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.
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.
Walk down any main street in Japan at the start of the summer and you’ll see these little signboards hanging from restaurant shingles saying “We’ve Started Making Hiyashi Chuka” (Hiyashi Chuka Hajimemashita) . It’s when you start seeing those Hiyashi Chuka signs that you feel summer’s really started.
What is Hiyashi Chuka? Literally, it’s “chilled chinese” – meaning “chilled chinese noodles“, of course. It’s another of those refreshing cold-noodle dishes we Japanese instinctively turn to when the weather gets sticky and hot.
The key to this dish is the Kinshi tamago ( “Silk thread egg”) garnish: basically, a stack of omelettes sliced very very thin. It takes some practice to get kinshi tamago just right, but once you learn how to make it, it will be very useful to garnish a lot of Japanese dishes.
For this recipe, I use Japanese Somen noodles instead of chinese noodles. That may seem contradictory, considering the name and all but, somehow, the real chinese noodles we find in Canada are different from “Made-in-Japan Chinese-style noodles” we get back home. Trust me, though: somen noodles work great with this recipe. Added plus: Somen noodles are easy to find in almost any Asian store.
Since so many of my readers seem to live in Japan, I should add a clarification: in Western Japan, where I’m from, this dish is often called “reimen“. This can lead to confusion on two fronts. First, because it sounds a bit like “ramen” – that ubiquitous hot noodle soup. The two are not at all the same. And, second, because in Eastern and Northern Japan, “reimen” refers to a spicy cold noodle dish from Korea that’s become Morioka’s signature dish: that kind of “reimen” is totally different from Hiyashi Chuka.
Today, to celebrate my friend’s birthday, I made a very simple pound cake with Azuki – Japanese sweet red bean. Maybe this is not one of the most typical Japanese deserts, but this is one of the best way to eat Azuki paste (Anko).
If you were a real fanatic, you could make the paste yourself, but here we use store bought.
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!
Here’s another of many possible variants on Osuimono, a simple clear broth that we use as the main alternative to miso soup. As always with Osuimono, this recipe is simple: a light, delicate broth with a couple of ingredients suspended in it, nothing more.
Whichever variant you choose, you’ll find there’s really not a lot to Osuimono. It takes a certain sensibility to appreciate a soup as austere as this one. But in Japan, this kind of thing is deeply appreciated.
Here’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!