Japan Eats

Recipe: Snow pea salad with black sesame dressing

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.

Snow peas with black sesame sauce

Snow peas with black sesame sauce

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

Method

Raw snow peas

Raw snow peas

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.

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: Goma-ae (green vegetables with sesame dressing)

Full of beans: A side salad to serve alongside any meat dish

Essentially green vegetables in a sesame dressing, Goma-ae makes an excellent appetizer or side dish served with fish or meat, rice and miso soup. You can use green beans (also known as French beans or string beans), snap beans, runner beans, spinach or shungiku (in English, garland chrysanthemum). Whichever peas or beans you choose, use those still in their pods.

Goma-ae

The sesame dressing suits many kinds of green vegetables.

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4 people)

  • 130 -150 g komatsuna (Japanese spinach)
  • 60 g string beans
  • 80 g English peas
  • 4 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
  • 1.5 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of water

Method

Begin by stringing the beans and the English peas. Next, place a pot with 1 liter of water on the gas and bring it to the boil. Add a pinch of salt.

Place the string into the the pot and boil them for 1 minute. Now toss in the English peas and boil for a further 1 minute. Remove both from the water and soak in cold water for roughly 10 seconds so that they do not change color. Drain.

Place the well washed komatsuna into the hot water and boil for two minutes. Remove and soak in the cold water for 10 seconds, then drain by squeezing your hand down the length of the leaves. Cut into 3 cm lengths.

Toast the sesame seeds, and grind them with a mortar and pestle. When the seeds are completely ground, the add sugar, soy sauce and the tablespoon of water. Mix well.

Finally, place all of the vegetables in a bowl and mix well with the sesame dressing.

Tantanmen

Tantanmen is a popular noodle dish inspired by dandanmian, itself a spicy noodle soup originating in Szechuan Province of southwestern China. The taste of sesame is predominant in both, but unlike dandanmian, the Japanese variant is usually served as a soup.

The key to making this dish is speed. Its important to have the chicken broth and noodles ready at the same time. Leave the noodles too long and they’ll be overcooked. Serve the chicken broth too early and it will be lukewarm.

Steel yourself. This is going to be spicy...

Steel yourself. This is going to be spicy...

Ingredients (for 1 person)

  • 130g fresh Chinese noodles
  • 50g minced pork
  • 1/2 tablespoon tien mien djan
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon shao hsing wine (you can use sake instead)
  • 250cc chicken soup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons white sesame paste
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese red chili oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped Chinese pickled cabbage
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons green onions (cut the white part of the green onion into small pieces)
  • 1/2 stalk of bock choy (Spinach can also used)

Method

First take the sesame paste out of the refrigerator and let it warm to room temperature.

Pour 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil into a frying pan and warm it. Next, place the minced pork into the pan. Raise the heat and when the color changes, pour in the teaspoon of shao hsing wine, the teaspoon of soy and the 1/2 teaspoon of tien mien djan. Stir the liquid into the meat until it’s mixed together well.

Now take your ramen bowl (or large soup bowl) and pour in the 1 teaspoon of vinegar, the 2 1/2 tablespoons white sesame paste and the tablespoon of Chinese red chili oil. Don’t mix them or you’ll lose some of the sesame paste’s aroma.

Both the noodles and the chicken soup now have to be cooked at the same time.

Following the instruction on the side of the package, boil the noodles in a big pan. It’s important to cook the noodles quickly – consider cooking them for a shorter time than suggested on the package.  In a second saucepan, cook the chicken stock. There’s no real need to make this from scratch (but you can if you want to!). I usually use Wueipa or Youki, but any instant stock will do.

Once the chicken stock is ready, pour it into the ramen bowl and use a whisk to mix this and the other ingredients together. Ideally, the noodles will now be ready. Rinse them and lower them into the ramen bowl. Finally, decorate with Chinese pickled cabbage, green onion, bok choy and the minced pork.