker Rebekah Richardson to create a drink that would accentuate his shop’s well-regarded menu. The result is a white wine that feels at ease next to the flavors of a well-crafted sushi meal.

Try this with your sushi.

Try this with your sushi.

And here’s another new drink that you should try with your raw fish. According to Shochu Pro, Satsuma Shuzo recently released a soft sweet potato shochu that was produced specifically with a fish dinner in mind. The mild-mannered “Jan,” which works wonders served oyuwari, straight, and on the rocks, is especially suited to red (fish) meat, and you know what that means–maguro!

Shochu and awamori have always been at ease cozying up to sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish, but Shochu Pro reports that the Kagoshima Sushi Association reached out to Satsuma Shuzo for something new. The makers of the well-traveled Shiranami and Kannoko brands responded with “Jan,” and although the new kid on the block has yet to be featured heavily outside of Kyushu, it has been well-received at home.

You may recall that UNESCO recognized washoku as an Intangible Cultural Heritage last year, so it’s no wonder that all corners of the drinks industry are clamoring to find a steady perch beside it.

With the 2020 Olympiad looming, prepare yourself for a swarm of drinks begging to accompany your meal. Here at Japan Eats, we’d encourage you to give them all a fair shot.

But take it slow. Leave the headaches to Japan’s alcohol industry.

Sharing Shochu in North America

The Shochu Handbook

The Shochu Handbook is available now from all good bookstores.

Shochu is only just beginning to appear on diners’ radars outside Japan, even though it outsells nihonshu (sake) on its home turf. More often than not, people are introduced to the drink when they set foot in a Japanese or Asian fusion restaurant in a major metropolitan area.

Others come across it for the first time in liquor shops or markets, and although curiosity abounds, there has been precious little information available on the subject in a language other than Japanese. Enter Japan Eats contributor, Christopher Pellegrini, a Shochu Sommelier certified by the Sake Service Institute. Pellegrini’s new publication, The Shochu Handbook, was published last month and it’s the most comprehensive English language reference on shochu to date.

It was a long time in the making. Pellegrini spent more than three years researching and writing the book. He recently returned from a brief book-signing tour, which took him to three venues in two countries. He talked shochu in New York City at SakaMai on August 19th and Sakaya on the 20th before jetting to Vancouver for an event at Legacy Liquor Store on the 23rd.

The book was well-received, but Pellegrini insists that promoting awareness of shochu was the most important goal of his trip.

“To a certain extent, I was preaching to the choir in New York. There are a bunch of decent Japanese restaurants and bars there, and I actually piggybacked on an established shochu lovers’ event. I had a great time talking shochu with the members of that community.”

Pellegrini (r) and Stephen Lyman (l) conduct a lively round of shochu trivia from behind the bar.

Pellegrini (r) and Stephen Lyman (l) conduct a lively game of shochu trivia from behind the bar.

He highly recommends Shochu Tuesdays at SakaMai for anyone that wants to learn more about shochu in New York City. Shochu expert Stephen Lyman organizes the weekly events and there are usually two or three shochu available at happy hour prices. Uminoie is another great place downtown to try a variety of shochu along with some good Japanese cooking.

One pleasant discovery from the book tour was that shochu has significant potential worldwide even if many people haven’t heard of it yet. Bartenders are beginning to catch wind of the variety of flavors available, and bar managers are beginning to add shochu cocktails to their menus. Cherry Izakaya, a new addition to the New York City scene, has a refreshing list of Mizu no Mai-based shochu cocktails that are definitely worth a taste. The creative work of mixologists is beginning to help spread shochu to a wider audience.

Pellegrini’s events, though, focused on some of the more standard serving styles, at least as far as premium shochu fans in Japan are concerned. The events at Sakaya and Legacy featured potato shochu served maewari (blended beforehand with cool water) while most of the shochu at the SakaMai event was served over ice.

“Many are surprised that shochu is often served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass rather than something more akin to a shot. Shochu is a sipping drink with layered flavors to be savored,” quipped the longtime Tokyo resident.

Pouring and talking shochu in Vancouver.

Pouring and talking shochu in Vancouver.

“I had a lot of fun revealing shochu’s complexities to customers at Legacy in Vancouver. Several people said the shiso and potato bottles I poured were like nothing they had ever tried before. They were really into it, and several bottles left the shelves even though it retails in British Columbia for more than five times the price that you’d pay in Japan.”

Pellegrini is now eyeing an official launch party for the book in Tokyo in November. After that, he’s planning to head to Honolulu for a book event in February of 2015. He said he is also working to develop a new website that will provide valuable information to consumers and shochu manufacturers alike.

The Shochu Handbook, available in both e-book and paperback, can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at many other global retailers.


