Category

Spring Food

Blog, Spring Food

Sakura Shiozuke (pickled preserved Sakura cherry blossoms)

A cherry blossom post in August ? Well while most of us are getting ready for falling leaves and pumpkins, for some Spring is just around the corner. I had this post ready for Spring but after seeing some Sakura posts on Instagram today I decided it would be nice to post this just for all our friends down under or where ever you are that spring is showing it’s on its way.
The unique flavour and aroma of salted pickled cherry blossom is very distinct and if you are a Japan lover you will know this smell automatically. In Japan the Sakura bloom for a very short time the fleeting essence of nature is celebrated by all things Sakura themed in Spring. You may have seen me in the past use shop bought salted pickled cherry blossoms in some of my recipes. They are used around Sakura season in Japan to decorate cakes, cookies and desserts and can also be used chopped in onigiri. One of the most popular is a wagashi called Sakura Mochi .

I decided to make my own Sakura shiozuke as they are preserved you can use them any time to make my Sakura cookie recipe or other recipes that call for salted Sakura.

Why not give making salted pickled Sakura blossoms a try. You will need to pick the pink Pom Pom looking double flowers known as Yaezakura.

Pick the blossom and put them in a bowl I used around 100g of blossom . Gently wash them.


Then add salt make sure it’s well mixed in . I added quite a bit about 20g. Then cover with cling film  and put a plate on top and weigh it down further with smaller plates then  leave them over night .



The next day take off your plates. I bought  ume su ( by clear spring ) and added to the blossom about 1/4 of the bottle.



Put the plastic wrap over and put the plates back on . Then leave that for three days . After this time pick out the blossom and put them on a wire rack with kitchen town in a warm place for 2 days .



Then peel them off the kitchen towel ( they are nearly dried but not quite at this point) put them on a bamboo tray you could use a few rolling matts or something like that and leave again to dry for a few more days .


At this point they should be dry and you can store them in a jar adding a bit more salt and save them til next year or use them straight away!

Happy Sakura Season !

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Kabocha Aburaage Crispy Fried Pockets

I started making these after using aburaage pockets to make my Tofish recipe. These Kabocha stuffed pockets are dipped in a Yuzu batter then rolled in a senbei crumb. Senbei are Japanese rice crackers, you don’t have to use senbei you can use Panko or just normal bread crumbs if you can’t get Japanese senbei.

First you will need your stuffing. You can use Kabocha Japanese pumpkin or butternut squash or similar. Cut your pumpkin in half I normally just use half a pumpkin to make two portions. Scoop out the seeds then steam your pumpkin and when it’s tender scoop out the flesh from the skin. Let it cool and mash it.
You will need one large  slice of deep fried tofu (aburaage) Cut in half.

Stuff the pockets with the pumpkin then seal the ends by just pinching together, the pumpkin will help it stick but the batter and senbei will also help to seal it.
If your using senbei for your crispy crumb coating put around three in a airtight sealed bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are crumbs then tip them out onto a shallow bowl or plate.
Next make a batter with two heaped tablespoons of plain all purpose flour. Add a tablespoon of Yuzu juice ( lemon as an alternative) then keep adding a small amount of water until you get a thick batter smooth batter.

Heat up some neutral oil in a non stick pan ( I use Tiana coconut butter) you could use Sunflower oil or rapeseed oil maybe. Add enough to make a shallow layer in the pan, you don’t need to deep fry them only shallow fry. By all means if you do have a deep fat fryer you can drop them in that.
Dip the aburaage in the batter then coat the whole pocket in senbei crumbs.


Drop gently into your oil and cook on both sides until golden.

Remove from the oil and place on a piece of paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

I like to slice mine crossways into triangles.

These are delicious served hot or cold with a dip like vegan mayonnaise, and are perfect for bento.
They go really well with a nice salad for a main meal.


 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Simple Meals Inspired By Shinya Shokudo

“When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”.Tonjiru is all I have on my menu. But I make whatever customers request as long as I have the ingredients for it. That’s my policy. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.”

