Japan Eats

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

Method

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.

Japan Eats Podcast, Episode 16: “Size doesn’t matter”

This week, the team talk about kitchen storage and the types of rice used to make sake.

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Recipe: Sautéed buri (yellowtail) marinated in shio-kouji

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.

Sautéed yellowtail

Sautéed yellowtail

Ingredients

  • 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)

Method (shio-kouji)

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).

Pour a teaspoon of vegetable oil into a frying pan and spread it evenly with kitchen paper. Sautée the side of the fish with skin on a low to medium heat until it becomes brown. Flip the fish over and cook the other side slowly on a low heat (lid on) for 6 – 7 minutes. Serve with pickled ginger.

Recipe: Seafood oyakodon

A seafood version of the classic Japanese rice bowl

Oyakodon (‘parent and child rice bowl’) is a Japanese lunch time favorite. Made with chicken and egg on a bed of rice, it has a sweet soy flavor.

This version uses salmon instead of chicken and salmon roe in place of an egg.

Salted salmon is easy to come by in Japan, but if you’re having trouble finding it, sprinkle salt onto fresh salmon.

Seafood oyakodon

Seafood oyakodon

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

  • 2 bowls of cooked rice
  • 200 g salted salmon
  • 40 g ikura marinated in soy sauce
  • 20 g radish sprouts
  • 10 sheets of shiso (green perilla)
  • Half a sheet of nori (dried laver)
  • 2 tea spoons of sesame seeds

Method

Grill the salmon and break it into flakes. Carefully roast the sesame seeds on a low heat. Cut the radish sprouts 2 cm wide and roll the shiso and slice into 1 mm thin strips.

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

Scoop rice into a bowl and sprinkle sesame seeds over its surface. Lay the salmon flakes on the center, then decorate the area around the salmon with the radish sprouts.

Place the thinly sliced shiso on the salmon flakes and then add the ikura over the shiso.

Finally, sprinkle the strips of nori over the ikura as artfully as possible to garnish the dish.

Recipe: Salmon donburi

A quick and easy rice bowl

What is the best accompaniment for raw fish?

Most Japanese agree that when eating fish such as sashimi or sushi, blue fish should be eaten with ginger or perhaps ponzu. Other types of fish with wasabi or salt.

There are also various condiments which can be used alongside those flavors mentioned above. Aojiso (also known as ooba – green perilla), hojiso (spikes of shiso), chives, mioga, etc.

Salmon Donburi

Salmon donburi

For this donburi, wasabi would be the perfect compliment for the salmon. The fish is served with lots of daikon sprouts and sesame seeds. The sharpness of the daikon sprouts emphasizes the salmon’s sweetness and the sesame adds flavor.

And in case you’re wondering, in Japan this rice bowl is referred to as salmon-don (サーモン丼) and not sake-don (鮭丼) as one might expect.

Ingredients (makes 4 rice bowls)

Sumeshi

  • 3 cups of rice ( become 4 bowls of sumeshi)
  • 1/2 a cup of rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Topping

  • 200 g of salmon (sashimi)
  • 200 g of daikon sprouts (2 packages)
  • 2 table spoons of sesame seeds (roasted)
  • 2 tea spoons of sesame seeds (roasted)
  • 10 g of aojiso (green perilla – 20 sheets)

Method

First, you will need to prepare the sushi rice. Fill a bowl with cold water and add the rice. Stir it quickly and pour off the white liquid immediately. Pour the cold water into the bowl again, press the rice with the heal of your palm repeatedly and pour off the white liquid.

Repeat the procedure 3-4 times till the water becomes almost clear (it doesn’t necessarily have to be perfectly clear) and drain on a sieve for 30 mins.

Pour the rice into a rice cooker and add water according to the machines’ instructions. Cook the rice. Once the rice is done, allow it to rest in the machine for 10 minutes.

Pour the ingredients for the sushi vinegar into a small pan. Warm over a low heat so that the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Turn off the gas and allow the liquid to cool.

When the rice is ready, open the rice cooker and transfer the rice into a wooden bowl moistened with water. Sprinkle the sushi vinegar over the rice, making sure that the liquid is spread evenly.

Toss the rice with downward cutting strokes until the rice cools. Add two tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds, mixing them with the rice.

Now place approximately one cup of the cooked rice into a serving bowl. As you do this, bear in mind that both the flavor and texture of the dish come from the ingredients layered on top – don’t overdo the amount of rice.

