Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Spinach "shira-ae"- Spinach dressed with tofu. ほうれんそうの白あえ

Spinach and tofu tossed in a sesame and miso dressing

This amazingly quick and easy dish came together with a flurry of excitement as I finally remembered to use up some left over food before it turned bad! Huzzah!

A wonderful dish to eat on a stuffy humid day, this spinach shira-ae is refreshing, light and so healthy! Once I had it made I couldn't believe that it was done so quickly and tasted so damn good!!

From living in Japan, you get used to the convenience of having this dish readily available at the deli counters in supermarkets and convenience stores. However, since returning back to Ireland I am without Life! (Literally the name of my local supermarket in Osaka! ha!)

Luckily though, the ingredients of this dish are quite easy to come across and it's always great to get creative in the kitchen. I have definitely been gone for too long and it feels good to stretch my cooking muscles again!

So if you are feeling peckish and are in need of something hearty and healthy, this is the dish for you!

Spinach "shira-ae" - Serves 4

1 pack of soft tofu- around 300-320g (I used Unicurd Yakko Tofu)
250g fresh spinach leaves
2 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted or 2 tbsp of sesame paste/tahini
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp miso paste
salt- to taste

1. Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water. For this recipe we want to have the ingredients as dry as possible.

2. Boil a pot of water and blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes. 
Drain and dunk the leaves in to cold water or run some cold water over them. This stops the cooking process and will prevent our spinach from losing its gorgeous rich green colour.

Squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

3. Lets toast some sesame seeds! Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Swirl the pan continuously to avoid burning them. They tend to have an overly strong taste if they get a bit over done so keep an eye out!

Just in the pan!

Lovely golden and aromatic sesame seeds!

4. Let's make the paste that will bind this all together in flavour! 
Once the sesame seeds are roasted, tip them into a suribachi (すり鉢), a Japanese style mortar and pestle. A regular mortar and pestle will also work well in this case.

The grooves allow for ingredients to be ground very finely

Grind the sesame seeds until the are almost completely ground up. We don't want it too fine as it adds a lovely texture to the dish.

Add the soy sauce, miso and sugar and mix thoroughly.

5. Unwrap the tofu and crumble it into the sesame miso paste. Stir until the tofu has crumbled and mixed evenly with the paste.

6. Toss the spinach in the tofu dressing and mix till coated. Add some salt and extra seasoning to taste.

7. Divide between 4 bowls and serve as a light lunch or as a side dish. Either way enjoy the refreshing combination of tofu, spinach and the nutty sesame!

いただきます!! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Aaaannnnnd we're back!

After nearly 4 months since my last post (time really does fly) we're back with a firm household favourite and quick fix dish; Yakisoba 焼きそば! (Literally fried noodle!)

Best enjoyed with a cold beer
I would put this dish as one of the more popular meals to come out of Japan. It is in every Japanese restaurant menu I've been too and is both delicious and so very easy to make! In Japan, yakisoba is usually seen as a form of fast food/junk food which you can buy in convenience stores, as instant noodles, in ready-to-cook fresh noodle packs from the supermarket and even appearing in sandwich form! Despite this, it can be a really healthy and quick meal to prepare if you are tired after a hard day of work!

I think this dish is great if you have vegetables in the fridge that you need to use up as it is so versatile. Anything goes!

Any left over vegetable will work a treat in this dish!

Yakisoba- serves 2

2 slices salt cured bacon (rashers) but into cubes or strips (alternatively very finely sliced pork
1/2 carrot cut into julienne strips
1/2 onion diced
1 small green or orange pepper cut into slices
3-4 cabbage leaves sliced into thin strips
1 knob of ginger finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 portions of vacuum packed noodles (or dried noodles cooked in boiling water and drained)
3-4 Tbsp Yakisoba Sauce (I use Otafuku YakiSoba sauce which you can buy here)
A dash of beer
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1. Prepare all the meat and vegetables

An array of different coloured vegetables can make the dish even more appetizing!

 2. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and fry the rashers until slightly browned.

mmmm rashers!!
3. Add the carrots to the rashers and fry for 2 minutes to soften and then add the remaining vegetables.

4. If using the vacuum packed noodles, rinse them under some boiling water and gentle break them apart with chopsticks. Add the noodles to pan and mix using a set of chopstick.

I find using a spatula quite tricky as the noodles and the meat and vegetables don't mix as effectively.

