Archive for May, 2010

Soba plate

Soba time again. Yusuke says that he dreaded soba for a while in elementary school because his mom made it nearly everyday for lunch during the summer. (It’s a typical hot weather food.) Fortunately for me, he has recovered and once again highly enjoys it.

To prepare this dish, Yusuke sautéed slices of baby eggplant in sesame oil. He was careful to cook it slowly to maximize softness and bring out the flavour. We were lucky to have an extra-good batch of eggplant this time. (*^_^*)

The other two soba toppings were boiled bean sprouts and hot springs eggs (20 seconds in the microwave!).

As per usual, the soba sauce was made from soy sauce, sugar, mirin, water, and some of our special dashi stock. He also cooked fresh crimini mushrooms to the broth.

Instead of using of bowls, Yusuke assembled the noodles and toppings on large plates, poured the sauce, added chopped green onions, and sprinkled a bit of shichimi. I had more difficulty trying to slurp the noodles than usual, but this was a perfect meal for a gloriously sweltering day.

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Izakaya-style veggies

This meal was inspired by a trip to a new restaurant in our neighbourhood called Kazu. See menu here; reviews here and here.

It’s a tiny izakaya (pub-style restaurant), a bit of a dive at first glance. It’s run by a family that happens to be a friend of my current Japanese teacher. They clearly work very hard; the place is always packed with lines out the door, even though they just opened a few weeks ago.

There is a little menu that you can flip through, but most of the dishes are hand-written on pieces of paper taped up on the walls, all in English. The mostly-Japanese staff and customers crammed into the cozy space made us feel like we were back in Japan. It was a chilly day, so I was happy to snuggle up at the bar in front of the large open grills. This was also a good vantage point to see all of the day’s offering being prepared—and to get ideas for the next trip.

Most of the food seemed to have some salad + dressing component. I ordered what I expected to be yudofu, but it turned out to be a salad with large cubes of tofu topped with some type of lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, long, thin puffed rice thingies, and the aforementioned dressing. Unfortunately, it seems that they frequently don’t have certain things on the menu, so flexibility in decision-making is required. I also had extremely tasty mixed-rice onigiri. Yusuke had a tuna and salmon bowl, with turned out to be sliced raw fish on top of rice, then further topped with the same salad greens and dressing. Also extremely tasty. We shared grilled okra, which, to cut off my tangential story, inspired the dinner pictured in this post.

Hot oven

So, back at home: lacking an open-flame grill, Yusuke grilled our okra, green onions, and mushrooms on tin foil in our oven.

He drizzled them with an improvised yakitori sauce of mirin, soy sauce, sake, and sugar. The ingredients were heated in a small saucepan to dissolve the sugar.

grilled 'shrooms

We also had these lovely daikon medallions which were leftover from another meal. First Yusuke microwaved the sliced daikon for 3 minutes to soften them. Then he sauteed them in sesame oil. Last, he prepared a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and chili flakes, which he dumped in the frying pan with the daikon and let simmer until the liquid was absorbed or evaporated. We sprinkled some bonito flakes on the daikon when served.

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Peas ‘n potatoes

Yusuke doesn’t really remember what went into this stir fry. But it’s interesting for its pairing of potatoes (very, very thinly sliced) and snow peas. I don’t think I’ve had that combo before. He assumes that he used soy sauce, mirin, sake, and dashi. That’s all. As the picture shows, we ate it topped with bonito flakes.

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Ume-mushrooms and konnyaku

This was another of my, erm, experimental, meals. I *occasionally* get excited to try making something, but it never turns out how I planned. (;_;)

Anyway, the not-so-pretty dish above was a spin-off of a tasty treat that my mother-in-law made during our visit to Japan. It was simply enoki mushrooms (the really, really skinny ones) dressed with smashed umeboshi (pickled plums).

I didn’t have enoki, so I chopped white button mushrooms and sautéed them with finely chopped white onions.

