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Posts Tagged ‘mitsuwa’

Oden is Japanese home cooking at it’s finest as well as being a favorite winter-time treat. While the ingredients can vary, the basis of oden is to have a slightly salty dashi broth filled with fish cakes, daikon, konnyaku, hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes. Slowly simmered and warm in the belly, this is true comfort food. In Japan, it’s served at home, in restaurants, at street vendors, and you can even get it warm from vending machines (you can get anything in a Japanese vending machine, and I do mean anything!).

To start I made a good dashi broth. I used about 1/3 cup of dried anchovies, 3 tablespoons of mirin, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Most oden sets come with their own little packets of soy flavoring. They are usually pretty good, but it’s just as easy to do it yourself giving you more control over the flavor.

I let the anchovies simmer in 4 cups of boiling water for about an hour. I wanted every last bit of flavor out of the fish and into the broth.

I strained the broth and discarded the anchovies. Then I mixed in the mirin, soy, and salt.

You can buy oden sets at any Japanese market and some Asian markets. We got two two-person sets that were on sale from Mitsuwa, each containing a variety of fish cakes. Some with carrot in them, some with burdock root, some grilled, most deep fried. We also had a package of chikuwa fishcakes that we used. I skinned and chopped two russet potatoes, medium boiled 4 eggs (just enough to peel the shell off, since they were going to simmer in the dashi for a while I didn’t want to overcook the yolk too much), 1 daikon skinned and chopped, a bunch of green onions chopped, and a couple packaged of shirataki konnyaku.

Once the dashi was ready I added the eggs and daikon and simmered them, covered, over a low heat for an hour. This allows both to absorb a lot of the dashi flavor.

Then I added the potatoes and konnyaku. If you boil the potatoes too long they will fall apart and melt into the broth. I only let them simmer for about 20 minutes. That’s also enough time for the konnyaku to take on some flavor. If you’re using sliced blocks of konnyaku instead of the shirataki noodles you’ll need to add them about 20 minutes earlier.

Since most of the fishcakes are deep fried before packaging they can sometimes have a little bit of grease residue. Because of that I boil and drain them seperately for a few minutes before adding them to the dashi, that gets rid of any unwanted oil. They also are fully cooked so just need to be heated up. After about 5 minutes in the dashi, along with the green onions, the oden is ready to go.

To serve it up I divied one of each for both of our bowls and then laddles some dashi on top. Oden is great with a cold beer and some white rice, I covered our rice with ground sesame seeds. I tell you though, oden is even better the next day. It is a stew, so once all of the flavors fully penetrate the ingredients you really have a special dish here. The daikon and egg for lunch today were outstanding!

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So, I had some salt cured salmon filets that needed to get eaten up from our last bimble up to Mitsuwa. These salmon filets are great because the don’t need much cooking since they’re already salt-cured. With that, we also had a kabocha that Yuki wanted me to cook. However, I did not cook it how she requested. Too bad for her. Without further ado…

First thing I did was get the kabocha ready, I only used half of it. I seeded it, cut off most of the skin, quartered the half, and then cut the quarters themselves in half.

I set them in a baking dish, drizzled them with sesame oil, salt, and pepper. I boiled about 3/4 cup of water, poured that into the pan, and put the kabocha into a 375 degree oven for about an hour. The water should be mostly absorbed by the time cooking is done keeping the kabocha nice and moist, while the top gets a little bit golden brown.  Then I took 1/4 cup of walnuts and toasted them in a dry pan for about 6 minutes.

I coarsely ground them with my mortar and pestle and then added 4 tablespoons of ponzu. I let that sit while I cooked everything else.

For the kale I used a bunch of red kale stalks removed and leaves chopped down, 1 cup of chicken stock, 1/2 onion sliced, and three garlic cloves sliced. In a hot stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and then added the onion and garlic. About 2 minutes later I added the kale and let that wilt for about 4 minutes. Then I poured in the chicken stock and seasoned with salt and pepper. Once the stock came to a boil I loosely covered the pot, turned the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes (however much time I had left on the kabocha, it doesn’t matter as long as the kale simmers for a while).

