Traditional Japanese Cooking : Simmered Sardines with Ginger

Fremantle Sardines in Japanese Way !

Raw = Fresh

It is my food formula. When you think about Tsukiji Fish Market, you can see where my idea comes from. For this reason, I feel really strange to see a lot of fish shops in this city selling frozen fish.

We buy our favourite New Zealand King Salmon from this fish monger. His NZ King Salmon is always beautiful, sashimi-grade and “freshly raw”. On the other hand, he also sells frozen seafood – even his oysters are frozen. One day he told me his belief. He believes freezing seafood straight away on the boat is the best way to keep the freshness. Ummm… OK…

When we visited him to pick up the beautiful raw salmon the other day, we found Fremantle Sardines sold at a reasonable price (not $3 each like other shops!!). Frozen, of course. According to him, they were “freshly frozen”.

Sardines are one of my favourites…, but I have never seen frozen sardines (except bait)… By the way, is “freshly frozen” a possible term?

When he say disapproval on my face, he threw a few of these frozen Fremantle sardines into my bag, saying “I supply them to most of the high-end restaurants in Perth”.

Verdict?

I had to rush back to him for a kilo of them.

Of course, you do not eat them raw (especially when it comes to sardines which are commonly known as perishable fish. Even we eat them raw only a the trusted restaurant). However, they were fresh. Yes, they are “freshly frozen”. Although my “fresh” and his “fresh” might be slightly different, I must admit that it is possible, and he knows what he is doing with fish!

SO!!! I am really excited to be able to add sardines to my regular repertoire.

As my first sardine recipe on this blog, I chose this traditional Japanese dish called “Iwashi no Shoga ni” – Simmered Sardines with Ginger.

This is sardines simmered in sake, soy sauce and mirin (called Japanese Three Sacred Treasures by me!) with ginger. Ginger gives a freshness and sweetness to the dish and matches with the unique and strong flavour of sardines.

The key of this dish is to use “fresh” sardines, either raw or frozen, whichever are available!

I really feel like home when I eat this sardine dish with Japanese rice (aka my precious)… This is so Japanese… If you miss Japanese home cooking like me, please try this recipe. I guarantee you will feel like you are in Japan.

Ingredients:
6 Sardines (if you use frozen sardines, defrost them in the fridge)
10g of Ginger - cut into julianne

For Simmering Sauce
150ml of Water
50ml of Cooking Sake
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Mirin
How to Clean Sardines

1. Under gently running cold water, rinse the sardines and scrape off the scales with a knife.

2. Cut off the heads.

3. Cut an incision along the belly. Remove the guts from the opened belly. 

4. Wash both inside and outside of the sardine under gently running cold water and pat dry. 
Method: 

1. In a small/ medium size pan, in which the sardine can fit perfectly, put all ingredients for the simmering sauce and half of the ginger. Bring it to boil.  

2. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to medium/low. Lay the sardines in the pot. Cover with a *drop lid (Otoshi-buta) and simmer for about 10 minutes.  

3. Remove the drop lid and add the remaining ginger. Put the drop lid back on and simmer for another 10 minutes. 

4. Turn the heat off and let it stand for about 3-5 minutes to cool them down slightly (so that it is easier to lift the sardines up without breaking the meat). Plate sardines up with some ginger and sauce while warm. 
*Otoshi-buta (drop lid) 

Otoshi-buta is a lid which is smaller than the dimension of the saucepan. The lid floats on top of the liquid in a pan. Otoshi-buta helps heat to be distributed and flavour to be observed into each ingredient evenly. It also assists ingredients with holding in the position, so that they can keep their shapes. 

Otoshi-buta is commonly made by wood, but if you do not have one, you can substitute it with aluminium foil or baking paper.

<How to make Otoshi-buta with aluminium foil or baking paper> 

Cut aluminium foil that covers a saucepan that you are using. Make a circle shape by tucking the edge, so that it can be fit inside of the saucepan. Make a cross incision in the middle that will work as a vent during simmering.
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The Easiest Ever – Simplified Easy Ponzu Dressing

If you have ever been to a Japanese restaurant, I am sure that you have heard of this sauce called “Ponzu”.

