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!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsEven though I love to try new recipes as often as possible, sometimes I really just want to eat something homey and familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs. It does take a little time, but it’s worth it for the delicious flavor, and a lot of the time is just simmering, so you can do other stuff while you wait for it to cook.

Ingredients
Meatballs
280g (about 10 oz) ground beef/pork mix
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce (or use your favorite home-made or store-bought sauce!)
400g (14 oz) canned tomato
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti for serving, cooked according to box instructions
Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

Mix all meatball ingredients well. Form into 1-tbsp balls and roll between your hands to make a neat round shape.

Brown the meatballs in batches in a frying pan and remove to a plate. (They can be frozen at this point.)

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (One trick I use is that if the canned tomatoes are too chunky, use a potato masher or fork to smash them a little.)

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

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).

Sweet Spicy Pork Loin

pork tenderloinIn Japan, pork loin is relatively cheap and often goes on sale. One of the small-sized pieces of meat are great for a 2-person dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day. I love the flavors in this recipe, which I originally saw here.

Ingredients
1 small pork tenderloin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp each cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 tsp chili oil (In Japan I use ラー油, raayu.)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Mix the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the outside of the pork tenderloin. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the pork on all sides. Then place in a small oven-save pan (use something with edges).

Mix together the brown sugar, garlic, and chili oil. Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the pork tenderloin.

Bake for 25 minutes until cooked through. Let meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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.