YAKITORI & Japanese seven spices

DSC00877 (500x375)

Japanese food is getting popular now , so you might have known or even had YAKITORI already.

For some of you who don’t know what Yakitori is,  Yakitori is a Japanese style  skewered chicken (and sometimes vegetables).

After it is grilled, it is dressed in a traditional Japanese sauce which base is soy sauce, or salt.

If you have a chance to visit Japan, you could enjoy street YAKITORI  at the stands with SALARYMEN in suits after 5,6, 7 or 8 o’clock.

In Japan the workers sometimes don’t go back home straight, and hang out with colleagues, grumbling about their companies, drinking and eating Yakitori.

That is their relaxing moment.

I am not MEAT person, but I miss YAKITORI in Japan. Maybe I miss the smoke and its grilling smell.

They use SUMI (charcoal), so they are so flavorful like BBQ here.

TEMPTING!

So I can understand the men end up eating Yakitori at stands even though their families are waiting.

Sadly I don’t have a yard, so I can’t do grilling Yakitori with charcoal, but I do sometimes grill it in the oven.

Today I will introduce my in-home Yakitori.

DSC00863 (500x375)

Here are ingredients you might want to prepare.

  • 1 deboned chicken thigh (please don’t replace with chicken breast)

In Japan we use chicken thigh with skin.  It is up to you.

  • assorted vegetables such as thick green onion, regular onion, green or red pepper, or shishito pepper.)

DSC00866 (500x375)

(for sauce) (for 3-4 skewers)

  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • shichimi – Japanese seven spices

First soak the bamboo skewers in the water at least for 3-4 hours not to burn them during the grilling.

Cut the chicken thigh by bite-sizes, and prepare any vegetables by bite-sizes as well.

Then mix the ingredients of sauce together, and set aside.

If you want to have THICK sauce, you could cook them for a while until it gets thickened, but I use it as it is.

Skewer the meat and vegetables alternately.

OK, I confess.

Today I didn’t have enough time since my husband was coming back straight home (there are no Yakitori stands here!), I cheated.

I pan-fried a little before grilling to cook through fast, BUT please grill them from the beginning.

That is the right way.

DSC00864 (500x375)

Now they are on a sheet pan. (It is better to use oven rack!  Again I cheated..)

DSC00867 (500x375)

Then put the prepared sauce on skewered chicken and vegetables.

If you live in Japan,  every kitchen has a tiny oven for grilling fish, so we could use that oven for Yakitori.

We don’t have that convenient thing here, so put and broil them in the regular oven with the oven door ajar.

YES, the door needs to be ajar.

Here are the reasons of that.

1) Keeping the door ajar helps vent steam, so the oven environment stays dry and hot .

2) Keeping the door ajar  prevents an excessive heat up of the oven.  If the door isn’t ajar, the food gets burned before being cooked completely.

However there is another opinion.  Some people say if we open the oven door during broiling, the smoke comes out of the oven and we will  be in trouble ( I hate that loud siren noise for my four legs kids.)

When I broil skewers from the beginning in the oven, I put some water in the pan sheet under the rack, so even if the fat drops from the meat, it doesn’t cause smoke.

Today I cheated and pan-fried beforehand as I told you before, so I don’t need to worry about uncooked meat.

All I want is just some smoky flavor, so I keep the oven door ajar, and  I put the sauce every 1-2 minutes and finish grilling them.

THEN,

DSC00872 (500x375)

TA-DA!

Can you see the red powder on them?

That’s SHI CHI ME!

DSC00869 (500x375)

Literally it means SEVEN FLAVORS.

Like Chinese five spices, it is Japanese seven spices.

A typical blend may contain, coarsely ground red chili pepper, ground sansho (This spice is so tasty.  If you have had UNA JYU (Eel with rice), you may know this flavor.), roasted orange peel, black sesame seed, white sesame seed, hemp seed, ground ginger, and aonori (a kind of seaweed).

DSC00878 (500x375)

My husband will get excited again when he sees Yakitori on the table, and won’t regret heading straight from the work to this table!

20150427211558b11

By the way, I sometimes prepare Yakitori in OBENTO,

20150427211622746

to prevent him from stopping at stands beforehand.

Enjoy Yakitori at home!