Recipe: Agedashi nasu

Agedashi nasu may look harmless enough, but each slice of eggplant comes packed with flavor.

A variation on the popular agedashi dofu, the principal ingredient in agedashi nasu is eggplant. In some ways, using eggplant is preferable to tofu as it soaks up much of the dashi’s flavor. For those wanting to experiment further, try preparing mochi (rice cakes) or satoimo (taro root) in this way.

This dish is a good example of aburanuki, a technique by which hot water is poured on the ingredients in order to remove excess oil.

Various kinds of garnish will suit the dish. Select your favorite among grated ginger, dried bonito flakes, thinly sliced miyoga or chopped green onion.

Agedashi nasu

Agedashi nasu: serve alongside somen or udon noodles.

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

  • 170 – 180 g eggplant
  • 100 ml of dashi soup
  • 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger (grated)
  • 200 ml of boiled water


First prepare the dashi-based stock. Mix the dashi soup, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a pot and warm it on a low heat.

Pour vegetable oil into a frying pan, filling to a depth of roughly 3 cm. Place the pan on a medium heat.

Remove the calyx from the eggplant and cut it into half lengths.

Place each half on a cutting board skin up and slice the skin diagonally at 2 mm intervals. Each slit should be about the half thickness of the eggplant.

Now to quickly deep-fry the eggplant. Make sure that the oil temperature is 179 – 180℃. Remove the moisture from the eggplant with a paper towel then deep fry skin down for 1 minute. Turn over and cook the other side for the same length of time.

Once cooked, carefully remove the oil by draining the eggplant on a metal rack. Place all of the pieces in a colander and pour 1 cup of the hot water over the eggplant to rinse away any remaining oil.

While they are still warm, place the slices of eggplant into a serving dish and drizzle on the dashi stock until it makes a pool around the vegetable. Garnish with the grated ginger and serve.

Recipe: Takenoko no mazegohan (Japanese-style mixed rice)

This typically Japanese mix of textures is an ideal addition to any bento.

Takenoko no mazegohan is a seasonal rice dish which features takenoko (bamboo shoots) mixed with chicken and a selection of Japanese vegetables.

The preparation of the bamboo shoots takes place the day before, and follows the same process as that used in our recipe for Tosa-style bamboo shoots).

For an interesting variation, mix the ingredients with vinegar rice to create gomokuzushi. Detailed directions for vinegar rice can be found here. The dish is also easy to adapt for vegetarians: simply omit the chicken and use kombu dashi rather than the regular kombu and katsuobushi variety.

Takenoko no mazegohan

Takenoko no mazegohan (Japanese style mixed rice). Eat it freshly prepared, or add to a Japanese bento lunch.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 people)

  •  100 – 120 g of chicken thigh
  • 70 g of carrots
  • 70 g of shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 deep-fried tofu pouch (aburaage)
  • 250 g of boiled bamboo shoots
  • 125 g of konnyaku (aka devils tongue)
  • 10 g of kanpyo (dried gourd strips )
  • 150 ml of dashi soup
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of sake
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • Several pinches of roughly cut mitsuba (Japanese wild chervil) or ginger pickles as a garnish


The bamboo shoots need to be prepared one day ahead. Wash them and scrape off the tough base of each shoot. Slice off the tips and make a shallow incision the length of the section covered by skin. Next, place the 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). The bamboo shoots need to be covered with water the whole time. Keep the pot on a low heat for about 1 and a half to 2 hours, until the hardest parts of the bamboo softens. Take the pot off the heat and allow it to soak and cool overnight.

The rest of the ingredients can be prepared the following day. Ready the chicken by removing the skin and fat, then chop it into bite-sized pieces. Cut the carrot it into strips 4 to 5 cm long, so that they resemble matchsticks. Remove the stems of the shiitake, then cut the mushrooms into slices 2 mm thick.

Next, place the aburaage in a colander and pour 100 ml of hot water over the deep-fried tofu pouch to remove any excess oil. Cut into pieces 5 mm thick, 3 to 4 cm in length.

Now for the takenoko, or bamboo shoots. Rinse theshoots in a bowl of cold water to wash away the bran. Peel the skin of the shoots along the shallow incision you made the day before, so that you have only the soft, fleshy part of the shoot. Cut into slices 3 – 4 mm thick, then again into bite size quarters or squares.

Prepare the konnyaku by cutting it into thin squares 2 – 3 mm across and 1.5 – 2 mm thick, then boil them in a hot water for 2 – 3 minutes.

