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”.


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.

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. 

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.

Simmered Taro Roots (Satoimo no Nikkorogashi)


For the last decade, I had been wondering if this vegetable called Taro roots in Asian veggie shops was actually the same as “Satoimo”. “Satoimo” is a common vegetable in Japan. It is a small round vegetable with brown and hairy skin. Once the skin is peeled, the inside is white. The texture is very similar to potato, but the difference is that it is slimy.

We sometimes call “Satoimo” as “Taroimo”. OK, the name is similar. Their looks are quite similar too, but the “Taro Roots” that I had seen before was quite big compared to “Satoimo”. So I had never had the courage to try “Taro Roots” as I was not quite sure.

Then the other day, I saw this “Small taro Roots” in an Asian veggie shop in Subiaco, which looked exactly the same as “Satoimo”. I took a photo of it and sent it to my mother to see what she thought. She confirmed that it WAS “Satoimo”. Great!!!

The only dish that I can think of with this “Small Taro Roots” is Simmered Taro called “Satoimo no Nikkorogashi” – one of my favourites among my mother’s simmered dishes. I have to admit that Satoimo might not be for everyone – especially for people with a Western background, as I believe that slimy food might not be as common as in Asia. However, I would really recommend if you would like to try something different or are interested in traditional Japanese food. Of course, the flavour is guaranteed.

When you prepare it, please be careful with your knife as it is slimy – quite slippery. Please also wash your hands carefully after dealing with it. Your hand might feel itchy if the sliminess is left on your skin. Hope you enjoy.



400g of Small Taro Roots (Satoimo)

2 Tablespoons of Salt

200ml of Dashi Stock

50ml of Cooking Sake

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon of Mirin



  1. Preparation for Taro Roots. Slice a little bit of the top and bottom of the taro off, and then peel the skin. It will be easier and look better if you peel it from top to bottom. If the taro roots are big, cut them into about 3 cm cubes. Place them into a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Wash and rinse them by hand. This is to remove the unnecessary sliminess, and to make the taro absorb flavour easily.
  2. Place the taro roots, dashi stock and sake in a saucepan. Heat it over medium/high heat. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to low/medium and add sugar. Simmer it for 10 minutes with a drip lid.
  3. Add soy sauce to the saucepan and simmer it for another 10 minutes with the drip lid on, or until the taro roots are cooked.
  4. Remove the drop lid and turn the heat to medium/high. Add mirin to it and simmer it for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the sauce becomes shiny.
  5. Turn the heat off and let the taro cook down in the sauce. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

Oden (Mini)


Serving: 4


6 slice of Daikon (Chinese radish) – cut 3 cm thick rounds and the peel the skin deeply.

4 Boiled Egg

1 Konnyaku (Konjac)

Negi Kinchaku (Spring Onion Bag)

2 Abura age (Deep-fried bean curd)

6 Spring Onions – chopped

1 small amount of Ginger – minced


1000cc Water

15cm x 7cm of Dried Kelp

10g Bonito Flakes – put the Bonito Flakes in empty tea bags.

A pinch of Sea Salt

2 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

3 Tablespoon of Mirin

1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce


  1. Preparation of Daikon. Trim the cut edges (This helps to keep the nice shape of Daikon even after simmering.). On one side of the Daikon, cut a cross shape incision (This helps to penetrate seasoning and flavour into Daikon.). Put the Daikon in a pot and pour in just enough water to cover. Make it to boil. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to low to medium and simmer for about 1- 1.5 hours or until the Daikon is cooked.
  1. Preparation of Konnyaku. Boil water in a small pot. On one side of Konnyaku, make a grid shape incision. To do so, make small lengthwise cuts (2-3mm between each cut) and then make cross cuts. Put the Konnyaku into the boiled water and cook it for about 30 seconds (This helps to remove the smell of Konnyaku.), and then remove. Cut Konnyaku into 6 of triangles. To do so, cut it into 3 of rectangle first, and then cut each rectangle on the cross.
  1. Preparation of Negi Kinchaku. Mix Spring Onions and minced Ginger. Halve the Abura age and open the middle like a pouch. Stuff the Spring Onion mixture into the pouch. Close the pouch with a toothpick. Make 4 of them.
  1. Preparation of Soup. Put 1000cc of Water and Dried Kelp in a big pot. Leave it for about 20 minutes. After that, bring it to boil. Once the water is boiled, remove the Dried Kelp and put nags of Bonito Flakes. Reduce the heat to low and cook it for 3 minutes. Remove the Bonito Flakes. Add a pinch (or two) of Sea Salt. Taste it here to see if you need more Salt. If so add a little bit more. Add Cooking Sake, Mirin and Soy Sauce.
  1. Place 1, 2, 3 and Eggs into the Soup. Simmered for 1.5 hours with low heat, and then turn the heat off. Leave it and cool it down with a lid on. Before serving, warm it up with medium heat to serve. 2015-08-30_21.40.42[1]

Simmered Dried Radish – Kiriboshi Daikon no Nimono


Serving 3-4


50g Kiriboshi Daikon (Dried Radish Strip)

1/2 Carrots – sliced into thin rectangles

1/2 Usuage (thin deep fried tofu curd) – sliced into thin strips

5 bunches of Broccoli

400cc Soaking Liquid

2 Teaspoon of Dashi Powder

2 Teaspoon of Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Mirin

2 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce


1. Prep of Kiriboshi Daikon. Rinse Kiriboshi Daikon lightly to remove any dirt. Soak the Daikon in water for about 20-30 minutes. Do not soak it too long to avoid the taste of Daikon to run into the water. Save the soaking liquid. After that squeeze the Daikon lightly to excess.

2. In a small pot, heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add Daikon and fry it for a minute. Add Carrots and Usuage, and fry them for another minute.

3. Add the saves soaking liquid and bring it to boil. Once it is boiled, add Dashi Powder. Turn it down to low-medium heat.

4. Add Sugar and Mirin. Put a lid on and simmer it for about 20 minutes.

5. Add Soy Sauce and Broccoli, and simmer it for about 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off.

6. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. While the dish cools down, the ingredients absorb the flavour.


Simmered Dried Shiitake Mushrooms – Hoshi Shiitake no Nimono

Shiitake_1[1] Ingredients

50g Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

360cc Shiitake Stock ( soaking liquid)

1 Tablespoon of Dashi Powder

1.5 Tablespoon of Sugar

2.5 Tablespoon of Mirin

2.5 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce


1. Preparation of Dried Shiitake Mushrooms. Rinse Shiitake to remove dirt. Soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes or until they become soft. Do not soak them too long to avoid the taste of mushrooms to run down to the water. Save the soaking liquid.

2. Lightly squeeze Shiitake. Remove the stems and slice them into 0.5 cm width.

3. Place the sliced Shiitake into a small pan. Add the soaking liquid and bring it to boil.

4. Once it is boiled, reduce the heat to low-medium. Add Dashi Powder, Sugar and Mirin.

5. Put a Otoshi-buta on and simmer it for 30 minutes.

6. Add Soy Sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

7. Turn the heat off. Put a lid on and cool it down.