Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Kabocha Soup

Kabocha is a variety of Japanese pumpkin. It looks very similar to Buttercup squash, typically found in western supermarkets but they taste quite different, so don't be fooled! Kabocha is naturally sweet and has a texture that's a bit like sweet potato. In Japan, we usually eat kabocha as a side dish. I especially love kabocha that's been simmered in soy sauce and sugar, but its equally scrumptious in a salad (like potato salad), creamed into a soup, or tempura-fried.

Kabocha soup is very popular in Japan, because it’s very rich and creamy, but mild enough in flavor for everyone to enjoy. You can serve this soup warm or chilled depending on the season. It would make a perfect Thanksgiving side dish!

Kabocha Soup

·      ½ a kabocha squash (about 1.5lbs)
·      1 onion
·      1 tablespoon of salted butter
·      1 tablespoon of olive oil
·      480ml of vegetable broth
·      240ml of milk
·      60ml of heavy cream

·      some salt

1.     Cut kabocha in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

2.     Cut the kabocha into 1.5 to 2 inch cubes and remove the skin.

3.     Chop onion coarsely.

4.     In a pot, heat up the butter and olive oil, add the chopped onions, and sauté until tender.

5.     Add the kabocha and sauté about two minutes.

6.     Add vegetable broth and simmer until the kabocha is soft.

7.     Turn off the heat and puree with a blender or hand blender until smooth.

8.     Add milk, heat up the mixture, and add salt to taste. Finish by adding heavy cream and remove from the heat just before it boils.

9.     Serve into a bowl and drizzle a little heavy cream to garnish, if you like.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Holiday Gatherings: Japanese Influenced Cheese Plate

Don't forget to serve a nice cheese plate with wine for your holiday gatherings. I usually prepare 3 varieties of cheese, a blue cheese, a brie variety, and a harder variety. We should always pair some sweet fruits and jam with the cheese too. My cheese plate shown here blends some typical Japanese fruits such as Asian pear and Kaki (persimmon). The kaki fruit (persimmon) can be very sweet like a candy and Asian pear is sweet, crisp, and very juicy. Asian pear is best served before it gets too ripe, so don’t leave them for too long on the counter like regular pear. You can store them in the fridge.

Sometimes I even like to use Japanese rice crackers with the cheese plate. Brown rice crackers match best but any light salted type should be fine. Avoid the thick or soy sauce flavored ones.

There is one more Japanese item on this cheese plate. It is bamboo leaves! Lay the cheese and fruits directly onto the bamboo leaves. It adds a bit on Japanese styling and keeps the cheese from sticking to your plate or cutting board. This becomes a unique and interesting blend of Western and Japanese cultures for the holidays!
I included my favorite homemade fig jam. You can see the recipe here; Fig Jam for your Cheese Plate

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Taste of Fall - Japanese Style Taro Rice

Taro rice reminds me of the beginning of fall in Japan.  Pickled “ume” (Japanese apricots) adds lightness and body to the rice.

Taste of fall – Japanese Style Taro Rice

·      3 cups of short grain rice (1 rice cup=180cc)
·      1/2 pound of taro (either fresh or frozen)
·      3 to 5 pickled ume
·      3 inches of kombu
·      1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
·      1 tablespoon of Japanese sake
·      1 tablespoon of mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
·      a pinch of salt
·      600cc of water
·      some toasted sesame

Tips: If you are use a rice cooker, add seasonings first, then add water up to the line for 3 cups of rice. Cook normally after that.

1.     Rinse the rice in a bowl few times with cold water and drain well in a colander.
2.     Peel the taro and cut in 1/5 inch-round slices.
3.     In a large pot, mix the rice, light soy sauce, sake, mirin, salt, and water. Tear pickled “ume” into small pieces by hand. Add both “ume” and “ume” seeds with kombu and Taro to the pot. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes before heating.

4.     Heat the pot over medium heat with a lid on. Turn down the heat down to low after boiling and cook for an additional 12 to 13 minutes.
5.     Take the pot off the stove and allow the boiled rice to settle for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid still on.

6.     Remove the “ume” seeds and mix lightly.

7.     Garnish with some toasted sesame seeds.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Chicken Tatsuta Sandwich (Japanese Crispy Chicken Sandwich)

This is one of the popular sandwiches at the burger place in Japan. The soy souce and the ginger flavor go really well with the cabbage and soft burger bun. Try this out and I am sure you will love it!

Chicken Tatsuta Sandwich (Japanese Crispy Chicken Sandwich)
(Serves 4)

·      4 to 8 slices of Tatsuta-Age (Recipe: Tatsuta-Age (Deep Fried Chicken))
·      4 hamburger buns, preferably egg rolls
·      2 cups of cabbage, cut into thin strips
·      some mayonnaise
·      some butter

1.     Deep-fry the chicken Tatsuta. It is better to cut the chicken thighs at a 45 degree angle so that a piece could be bigger than bite size in order to adjust to the size of the bun. Follow the recipe for Tatsuta-Age (Deep Fried Chicken).

2.     Cut the cabbage into thin strips.

3.     Rinse the cabbage in cold running water and strain well.

4.     Slice the buns in half and warm them up in a toaster oven. Spread butter on the buns.

5.     These are the soft and slightly sweet buns, which I prefer to use.

6.     On the bottom half of the bun, put the adequate amount of cabbage strips.

7.     Put the fried chicken Tatsuta then pour mayonnaise over it and put on the top half of the bun. Serve.