SHIRA AE vegetables with tofu sauce

DSC00812 (500x382)

Food trend has been changing since we first came to the US.  Food culture gets more international and we could find familiar food items even here.

You also had TOFU 15 years ago, but I don’t think people were willing to use this exotic white stuff  for their meals.

How about now?

When I browse recipe magazines, there are TOFU menu everywhere.

As you know, TOFU is our staple and we Japanese love it very much.

When I was a kid, there was a small TOFU store, and my mom and I often went there with a container.

There are mainly two types TOFU, KINU (silk) and MOMEN (cotton).

Depending the dish my mom was going to make, we picked one of them.

Can we have MOMEN today?

Yes.

Then the store owner put his hand in the water in front of us.

YES, fresh TOFU the owner made every morning was in the water.

Traditionally Japanese have miso soup in the morning, so the store had to open very early in the morning like 6 AM for the mothers to make miso soup.

I miss the old-time and miss the store very much.

When people don’t know how to use something, they could be flexible and have creative thoughts.

They don’t stereotype.

I had never thought of using TOFU for smoothies.

Tofu was for miso soup or HIYA YAKKO ( fresh tofu with soy sauce and bonito flakes) for me!

or,,,,,,

There is one traditional side dish using TOFU.

That is SHIRA AE.

“SHIRA” is a variation of adjective SHIROI, which means WHITE.

Right!

That indicates TOFU’s whiteness.

The word “AE” means “mix” in English, but it is only used for food.

“AE” sounds somehow nostalgic nuance for me.

Anyway I will introduce SHIRA AE today.

You can use any vegetables such as cooked spinach, okra, or cucumber, but here are the ingredients I used today.

  • 1/3 pack of tofu (preferably firm)
  • 1 small carrot
  • 8-10 strings of green beans
  • 1 tablespoon of HIJIKI ( a kind of seaweed)
  • 2 tablespoons of white sesame
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce

(for cooking vegetables)

  • 1/2 cup of DASHI (or water)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 teaspoon of soy sauce

DSC00767 (500x375)

Here is an old mortar again!

There are roasted sesame already in there.

DSC00770 (500x375)

Grind the sesame.

DSC00771 (500x375)

Like this.

You could use grinder, but be careful not to go fur, otherwise it gets paste.

DSC00772 (500x375)

I only use 1/3 of a package of tofu.

I put other 2/3 tofu into a container with water.

If you change the water every day, you could keep it fresh for several days.

Then,

DSC00773 (500x375)

drain the water out of tofu.

Japanese tofu is so soft and watery, so it takes for a while even we put a dish on tofu for the strong pressure, but here tofu is relatively firm and not so watery, so it takes only about 30 minutes.

When we use the Japanese type of tofu, we have to squeeze it with cheese cloth or other cloth after the drain.

DSC00775 (500x375)

Now let’s prepare the vegetables.

I purchased fresh green beans at the farmers market.

Cut them diagonally and cut carrot as short julienne.

There is one more ingredients I want to put into SHIRA AE.

DSC00777 (500x375)

Is this black thing familiar to you?

Most of you know KOMBU and WAKAME, but only a few know this, I think.

This is HIJIKI, and this is my FAVORITE seaweed!

I have this almost EVERY DAY in my salad!

While hijiki is very tasty addition to any meals, it is also very nutritious.

Hijiki, like many other sea vegetables, contains a wide range of essential minerals for the body, as well as significant levels of dietary fiber, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, and iodine!

DSC00778 (500x375)

Dried hijiki is sold in a bag, and it looks like,,,

DSC00779 (500x375)

this.

When they hydrate, they increase their amount by 10 times!

DSC00781 (500x375)

Now I cook hydrated hijiki with vegetables.

In a small sauce pan, boil dashi and when it boils, add sugar, soy sauce, and salt.

Then put hijiki and vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes.

DSC00783 (500x376)

After they are cooked ( Don’t cook too much.  We need crispness of vegetables.), drain them.

DSC00786 (500x375)

Put away while they get cold completely.

DSC00802 (500x375)

Now I can AE-RU (mix) them and make SHIRA AE.

DSC00801 (500x375)

Here I prepare sugar and soy sauce.

I used brown sugar, but if you want to make this dish really SHIRO (white), you had better use white sugar.

DSC00803 (500x375)

In the mortar with sesame, put drained torn tofu.

DSC00804 (500x375)

Grind roughly.

