Japanese GyΕ«don – So easy yet so delicious!

I love Japanese Gyudon, aka beef rice bowl. When the beef imports from the US were banned due to mad cow disease in 2004, there were Yoshinoya’s (a Japanese chain restaurant whose best seller is always gyudon) maniac fans flew to Los Angeles to have a taste. This is one of the staple comfort food in Japan.

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Ingredients: (yielding 3-4 servings)
2 cups of rice, steamed

1 medium onion, chopped into long and thin strips
12 oz beef, thinly sliced (make sure every slice of meat has a good ratio of lean and fatty meats. I used thinly sliced beef brisket bought from Korean supermarket)
3 stems of green onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp of oil (I used bacon grease)
1 1/2 cup of Dashi stock or chicken broth
6 Tbsp of soy sauce
4 Tbsp of sugar
2 Tbsp of Sake or cooking wine
1 Tbsp of mirin
4 Tbsp of pickled red ginger (benisouga)
1 Tbsp of white sesame seeds
Salt and pepper

Steam the rice in a rice cooker.

Heat the oil in a shallow pot on medium-high heat. Add onion strips and cook for 2-3 min until translucent. Add the stock and let boil. Turn the heat down to medium. Add soy sauce, sugar, mirin and cooking wine, let cook for another 3 min.

Add beef to the pot and cook for another 5-8 min. Add salt and pepper to taste. To adjust the color, you can choose to add a few drops of aged soy sauce to darken the color.

Pour everything including the sauce over steamed rice and top with a pinch of chopped green onions. Finally, add a tbsp of red ginger on the top and drizzle some sesame seeds on the top.

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It is so quick and easy yet tasty, I love it! Hope you like it too! πŸ™‚

PS. A salad or a quick stir-fry on the side will help add more vegetable/fruit intake along with this savory, tantalizing dish!

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Zaru Soba for the win!

It is very hot here in the Front Range, high 90’s almost everyday for the past couple of weeks. The high heat deteriorates my appetite to eat almost anything let alone my desire to stay in the kitchen. If I could, I would rather have like 30 icy cold watermelons sitting in the pantry and eat one a day throughout the summer days.

Today I am going to talk about a traditional Japanese household food often prepared to combat the summer heat – zaru soba, aka buckwheat noodles (soba) served in bamboo basket (zaru). My cold soba is just as delicious but without the bamboo basket. πŸ˜›

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Ingredients:
Soba noodles 16oz
Sliced seaweed sheets (Nori strips)
Green onion, finely chopped (if available)
Mentsuyu (I actually had soba tsuyu at hand, you can usually get dipping sauce in local Asian grocery store. I kept mentsuyu in the fridge so it is also nice and cold when served.)

Boil water in a large pot. Add the soba noodles and put them in so that they form a circularly radiate wheel-like pattern. This is to make sure the noodles are somewhat separated from each other. Keep boiling for about 3-8 minutes. The time varies greatly depending the kind you get, make sure you read the heating instructions, as it is very easy to overcook the noodles and they turn mushy. Stir occasionally to avoid cluttering. Drain the noodles in a colander and run icy cold water onto the noodles for about 30 seconds. Keep a few ice cubes with the noodles in the colander to maintain the cool.

Sprinkle the green onions, seaweed strips onto the noodles. Dip every bite of the noodles into a bowl full of mentsuyu before eating.

If you do not have mentsuyu at hand, you can make your own.

Mentsuyu ingredients:
1.5 cup of dashi stock (or 5g dashi powder and 1.5 cup of water)
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
Salt

Mix everything and bring to boil. Add water if the texture comes out too thick. Viola!

If you have some chilled edamame and other side dishes to go with the soba, this will be a perfect summer meal without too much sweat and effort.

On the streak of cold noodles, I will talk about Beijing-style cold noodle dish with sesame sauce soon. Enjoy!

Nikujaga – Japanese Beef Stew

Niku = meat and jaga-imo = potatoes. So Nikujaga literally translates into “meat and potatoes” in Japanese. This is a very hearty dish commonly cooked in winter among Japanese households. With another Shanghainese street food to prepare, I bought more potatoes and carrots than I needed. I decided to make Nikujaga to use up the rest of the potatoes and carrots.

Ingredients:
1 lbs of thinly sliced beef, preferably a cut with enough fat on it (I unfortunately only had lean cut, the meat was a little dry after being cooked for a while)
1 onion, chopped into thin strips
4 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into big chunks
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into big chunks
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into halves
Coconut oil
salt and little pepper
1/2 cup of sake
1/2 tsp of dashi powder
2-3 tsp of sugar
5 tsp of soy sauce

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Heat coconut oil in a pot. The pot needs a certain amount of depth but not too deep making it hard to stir later. Add the beef slices to the pot and cook them through. Remove the cooked beef slices and leave the grease in the pot. Add the onion strips in the pot and cook until they turn semi-transparent. Add the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms and stir for about 2 minutes. Add sake and cook until you smell the alcohol coming out. Add dashi powder, salt and pepper, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir to mix well and cook for another minute. Shirataki noodles (yam noodles) are often added too, but I didn’t have any at the time so I skipped this one. Pour the beef slices back into the pot and simmer with a lid partially covering the pot for about 20-30 minutes. While cooking, add a little water if the food seems dry but make sure you do so after 10-15 minutes of simmering – usually there will be enough water coming out of the vegetables after a while. Once the meat becomes tender and the carrots and the potatoes are soft, Add the green beans and cook for another 5-8 minutes. Dish out to serve.

The sauce is quite tasty and if you have any extra, pour the sauce on top of some steamed rice. They go great together!

