Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Okonomiyaki at home

After having this in Osaka I wanted to try making okonomiyaki at home. It turns out that it was quite easy to do. For two large okonomiyakis I started with about half of a medium head of cabbage chopped up. I added some chopped up green onions - about 4 of them. I had about 3/4 cup of cut up cooked shrimp and half of a cooked chicken breast that I cut up into pieces so I added that also. The batter was made from one cup of flour, 1/4 tsp of baking powder and some salt. I flavored that with just a bit of a fish dashi powder. Everything was mixed together along with two eggs. The mixture was piled onto the griddle to cook.

After cooking on one side the pancake was carefully flipped over to cook on the other side. This was repeated twice to make sure the inside was fully cooked.

The okonomiyaki sauce I made is pretty similar to what I had in Osaka. I made it from about 4 tbsp of ketchup, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, about 2 tbsp worschestershire sauce, a splash of mirin and a couple tbsp of brown sugar. This was heated in a pot just until everything mixed together and the sugar was dissolved. On top of the sauce is just mayo. Unfortunately I haven't found bonito flakes yet so we ate these unadorned. But they were tasty.

Monday, December 29, 2008

LIght and Healthy Japanese Food

Ok, so the Japanese food bug is not completely out of my system. Last night I was in the mood again for some light and healthy food. I had plans to make a miso/soy marinated chicken breast and serve that with a Japanese inspired soup.

To start I filled a pot with some water, kombu (or konbu) which is a dried seaweed, and some Korean dried fish pieces. These are not strong flavors and were used just to make a light broth that reminded one of the sea. I soaked these together at room temperature for about an hour then heated it to boiling. Once the broth boiled for about 5 minutes I removed the kombu and fish. The fish I discarded. The seaweed I used for a salad.

Meanwhile I marinated some boneless skinless chicken breasts in a mixture of grated ginger, soy, mirin, a splash of sake, sesame oil and red miso paste.

Here is the broth after removing the fish an seaweed. To flavor the broth just a little more a couple tbsp of soy sauce were added along with a splash of mirin, a splash of sake and some salt.

The kombu was cooled and shredded finely.

This was mixed with finely shredded carrots. To flavor the salad, rice vinegar, soy, sesame oil and mirin were added.

The plate ready for chicken. The green is a napa salad seasoned with rice vinegar and mirin.

The chicken was just cooked under the broiler in the oven until nicely grilled and cooked through.

For the soup I added carrots, green peppers, green onions and somen noodles to the delicately flavored broth.

Now that hits the spot!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Aloo Gobi

After eating Japanese food for so many days I was in the mood for something with a bit more flavor tonight. I really love Indian food - especially the food from Southern India. This dish, although seasoned with spices from the South has its origins in Northern India. This is Aloo Gobi or potato and cauliflower.

The ingredients are:

3 cups of cut up cauliflower
3 small potatoes, cut into small wedges
1 tsp brown mustard seed
1 tbsp urid dal
1 tsp cumin seed, whole
a dash of hing (asafoetida)
2 tbsp coriander powder
about 1 inch of ginger, minced
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp Madras curry powder
1/4 cup water
2 tsp oil
Chopped fresh cilantro (I was out of cilantro tonight)

To start the process, the coriander, ginger, turmeric, chili and curry powder were made into a paste with about 1/4 cup of water and set aside.

A pan was heated with a couple of tsp of oil until hot but not smoking. The mustard seed, urid dal and cumin seeds were added to the oil and fried until the mustard popped and the urid started to turn brown. Once that point was reached, a dash of asafoetida powder (hing) was added.

The water and spice paste was then added to the hot pan and fried for about 30 seconds. The water in the paste helps to keep the spices from burning during this process and is a good trick to making a nicely flavored base for many types of dishes like this.

The cauliflower and potato were added to the pot along with some salt and pepper to taste. This was stirred together well and the pan was covered. The mixture was cooked for about 15 minutes until the vegetables were tender. During this time the mixture was carefully stirred three or four times. If it is a little dry you can add a bit of water to it (I did).

Once it is cooked, just plate it and you're good to go. If you have fresh cilantro that should be sprinkled on top.

This aloo gobi was served along with some fresh baked bread (some naan or other Indian bread would have been great with it!). I also made a yellow split pea and onion soup which was made in the pressure cooker with a similar spice mixture base that I used for the aloo gobi.

Soup and Aloo Gobi.

See those wonderful yellow split peas?