DSC00806 (500x375)

If you like smooth texture, you grind well and get silky sauce.

I want to keep some chunks this time, so I stop grinding in the middle.

DSC00809 (500x375)

Then add the cooked and drained vegetables mix.

DSC00810 (500x375)

Mix them gently with a spoon.

That it!

DSC00818 (500x375)

Here you go.

This is also good for warm summer.

Very tasty with roasted sesame flavor and very light and refreshing.

DSC00813 (500x375)

I believe my husband will like this. ( and he did! but tofu  is easy to go bad, so I can’t put this in OBENTO.)

Please try this tofu dish with any vegetables.

By the way, I grilled,,,

DSC00823 (500x375)

thick long onion I purchased at the farmers market.

I put them in today’s miso soup.

It must get delicious with burned smokey flavor!

Also my husband will like this idea. ( and he did!)

HOME MADE CURRY POWDER!

DSCN8715

OK.

We Japanese, or at least my husband, love Japanese Curry Rice, but I think curry flavor itself attracts us.

I  use curry powder for anything such as stir-fry, egg salad, tuna salad, or even for seasoning for Japanese style fried chicken.

It goes well with anything, and some spices in curry powder are really good for health,too!

The proportion of spices is different in each (store-bought) curry powder, so when I purchase it, I sometimes don’t like the balance of the blend of spices.

THEN,,,,,

WHY NOT MAKE YOUR OWN?

It is quite easy if you have spices in your pantry.

You can make it as you like!

There are many curry powder recipes, but I will introduce mine today.

DSC09788 (500x375)

Here are the ingredients for the blend.

(yield about 2/3 cup)

WHOLE SPICES

  • 3 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 3 inches cinnamon stick (crushed)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons of  cardamom seeds (without pods)
  • 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 12 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (crushed)

POWDER SPICES

  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek
  • 5 teaspoons of turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • 3~4 bey leaves (tore)
  • 3/4 teaspoon of paprika

DSCN8710

  1. Put all the powder spices in a bowl together and set aside.
  2. Set the oven at low and roast the whole spices in a small pan.
  3. When it gets aromatic, put the powder spices in a pan at once and mix them and turn off the heat.
  4. When it gets cool enough, put all the spices in a mill and grind.
  5. Put the curry powder in an air tight container and keep it in a dark cold place. (You can use the powder soon after you make, but the flavor settles well after 2-3 days.)

20140815014759544

If you like heatness, you could increase the amount of cayenne pepper.

Depending on the dish I make, I put some spices additionally each time.

ENJOY YOUR OWN FLAVOR!

Japanese Curry Rice!

20150218103916276

Not only India and Thai, I think any country has some kind of curry dish.

We, Japanese, also have our style curry.

It is CURRY RICE!

Some people say that CURRY RICE is a Japanese national food along with RAMEN!

If you haven’t tried this Japanese national food, you have to try it!

I have a strong confidence that many of you would love CURRY RICE.

My husband likes Japanese CURRY RICE (it might be his favorite!), so when I have to leave him at home alone for a few weeks, I always prepare CURRY RICE and freeze it for him to enjoy during my absence.

He always says he could survive with this and he could eat this every day!

s-DSC00480

CURRY RUCE is a quite easy dish since we can buy curry roux (base) at any grocery stores.

When you go to Asian grocery stores, you could find various  brands’ Japanese curry roux boxes, and each brand has two or three levels of heatness, mild, medium spicy, and spicy.

I usually mix two or three kinds of roux  to get  complex flavor.

2015041820524981b

When I was a kid, my mom always looked sorry to serve CURRY RICE since she thought it was a kind of corner cutting dish.

I inherit my mom’s thought and I have the same feeling when I use store-bought curry roux for dinner, but my husband loves it, so it doesn’t matter now and also I found the way to change corner-cutting dish into well-prepared dish.

Usually we can prepare Japanese CURRY RICE as follows.

1.sautee  vegetables and meats

2.add water

3.cook until they get tender

4.add roux

5.cook little more

THAT’S IT!

DSCN1123

I learned how to take advantage of UMAMI flavor by cooking  pot roast, so I apply the same method to my Japanese CURRY RICE.