If you follow my Instagram you will know I’m a real big fan of Midnight Diner & Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories. Last year I did some recipes inspired by the Netflix series. Although numbered series 1+2 in fact these are the last in the series as they started back in 2009 with MBS called just Midnight Diner. There are three seasons in this plus two films before Netflix took them over. If you don’t know Midnight Diner or “Shinya Shokudo” is a tv series about ordinary people who eat at a diner based around the Golden Gai district in Shinjuku.


The small restaurant opens from 12 midnight until 7am. The only thing on the menu is tonjiru but customers may ask the chef known as “master” for what they want and as long as he has the ingredients he will make it for them. It shows the relationship of the characters with the food they order. The dishes are normally simple Japanese home cooked style meals which may envoke a memory for the customer. This  is a lovely heart warming series and if you love Japan as much as I do it doesn’t matter that most of the food cooked isn’t vegan. This is why I decided to take the first three seasons and choose some of the simple meals you can make plant based.

Season 1 Episode 3 Ochazuke

Three women Miki, Rumi and Kana often frequent the diner and always order Ochazuke with different toppings.
Ochazuke is one of the most simple traditional Japanese meals often eaten to settle your stomach or a quick snack with left over rice.
A one-bowl meal  of steamed rice with green tea poured over (sometimes dashi broth) and an assortment of toppings. Ocha refers to green tea, and zuke means “submerged”. You can use various kinds of green tea such as Genmaicha, Sencha or  Hojicha. Spoon some fresh warm rice into a bowl and add your toppings. I added chopped red shiso leaves, umeboshi plum shredded nori (kizami), a sprinkle of daikon furikake and toasted brown rice. Finishing off with a garnish of a few mizuna leaves . Brew your tea and pour over the rice. Eat straight away so the rice doesn’t go soggy.

Season 1 Episode 4 Potato Salad

I do already have a potato salad recipe on my recipe pages in fact it was probably one of my very first. The Japanese version is a little different to the normal potato salad you might be used to. It’s a kind of mashed potato salad rather than potato chunks. Creamy Japanese mayonnaise is used plus vegetables like carrot and cucumber. In the midnight diner episode “Master” recommends you boil the potato with skin on and peel when they are done this apparently keeps in the flavour. He then mashes the potato with a fork adds slices of cucumber julienned carrot and diced ham (you can use vegan ham if you like). Mix the carrot and cucumber in while the potato is still warm this will help to soften them. Add kewpie mayonnaise ( there is a vegan version it just depends if you can get it where you are) or you could either make my recipe for kewpie which is on the other potato salad recipe or just use vegan mayonnaise.

Season 1 Episode 5 Butter Rice ( An arrogant food critic comes to the midnight diner to find something as simple as butter rice to win his heart and resurrect memories )

I must admit I had never tried this and if you haven’t either I seriously urge you to do so. Use good quality Japanese rice when it’s freshly cooked spoon it into a bowl and top with vegan butter. I use the one by Naturli. When the butter has melted a little adds dash of soy sauce or tamari and that’s it. Simple but so so delicious!

Season 2 Episode 5 Tuna Mayo Rice Bowl or Tuna Salad

This is another donburi (rice bowl) meal. In some of my previous recipes like crab cakes and sushi salad I have used jackfruit. It doesn’t taste of fish but gives you that shredded crabmeat tinned tuna type texture. For this tuna salad I did the same. Just simmer a tin of drained jackfruit in water for about 20 minutes then drain and pull the pieces apart and place in a bowl. Add to this mayonnaise a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/2 a finely diced white onion and a teaspoon of sweet white miso. Mix all together and top on to freshly made rice. I also added a little sliced pickled myoga ginger on top for colour and extra flavour. You could add some diced green onion if you like. This works just as well as a sandwich filling or on a warm jack potato.