Once the kale got going I started the miso soup. I used a heaping service spoon of shiro miso, about 4 inches of daikon sliced and quartered, one small carrot cut in half moons, 4 green onions chopped in 1 inch lengths, 1/4 cup of dashi seasoned soy sauce, and 3 shiitake sliced. In a soup pot I poured in 4 cups of water and added everything except for the miso. I brought it to a boil, then covered the pot, and turned the heat down to medium-low to let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

I just rubbed some sesame oil on both sides of the salmon and then seasoned with pepper. My toaster oven has a broiler setting, so I just turned that on and broiled the salmon for about 8 minutes. That was just enough time to cook it all the way through and crisp up the skin. When it was finished it was time to put everything together.

I left the salmon as is. Put some of the kale on the plate and then a couple of pieces of the kabocha. I topped the kabocha with the walnut-ponzu mixture. I mixed the miso into the soup and served that up. Then I served some white rice along with everything, mainly to balance the saltiness from the salt-cured salmon.

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I made some daikon kimchi and really wanted to build a Meatless Monday around it. I thought I was going to make a tofu bulgolgi to stick with the Korean theme, but the marinade turned out nothing like a bulgolgi. It was very asian though so I used some ganmodoki we had bought at Mitsuwa and made a clear broth Japanese-style soup to bring more vegetables into the meal.

The daikon kimchi takes 24 hours so I had to start the Sunday. The ingredient list includes a lot of kosher salt (sea salt can be used also), 1.5 tablespoons of toban djan (I didn’t have any Korean chili paste, toban djan is Sichuan, but it is similar enough to work), 1/4 onion small diced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1 lb daikon cut into 3/4 inch cubes, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 2 green onions thinly sliced.

I threw the daikon into a bowl and completely coated it with salt. I left it for 2 hours and then drained off all of the liquid that accumulated at the bottom of the bowl and then rinsed and drained very well.

Then I mixed together the rest of the ingredients, tossed the daikon to coat evenly, and put into an airtight jar. I left it out for 24 hours and then put it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. You absolutely have to let it sit to get the flavors to penetrate and pickle, so this does take more than 24 hours to prepare. I will say, the daikon turned out way too salty when we ate it. Not sure if I added too much during the pickling process or if I just didn’t rinse it well enough, but next time I make this I will make sure it’s completely rinsed of salt and I may just add 1/2 tablespoon instead during the pickling to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. To salvage the rest of the daikon I’ll boil it in some water to make broth for noodle soup later in the week or something.

For the tofu “bulgolgi” I used 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1/4 granny smith apple, 1/4 onion, 1 tablespoon sugar, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1/2 inch ginger, 2 garlic cloves, 2 green onions, and 1 packet of silken tofu.

I pressed the water out of the tofu for about an hour and then sliced it into 1/4 inch pieces. I put the rest of the ingredients into my little processor and made a marinade.

I took out my glass baking dish, poured a little marinade on the bottom, lined the tofu side-by-side on top, and then covered it with the rest of the marinade. I let it sit while I prepared the soup. When the soup was almost done I drizzled a little sesame oil on top of the tofu and threw it under the broiler for about 10 minutes.

For the soup I cut up 1/4 of a napa cabbage, used some bean sprouts, 1/4 cup of dashi seasoned soy sauce, 1 carrot cut into half moons, 1/2 package of enoki mushrooms, 5 ganmodoki, the rest of our green onions (about 3), and my last three shiitake sliced.

In my soup pan I poured in about 4 cups of water and added everything except for the cabbage, bean sprouts, and enoki. I brought it up to a boil and then covered it, lowered the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. That’s all she wrote for the soup.

I served everything with white rice and leaves of butter lettuce. That way we could make lettuce wraps bulgolgi-style.

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Last night Yuki and I went to see RUSH at Northerly Island. What a great band! Because of that I didn’t cook Meatless Monday, though I did eat a falafel sandwich with some babaganoush before the show to keep with the theme. I tell ya, being at the concert really drove home the point that all Americans need to adopt a healthier diet as at least 75% of the concert goers were way overweight. That might be an understatement too. Concert seats are only so big and literally everyone around us was well over 200 pounds. I felt claustrophobic at time. America, start eating healthy well-balanced diets!!! But that didn’t stop us from enjoying the show. At any rate, I’m going to blog about the dinner we had Saturday night.

