Japanese

Nasu Dengaku なす田楽 (Oven-Roasted Eggplant with Miso)

Eggplants, aubergines or brinjals; call them what you will, but most of us are pretty much clueless as to what to do with this perfect purple delight.

Nasu Dengaku なす田楽 (Oven Roasted Eggplant with Miso)Along with an undeserved reputation for being bitter, eggplants are unjustly thought of as greasy. Typically shallow fried, eggplant’s absorbent flesh is easily saturated with excessive amounts of oil and can result in the dish becoming too rich. Luckily, however, there are a couple of ways to cook eggplants without the need to have your local cardiac surgeon on speed-dial, those being steaming and roasting. As the name of the recipe suggests this dish involves the latter method and the results are just to die for, as roasted eggplants and miso are quite simply a match made in heaven.

Traditionally nasu dengaku is made with eggplants that have been cut in half and then grilled, but this method only really works with thin Japanese eggplants which are, unfortunately, quite hard to come by in Cape Town. As such, you are welcome to oven-roast halved eggplants if you prefer, but it just seems so much easier to cube them instead, as the end result isn’t that dissimilar and makes for a more chopstick-friendly meal.

This dish makes for a wonderful addition to any Japanese spread and is also great in salads or even sandwiches (nasu dengaku on a ham and cheese sandwich would be all kinds of awesome!).

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

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Asian Coleslaw

Lets be honest, coleslaw has been called many things over the years but trendy has never been one of them – at least until now, that is.

A salad stalwart of 80s potluck dinners, coleslaw has since been pretty much relegated to being nothing more than a questionable side-order to a greasy bucket of chicken – a lazy attempt to elevate our deep-fried indulges into something that resembles a balanced meal! Thankfully, however, these days coleslaw has made something of a comeback and is looking (and tasting) better than ever! Personally I think coleslaw owes its unexpected revival to the recent trendy-burger movement: after all what is a gourmet burger without a helping of gourmet sides?

Truffled skinny fries, tempura onion rings and umami ketchup, it was only a matter of time before coleslaw got in on the action and got a much needed makeover. Whilst the Western incarnation of coleslaw has undergone somewhat of a reinvention, the greatest evolution of the dish is, however, truly manifest in Asian Coleslaw. An ubiquitous name at best, Asian coleslaw is really just regular coleslaw but with a fusion twist.  Don’t get me wrong, regular ‘slaw is awesome, but Asian ‘slaw is simply next-level awesome! Whilst no single ingredient turns regular coleslaw Asian, the star of this particular version of Asian coleslaw is undoubtedly the sesame seeds, which add a wonderful toasted flavour that suits the rich creamy tang of the mayonnaise.

Perhaps one of the best things about coleslaw is its versatility. Traditionally the only two mainstays of the dish are white cabbage and mayonnaise, other than that you can add or omit just about anything. Try making it with some shaved fennel or replace the spring onion with thinly sliced regular onion. Leaving out the sultanas and  doenjang (Korean soy bean paste) would instantly make for the perfect LCHF side dish. Of course if you really wanted to push the boat out you could always substitute the sesame seeds with toasted pine nuts, but given the exorbitant price of pine nuts it does rather feel like an extravagance too far for something as humble as coleslaw.

To call this a “recipe” is somewhat of a stretch as making coleslaw is really just an assemblage of ingredients rather than an actual recipe per se. Okay so there is a fair amount of chopping involved when making any coleslaw, but if you have a decent mandolin handy then there really isn’t anything to it. It seems almost criminal that something so good can require so little effort, but it does and I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little obsessed. I’ve been eating coleslaw with just about everything recently, but that’s because it goes with just about everything! Burgers, sausages, grilled chicken and tonkatsu / chikenkatsu (Japanese Pork / chicken schnitzels) – all make the perfect companion to a healthy dollop of ‘slaw!

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Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono 漬物)

Pickles are an integral part of Japanese cuisine. Eaten with virtually every meal, pickles provide balance of flavour or are used as a palate cleanser, as is the case when eating sushi. Also considered a key element to maintaining a healthy diet, it should come as not surprise that the Japanese are somewhat fanatical about their pickles!

Commonly referred to as tsukemono, there is seemingly no end to what the Japanese will pickle or preserve! Often eaten as a side dish or as a garnish, virtually no vegetable is safe from being salted and preserved, but daikons, carrots, cucumbers and Chinese (napa) cabbage are firm favourites. The Japanese’s love of pickles is not limited to their own, Korean staples such as kimchi are also readily served as part of a Japanese meal, although such spicy preserves are a departure from your typical tsukemono.

In terms of tsukemono as a condiment or garnish, beni shoga is perhaps the most commonly eaten pickle in Japan. Made by pickling ginger in red umeboshi brine, it is almost always used as a garnish on okonomiyaki, gyūdon and yakisoba. Outside of Japan though, the most likely form of tsukemono you’ll encounter is gari, which is ubiquitous with sushi and sashimi, although you are unlikely to find the lumo-pink version in Japan, where gari is normally a less alarming beige.

Whilst a bewildering array of tsukemono can be readily bought in Japanese supermarkets, many Japanese still go to the effort of making their own. Thankfully, making your own tsukemono it is actually quite straightforward, usually all you need is some salt and time. Typically the preserving process can take quite a while to complete, however, mercifully, some Japanese pickles take considerably less time to make. Known as asazuke, these pickles can be ready to eat in a matter of hours, if not less. Often less salty than tsukemono that have been fully preserved, these “shallow” pickles are actually more palatable to Western tastes.

