Here is a super easy dish to serve as a main, side or an addition to your antipasto platter. Salty Chicken Rolls has intense chicken flavour and is served cold or at room temperature. It keeps well in the fridge as well as frozen.
I rarely use a microwave to cook food. My use of the microwave is limited to reheating leftover meals and occasionally steaming vegetables (you can find microwave-steamed bean sprouts in my post Sesame Bean Sprouts). But today’s chicken dish is cooked just in the microwave.
The recipe is split into two stages. The first stage is seasoning the chicken and the second stage is cooking the chicken in the flavoured stock. The recipe calls for 2 fillets of chicken leg.
My Maryland fillet was about 270g / 0.6lb each. If you are using thigh fillets, try to find a few fillets weighing 500-600g / 1.1-1.3lb in total.
Chicken Maryland fillet (left & middle) and thigh fillets (right).
Having the skin on the fillet is important as the good flavour of the chicken is locked inside the skin while cooking. The chicken also retains moisture better.
You can use breast fillet if you prefer but the cooked chicken rolls are slightly drier than the one made with leg/thigh fillet. They are still tasty, though!
Salty Chicken Rolls made with a chicken breast fillet.
Here are the high-level steps to make Salty Chicken Rolls (none of the steps require special skills):
Before seasoning, poke the chicken skin using a fork or the tip of a knife to let the seasoning penetrate the flesh. Leave the seasoned chicken for 10 minutes.
The cooking time can vary slightly depending on the size of the fillet. Poke the centre of the roll with a bamboo skewer and if clear juice comes out, it is done.
You make a roll with each fillet, securing the roll using a string or toothpicks. Although, if you have a small elastic roasting net, that would be easier.
If the meat is a large block like a roasting meat, you can tie the meat with a long string in a professional way like the one in my Yakibuta recipe. But the chicken roll is thin and the fillet is a bit slimy, so I tied the roll individually in several places.
Depending on the type of fillet you use, the length of the chicken roll can vary and the number of ties you need will be different. I mad 5 ties for a chicken Maryland fillet, 3 ties for a thigh fillet (see above photos).
You don’t have to neatly tie the roll. You can even put the string around randomly. As long as the roll is secure, that’s all that matters.
It is good to use a microwave-safe container that the chicken rolls can just fit inside. The container needs to be deep because the stock will bubble while cooking.
Cover the container loosely with cling wrap or a lid. Cook on high in the microwave for 5 minutes, turn the rolls over and cook for a further 4 minutes. Let them cool.
If you are using a few thigh fillets, try to use similar sized fillets to achieve even heating in the microwave.
When the chicken rolls are cooled down, place them in a zip lock bag with the liquid.
I transfer the chicken rolls to the bag first. Then I put the stock through a sieve to get rid of any tiny chicken bits in the liquid before adding the liquid to the bag. Using a sieve is an extra step and not mandatory but it’s nice to have a clean stock.
Remove as much air as possible out of the bag and seal it. To remove air from the bag, I do the following:
Place the bag in the fridge overnight.
Take the chicken rolls out of the bag. The stock should be gelatinous and some of it might be stuck on the chicken. Remove it as much as possible.
Place the rolls on a cutting board and remove the strings (or toothpicks). Slice each chicken roll thinly (I sliced it 5mm / 3⁄16″ thick). The best way to serve the chicken roll slices is to spread them out so they slightly overlap.
You don’t need to slice the roll. If you prefer, you can dice it but I think that slicing is the best way to show off the roll.
The gelatinous stock is packed full of flavour and you don’t want to waste it. I put some of it over the chicken slices to decorate them as well as to give an extra flavour to the dish.
Because the chicken has only a plain salty flavour, you can use it for many dishes:
Here is a photo of my Chicken Paitan Ramen (recipe is coming soon!) with Salty Chicken Rolls on top.
Salty Chicken Rolls keep in the fridge for 4-5 days and a few weeks in the freezer. It’s a perfect dish for a bento box too.
What other dishes can you come up with?
A typical Japanese meal consists of a main dish, a couple of side dishes, a soup and rice. I try to come up with a combination of dishes with a variety of flavours, colours, textures and make-ahead dishes.
Salty chicken, slight sweetness from Iri Dofu, sourness from the salad dressing and umami from all the dishes. Today’s menu idea will certainly satisfy your taste buds!
My Cigarette Butter Cookies are very similar to the cigarette shaped cookies from the famous Japanese confectionery brand, Yoku Moku. You only need 4 ingredients to make these fancy butter cookies and a mere 6 minutes to bake!
I love Yoku Moku cookies! I don’t have a sweet tooth but their cookies are one of the few exceptions and I bring back a large box of Yoku Moku cookies every time I visit Japan.
The confectionary company Yoku Moku was established in 1942 in Tokyo as a family owned business. The name of the company, ‘Yoku Moku’ (ヨックモック) came from the town called Jokkmokk in Sweden.
The entrepreneur, who loved travelling, was looking at a world map and noticed a small town called Jokkmokk on the map. He liked the name of the town as it was rhythmic and the sound was heart-warming. So, he decided to name his company with the same sound.
Yoku Moku cookies are crispy but soft, with full of vanilla and butter flavour. The cookies can be round, square or rectangle, with or without chocolate coating. But the most popular and eye-catching cookie of all is the cigar-shaped cookie called ‘Cigare’. Cigare is the French word for cigar and in Japan, they pronounce it ‘shigāru’ (シガール).
When I went to Japan in January/February this year, I brought back Yoku Moku cookies in a beautiful tin box (see the photo below) . If I knew that I could not go back to Japan for a while, I would have spared some cookies so that I could take some photos of them to show you.
Now that they have long gone, I am afraid you will need to check out the website here to see what’s inside.
Cigare cookies are very similar to Cigarette Russes (Russian cigarettes) that are often served with ice cream. But Yoku Moku Cigare are bit thicker, I think.
The following are the ingredients to make about 10 cigarette cookies that are 11cm / 4¼” long.
It’s amazing that you can make such tasty cookies with only 4 ingredients (if I count vanilla essence, that’ll make 5). And the flavour is pretty close to the Yoku Moku Cigare.
I tried slightly different proportions of the key ingredients above and I found that having the same weight of egg white and butter worked the best for me.
Mix the ingredients one by one in the order of the ingredients above. You don’t whisk hard to make foam. You just mix the ingredients well.
The batter is not watery but quite thin. When you lift some batter with a whisk, it tries to form a peak but the tip bends immediately (see the photo below).
Top Left: Egg white and sugar mixed, Top Right:Added butter, Bottom: Showing thickness of batter.
The fundamental process of baking cookies is nothing special except that the thickness of the batter on the baking tray needs to be quite thin.
Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and thinly spread the batter (about 1mm / 3/64″ thick). Bake at 170°C / 338°F for 6 minutes or so until the edges of the cookies become brown.
Using this batter, you can bake small round, oval or squarish cookies if you like. But to make a cigarette-shape cookie, the batter needs to be spread thinly to form a large circular shape. The diameter of the circle determines the length of the cigarette.
