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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My mum’s Recipe : Anko – Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste

My memory of Japanese sweets is my mum’s homemade Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste).  Well…, it is not exactly the anko itself…. It is more like my mum and my sister.

They love anko. They sometimes had this sudden craving for anko (and I do not know why, but this happened always at night), and the next day, my mum would make it. When they ate it, they looked super happy… The homemade anko must have had some sort of magical power to make these 2 powerful Osaka ladies (especially if you know them…, you know what I mean) calm and speechless…

On the other hand, I have never been a big fan of Anko…. Somehow, I felt it was too sweet….That’s why I had never made it before. However, as I became older, I started missing the sweet anko – age does funny thing to humans!

So here it is! I recreated my mum’s happy Anko. As always, she gave me the instructions and tips  (well, of course she does not know the measurement…). I think it is quite good.

Anko Red Bean Paste 1 a little bit of soy

I made Dorayaki (Red Bean Pancake) by using this anko this time. You can use if for anything else – such as Zensai (Sweet Red Bean Soup), Daifuku (mochi rice cake filled with anko), or even western style sweets (cupcakes and pound cakes will be good!).

It takes time to make, but it is easy. Try it when you have time!

Ingredients:

220g Azuki Red Beans

1200ml of Water

140g of Caster Sugar

1/4 Teaspoon of Sea Salt

Method: 

  1. Soak Azuki red beans overnight (15 – 20 hours).
  2. Rinse the azuki red beans.
  3. Place the azuki red beans and 1200ml water into a big pot. Bring it to the boil. Once it is boiled, turn the heat to low. Skim the scum off the top.  Keep cooking over low heat for about 1 hour or until the azuki red beans become soft and tender.
  4. Add caster sugar and sea salt into the pot. Keep simmering until the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 1 – 1.5 hours.
  5. Once the liquid is evaporated, mix and mash the azuki red beans to the consistency of your liking. Cool it down to use. You can wrap and freeze the anko if you are not planing to use it straight away.

This is Dorataki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake Sandwich). I used this recipe.

http://www.ntv.co.jp/3min/recipe/20100923.html

Dorayaki_Anko_A little bit of soy

Gari – Pickled Ginger

Today, I would like to share with you my mother’s Gari recipe.

Pickled Ginger Gari 2

Gari is Japanese Pickled Ginger, you might know it as the free side you get with sushi. It is perfect for refreshing and cleansing your palate. To make this pickle, it has to be young Ginger. Young Ginger has paler skin and pink tips. The flavour is much milder and juicier than the normal ginger. It is only around from late summer to early autumn. The season is short, so if you see young Ginger in the store, make the most of it! (if you are in Australia, it is now 🙂

Here is my mum’s recipe. The ginger will be quite spicy as she likes that way. If you would like to make it less spicy, you can boil ginger before pickling (see the method below).  Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

800g – 1kg of Young Ginger

30g of Sea Salt

1 liter of White Vinegar

200ml of Caster Sugar

5g of Dried Kelp (if it is too difficult to find, you do not need to use it)

Method:

  1. Wash young ginger. Using a spoon scrape off the brown hard skin part from the ginger.
  2. Slice the ginger VERY thinly. Soak the sliced ginger in water while you are working. ( if you prefer less spicy, boil the ginger for 1 minutes here)
  3. Remove the sliced ginger from the water. Sprinkle sea salt over the ginger and put it aside for 30 minutes.
  4. In the mean time, put white vinegar, caster sugar and dried kelp in a small pot. Heat it over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Put it aside until it is cooled down.
  5. Squeeze the excess water from the sliced ginger and place it into a clean jar. Pour the vinegar mixture (method 4) over it. Store the jar in the fridge for 4-5 days, and then it will be ready to eat.

 

This is before

Pickled Ginger Gari 1

This is after – PINK!

Pickled Ginger Gari 3

Happy New Year – 2018

Happy New Year! May your 2018 be peaceful and fun with a touch of excitement.

I cannot believe that it’s already 2018…. It still sounds like the future to me….

This is this year’s Osechi –  a set of several dishes prepared for New Year’s Celebration. (Please see my previous post about the Japanese tradition of New Year).