Cook seasoned meat in a pot first (little by little!  never over crowded with meat!), then I will get UMAMI from the meat on the bottom of the pot.

s-DSC00490

Sautee the vegetables in the same pot, and return the meat.

Sometimes I add red wine, and scrape the UMAMI at the bottom.

You can put any vegetables in curry and very popular one is potatoes, but I don’t like to put potatoes because they make CURRY very thick.

Instead there is one thing I always put.

That is,,,,

s-DSC00494

a can of whole tomato!

I put a lot, but since Japanese Curry roux is so thick and has strong flavor, even lots of tomatoes never overwhelm the dish.

I reduce the required water  since I have lots of water from tomatoes.

s-DSC00483_20130210053202
I add some spices and herbs, too.

s-DSC00496

In a bag , I put garlic, ginger, and whole spices, and tie the herbs.

Then you can cook slow on the gas stove, but I take pot roast method.

Put the pot with lid in the preheated oven for about 2 hours.

Then, I will get,,,

20150218103943d6a

melting meats and vegetables!

As for rice, rice has to be basmati rice for Indian curry and rice has to be Jasmin rice for Thai curry.

How about Japanese curry?

Of course, rice has to be Japanese rice, which has more moisture and sweetness than other rice.

Just white rice will do, but I put a little bit of,,,,

20150218222958220

turmeric and bay leaves when I cook the rice.

This isn’t corner-cutting dinner, this is a ,,,

feast for my husband!

Peach Salsa Canning!

20150622212725f30

It is summer and a stone fruits season now!

I have been waiting for this season coming for a year and now my mind is full of the recipes I would like to try with those delicious fruits.

201507010632567e4

Of course I did and will make cobblers, tarts, and shortcakes, but I had wanted to make peach salsa other than those.

For lunch, I often have wraps at home.

Then I put a store-bought peach salsa on top of it.

It has a smokey flavor and the balance of sweetness and sourness and spiciness is wonderful.

I don’t know how many bottles of this salsa I consume in a year, that’s why I decided to make more delicious peach salsa for me to enjoy in this year round.

I use the recipe in Home Preserving by Ball (a similar recipe is on its site. HERE.),  but I switched peaches to nectarines since I couldn’t get fresh peaches then, and also I omitted cilantro because cilantro is very naive herb which geta easily mushy.

I am sure I will put fresh cilantro anyway when I have wrap, so I decided not to add it in my salsa.

201506222115413be

I adjusted the heat, reducing jalapeno peppers for my husband.

I like lime, so I add ,,,,

201506222115394ef

lime juice and zest.

20150622211653ef7

I also added chipotle chili pepper (powder) for the smokiness.

Just preparing those ingredients made me so excited.

Smelled already delicious!

20150622212440269_2015062302123462f

I did canning last year for the first time, so I am a still beginner.

I did hustle this time as well, but I really love canning!

20150622212721821_20150622221208a65

When I heard the popping sound which indicates the good sealing, all the efforts were rewarded.

20150622212656b58_20150622220750185

Now I am enjoying this salsa for my lunch or as a condiment when I make Mexican flavored dishes.

Next time I think I would add chipotle in adobo for further smokiness, and I think that next time would come soon because,,,

201506222125505dd

I don’t think those 8 bottles will be kept for one year in my pantry.

I already opened two……

I have to do more canning!

YES! MORE!

YUZU KOSHO , another Japanese traditional seasoning

20150623200800b09

Condiments and seasonings are very helpful for making everyday’s OBENTO.

Even though I only have one kind of meats in the fridge, I could make various types of OBENTO by the help of condiments.

Starting from Shoyu (soy sauce) Miso, Rice Vinegar, Shio Koji, sometimes going to Chinese flavor, such as Chinese five spices or oyster sauce, I can expand the possibility to entertain my husband.

Today I used one of my favorite traditional condiments, YUZU KOSHO.

I think many of you know what YUZU is.

YUZU is recently recognized by many chefs as a citrus which has a distinguished flavor.

Many Japanese people love this unique flavor.

However I can’t find YUZU here, so instead I use YUZU KOSHO to get YUZU flavor.

DSC08594 (500x375)

YUZU KOSHO is normally sold in a glass jar or in a tube like this.

KOSHO usually means ” black or white pepper” in Japanese、but YUZU KOSHO doesn’t contain any black or white pepper.