I used two methods to spread batter into large circles: (1) use the back of a spoon to draw a circle and spread, (2) use a hand-made stencil and fill in the batter using an icing spatula.
I drew circles with a diameter of about 11cm / 4¼” on the back of the baking paper. You can make the circle a bit larger or smaller. It just happened that the container I used to draw a circle happened to be this size. The circles need to be drawn 2-3cm / 1″ apart from each other.
Drop batter in the centre of each circle. Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter outward up to the pencilled lines. The batter should be about 1mm / 3/64″ thick.
Try to spread the batter as evenly as possible. If the thickness is notably uneven, the thinner part of the batter gets burnt while the thicker part of the cookie is uncooked.
This method does not make perfect circular cookies but simple, using just a hand and a spoon. It is almost impossible to make the thickness of the butter even and you cannot avoid getting brown patches inside the circles when baked (photo above). But that’s perfectly OK.
I made a plastic stencil to make cookies with a perfect circle and even thickness. I bought a folder made of plastic (about 1mm / 3/64″thick) and cut out a circle (see the photo below).
Place the stencil on the baking paper and drop batter on one side of the circle. Using an icing spatula, push the batter to the other end of the circle, filling the entire circle with the batter. Gently remove the stencil and voila!
This method makes perfect circular cookies with consistent thickness as you can see in the photo below.
Baking time is 5½- 6 minutes with either method, at 170°C / 338°F or until the edges of the cookies start browning.
After baking the cookies, roll them one by one on the baking tray. The cookies should be floppy initially. You need to roll the cookies while they are hot as they become crispy when cooled down, which makes them impossible to roll.
It might be easier if you place a chopstick crosswise on the cookie and roll the cookie around it. Also, the cookies are very hot to handle. It would be easier if you wear a pair of thin cotton gloves to roll them like my hand in the photos.
Because I could bake only 3-4 cookies at once, I used two trays – a large tray to bake 4 cookies and a smaller tray to bake 3 cookies – to speed up the baking process. While baking one tray, I got another tray ready to bake. As soon as the cookies in the oven were done, I placed the other tray and started rolling the baked cookies.
If you make the circles smaller, i.e. shorter Cigare, then you can bake more cookies at once.
You can dip one end of the cigarette cookie in melted chocolate to decorate. You could even sprinkle hundreds and thousands on the chocolate. My preference is a simple version of Cigare with nothing on it, though.
Above photo and the photo at the top of this post is a present I made the other day. I put two Cigarette Butter Cookies in a clear cellophane bag and tied the bag at the top. I packed them in a beautiful Yoku Moku tin box that used to contain Cigare sealed individually in a clear plastic.
It would have been nice if I could have found a thin clear cellophane bag to mimic Yoku Moku but having two Cigarette Butter Cookies in a bag is not bad at all, especially when you place them in a box.
The Cigarette Butter Cookies are not traditional Japanese cooking. However, since I mimicked Yoku Moku, I’d call this recipe a Japanese cookie recipe.
Doria is a Japanese-invented gratin. The creamy béchamel sauce with prawns is broiled with cheese on top to make a golden crust. Underneath the béchamel sauce is a flavoursome butter rice. Prawn Doria (Japanese Rice Gratin) is a gorgeous looking dish and so tasty.
Doria is a rice gratin but the way it is made is a bit different to the usual Western-style rice gratin. Instead of mixing the ingredients with the sauce and broiling to form a golden crust on top, béchamel sauce is poured on the rice, then broiled to brown the top.
It is uncertain where the name of this dish came from. The name does not resemble the dish at all.
The most believable story is that the dish was invented by a French chef in Yokohama, Japan when he was requested to cook a dish for a sick customer. It was around 1930. The dish was named after the nobleman from Genoa Republic, Admiral Andrea Doria. Why the chef named the dish after the admiral is another long story.
There are two distinct components to this dish – butter rice and béchamel sauce with prawns.
The butter rice is made up of the following:
You don’t have to have onion and carrot in the rice but having a bit of colour is a good thing since the béchamel sauce is also white. Onion gives a good flavour to the rice.
The béchamel sauce is very similar to the sauce used in my recipe, Chicken Macaroni Gratin but chopped onion and mushrooms are sautéed to make the sauce. It consists of:
I bought fresh prawns in shells. To maximise the prawn flavour in the béchamel sauce, I made a prawn broth from the discarded shells. I made it by simply boiling the shells in some water for 5 minutes or so and putting them through a sieve. Since the broth is used to make the béchamel sauce, I removed the blackish organ inside the head to maintain the clarity of the broth.
If you are using peeled prawns, substitute prawn broth with water. You could also replace prawn broth and chicken stock cube with chicken broth.
Instead of prawns, you can use other proteins such as chicken, mixed seafood or salmon. You can also replace the protein with sliced vegetables that go well with béchamel sauce. Zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, varieties of mushrooms or corn would be my pick.
You also need two separate sets of steps to cook Doria – butter rice and béchamel sauce with prawns. Regardless of the protein/vegetables you choose to go into the béchamel sauce, the steps are pretty much the same.
You might usually make butter rice by sautéing the rice in butter, then cooking it just like you cook rice. You can make butter rice this way if you wish, but the majority of Japanese people make butter rice my way for Doria.
The method of making béchamel sauce is slightly different to the way I made the sauce in my recipe, Chicken Macaroni Gratin. The amount of flour added to the butter in Doria is much less than the béchamel sauce for Chicken Macaroni Gratin. The flour mixture is wetter so you don’t need to cook it for a long time before adding milk.
The broiling time required is only few minutes. Everything is already cooked and it is just to get the sauce bubbling around the edges and the top golden.
Doria is one of my children’s favourite dishes (well, they have many favourite Japanese dishes!). It is a Japanese-style Western food, ‘yōshoku’ (洋食) with a rich flavour.
Some yōshoku dishes such as Tonkatsu became representative Japanese dishes even if they originated from Western dishes. But when it comes to Doria, even Japanese people think it is a pure Western dish. I hope you try this.
A typical Japanese meal consists of a main dish, a couple of side dishes, a soup and rice. I try to come up with a combination of dishes with a variety of flavours, colours, textures and make-ahead dishes.
Since Prawn Doria is a rice dish but not a lot of prawn is added to it, I picked Side dish 1 to supplement protein. Mizore-ae cleanses the palate and quail eggs go well with béchamel sauce.
Since there are very few vegetables in Prawn Doria, I picked a couple of vegetable side dishes and a soup that contains a lot of vegetables. Surprisingly, béchamel sauce goes well with a sweet dish like Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms.
I listed three side dishes as possible dishes to pick but since Prawn Doria is a high calorie dish, it is quite OK to just have one side dish.
Nori Bento (Roasted Seaweed on Rice) is a classic bento consisting of just rice, bonito flakes, soy sauce and roasted seaweed. But I added Saikyo Yaki Fish and other dishes to make it more nutritious. The flavour of nori and bonito flakes is so good that you can eat just rice without other dishes.
