Japan Eats

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.

Recipe: Piman no jakoitame (stir-fried peppers with crispy young anchovies)

Vibrant color, crispy texture.

In many ways, this pepper and anchovy dish is the perfect otsumami (tapas-style dish). For starters there’s its vivid color – bold red, yellow and green.  Then there’s the texture – the slightly crispy anchovies balancing the sauteed peppers. Finally, there’s the flavor of the mentsuyu (a dashi-based sauce usually used for soba and udon noodles).

Stir-fried peppers with crispy young anchovies

Stir-fried peppers with crispy young anchovies

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

  • 200g green pepper (4-5 green peppers)
  • 50g red pepper (1/2 a red pepper)
  • 50g yellow pepper (1/2 a yellow pepper)
  • 20g dried young anchovies
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of mentsuyu

Method

Pour 2 tablespoons of sesame oil into a frying pan and place on a low heat. Add the dried young anchovies and slowly saute them for 3-4 minutes, so that they become crispy.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, then slice them into strips. When the anchovies become crispy, add the peppers to the pan and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes over a high heat.

Finally, add two tablespoons of mentsuyu and coat the peppers. If you live in Japan, you should be able to find this at any supermarket or convenience store.

If you live overseas and have trouble finding the sauce, however, add the following to the fry pan:

  • 2 tablespoons of dashi soup (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin

It’s also worth noting that were you to make 2-3 times the sauce, you would have the perfect soup for soba or udon noodles.

Recipe: Suage yasai no okaka itame (deep fried vegetables)

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.

Deep fried vegetables

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

Method

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.