DSC08596 (500x375)

It is a paste made from chili pepper, yuzu peel and salt, which is then allowed to ferment.

It is usually used as a condiment for hot pot dishes in winter, or some people put this in miso soup.

It is also delicious with sashimi.

Just a little bit of YUZU KOSHO works good (be careful!  It is very salty!), so I put a little inside the chicken I used for OBENTO today.

DSC08595 (500x375)

I put  YUZU KOSHO on the chicken thigh, and then put some veggies such as green onion and orange color pepper.

Rolled it and sautéed and steamed it with Sake to make sure the heat went though the chickens.

20150623200705635

If you could find YUZU KOSHO in any Asian grocery stores, just try it.

If you like YUZU flavor, I believe you love it!

In this chicken recipe, you could put MISO paste instead of YUZU KOSHO.

I think that would be also delicious!

QUICK CUCAMBER PICKLES with GINGER !!

DSC08862 (500x373)

In the previous post , KA RA A GE, I mentioned that an ideal meal is ICHI JYU SAN SAI, which is a set of a featured soup, one main dish and two side dishes.

When I made Ka Ra A Ge on that night, I also prepared quick cucumber pickles as one of the two side dishes.

This has a sesame oil  and ginger in it, and it tastes good on a hot summer day!

It is getting really SUMMER here, so I would like to introduce this recipe today.

DSC08776 (500x375)

Here are the ingredients you need for this pickles.

  • 2 Persian cucumbers, or English cucumber
  • 1-2 whole dried red pepper ( or cayenne pepper)
  • 1 piece of ginger, julienne
  • 3 inches of green onion

(dressing)

  • 1-1.5 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1-1.5 tablespoon of sesame oil

Before starting, can you guess what is in the orange color container in the photo above?

DSC08780 (500x375)

In here,,,

DSC08781 (500x375)

I keep ginger root with water!

Ginger easily gets dried out, so many people do grating it and freeze it for preserving, but I found out we could keep ginger really fresh for more than a month by this method!

Just wash ginger root, and put it in a container with enough water (it should be covered), and keep it in the fridge.

Change the water every day ( I sometimes forget it, but it is still good!), then you have always a fresh ginger in your hands!

OK, then.

Let’s prepare the pickles!

DSC08777 (500x375)

The reason I use these Persian cucumbers is because they are a good size and also they don’t have seeds in the middle.

They are relatively similar to Japanese cucumbers.

I like English cucumber as well, so you could use it instead of Persian cucumbers.

DSC08784 (500x375)

Chop these cucumbers, but I do RANGIRI when I make pickled vegetables.

I will show what RANGIRI is.

DSC08785 (500x375)

Once put the knife in cucumber diagonally,

DSC08786 (500x375)

rotate towards you and,,,

DSC08787 (500x375)

put the knife again in the middle of the upside surface of a cucumber.

Then repeat the same thing.

DSC08788 (500x375)

They are cut by RANGIRI.

They have more surface, so they absorb all the flavor better in the pickling dressing.

DSC08791 (500x375)

Then put the cucumber into a medium size bowl and put about 1 teaspoon of salt (not in the recipe) in the cucumber.

DSC08793 (500x375)

Rub well with salt, and leave it for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile,,,,

DSC08795 (500x375)

slice the ginger.

DSC08797 (500x375)

Julianne it.

Next prepare the dressing.

DSC08800 (500x375)

In a medium size bowl, put soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and

DSC08778 (500x375)

red pepper.

These dried pepper are already cut, but if you use a whole red pepper, hydrate it and cut like this.

DSC08803 (500x375)

You can put as much as you want, but I go with this amount.

DSC08804 (500x375)

Put the ginger, and then,,

DSC08805 (500x375)

mix well.

DSC08808 (500x375)

Then wash the salted cucumber with running water very well, and ,,,

DSC08809 (500x375)

dry out with paper towel.

DSC08810 (500x375)

Put them in the mixture of sesame oil,

DSC08812 (500x375)

Mix well and keep it in the fridge at least for 3-4 hours.

If you like well-pickled texture, you can wait until next day, but you could enjoy some crispness and some softness at the same time  if you enjoy them on the same day when you marinate.

DSC08859 (500x375)

This is a very easy recipe, so when I need one more dish to complete ICHI JYU SAN SAI, I make this.

I hope you like this.

Enjoy the summer flavor!