22 Jun Beyond Sushi – 4 Japanese Dishes That Are Simple to Cook at Home
A couple of decades ago, if someone had suggested that you eat raw fish, you probably would have looked at them like they had just arrived from Saturn. Today, sushi has become a part of our culinary landscape so much that it is sometimes hard to remember that it is, in fact, a Japanese food.
However, there is so much more to Japanese cuisine than everyone’s favorite rice and fish combo. While most of us are more than happy to whip up a delicious pasta, sizzling fajitas, or a succulent stir-fry at home when the hankering for something exotic hits, we draw a blank when it comes to adding some Japanese flavor to our kitchen repertoires.
Well, it’s time to change that. Japanese cooking isn’t as intimidating as it seems. With some basic ingredients, some sturdy cookware and utensils, you will have everything you need to create mind-blowing dishes that even novice chefs can prepare at home.
Before You Start
Here are a few ingredients that are essential to almost all Japanese dishes. Many are available in the imported aisle of your regular supermarket. If not, your local Asian grocery is sure to stock them:
- Mirin (sweet cooking sake): This adds the signature sweetness to Japanese foods.
- Soy Sauce: Opt for a Japanese brand wherever possible, as Chinese soy sauces have a slightly different flavor. Tamari is a great substitute.
- Dashi stock: Used as the base for almost all dishes. You can get the powdered kind, or make your own by boiling up Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and Kombu (dried kelp), and strain. For a vegan option, substitute dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms for the katsuobushi.
- Medium grain/CalRose rice: Clings, rather than separates for the authentic texture.
- Miso paste: Available in numerous varieties. Experiment to find your favorite.
- Seasoned rice vinegar.
Ok, now that you’re all prepared, let’s look at some sure-fire winner dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun:
1. Miso Yaki Onigiri (Miso Glazed Grilled Rice Balls)
Commonly served as an accompaniment to a cold beer at Izakaya, these make a superb side dish for any Asian meal. Form cooked rice into discs or triangles with your palms (keep your hands wet, so the rice doesn’t stick to them).
Mix together miso paste, mirin, and a dash of soy sauce for the glaze. Grill the rice balls on each side until the outside gets crispy, then baste each side and grill for an additional minute or so, taking care not to burn the glaze. Simple and divine!
2. Nabe Yaki Udon (Udon Noodle Soup)
Combine for the soup:
- 3.5 cups dashi stock
- 2tbs Mirin
- 2-3tbs Soy Sauce
Boil up some udon noodles separately until almost soft, then remove, soak in cold water, drain and set aside.
Cook your favorite vegetables such as thinly sliced carrots (for extra kawaii credit, cut them into flower shapes), green onions, and mushrooms in the broth. For protein, throw in some tofu cubes, sliced chicken breast or shrimp.
When the veggies are starting to soften, add the udon and continue cooking until the noodles are the desired softness. You can also add in an egg and allow it to poach in the broth for a sensational visual impact.
3. Miso Grilled Salmon
This one is ridiculously easy, and your family and friends will go totally crazy for it. Combine miso paste (2tbs), soy sauce (1tbs), seasoned rice vinegar (2tbs) and sugar (1tbs). Place fish on a plate and pour half the glaze over.
Heat some oil in a skillet on high heat, place the fish glaze side down in the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes. Flip the fish, pour over the rest of the glaze and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Done!
4. Omurice (Rice Omelet)
A huge favorite with the kids. Sautee up some finely chopped onions and diced chicken fillets. Add in your choice of frozen vegetables (corn, peas, and carrots are traditional), seasoning with salt and pepper and add a dash of soy sauce and a healthy dollop of ketchup.
Set aside and, in a separate pan, cook a regular omelet. When the bottom has firmed, but the top is still runny, add in the chicken and vegetable mixture, then fold the omelet over. Serve with some more ketchup squeezed over the top in a zig-zag pattern.
There you have it! All these dishes can be prepared in under 30 minutes using only a few ingredients, making them simple, delicious, and fun. Best of all, your friends and family will have their socks knocked off by your new-found Japanese culinary prowess! Enjoy!