Mapo Tofu “ish” – Quick and Easy

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Mapo Tofu is one of the popular Chinese dishes in Japan. The dish contains Tofu and meat (normally beef or pork mince) quickly simmered in a spicy sauce. It originated from Sichuan province, from which you can easily imagine that the dish is very hot and spicy! Although the Japanese version is much milder, it still has some kick and we love eating it with rice.

It is very easy and quick to cook, well…, if you already have the 2 important ingredients in your kitchen – Doubanjang (fermented broad been and chilli paste) and Dou-chi (fermented black bean paste), which make this dish “Mapo”.

Yes…, I know some Asian stores sell them…, however if you are like me and do not cook much Siuchuan food, these 2 jars will be sitting and doing nothing in the kitchen cabinet for a next 3 months… So I asked myself “Can I replace them with something that I already have to make Mapo Tofu- ish dish??”.

The Answer is YES. In this recipe, I use very common Japanese ingredients – Miso, Soy Sauce, Cooking and Chilli, which gives a depth and spiciness to the dish. I also add a lot of vegetables, so that this will be a complete dish especially when you serve it on rice (like me serving it on brown rice in the picture).

For meat, I like using Kangaroo mince as I love its leanness and sustainability in Australia, but you can use any meat you like. Beef or pork mince will be lovely. Same with vegetables. Although I recommend Daikon Radish (or normal while radish) as the freshness and crunchiness works in this dish well.

If you need something quick, easy, and something different, please try this recipe. Hope you like it.

 

Ingredients (Serving for 4):

350g Kangaroo mince (or any meat you like, such as beef or pork mince)

1 clove of Garlic – minced

1cm cubes of Ginger – minced

1 Red eye Chili (or as many as you like) – minced

1 Onion – diced

1 Zucchini – diced

½ Red Capsicum – diced

200g Daikon Radish – about 10cm long – diced

200g Silken Tofu – cut into about 2cm cubes

1 Teaspoon of Corn Starch or Potato Starch

½ Teaspoon of Sesame Oil

2 Spring Onions – finely chopped

 

Sauce A – combined all together

1 Tablespoon of Miso

½ Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

½ Tablespoon of Sugar

½ Teaspoon of Chili Powder

 

Sauce B – combined all together

150ml Water

1.5 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

1 Tablespoon of Miso

 

Method:

  1. In a frying pan, heat a small amount of oil (not included in the ingredients’ list above) on medium/high heat. Stir- fry kangaroo mince, garlic, ginger and red eye chilli, while breaking up the mince with a spatula or wooden spoon. In order to bring the kangaroo’s best flavour, please stir fry it very well. When the mince starts becoming brown, oil from the mince will come out. Even though the mince has become brown and looks cooked, please keep cooking until the oil has disappeared.
  2. Add Sauce A and cook all together for about 1 minute or until the mince is well coated by the sauce. If the sauce starts burning in the frying pan, add s splash of water to it (not included in the ingredients’ list above).
  3. Add onion, zucchini, capsicum and daikon radish to the frying pan. Stir fry them for about 2 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent.
  4. Add Sauce B to the frying and and bring it to the boil.
  5. Place the tofu into the frying pan. Stir and cook the tofu gently in the sauce. Please work gently not to break down the tofu. Simmer it for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Take 3 tablespoons of the sauce out from the frying pan to a small bowl. Add corn starch to the bowl and whisk it until the corn starch has completely dissolved. Add the mixture back to the frying pan and mix it into the sauce gently. Cook it for another 1-2 minutes until the sauce becomes thickened. Turn the heat off and add sesame oil.
  7. Top with spring onions and serve while hot. You can serve it on your choice of rice.

 

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Simple Kitsune Udon

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Kitsune Udon is one of the Osakan people’s soul foods. We eat Udon when we are sick, before we go for a trip, after we come back from a trip, when we feel a little bit hungry, when we have upset stomach, when we are hungover…well, in short, any time.

The most important is the combination of the Udon Soup and Sweet Kitsune Topping (Aguraage – Deep Fried Tofu Pouch). After biting the sweet and juicy Aburaage, you have to have a sip of Udon Soup straight away. Then have some Udon noodles while the flavour of the Dashi is still in your month…. So yum….  This is my comfort food. Hopefully you enjoy my home town food. Here is the recipe.

