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.
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.
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!
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!
This is another dish that stretches the definition of “healthy”, but on the other hand chicken breast is a lot less fatty than pork, plus this dish fills them with vegetables. So this is still fried, but feels much lighter than ton-katsu.
In any case, my attitude is that it isn’t meals that are healthy or unhealthy, it’s diets. Eat sasami-roll-katsu four times a week and you have an unhealthy diet. Eat it once every two or three months and you have a delicious treat to look forward to as part of a healthy diet.
Preparation is quite similar to ton-katsu’s, but with a twist. Rather than just frying a cutlet, you’re making a kind of meat-and-vegetable roll, battering it, and frying the whole thing! It’s almost like a Japanese cordon bleu.
Making sasami-roll-katsu is not really difficult, but it will take time and your kitchen is going to be a big mess at the end. Sometimes, though, it’s worth it!
It’s probably not the first thing you think of, but if you ask me Japan’s true national dish is curry. Japanese people are crazy for the stuff: it’s served constantly, both at home and in restaurants. I think it has a good claim to be Japan’s best-loved dish.
Of course, curry isn’t from Japan. As everybody knows, curry is originally Indian, but the dish came to Japan in the late 19th century through the colonial route, via Britain. This may explain why compared to Indian curry, Japanese curry is usually quite mild, sweet even, and certainly never very spicy.
I’ve met some Canadians who are really into Japanese culture, and they all complained that whenever Japanese people invited them for dinner, they made curry! It’s easy to understand why they run into it so often at parties: this dish scales up very well, so it’s ideal for big gatherings, parties, and the like. And since everyone in Japan loves the stuff, it’s very often served to guests. (In honor of this, the recipe below is for 20 people!)
I’ll admit it: Westerners sometimes fail to see the point of Japanese curry. I can see why. If you’re used to Indian food, our way of making it could strike you as a little unexciting. I’ve come to the conclusion this is one of those dishes that divides cultures more than it brings them together: almost everyone in Japan loves Japanese style curry but reactions abroad are more mixed.
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.