Easy Ponzu Dressing _ a little bit of soy

Ponzu, which is a citrus based sauce, is commonly used in Japan as a condiment. How common? It is REALLY common.

Ponzu is tangy, fresh and yet quit round. In my opinion, it goes well with everything! AS a condiment, you can use it on a light flavoured dish (e.g. Salad, Tofu, Nabe Hot Pot) to give a bit of excitement, or you can use it for fatty proteins (e.g. fatty salmon, beef steak) to give a bit of refreshment.

The Standard recipe of Ponzu sauce is combine Soy Sauce and your favourite citrus (Yuzu and Sudachi Citrus are common in Japan), and then soak a piece of dried kelp and bonito flakes in the juice to make the sauce softer and sweeter. It is ready to use after resting it in the fridge from overnight to a week.

Today, I would like to introduce my super easy version of it.

Here we are in Australia in the busy environment. If you are like me, do you feel that you cannot be bothered searching for some special Japanese ingredients and waiting for another day to taste it?

In this Ponzu recipe, I made it as Ponzu “dressing” rather than “sauce”, therefore, it is still good to use on the day it’s made. Of course you can make a big volume and store it in the fridge too, just like a normal Ponzu recipe.

I use Lime here, but if you wish, you can mix with lemons and/or oranges and make your own citrus flavour!

If you would like to use up your citrus from your garden and/or try something different on your salad, please try this ponzu dressing. Hope you like it.

Ingredients:

150ml Lime Juice
50ml Soy Sauce
2.5g Dried Bonito Flakes (Japanese Katsuo bushi)
Method: 

Mix all ingredients
You can use it straight away or it can be stored in the fridge for a week to make it rounder. 
My easy Ponzu on Salad – a little bit of soy

Delicious! Salmon Mizore-ni (Salmon with Grated Daikon Radish) + about store-bought Dashi Stock

Salmon Mizore-ni (Salmon with grated daikon radish) – a little bit of soy

Even though I do not like cold weather, I have a few things to look forward to in winter, such as Riccaldo Banfi long boots, Cue grey wool coat, Hot Cocoa, Hojicha Latte, mulled wine etc…

And… (It maybe sounds a bit funny but!), Daikon Radish is one of them.

You might see Daikon Radish throughout the year, but Daikon in winter is much sweeter. I enjoy it raw, in soup, simmered, stir-fried… in any form really! I love its juiciness, freshness, sweetness, crunchiness…, I just love everything about daikon.

In today’s recipe, my daikon is “grated”. After pan-frying salmon, I simmer it in the grated daikon sauce. Fatty & flavoursome salmon cooked in sweet & fresh daikon radish melting in Japanese Dashi stock. It sounds very Japanese hey? Yes, it is very Japanese and is very delicious!

This dish is called “Mizore-ni”. “Mizore” means “Sleet” and “Ni” means “simmered” in Japanese. Grated daikon looks like sleet, therefore, dishes using it is are called so.

I think it is quite a pretty name…

As it is really delicious I want many people to cook this recipe (or any of my Japanese recipes really), I would just like to talk about Japanese Dashi Stock here a bit.

You might feel a bit foreign about Dashi Stock, which I definitely think is one of the key ingredients in Japanese cooking. I introduced my Awase Dashi recipe here. It would be wonderful if you are keen to make it. But, if not, please do not hesitate to use store-bought dashi stock powder. I use it really really often! I even use it as a substitute for chicken and vegetable stock when I cook non-Japanese food.

If you are sensitive about food additives, go for “additive-free” ” All Natural” (無添加)or “MSG free” (化学調味料不使用).

They are available at any Asian/Japanese supermarkets.

If you are happy to go for something super good but a bit pricey, this is the brand I like ( https://usa.kayanoya.com/ ). I am not actually sure if you can find it in Australia… but if you see this brand, go ahead!

Hope this information encourages you to cook this recipe – Salmon Mizore-ni. I guarantee it is delicious!