A great way to practice the chopstick skills!

5. Stir fry for another 3 minutes ensuring that the noodles don't stick to the pan. Then add the yakisoba sauce and mix well.

You can adjust the amount of sauce to your tastes...I was going for a mild taste this time around.
6. Add a dash of beer to the pan and mix well. This adds a nice depth to the overall flavour of the dish.

 Serve in bowls and add a dash of Kewpie Mayonnaise  on top for an authentic Japanese taste!

Yummy Yakisoba!

This dish is great to make as part of a larger buffet/Izakaya meal. Present it on a large platter for everyone to enjoy with the Kewpie Mayonnaise on the side!


I have a backlog of recipes to put up here so keep an eye out!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

AFK! Long Time no Posts

Apologies for my very very late post. The last month and a bit has been action-packed and very busy!

I hope nobody was waiting on tender hooks for the Yakisoba post. It will come in a few weeks (I haven't been in a yakisoba mood, so when that day comes there will be a visually delicious recipe posted)

So what has been occupying me in the last month? Well mainly unemployment (for the last 7 months) so a friend and I decided enough is enough and have joined a craft market to sell our crafty wares! I would have loved to make a Japanese food stall, but regulations in Ireland are very tough and costly when setting up a business.

So, instead I have turned to origami paper craft in an effort to make some extra cash. The last month was spent folding, creating and towards market day, not sleeping!

Origami Advent Calendars

Things seemed to go well for my first day. I sold a good majority of produce and I'll hopefully do it again!

My stall selling advent calendars, fairy light lanterns & my own photographs from Japan!

And while this was happening, I managed to get a job! Hallelujah!

So now I am in full time employment while also crafting and selling on the weekends (majorly busy like!)

I should hopefully be able to update with tasty tasty food in the coming weeks!

Any suggestions for recipes let me know! I'll be happy to give anything a shot :)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Izakaya Series: Week 2 Chicken Tsukune 鶏つくね

Continuing on with our Izakaya Series, this week we have another popular choice when ordering yakitori; Chicken Tsukune 鶏つくね. Yum!

Tsukune at my local Yakitori bar when living in Japan. The left is salted and the right is coated with a sauce.
Tsukune in Japanese refers to any type of ground meat that is moulded into a ball, sausage or burger shape. Although Tsukune is commonly grilled yakitori style, you can fry, barbeque or boil it, much like a sausage. Tsukune is also a great addition to a bento box (Japanese style lunch boxes) and nabemono (hotpot) as they stay very moist and full of flavour!

This recipe should make around 5-6 skewers (soak the skewers for an hour in water to prevent burning)

Chicken Tsukune

500g (1lb 2oz) chicken thigh skin on, or chicken breast (if you can find chicken mince, great! It is non-existent in Cork!)
1 spring onion minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Good pinch of salt

If you want to have a sauce coating, the Yakitori Sauce from the previous post is perfect!
1. Finely mince the spring onion and put in a bowl.
2. Grate your ginger (or very finely chop if you have no grater) and add to the spring onions.
Lovely spring onions!
3. Mix your mirin, soy, sugar and salt with the spring onion and ginger.
4. Wash and thoroughly dry them with kitchen paper. If there are any bones remove them along with any connective tissue.

5. Remove all skin, keeping one aside for later.
6. Mince the chicken either by hand or using a food processor (I minced by hand as it creates a lovely texture that is lost through processing)
7.Add mince to bowl .

A great texture from hand mincing
8. Finely mince the skin and add to the bowl. (this step is optional, the added skin intensifies the flavour)
9. Mix all the ingredients together and allow to marinade for 2-3 hours in the fridge.

To Prepare

1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
2. Shape the chicken mixture onto the skewers in a cylindrical shape and set on to the grilling rack.
3. If using a wooden spoon, like I have (mainly because I added too much mirin and they wouldn't hold on the skewer! ^^) shape the mixture over the spoon.
4. Cover the end of the spoon with tin foil to prevent burning and place on the grill.

5. If using the Yakitori Sauce, grill until starting to brown and then brush the sauce over. Continue to do this ever 3-4 minutes until cooked and/or brown and glossy. (I lightly coated mine in sauce)
6. Check to see if they are cooked by either cutting one open or using a thermometer.

To Serve

Serve directly on to the table and allow guests (or yourself :)) to choose as they please.
A small dish of seven-spice mixture (shichimi), sea salt or some Japanese mayonnaise are great condiments for chicken Tsukune.