Season 2 Episode 7 Hakusaizuke (pickled napa cabbage) or Asazuke

I always make sure I have some kind of tsukemono (Japanese pickles) with my meals . This one is so easy using just salt and no vinegar. I thought it would taste salty but it didn’t it was super sweet. Slice a napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage ) in half length ways and then do the same again so you get four slices. Wash and leave to dry. Add your slices to a bowl and add salt. Rub the salt into the cabbage. You can also add some shredded kombu kelp slices of red chilli pepper and some lemon zest if you fancy. Place a plate over the bowl so it sits just inside, then pile on more plates for a weight or what ever you want to use. Leave in a cool dark place. Then next day give them a massage and cover again. After three days they should be ready. Slice and serve. The rest will keep a few days in a container in the fridge.

Season 3 Episode 5 Harusame Salad

Harusame are dried Hokkaido potato starch noodles which were originally made from mung beans.

Harusame kanji characters are 春spring and 雨 rain. I thought being the rainy season at the moment in japan it was a nice one to make . This simple recipe has a few ingredients julienned cucumbers and carrots (which are first salted left for ten minutes after rubbing in the salt then rinsed ) wakame seaweed that’s been soaked in warm water then sliced and vegan ham with a awase-zu dressing. In midnight diner master adds shredded omelette so for colour I just added some sliced yellow bell pepper. It’s a perfect salad for summer. The noodles take only a few minutes to cook (see packets or cooking instructions) drain and rinse in cold water to remove the starch. Add to a bowl with your other ingredients then pour over your Awase-zu Kyoto style dressing 3 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar, 2 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of mirin, pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of Yuzu juice if you like. I like to add the Yuzu it gives the dressing a lovely citrus flavour that’s great for a summer salad.  You can also use this as a vinaigrette if you just add some olive oil instead of sesame oil with salt and pepper.


I hope this will inspire you to make some of these simple home cooked style meals for yourself, you may also like my post on Natsukashii & Ofukuro no aji ( a taste of home ). If you haven’t already watched Midnight Diner & Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories I can definitely recommend it.

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Japanese Bread recipe for Vegan Shokupan, Anpan & Melonpan

Japanese bread is known for its light and fluffy texture, this is because the ingredients used are slightly different to that of bread you might be used to.
While I’ve been in Japan I have never tried the bread as unless you find a vegan bakery the bread will probably not be vegan. Over the last few years ( whilst most of us have been unable to travel ) some new vegan bakeries have been popping up in Tokyo which I can’t wait to try when we can safely travel again.
I decided I wanted to try making Japanese milk bread for myself at home and yes it does take a bit of effort but the rewards are great. This recipe  has produced the milkiest buttery soft bread. I have used the same bread recipe in all three breads, adding anko inside the anpan and adding a cookie layer to the melon pan.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread but this Japanese Shokupan I made filled the kitchen with a sweet buttery smell. Shokupan 食パン Japanese milk bread is  sometimes called Hokkaido milk bread.

This bread is so soft and fluffy and has a mochi-like texture this is due to using something called the Yudane method which originated in Japan. This is done by mixing bread flour and hot boiling water. Also I used heated bonsoy milk and vegan butter from Naturli.

Lets make Japanese milk bread !

Gather your ingredients:

400grm bread flour ( this is better for a high protein to develop  the gluten) you can try using Gluten free flour but I am unsure how your bread will turn out. I used doves farm organic bread flour. You will also need another 4 tablespoons later on when making the bread, so put this in a separate bowl with a tablespoon to hand for later.

Pour into a measuring jug 200ml of Bonsoy ( I recommend this soymilk as it has a higher soybean content ) Japanese soy milk is normally better quality but try to get the best soy milk you can.

Then take out x3 tablespoons of the soymilk and put this in a bowl for later to use as a  glaze, you will also need to add x1 teaspoon of maple syrup to the x3 tablespoon soy milk mix to combine and set aside.

Now heat up the remaining  milk in the microwave for 45 seconds, then add the yeast to activate, mix and leave for ten minutes.