Ingredients (Serving for 2)

For Salmon

2 fillets of Salmon (about 350g - 380g in total) - skin off and cut into 3cm cubes

2 pinches of Sea Salt

1 Teaspoon of Plain Flour (or your choice of your flour)

For "Mizore" Daikon Sauce

300g Daikon Radish - grated

100ml Dashi Stock (or 100ml Water + 1/2 Teaspoon of Japanese Dashi Powder)

1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

1 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce

Chopped Spring Onions as a garnish
Method: 

1. Sprinkle sea salt over salmon fillets and wrap the salmon with paper towel. Leave it for about 20 minutes. This is a good method to remove excess water from the salmon, which contains the fishy smell. 

2. Heat a frying-pan with 1 teaspoon of cooking oil (not included in the ingredients' list above). Coat the salmon with plain flour. Pan-fry the salmon until both sides becomes nicely browned.  

3. Remove the salmon from the frying pan. Wipe and remove the excess oil from the frying pan. Add grated daikon (including the liquid), dashi stock, cooking sake and soy sauce into the same frying pan. Bring it to the boil. 

4. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to medium/low and add the salmon into the sauce. Simmer it for about 1 minute. Plate the salmon with the grated daikon sauce. Top with chopped spring onion to serve.  

My Hojicha Latte

It is autumn. It is getting cooler here in Perth, especially in the morning and at night. It is really perfect weather for me – for a tea drinker.

I would like to introduce my recent favourite drink today.

My recent favourite – Hojicha Latte – a little bit of soy

It is Hojicha Latte.

Hojicha is roasted Japanese Green tea. I love Hojicha. It is mild and subtle, but at the same time, I can enjoy the beautiful distinctive roasted flavour.

Making latte with this tea is just perfect…. You can enjoy the wonderful roasted aroma in warm rich milk. Warm, relaxing, mellow…. It is just a perfect drink for this season….

The method is really easy. The key is just not to boil it, or the tea will taste bitter and the milk will lose its flavour.

Personally I think that Hojicha latte is a good entrance to get into the Japanese tea world. Even if you are still a Japanese tea beginner, I am sure you will still enjoy it ( and if you are a Japanese tea lover, why not try it!).
Hope you like it.

Ingredients (serving for 2 mugs): 
8g of Hojicha (Roasted Green Tea)
200ml of Water
300ml of your choice of Milk
<Optional>1 teaspoon of Sugar
Method: 
1. Boil 200ml water in a small pot. Once it is boiled, turn the heat off and add Hojicha into it. Brew it for 3 minutes.

2. Add milk into the pot and warn it over low heat for 3 minutes. Make sure not to boil it. Add sugar if you want to make it sweet. Serve while warm.

Our Dream Trip : Second Stop – Patagonia

People ask me where was the best. This is the most difficult question. If people ask me where I unexpectedly fell in love with, that is the easiest question.

My answer is Patagonia.

When he suggested to visit Patagonia, I had no idea about this place, and I seriously thought that we were going to eat Patagonian toothfish. I actually started googling “Patagonian toothfish fishing tour”.
Instead of finding fishing tours, what I found was was all these words that I was not good at – trekking, hiking and camping…. Why did he want to take me there??? Anyhow, apparently he really wanted to do these wild things, so I agreed to come along with just one condition; NO CAMPING.

We (or mostly he) decided to go to 2 locations- El Calafate and El Chalten to spend 2 nights each. Here was our itinerary.

Day 1 : Fly from BA to El Calafate. Pick up a hire car at the airport and then drive to the town. 
Day 2 : Perito Moreno Glacier Tour (aka Glacier Whisky Tour)
Day 3: Drive to El Chalten in the morning (about 3 - 4 hours) and go hiking to Laguna Torre (6 hours)
Day 4 : Hike to Laguna de Los Tres (8 hours)
Day 5 : Drive back to El Calafate to fly to Ushuaia

El Calafate
When I think about the itinerary now, I can see how hard he tried to be nice to me (or plot me – depending on how you look at things). El Calafate is famous for its huge Glacier called Perito Moreno. El Calafate is a tourist town, so I knew what I could do there -just enjoy!
He booked the Perito Moreno Glacier Tour which allowed us to walk on the Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park finishing off with a glass of whisky with the ice from the Glacier! It certainly sounded like my kind of tour, so I was sort of looking forward to it.