Ingredients (for 2 people)

Udon Noodles

100g Bread Flour

75cc Water

½ Teaspoon of Salt

Soup

400cc Kelp and Bonito Stock Dashi Stock

2 Tablespoons of Mirin

2 Tablespoons of Sake

1 Tablespoon of Light Colour Soy Sauce

2 pinches of Sea Salt

Kitsune Topping

2 Aburaage (deep fried tofu pouch)

160cc Kelp and Bonito Dashi Stock

1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

½ Tablespoon of Mirin

½ Tablespoon of Sugar

 

1 Spring Onion – finely chopped

 

Method

  1. Make Udon Noodles. Mix water and salt. Make sure that the salt is dissolved completely. Place bread flour in a bowl. Pour the salted water over the bread flour bit by bit, while you are combining them by hand. Bring the dough together and knead it until it becomes elastic and smooth. Shape it like a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 15-30 minutes. Keep repeating this process 3 times.
  2. Make Soup. Put all ingredients in a pot and bring it to boil. Turn off and set aside.
  3. Make Kitsune Topping. Pour boiled water (not included in the ingredient list above) over aburaage. This is to remove the excess oil from the aburaage. Cut them into 2. Place stock, soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring it to the boil. Place the aburaage into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium/low. Put otoshibuta (drop lid) on and cook it for about 5 minutes. Let it cool down.
  4. Now come back to the udon noodles. Dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 5mm thick. Fold the dough into 3. Cut the folded dough into thin strips. Dust the noodles with flour, and pick and unfold the noodles one by one. Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain and wash them with cold water.
  5. Place the udon noodles in a serving bowl. Pour the soup over the noodle and top with Kitsune and chopped spring onions.

 

 

 

Penne with Celery Sauce – How to use up a big bunch of Celery

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We buy celery very often. It is reasonable and often on sale. It can be eaten raw and is good in any cooking. It is just, especially with 2 of us in the household, sometimes it is difficult to use up a big bunch of celery while it is still fresh.

The other day, I was looking in the fridge and thinking what I can do with this “better to eat now” celery. A new idea came to me when our manager took us for lunch. One entrée we were sharing was “chilli octopus with CELERY PUREE”. I thought this is it!

While the sauce features celery’s flavour,  garlic + chilli + parmesan cheese bring richness and funkiness to the sauce. I add bacon because I think the smokiness makes a good contrast to the celery’s freshness, however if you are after vegetarian option, it can be removed.

Ingredients: Serving for 2-3 people

For Celery Sauce

3 Celery Stalks including leaves – roughly chopped

3 cloves of Garlic

300ml Water

A good pinch of Salt

A pinch of Black Pepper

50g Parmesan Cheese

For Pasta

250g Penne

3 slices of Bacon – roughly chopped

½ Onion – finely chopped

1 clove of Garlic – finely chopped

1 Red Chilli – finely chopped

Method:

  1. Firstly make celery sauce. Place celery stalks, garlic and water in a pan and cook them until the celery stalks become soft. This will take about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Once the celery stalks are soft, remove the pan from the heat. Blend and mash them with a hand blender or food processor until it becomes smooth. Once it becomes smooth, add parmesan cheese and combine with it. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Put aside.
  3. Start cooking pasta as per instructions on the package.
  4. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a frying pan over medium/high heat until it becomes crispy. Add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook them for 2-3 minutes. Add the celery sauce into the frying pan. Add a ladle of the pasta cooking liquid (from Method 3), if the sauce becomes too thick.
  5. Add the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss to combine. Serve hot.

 

Chestnut Rice – Autumn has come

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One thing that I really like in Japanese culture is that we can feel the season through food. Now it is autumn. In Japan, we say “Shokuyoku no Aki”, which means “autumn brings a good appetite”. This is because autumn is the season when a lot of fresh produce is in season, such as rice, ginger, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, mushrooms, salmon, saury pike, apple, persimmon, grape etc… yummmm….

I do not feel much of this “enjoy the season through food” concept here in Australia, however if you try, we can still see some differences in the supermarket in each season. Did you realise that apples are much tastier these days and persimmons are in the shops now? And…, do not forget my favourite, Chestnuts.