60grm of Vegan butter ( I used Naturli )    Room temperature
1/2 a teaspoon of salt ( I used Himalayan pink salt)
3 tablespoons of granulated unrefined sugar.
2 teaspoons of instant yeast (I used doves farm)
You will need two mixing bowls a loaf tin and wire rack

When you have your dry ingredients ready empty  400grms of flour into one of the mixing bowls. Add to this your salt and sugar. Mix to combine.
Boil a kettle of water and start to add 8 tablespoons of boiling water to your flour mixture using a cutting method this should make what’s called a shaggy dough.


Now that your yeast has been activated ( it should float to the top of the milk like this if not it’s old yeast.)

Give the milk and yeast a stir and start to combine it into your shaggy dough. Start to combine it to form a sticky dough ball.
At this point take one of the extra tablespoons of flour and put this in your second clean bowl. Put your dough into the bowl and start to knead until it comes together if it’s still a little wet add a little more flour. Take out the dough and put it on a work surface and flatten it out, slice up your butter and put in the middle of your dough and fold the dough over the butter.



Now have your 3 tablespoons of flour to hand with a spoon next to your bowl.
Transfer the dough back into your bowl and start to knead it. THIS IS MESSY for a short while. As you start to knead and the butter starts to ooze out gradually add your flour as you knead. I’ve found from making this bread that this really helps. When your bread starts to come together into a lovely soft dough, take it out the bowl and start to vigorously knead it on a surface for at least ten minutes ( this will give you a work out lol ).
When your dough is nice and elastic form it into a ball and pop it in a clean bowl covered with a clean tea towel and place somewhere warm for at least an hour for the dough to double in size but this will depend on how warm the place is.



The best place I’ve found was a nice sunny windowsill under a radiator with the heating on. You could use a warm airing cupboard or place your bowl on the oven door with the oven on if you haven’t got anywhere else.
It’s at this point if your making melon pan you can make your cookie topping see melon pan recipe further down the page.

When your dough is ready remove it from the bowl and give it another knead for five minutes. Then form into a ball and cut in two.

(if making anpan or melon pan follow those recipes from now on)

Flatten each section out into a rectangle and fold the sides in on itself then flatten out with a rolling pin to a long shape and roll it up ( see pictures below ).

Melt a little coconut  oil or neutral oil and brush generously the inside of your loaf pan. Place each roll either side like this.

Then again cover with a tea towel and put back in your warm place until they have puffed up . Around half – one hour.


Preheat your oven moderate temperature around 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F .

When this is ready give your bowl of milk and maple syrup a mix and brush it over the top of your bread dough.

This will give the dough a lovely glaze and slightly crusty texture on the top. Place in the  oven and bake for around 30-35 minutes I normally check in on it around 25 minutes to see how it looks. Take it out the oven and allow to cool a little before tipping it out on a wire rack to cool.

As a tip I often make this bread late afternoon and allow it to cool over night completely covering it over before I go to bed. It’s much easier to cut and you have a fresh slice of shokupan for breakfast the next day.


Shokupan is also a great sandwich bread often used for classic Japanese sandwiches like fruit sando
フルーツサンド katsu sando カツサンド and Tamago Sando たまごサンド (egg sandwich).

Also delicious toasted with vegan butter and fresh jam or why not try one of my favourites Ogura Toast 小倉トースト toast with red bean jam a cafe specialty of Nagoya.

The perfect start to the day.

Anpan

If you would like to make anpan which is bread filled with anko ( red bean paste. You can buy either chunky bean paste (tsubuan) or smooth   (Koshian) from Asian grocery stores. I sometimes easily make my own ahead of time the day before by using my quick method. Just use one drained and rinsed tin of azuki beans added to a pan with water and 200grm of granulated sugar. I just let them boil down and mash them.

Afterwards transfer to a container and chill in the fridge to harden.


Make the bread as above but instead of cutting the dough into two cut it into 6-8 pieces depending on how big you want your rolls. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten out. Put a small ball of anko inside and fold the dough back over.


