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Posts Tagged ‘shabu-shabu’

Just saying Yuki’s Sukiyaki is almost as much fun as eating it. Sukiyaki is a traditional family style one-pot meal in Japan. Vegetables are simmered in a sweet soy-based broth.

Then the pot is brought to the table and, over a table-top burner, thin slices of beef are swished around (similar to shabu-shabu) and cooked in the pot. Each individual has their own dish to put the beef and veggies in. It usually is mixed with a raw egg, but raw eggs aren’t good for prego so we omitted that.

Ingredients for Yakiniku aren’t set in stone, what we used are pretty typical for the most part. I chopped up a carrot, quartered 1/2 onion, cleaned up 1 packet of enoki mushrooms, rinsed and cut up 1 packaged of konnyaku shirataki noodles, 2 large shiitake halved, 1/4 head of napa cabbage chopped, a little more than 1/2 pound of thinly sliced beef, almost 1 block of silken tofu large diced (I had previously used about 1/8th of it for miso soup, use as much as you like), about 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 3 tablespoons sake, and 1-2 tablespoons of sugar.

In our large pan Yuki poured in the soy, mirin, and sake along with about 1/4 cup of water. She added the sugar and brought it up to a simmer. The onion and carrot had the longest cooking time so they went in for about 5 minutes, covered.

Then she added the rest of the ingredients minus the beef and let them cook for another 5 minutes or so. After that we moved the pan to our table-top burner and swished the beef in the boiling liquid. White rice on the side and cold beer in hand.

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After making a run to Mitsuwa for some Japanese ingredients (some staples in our kitchen) I let Yuki do the cooking last night. She made a dish called Jjigae Don. Well, that’s what she calls it anyway. Jjigae is an old Korean recipe (you see Ira, Yuki doesn’t have anything against Korea), a stew typically made with kimchi. She didn’t use any kimchi but did use Tobanjan, a Korean fermented chili paste.

First, she made a broth out of miso, tobanjan, and dashi. She simmered some green onions, carrot slices, and baby bok choy until soft and tender. Then she took those vegetables out and cooked some thinly sliced kurobuta pork. By thinly sliced I mean deli meat thin. You can purchase it that way at Mitsuwa and some other Asian grocery stores. It’s typically marked for use in Shabu-shabu or dishes like that. The pork cooks quickly since it’s so thin. Be careful not to cook it more than a minute or two because the meat will get tough if overcooked. Once the pork was cooked she took it out and then cooked some shimeji mushrooms in the broth.

While all of this was going on we had pressed the water out of a package of silken tofu. Once the tofu was firm enough we cut (she did the cooking I did most of the cutting, I’m her sous chef as I love to use the hand-carved Japanese steel she got me for my birthday a few years ago) it into smaller pieces and then cooked it in the broth.

After everything was cooked we put some rice in the bottom of our bowls and then topped it with all of the ingredients. While we did that Yuki cooked some shungiku in the broth. You have to cook that last as it turns the broth a darker color. That way the veggies and meat keep their natural colors. Once the shungiku was cooked that went in the bowl with everything else.

No extra fats, just the natural fat from top quality pork, were added to this dish. Along with the variety of fresh vegetables and white rice this is an extremely healthy dish. Absolutely delicious as well.

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So, Yuki and I took a few days to visit some of the early temples and castles in the Kansai region of Japan. Most of the structures we saw date back to the 8th century and are truly amazing! Besides the structures there were also tons of great sculptures from the same time period. However, as you all know, this blog isn’t about architecture, it’s about food. This post is to let you know about the incredible Kaiseki we ate our last night in Nara at the Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) we stayed at, Yoshino.

Kaiseki is the classic multi-course meal that progresses through various cooking techniques using regional, seasonal ingredients. It’s the highest art form you can find in food anywhere in the world. Focus on the subtleties of each ingredient to draw out natural flavors and not cover then with heavy sauces (sorry Frenchies, but the Japanese have your asses kicked in food culture!).

It started with that dish in the middle of the picture above. From left to right was a little fish grilled in a sweet soy marinade, a roasted chestnut, ama ebi (sweet shrimp), some sort of seafood that had a jellyfish-like texture in a miso sauce (I have absolutely no idea what it was, but it sure tasted good!), then a three-colored fish cake.

After that they brought out this dish. It was obviously a shrimp, but I’m not quite sure what else there was. I think it was a gratin made with the roe of the shrimp. Also on the plate as a macaroni salad and some lettuce with a tomato.