I especially love chestnut desserts; Mont Blanc Cake, Chestnut Tart, Chestnut Pound cake (see my recipe!), Chestnut Manju (Japanese sweet bun stuffed with sweet bean paste) and Chestnut Yokan (Sweet red bean past bar)…, yummmm….

However, to satisfy my nostalgia, I would like to introduce this Chestnut Rice recipe today. When my mother cooks it, our family realise that the summer has ended and that autumn is here now. This recipe reminds of my family and of Japanese autumn.

 

Ingredients (serving 4 people)

200g Chestnuts with shell – about 13-15 chestnuts

2 cups of Rice – Japanese Rice, Sushi Rice or Short Grain Rice (Please use Rice Cooker’s cup). If you wish, replace ½ cup of the rice to Sticky Rice (Mochigome), which can be purchased at some Asian food stores.

½ Teaspoon of good quality Sea Salt

2g of Dried Kelp – wiped with a wet cloth

How to prepare chestnuts

  1. Soak chestnuts in water over night. This is to make the shell soft so that it will be easier to peel it off.
  2. Using a knife, slice a little bit of the bottom of the chestnut off.
  3. Using your fingers, peel the hard shell off from the cut end. You can peel it off quite easily.
  4. Then, using a knife, peel the inner skin completely. Place the chestnut into a bowl of water as soon as it is peeled. Please be careful with your fingers when you peel the inner skin, as it is time consuming and slippery to peel small chestnuts.

Method:

  1. Put rice in a rice cooker’s removable bowl and rinse the rice. Rest the washed rice in the bowl for about 20 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so).
  2.  Add water up to the line of 2 as marked inside the removable bowl (not included in the ingredients list above).
  3. Add sea salt and dried kelp to the rice.
  4. Place the prepared chestnuts on the rice.
  5. Set the rice cooker and cook it as per the rice cooker’s instructions.
  6. Once the rice cooker has completed cooking, let it sit for about 30 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so). Remove the dried kelp. Fold over the rice with a rice paddle and serve it in a rice bowl while it is hot.

 

Ginger Rice

I made this recipe when main dish was grilled king fish. I wanted to serve something refreshing with it; something to cut through the oiliness.

A small amount of ginger gives a light aroma to rice and a hint of spiciness refreshes your mouth. It is a good combination with oily fish. Try it while ginger is in season.

Servings: 4 people

Ingredients:

2 cup of Rice – Japanese Rice, Sushi Rice or Short Grain Rice (please use Rice Cooker’s cup)

7g of Ginger – peeled and grated

5g of Dried Kelp – wipe the surface with a wet clean cloth

1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

1 Tablespoon of Light Soy Sauce

1 Spring Onion – finely chopped

2.5g Bonito Flake

 

Method:

  1. Put rice in a rice cooker’s removable bowl and rinse the rice. Rest the washed rice in the bowl for about 20 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so).
  2. Add cooking sake and soy sauce to the rice. Add water up to the line of 2 as marked inside the removable bowl (not included in the ingredients list above). Add ginger to the rice. Place dried kelp on it.
  3. Set the rice cooker and cook it as per the rice cooker’s instructions.
  4. Once the rice cooker has completed cooking, let it sit for about 30 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so). Remove the dried kelp. Add spring onion and bonito flakes, and fold them into the rice. Serve it while it is hot.

Sushi Christmas Cake – Quirky Christmas @ Secret Cake Club Perth

It is not so long ago that I started baking. I reckon it was 3 years ago. I made a New Year’s Resolution to be able to bake. I have been trying since then.

So, I was so excited when I found “Secret Cake Club Perth”. This club is all about food. People who love cooking, baking and eating bring their own dishes in line with the event theme. On the day of the event, all what we do is eat! And then if there are any left-overs, we can take them home. We can share recipes and ides too. To be honest, I still feel nervous to go to the event and show my baking to the members, however, I really enjoy working on new ideas and expanding my repertoire.

At the most recent event, the theme was “Quirky Christmas”. This was the 3rd event o attended to.  I have not brought any cakes yet ( I does not need to be a cake, buy you know, the club’s name is…). This had to be something strange, unique and funny. I knew what to make straight away.

