Thursday, December 22, 2011

Making Oden

Most people I know don't consider Japanese food as cold weather food, but when the temperature drops there are a couple of quick, but warming Japanese dishes that I just *have* to make.


One of those is oden, a traditional, hearty Japanese stew.  Ingredients vary by region, and well, by what you have on hand.  But some of the ingredients that you could consider adding: potato, firm tofu, fresh spinach, fishcake, mochi cake (better if you deep fry them first). . .the possibilities are endless.

So, when I decided to cook up a quick pot of oden, I just used what I have on hand.  Sometimes I like to make it spicy, this time I just stuck with the traditional.

Quick Oden

4 cups Dashi stock for base (you can make your own with bonito flakes and kombu or use the instant dashi)
2 tbsp Mirin 
2 tbsp Sake
2-3 tbsp Miso paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 block Konnyaku
1 sliced green onion
1/4-1/2 package firm tofu, drained
1/2 package of your favorite fishcake (some asian supermarkets even sell a variety pack of various forms of fishcake)

Combine and heat dashi, mirin and sake. Heat to a low boil to burn off the alcohol.  Lower temperature and add miso paste, whisk to combine.  You'll want to avoid boiling this once you've added the miso. Cut and add the konnyaku.  I like to cut 1/4 inch strips from the block, then cut a slit in the center, and tuck the top through the slit, in order to produce a pretty shape.  Add the remaining ingredients. I like to let everything else simmer a bit, and add the sliced green onion right before serving.  

Keep in mind, everything is to taste, so feel free to add more/less of the sake, mirin, miso and soy sauce to your taste.  I hope you enjoy! Oden is quick, healthy and filling, and the perfect dish to enjoy in cold weather.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monkfish and Mackerel and Uni, Oh My!

I made a recent trip to Super H Mart, a wonderful Korean supermarket, with a huge selection of ingredients that I can't find at my local Vietnamese stores.  If only it were closer!

A photo of fresh sea urchin
I had one special ingredient in mind - uni, or sea urchin roe.   It's also quiet expensive - nearly 11 dollars for a small package!  

That's a lot of money for an ingredient that I frequently found for free when stationed in Okinawa. There were tidal pools that you literally couldn't walk through, because they were absolutely teaming with sea urchin!  That was also back before I appreciated the delicacy.

I had to ask for it specially, because they didn't have any out, but I successfully obtained my uni!

I also found a special treat - monkfish!  I'd never had this before, so of course I had to immediately ask for some.   I also bought fresh mackeral, conch, gobo (burdock) root, matsutake and enoki mushrooms  and a giant daikon - all of the makings of a delicious nabe.

I decided to visit and make my mother dinner - battleship uni sushi, fried mackeral and monkfish and a nabe made with the mushrooms, gobo and conch.  It was a feast!  Unfortunately, the battery on my Ipod was dead, so I couldn't take pictures.  But I'll just leave you with this mouthwatering picture of sea urchin sushi:
Luckily, I have a little bit of the uni leftover, so I think tonight I will make uni spaghetti!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Turning noodles into RAMEN!

Apparently, you can turn other types of noodles into Ramen noodles by cooking them with a tablespoon or two of baking soda, according to Hiro-shio's blog. Soba, udon, even spaghetti noodles are fair game! But why bother, when you can just open an instant package? Because, packaged ramen noodles have been fried, and are full of sodium - not exactly the most healthful choice. Cooking noodles with baking soda increases the cooking time slightly, but results in slippery, chewy, ramen-textured noodles that you can enjoy with your favorite homemade soup or dipping sauce.

After you've added the baking soda to the water, then added the noodles, watch out! This foams. A LOT.  So, you will probably need to turn the temperature down to keep it from boiling over. But, rest assured, your patience and ingenuity will be rewarded with yummy ramen noodles.

For the soup portion, you can use purchased noodle soup base or make your own. I usually throw together some dashi, sake and a piece of kombu and add flavor from there.  Miso is a great addition.  For spicy korean-style, I like to add gochujuang, to the broth.  Add your favorite toppings and you're all set!

(random ramen picture from the interwebs.....)