Thursday, May 1, 2014

Recipes from Japan

To lots of Americans, Japanese cuisine = sushi.

I've made loads of sushi, and I've eaten even more of it. I adore sushi. But damn it, I just couldn't do it for this entry. It's too familiar. And too Americanized.

Guess what, they don't have Califronia rolls in Japan. Before you go laughing at my stupidity, don't worry, I did already know that. The California Roll was invented in Los Angeles to appeal primarily to Americans who are scared to eat raw fish. In fact inside-out rolls of any kind are an American invention, too. So is the dragon roll, the rainbow roll and those deep-fried sushi rolls. As it turns out, very little of what you see in an American sushi restaurant precisely matches the sort of thing you'll find in Japan.

So I had to go in a completely different direction for this meal. Now, I did have a sort of distant acquaintance I could have asked for recipes, a guy my husband knows who grew up in Japan. But I got the feeling he wasn't the sort of guy who could tell me a whole lot about the food, so I asked that old friend of mine instead: the internet. Yawn.

First I'm sure you'll want to hear me ramble on and on about Japan, because you've probably never heard of it, haw haw.

 Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Tokyoform.

Japan is a archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. There are 6,852 islands in the archipelago, but just four of them comprise 97% of Japan's total land area. 126 million people live in Japan, which makes it the 10th most populated nation on earth. Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures make up the world's largest metropolitan area.

Japan also has the world's third largest economy by nominal GDP, the world's fifth largest military budget and the world's third lowest rate of infant mortality. Comparatively speaking, it's a good place to live. Plus, there's sushi. Though not the Americanized version.

But I forewent the sushi this time, and it wasn't just because it wouldn't be the sushi I know and love, but also because sushi is damned time consuming to make, and I wasn't doing time consuming this week. So instead I found this dream website: Japan Food Addict, which promised recipes that are "easy to make." That sounded like exactly what I needed.

So I chose the following three recipes, all of them from that website.

Chicken Karaage

Now I confess to having eaten this before, many, many times in fact. I love chicken Karaage and I used to get it as an appetizer every time I went to my favorite sushi restaurant, Kikusushi in Cupertino, California. If you ever go there, also get the niku tataki, which is to die for, and I never use that expression because I mostly hate using expressions, but seriously, it's to die for. Anyway, I had to make the chicken karaage. Here's the recipe:
  • 3/4 lb chicken, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 green onion, chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 1/2 tbsp chicken bullion powder
  • 2 tbsp katakuriko (potato starch)
And this:

  • Two packages of yakisoba noodles
  • 2 1/2 oz pork, sliced
  • 12 shrimp, peeled
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • dash of pepper

Ingen no Gomaae
  • 3/4 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp ground sesame seeds
First the beans:

Boil the prepared beans for five minutes. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, mix the sugar with the soy sauce and ground sesame.

Transfer the beans to a wok or frying pan and pour the sauce over. Sprinkle with whole sesame seeds and serve.

Do the yakisoba next. You don't want this to sit around because the noodles really aren't very nice once they start to cool down.

First you'll need to cook the noodles according to the package directions. Meanwhile, mix all the spices together in a small bowl and boil the onion and cabbage for four minutes. Drain and set aside.

Sauté the garlic in the oil over medium heat, for one minute or until fragrant. Now add the sliced pork, shrimp, onion and cabbage. Sauté for about five minutes, or until the shrimp and pork are cooked through. Now add the noodles and sauté for about three minutes, enough time to firm them up a bit. Dump in the spices, stir and serve.

Make the karaage last because deep fried stuff is tastiest right out of the oil. Here's how:

Mix everything but the potato starch together to make a marinade. Pour over chicken and let sit in the fridge for a half hour.

Now take the chicken out of the marinade (you can toss the marinade). Put the potato starch in a bowl and roll each chicken piece around in it until completely coated. Heat some cooking oil until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon, then drop the chicken pieces in, taking care not to let them stick to each other. Fry until golden (note: it's always wise to check the internal temperature--165 is safe to eat).

Drain on paper towels and serve at once.

It doesn't look that lovely, but trust me it's good.

So I am happy to report that this chicken Karaage tasted exactly like the Karaage I remember from Kikusushi. Yay! Another one for my permanent recipe book. I loved the noodles and beans too, so overall I was quite pleased with this meal.

My kids could have cared less, but I'm sure that doesn't surprise you.

Martin, on the other hand, is getting grumpier and grumpier in his old age. He came home late from work, reheated his food and then incredulously went, "That was a blog meal? I thought it was something you made up." Which, you know, I'm really not sure how I feel about. I'm actually not that awesome at making recipes up. But whatever. I thought it was good.

Next week: Java and Madura, Indonesia


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