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.
Pay no attention. Analogies are only confusing. Okonomiyaki isn’t “like” anything else you’ve tried before. It’s better.
This recipe is for Osaka-style okonomiyaki, the city’s signature dish. I’ve seen fancy London restaurants serve it as an exotic delicacy (and charge upwards of 12 pounds for one!) but, in Osaka, there’s nothing fancy about it: it’s a cheap, filling, flavorful meal young people adore.
I’m a Kansai girl, so Okonomiyaki is definitely “home cooking” for me. Regionalism aside, though, Okonomiyaki travels well. This is the one Japanese dish that just about every western person enjoys. Even Canadian children, who wouldn’t think of eating most of the weird things I put on this blog, seem to love okonomiyaki.
Truth is, okonomiyaki is “B-Grade cuisine” – which is a polite way of saying it’s junk food. And yet Osaka people take their okonomiyaki pretty seriously. Because, while making mediocre okonomiyaki is easy enough, making blockbuster okonomiyaki is the subject of much oneupmanship.
If you find this recipe a little involved, that’s because it’s designed to wow the locals. It shares a lot of little tips and tricks (marked in bold) I’ve learned over the years. Put in the time to follow them, and you’ll make Okonomiyaki better than any foreigner is supposed to be able to!
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.
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.
Butajiru is basically miso soup, but with one special ingredient: pork. The key thing here, though, is to go beyond just pork and add a lot of vegetables: enough to take it up a notch from the light broth you associate with Miso soup and turn it into the centerpiece of a meal.
What’s great about butajiru is that, once you chop all those vegetables, you don’t have to work a lot to make a really substantial meal. White rice, Butajiru and one small side dish (if you like) would make a perfect, well-balanced meal. So when cook is feeling a bit lazy, it’s a great solution: an easy warming dish for a cold winter day.
Because one thing I guarantee: Butajiru warms you up!
Like everybody else in Kansai, I’m udon-crazy: there’s no udon dish I don’t love. This particular way to make udon – basically a fast noodle stir fry – is as unpretentious as Japanese cooking gets: a casual dish served to the hungry masses, typically for lunch.
Usually, you would make yaki-udon with yakisoba sauce – a sweet-and-savory concoction close to the type of sauce we put on Japanese pancakes.
For this recipe, though, we do something a little different, relying on dashi. To make the seasoning, what we did is take some katsuobushi bonito flakes and some konbu and throw them in the blender!
Very easy…surprisingly delicious.
Here’s a recipe that doubles as a communal activity: Gyoza are labor-intensive little packets of flavor that you can make together with your friends and family.
You’ve probably already run into Gyoza: they’re commonly available as an appetizer in sushi places these days. Turns out you can make those at home! While they’re certainly a bit of work, you can also save a lot of money if you skip the restaurant bit.
Kids love Gyoza, and as a kid I used to love making Gyoza as well. So consider pressing your little ones into service here: their gyoza may not be the most symmetrical but they’ll love it, and gyoza-making is a skill they’ll be glad to have for the rest of their lives.
This is another dish of slightly questionable Japaneseness: Gyoza are strongly rooted in Chinese cooking. But that’s a historical footnote: Gyoza are so firmly established in the Japanese Kitchen these days, it’s absurd to think of them as “foreign” anymore.
You can find ready-made Gyoza pastry shells in most Asian stores. Buy a packet and then all you have to do is mix the filling and start folding…it’s fun!