When it came to the umeboshi, I didn’t know how many to smash. I started with two, and it seemed like such a tiny amount. So I added two more. Please note that these were larger than average umeboshi that we brought all the way from Japan. They are exceedingly tasty.

So then I added the umeboshi paste to the mushrooms and onions with a few drips of soy sauce. But once I started mixing it all, it became clear that four umeboshi was WAY too much. The dish was much tangier than anticipated, to put it mildly. But it was edible over rice or tucked inside onigiri.

The second dish for this dinner was konnyaku, prepared according to a recipe on Just Hungry.

I rinsed the konnyaku and cut it into the fancy twists that she describes. Next, I boiled and drained it before adding it back to the pan. Then I simmered the konnyaku in the following:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1/2 cup water with a pinch of dashi
  • 1 tsp dried red chili flakes

I let it cook until all the liquid was absorbed or evaporated and then arranged the konnyaku in bowls and topped it with chopped raw green onions. It wasn’t bad, but it was much saltier than I would’ve liked. I could have cut the liquids by half, I think. Perhaps the original recipe was for more konnyaku.

The meal was rounded out with tofu (with onions and soy sauce), rice, and miso soup with napa and onions. In other words, it was very, very salty and oniony.

This also reminds me that I should write about some of the food that we had in Japan. Well, maybe someday… The sense of loss is still too near. (^_-)

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Veggie fried rice

This was a typical fluffy fried rice dish: good comfort food for poor Yusuke and his summer cold.

Chopped carrots, asparagus pieces, and sliced pork were stir-fried first with oil. Next, two beaten eggs were poured in slowly and mixed into the vegetables. When egg started to harden, hot rice was dumped in and mixed. The seasoning was salt, pepper, ajinomoto, soy sauce (a tiny bit), chicken broth.

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Miso cabbage

This boiled cabbage dish was simple, light, and tasty: typical here at Chez Yusuke.

The cabbage was cut into large pieces and boiled in water.

The sauce was made over low heat and consisted of the following:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp miso paste
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp mirin
  • 1/2 tbsp katakuriko mixed with 1 tbsp water—added last to thicken the sauce

Sesame seeds were sprinkled on top when served. And as Yusuke says, “that’s all.”

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Spicy bean sprouts

This is the same principle as Yusuke’s spicy eggplant or spicy tofu (マーポードウフ), but with bean sprouts (moyashi / もやし) instead. First, he sautéed chopped garlic and ginger (i.e., from a jar) in oil. Then he added finely chopped white onions, followed by the bean sprouts.

Separately, he prepared a sauce of:

  • 300 mL water
  • 1 tsp powdered chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp tobanjan
  • 1 tbsp tenmenjan
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce

After dumping the sauce into the pan with bean sprouts, a pinch of salt and pepper was added. The finale was 1 tbsp of katakuriko and water to thicken the sauce.

Burn. Yum.

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Succulent fried tofu

This was a very special dish that Yusuke created for my enjoyment, and enjoyed it was, believe you me.

First, he cut firm tofu (Soyarie brand, bien sûr) into cubes. He coated the outside in katakuriko (Japanese potato starch) and fried them in a pan, since we don’t have a deep fryer.

Next, he assembled a sauce made from hot water, soy sauce, mirin, and a pinch of salt. The coup de grâce was a few packets of ume-kombu (plum-seaweed) tea that I swiped from our ryokan in Kyoto. He added a bit of katakuriko to thicken the sauce.

He boiled bean sprouts separately—very briefly to maintain crunchiness—and added them to the sauce along with enoki mushrooms. Finally, the sauce was poured over the tofu and topped with chopped green onions and grated daikon.

This is a perfect example of how Japanese cuisine perfectly harmonizes textures and flavours: tofu crispy on the outside and soft inside, crunchy bean sprouts, slippery mushrooms, cool grated daikon, sharp onions, and gentle kombu.

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