Oishii! Delicious Food from Japan

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This past summer I was fortunate enough to visit Japan for three weeks. I tried anything with red beans or sweet beans, and of course had sushi, tempura, and various rice dishes. However, some of my favorites were the simplest of dishes: yakitori, sukiyaki, miso soup, onigiri, and soba noodles.
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Using the Kirschner Cookbook Collection I recreated a few of my favorite dishes for an evening dinner with family and friends to view my photos.

IMG_20130901_120743_477.jpg"Onigiri may be said to be a Japanese version of the sandwich, because rice is formed into oblong balls with whatever ingredients preferred inside them," The Art of Japanese Cookery (p. 28). This text had nice directions on how to make the rice balls; I used seared tuna with spicy mayo. Some were formed by hand, and others I cheated and used a biscuit cutter to shape them into disks. I also made chicken yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), with the below marinade from Japanese Cooking A Simple Art, but they were all devoured before a photo could be taken. I marinated the chicken for several hours before grilling.

Yakitori Sauce
7 Tbsps sake
3/4 c. dark soy sauce
3 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sugar


Pancakes are very popular in Japan, at least with my host families. My gift of maple syrup from the UMN Arboretum was a huge hit! It is interesting to see so many pancake and waffles recipes in Buy it 'n try It: Hints on Cooking and Living in Japan. This cookbook also has a nice glossary in the front, so you don't mix up unagi (eel) with onigiri (rice balls). Also, I could eat a Japanese-syle breakfast every day!
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If you have ever been to the Japanese food booth at the Festival of Nations in St. Paul, then chances are good that you have had sukiyaki. Add this to your comfort food list this fall and winter.

Japanese Special Sukiyaki
1 med. onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. butter
1 lb. beef sirloin, cut in thin, narrow strips
4oz. can mushrooms
1/2 cup celery
1 lb. can bean sprouts
1/4 c. water chestnuts, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 lb. fresh spinach
1 bouillon cube
1 1/2 c. hot water
1/2 c. chopped scallions
1 1/3 c. minute rice
salt & pepper

Saute onion in butter in large skillet until just transparent. Season beef with salt and pepper. Add beef and to onion in skillet; brown on all sides. Stir in the mushrooms, celery, bean spouts, water chestnuts and sou sauce. Cook 5-10 minutes. Add spinach, cook 2 minutes. Dissolve bouillon cube in hot water in saucepan, stir in cooked rice and add to ingredients in skillet. Sprinkle scallions over the ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat 5 minutes. Serve with additional soy sauce.

Gochisosama!

3 Comments

Unfortunately I have never been able to visit Japan but hopefully someday I can venture out there. Are there any distinct qualities in their sushi that differentiate it from our Sushi in America? If so, how would I know where to find that stuff? Thanks for your post!

Great question Dan. I by far am not an expert on sushi, however, most of the sushi I had was similar to high quality places in the USA. The difference was the variety and grade of the fish. I also noticed more maki style rolls, and few inside-out rolls. I also noticed that I was always presented with at least two different types of soy sauce to dip the sushi in, depending on sashimi or a roll. Many people don't add wasabi to their rolls, because if done properly the chef should have placed just the right amount already. I mostly enjoyed the traditional sashimi and nigiri while in Tokyo and Hiroshima.

Interesting article. I am a Japanese living in US over ten years. Fortunately, I had a chance to visit Twin City last May and pleasantly found that there are many places in the area serve high level "cuisine" includes authentic Japanese. I could eat a wonderful "Dengaku" at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis first time in US ever. Thank you for introducing the recipe of Sukiyaki. It is not an authentic version but rather friendly to many Americans who never try Sukiyaki. Maybe that is why it says "special". Winter is Sukiyaki season. I hope many people enjoy it.
There is one easy cheap ingredient for Sushi, Onigiri or Sandwich you can try.
Drain oil of canned tuna in "OIL", not the one in water. Add 1-2 TBL spoon of mayonnaise, preferably Japanese one like Kewpie, salt & pepper for taste. Mix well. If you like you can add minced scallion, onion, chive, whatever. This is so called "Tunamayo" and very popular in Japan.

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