Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Japanese caramelized soy fish

The way fish is prepared in Japanese cuisine is
one of my favorites. The balance between savory and
sweet of this preparation is easy to achieve. Use any
white fish as long as it's not too flaky or flat like trout or sole.
I serve it with a little bit of arugula ( for its peppery flavor) and
some grated daikon.
(serves 2)


- 3/4 lb white fish
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp neutral oil (canola, grapeseed)
- freshly ground black pepper

- handful of arugula (optional)
- grated daikon (optional)
- Japanese rice (optional)


Put a pan over medium/high heat and wait until it's hot. Add oil and fish, cook for 2 minutes (depending on its thickness, you may have to cook it for less or more). Add soy sauce and sugar, lower the heat and flip the fish over. Cook for another 2 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and is caramelizing/sticking on the fish. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Omusoba (Japanese omelet with stir fried noodles and veggies)

Omusoba is a very popular dish in Japan that can be
found in 'family restaurants' and izakayas (Japanese brasseries).
It is an uncomplicated dish, remindful of what you would
get in a Japanese household. Sweet and savory flavors
are both present in this Japanese omelet that's extremely
satisfying on a cold day!

Makes about 4 omelets


- 8 eggs
- 1 carrot, cut into small strips
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups cabbage, chopped bite size
- 4 tbsp neutral oil (grapeseed, canola)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 sheet nori (dried seaweed), ground (I use a coffee grinder) or very finely chopped
- 6 oz (170g) chow mein noodles (ramen noodles are also good)
- Tonkatsu sauce 
- Kewpie Mayonnaise (optional)
- salt & pepper


Boil your noodles just short of al dente (you will finish them in the pan), rinse in cold water and set aside. 

In a large pan over high heat, add 2 tbsp oil, garlic and onions, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until they are almost soft (about 8 minutes). 

Lower the heat and add noodles, water, soy sauce, sake, rice vinegar, sugar and nori. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes.

While the veggies are finishing up in the pan, grab another pan to make your omelets. Use 2 eggs per omelet (break in a bowl and briefly whisk). Add oil to the pan and when the oil is hot, make your first omelet. When the omelet is ready, put it on a plate and repeat the process until all your omelets are made. 

Equally divide the veggie and noodle mix and spread it on one side of each omelet. Fold with the empty side, squirt a good amount of Tonkatsu sauce on top, add some kewpie mayonnaise too if you like to add creaminess, and serve!

Oshitashi (boiled spinach with soy and sesame seeds)

This is a very common side dish you will find in most Japanese 
restaurants and few ingredients are needed for its preparation.
You can have it as a side or eat it with a bowl of rice with pickles,
umeboshi, mentaiko, bonito flakes, etc... The options are endless!
 The flavors are delicate, clean and perfectly balanced.

- 1 bag pre-washed spinach
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp soy sauce

Bring a pot or large pan of water to boil, with a little salt added. 

Add spinach to boiling water and cook for a minute. Take the spinach out as soon as it starts to wilt a little (don't wait until it's completely wilted). Shock it in a bowl of cold water and ice (this stops it from cooking). 

Remove the spinach from ice water and squeeze out as much water as you can without pressing too hard on the spinach. You'll end up with a ball about the size of your hand. Roughly chop it, squeeze out a bit more water and gently separate the leaves. 

Put the spinach in a bowl and add soy, sesame seeds and sesame oil. Mix well and serve!

Japanese pasta with mushrooms and watercress in soy and butter sauce

I love Japanese pasta because it's so easy to make
and has so much depth of flavor. This one is an earthy and savory 
mushroom pasta with some fresh watercress 
to add a little something peppery and interesting.

- 3/4 lb dry spaghetti
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms
- 1/4 lb beech mushrooms (bunashimeji) or other Japanese mushroom
- 1 tbsp sake
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- a handful of fresh watercress, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pasta water
- fresh ground black pepper


Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to the boil.

