Friday, 18 January 2008

日本料理 Cooking In Japanese

I already have a post talking about the Japanese Cuisine, now in this post I will gradually reveal, how to cook traditional Japanese meals by yourself.
In Japanese restaurants abroad you will only meet a very small portion of the incredible variety of Japanese food. So I decided to start cooking those meals by myself, so I would be able to present them to friends and family, when I go back to Germany. But to my dear reader I reveal the recipes here, as I uncover them, so you don't have to wait for me and can try it yourself.

有利 Advantages

Home-made food has even more advantages. For example
* you can cook vegetarian/vegan versions of meals
* you can choose natural ingredients (e.g. 玄米 genmai natural rice)
* you can add/remove things you like/dislike
* you can use fresh vegetables
* you can invite friends for dinner

お握り Onigiri

Let's start with the Japanese equivalent to butter bread. The most frequent thing you will encounter in children's school bags, as well as in the suitcases of office workers or in the lunch boxes of construction site workers: お握りOnigiri.

Basically an Onigiri is a ball of sticky rice. Often people will wrap this rice ball in Nori, sheets of (very healthy) seaweed and add a filling in the middle and that's it. Simple, good, filling, light and healthy.

So let me give you the basic recipe first and give suggestions for fillings.

食材 Ingredients
お米 rice
海苔 nori

道具 Tools
炊飯器 rice cooker
plastic foil
a small bowl or flat tea cup

Cook the rice (white rice will be more sticky, while natural rice will have more taste and nutrition) in the rice cooker. Without using a rice cooker, it will be pretty though to get the rice sticky and it is a very handy and energy saving tool, so go and get one.
Take a sheet of plastic foil and wrap it around your cup/bowl. Then wet your hands and grab some rice and put it into the plastic foil wrapped bowl/cup. Press it down. Now you could make a little pit in the middle and add some fillings (see below) in it. Take the plastic foil out of the cup/bowl and tie it. Now you can easily form the rice into whatever shape you can think of. Traditional when using nori is a triangle form.
Spread a nori sheet on a board, open the plastic bag and put the rice shape on the nori. Now wrap the nori around the shape and put the whole back into the plastic foil.
Here you can find the page of the person who came up with the plastic foil cup/bowl method to shape the rice. The page also includes some illustrating pictures and ideas for ingredients.

Repeat this for as much rice as you have made and as many fillings you can think of. You can put the wrapped nori into your fridge and take them to work, on travel or wherever your feet may carry you.


Traditional fillings include 梅干し umeboshi (pickled plumes) and other pickled vegetables as well as all the variety of fish you find in Japan.

No traditional fillings I tried, that work well include
* cocktail tomato + drop of oil + basil + cheese
* small cut carrot + chili sauce
* small cut cucumber with a dip of soy sauce
* garlic/onion/ginger as an addition to other fillings
* mushrooms
* olives

お好み焼き Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is one of my favorite meals in the Japanese cuisine. It is in fact so brilliant, that it is often called Japanese pizza. The reasons why it is so brilliant include a preparation/cooking time from under 10 minutes, an extreme deliciousness and, like the pizza the possibility to freely choose ingredients you like. The name even translates to: "Frying what you like". I will give you a traditional version here, but you can vary the ingredients as you like.

食材 Ingredients
お好み焼き粉 Okonomiyaki Floor (You can use normal floor too)
キャベツ Cabbage
ねぎ spring onion
ニンニク garlic
コーン corn

トッピング Topping
マスタード mustard
おたふくソース Okonomiyaki Sauce (You can also use Ketchup, Chili Sauce, Garlic Sauce or whatever sauce you like)
マヨネーズ Mayonnaise
ハブ herbs

Ok put some floor in a medium sized bowl. There is no right amount, if you take too less it becomes less sticky, the more you take the more sticky it becomes. Play around a bit until you find an amount you like. Add water little by little and mix it with the floor to get a good sticky sauce. Don't make it too fluid, since we are going to put it into a frying pan.
Now add all the other ingredients and mix them well with the floor paste. Take some time, until you get a nice mix.

Now heat a plate or start a fire, put your frying pan on, add oil and give it a minute to heat up. Then pour the bowl's contents into the pan and distribute it evenly. After 2-4 minutes you can turn it around (use two instruments for the turning, else it will be quite hard), and give it another 2 minutes. Done!

Now put it into a plate and add the toppings, mustard, Okonomiyaki Sauce and mayonnaise just as you like them. At last add some herbs. In Japan there are some traditional herbs to choose, but any you like will do.

Tada finished! Looks delicious, is delicious, easy and fast to make. Also you don't need to clean much. Its really a wonderful meal!

As I mentioned above you can basically add any kind of ingredient you can think of. Non-vegetarians in Japan like to add pork or some sea food. Just don't add too much, to give the mix a chance to become a little bit solid.

炊飯器パン Rice Cooker Bread

Ok the next one will be no traditional Japanese meal, though it does fit very well in Japan. The reason I came up with this bread is for once, not many Japanese houses have ovens, but everyone has a rice cooker. Secondly the bread in Japanese bakeries is almost always sweet and white (= sweet/tasteless). And thirdly I have recently watched an Anime about baking bread (焼きたてじゃっパン Yakitate Japan), where they make such a bread.

食材 Ingredients
パン粉 Floor suitable for bread 350g
バター butter or margarine 21g
砂糖 sugar 21g
牛乳/豆乳 milk/soy milk 35 cc
水 water 180 cc
トライイースト dry yeast 5g
食塩 salt 6.5g

Solve the yeast in a little bit of water and add it to the floor. Add water, milk, sugar and salt and mix it to a dough. Then wrap the dough around the butter and keep kneading the dough for at least 10 minutes. This is a bit tiresome, but that's how you make bread. Afterwards let the dough rest for around an hour to give it the chance for the first stage of fermentation.
After the hour use some oil or butter/margarine to grease the rice cooker bowl. Then put the dough inside and try to center it a little.
Press the 炊飯 "cook rice" button. When it is done, put the dough out, turn it and out it in again. Press the button again. After you hear the beep, proceed with turning it one last time and press the button.
This time it is done, and you can enjoy your self-made bread!


take.n said...

I recommend you "Tamagokake Gohan",
"卵かけご飯" which is really simple.
First, you cook rice.
Second, you break up an egg and stir it up in a bowl.
Third, you put soy source in the bowl and stir it up again.
Last, you put it on the rice.
It's really easy and a Japanese traditional cheap cooking in house.
Have fun!

from Naka@atugi.

Vilwarin said...

Wohoo! Thx for enriching us with another fine and easy Japanese recipe Naka-san! I will surely try it out =D Also sounds like a good thing to bring for お弁当 Lunch in the the office.