Wash the kanpyo in a bowl of cold water then squeeze out the water. Put the kanpyo back in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of salt then rub it with the salt well for 30 seconds. Then wash the salt out with a cold water. Place the kanpyo in a pan containing 1 liter of cold water and bring it briefly to the boil before reducing  to a low heat. Cook the kanpyo for 15 minutes in total. Once cooked, rinse in a bowl of cold water then squeeze out any excess liquid. Cut it into squares 2 cm wide.

Place the casserole with 1 table spoon of the vegetable oil and warm it on medium heat. Once it becomes warm, add chicken and carrot and cook for 2 – 3 minutes till the color change of the chicken. then add deep-fried tofu pouch, shiitake mushrooms, konnyaku, kanpyo. Mix and cook the whole ingredients  for another 2 – 3 minutes then add the bamboo shoot at the end and mix them entirely.

Add 150 ml of dashi soup to the casserole, once its boiled add 4 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of sake, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of mirin. Mix and place a drop lid on the ingredients. Maintain a medium heat and cook for 20 minutes until the sauce is almost gone.

Prepare Japanese rice using the instructions for your particular rice cooker.

You’re finally ready to mix the rice and ingredients for the dish in a bowl. A good balance is 4 – 5 tablespoons of the ingredients for every 150 grams of cooked rice. As you do this, be sure to remove as much liquid as you can before moving the ingredients from the casserole dish.

Serve with mitsuba as garnish or ginger pickles on the side.

Restaurant Review: Smokehouse (Harajuku)

Tokyo has well and truly discovered the pairing of American-style BBQ and craft beer.

Grilled marinated chicken breast with chipotle mayonnaise on toasted whole wheat

Grilled marinated chicken breast with chipotle mayonnaise on toasted whole wheat.

TY Harbor Brewing has a wonderful restaurant out on Tennozu Isle (or however you spell it) that has boasted a top-notch kitchen for several years. The beer’s pretty good, too, and getting better, but you still get the sense that most folks dining there aren’t really there to see how the brews are coming around. However, make no mistake, TY Harbor is no slouch in the brewing department, and they’ve recently found a new way to get their beers out there to the red-blooded folk on the west side of town.

It’s called the Smokehouse.

The Smokehouse is on Cat Street not far from that warehousey second hand shop that features brand name kit previously owned by folks who couldn’t fit into it either. Over the course of several visits, I managed to make my way through much of the food and beer menus.

During my most recent trip, I had the Chopped BBQ Pork (¥1,700) which is fall-off-the-bone soft with a notably smokey flavor. It comes with a side of coleslaw and a muffin, which was somewhat sweet for my taste. The Smokehouse cheeseburger (¥1,500), meanwhile, is fantastic – the perfect balance between soft/crunchy, savory/sweet. Certainly in the running for the best burger of its kind in the city.

Chopped BBQ pork, Carolina spicy vinegar

Chopped BBQ pork, Carolina spicy vinegar

I was also able to try the grilled marinated chicken breast with chipotle mayonnaise on toasted whole wheat (again served with a large helping of fries). This too had plenty of flavor, and maintained its structural integrity despite the presence of tomato, the juices from the chicken and a generous coating of sauces.

Where Smokehouse really excels, however, is in its selection of sauces. Each table has a selection featuring names like “Voodoo Hot”, “House Pit”, “Porter Pepper” and “Carolina Vinegar”. We fancied the herb-rich House Pit, which we were soon squeezing on everything, particularly the crunchy fries that accompanied the burger.

You also can’t go wrong with a side of Chili Cheese Fries (¥900) or a small bowl of Home Style Mac-n-Cheese (¥400). Calories be damned.

All of T.Y. Harbor’s regular beers are on tap with 420 ml (14 oz) glasses for ¥800, and 250 ml (8.6 oz) pours for ¥480. My favorites are still the Pale Ale with its balanced cascade hops and bready malts, and the Imperial Stout which goes from sweet to bitter as it travels toward the back of the palate. There are also always at least a few guest beers on tap that are more expensive but will generally be worth your while, and the spirits list sports more than 20 labels of bourbon, rye, and other craft whiskies from all over the US. The wine list is 10 bottles long (five red and five white) with all priced at ¥5,000.

Smokehouse cheeseburger

Smokehouse cheeseburger

Directions: From Harajuku station, walk down Omotosando-dori and turn right just after Shakey’s onto Cat Street. Smokehouse is about 150 meters down, on your left.

Tel: 03-6450-5855
2F, 5-17-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
11:30 – 15:00 (L.O.) & 17:30 – 22:00 (L.O.); Weekends, holidays 11:30 – 22:00 (L.O.)

View Larger Map

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


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


  • 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)


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


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.

Japan Eats Podcast, Episode 24: “Personal Brew Shrine”

Beer geek Marco McFarren joins Garrett DeOrio and Christopher Pellegrini on the Japan Eats Podcast.

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.

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


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.