Deep fried and served in a soy and vinegar sauce, mackerel makes either a satisfying appetizer or a main course
Although Japanese often prepare mackerel at home, the silver and blue-skinned fish tends to be overshadowed by more popular varieties. Perhaps this is because mackerel has a reputation for being oily, or because it lacks the visual appeal of tuna or salmon.
The key to this dish is to remove the bones carefully. If you don’t want the bother, sardines can be used instead. Their bones are thin so you needn’t be nervous about it.
Powder the fillets with starch just before deep frying. It’s worth noting that any blue fish will taste good with the ginger and soy sauce. Here, it’s horse mackerel, but Pacific saury (sanma) would do just as well.
The marinade will soak into the batter, but it should retain enough texture to prevent it becoming soggy. The ginger is important as it balances out the flavor of the the fish.
Ingredients (serves 2 – 3 people)
- 150 – 200 g horse mackerel (filleted)
- 50 g onion
- 50 g carrot
- 10 g ginger
- 2 tablespoons of potato starch
- 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of cold water
- 1 tablespoon of sake
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 piece of dried whole chilli pepper
First, prepare the marinade for the horse mackerel. Remove the seeds inside the chilli pepper and slice into pieces 3 – 5 mm thick. Place the chilli in a bowl together with all of the other ingredients for the sauce.
Slice the onions into thin slices. Now slice the carrot into thin pieces.
Next, prepare the horse mackerel. If it hasn’t already been filleted, divide the fish into three slices. Cut each slice into a further 2 – 3 bite-sized pieces, being careful to remove the bones.
Put the bite-sized pieces of horse mackerel and the potato starch into a bag. Blow air into the bag so that it inflates like a balloon then shake so that the mackerel is completely coated in starch.
Heat a deep fry pan filled with vegetable oil to 170 degrees centigrade.
Remove the extra potato starch from the horse mackerel and deep fry for about 3 – 4 minutes. When they become crispy and have turned a light brown, retrieve and drain and a tray. Marinade them in the sauce while still hot.
Place the thinly sliced onion, carrot and ginger on the mackerel. Carefully mix the mackerel with the vegetables and serve.
Do you know your tatsutaage from your karaage?
Karaage is the deep fried chicken dish familiar to anyone who’s visited a Japanese izakaya. The chicken is coated in an egg based batter and then fried in vegetable oil.
Tatsutaage, on the other hand, is chicken, pork or fish are marinated and then coated with starch.
Here, we’re double frying chicken marinated in a mixture of soy, sake and ginger.
Serve with mayonnaise, ponzu or (our favorite) Thai sweet chili sauce.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 500 – 600 g chicken thigh
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon of sake
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 10 g of ginger
- 6 – 7 tablespoons of potato starch (or corn starch)
Take the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room
Next, cut away any fat or gristle. Place the chicken on a tray and sprinkle salt over the pieces. Again, leave it for 20 minutes. Wipe away any remaining moisture with a paper towel.
Prepare to marinate the chicken by peeling and grating the ginger. Now cut the chicken into 5 cm square pieces. Put them into a bowl and marinate for 30 minutes to an hour in a mixture of the sake, soy sauce and ginger.
If you haven’t already, fill a deep fryer with enough vegetable oil to cover the chicken (5 – 7 centimeters ought to be enough). Heat to 170 degrees centigrade.
Evenly distribute the starch on a tray. Coat each piece of chicken before gently dropping it into the oil. Take care to shake off any excess starch before dropping the chicken into the oil. It’s also worth noting that the chicken should be coated in starch right before frying.
Deep fry each piece for 2 – 3 minutes, then remove them from the oil and allow them to rest for a further 2 – 3 minutes. In order to maintain the temperature of the oil, it’s best not to fry all the pieces at once.
Now it’s time to fry the chicken a second time. Do so for 3 – 4 minutes, or until the chicken becomes brown. Keep a close eye on the bubbles erupting from the chicken as it fries – they will become smaller when the chicken is ready to remove from the oil. Before you take the chicken out of the deep fryer, turn the heat up so that the outside of the chicken becomes crispy and you can easily drain the oil.
Once the oil has drained away, serve with your choice of condiment.
Make your own batch of this citrus and soy sauce.
Ponzu is a type of sauce made from soy and citrus fruit. In Japan, fruit such as kabosu, sudachi or yuzu are used to make ponzu. I chose sudachi because it’s currently in season. A little later in the year, I would have chosen yuzu.
You don’t have to use a Japanese citrus fruit when making ponzu. It can also be made with citrus fruit more readily available in western countries: lemons, limes, and so on.
The basic proportions are 5 parts fresh juice: 5 parts soy sauce: 2 parts mirin. Hanakatsuo is roughly flaked dried bonito, and is mainly used for creating dashi, the stock on which so much Japanese cuisine is built.
I recommend you use a glass jar or bottle to store ponzu, as this minimizes the chances of oxidization. You can try it after a week but I suggest you have it after it has been stored for a month. Make it now, and it will be perfect to have as a dipping sauce for nabe (hotpot) at the end of the year.
- 500 ml soy sauce
- 500 ml sudachi juice
- 200 ml mirin
- 5 – 10 g hanakatsuo
- 10 – 15 cm of konbu (kelp)
Squeeze the juice from 1.5 kg of sudachi fruit.
