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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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 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

The Easiest Ever Japanese – Nasu Dengaku (Miso Glazed Eggplant)

I would like to introduce my 2nd Easiest Ever Japanese recipe – Nasu Dengaku, which is known as Miso Glazed Eggplant.

Nasu Dengaku a little bit of soy
Juicy! Nasu Dengaku.

Again there is nothing difficult involved in this recipe, basically all you have to do is make miso sauce (by just mixing) and bake eggplant. Ingredients are common Japanese ones which you might already have in your pantry, otherwise can be obtained easily from the shop.

The baked eggplant will be super tender and melting in your month with the sweet and salty miso glaze. It is delicious!

This is another good recipe if you are not familiar with cooking Japanese.  Hope you like it 🙂

Ingredients (serving 2)

1 big Eggplant – about 500g

2 teaspoon of Sesame Oil

Sesame Seeds for topping

For Dengaku Sauce

1 tablespoon of Miso

1 tablespoon of Sugar

1/2 tablespoon of Cooking Sake

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the flesh (almost to the skin) around the inner edge of the skin about 5mm in, and then score the same diagonally inside in small squares (see photo).

    Nasu Dengaku step by step
    Nasu Dengaku How to score eggplant flash

  3. Put sesame oil on the surfaces of the eggplant. Place the eggplant facing up on a baking tray. Bake it for about 30 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked and juicy.
  4. In the mean time, mix all ingredients for dengaku sauce
  5. Take out the eggplant from the oven.  Glaze the eggplant with the dengaku sauce. Turn the oven to 220 °C. Bake the eggplant for another 8-10 minutes.
  6. Take it out from the oven. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Serve while hot.