It is such a simple dish with wonderful flavor profile. I love it! πŸ™‚

Tonkatsu and home-made sauce

Yesterday I was in the mood for some tonkatsu (Japanese-style pork cutlet) served with rice and stir fried vegetables.

Sauce ingredients: I used this recipe online http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/09/tonkatsu-sauce-japanese-barbecue-recipe.html

1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

In a small pot, mix all the ingredients. Put on low heat and cook to a glue-y consistency. Let sit for about 10-20 minutes before serving.

Ingredients:
Pork loin thin cutlets, preferably mostly lean cuts (1/2 – 3/4 inch thickness)
1 large egg, beaten well in a bowl
Corn starch or flour
Panko (VERY large bread crumbs, usually available in Asian supermarket)
Salt and Pepper
Vegetable oil or canola oil (since we’ll be using quite a bit of oil to fry the cutlets, I chose the cheaper oil over expensive olive oil.)

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Use a sharp knife to tenderize the cutlets to form a crosshatch pattern and turn to the other side, repeat. Use your hands or fists to gently pound on the meat to spread out a bit more to about an ideal 3/8 inch thickness. Add salt and pepper to both sides and massage into the cutting lines. Coat both sides with flour or corn starch. Soak the cutlets into the bowl of the beaten egg and make sure both sides are well covered. Dredge the cutlets in Panko and make sure the cutlets are evenly coated with Panko.

Add oil to a pot to about 3/4 – 1 inch depth from the bottom. Put on medium heat and wait until the oil gets to about 370 F. Lower the cutlets into the oil gently and let cook until one side turns golden brown, which usually takes about 2-3 minutes and then flip to the other side. When the temperature in the middle of the cutlet reaches about 140 F, the meat is done. Place some paper towel on a plate to soak the grease and transfer the cutlets onto the plate. Let the meat to sit for about 5 minutes so that the juice inside gets reabsorbed.

Add the tonkatsu sauce and serve. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Sometimes just a few slices will make your day…

I spent literally ONE minute to slice the fish, 30 seconds to spread a ton of wasabi onto the soy sauce. Eating sashimi with a bowl of warm rice (drizzled with rice vinegar) is simply the simplest but greatest treat. Mmmmm…..

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So this was the reason why I was craving some sashimi at home last night while waiting for a snow storm to come – SUSHI PARTY at a friend’s three days ago…lol.

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Skiing comfort food – Japanese potato salad

When you are out and about skiing, if you are tired of eating home-made PB&J or lodge-provided chicken tenders and french fries like I am, then this post is for you. I like the idea of packing a sandwich that is quick and cheap and the texture does not change too much when kept in pockets for hours. But the idea of eating soft water-dripping leafy greens, barely tasting the thin slices of ham or salami turns me off a little bit.

This Japanese potato salad goes very well with the bread and it still maintains chunky filling taste. I even start looking forward to eating this while skiing.

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To make 3-4 sandwich fillings, you will need the following:

3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and each cut into 3-4 big chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 4-5 big chunkes
1/2 onion, finely minced
1 cucumber, finely sliced and squeeze out the water a bit
3/4 or 1 lbs of ham, chopped into small cubes
3-4 tablespoons of green peas, cooked
Some spicy sprouts
2-3 tablespoon of Japanese mayo (Kewpie brand)
2-3 teaspoons of honey
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Salt
Black pepper

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In a pot, boil water and throw in chopped potato and carrot chunks. Cook for about 30 min or so until you can use a fork to easily poke through the carrots and the potatoes. Meanwhile, chop up other ingredients. When potatoes and carrots are ready, drain the water and throw the potato into a big bowl. Mash up the potato chunks while they are still hot. Add the olive oil, honey, lemon juice, mayo onto the mashed potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Cool the carrots with cold water and chop the carrots into small cubes. Throw in the carrot, onion, ham, cucumber, peas, sprouts and mix. Add more olive oil, honey and mayo to increase the stickiness of the sandwich filling. And spread the filling onto your bread to make a delicious sandwich!

This sandwich is packed with calories as well as nutrients. Enjoy it while on the slope!

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

Octopus balls in cast iron pan

I love Japanese snack food! Takoyaki, aka Octopus ball, is one of them. I bought this cast iron pan on Amazon that can make 16 Takoyakis in one batch.

To make the batter for Takoyaki, you will need common ingredients such as flour, eggs, water, baking powder, salt and grated mountain yam. You will also need dashi powder, which is a common item in Japanese household but might require some effort to find in the US.

Ingredients:
To make one batch of 16-20 Takoyakis, you need
1/2 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp dashi powder,
1 egg,
100g flour,
400ml cold water.

1 big chunk of Octopus
A small bowl of Agedama
3-4 Green onions
Half handful of Japanese pickled ginger

You need chopped up already boiled octopus bits, size of 1 cm cubic – or anything of similar size really. Make agedama using Tempura mix. Finely chop up green onions, and Japanese pickled ginger — Beni shoga.

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Heat the pan and brush the pan with olive oil. Pour the batter into pan so that the batter fills the half hole and levels with pan. Add octopus bits, agedama, green onion, and ginger to each hole. Pour more batter to overflow the pan. Use two long sticks to keep tucking in the batter and start rotating batter so that they form balls. Takoyakis will be ready to serve until they turn golden and crispy.

To taste, you will need:
Japanese mayo — I usually use a brand called Kewpie
Okonomiyaki sauce
Aonori — a kind of sea week flakes
Bonito flakes — shaved flakes of dried Bonito fish

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAnd, we are done. Enjoy!!!
Here is an awesome video illustrating how to make Takoyaki, thanks to Runnyrunny999. πŸ™‚