For the people who are new to this simple bento, I decided to call it Nori Bento to indicate that it is a bento and the main ingredient is nori (roasted seaweed). But it is actually called ‘Noriben’ (海苔弁 orのり弁) in Japan, by shortening the two words ‘nori’ (海苔 orのり) and ‘bento’ (弁当).
It is said that Noriben was officially introduced to consumers in 1980 by a bento company. The bento consisted of roasted seaweed sheet, bonito flakes and soy sauce on rice, topped with fried fish and fish cakes.
But by 1955, Noriben was already wide spread among Japanese households. I clearly remember taking Noriben to school in the 1960s. At the time, the rice topped with bonito flakes and nori occupied most of the bento space with only a small amount of protein and vegetables. Well, there wasn’t an abundance of food in those days.
Noriben is a bento that contains rice topped with bonito flakes and soy sauce, covered with nori (roasted seaweed sheet). Whether or not other dishes are added to the bento does not matter.
As long as the rice component meets the above definition, we call it Noriben. Even if the rice compartment is much smaller than the others, you can call it Noriben if you wish.
The original Noriben came with just one layer of bonito flakes, soy sauce and nori. But people became more creative. See the section Noriben Variations in this post for more details.
My bento consists of the Noriben component and other dishes.
Cooked rice – please refer to How to Cook Rice the Japanese Way. It is best to cook the rice for bento fresh in the morning if possible, but it can be made ahead.
Nori (Roasted seaweed) – the size of the nori sheet depends on the surface area of the rice. The idea is to cover the rice with nori completely.
Bonito flakes – the quantity of bonito flakes depends on the surface area of the rice.
Soy sauce – the quantity of soy sauce depends on the amount of rice. You will only need to wet the bonito flakes and nori sheet if you wish.
Saikyo Yaki Fish – I used Spanish mackerel but you can marinate salmon or other fish suitable for Saikyo Yaki. You need to marinate the fish for 1-3 days before grilling. I usually freeze the marinated fish so that I can cook it any time. My bento box was small so I halved the fish to fit in a small compartment in the bento box. If you wish, you can place the fish on the Noriben too.
Japanese Fried Fish Cake (Satsuma Age) – make ahead. You can even freeze it. To defrost, leave it on the kitchen bench to thaw naturally or use a microwave. Do not overheat in the microwave as the fish cakes will explode. You could grill frozen fish cakes over medium low heat to heat up, too.
Gai choy Karashi-ae – I used the recipe, Broccolini Karashi-ae (Mustard Dressing). Instead of broccolini, I used gai choy (Chinese mustard greens). Alternatively, you can use other greens such as green beans, spinach, Chinese broccoli, etc.
Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish – this needs to be made ahead. I needed the bright red colour to lighten up the bento as the rice compartment is black. You can add red tomatoes as an alternative.
You can eat the rice without these dishes because the rice is already flavoured. But I added a small amount of grilled Saikyo Yaki Fish and other dishes to make the bento a more balanced meal. You don’t need to pack the same dishes and you can even reduce the number of dishes.
The traditional way of making Noriben is simple. Put rice in a bento box, spread bonito flakes, dribble soy sauce and place a sheet of nori over the rice. Sometimes you dribble soy sauce on nori as well.
As the quality of nori improved, I found that the nori sheet on the rice does not break easily with chopsticks because it is soggy. When I tried to eat the rice with bonito flakes and nori together, I often dragged the entire sheet of nori, leaving the remaining rice with just bonito flakes.
Since then, I have changed the way I place the nori sheet. My way of making Noriben is as follows:
I made two layers of noriben but if you make just one layer, fill the rice almost to the top of the bento box and omit steps 5 and 6.
Dribbling soy sauce is a bit of challenge. You don’t want to add too much soy sauce, but you want to add enough to wet the bonito flakes and give a flavour to the rice.
To control the amount of soy sauce to dribble while evenly wetting the bonito flakes, I use a small soy sauce spray bottle. It’s just like any spray bottle but the size is so small and compact, it is perfect to carry around for picnics, etc.
I bought it in Japan but Amazon sells it and you might also find it at Daiso discount shops. It’s really a handy bottle. I sometimes use it when I eat sushi too.
The step 5 to dribble soy sauce over the nori is optional, especially if you feel that you used enough soy sauce over the bonito flakes.
Tearing/cutting the nori sheet: The original Noriben is made with a sheet of nori. So, tearing a nori sheet into smaller pieces is one of the variations. Instead of tearing, you can cut them neatly if you wish or use strips of nori pieces to cover the rice.
Double-decker Noriben: When the rice compartment has a sufficient depth, you can make two layers of Noriben. Double decker Noriben means he entire rice bas a good flavour, because of the extra layers.
Vertical Noriben: Someone must have invented this Noriben to address the potential problem of having a large sheet of nori (as described in the previous section), as well as giving a sufficient amount of Noriben flavour to the entire rice. Instead of placing bonito flakes and a sheet of nori on top of rice, Vertical Noriben is made by inserting small nori sheets with bonito flakes vertically at certain intervals.
I applied the first two variations to my bento today.
Nori Bento (Roasted Seaweed on Rice), aka Noriben, is a great way of packing a bento when you don’t have many dishes to go in it. Just like the bento company that officially introduced Noriben, you can just place one main dish on the nori sheet and it’ll be quite tasty.
I am delighted to share with you a recipe for Miso Dip that you get from 7-Eleven convenience stores in Japan. When you buy a cup of veggie sticks at 7-Eleven, it comes with a dip in a small plastic container. The dip is full of umami and quite addictive. You can eat a lot of fresh veggie sticks without realising it!
7-Eleven convenience stores in Japan sell a large variety of prepared foods and snacks. I have tried quite few dishes from there. They even sell hot Oden in winter. Today’s dish, Miso Dip with Veggie Sticks is one of their vegetable snacks. They sell it as Veggie Sticks with Miso Mayonnaise.
Below are the ingredients of Miso Mayonnaise listed on the back of the 7-Eleven Veggie cup.
I don’t use MSG, nor polysaccaride thickener. I am not certain about what other seasonings are used here but a similar product from the other convenience stores clearly states soy sauce and sugar in the ingredient list. So my version of the Miso Dip is made up of the following:
I didn’t use soy sauce because the dip becomes a bit salty for my liking. But if you like it saltier, you can add a tiny amount of soy sauce.
In my recipe, I used Japanese chilli oil called ‘rāyu‘ (辣油 orラー油). Rāyu is made by heating sesame oil with chilli. It is flavoursome and has a kick of hot chilli. See the top photos below.
I like the way the oil blends into the dip and enhances the colour to the pale orange. It is oil but the amount of rāyu used here is so tiny (few drops) that you don’t need to worry about the calories.
Alternatively, you can add chilli powder or a Japanese seven spice mix called ‘shichimi tōgarashi’ (七味唐辛子), which includes chilli flakes (see the bottom photo below). If you use one of these, you will see tiny chilli flakes in the dip, and black sesame seed in the case of shichimi tōgarashi .
