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!