Nabeyaki Udon for cold

nabeyaki_udon

Recently I hear coughing and sneezing a lot at work. Maybe it’s a cold/flu season. Eating nutritious food and get plenty of rests are the keys to wave goodbye to your cold/flu.

However, your digestion might be weaker. Nabeyaki Udon is a hot udon noodle soup served in an individual pot. It is nutritious and easy to digest soupy meal that warms your body and soul.

Nabeyaki Udon is a simple dish and easy to make. First, you put udon noodle and ‘Mentsuyu (noodle soup)’ in a pot. On top of it, you add vegetables (shiitake mushrooms, carrots, green onions), ‘kamaboko (fish cake)’, chicken, eggs or anything you like. Then, cook it and eat from the individual pot.

It’s hot (not spicy hot) and it makes you sweat. After eating it, take a cold medication and just go to bed. You will probably feel a lot better when you wake up.

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Takoyaki – The king of Japanese street food

Takoyaki
Photo credit: Keith Pomakis

I know some people don’t like eating octopus, because of the chewy texture. But, we, Japanese, enjoy the texture and use octopus for many different dishes. Today’s topic, Takoyaki, is probably the most popular Japanese food with octopus.

Takoyaki is a very simple ball-shaped snack and you can often find it in street stalls during any festivals. The ingredients are flavoured batter, diced octopus, pickled-ginger, and green onion. After mixing all ingredients, we cooked in a takoyaki pan, pour takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, and sprinkle aonori (green laver) and katsuobushi (dried bonito). Chewy but crunchy octopus and juicy batter create a great harmony.

You can also enjoy Takoyaki at home. When I go back to Japan, my friends often invite me for a Takoyaki party. All you need are the ingredients I mentioned above, a Takoyaki pan and one or two Takoyaki picks to turn Takoyaki balls. Takoyaki pan has half-spherical molds. You pour batter in the molds, turn the batter when the bottom part is cooked, and make it ball-like shape. Street vendors in stalls usually use big griddle, but for home electric version of Takoyaki pan is available.

takoyaki_pan

Takoyaki_pick

In my opinion, Takoyaki is the king of Japanese street food and is an easy and fun home party food.

Yaki Gyoza – Pan-fried dumplings

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Today is Chinese New Year. Chinese food culture has had huge influence on Japanese food culture. To celebrate 2016 Chinese New Year, I’d like to put spotlight on the most popular Chinese food in Japan; precisely speaking, it is the most popular Japanese-style Chinese food — Yaki Gyoza.

In China, Gyoza (Jiaozi in Chinese) is usually boiled. We enjoy boiled dumplings (Sui Gyoza) as well, but Yaki Gyoza is way more popular in Japan. There are a few differences between Jiaozi and Gyoza. While Jiaozi uses thick wrapper, Yaki Gyoza uses much thinner wrapper. Also, Yaki Gyoza has rich garlic aroma, which is not found in Jiaozi.

The main ingredients of Yaki Gyoza are: ground pork or chicken, minced vegetables (cabbage, green onion or Asian chives, garlic, ginger), soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, and dumpling wrappers (Gyoza skin). After frying Gyoza, you enjoy them with dipping sauce — soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil. It’s crispy outside and juicy inside. For those who are interested in making Gyoza at home, check out the site: www.japanesecooking101.com. Making Gyoza is not difficult and quite fun!

Here’s one piece of advice for you when you eat Yaki Gyoza. It is served very hot and has meat juice inside. Wait a little bit before enjoying it; otherwise, you will burn yourself!

I wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year 2016!

Kanazawa Curry

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Some of you might not like curry, but I cannot talk about Japanese food without mentioning it. So please bear with me.

Curry is definitely one of the most popular dishes in Japan. We usually serve curry in three forms: curry rice (curry over rice), curry udon (curry over noodles), and curry bread (pasty filled with curry). However, when we hear “curry”, we simply associate it with curry rice, and that is today’s topic.

Until recently, I didn’t know that my hometown, Kanazawa, is famous for curry rice, Kanazawa Curry. I ate curry rice at restaurants from time to time, when I was in Japan. But I never found something special about it, and most likely I was eating “Kanazawa Curry” without noticing it. Since the new launch of Shinkansen (Bullet Train) in March 2015, Kanazawa has been in the news and became so popular about many things including its curry rice. I was surprised when I found a Wikipedia page (in Japanese) dedicated to Kanazawa curry.

