Greens with Goma-ae

gomaaeIn Japanese, goma means ‘sesame’, and it is commonly used in all kind of cooking. This recipe is for a dressing called goma-ae which is sweet and salty, made with sesame, sugar, and soy sauce. It is great on all kinds of veggies, especially greens. In the picture above, I used shungiku, or chrysanthemum greens, but it’s also great on spinach, komatsuna, or other similar vegetables. It makes a great side dish. I especially like the contrast when eaten with something spicy.

Ingredients
1 handful green vegetables of your choice (shungiku, komatsuna, spinach, etc.)
1 tbsp ground sesame seeds*
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp water

*In Japan, you can buy sesame seeds already ground, but if you do it yourself with a mortar and pestle, the flavor is fresher. Either way is fine!

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Also prepare a bowl of ice water.

When the water boils, put the greens in and let them blanch for 60 seconds. Then pull them out and immediately put them into the ice water to stop the cooking.

Mix the sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce, and water in a small bowl.

Remove the greens from the water and squeeze out the excess moisture. If the pieces are large, you can cut the bundle of greens in half or thirds. Mix the greens with the sauce and serve.

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Kinkan Kanro-ni

kinkan3Kinkan is the Japanese word for kumquat, and they are quite common in Japan. There’s a kumquat tree in my neighbor’s yard. In the supermarket, they are available, like most citrus, in the winter. I don’t think they’re very popular in the U.S., at least, not in the northeast. They’re bitter inside, but the skin is sweet. In this recipe, they are candied, and can then be used in a variety of ways. I chopped some up and put them in Christmas cookies this year.

Ingredients
350g (12 oz) kumquats
320mL (1-1/3 cups) water
1 cup sugar

Instructions

kinkanKumquats have seeds in them, and if you want to remove them, you can cut some vertical slits in the kumquats before boiling. If you don’t remove them, though, it’s no problem – you can either eat them along with the candied fruits, or remove them while cutting or eating them later.

kinkan2Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the kumquats and boil for 3 minutes, then drain. If desired, you can repeat the boiling process. After they are cooked, soak them in cold water for 5 minutes.

Place the 320mL/1-1/3 cups water and the 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. When the sugar dissolves, add the kumquats. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the syrup is almost gone, about 45 minutes.

The candied kumquats should be stored in the fridge. You can eat them plain, use them as a topping, or mix them into cookies or bread. I added them to biscotti.

Gyoza (Dumplings)

cooking dumplings3
Gyoza (餃子) is the Japanese word for dumplings. They consist of a thin wrapper and a filling of meat and/or vegetables, and may be cooked by steam-frying, boiling, or deep-frying. Gyoza can come in almost infinite varieties, so feel free to adjust as you like. This is my basic recipe, but it often varies depending what’s on sale, in season, or around my kitchen.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)
125g (1/4 lb) ground pork
1 cup finely sliced cabbage or hakusai (Napa cabbage)
1/2 cup finely sliced veggies (nira/garlic chives, green onions, other greens, carrots, etc)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
24 gyoza wrappers (or round dumpling wrappers)

Optional (for dipping sauce): Additional soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and/or chili oil

Instructions

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients (except wrapper) well. (It can help to use your hands.) Tip: it’s a good idea to check the flavor, so you can microwave about 1 tsp of the filling until cooked and taste it. That’s what your finished dumplings will taste like, so adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Fill each dumpling with 1/2 tbsp of the filling. Dip a finger in water and draw a line halfway around the edge of the wrapper, and fold. You can find videos showing you how to fold gyoza online if you haven’t done it before, or look at the pictures below for an idea. If it’s your first try, it’s best to check out a video, or have someone show you.

gyoza2Once all the dumplings are folded, you can cook them. Gyoza can be pan-fried, boiled, or deep-fried. The first way is the most common, and what I usually do at home, so I’ll give the instructions here. Boiling and deep-frying are pretty self-explanatory. You will need a frying pan that has a lid.

Place teaspoon or two of oil in a frying pan on medium heat and set the dumplings down in it. Leave a little space between them so they don’t stick together. You want the pleated edges sticking straight up. Let them cook for a minute or two, and then pour about 1/2 cup of water into the frying pan and put the lid on. (Remember, you’re pouring water onto hot oil, so it may splatter.)

Steam the dumplings for about 8 minutes. If all the water evaporates before then, add a little more. After 8 minutes, remove the lid and let the extra water boil off. You can check for doneness by poking one open with a chopstick and making sure there’s no pink in the meat. Finally, let the dumplings cook in the hot oil until the bottom gets crispy and brown (see the picture at the top of the post).

Serve immediately.

Optional dipping sauce: mix equal amounts of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Some people like to add oil as well; you can use sesame oil or chili oil (ラー油, raayu).

Scallion Pancakes


The instructions may seem long, but these scallion pancakes are simple to make after you’ve done it once, and if you cook Asian food regularly, you probably have all or most of the ingredients on hand already. One of my Korean friends once told me that for her family this is a “rainy day” recipe, since they didn’t have to go out to the grocery store to make this. Original recipe is from here.