We were out in Schaumburg so that we could stop at the Tensuke Market, which is actually in Elk Grove, but just south of Mitsuwa. It’s smaller than Mitsuwa but sometimes has better deals and has the absolute best retail seafood in the Chicago area. If you want to make sashimi at home, I highly suggest making the trek to Tensuke for your fish. There’s a restaurant called Daruma that Yuki had wanted to try for a while so we decided to give it a try. Honestly, walking through the doors was almost like walking into Japan. I mean that in every good way possible.

The decor is very traditional of casual dining in Japan. The Japanese don’t put a whole lot of stock into gaudy decor, instead they prefer to focus on high quality food. The walls were poorly painted, the tables and seats a little worn down, cheap napkins (in Japan you usually don’t find any napkins). It really felt like a restaurant in Japan. Made me feel homesick even though I’m not Japanese.

Service was pretty good. All Japanese servers, but bi-lingual so don’t worry. It was the food that starred though.

We started off with some Miso Soup. Nothing fancy, just a well made miso soup with wakame and tofu. I also had some sake. I was torn between two kinds so they gave me a couple of samples. The samples were very generous and I honestly didn’t need to order any sake due to the large pours. But, I did get a sake from the Nara Prefecture.

We got a Daikon Salad. Thin sticks of daikon served with carrot stick tempura and a shiso dressing. Carrots often accompany daikon, but this is the first time I’ve seen carrot tempura with the daikon. Nice touch. Little pea shoots for a bit of peppery bit and color.

We ordered two maki rolls. Ebi Ten, shrimp tempura with avocado, cucumber, and smelt roe. Unakyu, fresh water eel with cucumber. The sushi was good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but overall solid.

Tatsuta Age, deep-fried chicken thigh. Usually served in smaller pieces and called karage, these were pretty big chunks of chicken. Served with shredded cabbage, potato salad, pea shoots, and a slice of lemon this is a classic. It’s also one of mine and Yuki’s favorites.

Niku Tofu, a play on the popular Japanese home cooked dish called niku jaga (meat and potato). Instead of potato Daruma used tofu. It’s thin sliced beef with tofu simmered in a sweet soy broth. Also simmered in the dish were chopped napa cabbage and green onions. This was delicious!

Hamachi Kama, the absolute star of the show! Yellowtail jaw broiled to perfection. You got all of that flavorful cheek meat, easily the best part of any large fish. I don’t know why this part isn’t served more in American cuisine because it has so much more meat and flavor than our prefered filets. This chunk of fish was so tasty it almost brought a tear to my eye. My stomach thanked me for eating this.

Overall, the food and ambiance at Daruma were fantastic. So far it’s the most authentic Japanese restaurant we’ve been to in the Chicagoland area. The food is delicious, portions are priced accordingly (we had leftovers), and the sake was flowing. The only downfall of this place is that I have to fight Hwy 90 traffic to get there. Next time Yuki’s parents are in town we’re definitely taking them there to show them that there is real Japanese cooking here.

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Meatless Monday last night ended up being Yakisoba. Yakisoba is a traditional noodle dish (even though it’s origins are from China, it has become a staple of Japanese cuisine much like Ramen) that is typically served with various vegetables and pork. I omitted the pork to accommodate Meatless Monday.

First thing I did was get the protein ready. I made a thin omelet of two eggs and a little cream. In my heated large skillet I poured a tablespoon each of soy oil and sesame oil. I swirled that around to coat the entire pan and then poured in the scrambled eggs. I swirled the eggs around to make a thin omelet, much like a crepe in appearance. I turned the heat down so it wouldn’t burn. Once the bottom was cooked and the top set I carefully flipped it over to get a little crust on both sides. Then I slid it out of the pan and onto a cutting board, cut it in half, then made thin “noodles” out of it. I set this aside because this was my garnish.

For my vegetables I used 6 green onions, 1 carrot, some haricots vert, 6 ounces of bean sprouts, 1 red bell pepper, 6 cremini mushrooms (I wanted to use shiitake, but I had cremini in my fridge already), some ginger and a few cloves of garlic. I sliced everything thinly so that they would mix in well with the noodles.

