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!
This is one of the most popular Japanese home cooked side-dishes. It’s not a complicated recipe, but you do need some tips and experience to make a really good one that blends the squash’s natural sweetness with just the right amount of salty soy sauce and umami dashi. In fact, this is one of those recipes where it really pays to measure things carefully before tossing them in!
Squash arrived in Japan in the middle of 16th century from Cambodia through the Portuguese. Originally, we got a kind of butternut squash, but today the green-on-the-outside variety, known as kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin, is the most common in Japan.
Kabocha Nimono is the kind of old kitchen stand-by recipe most Japanese moms can make with their eyes closed. Cooked this way, you don’t even have to peel the squash: the skin becomes very soft through simmering. The big pitfall to watch out for here is using too much moisture and letting the pumpkin get all soggy. The goal is to get the squash soft and buttery, almost like a chestnut. You don’t want it waterlogged.
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.
Full disclosure: on our recent trip to Japan, we ate an outrageous amount of tofu.
All I can say is, she made a believer out of me. Or, maybe that’s soft-pedalling it a bit. A fanatic. Yes. She made a tofu fanatic out of me.
I guess a food blogger shouldn’t say this, but it’s a fact: I’m a big fan of junk food. Of course I don’t eat greasy snacks every day but, sometimes, I do get these cravings for some things you’ve heard of (potato chips, fried chicken) and others you probably haven’t, like Gobou Fries.
Of course, I’m aware that fried snacks have an image problem, but I go by Michael Pollan’s Food Rule #39: you get a free pass on any junk food you make at home, from scratch. When you make your own junk food, it becomes what it should be: a rare treat, rather than a health destroying habit. Plus gobou is full of fibre, so even when fried it’s much healthier than potato chips.
In case you’re wondering, Gobou is the taproot of the Burdock plant – you know, the one with the bulbs that stick to your socks when you walk in the woods. The roots have a highly distinctive appearance: brown and earthy just like an ordinary root, but very thin and very long. In Montreal you can always find gobou at Kim Phat. Elsewhere, many Asian Stores carry it, so don’t be afraid to ask.
I often serve Gobou Fries to guests as a snack to go with beers before dinner, sort of the way you serve peanuts. In my experience, most Western people are totally unfamiliar with it, but once they taste it, then they keep picking at it until it’s gone. Delish.