As you know, I’m not a big fan of sushi. On an average day, making sushi is far too much work for the home cook to take on: you have to make the rice, flavor it with vinegar, then let it cool, then make each sushi shape by hand, plus you need several different types of fish for credible sushi. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, who needs it?
But what if you have a craving for raw tuna, but don’t want to go to all the trouble to make sushi? In that case, try this maguro zuke-don recipe, a kind donburi (see also Oyako-don) made by placing sashimi (raw fish – in this case, tuna) over a bowl of normal white rice.
The great thing is that even very lean tuna – which doesn’t make for very good sushi – works quite well in Maguro zuke-don. The result is this easy, quick, and really satisfying dish.
I love potato chips, but sometimes I find them too salty and oily, so they fail to satisfy. Jagaimo-mochi is a good alternative at times like that, a snack for when you’re a bit hungry and want something salty.
At heart, jagaimo mochi is an oyatsu – a mid-afternoon snack – the kind of thing moms make to welcome their hungry kids home from school, and so it’s tied to all kinds of childhood memories for me. But the recipe also works well as a light meal, or as a tasty grown-up nibble with beers.
At the end of the day, jagaimo mochi are potato pancakes, but not as you know them!
Lets be clear: standard Japanese rice is plain. No flavorings, no spices, no salt, no nothing. Just rice, water, heat and time. Older people in Japan – and even a good number of younger people – eat this kind of plain white rice three times a day. It’s like bread for Western people: there at every meal.
So that’s the standard thing. But once every great while mom gets frisky and decides to do something different with rice. Enter takikomi-gohan: a flavored rice that can serve as a main course. Takikomi-gohan can be eaten hot or cold, and it’s a popular lunch-box item. We don’t make this kind of rice every day. We don’t even make it often. But every once in a while, it really hits the spot.
Historians will tell you that tempura was introduced to Japan in the 16th century, by Portuguese traders. These days, nobody in Japan would dream of calling tempura foreign food, though: we think of it as quintessentially Japanese.
Deep fried bits of meat, shrimp or vegetables are not, of course, the first thing that pops into foreign people’s minds when they think of Japanese cooking. But tempura is a much loved treat throughout Japan: after all, even the healthiest diet should have some fried things in it once in a while!