Place the rolls on a baking sheet with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and proof your dough  so they have puffed up in size then glaze the tops with your soy milk/maple glaze before popping them in the oven. Rolls take a little less time around 20-25 minutes.

Melon Pan

A classic Japanese Soft, fluffy sweet bread covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie crust.

There are many theories why this bread is called Melon Pan . Maybe it’s because it looks like a cut cantaloupe melon but traditionally there is no melon inside.

Nowadays some bakeries have started to put melon purée in side or chocolate chips. Some even use matcha to give you that melon appearance.

Again make your bread as above like you would make shokupan  anpan. Then while the rolls are proofing for the first time  make your cookie crust.

Ingredients :

one tin of chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas and keep the liquid ( you can use the chickpeas for another meal ) you will need x3 tablespoons of chick pea liquid known as aquafaba. This will be your egg replacement. I like to use this over say flax seeds, fruit purée or banana as it has little taste.

60grm of vegan butter
8 tablespoons of unrefined granulated sugar  plus  another tablespoon in a separate bowl to dip the dough balls in.
150grm of plain all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Cream together the sugar and butter then mix in the x3 tablespoons of chick pea water. Sift in your flour and baking powder and mix into a dough. Roll into a ball.  Place in the fridge for 30 mins so it’s easier to roll. When your bread has proofed for the first time and you have kneaded it again make it into rolls by cutting a ball of dough into 6-8 pieces. I sometimes weigh the balls to make sure they are even sizes. Roll the pieces into balls and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut your cookie dough into equal portions for your bread rolls. Roll into balls and flatten out. Take each flattened cookie portion in your hand and put a dough ball inside.

Fold the cookie over the dough ball, dip the cookie portion into granulated sugar.

Then with a knife make a criss cross pattern in the dough, do this with all the remaining dough balls.


Then proof your cookie dough balls for your second proof so they puff up in size. Bake in your preheated moderate oven like the anpan.
Cool on a wire rack.

I know that making any of these breads can take a bit of time to do. I would recommend that you fit in making them while your doing other things at home, because you have to leave the breads a few times to proof for a few hours this gives you time to get on with other jobs around the house.
Hope you try making these delicious breads for yourself for a little taste of Japan at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Midnight Diner Hakusaizuke

I have already posted a few recipes with inspiration taken from the Netflix series of “Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories” .  A Japanese drama series, set in the Golden Gai district of Tokyo at a small diner called “Meshiya”. There are actually three seasons prior to the Netflix seasons known just as Midnight Diner 深夜食堂, Shinya shokudō by MBS and also a film. Making the run in total from 2009-2019  with 50 episodes to date.
The stories always start with : When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”. 
That’s all I have on my menu  (then shows what is on the menu which is Shochu, Sake, Beer and a Pork miso soup combo. But I make whatever customers request as long as I have the ingredients for it. That’s my policy. (shows his policy only three drinks per customer and three tooth picks and all arguments to be taken outside) Do I even have customers? More than you would expect……

