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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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース

There is a lot to be said for living in Cape Town, most of which is unequivocally positive; the setting is stunning, the weather is perfect and the people are lovely. However, when it comes to sourcing Asian products, it can be described as trying at the best of times.

Tonkatsu SauceDon’t get me wrong, things have improved dramatically in the last decade, but inconsistency is still the bane of the local Asian food market. Items that were readily available one year, are suddenly nonexistent the next – it can be very frustrating to say the least! Japanese goods, in particular, seem to fall victim to this fickle approach to supply; making it hard to replenish an ever diminishing pantry.

So what do you do when you’ve finish your last bottle of store-bought Tonkatsu Sauce? If you’re me, you’d try to make your own of course! Now I would never bother making my own Tonkatsu Sauce if it was readily available to buy, but it isn’t, so I have to improvise. This recipe isn’t quite perfect, but it is a very passable approximation. If you can, however, source it locally, stop reading this recipe immediately. Go buy a bottle and count yourself lucky!

Note: Tonkatsu Sauce is a Japanese condiment that is traditionally served with Tonkatsu (Crumbed Pork Cutlet) or Chicken Katsu (Crumbed Chicken) with steamed rice and salad. It can also be used as a substitute for Okonomi Sauce for Okonomiyaki, if unavailable.

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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Nori Tamagoyaki (Rolled Omelette with Nori)

A variation on the traditional Japanese Rolled Omelette (tamagoyaki), Nori Tamagoyaki is as visually appealing, as it is delicious!

As with all tamagoyaki, this version is also normally cooked in a makiyakinabe, a rectangular pan specifically designed to churn out perfectly formed rolled omelettes. While it is possible to make it in a regular omelette pan, it will be a little harder to achieve the desired shape. However, with a bit of creative trimming, you may still be able to approximate the perfect tamagoyaki!

When it comes to the technique of rolling your nori tamagoyaki, the same principles apply as when rolling a plain tamagoyaki. A calm head and timing are essential. As with a regular tamagoyaki, you need to start rolling the omelette whilst the egg is still a little wet. However, when you layer the nori onto the wet egg, you need to leave a small gap around the perimeter of the egg mixture otherwise the layers will not stick together when you start rolling.

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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