From my experience in making this dish I found that it was slightly too sweet for my taste (possibly due to my incorrect measure of mirin) If you prefer a more savoury flavour, omit some of the sugar.

If the mince mixture is not moulding itself well to the skewer, add in 1-2 tbsp of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) which should hopefully bind it more strongly together.

Enjoy with your Yakitori Negima and some chilled drinks!


Next week on the Izakaya Series we have a firm favourite with my partner in crime and my friends; Yakisoba 焼きそば, literally "fried noodle"! A perfect way to complete your Izakaya Banquet!

Looks noodle-icious! :D

See you then!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Izakaya Series: Week 1 Yakitori Negima 焼き鳥ねぎま

Hello again and apologies for the lateness of my post. August was a flurry of family weddings, reunions, a head cold (bleugh) and a foodie holiday (yum!).

And now its back to the posting. Over the coming weeks I will be focusing on the Japan's Izakaya style food. These dishes are great for a relaxed dinner with friends or finger food for any type of party.

Izakaya Banquet! Delicious :)
An Izakaya is a bar/pub which serves a huge range of small dishes to accompany your drinks. Most Izakayas have a mix of tatami mat flooring or tables and chairs. I have been lucky enough to enjoy Izakayas with both colleagues and friends while living in Japan and it is definitely a must if you're visiting Japan. They can usually be spotted by their red lanterns hanging outside.

In most Izakayas you will find a delicious selection of food ranging from sushi, sashimi, yakitori (chicken skewers), kushiyaki (meat & vegetable skewers), kaarage (fried chicken), yakisoba, tofu dishes and a range of salads and pickles.

These dishes may all be ordered at one time and shared among the table with a nice glass of Japanese beer, sake or shōchū. Sounds good?

Then invite your friends around and create your own Izakaya experience!

焼き鳥ねぎま! おいいし!
This week will we be making Yakitori Negima (焼き鳥ねぎま) Yaki- grill, Tori- chicken, Negi- onion, Ma- (I'm not too sure). Many will have seen this dish available in your local Japanese restaurant and enjoy it as a starter to your meal.

Let us begin the grilling!

Yakitori Negima Ingredients

500g (1lb 2oz) chicken thigh fillet (chicken breast works just as well if you don't like chicken thigh)
5-6 baby leeks or thick spring onions. I used the latter.
8-10 bamboo skewers soaked in water for one hour.

Our yakitori sauce ingredients

 Yakitori Sauce

500g (1lb 2oz) Chicken wings

375ml mirin
250ml sake (cooking sake will work well)
375ml Japanese soy sauce
55g caster sugar
2-3 tsps kuzu starch rocks (a Japanese starch) or arrowroot

1. Preheat the grill to high and cook the chicken wings, turning occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. Ideally the chicken should be golden brown and just starting to blacken slightly.
Remove and set aside.

Grilled chicken wings

2. Pour the mirin and sake into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the soy sauce and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Add the grilled chicken wings and bring to the boil. Reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.

The chicken wings add a rich flavour to the yakitori sauce
4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
5. Once cooled, strain the sauce and serve the chicken wings as a snack (I like to sprinkle them with some sesame seeds), or keep them until serving for an extra dish in your Izakaya banquet!

I overdid mine slightly, but they still tasted wonderful!

6. Pour 2 tbsp of sauce into a smalldish and add the kuza/arrowroot and stir until it has dissolved, then return to the saucepan.
7. Place over a high heat until the yakitori sauce starts to boil and becomes glossy and thick.
8. Remove from heat and allow to cool once again before using.

Making the Yakitori Negima

1. Cut each thigh fillet into 8 even pieces.
2. Slice the spring onion into 4 even pieces (the white/greenish part of the spring onion only)

 3. Thread the chicken and spring onions in any variation that suits you. I started with a piece of chicken and alternated with the spring onion to arrive at 3 pieces of chicken and 2 pieces of spring onion.

To Grill and Serve

1. Grill the skewers in a conventional grill for 3-4 minutes till juices begin to flow from the meat.

2. Brush with the yakitori sauce or dip the kebabs into the sauce and continue grilling, turning regularly.
Allow excess sauce to drip back into the bowl

3. Brush, or dip for a second time and cook for a further 1-2 minutes or until well glazed.

4. As the yakitori finish grilling, remove to a serving platter and pour a small amount of yakitori sauce over the kebabs and allow guests to help themselves.

