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.

Mapo Dofu

Mapo Dofu is originally a Chinese (Szechuan?) dish, which is also commonly found in Japan. My version is based on the Japanese ones, which is much less spicy and less oily than the original. This dish is very easy and inexpensive, because it uses a little meat for flavor, and tofu to make up the majority of the dish.

Some of these ingredients might be unfamiliar: doubanjiang is a kind of spicy bean paste, and tianmianjiang is a sweet bean sauce. Nira is a vegetable (maybe garlic chives in English) that looks similar to green onions, but the leaves are flat.

Ingredients
1 tbsp sesame oil
100g (3.5 oz) ground pork
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tbsp minced or grated garlic
1/2 tbsp doubanjiang (豆板醤 / トウバンジャン)
1 tbsp tianmianjiang (甜麺醤 / テンメンジャン)
2 tbsp sake, divided
1 tbsp soy sauce
150 mL / ~3/4 cup chicken broth
6 stalks nira
2 tsp cornstarch + a little water
1 block firm tofu (木綿)

Rice for serving

Instructions

Wrap the block of tofu in paper towels, place something flat (like a plate) on top, and let it sit for about 20 minutes to remove excess water.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the sesame oil, ground pork, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the pork is no longer pink. Move the pork over to one side, and add the doubanjiang and tianmianjiang sauces on the other side of the pan. Mix them together and fry for a few seconds before mixing them with the pork. Stir until everything is combined.

Add 1 tbsp of sake and mix with the pork. Cook for a minute or two to let the alcohol evaporate. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, and remaining 1 tbsp of sake.

Cut the tofu into bite-size squares, and cut the nira into about 3cm (1 inch) pieces. Add both to the frying pan and mix gently (be careful not to break the tofu pieces). Let cook for a few minutes, then add the cornstarch mixed with a little water. Let the sauce thicken, and then turn off the heat.

I like to serve this on top of freshly cooked rice, or you can serve it alongside.

Bulgogi (Korean Barbequed Beef)

bulgogiI learned to make this dish during college, and still love to make it now. Bulgogi is a famous Korean dish that has a sweet sesame and soy flavor.

Ingredients
1 lb (450g) beef, sliced as thinly as possible
1 kiwi
1 medium onion
1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sake (or rice wine)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
5 – 6 green onions, cut into 2″ pieces

Instructions

Spread beef slices in thin layers and sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar. Allow to sit for 15 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the kiwi and onion and blend them in a food processor until smooth. In a small bowl, mix garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, sake, remaining 2 tbsp sugar, and rice vinegar.

Add the two mixtures and the green onions to the meat and mix well. Marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When ready to cook, remove meat and green onions from the marinade and cook on a hot grill or in a frying pan. It should cook very quickly, in just a moment or two.

Serve with rice, or in a lettuce wrap!

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.