Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Basic Japanese Cooking: homemade fish stock - Dashi

Japanese homemade fish stock (dashi) is very easy to make compared to beef stock or chicken stock using only 2 ingredients and water. Dashi is used as a base in Japanese cooking for soups, sauces, stews and many other types of Japanese dishes so it's useful to know how to make dashi.

You can buy ready to use dashi powder called hondashi. I use it if I'm really stuck for time and my homemade dashi stock has run out! It's probably best to know that hondashi is not as healthy or tasty as homemade dashi and it contains MSG, salt and other ingredients that you'd prefer to avoid! Please click here to see a picture of hondashi so you'll be able to find it in the market.   

When I worked in Japan I lived in a small rural village so everyone in the community knew me as I was one of the few foreigners living in the area. Over time I got to know my neighbours and they became my friends. I rarely had to buy rice as my neighbour who harvested rice always called over with a bag of rice. He would get annoyed if he heard that I bought rice in the supermarket as he thought his rice was the best! I remember one of my elderly neighbours showing me how to make dashi. The only difference between her recipe and this one is that she used fish head and bones instead of katsuobushi (dried shaved bonito flakes). However, a lot of Japanese people also use katsuobushi as it's more convenient and the taste isn't as strong.

1 litre water
20g of kombu (dried kelp) seaweed - the size of a postcard
20g katsuobushi (dried shaved bonito flakes)

  1. Put 1 litre of cold water in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the kombu to the water and leave it soaking for about 20 minutes. 
  3. Heat the water until it comes to the boil and remove the kombu immediately.

5. Add the katsuobushi to the water and bring it to the boil again. Once the water starts to boil take it off the heat and let it sit until the katsuobushi sink to the bottom of the saucepan. 

3. Drain the dashi through a sieve lined with kitchen towel (you can store it in the fridge for about 3/ 4 days).

  1. Freeze any unused dashi in containers and ice-cube trays.
  2. Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth before putting it in the water.
  3. Make a weaker dashi which is called "niban dashi" with the used kombu and katsuobushi from the first dashi which is called "ichiban dashi". Simply put 1 litre of water in a large saucepan and add the used katsuobushi and kombu to the water. Heat the water and remove the kombu just before it comes to the boil. Leave the katsuobushi sitting in the water until the flakes sink to the bottom of the water. Then drain using a sieve lined with kitchen towel.  

Why not:
If you can't eat fish add shiitake mushrooms instead.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Hiyayakko- chilled tofu with grated ginger and soya sauce

Hiyayakko is chilled tofu with different toppings and a drizzle of soya sauce. The most popular toppings among Japanese people are grated ginger, spring onion, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), shiso and daikon radish.

Hiyayakko should take only 5 minutes or less to prepare! You can have it as an appetiser, side dish or main dish. It's nice and refreshing to eat on a warm summer's day.

1 pack of cold silken tofu (preferably GM free tofu)
Thumb size piece of fresh ginger grated
Handful of finely chopped spring onion (optional)
Handful of bonito flakes/katsuobushi (optional)
3 tsp soya sauce

  1. Gently drain the water from the block of tofu and place on a serving plate. 
  2. Place the grated ginger (bonito flakes and spring onion) on top of the tofu.
  3. Drizzle soya sauce over the tofu and toppings just before serving.
How to eat:
You can serve this dish Japanese style as one block of tofu and let everyone help themselves or you can cut the tofu into smaller blocks and put a little topping on each small block of tofu. Then, serve on individuals plates.

  1. Be careful not to pour too much soya sauce over the tofu or it will overtake the delicious taste of the tofu.
  2. Make sure to serve the tofu chilled.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Easy Japanese Chicken Curry Recipe

Japanese curry is unbelievably popular among Japanese people. There are curry restaurants all over Japan and Japanese family restaurants will always have a few curry dishes on the menu. Japanese curry tends to be sweeter and not as spicy as Indian curry. 

In this recipe I'm using S&B instant curry paste so it doesn't take long to prepare and tastes great! This particular brand is very popular in Japan. I bought this in the Asian supermarket which is located on Drury Street in Dublin and Merrywell Business Park, Ballymount, Dublin 12.  They stock S&B curry paste mild, medium and hot.

The meat and vegetable measurements below are just a general guide to make this curry but you can add less or more depending on what you prefer.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion (roughly chopped)
250g chicken breast (cut into bite sized cubes) 
2 medium carrots (cut into bite sized cubes)
1 medium potato (cut into bite sized cubes) 
700ml water 
120g curry paste (half pack)

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan on medium heat and fry the onions for a few minutes and remove from saucepan.  
  2. Add a little more oil to the saucepan if necessary and turn the heat to high. Place the chicken pieces in the saucepan and brown on both sides to seal the flavour.
  3. Add the onions, carrots and potatoes and mix all the ingredients together in the saucepan. Fry for a few minutes on medium heat to allow the vegetables to absorb the flavour of the chicken.
  4. Pour 700ml of water into the saucepan, place the lid on the saucepan and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are cooked (about 15 minutes). 
  5. Cut the curry paste into square pieces and place in a cup and add some of the water from the saucepan and mix using a fork or small whisk removing any lumps. Add to the saucepan and stir using a wooden spoon. Let it simmer until you are satisfied with the consistency of the curry (5 minutes or less). If it's too thick then just add a little water.
Serves 4-6 people

How to eat: 
Serve on a plate with rice on one side of the plate and the curry on the other side of the plate. Then place a little pickled vegetable on the side of the plate.

  1. Use chicken leg or thigh instead of chicken breast as it's not as dry, is cheaper and tastes better!
  2. Add chilli if you like a bit of a kick in your curry! 
  3. If there's any leftover curry either freeze (probably best to avoid freezing the potato pieces) or use it for a bowl of curry noodles!
Why not: 
Add your favourite meat (beef, pork etc), seafood (shrimp, prawn) or a meat alternative such as tofu or your favourite vegetables (broccoli, sweet potato, peppers, aubergine). 

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