Osechi 2_a little bit of soy

Menu is:

Nishime (simmered vegetables – Konjac, Carrot, Daikon Radish, Okra, Shiitake)

Kohaku Namasu (pickled daikon and carrot)

Gomame/Tazukuri (dried sardines caramelised with sugar and soy sauce)

Kurikinton (chestnuts and sweet potatoes paste)

Kuromame (Simmered black beans)

Konbu Maki (rolled kelp)

Koya-dofu (simmered dried tofu)

Ebino Umani (prawns cooked in soy sauce, sake and mirin)

Chicken Terini (Chicken simmered in teriyaki sauce)

Hokkaido Scallops Sashimi

Ozoni (soup with mochi/rice cake)

As this was the 4th year for me to prepare Osechi, I have to say that I was pretty organised and it did not take that long. I am quite satisfied the outcome too. Tasty!!! YEYYY!!! I have presented Osechi this year on  a set of beautiful plates which were given to us by my husband’s auntie and uncle. The white plates are so classy and Osechi looks good on them.

Osechi 1_a little bit of soy

Well, I think I made a good start . I am determined to keep it up throughout 2018.

 

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.

 

Happy New Year – 2017

Happy New Year. Wising everyone peace, health and a lot of joy throughout the year.

2017-01-01_17-18-57

Again I prepared Osechi. It takes time but it is very rewarding. Most of all, it is delicious…. I love Japanese traditional food.

Menu:

2017-01-01_17-29-08

Kohaku Namasu (pickled daikon and carrot)

Ebino Umani (prawns cooked in soy sauce, sake and mirin)

Gomame/Tazukuri (dried sardines caramelised with sugar and soy sauce)

Nishime (simmered vegetables)

Kurikinton (chestnuts and sweet potatoes paste)

Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette)

 

2017-01-01_17-31-462017-01-01_17-34-10

Koya-dofu (simmered dried tofu)

Simmered Shiitake

Konbu Maki (rolled kelp)

Kuromame (Simmered black beans)

Ozoni (soup with mochi/rice cake)

Grilled Miso Marinaded Salmon

Although Osechi is traditionally meant to be eaten for 3 days from the new year’s day, it did not work like that for us. Most of them are gone now…. They were just so tasty and we (mostly I) kept nibbled them with a glass of white wine!

Well, after the festive season, my stomach certainly became bigger…. I reckon that it is time for me to restart my exercise habit….

Japanese Valentine’s Day and the Really Difficult Biscuits

2016-02-14_19.54.06

Godiva, Pierre Marcoloni, Salon du Chocolat, Jean-Paul Hevin, Demel, Lindt…

These high-end chocolates are all over in Japan, especially in February. It is for the 14th of February, Valentine’s Day.

The Japanese custom on Valentine’s Day is that women give chocolates to men to tell their feelings. There are 2 types of chocolates that exist here. One is given to someone special (husband, boyfriend, prospective boyfriend), which is called “Honmei Choco” (Honmei means a real target). Another is for colleagues, bosses and male friends, which is called “Giri Choco” (Giri means obligation).

Obviously, this “Giri Choco” is the funny one. In the workplace, it is quite common that female employees are “obligated” to give chocolates to male employees. I remember that my dad brought a lot of boxes of chocolates back home on the day.

It sounds like a good custom only for men? HAHA! Sorry, Gentlemen, there is a catch. Off course.

We have a day called “White Day” a month after Valentine’s Day -the 14th of March. The day is for men to give gifts to women in return for the Valentine’s gift. White Day gifts are often confectioneries, such as cookies and candies etc. This custom applies to all men who got “Giri Choco” too. Imagine if you are a boss who got a box of chocolates from each one of your female staff in your workplace!!! I think that the real obligation lies here. I remember that my mum had to go to buy a lot of boxes of cookies and candies for my dad to take to work.

My workplace in Japan was pretty good though. As the company was a confectionery company, most of us were interested in sweets, so I guess that we took it as an opportunity to try something new and trendy. We, girls, chipped some money in and got something really good. In return, boys got something really nice treat to us. We all shared and enjoyed it at work. So we were technically buying what we wanted to eat at the time. I quite liked the arrangement.

This year’s Valentine’s Day was on Sunday. I had a plenty of time to prepare so I made this cookie; the famous cigarette shaped biscuits from Yoku Moku. Since I got the recipe from my friend, I had wanted to try out. But! OH! This was really really difficult!!! The biscuits have to be rolled while they are hot, but to do so, it has to be the best timing to take them out from the oven. If you take them out late, they are too crispy to roll. If you are too early, it is easier to roll, but the biscuits do not become crispy.

As a result, 6 out of 14 were presentable. 2 out 6 were crispy…. I think I need more practice. At least, my husband will welcome that.