According to the Wikipedia page, there are several characteristics in Kanazawa curry:

  • Curry roux is rich and very thick
  • Shredded cabbage on the side
  • Served on a stainless steel plate
  • Eat it with fork or spork (hybrid of spoon and fork)
  • Put breaded pork cutlet on the roux and pour worcestershire sauce over it
  • Pour roux all over the rice without showing existence of rice

spork

By the way, have you used spork? I have and I think spork is very unusable as cutlery. When I was in elementary school, we ate school lunch with spork. Being hybrid of spoon and fork, it was supposed to work well for both piercing and scooping. However, it is a “He who runs after two hares will catch neither” type of tool; Piercing food with the tip of the spork is not easy and eating soup with a spork is almost impossible. I wonder how difficult it would be to eat shredded cabbage with spork.

Going back to Kanazawa Curry, crispy pork cutlet goes very well with rich spicy curry roux. Shredded cabbage gives the dish mildness. It’s tasty and satisfying. Each curry restaurant in Kanazawa serves slightly different curry. Some of them are even selling their curry roux packages online. Kanazawa Curry is going strong…

Chanko Nabe – Sumo wrestlers’ hot pot

It’s been so warm these last couple of days in Calgary. Yesterday the temperature hit a high of 11 C. Plus 11 C in January is pretty amazing, but we are still in the winter. Let me talk about Japan’s winter cuisine, “Nabe (hot pot)” and warm you up to get through the winter.

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One of the popular nabe is “Chanko Nabe”, a Japanese style stew or one-pot dish known as sumo wrestlers’ weight-gain diet. Chanko Nabe is actually very nutritious and balanced diet with protein sources (chicken, fish, tofu, beef, etc…) and lots of vegetables. Usually in sumo stables, wrestlers cook and eat Chanko Nabe with lots of rice after hard training and take a nap right away; that’s why they bulk up fast.

A great thing about Chanko Nabe is that there is no fixed recipe or ingredients, so you can easily cook it at home with whatever you want to add. You use chicken broth as base, but you can add miso (bean paste) or soy sauce to enjoy different taste. For ingredients, chicken, meatballs and Asian mushrooms (e.g. Shiitake, Enokitake) makes Chanko Nabe very tasty. But gain, you can use anything you like.

If you like to try authentic sumo wrestlers’ Chanko Nabe, there are many restaurants all over Japan owned by retired sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers’ hot pot is becoming very popular these days. If you ever go to Japan, try one of the restaurants in Tokyo mentioned on the website: https://www.tsunagujapan.com/10-must-try-restaurants-in-tokyo-for-chanko-nabe-the-food-of-sumo-wrestlers/

Rice Burger

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Rice Burger is a good example to demonstrate how Japanese adopt something from different culture and put an interesting spin on it. Mos Burger, a Japanese fast-food restaurant chain, introduced the rice burger in 1987, and it has become popular in Japan and other East Asian countries. If I remember correctly, McDonald in Japan also had the rice burger around 2007. Among a few kinds of rice burger in Mos Burger, “Mos Rice Burger Yakiniku (Teriyaki BBQ beef)” was the most popular item. Due to Mad Cow Disease, it was taken off the menu in 2012, but because of many requests from customers, “Mos Rice Burger Yakiniku” will be back on the regular menu on February 9, 2016.

Literally, a rice burger uses a compressed rice cake — made of mixture of rice, barley and millet — instead of a hamburger bun. I tried it a couple of times when I was in Japan (long time ago). I was skeptical before eating, but it was actually tasty; Teriyaki BBQ beef goes well with the rice bun.

Mos Burger uses the method called “after order”that makes hamburgers when they are ordered. It takes more cooking time than any other fast food restaurants, but Mos Burger is famous for the taste and freshness. I can’t wait to taste the revived rice burger next time I go back to Japan.

 

Nikuman – Japanese winter snack

nikuman

One of the things I enjoyed when I was in junior high was buying a snack and eating it with friends after school. My go-to snack in winter was “Nikuman”, pork filling steamed bun. At that time, only two kinds of steamed buns were sold at convenience stores: red bean bun (“Anman”) and my favourite, Nikuman. Later, more choices became available, such as curry bun and pizza bun. But my pick was always Nikuman.

There was a heated display case in a store to keep steamed buns hot. When you split it in half, the steam rises up from inside. The meat filling is so juicy and the bun is soft and fluffy. After eating one, you would feel like eating one more.

Nowadays, there are so many different fillings and colour of buns. You can compare tastes in each convenience store. Most buns are around 130 yen. It warms up your soul and it’s gentle on your wallet.