Then we moved on to the sashimi plate. It had some fantastic Chu-Toro (tuna), Tai (snapper), and the star of the plate….Ika (squid). In the States when you order Ika it’s usually very thin and a little rubbery. Not these two slices. They were about a half centimeter thick, squid steaks! Rubbery? Hell no! Each chew and the squid literally melted away in our mouths. Hands down the best squid I’ve ever eaten.

Then they brought us a plate of steamed Ayu (sweet fish). It’s a river fish that eats moss attached to stones giving it a really fresh and clean taste. It was served with a light ginger sauce. The thing that makes Ayu special is that it’s eaten when the belly is full of fish roe. There isn’t much meat, so it’s like dipping chopsticks into a bowl of fresh water caviar.

Being the meatavore that I am, the next plate was what I was most looking forward to….Beef Tataki. Lightly seared beef to give a little texture to the soft raw meat laden with mouth-watering fat. The dipping sauce is a soy-dashi mix. You see the little mound of reddish gew on the side of the dish? That’s a mix of togarahsi (Japanese red pepper) and yuzu (a small citrus fruit). You mix that into the sauce like you would wasabi for sushi, along with thinly sliced chives. With the tataki there was a small dish of sliced cucumber and I think seaweed in a vinegar sauce that cleansed the palette from the fatty beef.

Then we ate the Shabu-shabu. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the individual hotpots we used, but here’s the ingredients. The broth was a light sake base, in it we added cabbage, enoki mushrooms, and shimeji mushrooms. Once they were cooked, we sloshed the thinly sliced beef around to cook it and then dipped it all in a light soy with more of the togarashi yuzu and chives.

After that we got two different preparations of Unagi. To be honest, I have absolutely no clue what the difference was. One was served on top of rice, the other with rice on the side. All I can tell you is that you will never find eel of that quality anywhere in the States. It tasted like they just caught it that morning. Best eel ever! Both came with a little dish of Japanese pickles. They were probably damn good pickles, but I don’t like pickles so I let Yuki eat mine.

After the Unagi was a clear broth soup with an ingredient we couldn’t figure out. At first, we thought it was some sort of mushroom. It wasn’t. Then we thought it might be shiroko, fish sperm sack. It wasn’t that either. We finally found out that it was eel liver, probably from the Unagi we just ate. It had kind of a crunchy yet soft texture. Not something you’ll find on any old menu.

Finally, to finish things off was a plate with fresh persimmons and grapes. persimmons are in season right now and are everywhere while Japanese grapes are absolutely huge compared to what we get.

All in all this was my 5th Kaiseki. I wish I could afford to eat like this every night as there is always something unusual and strange to the western palette. If any of you get to Japan I highly recommend splurging at least once to experience the delicate yet sophisticated Japanese cuisine at it’s finest.

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It’s starting to get damn cold here in Chicago. In Japan, when it gets cold out, they start eating Shabu-shabu which is a Japanese hotpot. It’s called Shabu-shabu because of the sound the thinly sliced meat makes when you slosh it around in the broth to cook. I didn’t make this one, this dish is one of my wife’s responsibilities.

To start, she had to make the broth. Typically it’s Konbu (kelp) boiled in water. We didn’t have any Konbu, so she used Niboshi, dried anchovies. A good handful boiled in water for a bit and you get a really nice healthy broth.

To the broth she added shiitake and enoki mushrooms, green onion, and shanghai cabbage. That was left to cook for about 10 minutes in the boiling broth. If I hadn’t forgotten carrots at the store she would have added them as well. Daikon also makes regular appearances in Shabu-shabu.

After the veggies cooked a little she added tofu and konnyaku, a firm gelatinous cake-like ingredient made from yam starch. Then the pot was brought to the table and left to simmer on our table-top propane burner (something every Japanese household has).

In our bowls we poured a little ponzu, a soy sauce product with yuzu citrus juice and a little vinegar mixed in, and a couple ladles of the broth. Then we picked and chose which veggies we wanted and dipped them in our bowls before eating. All the while taking slices of the pork (we picked up some thinly sliced kurobuta pork at Mitsuwa) and sloshing them around the broth to cook. A side of white rice to complete the chow.

This a the perfect winter dish to have with a cold beer. It’s fun, delicious, and very healthy since there are no added oils or anything. Just make sure your meat, whether using pork or beef, is very thinly sliced so that it cooks quickly in the broth.

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