Archive for stew

Winter stews

The last vestiges of winter are slowly creeping away (at least they better be), so I thought I should write up these lovely stews while they still seem seasonally appropriate.

Our December trip to Japan gave us the opportunity to have several special dishes that are especially associated with wintertime.

Noodles: soba and udon

Noodles: soba and udon

In mountain town of Gora, we had a fabulous lunch in a noodle restaurant. I chose soba—thin buckwheat noodles—and Yusuke selected udon, which is thick, almost doughy noodles. Both dishes had a light broth, probably soy sauce-based. My soba featured delicious mountain vegetables, like mushrooms (yay!), bamboo shoots, fiddleheads, and onions.

Daikon soup

Daikon soup

My mother-in-law made this soup one evening during our visit. Root vegetables are especially popular during the winter, and so daikon is the main element, along with pork, shitake mushrooms, and mizuna, a flavourful leafy green. Daikon is a root veggie, but since it’s a radish, it’s not starchy like potato or squash. The texture is much smoother and juicer, especially when it’s nicely ripe. If it’s not good quality (like we sometimes get in Montreal), it’s rather stringy. In Japan, all of the daikon was huge, white, and smooth, and it melts in your mouth when cooked in a stew. In Montreal, in contrast, sometimes it’s small and skinny, greenish, and pock-marked. Boo. I miss daikon in Japan.

Oden

Oden

Oden is awesome. It’s a pot dish that typically has various soy-based and processed fish-based products that are completely foreign to Western cuisine. The wikipedia article has a more detailed explanation. My mother-in-law made quite the oden feast. One of my sisters-in-law and I monopolized the konnyaku, but I liked all of the new things I tried in this dish. Another of my favourites was the kombu, which is thick seaweed, neatly tied into bows here. There’s also hanpen (the white triangles of surimi aka fish purée), gobomaki (boiled greater burdock root wrapped in surimi), chikuwa (tubes of surimi), ganmodoki (fried balls of tofu mixed with grated vegetables), and atsuage (deep fried tofu).

Nabe

Nabe

 

Finally, we had nabe on two different occasions (at a friend’s house and at a fabulous restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district). Nabe (short for nabemono) is central to Japanese culture and cuisine. It is essentially a hot pot dish, cooked on the dining table, in which all different types of meat, seafood, and veggies are boiled in a special broth. Everyone is served out of the communal pot on the table, so it brings a warmth and closeness when shared among family and friends. Chankonabe is special, extra-hearty nabe that is a staple in sumo wrestlers’ training diets…which is what we had in Ginza: a million different types of mushrooms (yay!), along with some kind of meat, napa, onions, eggs, tofu, noodles, and some other stuff that I can’t remember. At the lovely home of a friend, we had nabe chock full of succulent oysters (sooo fabulously juicy and briny), white fish, mushrooms, carrots, napa, and and other veggies. We didn’t take any pictures of our nabe, so I borrowed the one above from “Tavallai” on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tavallai/2084203089/. And another nabe pic with oysters is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/upon/2314309029/

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White stew

White stew

White stew

La Chamiza

La Chamiza

This creamy white stew features carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and white onions. (And chicken, which, as usual, I didn’t eat…picky, picky.) The base of the stew is very simple: just flour, milk, butter, white wine, and salt and pepper. I was surprised when Yusuke said that’s all that was in it, since the flavour is very rich. It’s filling enough that we only had some toast on the side to complete the meal. In my mind, it’s sort of a quintessential Northern/Eastern European dish, but food like this is also very popular in Japan. In fact, you can buy pre-made sauce cubes that just dissolve in boiling water. So efficient.

In addition to the wine in the stew, we had a bit more on the side. We tried something new: an Argentinian chardonnay, La Chamiza, which proved to be extremely tasty. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means; I just like to drink things that taste good. La Chamiza has been added to our new favourites list. And incidentally, the website’s description of the “mouth” sounds exactly like a self-description: “Young and fruity with fresh and persistent finish.”

Update: Argh, good thing this isn’t a photography blog. That picture is a bit icky when you enlarge it. But the stew looked fabulous. You just have to take my word for it…

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Curry rice

Curry rice

Curry rice

Cat bowl

Cat bowl

Curry rice is a fabulous nearly-instant meal—perfect for our French class/kendo practice nights. Even better, it makes tons of food, so we have lots left for lunch/dinner the next day. To make the dish, you just boil veggies in a big pot of water and then dissolve pre-made curry sauce cubes. Then the sauce and veggies are served steaming hot (as shown in the picture!) over rice. We usually use potatoes, carrots, and white onions. Yusuke also added bok choy this time. Our soup was miso with tofu, green onions, and seaweed.

Curry dishes are extremely popular in Japan: there’s even a wikipedia article on the subject, naturally. The 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.

Also, please note the cute cat bowl. Yusuke bought these (one pink, one blue) at a Korean store near our apartment, since they match dishes that his sister has in Japan. (Aww, gee.)

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