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.
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.
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.
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
- 50 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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
- 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)
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
- 2 – 3 pinches of roughly grated black pepper
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.