With that in mind, here are some of my favourite, must-have, Japanese pickles (please follow the links for the recipes):

Quick Cucumber & Ginger Pickle

Quick Cucumber & Ginger Pickle

Beni Shoga

Daikon & Carrot Pickle

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Wasabi-pickled Cucumbers

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst all of the above recipes are relatively quick and easy to make, with pickling times ranging from an hour to a few days, all would make worthy additions to any Japanese meal. Whether it be a full-on feast or a humble bowl of gyūdon, no true Japanese meal would be complete without just a small nibble of tsukemono!

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Wasabi-pickled Cucumber

This a quick and simple Japanese pickle which makes a great addition to any Japanese meal. You can either use gherkin, Israeli, Kirby or small Mediterranean cucumbers for this recipe, but not the English variety as it is too watery.

Feel free to add more wasabi if you like it hot!

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Beni Shōga (Red Ginger Pickle) 紅生姜

Beni ShogaPopularly served with donburi (rice-bowls) such as gyūdon and katsudon, beni shōga is perhaps one of the most common pickles found in Japan.

Unlike most other Japanese pickles, beni shōga is, in fact, eaten more like a condiment than a side dish. Much like one would expect to find an obligatory bottle of ketchup on a table in the Western-style dinner, many Japanese eateries have bowls of beni shōga for their patrons to pile onto their donburi. It is so readily available throughout Japan, these slithers of red ginger are (to my mind at least) synonymous with a wide range of my favourite Japanese dishes, so much so, none of which taste the same without it. Unfortunately, beni shōga is very hard to find outside of Japan – something that I find deeply frustrating given its integral role in so many Japanese dishes.

My irritation with the lack of authentic Japanese ingredients available in the rest of the world is compounded, in part, by the continued popularity of the lumo-pink version of gari that has become a plague upon Japanese cuisine in the West. Not only is our beloved “garish-gari” a pickled aberration not found in Japan (where it’s a considerably less alarming beige), it has also served to limit our appreciation and expectations of the diversity of Japanese food. Next time you top your sushi with that Barbie-pink slice of ginger, please give a pause to consider the other amazing taste experiences that have been side-lined in the attempt to repackage and homogenise Japanese food for Western tastes. Our ever developing palettes deserve diversity and until we put down our salmon nigiri and demand better, simple delights like beni shōga will forever be beyond our common reach.

With all that said, what’s a man to do? Well if you are me, you’ve just got to make your own beni shōga, of course!

After resolving to take my pickle-destiny into my own hands, I discovered that making my own beni shōga may not seem as impossible as I first assumed. Other than the standard pickling liquid, the lay-men’s  recipe really just has two ingredients – ginger and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums). Luckily, umeboshi also features in Chinese cuisine and is therefore relatively easy to source locally. Pickled red from the juices of the Japanese plum (ume), the ginger does take a bit of time to take on the colour from the plums, but the end result is a pretty close approximation to the real thing. It may not be perfect, but given the scarcity of beni shōga outside Japan, who would really know the difference anyway!

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Japanese Daikon & Carrot Pickle

Daikon & Carrot PickleNo Japanese meal would be complete without a pickle (or two), and this classic asazuke (quick pickle) will make a great addition to any meal.

Incredibly tasty and ready to eat in just under an hour, daikon & carrot pickle is sure to become a regular household staple.

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Quick Cucumber & Ginger Pickle

Quick Cucumber and Ginger Pickle

Sweet and crunchy, this pickle is quick and easy, complimenting just about any Japanese meal.

The pickle takes at least a couple of hours in the fridge to work its magic, but after that it should keep for at least a few days before losing its texture and crunch.

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Shogayaki 生姜焼き (Ginger Pork)

This was one of the very first Japanese meals I learnt to make and it is still one of my favourites!

Shogayaki 生姜焼き (Ginger Pork)In fact, I make shogayaki so often it has arguably become my “signature” Japanese dish! I simply love the bite of the ginger, which plays perfectly against the sweet and salty meat. Combined with the crisp contrast of the shredded cabbage and the creamy mayonnaise, this dish will have you hooked with the very first bite!

Along with the obligatory shredded cabbage and mayonnaise, I like to serve shogayaki with rice, tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) and ingen no goma-ae (green beans with sesame sauce). Add some miso soup, throw in a couple of pickles and you’ll have yourself a full blown Japanese feast!

Umami indeed.

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

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Katsudon カツ丼 (Crumbed Cutlet Donburi)

Forming part of the donburi style of Japanese cooking, katsudon is eaten all over Japan and is one of the classic donburi toppings.

Literally meaning “bowl of rice” in Japanese, donburi (rather unsurprisingly) consists of rice with a topping. Some of the most popular toppings are simmered in a mixture of dashi, mirin and soya sauce (such as katsudon, oyakodon and gyūdon), but this type of topping is by no means the definitive variation. Other toppings include grilled eel (unadon) and others, like tuna, are served raw (negitorodon). It seems there is really only one rule in donburi and that’s: rice, in a bowl.

There is absolutely nothing refined about katsudon, and that’s why I love it! Simmered in a sweet dashi broth and then topped off with egg, this is Japanese comfort food at its best.

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

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Ingen no goma-ae いんげんのごま (Green Beans in Sesame Dressing)

This is one of my favourite Japanese ways to serve vegetables – it is simple, quick to make and utterly delicious!

imageThe key to the dish is toasting the sesame seeds, this adds a taste and aroma that marries perfectly with the sweetness of the dressing. Just be careful not to burn the seeds, as this will make the dish bitter. Of course, this dressing can also be used with other types of vegetables, like tender-stem broccoli, asparagus or even carrots to name just a few. Whatever your preferred vegetable though, it is vital that you cook them until just al dente.

Variations: Half a tablespoon of miso paste can also be added to the sesame dressing, however I would reduce the amount of soya sauce, as the miso will make the dish saltier.

Note: The sesame dressing makes a great onigiri filling, especially if you’ve added the miso paste!

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe