Posts Tagged noodles

Eggplant, cabbage, and harusame layers

birthday dinner

This was my birthday dinner. (For those keeping track, yes, that was a fair few moons ago, but I’m not always prompt with updating.)

I didn’t have anything specific to request, but I asked for a light and simple meal…partially in the hope that Yusuke wouldn’t go to too much trouble. That failed, though: the meal was exquisite in its simplicity, but he took great care in preparing it. And naturally, many of my current favourite foods were included.

The bottom layer of the dish is boiled cabbage.

Next come delicately sautéed crimini mushrooms, whose health benefits evidently surpass those of other varieties.

The next component is my beloved eggplants, here fried in sesame oil to a delicate golden brown. Juicy.

And the pièce de résistance: boiled harusame noodles, which I wrote about in a previous post.

The neatly arranged layers were then drizzled with a sauce of:

  • soy sauce
  • ginger
  • rice wine vinegar
  • sesame oil
  • shichimi (spicy powder)

To complete the parade of my favourite tastes, we also had okra and egg miso soup.

Happy birthday to me!

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Harusame soup

This soup’s broth is very simple:

  • chicken bouillon/water
  • sea salt
  • sugar (tiny bit)
  • soy sauce (tiny bit)

The main contents are:

  • napa (chinese cabbage)
  • crimini mushrooms
  • harusame noodles

Very tasty.

So what are harusame noodles, one might ask?

The wikipedia article offers the translation “cellophane noodles,” which sounds pretty much unappetizing to me. But other descriptions are better: glass noodles, bean thread noodles, or vermicelli.

According to Wise Geek, they’re Japanese noodles made from potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, or mung bean starch.

The noodles are extremely thin and become translucent when cooked. Since they’re less dense or “doughy” than other types of noodles, they’re delightful in soup!

Harusame (春雨) means spring rain, and you can google for more pics.

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Nasu udon

Preparations for this light and tasty meal began with the core component: baby eggplant.

Yusuke scored around the top of the eggplants and the baked them on foil on the oven rack until the skin was blackened. Alongside them went green onions, which become very sweet when roasted.

Meanwhile, he boiled udon noodles in plain water. When finished, they were drained.

Next, he prepared a broth of:

  • water
  • sea salt
  • sake (tiny bit)
  • soy sauce (tiny bit)
  • dashi powder

When the eggplants were done, he put them in cold water to remove the skin. The last step was to slice the flesh partially into quarters.

Finally, it was time to assemble everything. First into our awesome cat bowls went the noodles, then the broth, then the veggies neatly arranged on top, followed by a dollop of ginger paste.

The broth’s light saltiness really made the eggplant fantastic.

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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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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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