Mix all of the the ingredients in a large bowl (one which can hold 1.5 – 2 liters). Let the mixture stand for 24 hours and then remove the hanakatsuo and konbu. Store in a large jar or PET bottle and keep it in the fridge.
This week, we road test soy sauce infused with wasabi, as well as two unusual toppings for ice cream.
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A delicious meat-free pasta
This dish is easy to prepare and is vegetarian-friendly.
The key to success is making sure that the eggplant is washed in salt water prior to cooking, so as to prevent it from absorbing all of the oil. Be sure to squeeze the salt water out, though.
As yuzukosho has a strong flavor, start by adding only a teaspoon – you can always add more later.
For more about yuzukosho, listen to Episode 8 of the Japan Eats Podcast, where the Japanese condiment is discussed in detail.
Ingredients (serves 2 people)
- 160 g of bavette (or spaghetti)
- 200 g of eggplant
- 100 g of shimeji mushrooms
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 tablespoons of sake
- 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of yuzukosho
- 10 g butter
- 5 – 6 sheets of shiso to garnish
Pour 200 ml of cold water into a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of salt. Remove the top of the eggplant and then cut it in half lengthwise. Cut each half into six more pieces. Put the slices into a bowl of saltwater for 5 minutes to remove any bitterness.
Pour two liters of cold water into a large saucepan and place it on the gas table. Once it has come to the boil, add 20 g of salt and the pasta.
Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the frying pan and add finely chopped garlic. Place the pan on a low heat and sauté slowly until they’re lightly browned.
Remove the salt water from the eggplant by squeezing each slice softly. Add to the pan and sauté until they too become brown. Again, use a low heat.
Once the eggplant is ready, add the shimeji mushrooms. Cook for another minute.
Pour 4 tablespoons of sake into the pan, then cook on a low heat to burn off the alcohol.
Add 2 tablespoons of boiling water from the pot in which you’re cooking the pasta. In addition, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the inner surface of the pan, and add 1 teaspoon of yuzukosho and turn off the heat. Mix thoroughly.
Drain the pasta and then add to the pan. Combine with the sauce.
Add 10 g of butter, and again mix well.
Finally, wash the shiso and remove the water with a paper towel. Roll the leaves together and slice thinly. Serve with the shiso as garnish.
A simple pork sauté that’s full of flavor
Pork ginger is Japanese comfort food, pure and simple. It’s often featured in bento lunches, as it can be prepared in advance and tastes equally good served hot or at room temperature. Best of all, its dead easy to prepare. Serve with a handful of shredded cabbage (kyabetsu no sen-giri).
Ingredients (serves 2 people)
- 200 – 250 g pork (sliced between 1 and 1.5 mm)
- 150 g cabbage
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 20 g (1 clove) of ginger
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of sake
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 100 g chopped onion
Wash the cabbage leaves and remove the core. Pile the leaves together and then roll and cut into 1 mm slices. Place them in cold water for 10 minutes, and drain.
Place a frying pan on the gas table and add one tablespoon of oil. Warm on a low heat.
While heating the pan, take the slices of pork and coat them in a thin layer of flour. Now increase the heat to medium and sauté the pork until brown. Be sure that the pork strips are cooked evenly. When they are ready, take them from the pan and on a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and warm it on a low heat. Slice the onion into pieces 5 mm thick – cut against the grain. Sauté the onion until it softens and becomes translucent.
Now pour the sake, sugar, and soy into the pan. Turn up the heat to medium. Put the pork back into the pan and add the ginger. Mix and cover the pork and ginger with the sauce. Serve with sliced cabbage and a generous helping of the sauce.
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.
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
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.
Eggplant, peppers, pumpkin and string beans: a light vegetable dish fit for summer
Summer time is (almost) upon us. In Tokyo, the rainy season (June/July) gives way to days which are long, hot and humid – the perfect time for salads and light vegetable dishes.
Here is an extremely easy deep fried vegetable dish which would suit any summer menu. It only requires a handful of ingredients, and these can be adjusted according to taste. Vegetarians take note: simply skip the bonito flakes and add a little more flavor with a fresh sesame seed garnish.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1/4 pumpkin
- 1 red pepper
- 100 g string beans
- 300 – 400 g eggplant
- 600 ml vegetable oil for deep frying
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 – 10 g bonito flakes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- fresh sesame seeds
First remove the pumpkin seeds and cut the pumpkin into wedges 5 – 6 mm thick.
Cut away both ends of each string bean. Next, slice each pepper in half and remove the seeds together with the stems. Slice the peppers lengthways into wedges 1 cm thick.
Now remove the stems from the eggplant and cut into wedges 1 cm thick.
Heat the vegetable oil to 170 degrees centigrade. Deep fry all of the ingredients (without adding butter) until they have turned golden brown.
Remove the cooked ingredients from the deep fryer and drain away any remaining oil.
Now for the sauce. Pour the sesame oil and thinly chopped garlic into a fry pan. Place the pan on a very low heat. Once the garlic has become light brown, add the bonito flakes and soy sauce to the oil and garlic. Mix rapidly and turn off the heat.
Finally, place the deep fried vegetables into the pan and coat them with sauce. Serve with a garnish of fresh sesame seeds.