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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Simple Donburi (Rice Bowl)

donburi (simple)
Donburi literally means a type of bowl, and the dish called donburi is what is served in it! This dish is basically a bowl of rice with some kind of topping – meat, vegetables, etc. Another example of donburi on this site is gyuudon (beef rice bowl). But this version is very simple, quick to put together, and helps me use up what I have around the house. You can serve it alone, with another veggie side dish, or with a bowl of soup.

Ingredients (serves 2)
100 grams (1/4 lb) ground meat – beef, pork, chicken, or a mixture
2 tbsp yakiniku sauce or your favorite meat seasoning sauce
a large handful of leafy greens: spinach, komatsuna, chingensai (bok choy) etc.
2 eggs (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

Cooked rice for serving

Instructions

If you don’t have cooked rice already, start the rice first. While it’s cooking, make the toppings.

Saute the ground meat in a frying pan until nearly done. Add the yakiniku sauce and continue cooking and stirring until the meat is done and most of the liquid is gone.

Blanch the green vegetables: Put them into a pot of salted boiling water for 60 seconds, then remove to a bowl of ice water. Let cool, then remove the greens and squeeze out the excess water.

Fry eggs, if using. You can use the same frying pan from the meat, if you remove it to another dish. Crack the eggs gently into the pan and cook over medium heat until they reach your preferred level of doneness.

Finally, assemble the dish. Put some cooked rice into two bowls. Divide the cooked greens and arrange them on top of the rice. Next, add the cooked meat. I like to cover or partially cover the greens, so they get some flavor on them. If desired, sprinkle some sesame seeds on the meat. Finally, add the fried egg on top!

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).

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.

Beef Rice Bowl (Gyuudon)

One of my favorite dinners, this beef rice bowl comes together quickly and is warm and comforting. I like the sweet and salty flavor. In Japan, a bowl of rice with some kind of topping like meat, seafood, egg, or vegetables is called a donburi, which can also be shortened to don, giving this dish its name: gyuu (beef) + don.

Ingredients
1 cup rice (uncooked)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
1/3 cup (80mL) sake or rice wine*
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp ginger juice
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 lb (228g) beef, very thinly sliced
2 eggs (optional)

Instructions

Start cooking the rice according to your usual method first, then while it’s cooking make the topping.

Melt the butter in a medium frying pan, then add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the sake and cook for about 2 minutes to let the alcohol evaporate.

Add the soy sauce, ginger juice, sugar, and garlic and mix well. Finally, add the beef and cook, stirring constantly, until it is just cooked through. It should cook very quickly, in no more than 2-3 minutes.

When the rice is cooked, divide it between two bowls and spoon the beef and onion mixture on top. Serve at once.

(Optionally, you can put a raw egg on top of each bowl and mix it in; it’ll become half-cooked in the hot rice.)

Serves 2.