Kanako's Kitchen

Konbu Tsukudani: Sea Kelp Rice Topping

Posted in mid-afternoon snack, Recipe, side dish by Kanako Noda on September 3, 2010

The concept of Konbu Tsukudani is a little hard to explain, since it’s a food category that doesn’t really exist in the West: a topping for white rice. As you may know, in Japan rice is usually cooked entirely plain, without even salt. Instead of flavoring rice as you cook it, as is done in the West, we usually add flavor to plain white rice by topping it with something intensely flavorful (or, if we’re making Onigiri, by stuffing it inside).

Intense certainly describes the taste of Konbu Tsukudani – a powerful mix of sweet, salty and umami. Usually I buy the ready-made kind in Japan and bring it, but I recently ran out. So, I decided to make some from scratch. Turns out, if you can get dried sea kelp, it’s easy.

In fact, Konbu Tsukudani is delicious even without rice. Probably the simplest way to enjoy tsukudani is to just eat it on its own, as an accompaniment to green tea: something intensely sweet and salty to heighten the flavor of the tea.

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Hiyashi Udon: Chilled Udon Noodles with Sauce

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

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.

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Shoga Gohan: Ginger-Scented Rice

Posted in Recipe, rice by Kanako Noda on August 16, 2010

August is when ginger is at its best. At this time of year, prices are low and you can find the fresh, fragrant roots everywhere.

If you read this blog regularly, you already know that Japanese home cooking is seasonal cooking. So, at this time of year, we make lots of deeply ginger-perfumed recipes – in part because of an old folk belief that this root helps fight off the sluggishness and lethargy you get when the weather gets really hot.

Here’s a flavored rice that puts ginger to good use. This spicy and refreshing ginger-scented rice goes great alongside fish. Best yet, it’s very easy to make: you just add some sliced ginger and a little bit of simple sauce, and cook it as you would plain white rice.

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Nanohana Ohitashi: Seasoned Rapini

Posted in Chopstick Vacation, Recipe, side dish, today's meal by Kanako Noda on August 9, 2010

I have a vivid memory of the instant I realized that Nanohana Ohitashi – a dish made by seasoning the young green shoots of the plant we get Canola oil from – is one of the most delicious and refined side dishes in the Japanese repertoire. I was still a university student. That day, I went to a restaurant in Kyoto with my parents, but without my sisters. I remember it clearly, perhaps because it was rare for us to go out without them. It was a classic Japanese restaurant: very sober, very refined.

The Nanohana Ohitashi was served to us in a big bowl to be shared. We were a little taken a back, at first, by the size of the portion. It was really a lot; actually, it seemed a little bit too much for three people. But as we started in on it, we quickly understood that finishing it wouldn’t be a problem: it was just so fragrant, so elegant, so stylish. Slightly piquant due to the mustard, and bitter but also sweet thanks to the contribution of the rapini. It was perfection in a side dish.

By the end, there was none left.

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First Annual Gyoza-Making Party Report

Posted in Recipe by Francisco Toro on August 2, 2010


Last night, Kanako’s Kitchen held its first annual Gyoza-making party.

Twenty first-time Gyoza makers, nearly 400 Gyoza made. A catastrophically failed attempt to make vegetarian gyoza, but wonderful success with the meaty ones.

Great fun!

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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Yakinasu: Grilled Aubergines

Posted in Recipe, side dish by Kanako Noda on July 22, 2010

There’s a reason you usually don’t see aubergine recipes here: sadly, I have a pretty nasty food allergy to them. It’s terrible, because I was a huge fan until they started to make me ill, about three years ago. Today, though, I’ve decided that Yakinasu is worth blogging even if I can’t have any of it for myself. So here’s a recipe I made for some dinner guests last night.

As the name suggests (Yaki=grill, Nasu=aubergine), this recipe is really simple: basically just aubergines you’ve grilled and peeled. That’s it! Simple as it is, the results will definitely surprise you: grilling eggplants this way gives them a deep, smoky, earthy taste you’re going to love.

This recipe is not difficult at all, but it does call for patience and finesse. Part of what’s challenging about it is that you need to keep those eggplants on the grill long past the point where they look basically ruined: it’s by letting the skin char completely that you get that deep, smoky flavor.  The result is so delicate and delicious, I think it’s an excellent choice for guests.

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