The show has a nostalgic feel and for anyone who loves Japan it’s a must to watch. I enjoy the show not only because of my love for Japan but my interest in Japanese cuisine. The show tells of ordinary people and their simple connections with each other based on what they ask Master ( the owner) to cook for them. Master refuses to cook complicated dishes and this I think is reflected in what the characters ask him to cook. The meals  always seam to be something that means a lot to them maybe from childhood or a memory from their past.
Each episode focus on a particular dish and how it relates to a characters story. At the end of the episode we are shown a brief demonstration on how the meal from that episode is prepared. I have been so inspired by the episodes and even if they are not vegan you can change some to suit a vegan diet with ingredients changes.
In season 2 episode 7 we see Master prepare a simple salted cabbage Hakusaizuke this pickle is known as “shiozuke” or salt pickle.  Japanese pickles or Tsukemono which means pickled things  are a must for any traditional Japanese meal (washoku) and can be done in many different ways from using salt or vinegar to rice bran or koji . I particularly wanted to try this as it seamed so simple and without using any vinegar. I wondered what it would taste like using only salt and a few other simple ingredients.
Normally they would be made in a special pickling container press known as tsukemonoki. However don’t worry if you don’t have one like me you can make this with just a plastic container and a stack of dishes for a weight. This type of shallow quick pickling is known as “asazuke”.
First you need a Chinese cabbage or hakusai as they are known in Japan . Cut the cabbage into four pieces length ways down the cabbage then gently rinse under water and allow to dry.
Then lay your cabbages slices sliced side down in a container and sprinkle over some salt, as a rule it’s normally 1 teaspoon to every 5 grams of vegetable. Then add some slices of kombu kelp and some chopped red chilli. You can also add some lemon zest if you wish. Rub the salt into the cabbage then cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper then add a large plate on top the size of your container and then stack some plates on top for a weight. Leave in a cool dark place for one day then turn over your cabbage rub the salt in again that’s already in the container cover and leave for a further three days. At this time you can transfer the cabbage to a container and put in the fridge.


To serve lightly squeeze out any excess liquid and arrange on a plate. I was so surprised with this pickle I expected it to be salty but it wasn’t at all and was so deliciously sweet. Serve midnight diner style with a glass of your favourite beverage or with a Japanese set meal.

I hope you will enjoy watching Midnight Diner and gain as much inspiration from it as I do.

 

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Vegan Karaage 唐揚げ

When I did my children’s day post I mentioned that karaage ( fried chicken) was one of the dishes most favoured by children. It is a very popular dish loved by both children and adults from an izakaya snack, bento meal or a quick convenience food pick up. Traditionally karaage is a classic fried chicken dish where the chicken comes in bite sized pieces, coated in flour and deep fried. However it can also be fish or vegetables. There is a similar dish called Tatsutaage where the chicken is marinated in soy sauce and mirin then coated in potato starch and fried. Nowadays there seams to be a blend of the two to simply be still called karaage marinated or not. With this in mind I decided to make my own vegan version. I have often seen dried soy protein chunks used for this, but in my recipe I went for fu. Fu is a dried wheat gluten often used in Shojin Ryori temple style cuisine as a meat alternative. Fu soaks up cooking liquid really well so is great to use with a marinade or in soups. I used a particular kind called kuruma fu, kuruma is the name for car or wheel in Japanese and these fu are so called because of their shape, but you could use any fu you can find.
First you need to rehydrate the fu, by soaking it for around 15 minutes in hot water until they have expanded. While that is happening make your marinade.
Mix 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari,1 tablespoon sake,1 tablespoon mirin, 1 teaspoon of finely grated fresh ginger and  1/2 teaspoons of sugar.

When your fu is rehydrated squeeze out the water and slice into chunks. Combine the chunks with the marinade by massaging it in with your hands. Leave this for around 30 minutes.
Prepare your coating, 1/4 cup of potato starch with a little salt and pepper.
I like to use Japanese potato starch because of its light and fluffy texture and it makes the karaage nice and crispy. However you can use cornstarch if you can’t get potato starch but I would recommend you trying to get the potato starch, normally you will find it in an Asian grocery store.

Heat up some neutral oil and prepare a plate with some kitchen towel to place your cooked fu on when it’s done. Toss the fu in the potato starch and fry until golden brown turning to cook evenly.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon and some vegan mayonnaise for dipping izakaya style or part of a bento or Teishoku set meal.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Vegan Ramen Egg

Ramen ラーメン, nearly every region in Japan seams to have their own version. From different broths like shio (salt ramen) shoyu (soy sauce), miso, milk or Kare . Then there are straight or curly noodles of all different thickness. When visiting Japan be careful if your thinking of eating ramen in a ramen shop as not only are the the noodles made with egg but the broth will definitely have a animal based broth. There are some great vegan ramen places however so that won’t stop you from enjoying a tasty slurpy bowl of ramen goodness when your in Japan. One of my favourites is definitely T’s Tan Tan who have a restaurant in Jiyugaoka and ramen shops at Tokyo Station, Ikebukuro, and Narita airport.