The noodles I used are called Chuka Soba, which translates to Chinese Noodles. They’re wheat noodles, but honestly, you could use a chow mein or ramen noodle if you wanted and get the same results. I cooked the noodles according to package instructions.

Using the same skillet I used for the egg I heated another tablespoon each of soy and sesame oils. I threw the garlic and ginger in for about a minute and then added the haricots vert, carrot, bell pepper, and green onions. I let those cook for about 6 minutes before adding the mushrooms. I let the mushrooms cook for about 4 minutes and then seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Then I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sake and let that boil off. After that I added the sprouts and then about 1/3 cup of Bull-Dog Sauce. I don’t know if you can get Bull-Dog Sauce at many places. We get ours at Mitsuwa, but you may be able to find it in ChinaTown or some other Asian Grocers.  

Once the sauce was mixed in well with the vegetables I tossed the noodles in and let them fry a little while mixing everything together. It’s important to keep the heat on to dry the sauce up a little while the noodles absorb it. This gives a nice texture to the noodles.

To serve I simply used my tongs and put a big pile of everything on a plate. Then I topped it with some of the sliced eggs and drank a cold beer. For the leftovers today I sliced some Black Forest Ham and added it to the mix. Since it’s not Meatless Tuesday I’m cool with that.

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The other night I made a Japanese classic with some of my own additions. I made Shogayaki, ginger pork. Typically made with just thinly sliced pork, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, and sake, I added a few vegetables into the mix instead of serving vegetables separately. This is an easy dish to make and very flavorful.

We picked up some really nice Kurobuta (Berkshire) sidebelly while at Mitsuwa. It came thinly sliced which is prefered for this dish. It doesn’t necessarily have to be thinly sliced, nor does it have to be belly. You could get some nice chops and cut them thinly yourself, just try to make them no thicker than about 1/8 inch. I cut the pork sliced in half since they were as long as bacon. That wasn’t necessary, just what I felt like doing.

For vegetables I sliced half an onion, cut a carrot into half moons, sliced half of a yellow bell pepper, and slices a bunch of mushrooms.

For flavorings I, obviously from the title, used some minced ginger, a couple of minced garlic cloves, and a sauce of 3 tablespoons soy, 2 tablespoons sake, and 1 tablespoon mirin.

I started by tossing the ginger and garlic into a hot pan with 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of soy oil. I let that go for just a few minutes until it became fragrant.

Then I added the onions for a few minutes. Followed by the carrot for a few minutes. Then the pepper for a few more minutes. And finally the mushrooms for another few minutes.

Once the vegetables were mostly cooked I added the pork. I mixed it all together and let it go for, you guessed it, a few minutes.

Then I dumped in the sauce along with some black pepper. I covered the pan and turned the heat down to medium once the sauce started to boil a little. Every few minutes I stirred everything around. After about 15 minutes I uncovered the pan and let the sauce reduce a little. I served it once the pork and vegetables were evenly coated by the slightly thickened sauce.

While the sauce was thickening I put a couple of baby bok choy that I had cut in half into the steamer. I let them steam for about 6 minutes. They were served next to the shogayaki with some white rice.

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Yesterday Yuki and I made a trip up to the Mitsuwa market, something we do once or twice a month. Neither of us really felt like cooking dinner so we decided to take advantage of the Bento boxes they prepare fresh every day. I got the Bento Du Jour which centered around a minced cutlet.

Going clockwise starting with the cutlet, you see it was served on top of white rice. The cutlet itself was simply a mix of ground beef, ground pork, and some small diced onion. They coated it in panko and deep-fried it. It was absolutely delicious!

In the next section was a piece if fish cake, a piece of tamagoyaki, two pieces of simmered eggplant, a deep-fried shrimp coated in bread crumbs, broccoli, and a piece of white fish wrapped in squid that was deep-fried. This was all on top of some lettuce.

In the upper left section was a small macaroni salad. It had a very typical mayonnaise sauce with small diced carrot and ham.

Next to that was some gobo and some kuromame. These were both a bit sweeter, especially the kuromame. The simmering liquid for each contained sugar and mirin. I treated the kuromame like dessert.

All of this for only $6.75!!! Good luck finding a meal as well-rounded and delicious as this for that price. The only way I can think of pulling that off is to cook for yourself.

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