Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2009

Alright, here’s Uichiro’s famous Kawabata-style Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is Japan’s version of a pancake of sorts. It’s base ingredients are eggs, flour, and shredded cabbage. Not entirely sure if Uichiro uses water or dashi, or what else he puts in his mix (highly guarded secret but I’m sure there are green onions in it) but it sure is tasty.

You start off by getting out the old table-top griddle. Once its hot add a little oil and pour some of the batter to form a pancake. Next to it lay out some sliced pork and start cooking it a little.

Once the batter starts to cook lay the pork slices on top.

While the okonomiyaki cooks grill various veggies. We had eggplant, green peppers, onion rings with quail eggs, kabocha, matsutake mushrooms, and various mochi cakes. Once the bottom is done you carefully flip the okonomiyaki to cook the other side.

Once it’s fully cooked spoon on top some bull dog sauce (a semi-sweet vegetable and fruit sauce), mayonnaise, shredded ao nori, bonito flakes, and pickled ginger on the side. Since it’s family-style you just cook and grab as you go. It’s a ton of fun and extremely tasty.

And if you aren’t full yet, don’t worry as yakisoba is up next. Once the batter is finished cook up the rest of the pork and veggies, add some bean sprouts and noodles, then eat it up.

Please, no dessert.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It seems like every other program on Japanese TV has something to do with food. One program that I watched featured the biography of Nobu Matsuhisa, he of the restaurant Nobu. One of the dishes he showed on TV piqued the interest of Yuki’s mom, so the next night we set out to try and replicate it…Fluke sashimi.

It’s really quite simple. Slice a piece of fluke as thinly as possible and arrange on the plate without overlapping each slice of sashimi. Mash some garlic and lightly brush a little over each slice. On top of that lay down thin sticks of ginger and chives. In a small pot heat up equal parts soy oil and sesame oil until smoking hot. With a metal spoon dish some of the hot oil on top of the fish so that it sizzles a little. Then, drizzle with some ponzu and toasted sesame seeds.

To go with it Uichiro made his special harumaki, spring rolls. He “took the two best recipes and combined them into his own which is now the best.” I won’t give you measurements so I don’t spoil his secret, but the harumaki contain shiitake, bamboo shoots, leek, pork, ginger, oil, sake, chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, starch, and spring roll skins. Cook it all together, roll them up, then deep fry them to golden perfection and serve with Chinese Mustard.

There was also some clear broth soup with shredded green onion and wakame.

Read Full Post »

Being an atheist Jew who doesn’t celebrate the birth of fictional characters I always end up at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day. I know that Saturday Night Live had their famous skit about Jews going to Chinese joints on Christmas, but it’s only funny because it’s true. Buddhists share the lack of blind faith in Jesus that we do. Plus, with every other restaurant and grocery store closed someone has to make money on this capitalist holiday!

I did countless research to find something new and interesting as Chinatown (other than Cafe Hoang) is really nothing special. Every website had Lao Szechuan and Phoenix as the best places in Chinatown. Honestly, neither of them excite me at all. They’re ok, but nothing special. One thing New Yorkers truly can claim is far superior chinese food than Chicago (I don’t buy their claims of having better pizza or hot dogs, oh, they do also have better bagels though).

Then I came across Han 202. A little 36 seat restaurant in the Bridgeport neighborhood, 605 W 31st street. They do 5 course meals for only $20! When I read that Phil Vettel, he of the Tribune’s food critiques, enjoyed his visits there I thought it would be better than typical greasy chinese stir-fry. It was!

I started with the Spicy King Crab Miso Soup. A basic miso soup with real crab meat and some spicy bean paste added. It wasn’t en fuego spicy, but it had a nice little heat to jump-start my taste buds.

After that I got the Green Apple Salad. Julienned granny smiths tossed in a mix of olive oil and truffle oil with just a hint of fish sauce. There were also a few capers for saltiness and some red peppercorns for a little bite.

Yuki got the Lemongrass Beef salad which turned out to be the exact same as mine but with extremely tender slices of lemongrass beef on top. Had I known they were the same salad but with the beef I would have ordered this since beef is my favorite vegetable. Oh well, what can you do?