Ingredients
Pancakes
1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (120mL) hot water
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 bunch thinly sliced scallions (Japan: use konegi)
salt
vegetable oil for frying

Dipping sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp sugar

Instructions

Put flour in a bowl and add about 3/4 of the hot water while mixing. If dough is dry, add more water a little at a time until it will come together.

Knead dough on a floured counter until smooth. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

In the meantime, mix together all the sauce ingredients and let them sit at room temperature until ready to use.

When the dough has rested, divide it in half. Take one of the halves and roll into a circle about 8″ (21cm) in diameter. Pour a little sesame oil on and brush with a pastry brush (or spread with the back of a spoon) to cover the surface. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, then form into a spiral, tucking the end underneath. Flatten the spiral with your hand, and the roll it out again into an 8″ (21cm) circle.

Repeat the sesame oil, and sprinkle on some salt and half of the scallions. Roll up tightly again like a jelly roll, make a spiral, flatten, and roll out again.

Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Heat oil in a frying pan until hot and carefully put in a pancake. Cook until golden brown, then flip and cook on the other side. Transfer to a paper towel and cook the other three pancakes.

To serve, cut like a pizza into 6 or 8 slices and serve with the dipping sauce.

Thai Basil Chicken

IMG_6265This is a version of the well-known Thai dish, although it’s completely inauthentic. I first ate it in Japan, where they removed the spice completely to suit Japanese tastes, but re-created it at home. Feel free to up the spice level to your liking!.

Ingredients (serves 2 generously)
200g (1/2 lb) ground chicken
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped or sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp pepper flakes (increase this, or add fresh chilis, for spice)
1 large handful fresh basil leaves
2 eggs (optional)
2 servings cooked Asian or Jasmine rice for serving

Instructions

Saute ground chicken in a pan over medium heat until it starts to lose its pink color. Add onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes, until onion softens.

Add fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and pepper flakes and continue to stir and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat.

Tear up the basil leaves and stir them in until they wilt from the heat.

Divide into two portions and serve over rice. Optionally, top each serving with a fried egg.

Asian Pulled Pork

pulled porkI developed this recipe from the idea of a pulled pork with Asian flavors, and adjusted my recipe until I was happy with it. This pork takes a long time to cook, so it must be done on a day when you’ll be at home; or it would certainly do well in a slow-cooker, though I haven’t tried that yet. I always use pork loin, as it is a relatively cheap cut of meat in Japan, but I think any cut would do as long as it’s not too fatty..

Ingredients
300g (10oz) pork loin
salt and pepper
1 tsp each canola and sesame oils
1/2 onion, sliced very thinly
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
360mL (1-1/2 cups) green tea (I normally put a teabag in my measuring cup, fill it with hot water, and steep for a few minutes.)
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sake
1/4 cup brown sugar (if you prefer your pork less sweet, use half this amount)
1 tsp rice vinegar

Instructions

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat the oils in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Place the pork loin carefully into the pan and sear, turning it carefully until it is browned on all sides.

Add all the remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer on very low heat for at least 3 hours. If too much liquid evaporates during cooking, add some water. By the end, most of the liquid should be gone.

When ready to serve, cook uncovered on high heat for a few minutes. The pork can also be refrigerated after the 3 hour cooking time and then reheated on the stove on medium-high heat.

You can eat the pork however you like – add it to a salad, on top of rice with some veggies, or in a wrap – our favorite. I’ll write another time about how we make our pork wraps.

Sukiyaki

sukiyaki8Sukiyaki is a famous Japanese dish. It is in the category of nabemono, dishes that are often cooked and eaten communally at the table. Sukiyaki is made with beef and a sweet soy sauce base. It’s especially good in the winter. The beef and other ingredients are often dipped into beaten raw egg before eating. It may sound strange to Americans, but try it once before you decide! In Japan, eggs are very safe and often eaten raw or half-cooked.

Ingredients
80mL (1/3 cup) soy sauce
3 tbsp sake
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

thinly sliced beef
shirataki noodles
negi (long green onion) or leek, sliced diagonally
yakidofu (grilled tofu) or firm tofu
greens (in Japan, I like mizuna, shungiku, or komatsuna; in America you can also use napa cabbage, spinach, etc.)
mushrooms (shiitake, enokitake)
udon noodles

eggs (optional)

Instructions

Mix the soy sauce, sake, sugar, and water together. (Note: In Japan you can also buy pre-made sukiyaki sauce.)

Heat a frying pan on a stove-top burner. Add a little oil, and add some sliced beef. Let brown, and then add some sukiyaki sauce. Next, add a little of each ingredient, cover, and let cook until the ingredients are done.

If you want to eat the sukiyaki with egg, each person can take one egg and crack it into their bowl. Then, each person can take what they like from the pan and place it into their bowl.

This cycle can be repeated until the ingredients are gone. Finally, you can add udon (thick wheat noodles) to end.