From top left clockwise: Rāyu, a bottle of rāyu, a bottle of shichimi tōgarashi and shichimi tōgarashi flakes.
I think that tabasco and sriracha can work too but I have not tried it yet.
I used a very small amount of rāyu just to give a hint of spiciness to the dip. If you are not good with chilli, simply omit it.
The vegetables included in a cup of 7-Eleven Vegie Sticks are cucumber, daikon, carrot sticks and cabbage pieces. When the pack is opened, it looks just like the photo below.
Since the miso dip is mayonnaise-based, any fresh and crispy vegetables should go well with the dip. I tried celery and radish in addition to the above.
Many Japanese people eat fresh green salad with mayonnaise instead of the Western-style salad dressings. As long as the salad leaves/pieces are crisp and not limp (so that you can dip the vegetable piece into the Miso Dip), they are suited for the Miso Dip.
I personally prefer vegetables with the Miso Dip but you may even want to try some corn chips.
7-Eleven Miso Dip keeps 1 week in the fridge. It is a handy dip to have on hand when you just want to munch something a bit healthy.
Today’s recipe is just a dip for a healthy snack. So I decided not to include the section ‘Meal Ideas’.
Eggplant with Minced Pork (Mābō Eggplant) is a twist on my recipe, Mābōdōfu (Mapo Tofu). The fried eggplant wedges replace the tofu cubes, giving a richer flavour to the dish and a completely different texture to that of Mābōdōfu. The beautiful deep purple of the eggplant skin stimulates your appetite.
Although the flavour was modified slightly to suit to the Japanese palate, Mābōdōfu (Mapo Tofu) is a recipe from China. However, Mābō Eggplant is a Japanese invention and it is called ‘mābō nasu‘ (麻婆茄子) in Japanese. The word ‘tofu‘ (豆腐) in Mābōdōfu (麻婆豆腐) is replaced by ‘nasu‘ (茄子) which is eggplant.
Eggplant and pork mice (ground pork) are a good match. Miso and eggplant are also a good combination. It’s absolutely natural that simply replacing tofu with eggplant results in a tasty dish. Mābō Eggplant is an easy and flavoursome eggplant recipe.
The list of ingredients is very similar to Mābōdōfu. There are many seasonings used here but, like any other stir-fried dishes, once you get all the ingredients measured and ready, it is quite quick to make.
Other than the seasonings, the key ingredients are just pork mince and eggplants. I used a large eggplant and cut it into the bite-size wedges. You can of course use skinny/small eggplants instead.
Other ingredients needed to make Eggplant with Minced Pork (Mābō Eggplant) are split into two groups. The first group below is to season the pork mince while stir-frying and make chilli pork mince:
The second group below is a thick sauce for the dish:
The major difference between the process of making Mābō Eggplant and Mābōdōfu is that the eggplant pieces need to be shallow-fried before mixing them with the mince/ground meat. This is necessary because it is very quick to stir-fry the mince and eggplants are not cooked so fast.
Coating eggplants with cornflour/corn starch before frying makes the fried eggplants moist and soft inside. This is because cornflour/corn starch does not let the moisture out of the ingredients.
Compared to Mābōdōfu, there are extra steps to fry eggplants. But it only takes less than 5 minutes to fry them.
Mābōdōfu is not suitable for freezing. Tofu becomes spongy when frozen and loses the original soft texture of Mābōdōfu. But you can freeze Eggplant with Minced Pork (Mābō Eggplant).
The best way is to freeze the meat sauce and fried eggplants separately. Adding the fried eggplants to the meat sauce is the last step in the recipe instructions anyway. So, you stop there before adding the eggplant pieces to the sauce and freeze the eggplants and the sauce in separate containers/freezer bags.
Then, thaw the meat sauce and eggplants in the microwave. If you want the eggplants to be crisper before mixing them into the meat sauce, fry them again.
Mābō Eggplant can keep a day or two in the fridge as well. But the colour of the eggplant skin may become less vibrant.
I recently learnt that there are a notable number of people who don’t enjoy tofu dishes. I was quite surprised about that because I think tofu is a healthy ingredient and one food that is delicious with minimal cooking.
Mābō Eggplant is the perfect dish for those people who are not fond of tofu but want to experience the great flavour of Mābōdōfu. But if you like tofu, you will find that both my Mābōdōfu below and today’s Mābō Eggplant are equally delicious!
A typical Japanese meal consists of a main dish, a couple of side dishes, a soup and rice. I try to come up with a combination of dishes with a variety of flavours, colours, textures and make-ahead dishes.
Mābō Eggplant does not contain a lot of meat for a main dish. So, I picked a Chicken Stir Fry as a side dish. This dish was posted as a main dish but you can serve it in a small bowl as a side.
Sweet and sour Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish cleanses the palate after eating the Mābō Eggplant.
This Japanese Beef and Rice (Beef Takikomi Gohan) recipe is a great addition to your Takikomi Gohan collection. It is very easy to make and the rice is full of beef flavour. It is so delicious that you don’t need anything to go with it.
I had this Beef Takikomi Gohan at my sister’s place in Tokyo. The aroma of the beef cooked in the soy-based sauce was so good that I had to go to the kitchen and find out what was going on in there. Before eating the cooked rice with beef, which was delicious, I had already made up my mind to post this dish.
When you hear ‘beef and rice’, you might imagine Gyū-don – Japanese Beef Bowl. While Gyū-don is a bowl of rice topped with simmered beef and onion, Japanese Beef and Rice is rice cooked with flavoured beef.
Today’s dish is known by three different names in Japan. I used one of them in the post title, i.e. Beef Takikomi Gohan. It makes sense because the definition of takikomi gohan is rice cooked with ingredients.
The dish is also called ‘gyūmeshi’ (牛飯) in Japanese, which means beef rice. The word ‘gyū’ (牛) means beef or cow, and ‘meshi’ (飯) is cooked rice in this context.
As I often use in my mixed rice recipes such as Gomoku Gohan, Takenoko Gohan, cooked rice is also called ‘gohan’ (ご飯). Using this terminology, it is also called ‘niku gohan’ (肉ご飯) and this is the third name. It means cooked rice with meat and this is what my sister calls it.
The name ‘niku gohan’ does not represent the dish accurately. The word ‘niku’ (肉) means meat so you can use pork or even chicken to cook the rice with.
The kanji character for cooked rice is 飯 and it can be read as either ‘meshi’ (the accent is on ‘shi’) or ’han’ (Japanese kanji characters can often be read in two ways). The word ‘gohan’ is made of ‘han’ with the prefix ‘go’ (ご) which denotes politeness.
Incidentally, ‘meshi’ and ‘gohan’ can also mean meal. In this case ‘meshi’ is the word used only by some men, while females and the rest of the men call the meal ‘gohan’. It sounds rough-mannered when you call the meal ‘meshi’.
Other than the seasonings to add to the flavouring, all you need is rice, sliced beef and minced ginger.
