Archive for December, 2010

Kare soba

This dish wasn’t as healthy as our typical fare, but it was very filling, warming, and satisfying.

Yusuke said that this dish could be drawn right off a soba shop menu. カレー南蛮 (kare nanban) is a typical Japanese noodle dish that usually has udon (thick noodles), chicken or duck, and a curry-based broth. It often calls for katakuriko (potato starch), too.

Fun facts: Apparently the “なん” (“nan”) part of the name refers to the word for south, a reference to the fact the dish originated from the Portuguese from the Meiji era. According to Yusuke’s reference (dictionary? encyclopedia? I forget.), it was originally pronounced なんば (nanba), but it later become なんばん (nanban). Yup. 

For the main body of the stew, in our version, Yusuke boiled firm tofu, carrots, potatoes, and white onions and then added packaged Japanese curry cubes (soooo convenient).

Lacking udon, we used regular soba—thin buckwheat noodles. They only take about 5 minutes to cook in boiling water.

The cooked noodles were stirred into the curry stew and the soba sauce was added:

  • dashi powder
  • soy sauce
  • sugar
  • tiny chunks of daikon (cooked in the sauce)

Last came the garnish of chopped green onions.

See Google image search for more examples of カレー南蛮 here and here.

As I wrote in a previous post, curry (カレ or “kare”) dishes are extremely popular in Japan: there’s even a wikipedia article on the subject, naturally. The pre-made cubes vary in spiciness, and I think we usually have a medium one. The curry is not hot at all in the way it would be in Indian cuisine, but there’s a sweetness mixed with the spice that I find lick-the-bowl addictive.

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This dish was quite simple, but deceptively time-consuming to make. It was also quite messy! Good thing my specialty is cleaning up after dinner.

First, Yusuke boiled okra, chopped it all up (a very sticky operation!), and combined it with prepared (i.e., microwaved) natto.

Next, he finely chopped cabbage and boiled it.

The cabbage went into big bowls, onto which the natto-okra mixture was poured, followed by hot springs eggs.

Last came a sauce of water, dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. We also added a sprinkle of しちみとがらし(shichimi togarashi, seven spices mix).

Then we stirred it all up and ate!

This dish is incredibly great for soothing stomachs with its ネバネバ texture (neba neba, i.e., slipperiness) and extremely low caloric content.

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Ume stir fry

A tangy and refreshing stir fry.

Yusuke used a bit of olive oil to cook up halved grape tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, bean sprouts, and chicken (optional). He opted for olive rather than sesame oil for a lighter, fresher taste.

The sauce was based around two smashed umeboshi (pickled plums). It also included mirin, sake, soy sauce, dashi, and mirin.

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Kombu-steamed portobello mushrooms

I think this meal represents quite well the epitome of Japanese simplicity.

The first component was steamed portobello mushrooms. Yusuke lined a steamer basket with thick strips of kombu (seaweed), sprinkled a bit of dashi powder, and then steamed the chunks of mushroom. To eat, we sprinkled a tiny bit of crushed sea salt, which was marvelous for bringing out the mushrooms’ flavour.

Yusuke has been using sea salt quite often lately, but he wasn’t sure if he was just imagining the difference in taste. He did a taste test to compare sea salt and table salt, one after the other, and confirmed that the difference was real! There was a post recently on World’s Healthiest Foods about different types of salt for further reading.

I ate the kombu “wrappings,” too, half with the dinner, and half for my lunch the next day. Yusuke thinks my hair might turn black from all the seaweed that I eat…

We also had miso soup with bean sprouts and unusually sweet green onions.

The final component of the meal was sliced avocado with an improvised ponzu sauce. As I’ve mentioned before, ponzu is a citrus-based sauce—often made with yuzu, which isn’t obtainable chez nous. Instead, Yusuke uses a mixture of dashi, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, water, and soy sauce. We had never mixed ponzu and avocado, but it turned out to be quite yummy: very refreshing in contrast with the richness of the avocado.

Avocado courtesy of Flickr user Island Vittles. Photo license: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

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Daikon is a key winter staple in Japan, highly praised for its warming qualities. It’s included in many stews, especially oden.

This simple dish combined daikon with abura-age (deep fried tofu sheets). They were boiled together in a mixture of:

  • water
  • dashi
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • a tiny bit of salt
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • a tiny bit of sugar

It’s important to note that daikon-based stews always taste better the next day, as it takes time for the soup and seasonings to soak in. It’s tasty right away, but even tastier later.

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Fish bake

A nourishing melange

Today: a warm hearty dish to fortify against the coming cold.

We had picked up some salmon that was packaged as leftover bits, labeled as intended for soup. It was half the price of fillets, but I would venture perhaps twice as good.

First, Yusuke marinated the salmon in sake, a pinch of black pepper, and sea salt.

Meanwhile, he prepared a glass pan with a thin layer of olive oil.

Next, he prepared a mixture of 1 tbsp of miso, 1/2 tbsp of sake, and 1/2 tbsp of mirin. Sugar could also be added.

He layered the salmon in the pan and then spread the mixture evenly over it.

Next, he layered the fish with raw sliced carrots, bean sprouts, and white onions. The original recipe calls for enoki, but alas, we didn’t have any.

The pan was covered with foil and baked in the oven at 450 F.

Warm and filling, with lots of leftovers for the next day.

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Soy supreme: natto tofu

This dish is waaaay Japanese. Only those who can appreciate soft subtle tastes need apply.

First, Yusuke thinly sliced white onions and soaked them in water to lessen their strong taste. Next, he prepared a sauce with 1 tsp mirin, 1 tbsp soy sauce, a pinch of dashi, and the tiny packet of “mustard” that comes in a package of natto.

He mixed the sauce into natto and then piled it over blocks of silken tofu, which were also topped with the drained raw onions.

Yum, yummy.

Alas, the tofu was firmer than we prefer due to a recent tofu tragedy. We used to buy “president’s choice/ménu bleu” silken tofu, a store brand at Provigo (aka Atlantic Superstore aka Loblaws). But they haven’t had it for weeks and weeks. We even tried another store, but now hope has faded. Sniff. Japanese-style tofu is incredibly hard to come by in this part of the world…

We also had an unusual miso soup with this meal, with green peppers, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes. Yusuke used a bit of chicken broth, salt, and sugar (a tiny bit) instead of dashi powder.

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Shitake soup

This is a bit of a filler pic, but the soup was just so pretty. The soup ingredients are:

in a broth of

  • dashi
  • soy sauce
  • sake
  • salt.

That’s all, and so tasty.

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