This was a French style bread that was perfect for mopping up the spicy soup.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays Xmas Tree Cake

My son and I made a Christmas Cake to take to a friend's house tomorrow. It is glaringly obvious that I am a poor cake icer but it was fun and it tastes good. I used a vanilla cake recipe that I found here. One and a half times this recipe was the perfect amount to fill a half sheet pan. I cut the cake in half to make two layers and then cut it in the shape of the tree. We made a simple buttercream frosting (#4 on this list of frostings) and it turned out great. The cake was moist and tasty and the frosting whipped up nicely.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday Season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Refrigerator Beef Stew on a cold day

It is a cold snowy day here in Fargo. I arrived home from Japan on Saturday but I wish I was still there. Never the less, I was faced with firing up the snowblower today and getting out in the cold. So a warm hearty dinner was just the ticket. I call this a Refrigerator Beef Stew because it was made from a hodge podge of leftover ingredients I found while cleaning out the fridge today. I had about a half pound of sirlion that I didn't use last night when I made my own shabu shabu. There were also some leftover cut up vegetables consisting of cabbage, green onions and bean sprouts. I added some celery and chopped garlic. I found a couple tablespoons of red thai curry paste, some red miso paste and a cup of garbanzo beans. The meat was browned and everything else was added. I threw in a couple handfuls of sticky Japanese rice and then cooked it all until it was thick and bubbly, about 25 minutes. It was slightly tangy, delightfully spicy and thickened nicely by the rice. Perfect for a cold evening.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shabu Shabu in Kobe

Shabu shabu is another nabe dish made by taking paper thin slices of beef and dipping them into a pot of boiling water or broth for just a few seconds to cook. More on the food in a second. Let me first describe my Thursday in Kobe. This is a wonderful city just west of Osaka. Kobe Pharmaceutical University sits on the hillside looking down upon Kobe's numerous narrow winding streets. This picture shows one of their WIDE streets! Imagine a street as wide as one car twisting and turning through densly packed homes up the side of a hill. Their big taxis climb those hills every day.

In the morning my host Naito Sensei took me to the Hatsukura sake factory for a tour of their sake museum. There I learned all about how rice is polished, infused with koji spores to convert starch to sugar, and then fermented with yeast. Of course we left with a taste and a bottle!

Dinner that evening was a slighly formal shabu shabu dinner. We ate at a traditional low table on the tatami mats. Actually there was a hole under the table for your feet so you didn't have to sit cross legged for hours. See the nabe pots ready for action?

This sake is made especially for this restaurant. I have to say it was quite good.

We started with a small appetizer of marinated raw fugu. I would call it a Japanese seviche with its vinegary marinade.

This is onion, garlic, radish and chives to garnish the dipping sauces for the shabu shabu.

A sashimi course, of course!

A bite of crab, seaweed and cucumbers.

This is a bit of fried monkfish. The chili was not very spicy. I've never seen a pink batter before. Very festive for the holiday season.

Our sever brought the plates of beef and vegetables.

I am always in awe of the wonderfully marbled beef. Makes for tender shabu shabu.

Our server demonstrated the shabu shabu technique. Grasp the beef slice with your chopsticks and swish it back and forth in the boiling pot for just a few seconds. The dish is names shabu shabu after the sound of the beef swishing in the broth.

The flash cooked beef is immediately plunged into a bowl containing a sesame sauce and eaten.

After the meat is eaten, next come the vegetables. Here you can see tofu, enoki mushrooms, green onions, bean sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, some greens and napa cabbage. The noodles are for the end of the meal.

The veggies cooking away.

We had two kinds of noodles - the clear ones you see served with the vegetables above and these wider noodles that were brought to the table after the vegetables. Also in the pot are some sticky rice cakes cooked along with the noodles.

A perfect end for a wonderul meal - a bowl of macha green tea ice cream. I like the fact that this ice cream is not as sweet as our American versions.

Japanized Chinese

On Wednesday evening I went to dinner with my friends from Osaka University. They took me to a Chinese restaurant way up on the top of a skyscraper with an incredible view of Osaka. I would say some of the things in the restaurant may be traditional Chinese but this was definitely Japanized. Our meal was served in many small courses. I would say the flavors were quite bland compared to what you would find in China but it was pretty tasty.

First course was a variety plate containing some barbequed pork, jellyfish, some kind of roll with vegetables and rice, and I think the fried piece was chicken.

Second course: Shark fin soup. Not nearly as good as the shark fin soup I've had in China.

The third course tasted pretty good. A piece of fugu was accompanied by a scallop, mushrooms, and baby corn.

For our fourth course we had a lightly battered and fried shrimp served with pineapple and a beef and vegetable dish.

These steamed delights were our fifth course. They looked gorgeous and tasted so so.

Another soup to top off the meal.

Finally we had dessert. It was some kind of mango pudding I think.

And me and my hosts. Professor Mishima on the right and Professor Ohshima standing next to me on the left.