If you are mixing mochigome and short grain rice, you need to adjust the amount of water to cook the rice as sticky rice does not require as much water as other rice grains. Please visit my post Gomoku Gohan (Japanese Mixed Rice), which explains how to work out the quantity of water required.
Cooking is as simple as the ingredients.
Please use my recipe, How To Cook Rice The Japanese Way to cook the rice and work out the quantity of liquid required. The only difference is that the amount of water is made up of the sauce and water, and beef pieces are on the rice.
Japanese Beef and Rice (Beef Takikomi Gohan) is so tasty that I always eat too much rice. It is a great rice dish and is perfect for a bento box too.
Since this rice dish contains beef, I thought the main should have a smaller quantity of protein. A dish that you can easily adjust the serving size of, such as Nanbanzuke, would be good. I like the idea of having fish along with the rice with beef.
I chose Nasu Dengaku and Spinach Ohitashi Salad as they add different textures and colours to the meal.
A classic simmered seafood dish, Simmered Flounder is so simple. Cooked in a sweet and salty sauce with ginger, Simmered Flounder goes so well with rice. The sauce only penetrates the surface of the flesh, so you can enjoy the flavour of the moist and plump flounder.
Simmered Flounder (Karei no Nitsuke) is probably one of the top 3 popular simmered fish dishes in Japan. It is also one of the easiest flounder recipes. The soft white flesh contains far less fat than other popular fish like salmon. Flounder is a perfect fish for those who need to watch their calorie intake.
In Japan, flounder is one of the fish that are given to little babies when they start eating solid food. It is also a perfect fish for the older people for the obvious reasons.
As you all know, fish is central to Japanese food culture. There are many traditional ways of preparing and cooking fish – eating raw, steaming, blanching, etc. Simmering is one of the cooking methods for fish that existed long before sautéing and deep-frying.
Fish simmered in soy-based sauce is called ‘sakana no nitsuke’ (魚の煮付け) in Japanese, where ‘sakana’ (魚) is fish and ‘nitsuke’ (煮付け) is simmered dish. The word ‘no’ is equivalent to ‘of’.
Nitsuke is actually the same thing as ‘nimono’ (煮物). I introduced Nimono in my recipes, Simmered Pumpkin (Kabocha no Nimono) and Hijiki Seaweed Salad (Hijiki no Nomono). These are all simmered dishes.
But in general, the word ‘nitsuke’ is used for simmered fish while ‘nimono’ is used when vegetables are cooked with or without meat.
Since Nitsuke is a generic term for simmered fish, the name of the dish always uses with the name of the fish at the beginning, like today’s dish Karei no Nitsuke. ‘Karei’ (カレイ or 鰈) is flounder in Japanese.
Flounder is one of the flatfish species. In Sydney, I have only seen three kinds of flatfish – flounder, sole and halibut (very rare). But I read an article on the web that flounder can be used as a generic name for flatfish too.
The fish I used today was sold as flounder and I call it ‘karei’ in Japanese because the direction of the face is to the right. If my fish was facing to the left, I would have called it ‘hirame’ (ヒラメ or 平目). That is how Japanese people categorises the flatfish at a high-level.
Within this high-level group, each type of fish is named differently, starting with a representative word for the fish.
For example, the flounder that I used today probably belongs to ‘magarei’ (真ガレイ) in Japan, which implies the most representative type of flounder. The sound of ‘karei’ changes to ‘garei’ for easier pronunciation. The flounder with stone like patterns is called ‘ishigarei’ (石ガレイ), where ‘ishi’ means stone.
Depending on the size of the flounder, you prepare the fish differently. But in all cases, you cook and serve the fish with the bones inside. There are few reasons for this: (1) The piece of fish retains the shape better when cooked, (2) The flesh around the bones is delicious.
Firstly, you need to remove the guts and scrape off the scales. The flounder I bought was already gutted but the scales were not cleaned. I use the back of the knife to remove the tiny scales.
If your flounder is very small and just right for one serving, you can cook and serve it whole. You may feel uncomfortable to see the fish on the plate with the head on. If so, you can cut the head off, although Japanese people leave it on.
For mid-size flounder of about 350-400g / 0.8-0.9lb, like my flounder in the recipe, remove the head and the tail, then cut it in half perpendicular to the back bone. Each piece becomes just right for one serving (about 150g / 5.3oz).
If the fish is much larger, you can cut the flounder into a few cutlets. Each cutlet will look like a narrow and long strip, with the bones in the middle.
The flounder sometimes comes with the eggs. Do not discard them – cook the fish with the eggs intact. They are delicious.
After cutting the fish into serving portions, make a cross incision on the right side (brown side) of the skin where the flesh is the thickest. This will make the fish cooked evenly. But if your flounder pieces are narrow long strips, you needn’t to do this.
You need minimal ingredients to make Nitsuke.
Cooking is as simple as the ingredients list:
It takes only about 10 minutes to cook!
Note: It is important to use stiff julienned ginger pieces as a garnish on top of Nitsuke. Then you can pile the ginger pieces high on the fish, making the dish look more attractive. The stiff julienned ginger is called ‘harishōga’ ( 針生姜), which translates to needle ginger. If your julienned ginger pieces are limp, put them in ice water for a while to stiffen them up.
This technique of Nitsuke can be used to cook other kinds of fish too. Fish with white flesh is the best for Nitsuke and the fish is usually cooked with bones intact. The following are some of the fish names that you can substitute for the flounder:
You can still make Nitsuke with fish that does not have white flesh and/or is oily, e.g. mackerel or sardines. But to counter the fishy smell and oiliness, more preparation of the fish is required and the sauce needs to be a bit thicker with a stronger flavour. I need to post a recipe one day for that.
Simmered Flounder can be made the day before. The flesh will absorb the sauce flavour more overnight and you might find that the fish has a bit stronger flavour.
You can also freeze Simmered Flounder for 1 month. Make sure the flounder is put in the sauce, then frozen so that the flesh does not dry. Thaw in the fridge before heating up.
Nitsuke is a light main dish so, I picked a stir-fried side dish to go with it. If you prefer, you can pick another stir-fried side dish or something that contains a bit of oil, e.g. Home-made Atsuage (Deep Fried Tofu).
Lotus Roots and Mizuna Salad adds a different flavour to the meal as the dressing contains sesame and vinegar.
Konbu Seaweed Salad with Cucumber is a great way of eating a good amount of konbu (Kelp), which is known for providing plenty of health benefits. It is a very refreshing salad with a hint of ginger flavour. The total calorie count of this salad is very low – less than 100 calories per serving!
I use dried konbu quite often to make dashi stock. Since konbu is not a cheap ingredient, It feels wrong to discard the konbu after only using it to get dashi out of it. So, I freeze the used konbu pieces and save them up for later use. Today’s salad is the perfect dish to make use of such leftover konbu pieces.
It is a very simple salad. It consists of only three items other than dressing.
I used cucumber pieces to go with shredded konbu but you don’t have to have cucumbers or you can replace them with other vegetable strips such as carrot or bean sprouts. Then, you need to call it Konbu Seaweed Salad with Carrot or with Bean Sprout!
