This braised dish is one way my mother solved that perennial “so, what’s for dinner?” problem: unbelievably delicious, made from ingredients that cost next to nothing, healthy and ready in just a few minutes.
When you find you’ve bought a bit too much Napa Cabbage (hakusai) and you’re not sure how to finish it all, this is the solution.
Since I started this blog, a key goal has been to show that Japanese cooking is much more than sushi. For that reason, I’ve mostly avoided sushi recipes – the only exception being Inarizushi. Now, after a long break, I’m breaking my initial promise once more.
Last time I went back to Japan and visited my grandmother in Kyushu, she made a traditional dish, Gomokuzushi, for our family reunion. Gomokuzushi is Gomoku (a mix of many ingredients) Sushi. It was so delicious I wanted to share the recipe with you.
Gomokuzushi is often served for a special occasions, such as birthday parties, family reunions and Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day celebration). It is a perfect dish for a party because it looks gorgeous but you don’t need special ingredients, such as super fresh fish, so it’s not too expensive to make, and it’s easy to scale it up to feed many people. You wouldn’t want to bring sushi with raw fish to a potluck or a picnic, but Gomokuzushi is perfect for these sorts of occasions.
It’s is one of those dishes where the exact recipe will vary from family to family. The main ingredient in my grandma’s Gomokuzushi is chicken. The process seems complicated, but that’s just because I’m writing all the “insider tips” you need to get it just right in full detail. So don’t be afraid. Once you get the knack, it’s quite simple.
My grandma’s original recipe is just 4 lines!
Hello loyal readers! Sorry for disappearing but I’ve been really busy with my non-cooking life. I don’t want the blog to stay dormant forever, though, and my husband really wanted me to add this recipe for his new favorite way to eat chicken: minced!
When you think about it, it’s funny: ground beef and ground pork are common enough, but how often do you see ground chicken? Our local supermarket sure doesn’t sell it, so for this recipe, we mince it ourselves. It’s not the most pleasant of kitchen tasks, granted, but it’s not actually hard either…just chop some chicken thigh and breast meat into blocks and put it through a food processor. Takes a minute or two.
Torisoboro Gohan isn’t really a fancy dish, but it’s very flavorful and always seems to be a major hit when I’ve served it to Westerners. To make it really appealing, you want to pair it with brightly colored garnishings – usually green beens and silk-thread eggs – aiming for a tri-color effect at the end.
As you may have noticed, chilled noodles are a summertime favorite in Japan: an understandable reaction to the oppressive heat that falls over the country at this time of year. This version is not too different from Hiyashi somen, but you make it with thick Udon noodles instead of those thin Somen. The other difference is that the noodles, together with all the toppings, are put into each diner’s bowl from the start, rather than being taken little by little from common dishes at the table.
As toppings, you have some leeway to choose your favorite: a lot of people are fans of a Natto and Okra topping, others prefer roast pork, salad, grated daikon and so on. Me? I go for that soft-boiled egg…
Today, we made Hiyashi Udon because we were in a bit of a hurry and didn’t want to spend too long cooking. Another plus: here’s a dish you can make in 20 minutes flat. To save even more time, you could even use the same sauce you made for Somen on your Hiyashi Udon, but I prepared a slightly different sauce today.
Do you like pork roast? Of course you do, it’s delicious! It’s also greasy and heavy and, all things considered, probably not the healthiest meal around. So what if you want a lighter, healthier alternative? Kocha-buta is the solution: a sort of Mock Pork Roast made by boiling pork loin in black tea.
I have no idea when, where or who invented this recipe, but I think it’s very homey and Japanese. Boiling gets rid of a lot of the extra fat in pork, and the black tea softens that meaty smell while also flavoring it and coloring the outside. The result is an incredibly tender, juicy meat that looks like a Pork Roast, but isn’t.
In Japan it’s popular to serve Kocha-buta in a Sweet & Sour sauce. In my house, though, my mom would always serve it cold, with salad and Ponzu (vinegar) sauce. As per usual, here I’m sharing mom’s recipe.
One advantage to kocha-buta is that you can keep it in the fridge for a week to 10 days, so it’s a good idea to make a lot and eat it a bit at a time over several days. If you’re making Hiyashi Chuka, it’s a lovely idea to substitute a bit of left-over Kocha-buta in place of the ham.
Nitsuke is a very simple simmering technique that yields a deep, sweet, salty, gingery, umami main dish in just a few minutes. A mainstay of everyday Japanese home cooking, Saba Nitsuke is definitely one of the three or four most often-cooked Japanese dishes.
It’s hard to know what more to say about it, actually. My husband pointed out to me that my mom would make it constantly while we were staying at my parents’ house in Japan. But Saba nitsuke is so common, banal even, it’s almost invisible: I’d never even noticed how often we eat it until he mentioned it.
This simmering technique, by the way, works well not only with mackerel but also with just about any kind of fatty fish, including flatfish, sea bream, sardines and pacific saury, too.
Walk down any main street in Japan at the start of the summer and you’ll see these little signboards hanging from restaurant shingles saying “We’ve Started Making Hiyashi Chuka” (Hiyashi Chuka Hajimemashita) . It’s when you start seeing those Hiyashi Chuka signs that you feel summer’s really started.
What is Hiyashi Chuka? Literally, it’s “chilled chinese” – meaning “chilled chinese noodles“, of course. It’s another of those refreshing cold-noodle dishes we Japanese instinctively turn to when the weather gets sticky and hot.
The key to this dish is the Kinshi tamago ( “Silk thread egg”) garnish: basically, a stack of omelettes sliced very very thin. It takes some practice to get kinshi tamago just right, but once you learn how to make it, it will be very useful to garnish a lot of Japanese dishes.
For this recipe, I use Japanese Somen noodles instead of chinese noodles. That may seem contradictory, considering the name and all but, somehow, the real chinese noodles we find in Canada are different from “Made-in-Japan Chinese-style noodles” we get back home. Trust me, though: somen noodles work great with this recipe. Added plus: Somen noodles are easy to find in almost any Asian store.
Since so many of my readers seem to live in Japan, I should add a clarification: in Western Japan, where I’m from, this dish is often called “reimen“. This can lead to confusion on two fronts. First, because it sounds a bit like “ramen” – that ubiquitous hot noodle soup. The two are not at all the same. And, second, because in Eastern and Northern Japan, “reimen” refers to a spicy cold noodle dish from Korea that’s become Morioka’s signature dish: that kind of “reimen” is totally different from Hiyashi Chuka.