Perito Moreno – @alittlebitofsoy

However, however, however….. The experience exceeded my expectations sooooo much! The view was just breathtaking. The Glacier was massive – 5km in width and 30 km in length. What I loved the most was the contrast. After a short walk from the entrance of the National Park, the huge Glacier just came up in the middle of the beautiful greenery in the park. The contrast of green colour from the vegetation and the colour of the glacier which changes from white to blue depending on the dept of the ice and sun light… I had never seen a Glacier before and I would not need to see any other Glacier.

Perito Moreno – @alittlebitofsoy

In terms of food, it was really memorable as well. As a tourist town, El Calafate offered a quite few places to eat. However, who expected us to eat THE BEST LAMB EVER in this small town???!!!!
It was THE Argentinian BBQ. The lamb had a nice smoky flavour. The inside was juicy and tender, and the outside was crispy. I never knew roast lamb could have crackling! The rib was my favourite part – juicy and crispy fat was between the bones.
I tell you now how good it was: He, who is an Aussie lamb snob, calmly declared this dish as THE BEST LAMB EVER – this is how delicious it was…..

Next day , we left El Calafate in the morning to get to El Chalten early enough to be able to have our first hike in Patagonia. The plan was to hike to “Laguna Torre” which is apparently for “beginners”…
In the car, I was still not convinced to do this…. And then, while I was whinging, this beautiful view just came up in front of us!!!

Mt Fitz Roy – @alittlebitofsoy

Mt Fitz Roy….
As soon as I saw this beautiful peak of Mr Fitzroy, my mind completely changed – I felt that I “MUST” see it closer! I felt that it would be too beautiful to miss it in my life!! I felt suddenly so enthusiastic!! !Let’s go!!!! (He was still so worried about me though…).

El Chalten – Laguna Torre
Distance: 24 km
Duration: 6- 7 hours

The difference from the hiking we have done in Nepal and Bhutan is that we do not go much higher in altitude. We just go up, down, up, down and then up up down…. Some of the parts would be hilly, some would be in the forest and some would be a just flat plain with sun hitting you directly. It is not a easy walk, but once you have started, going forward is the only way for you.

We were very lucky on the day though. Firstly, the weather. It was a beautiful sunny day with blue sky, therefore we could enjoy the view while hiking. Furthermore, we saw the Patagonian’s iconic deer – Huemul which is endangered and therefore rare to be found!

Super cute Huemul – @alittlebitofsoy

And then after 3+ hours of ups and downs, this view welcomed us…..

This view!! Laguna Torre – @alittlebitofsoy

We both were speechless…..
It was just beautiful. I thought it was the best view that I had ever seen in my life. I have used the word “beautiful” in my life a lot, but this was “beautiful”. I even felt that we should invent a new word to describe this beauty.
We had our lunch with this view, walked around and played with some icebergs. It was just unbelievable to be able to be part of this beautiful nature…. I really enjoyed just being there.

We really did not want to leave this beauty, but the sun would come down quite quickly so we decided to leave after a couple of hours…., with the strong determination: “I am hiking to Laguna de Los Tres tomorrow!!!”.

El Chalten – Laguna de Los Tres
Distance: 26 km
Duration : 8-10 hours

Laguna de Los Tres is a place surrounded by glaciers where you can see the best view of Mr Fitz Roy. The trail starts from and ends at Avenida San Martine (at the edge of the township in El Chalten), however, our AirBnb host recommended a different way; starting at Hosterial Pilar which takes about 30 minutes by car from the town. In this way, we can enjoy the forest pass first and then finish off at the Avenida San Martine.

It was the great advice. What we have done was driving our car to Hosteria Pilar, parked the car (there is a car parking space) and he took a shuttle bus to pick up the car the next morning. The forest was hilly but gave us a shade, in which we felt easier to walk. Furthermore, we did not need to repeat the same pass on the way back, which made the whole trip more interesting.