In a large pan over high heat, add oil, 1 tbsp butter and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes and add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add half of the watercress and mix well. Turn heat off and wait until the pasta is cooked.

While the pasta is boiling, reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain your pasta and add to the pan of cooked mushrooms. Turn the heat to low and add what's left of the watercress. Mix well and add soy sauce and sake. Mix well again, making sure all the pasta is coated with all the ingredients. Add a good amount of fresh ground black pepper and a little bit of the pasta water to make the sauce more unctuous. 

Serve with fresh parmesan.  

Japanese fried rice (Chahan)

Japanese Fried Rice
You can use different ingredients for this recipe,
just like any other fried rice, it's great to make when
you have leftovers!
(serves 2)

- 1 cup frozen green peas (thawed)
- 3 cups cooked Japanese rice
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
- 2 tbsp neutral oil (canola, grapeseed)
- 1 tbsp tonkatsu sauce (vegetable and fruit sauce. I use Bull-Dog)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 eggs

In a pan over medium heat, add oil, garlic and cook for a minute. Add chopped carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. 

Add rice and peas and mix well. Add soy sauce, tonkatsu sauce, black pepper and salt, and mix well. Push the rice to one side and break the eggs on the clear side. Slowly scramble the eggs and incorporate with the rice. Serve!

Vegetables 'oden' style

When I am in Japan in the fall or winter,
I often go to a convenience store for Oden. Oden is a very
simple dish consisting of vegetables, eggs, 'konyaku', cooked
in a light soy based or kombu based broth. I've added some
garlic and ginger to mine to give it a bit of a twist.
(serves 2)

- 4 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1/2 lb daikon, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger, finely grated
- 2 cup water
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 5 tbsp soy
- 1 tsp powdered dashi
- 1 tbsp cooking sake 
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp neutral oil (canola, grapeseed)

Do your prep first, have all of your vegetables ready.In a pot over medium heat, add oil, ginger, garlic and shallot. Cook for 2 minutes and add onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
Add carrots and daikon, and cook for 2 minutes. Add water, stir, add dashi, sake, mirin, sugar and soy, stir well. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes (until daikon and carrots are soft). 
Serve in small bowls with rice.

Onigiri (Japanese rice balls)

What could be more Japanese than onigiri!
It is a less fancy version of sushi maki, usually
filled with ume (Japanese pickled plums), mentaiko (spicy fish
roe), okaka (bonito flakes and soy), tarako (salty cod roe),
tuna mayonnaise and kombu (Japanese pickles). These are
great for snacks as they are healthy and filling. For this blog,
I've chosen my two favorite fillings: Ume and Mentaiko.

Makes about 8 onigiris
-  4 cups cooked Japanese rice (I use Nishiki)
- Umeboshi (Japanese plums)
- Mentaiko (spicy cod roe)
- Nori (seaweed)
- Salt

A couple of tricks to make good Japanese rice; soak your rice for a few minutes and massage a little until the water turns milky white. This removes some of the starch. Do it 2 or 3 times until the water is almost clear. Follow instructions and measurements listed on packaging. When you add your rice, give it a quick stir, put the lid on and leave it alone! I use a timer each time I make rice, this way I don't have to worry about under or over cooking it, and it always turns out perfect. 

When the rice is cooked, put it in a bowl and let cool. Grab a wooden spoon and gently fold over the rice (do not stir, you want to keep it fluffy!) while adding some salt (until you get your own perfect level of saltiness).

Now let's make our onigiris!
Grab a small handful of rice, shape it into a triangle (or ball) and make a dent in the middle. It's good to have a bowl of water nearby so you can wet your fingers (it helps with shaping the rice). Add filling of your choice. Wrap a strip of nori (a wider strip will make it much easier to eat) around the rice and you're done! It's that easy!
You can keep onigiri by wrapping it in cling film and refrigerate overnight. Zapping it in the microwave for about 30 seconds the next will day make the rice balls nice and soft again.