The dressing is a dashi-flavoured vinegar sauce and it does not contain oil at all. To give the intensity of the dashi flavour to the dressing, I used shiro dashi (白出汁) as a base. Even the dressing consists of just three items.
The proportion of the dressing ingredients for making Konbu Seaweed Salad with Cucumber is easy to remember too. It’s a reverse 1-2-3:
3 portions of shiro dashi + 2 portions of rice wine vinegar + 1 portion of soy sauce
In my post Stir-fried Choy Sum with deep Fried Tofu, I added a recipe to make shiro dashi at home. But you can use a store-bought shiro dashi if you wish. Japanese grocery stores sell it in a bottle or a carton.
If you cook Japanese dishes often, I strongly recommend getting a bottle of shiro dashi. It is a handy seasoning because it is condensed seasoned broth.
The flavour of shiro dashi varies depending on the brand. Accordingly, the flavour of the dressing varies slightly.
Dried konbu needs to be soaked in water and then bring it to a boil. You can follow my recipe for Konbu dashi in my post Varieties of Dashi stock, or use the method in the recipe below.
Even if you use the recipe below to rehydrate the konbu, keep the broth. The broth is basically a konbu dashi and you can use it for other dishes. Konbu dashi can keep in the fridge for few days. Although it will lose a bit of flavour, you can freeze konbu dashi for 2-3 weeks.
The konbu normally expands to about 4 times in size and should be tender enough to eat, with a bit of a crunch.
Rehydrated konbu can be quite wide and a bit slippery, which makes it hard to cut very thinly. The easiest way to cut the konbu finely is to roll it up before cutting. Roll the konbu lengthwise, flatten the roll to make it a narrow 3-layered konbu roll, then cut it crosswise (see the step-by-step photos below).
Use a large piece of dried konbu, instead of a collection of small pieces to make up the required amount. If using small pieces, try to pick the pieces with short but full-width. The leaves of konbu are long and narrow in shape and you need to cut the konbu crosswise, not lengthwise.
It is important to get the direction of the konbu right to make a roll because you need to cut the konbu crosswise. The texture of the julienned kombu pieces that are cut lengthwise is much stiffer and you need to avoid that.
Depending on the origin of the konbu, the texture, colour and even the flavour of the konbu is different. Some of them are slimier than others.
The konbu I used today is from Rishiri (利尻) in Hokkaido. Rishiri konbu is very thick and great for dashi. It is also great for konbu products such as shaved konbu called ‘tororo konbu’ (とろろ昆布).
Other varieties of konbu used for dashi stock include:
Comparing the thickness of Makonbu (left) and Hidaka konbu (right) after rehydrated.
You can make Konbu Seaweed Salad with Cucumber with any kind of konbu. If you cannot find konbu, you could substitute it with wakame seaweed. But the texture of the seaweed salad will be quite different.
Finely julienned konbu is called ‘kiri konbu’ (切り昆布) or ‘kizami konbu’ (刻み昆布) in Japanese. The word ‘kiri‘ means cut and ‘kizami’ means chopped finely.
You can even buy a bag of dried kiri konbu from Japanese grocery stores. Rehydrate the konbu in water for 10-15 minutes and it is ready to eat. Here is a sample of dried kiri konbu that I bought from a Japanese grocery store.
Konbu is good for you. It is a good source of dietary fibre. It is also known for reducing blood cholesterol and hypertension.
Konbu Seaweed Salad with Cucumber keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, which is handy when you need another dish to add to the meal without increasing your calorie intake too much.
Today’s salad is such a refreshing salad that you can afford to have an oily main dish. I picked Stuffed Sardines with Perilla and Pickled Plum. Instead of sardines, you can serve Karaage Chicken or Tonkatsu, if you like.
To add a bit of colour to the meal, I picked Iri Dōfu as Side dish 1.
Tenshinhan (天津飯) is a Chinese-influenced Japanese dish. The fluffy omelette with crab meat is placed on a mound of rice and the thick sauce poured over the omelette is so flavoursome. Crab Omelette on Rice is very easy to make.
Many people, including Japanese people, mistakenly think that Tenshinhan is Chinese food. It is indeed served at Chinese restaurants in Japan – it is a made-in-Japan dish, but it is derived from a Chinese omelette dish.
The name of the dish has nothing to do with the appearance or ingredients of the dish. Tenshin (天津) is the name of a city in China, although it is called ‘Tianjin’ in English. ‘Tenshin’ is the Japanese way of reading these characters.
Apparently, this dish is associated with the high-quality rice produced in Tianjin that was used by Japanese restaurants in the early Shōwa period – the era of supply shortages.
Today’s dish was originally called 天津芙蓉蛋飯 (Crab Omelette on Tenshin rice bowl) as the omelette was made like the Chinese omelette called Egg Foo Young (芙蓉蛋) and the rice was Tenshin rice (天津飯). But because the name is too long with complicated Kanji characters, it was abbreviated to 天津飯.
Tenshinhan is very simple and consists of three main ingredients – cooked rice, Crab Omelette and sweet thick sauce.
Since the omelette needs to cover all of the rice, it has to be a large round shape, unlike a Western-style omelette. On a plate, make a mound of cooked rice. Place an omelette on the rice, covering all of the rice, then pour on the thick sauce.
I used a jar of ready-to-eat blue swimmer crab meat as per the photo below. But if you cook a fresh crab and use the meat, that would taste better.
I like the surface of the round omelette soft, rather than well done. But if you prefer the eggs to be cooked through, that’s OK too.
Instead of adding chopped shallots to the omelette, some recipes decorate the surface of the omelette with green peas.
Since crab meat is quite expensive, Japanese people often substitute crab meat with imitation crab meat called ‘kanikama’ (蟹カマ).
It is a fish cake moulded into the shape of the leg meat of snow crab or Japanese spider crab. Naturally, the sticks are coloured to look like crab legs. It even has a hint of crab flavour.
High quality Kanikama is made in such way that when you shred the stick by hand, the shredded pieces look just like the real leg meat of a crab.
You can buy kanikama at Japanese/Asian grocery stores – usually frozen. Unfortunately, the kanikama I can buy in Sydney doesn’t have a strong crab flavour and does not shred as well as it should.
Here is the Tenshinhan using kanikama. It’s more colourful than the one using real crab meat. I included the kanikama version in the recipe too.
Without a thick sauce, it is not a Tenshinhan. Since the dish originated from a Chinese dish, the basis for the sauce is chicken stock, unlike a typical dashi-based Japanese-style sauce.
There are two different sauce flavours for Tenshinhan – a sweet & sour flavour and a sweet savoury flavour.
The former is often served in Kanto (関東, the eastern region of Japan that includes Tokyo and surrounding prefectures), and the latter is served in Kansai (関西, the western region of Japan that includes Osaka and Kyoto).
It’s just like Sydney vs Melbourne, there are so many things that Kanto and Kansai compete against each other over and go different directions!