This trail is said to be one of the hardest and longest one day hikes in Patagonia (therefore it is quite common to camp overnight – which is not for me!), but I was not sure why by just looking at the number of the distance and duration.

When I realised the reason was at 1km to go. It was STEEP!!!!! Apparently on the last 1km, we had to climb 400m. The surface of the trail was not helping either. It was really rocky and covered by loose stones. It was really slippery! Another element that made it more difficult was that we actually could see where we were going. After climbing, climbing and sometimes falling, I looked up. What I saw was only people still climbing…. I could not see the end. It was emotionally tough….
And then, suddenly this view jumped out at me.

Laguna de Los Tres – @alittlebitofsoy

To be honest, this photo taken by just me does not do it any justice. I felt like we were in a movie-set. In Hollywood. It was surreal. It was really really really beautiful. OK I might have said that I saw the best view ever the day before, but I have to reclaim it. It was the second best. This is the BEST!!!.
For us, this hike took 8 hours in total. Maybe you can only spend a couple of hours at Laguna de Los Torres itself, but I say it loud now, TOTALLY WORTH IT. I am not an active person, outdoor person nor even nature lover, but this view… THE VIEW!!!

Patagonia has totally blown my mind away.
My advice is, if you are planing your next trip, think about Patagonia. Seriously….

Our Dream Trip : First Stop – Buenos Aires

Since he booked his dream Antarctic trip as soon as we decided to take off, we had to plan the rest of our trip around to meet the schedule. That made us stay 4 nights in Buenos Aires, which I originally thought it would be too long.

I was totally wrong….

I think, whoever named this city, certainly has a point. Buenos Aires has a super great atmosphere.
The city itself is just beautiful – a modern city with historic European-style architecture. There are so many places to visit – the 2nd beautiful bookshop, the most beautiful cemetery, the new city area along the river, modern art events in the art gallery etc…. What I liked the most, however, is the vibe. There is a wonderful vibe around the city 24/7. There is no down-time. There are a lot of people, a lot of cafes, a lot of restaurants everywhere all the time. People are just having a coffee or tea, relaxing in one of the parks (there are a lot of parks around the city- which is really lovely too) and actually eating regardless of what the time is! We just walked around the city, sat in the park when we got tired, and popped in to have a really nice cup of coffee or tea. We just loved doing it every day.

I am certain that the vibe is made by the people in Buenos Aires. I do not know, but maybe, this is because their ancestors were immigrants? We found them very kind, open-minded, flexible and relaxed people with a funky Latino flavor. I totally loved their craziness! The people who we got in touch with had their own attitude and character, which I found very uplifting and sun-shining. When they would like to say something, they say what they want to say in a very straightforward way. The message is clearly delivered, but it is in the nicest, funniest and funkiest way possible. How can they do that?!

Food? OK, let’s start with what they are famous for – Steak (Parrilla).

As a tourist, it is always difficult to pick the right place to eat. We constantly have to ask ourselves “is this place authentic or just for tourists?, do the locals eat here too?”.
We saw a lot of “Parrilla” signs in front of restaurants. We could see ourselves easily ended up at one of the tourist places and eating far lower quality steak than our proud Aussie steak.
Luckily, a good friend of ours recommended this place called “La Cabrera”. He is Argentinian/Australian and he is a gourmet – the best source of the information. Furthermore, they have 40% off deal when you eat there between 18:30 – 20:00! The steak was really nice too! Go there by 18:15 and join in the queue to be able to get seated for the deal – totally worth it!

Another thing I was really impressed by and loved was their cafe culture! Seriously, it reminded me of Kobe – cafes after cafes, cakes after cakes. The view was just like heaven to me. The biggest thing for me was that most of the cafes could serve tea properly! I know I might sound like a tea snob (and I am), but please tell me how many cafes in Perth can serve tea properly? And their pastries, cakes, bread, desserts…. It was a BIG YES for me….

Here are a few of the places I enjoyed. Most of the places are located in Recoleta as we stayed there. Maybe next time, I would be interested in exploring the San Telmo area more. We just visited there before heading off to the airport, but the area looked very interesting!