For the appetizer course I ordered the Salt and Pepper Calamari. Deep fried slices of squid with diced jalapeno and green onions. The squid was cooked to perfection, nice and tender without any rubberiness (is that a word?). My only complaint would be that it was a little too salty, but with salt in the dish’s name I guess that was to be expected.

For my entrée I ordered the Duck Breast in Sichuan Hot Bean Sauce. This was the only dish that truly had an authentic Chinese aroma to it, so good! The duck was a perfect medium rare. I would have liked for the skin to be a little crispier, but I can’t complain since it was otherwise cooked the way a good duck breast outta be cooked. The sauce had a nice little tinge of spice. There was sliced bell pepper, green onion, carrot, some sort of chinese green, and some diced pineapple for a little sweetness. It was a very well-balanced sauce that matched beautifully with the duck. A really nice modern take on a classic chinese dish.

Dessert was vanilla ice cream with some mango-tomato sorbet on top. The ice cream was nice and smooth while the sorbet added a nice flavor to the spoon.

Overall, I find Han 202 to be one of Chicago’s absolute best values. Besides my enjoyment of the food, Yuki also had only positive things to say about her Scallop and Lamb Chops. Our friend who joined us also enjoyed her Tuna and Strip Steak. Having sampled everything, I have to agree with their assessments as well. We walked out fully satisfied but not overly stuffed. They could have easily charged us $35 per person (I’m glad they didn’t) and I still would have been satisfied.

They’re also BYOB, which cuts the cost of dining. No corkage fee and they kept our beer in the cooler for us. They also have nice pint glasses.

Next time you’re in the mood for some good Chinese food head south of Chinatown for an updated take on not only classic Chinese flavors, but also extremely reasonably priced pre-fix.

Read Full Post »

So, this past Monday night was the first Monday I really had a chance to cook since coming back from Japan. That meant it was my first Meatless Monday in a long time. After watching an episode of “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” with Rick Bayless that featured Chiles Rellenos I was inspired. Renowned chef from Mexico City, Ricardo Muñoz-Zurita, demonstrated his plantain stuffed ancho chile. I couldn’t find the recipe online, so I thought I’d improvise on that a bit.

First, I roasted some ripe plantains at 400 degrees for about a half hour. While they were roasting I blistered the skin on 4 poblano chiles directly on my stove top burners. I kept turning them so the entire surface was charred. Then I set them in a bowl and covered them with plastic to cool in their own steam for about a half hour.

I sautéed some onions and garlic in olive oil then added the roasted plantain (I diced them first). Once they plantains carmelized a little I added some chili powder, salt, pepper, and about a half cup of orange juice. I covered it and let everything soften for 7 minutes. Once the plantains were soft enough to mash I turned off the heat and kept them covered.

While they were covered and cooling I carefully peeled the skin off the poblanos and then cut a slit up along one side of each. Without tearing the chiles, I pulled out all of the seeds and the ribs along the inside. Once I was finished with that I stuffed them with the mashed plantains. I cooked them at 400 for another 12 minutes.

While they were in the oven I sautéed some green onions and one diced serrano chile, seeds removed. Then I added a drained can of black beans and dumped in a quarter cup of water. I brought that up to a boil, let the water evaporate, seasoned with salt and pepper, then turned off the heat.

To serve, I put one pepper on each plate next to an arugula salad with tomatoes. I covered the pepper with the black bean salsa and then topped everything with cilantro and crumbled ricotta salata cheese. White rice on the side of course.

Read Full Post »

We spent an afternoon at Himeji Castle before exploring some of the Nara Prefecture. If you only see one castle in Japan, you’d better make it Himeji. It is absolutely pristine. Easily the best preserved structure built in the 1300’s that I’ve ever been to. It is the quintessential Japanese Castle.

At any rate, it’s located about a 10 minute walk down the main street from the Shinkansen. We arrived about lunch time figuring that there’d be plenty fo food options along that 10 minute walk. Right we were. We decided to veer off onto a side street where a retail arcade was as there’s always cheap delicious food options a plenty in retail arcades. Instead of eating at one of those establishments we wandered into a typical hole-in-the-wall Japanese staple, their alter-ego of Chicago’s taquerias. We filled ourselves with Ramen Noodles.