The sweet and sour Tenshinhan sauce (Kanto-style) is made by mixing chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and is thickened by cornflour/corn starch. To make the Kansai-style sweet savoury Tenshinhan sauce, replace the vinegar in the Kanto-style with cooking sake.
Some recipes add oyster sauce or tomato ketchup to the sauce. But I like it simple.
Crab Omelette on Rice (Tenshinhan) is a very easy dish to make. You will be amazed how the simple thick sauce makes this dish so flavoursome and special.
Today’s dish covers Main and Rice in the panel below. But I thought I needed to add a bit more meat to the meal to supplement protein. So I selected Shumai served as a side.
The other side dish needs to be a salad. Harusame Salad would be perfect for it. A pickled dish like Senmai-zuke is always good to go with the sweet sauce.
Japanese Chicken Meatballs called ‘Tsukune’ are one of the regular yakitori dish items. Soft and bouncy chicken meatballs are skewered and chargrilled with sweet soy sauce, i.e. yakitori sauce. The key to my soft and juicy meatballs is the grated onion and the amount of fat in the chicken mince (ground chicken).
People often think that Tsukune (つくね) is Japanese chicken meatballs. But that is not accurate. Tsukune is a generic name for Japanese-style meatballs. The minced meat (ground meat) does not have to be chicken, it could be pork or even fish.
However, the most popular Tsukune is made with chicken and that’s probably why Tsukune is synonymous with chicken meatballs.
Meatballs for Tsukune have to be soft, bouncy and juicy. To make the texture of the soft and juicy Tsukune, you need to have chicken fat in the mince. The surface of the meatballs needs to be smooth rather than bumpy, which you get when the granular size of the mince is large.
I use a mixture of chicken breast mince and chicken thigh mince, which contains more fat than the breast mince. The breast mince is almost like a paste and it makes the surface of the meatballs smooth. The chicken thigh mince adds fat to the mince that makes the meatballs soft and juicy and compensates for the dryness of the breast mince.
But sometimes, I may have just breast mince. In this case, I add finely minced chicken fat to it so that the meatballs become more moist and soft.
Whenever I trim the fat and remove the skin from the chicken, I save them and freeze them. The chicken skin often has a layer of fat on the inside. I scrape off the fat to make use of it.
You could use a blender to make mince from fillets as well. I tried it with thigh fillets and it worked well. You can mince thigh fillets much finer than those you get from the shop.
The chicken mince mixture to make Tsukune consists of the following (The list is not short, but all the ingredients are available at supermarkets):
Drop your meatballs into the boiling water and cook them for 5-7 minutes. This is basically the process of making the basic Tsukune.
Once your meatballs are boiled, there are many different ways of using them to make dishes. Today, I made them in Yakitori-style by putting skewers through them and grilling them with a sweet soy sauce.
In almost all meatball dishes, when you make the meatball, you take a portion of the meat mixture on your palm, place the other hand to cover the meat, then roll the meat inside your hands to make it round. This method sure can make a perfect ball.
I make Tsukune in the different way. Because the mince mixture in my recipe is quite soft and difficult to roll to make a ball, I do not use the traditional method of making a meatball.
What I do is shown in the step-by-step photo below.
I grab a handful of mince mixture with my left hand (I am a right hander), make a circle with my thumb and index finger and squeeze my hand to push the meat through the circle. The meat comes out shaped like a ball. With my right hand, I use a spoon to scoop the meatball off my left hand and drop it into the boiling water.
There is a similar meatball called ‘tsumire’ (つみれ) which is also made with minced meat, most commonly with minced fish. Tsumire made with sardines is a popular ingredient to go into Oden (Simmered One Pot Dish) hot pot. People assume that tsumire is fish meatballs, but it is not so.
The difference between Tsukune and tsumire is the way meatballs are formed.
In the case of Tsukune, minced meat is formed into a ball or a sausage shape using hands. On the other hand, tsumire is made by dropping seasoned minced meat into boiling water or soup using a spoon, or by picking up by hand without forming a particular shape.
Photo below is a traditional tsumire server made of bamboo. Place the mice mixture on the half-pipe bamboo server and simply slide a chunk of mince into the boiling broth using a spatula.
I wanted to add this section because my way of making Tsukune is the combined method of making Tsukune and tsumire. I must post a tsumire dish one day.
When you serve Tsukune as part of a yakitori dish, put 2 or 3 meatballs through a skewer. Then grill them with either salts sprinkled over them or sweet soy sauce basted on them.
Skewer: The best skewer for the meatballs is called ‘teppō gushi’ (鉄砲串, gun skewer). Unlike the standard round bamboo skewer, the teppō gushi is a narrow flat skewer with a handle at one end. The flat skewer prevents the meatballs from rotating around the skewer when turning the balls on the skewer over. You can buy teppō gushi at Japanese grocery stores. Some online shops also sell them.
Flavouring: The flavour can be either salty or sweet. The salty Tsukune is simply made by sprinkling some salt over the meatballs when grilling. The sweet flavour is made by basting the meatballs in a condensed sauce that is made of soy sauce, mirin and sugar.
I hope you enjoy Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune) as much as Yakitori (Japanese Skewered Chicken).
Originally published in November 2016, improved photos and contents with Meal Ideas in April 2020 (no change to recipe).
The flavouring of the Tsukune is sweet soy sauce. So I avoided side dishes with sweet flavours. If your Tsukune is flavoured with salt, one of the side dishes can be a sweet dish such as Simmered Pumpkin (Kabocha no Nimono).
Tonjiru adds a wider range of vegetables to the meal as well as the different colours.
Deep-fried crumbed Beef & Pork Patty (Menchi Katsu) is a perfect food for a bento box. When you make Menchi Katsu for dinner, make some extra and freeze them for bento to use them later. My Beef & Pork Patty Bento is packed with vegetables that are prepared in different ways.
The standard size of Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet) is similar to a Hamburg steak. That’s a bit too large to go into a bento box, unless of course your bento box is pretty big.
My bento box today is a modest size (11cm x 20cm / 4⅜” x 8″), purchased from the Daiso discount shop. If you make a couple of smaller Menchi Katsu, they can fit nicely in a bento box, allowing room for other side dishes.
Here are the ingredients of Beef & Pork Patty Bento box.
Japanese people are said to eat with their eyes. Part of the enjoyment of eating is admiring the beauty of the food and arrangements. The better the food looks, the more delicious we feel the food will be.
This concept also applies to bento making. People make every effort to make their bento box look gorgeous and well balanced.
It is not difficult to pack a bento box that looks pretty and delicious. There are three major areas that you can focus on – (a) effective use of dividers to separate foods, (b) colour combinations and (c) packing techniques. I listed key points in each area in the following sections.
My bento box today came with one divider to partition the bento box into two areas. So, I placed the divider to separate the rice from all other foods. I used okazu cups for Nibitashi and pickles as they come with a bit of liquid.
It is easier to pour the sauce over the Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet) and pack them in a bento box, instead of packing the sauce in a separate container. But when you open the bento box and are ready to eat, you will be grateful if the sauce is not poured already.
Nothing is so unappetising as seeing a cutlet stained with a brown sauce that has soaked into the crumbed coating and lost the shiny surface of the sauce.