Sasha (Recoleta) – Great pastry and tea. The owner (at least we thought) was a super lovely guy. Very very very nice but never crossing the line. They serve proper leaf tea with a proper iron tea set. This small cup (name -unknown) was really tasty…. I would like to recreate it.

Ol’s Cafe (Recoleta) – great for healthy options after eating a lot of Parrilla. A lot of salad options. Really good atmosphere. They bake their own bread downstairs.

La Cabrera (Palermo)- Parrilla as mentioned above. Recommended.

Casa Saltshaker (Recoleta). If you can manage to book this so-called “closed-restaurant” (even though the owner/chef does not like the term), you are very lucky. The restaurant takes only 10 people for dinner and the only opens 4 days a week. The 5 course detestation with matching wines cost USD80 per person, which I think is a pretty good deal. His food is unique – smoky, spicy – and delicious. The matching wines are actually matching to each dish. Very intimate feeling.

Pain et Vin – Palermo – After early dinner at La Cabrera, we found this “bottle shop”. It is technically a bottle shop so we can only “taste” their wine. We tried 3 different wines with nibbles. They serve only local Argentinian wines. When we asked her recommendation, the cool waitress said “my advice is do not try “Malbec” in Argentina. You can have it in your county, can’t you”. So right.
I really liked “RD” – Malbec- Cabenet 2017 from Salta, He liked “Martir” 2015″ Cabernet Franc from Mendoza. As it is a “bottle shop”, you can purchase wines here too.

Some random cocktail bars: Boticario (Palermo), Presidete (Recoleta) – these were recommended by the cool waitress. Oh yeah. They serve really good cocktails – 3 shots of whisky in it! – it cost only about AUD10! YEAHHH.

In Buenos Aires, I somehow felt like they are enjoying their life more than us. Do we tend to worry about tomorrow too much?? That’s why the city is dead quiet Monday night? I do not know…. But I just thought, why not make the most of it while you can….

The Short Version of Our Life Time Trip – This is how it happened.

I know I have just finished writing about my Bhutan Trip, I have a confession here – We are currently on 2 months holiday now. Jealous? Yeah, I know! To make you feel more jealous, I am writing this entry from a boat cruising Antarctica. HA! I KNOW!!

Beautiful Antarctica with Penguins!! The best view ever….

My husband and I had been talking about taking time-off and traveling the world for a year. This year, I became 40 years old. We are getting old. Our parents are getting old. We have been living in the same city for 5 years. I have been working for the same company for 5 years. I felt it was enough talking. I felt it was time to take action.

And…, this opportunity came up. A good opportunity…, a job opportunity…, for him…, here in Perth….

That happened in September while we were still traveling in Nepal. That time, I was probably the only wife in the world who was disappointed with the husband having a new good job….

However, however! He is my husband, not an ordinary husband! He somehow negotiated with his new employer and managed to start with this company next year! I do not know how he did, but he did it.
After that, time was gold! As soon as we came back from our Bhutan and Nepal trip, he handed in his resignation, so that we would be able to have approximately 2 months off until his new job starts (Me? well… me too. Somehow the company I works for agreed to hold my position for 2 months….I do not know how I did, but i did it.). We decided our destinations, booked tickets, packed up our apartment and here we are!

These are our destinations;
Adelaide (to attend my brother-in law’s wedding – that was really really lovely….) -> Buenos Aires (cool city, loved it!)-> Patagonia (a lot of hiking) -> Antarctica (currently here), -> Spain (Madrid – Seville) -> Morocco (Fez – Sahara Desert – Marrakesh – Essouira) -> Portugal (Porto – Douro Valley – Coimbra -> Obidos -> Lisbon) -> Hong Kong -> home.

This might be a super short and quick version of our original 1 year world tour plan, but when can we get 2 months off next, hey? I have to admit that I cannot complain about this arrangement.
This will be a quite busy trip, but I will be writing about the trip where I can. Especially I HAVE TO write about the food in these places. I am so existed just to think about what we can eat there!