The perfect antidote to those winter blues
This is a popular (and inexpensive) dish usually eaten during the colder months in Japan. It can be served as either an appetizer or as a main course.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the browning of the chicken wings is important in giving the dish it’s deep and savory smell. I recommend you to adopt a similar approach when cooking thick negi (spring onions) or deep-fried tofu to be used in nimono or nabe.
Add the kurozu (black vinegar) to the chicken stock at the very end when cooking the chicken.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 600 g of chicken wings
- 500-600 g of daikon (Japanese radish)
- 30 g of ginger
- 4 boiled eggs
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 6 tablespoons of sake
- 4 tablespoons of soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
- 2 tablespoons of black vinegar
- 2 cups of cold water
First, prepare the chicken wings. Cut off the very tip of the wings tips. Use the knife and cut the gristle, then break it with your hands. This is both for looks and to make the wings easier to eat.
Next, prepare the daikon. Peal it and slice into pieces 2 – 3 cm thick, then cut into half rounds or quarters. Now peal the ginger and cut it into 1 mm slices.
Place a casserole dish on the gas table, pour 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pot and warm it on the low to medium heat.
Remove the liquid on the chicken wings with a paper towel and then sauté with the skin face down until they are browned.
Be patient and don’t turn them around often so as to brown them. Don’t worry – the skin won’t stick to the bottom of the casserole if you brown them enough.
Add all the ingredients for the sauce except the kurozu (black vinegar). Next, drop the ginger and daikon into the casserole dish and turn up the heat to medium-high.
Once the liquid comes to the boil, turn it down to a low heat and put the lid on. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the daikon becomes soft.
While you’re cooking the soup, prepare the boiled eggs. I am sure that everybody knows how to do that…!
Once the eggs are cooked, move them to a cold bowl of water and let them sit in the bowl for 2-3 minutes, then remove the shells.
Confirm the daikon is soft and add the kurozu and the boiled egg. Cook for another 10 minutes with an otoshibuta (a drop lid made from paper) over the ingredients. For instructions on how to prepare one, click here.
Serve the chicken wings, daikon and egg halves, taking care to arrange the ingredients so they look good on the plate.
It’s spicy. It’s sour. It’s suratanmen.
Also known as sanratanmen, this sweet and sour noodle dish is a popular Japanese adaptation of the Chinese classic.
Much of its flavor derives from the black vinegar, which adds umami and a mild acidity. As the acidity of the vinegar will dissipate during the cooking process, a dash added to the soup just as soon as you turn off the heat will bring some added flavor.
When you cook noodle dishes, preparation is very important. In order to serve the dish quickly, prepare the ingredients before you actually start cooking. It’s all in the timing!
Ingredients (serves 2 people)
- 240 g of ramen noodles
- 30 – 40 g carrot
- 30 g shiitake mushrooms
- 30 -40 g bamboo shoots (boiled)
- 2 – 3 g dried kikurage (wood ear)
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of shokoshu (Chinese sake)
- 1 teaspoon of potato starch
- 60 – 70 g pork (sliced into strips 2 -3 mm thick)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 egg
- 700 ml of chicken soup stock
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon shokoshu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Cilantro (coriander)
- Black pepper
- Rayu (chili oil)
Cut the carrots into 4 – 5 cm lengths. Cut them lengthwise with the grain, so that you create rectangles about 2 mm thick. Now lay them on their sides and slice them again so they form 2 mm x 2 mm strips. Next, prepare the bamboo shoots. You may find boiled bamboo shoots at the supermarket. If they are already cut into thin slices, you don’t need to do anything but remove the water. If they don’t come pre-sliced, cut them up so they are in pieces roughly the same size as the carrot.
Next, slice the shiitake mushrooms into pieces 2 mm thick and soak the (presumably dried) ears of kikurage in 200 ml of cold water to rehydrate them.
Now we’re going to prepare the pork. Slice it into strips 2 – 3 mm thick, then place the pieces in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of shokoshu (or Japanese sake if shokoshu is unavailable) and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Gently mix the pieces of pork with your fingers so that they absorb the sauce. Add 1 teaspoon of potato starch and mix again. Once the pork is coated in this preliminary seasoning it will maintain its umami flavor throughout the cooking process.
Prepare a second bowl with the ingredients for the soup seasoning. 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of shokoshu and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and mix well.
Take a cup or small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of potato starch and 1 table spoon of cold water. Mix well. This will be your starchy sauce.
Next comes the soup itself. Place a large pot with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil on a low heat. Once it has warmed, add the pork and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes, then add the carrot and bamboo shoots. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes so that the pork is cooked through.
Add 700 ml of chicken stock and turn the heat up to medium. Once it comes to the boil, add the soup seasoning, a pinch of salt (to taste) and black pepper, mix well then turn the heat down to low and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.
Return to the starchy sauce and give it another quick stir before pouring it into the pot.
At about this point you want to start cooking the noodles according to the directions on the packet.
Break an egg into a small bowl and mix it well. Gently pour the egg into the soup. Do so slowly, stirring the soup with your other hand. At this point be sure that the soup is on a gentle boil.
Once all of the egg mixture is in the soup, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of black vinegar. Mix the soup well.
Drain the noodles and place them in a serving bowl. Pour half of the soup over the noodles, then sprinkle a pinch of black pepper followed by 1 – 2 teaspoons of rayu. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.
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.
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.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 2 cups of rice
- 8 sheets of deep-fried tofu
- 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons of vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups of water
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons of mirin
- 2 tablespoons sake
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.