Place a 1/4 of the daikon sprouts on top of the rice.

Slice the salmon into 3-4 mm slices by pulling the knife toward you. Place it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the donburi.

Place 4 or 5 strips of salmon onto the bed of sprouts. When you do this, it looks better if you fold the slices into two.

Next, slice the aojiso into thin strips and place these gently on top of the salmon.

Finally sprinkle the 1/2 tea spoon of sesame seeds over the rice bowl. Serve with soy sauce and wasabi in a small dish.

Recipe: Negitoro maki

An easy recipe for negitoro maki that can be adapted to suit your own taste.

Norimaki is the ever-popular type of sushi which comes wrapped in nori (seaweed). This particular recipe has tuna inside, but you could just as easily fill your norimaki with other ingredients. Indeed, the American California roll is essentially norimaki with avocado.

For this version you’ll need a makisu (bamboo rolling mat). Naturally, makisu are easy to come by in Japan (here they’re available from supermarkets and even 100 yen shops). Elsewhere, you should be able to buy one from any good Asian grocery store.

Negitoro maki

Negitoro maki combines the sweetness of maguro (tuna) with the sharpness of asatsuki chives.

Ingredients

  • 2 go sushi rice (refer to the chirashizushi recipe)
  • 5 to 6 sheets of nori (seaweed)
  • 400g of (preferably fatty) tuna
  • 10 asatsuki chives

Method (makes 5 -6 rolls)

First, prepare sushi rice according to the chirashizushi recipe. Next, mince the tuna with two kitchen knives until it becomes a rough paste and thinly chop the asatsuki chives.

Toast a sheet of nori by passing it over a high flame to make it crispy and dry.

Set the makisu (bamboo rolling mat) onto a flat space. Place the sheet of nori onto the mat and then gently spoon some of the sushi rice onto the seaweed. Spread it over the sheet, leaving 3 cm uncovered at the top and bottom.

Place some of the minced tuna and a pinch of the chopped asatsuki onto the rice (if you’re worrying about quantity, aim for roughly 1/5 to 1/6 of each ingredient per roll). Now dab your finger in water and run it along the edge of the seaweed (the area that isn’t covered). Lift the edge of the bamboo mat and the nori sheet together nearest you, and bring over to meet the far edge of the sheet. Gently press the bamboo mat around the roll to shape it.

Finally, slice the roll into 6 – 8 equal pieces. Use a moistened cloth to clean the knife after each use.

Repeat this process 5 – 6 times.

Inarizushi

Inarizushi are commonly served as part of a sushi bento (Japanese lunchbox). They are also great for picnics, or as finger food for guests. This particular recipe uses roasted sesame seeds to flavour the rice, but you can also add finely sliced ginger that has been pickled in sweet vinegar. In summer, use boiled edamame (green soybeans) to flavour the sushi rice.

Inarizushi

Throw a couple of these into your next bento!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 8 sheets of deep-fried tofu
  • 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

Sushi vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Soup

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake

Method

Cook the rice, but use less water than usual. It should still be slightly hard (you’re going to be adding more moisture with the vinegar). Next, pour all the ingredients for the sushi vinegar into a pan. Warm it over a low heat until both the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Leave the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing it to cool.

Transfer the rice to a wooden sushi bowl moistened with water. Sprinkle the sushi vinegar all over the rice. Toss the rice with downward cutting strokes until the rice cools. Add the 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds, quickly mixing them with the rice.

Now cut the deep-fried tofu sheets in half. Be careful to slice these halfway down the long side, forming what should be two squares. Carefully open each of them to form a pouch.

Next, boil 1 liter of water in a new pan. Place the deep-fried tofu into the pan and boil them for approximately 1 minute to remove any oil. Once this is done, wash them in cold water and then carefully squeeze each of them to remove any excess water.

Place all the soup ingredients into a new pan and boil them. Put the deep-fried tofu pouches into the pan and cook them for 25 – 30 minutes on a low heat. The tofu should soak up all the soup.

Once the deep-fried tofu has cooled, again squeeze the pouches gently to remove the excess soup. Holding the pouch in one hand, scoop the rice into the pouch with your other hand. Shape the tofu pouch into a small cylinder, sealing the opening by folding the two sides over.

Your inarizushi are ready to serve.