A small dish of seven-spice mixture (shichimi) is an excellent condiment for this tasty dish.

Deliciously coated yakitori negima

A serving of edamame beans 枝豆 is also a welcome side

Yakitori/ Kushiyaki is a very versatile dish and you can add any types of meat, fish or vegetable you like. Great variations include salted pork belly, chicken skin, squid tentacles, asparagus wrapped in parma ham, a variety of mushrooms etc etc.

Also, Yakitori can be seasoned with the method above; a sweet soy sauce, or they can simply be salted as they are cooked (especially the pork belly-delicious)
Any seafood should be served with a wedge of lemon.

Enjoy and いただきます!!

Next week in the Izakaya Series: Tsukune つくね, chicken meatball skewer. Another great accompaniment to your Izakaya Banquet!

I can't wait!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tasty Tonkatsu!

I find it very surprising when I tell people I love to make Japanese food, they recoil slightly and ask "isn't it all just raw fish?"
Japanese food does of course use raw fish many times, but I have learned from my experiences in Japan that they love meat, with many popular dishes in Japan being meat based. Just like today's recipe for Tonkatsu or breaded pork cutlet.
So to these people who ask if all Japanese food is raw fish I simply tell them to check out my blog recipes and see that there is a great variety available. (Oh shameless self promotion, how I love thee)

It looks so pretty...and tasty of course!

Tonkatsu originated in the late 19th century and was derived from the European breaded cutlet. The only difference being in the cooking method with the latter being deep-fried as apposed to shallow frying of the European version.

Served alongside a thick sauce, based on Worcestershire sauce, Tonkatsu is very popular in Japan with whole restaurants dedicated to this method of cooking. As well as being tasty, it is very cheap! A set meal-which includes tonkatsu, rice, miso soup, salads and some pickles-may only cost between ¥800-¥1000 or about €8.50! Bargin!

Tonkatsu is also very cheap to make here as there are very few fresh ingredients needed. The only expense will be in buying store cupboard essentials, but they will last a long time and have many other uses.

Very simple and straight forward ingredients

Serves 3-4

4 slices pork loin 1/2 inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), or fresh breadcrumbs
oil for deep-frying
Shredded cabbage
Lemon wedges (optional)

Tonkatsu Sauce ingredients

Tonkatsu Sauce
60 ml Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Japanese mustard (English mustard can work as a substitute here)
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, bruised

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for around 20 minutes or until it is glossy and slightly thickened.

Also, if you find the taste a bit tart, add a little extra sugar to the sauce.

Method for Shredding Cabbage
1. If you are without a shredder, a simple substitute is available for shredding cabbage.
Cut cabbage in half
Remove the tough stem
3. Holding the cabbage in your non-dominant hand, tilt it to a 130 degree angle with the bottom resting on a chopping board.
4. With a knife, slice down the cabbage from top to bottom as thinly as you can manage.
5. Place in a bowl until ready to serve.

The knife should glide down the cabbage as if shaving it

Deep-frying Method
1. Slash the pork loin in a few places.

This stops the meat from curling when frying
2. Salt lightly and grind black pepper over both sides.
3. Dredge the loin lightly in the flour.
4. Dip into beaten egg

5. Press into the panko/breadcrumbs. Continue this with all cutlets and sit on a plate in the fridge for 15 minutes to settle.
Panko breadcrumbs are drier then fresh and give a delicate crispy coating

6. Bring about 3 inches of oil to about 175°C in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
7. Lay 1 or 2 cutlets in the hot oil and fry for about 5 to 7 minutes, turning evenly until golden brown. Drain the cutlets on paper towel.
Remember to take extra care when using hot oil

8. Slice the Tonkatsu into strips.

To Serve
Present the Tonkatsu fillet in its original shape on a plate, accompanied by a pile of shredded cabbage and lemon wedges.
The Tonkatsu sauce may be poured across the fillet, or pour it from a ewer into a small dish to be used as a dip.
Serve along side fresh hot rice and miso soup.

A Tasty Feast!

This dish is inexpensive, filling and so full of flavour. The Tonkatsu sauce adds an amazing depth to the pork cutlet, while the shredded cabbage acts as a refreshing salad with mild peppery undertones.

Let's make tasty Tonkatsu!