Sushi Christmas Cake – This is the first cake I brought to the Secret Cake Club. I know this is not baking involved, but, it is Quirky enough isn’t it? Sushi itself is the adaptation from my original Chirashi Sushi recipe so the taste is guaranteed. It looks gorgeous and original. It is also quiet easy to construct.

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Here is the recipe.

Ingredients for 15 cm round cake tin

2 cups of Sushi Rice (see the Chirashi Sushi recipe)

4 slices of Smoked Salmon – roughly chopped

3 slices of Smokes Salmon – for decoration

½ Avocado – sliced, drizzle with lemon juice

Simmered Dried Shiitake Mushroom – roughly chopped

A handful of Rocket Leaves

Scrambled Egg (3 Eggs, 1.5 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce, 1.5 Teaspoon of Sugar, 3 Teaspoon of Milk, A pinch of Salt)

 

Method

Once the Sushi Rice has cooled down and all of the other ingredients are ready, we can start contracting the cake.

  1. Place plastic wrap over the cake tin. Make sure the wrap is much bigger than the tin.
  2. 1st layer – Scrambled Egg. Place Scrambled Egg over the bottom of the tin.
  3. 2nd layer – Sushi Rice. Spread 1/3 of the Sushi Rice over the Egg. Put a little bit of water on your hands when you place he rice, so that the rice does not stick to your hands. Push the rice gently.
  4. 3rd layer – Shiitake Mushroom. Spread the chopped Shiitake over the rice.
  5. 4th layer – Sushi Rice. Spread 1/3 of the Sushi Rice over the Shiitake. Push the rice gently.
  6. 5th layer – Smokes Salmon and Avocado. Place them on the rice nicely.
  7. 6th layer – Sushi Rice. Spread the rest of the Sushi Rice over the Shiitake. Push the rice gently.
  8. Wrap over the surface with plastic wrap and rest it for 1 hour in the fridge.
  9. Take it out from the fringe. Remove the Sushi Cake from the tin by turning it upside down (just like a cake). Remove the wrap.
  10. Make a rose from Smoked Salmon. Cut a slice of Smoked Salmon lengthwise into 3. Roll the smallest slice and then loop others around. Make 3 roses.
  11. Place the roses on top of the Sushi Cake and sprinkle some Rocket Leaves round.2015-11-23_16.19.20

Chirashi Sushi with Smoke Salmon

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Serving : 4

Ingredients

For Sushi Rice

2 Cups of Japanese Rice or Sushi Rice or Short Grain Rice (Please use Rice Cooker’s Cup)

15cm x 5cm of Dried Kelp

7 Tablespoon of Rice Vinegar or White Vinegar

2 Tablespoon of Sugar

A pinch of Salt

For Toppings

Simmered Dried Shiitake Mushroom ( Hoshi Shiitake no Nimono)

2 Handful of Rocket

Smoke Salmon – as much as you like

Scrambled Eggs – 2 Eggs, 1 Teaspoon Soy Sauce, 1 Teaspoon of Sugar, A pinch of Salt)

Method

1. Firstly, cook Rice. Put Rice in the Rice Cooker’s removable bowl. Wash the Rice well. Rest the washed Rice in the bowl for about 20 minutes. Add Water slightly below the line of 2 as marked inside of the bowl. Put Kelp on top of the Rice and cook it as you cook Rice normally. After the Rice cooker completes cooking, let it sit for about 30 minutes to steam.

2. Mix Vinegar, Sugar and Salt.

3. Transfer the cooked Rice in a large bowl. Add the Vinegar mixture and mix it whilst the Rice is still hot by using a Rice Paddle. When you mix, try not to squash each grain of Rice. Mix it like you slice it by using the side me the Rice Paddle.

4. Cover it with a kitchen town and cool it down to the temperature that you can handle it easily.

5.  Prepare Toppings, while the Rice Is cooling down.

– Crack Eggs and mix them with Soy Sauce, Sugar and Salt. Make Scrambled Eggs.

– Cut Shiitake into small pieces.

– Cut Smoke Salmon into a bit-size.

– Wash Rocket leaves.

6. It is ready to assemble once the Sushi Rice is cooled down. Spread the Rice on a plate. On top of the Rice, spread Shiitake first then Eggs, Rocket Leaves and Smoke Salmon nicely.

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