You don’t need a large amount of sauces for a bento, so I use one of the following containers to be added to the bento box.
When the sauce is thick like today’s dish, the first two options would be easier to fill. But I did fill the plastic sauce bottle from Daiso with Bulldog sauce when I made Tonkatsu Bento.
The plastic sauce bottle from Daiso came in a pack with a dozen of these (bottom right photo above). I think it was only few dollars a pack.
Due to COVID-19, I am sure many people are staying home and may not be able to go out to get take away food for lunch. Why don’t you make a lunch box for yourself even if you are eating it at home? It hopefully makes the life more tolerable!
Adding wasabi mayonnaise gives a Japanese touch to salad. Root Vegetable Salad is very simple, consisting of only carrot, burdock and cucumber, but it is quite satisfying with a creamy Wasabi Dressing.
Most people might know wasabi as a green paste that comes with sushi. But you can use wasabi just like you use mustard in dressings and with mayonnaise. Because wasabi = Japan, salad dressings somewhat become Japanese-style when mixed with wasabi.
Wasabi is also called Japanese horseradish – a plant that grows in wet fields. The part used for wasabi paste is the base part of the stem. You grate the stem and use it for sushi, sashimi, etc.
I don’t know about your country, but in Australia fresh wasabi stems are impossible to buy unless you are a restauranteur. They are so expensive that even in Japan many restaurants/sushi shops do not use fresh wasabi.
Many restaurants use artificially made wasabi that consists of horseradish and green colouring. The wasabi in tubes that you can buy at Japanese/Asian grocery stores or supermarkets are most likely fake ones. Powdered wasabi is no exception.
If you have access to a fresh wasabi stem, you are a lucky person and I envy you. Freshly grated wasabi is nothing like the fake wasabi paste from both a texture and flavour perspective.
If you are buying wasabi in a tube at a Japanese or Asian grocery store, try to find a wasabi labelled as ‘hon-wasabi’ (本わさび) as these contain about 50% real wasabi (see the photo above). The texture and flavour is much better than the fake ones.
Wasabi is used worldwide these days and I see many salads or dips with Wasabi Mayonnaise. But most of them are simply a mixture of wasabi paste and mayonnaise. Sometimes lemon juice or honey is added to them.
My version of Wasabi Mayonnaise is a little more authentic. In addition to wasabi and mayonnaise (preferably Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise), soy sauce, vinegar and mirin are added to it with a pinch of salt to adjust the saltiness.
The soy sauce slightly darkens the colour of the greenish mayonnaise, but when mixed with the vegetables, the colour of the Wasabi Mayonnaise won’t matter at all.
I personally think that Wasabi Mayonnaise can be a dressing for all kinds of vegetables, but some vegetables are better dressed with creamy dressing than liquid dressing such as French dressing.
I think that liquid dressings are better suited to salads with lots of leaves while root vegetables and vegetables with stems such as broccoli and asparagus are better off with a creamy dressing.
Today I picked two root vegetables – carrot and burdock. To give a different colour and texture to the salad, I added cucumber, which goes well with Wasabi Mayonnaise.
To get each piece of vegetable well coated with the Wasabi Dressing, I shaved the carrot and burdock. This method of cutting the vegetable is called ‘sasagaki’ (笹がき) cut.
I touched on sasagaki cut in my post, Braised Beef & Burdock with Ginger (Shigureni) and described how to do it. But I did not include the step-by-step photos then, so I am adding the photos here. Basically, you shave the root vegetable in a similar way to sharpening a pencil with a knife.
In this photo, I used a very thin carrot and all I needed to do was to shave it from the tip of the root. But if your carrot is thick, halve or quarter it vertically to make thin sticks, then shave each stick.
Fresh burdock can also be shaved in the same way, but the shaved pieces must be soaked in water straight away so that the burdock pieces do not turn brown and the bitterness within the burdock is also removed. You only need to soak them for 5 minutes or so and you will see the water becoming brownish.
If you can’t easily buy a fresh burdock root like me, you can use shaved frozen burdock instead. I use them quite often. They are available at Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
Wasabi Mayonnaise goes well with many different vegetables. I’d suggest that you experiment with your favourite vegetables. I sometimes make vegetable sticks such as celery, daikon, cucumber, carrot and serve with Wasabi Mayonnaise on the side.
PS: I added a new section ‘MEAL IDEAS’ below the recipe card. It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and the new recipe in this post that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you!
Adding Wasabi Mayonnaise to a salad gives it a Japanese touch. Root Vegetable Salad is a very simple salad consisting of only carrot, burdock and cucumber, but it’s quite satisfying with a creamy Wasabi Dressing.
If your carrot is very thick, halve or quarter vertically to make thin sticks. Make sasagaki cut carrot (shaved carrot) from each stick. See the post for how to do sasagaki cut.
Boil water in a small saucepan and blanch the carrot pieces for 30–60 seconds (note 4). Drain and cool.
If you are using frozen shaved burdock, thaw them and drain excess water if necessary. Skip steps 4 and 5.
Slice the cucumber thinly diagonally, then julienne the sliced cucumber slices lengthwise.
Mix wasabi paste, soy sauce, vinegar and mirin in a small bowl, ensuring that there are no lumps of wasabi paste.
Taste test and adjust with salt if required. Serve as a salad, or in small bowls/plates as appetiser.
1. You can buy burdock that are already shaved into sasagaki cut. They are sold frozen at Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
2. If you are using wasabi powder, mix the powder with water to make wasabi paste. The degree of kick of heat and wasabi flavour depends on the brand of wasabi you use. You can increase the amount of wasabi if you prefer it to be spicier.
3. I used Kewpie mayonnaise, which is available at Japanese/Asian grocery stores as well as supermarkets. The Western style mayonnaise and Kewpie mayonnaise are a bit different in flavour – the former is sweeter. I made wasabi mayonnaise using both types of mayonnaise and both of them came out fine.
4. The time to blanch/cook root vegetables depends on the thickness of sasagaki cut and also how crunchy/soft you want them to be.
5. Fresh burdock becomes brown when exposed to air. Soaking in water, it prevents the burdock pieces from becoming brown. It also removes the bitterness.
6. Nutrition information per serving:
serving: 132g calories: 156kcal fat: 12g (17%) saturated fat: 1.7g (9%) polyunsaturated fat: 6.3g monounsaturated fat: 2.5g cholesterol: 5.8mg (2%) sodium: 666mg (27%) potassium: 321mg (10%) carbohydrates: 13.7g (5%) dietary fibre: 4.1g (16%) sugar: 2.7g protein: 1.8g vitamin a: 101% vitamin c: 5.9% calcium: 19.4% iron: 1.8%
Today’s salad is a little bit rich with the wasabi mayonnaise, so I picked a light main (despite being beef). The soup can be any kind, but I thought clear soup would go well with the other dishes selected. If you would like to avoid egg in the soup, as the mayonnaise contains eggs, I would suggest Dried Tofu Skin Soup – Clear Soup.