This was a very typical ma and pa ramen shop that you find everywhere in Japan. You walk in and are greeted by ma and pa themselves, “Irrashaemase!” There’s a vending-like machine near the door with the menu on it. It basically consists of a few different Ramen broths with a handful of different additions to choose if you so desire. Put your money in, press the buttons for what you want, and out comes your little order ticket.

Then, you walk in to see that there’s only 8-10 chairs along the bar. Grab a seat. Every few seats are trays of condiments, things like soy sauce, togarashi, toothpicks, boxes of tissue for the runny nose the hot ramen will give you. There’s also little spickets of hot water with tea cups and green tea for you to make as you like along with a cold water dispenser. Hand the ticket across the bar and ma and pa make your food.

I ordered the Bakabuta Ramen and Yuki got the Miso Ramen with mushrooms. Both were miso broth with loads of bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, green onions, and black woodear mushrooms. Both came with a slice of roasted pork. “Buta” in Japanese means pig, so mine had extra pork. Two big pieces of fall off the bone sweet fatty pork. Each bite coated your lips with fatty goodness. Yuki’s had extra woodear mushrooms as well as what I think were eryngii mushrooms. If I’m wrong Yuki will correct me after she reads this and I’ll correct the blog.

Since we both love pork and mushrooms we arranged a deal. I gave her some pork, she gave me a few more mushrooms. A fair trade I think.

It’s too bad that 25 cent packages of dried ramen noodles killed the idea here in America. A nice big bowl of fresh ramen like this is fast, cheap, filling but not overly heavy, and healthy. In fact, just thinking about it makes me crave some ramen. I think I’ll make some for dinner tonight.

Read Full Post »

There’s this really cool outdoor “museum” of sorts in Kawasaki City, the town where Yuki was born. I say town, it actually has about 1.4 million residents making it Japan’s 9th most populated city. For this museum they took old houses from various areas in Japan and rebuilt them the way an old Japanese village would be oriented. By old I mean houses from the 1600’s to 1800’s. So you’re walking around an old village in essence. If you’re into old architecture, you’d be fascinated. If not, you could still find excitement in the Soba restaurant they put into one of the restored buildings.

This wasn’t the same Soba you buy dried in a grocery stores Asian isle. This was top quality, fresh, hand-made Soba. The buckwheat was ground on site, the water is brought in from nearby Mt. Fuji, and everything is made right there. Some of the healthiest noodles you can get.

I ordered the hot Soba soup since it was a little chilly out. The broth was a soy-based dashi. Besides Soba noodles there were ferns, onions, bamboo shoots, shiitake, and shimeji mushrooms. It was unbelievable! Extremely delicious. Too bad you can’t find hand-made Soba like that here in Chicago, maybe we wouldn’t be so damn fat and unhealthy!

Read Full Post »

After visiting the temple complex at Muro-ji in the Kansai region, we had 30 minutes before the bus left back to the train station in order to catch the train to Hase-dera. With empty stomachs we needed food and we needed it fast!

As we walked through the little mountain town towards to bus stop we noticed this little ma & pa shop that served bowls of Somen Noodle Soup. It was cold and rainy and a nice hot noodle soup sounded about right.

The restaurant was a tatami room with traditional short tables and cushions to sit on. Fortunately they also had some short chairs for people like me who are unable to sit cross-legged for more than 2 minutes at a time.

The broth was a light, but flavorful dashi. Tons of perfectly cooked somen noodles. Mitsuba, sliced scrambled egg, shiitake, carrot, and tempura flakes all garnished the noodles. On the spoon was a yuzu-togarashi (citrus and red pepper) paste, my newfound love. Putting it on the spoon like that allowed you to swirl in as much as you like. In a small dish next to the soup were some pickled ferns.

It was so fresh and warming, it was exactly what we needed. Unbeatable at a price approx $6 per. We also got to the bus after eating with plenty of time to spare.

Enough time to grab a quick freshly cooked yaki-mochi dessert. Pounded glutinous rice with yomogi mixed in and filled with red azuki bean paste. Then cooked on a big round griddle.

Take that American fast food joints! I’d like to see you serve up freshly made, healthy, delicious food like that for $6 and in less than 30 minutes.

Read Full Post »