Japanese

Tamagoyaki 卵焼き (Rolled Omelette)

Tamagoyaki 卵焼き (Rolled Omelette)Only the Japanese could complicate something as simple as an omelette!

In a food culture that values aesthetics almost as much as taste, it’s not entirely surprising that even the humble omelette fell foul of an extreme Japanese makeover. Thankfully though, tamagoyaki’s impressive presentation isn’t at the expense of its flavour!

Eaten throughout Japan, tamagoyaki’s appeal lies in its versatility, both in terms of its taste and uses. Because the omelette is served at room temperature, it makes the ideal addition to bento boxes and makes a great nigiri sushi topping. More commonly though, tamagoyaki is eaten as part of a Japanese breakfast. While typically served plain, tamagoyaki often have a “filling” in the centre – salmon/tuna flakes, fish roe or blanched spinach are all popular choices. Torn-up sheets of nori can also be added, these are layered on the egg mixture as it sets. This not only tastes great, but it also looks very impressive! Whilst all versions of tamagoyaki contain some sugar, some are very sweet – it is really up to you how much sugar you want to use.

Tamagoyaki are usually cooked in a rectangular pan called a makiyakinabe. While it is possible to make it in a regular pan, the finished product will be less than perfect. With a bit of trimming though, you should be able to approximate the desired shape. It does take a while to “master” the technique of rolling the omelette, but with a calm head and a bit of patience, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Timing is key, you need to start rolling the omelette whilst the egg is still a little wet, otherwise the “layers” won’t stick together. You’ll have a few mishaps along the way, but you’ll get it right soon enough. There is something immensely satisfying about making your own tamagoyaki, even if it’s not perfect!

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 トンカツ (Crumbed Pork Cutlet)

Tonkatsu トンカツ (Crumbed Pork Cutlet)It may surprise many to learn that not all Japanese food is healthy and Tonkatsu is a case in point. What is effectively a crumbed, deep-fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu is actually one of Japan’s favourite dishes.

A hallmark of youshoku cuisine (Japanese-style Western cuisine), tonkatsu is a very Japanese take on a Western schnitzel. In fact, other than the use of panko breadcrumbs, there is very little difference between the two! However, what really sets tonkatsu apart from its Western counterpart is how it is served. There are 3 traditional ways to enjoy tonkatsu (although there are, of course, other ways too). It can be served with just rice, shredded cabbage, mustard and tonkatsu sauce, it can be added to Japanese Curry Sauce to make katsu-karē or it can be used as a donburi topping called Katsudon. My personal favourite, katsudon is the epitome of Japanese comfort food, but no matter how you choose to eat it, tonkatsu is always delicious!

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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Chikenkatsu チキンカツ (Crumbed Chicken Cutlet)

Almost identical to its porkier cousin, chikenkatsu is, rather unsurprisingly, a chicken version of the Japanese deep-fried delight that is tonkatsu. As part of youshoku cuisine (Japanese-style Western cuisine), chikenkatsu literally means “chicken cutlet”, and is the Japanese interpretation of the chicken schnitzel.

As with tonkatsu, there are a number of ways chikenkatsu can be eaten. It can be served with just rice, shredded cabbage, mustard and the ubiquitous Tonkatsu Sauce, it can be added to Japanese Curry Sauce to make katsu-karē or it can be used as a chicken alternative to the donburi classic, Katsudon.

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Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel & Almond Salad and Sichuan Chilli Oil

Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel Salad and Sichuan Chilli OilInspiration is occasionally born out of apathy and the origins of this tasty meal were no different.

Feeling particularly uninspired one evening, I decided to forgo my usual practice of preparing two completely separate meals for dinner and instead decided to do the unthinkable – eat the same dinner as my partner! Now please bear in mind that this dining-convergence doesn’t happen often in my kitchen, very rarely in fact. We have wildly different tastes and normally I’m happy to make us different dinners every night, but there are occasions when I justifiably just think, “sod it” and we end up with the same meal. At least almost exactly the same, I always have to tart my own meal up, just a little!

So, “Chicken Schnitzel with mash” for two it was then! Now I must confess that the very first time I made this dish it was with some horrendous ready-made Chicken Schnitzels, wrestled from the frozen depths of my freezer. Indeed I had sunk so low, but like I said, “apathy = inspiration”.

But even in this heightened state of disinterest, I still needed something to spruce up this dire meal, so I set about rummaging through the fridge. I was looking for quick fixes and I found some; leftover pickled fennel that I had made for Kimchi Tacos – sorted! Things were starting to look up. It was only then that the inspiration started to kick-in; some toasted almond flakes were added to the fennel and Sichuan Chilli Oil, leftover from when I last made Dan-Dan Noodles, found its way onto the plate! Whilst this was fast turning into an inspired concoction, the addition of these two ingredients turned out to be culinary-dynamite! With just a few simple twists this meal went from turgid to terrific!

Note: The chicken in this dish has since morphed into Japanese Chicken Katsu, but there is nothing wrong with using good old chicken schnitzel instead (homemade or otherwise). For all extents and purposes Chicken Katsu and schnitzel are pretty much the same thing, but my need to complicate things for myself is, sadly, inherent and overwhelming.

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Karē Sōsu カレーソース (Japanese Curry Sauce)

Karē (Japanese Curry Sauce)Reminiscent of those dreadful British school-dinner curries of the 80s and akin to the sort of curry sauce that is poured over chips in the UK or currywurst in Germany, at first glance Japanese curry is mild, bland and, to some at least, inoffensive to the point of being offensive. That may all seem a tad harsh, but the comparison is far from unjustified, especially when you consider that curry was first introduced to Japan by the British (of all people) in the early 1900s! With that in mind however, it is all too easy to be unduly disparaging about Japanese curry and you shouldn’t, as it is actually quite delicious.

Generally speaking, in Japan karē is served as a sauce (sōsu) rather than a curry made with meat, so you are unlikely to find a chicken or beef curry per se. You are of course welcome to add some meat to the curry sauce as it cooks, but I prefer to pour it over a crisp crumbed cutlet (tonkatsu/chikenkatsu) or add it to a pile of gyūdon. Typically eaten with rice or udon noodles, karē is so popular it is considered one of Japan’s national dishes and is readily available throughout the country, both at specialist restaurants or as an option on menus at most gyūdon or noodle joints.

What sets karē apart from other curries is the fact that it is made with a roux, which enriches and thickens sauce. There are a wide range of Japanese curry/roux cubes available at most Asian supermarkets and these are well worth the expense as they are really the only specialist ingredient in the karē sōsu. Alternatively, you can use Japanese curry powder instead. If, however, neither of these are available you can just use a mild curry powder, but the flavour won’t be as authentic.

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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