Kanako's Kitchen

Kocha-buta: Mock Pork Roast with Tea

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on July 28, 2010

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.

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Vegetable Agebitashi: Marinated Deep Fried Vegetables

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on July 8, 2010

It’s still hot in Montreal, so we’re still doing refreshing summer recipes. This one uses the same somen sauce we wrote about the other day – actually, we’re using leftovers here. This is one of the very few vegetarian dishes you’ll find in this blog. But don’t be fooled: a disturbing amount of oil goes into this dish, so Vegetable Agebitashi is more a hearty main dish than  a light side dish.

Agebitashi means fry (Age) and soak (Hitashi). So how do you make it? First you fry the vegetables, then you soak them in the sauce. That’s all! The kicker is that you serve it cold – very cold. It sounds strange, I know, but just trust me and give it a try. And be sure to serve this with simple white rice. They go very well together.

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Shoga-yaki: Stir-fried pork with ginger

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on December 2, 2009

Literally, shoga-yaki means “ginger stir-fry” but, of course, the shioga (“ginger”) refers to the flavoring rather than the main ingredient. As its name implies, the fragrance of grated ginger is the key to this dish: combined with the sweetness of onions and the succulence of pork, it makes for an absolutely winning stir fry!

When I started to write this post, I tried to do my usual thing: a bit of online research to try to find out where it’s originally from. Turns out it’s really hard to pin shiogayaki down: anywhere in Asia where there’s ginger, soy sauce and pigs somebody will try to put the three together on a hot pan.

And the results are…well, just give it a try. This dish will make a believer out of you in no time.

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Kakiage: Vegetable Fritters in dashi sauce

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on November 27, 2009

Kakiage is a member of the tempura family, though these mixed vegetable fritters are less complicated to make than is usual for tempura. For this recipe, I show you how to suspend them in a dashi-based sauce rather than serving them in the usual tempura way – with salt or Worcestershire Sauce. Needless to say, if you prefer, you can eat them that way as well.

Kakiage is a useful recipe when you need to use up the vegetables remaining in your fridge, things like onions, carrots and green beans. Just make some Kakiage, then keep the finished fritters in the freezer. You can eat them on their own, as I show here, or with Udon noodles. When you make udon, take the ready kakiage out from the freezer, heat it in the toaster and add them to the noodle soup as a topping: a great way to sex up a simple bowl of udon.

Made right, the fritters will retain a bit of their crunch even underneath a very watery sauce. The result is absolutely scrumptuous!

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Piman Nikuzume: Bell Peppers stuffed with Meat

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on November 20, 2009

Just looking at the Japanese name for this dish you can tell that something screwy is going on here: “piman” comes, of course, from the French “piment” – bell pepper. In fact, Piman Nikuzume is a typical example of “Yoshoku” – 洋食 – a “western style meal.” As you can guess, what we have here is a thoroughly Japanified take on Westernness. Really, Yoshoku means “Japanese Style Western Style Meal.”

The stuffing here could just as easily turn into “hambaagu” – you guessed it, Japanese style “hamburger”, which is more like a hamburger steak and a third of the way to a meatball rather than something you’d eat between slices of bread.

In Japan, though, eating just meat is considered a little boring and usually too heavy, so the solution in this case is to encase the hambaagu in vegetables. Of course, just putting a bell pepper around it doesn’t really make a hambaagu lighter, but psychologically, somehow, it becomes much more acceptable to the Japanese palate. For me, also, piman nikuzume is always much nicer to eat than hambaagu: a mongrel dish that tastes like home to me.

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Harumaki: Japanese Style Spring Rolls

Posted in main dish, Recipe by Kanako Noda on November 9, 2009

spring rollThis old Chinese restaurant favorite is already a hit in the west. In Japan, though, spring rolls long since made the jump from restaurant food to home cooking.

Though the basic package is always more or less the same, each family has its own recipe for the filling. Here, I show you the way my mom used to make it, with glass noodles instead of vegetables.

Whatever you put inside, the thing that makes a great spring roll is simple: the contrast between a soft filling inside and crunchy pastry outside. You can play around with the filling, so long as the result is soft.

What you get is Harumaki, a tasty treat absolutely everybody loves.

There are a lot of steps in this recipe, but don’t be put off: this is actually really easy to make. In fact, because it uses no eggs, no flour and no bread crumbs, Harumaki one of the least messy ways to make a good fried dinner. Give it a try!

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Oyako-don: Chicken in Egg Sauce over Rice

Posted in Recipe, rice, today's meal by Kanako Noda on November 5, 2009

oyakodonHere’s a chicken-and-the-egg dish whose name is a bit of a play on words. Oya means parent and Ko = child. The don is short for donburi, a whole family of protein-in-sauce-over-a-rice-bowl dishes. So put it together and you get “parent-and-child-donburi”…get it?

Following much the same recipe you could also make Tanin-don, which uses pork instead of chicken. (Tanin means…wait for it…”strangers”). Or skip the meat and you end up with Tamago-don (tamago = “egg”). The sauce is the same in each: all of them are delicious.

A donburi is, by definition, nothing fancy. Yet, when it’s done well, oyako-don can be absolutely magnificent: a light, savory-sweet dream of chicken and egg over sticky rice.

This is the dish that first convinced my husband that Japanese food really is something special. On trips to Japan, he forces me to hunt around for the best Oyakodon, finally landing in a tiny restaurant in Kyoto famous for this dish. With a typical Kyoto taste, light and delicate, this dish transcends its junk food roots and comes very close to…well…a work of art.

This recipe is dedicated to our friend Juan who went to the Asian store in his home town and got confused – buying Japanese pepper (sanshyo) instead of Japanese peppers. He’s been wondering what to do with the pepper ever since. Well, Juan, oyako-don here is an excellent use for your sanshyo!

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