There are also more places offering vegan ramen now so your sure to find something when your there.

You can also pick up vegan instant ramen which are the types I normally use either a brand called samurai or ohsawa. They do come with broth sachets but you can either use this or make your own. The ohsawa is hard to find outside of Japan but I have managed to find samurai at the Japan centre in London. Check out your own Asian grocery store.
Ramen hot or ramen cold ( hiyashichuka). However you like your ramen there are an abundance of toppings you can add which are great for vegans. From chopped green onion, sweetcorn, tofu, fu, kimchi, mushrooms,pakchoi, bamboo shoot and seaweed.
One popular topping is Ajitsuke tamago or seasoned egg. Why not make your ramen look even more authentic and make a vegan version.

You will need a silicone egg mould


To make the egg white.

1 and a half cups of cashew milk

3 tsp agar agar powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground or finely crushed kala namak ( Himalayan black salt ) this is what’s going to give your egg an egg flavour. This salt actually has many important minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium.

Pour the cashew milk into a blender, add black salt and agar agar and blend to combine. Pour into a pan and heat stirring continuously until it almost comes to a boil. Take off the heat and pour into your mould. Place this in the fridge to set. Wash out your blender.

Yolk

Emty a can of chickpeas but retain the water that’s  inside.

Add to your blender

1/2 cup of canned chick peas that have been warmed slightly so they are soft.
1/4 cup of aquafaba (the water in the check peas)

1/4 teaspoon of normal salt.
1/2 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast

Blend and pour into a bowl add 2 tablespoons of melted coconut butter like no odour tiana or a no odour oil like rapeseed. Mix

Take out your eggs from the fridge and gently pop them out of the mould. With a melon baller scoop out some of the white and spoon in some of the yolk mixture. I like to sprinkle a little powdered black salt on the top before serving. You can store the eggs in an air tight container in the fridge and they also freeze so you can put them in the freezer and take them out to thaw on the day you need them.

Making these are just a bit of fun and are more for aesthetics than the taste of a real egg. I also tried putting them in the microwave and they warm up great and makes the egg yolk runny. Have fun.

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Kodomo no hi

Children’s day as it’s now known is part of the Golden week celebrations in Japan. Formally known as Boys Day due to Girls day being in March. However Girls day is not a public holiday so Boys day now refers to all children, and this day is now set aside to celebrate children’s health and happiness. That said the symbolism still remains very male for this day. The Kabuto warrior helmet and samurai armour being a symbol of strength maybe displayed today. This is the third of the five seasonal festivals Go-Sekku, this one being Tango no Sekku it is also known as Ayame no hi or iris festival.  You may see houses decorated with iris flowers which are blooming now. The name for iris in Japan is Shobu ( meaning battle), the leaf is shaped like a sword and were considered auspicious by samurai warriors. Much like the Yuzu baths on winter solstice it is custom to take a bath with iris at this time.

You will see koi streamer  like wind socks flying all over Japan over Golden week known as koinobori , the koi again symbolises strength and as they blow in the wind look like they are swimming. Normally households will have colours to symbolise the family black for the father, red or pink for the mother then the children are symbolised with blue green or orange.


Like for Hinamatsuri (girls day) there are foods that are traditional at this time to celebrate children’s health and happiness. I have a few previous posts about this which maybe you would like to read also.
A traditional wagashi (Japanese sweet) is Kashiwa Mochi wrapped in an oak leaf (not edible)  this Mochi symbolises a child’s growth to be strong like the oak tree. If you would like to make these I have a recipe for Kashiwa Mochi plus more information about them.


Other traditional foods eaten today would be Nishime simmered vegetables often also eaten at new year but adding seasonal bamboo to symbolise growth. Sekihan azuki bean rice which is often eaten at times of celebration and  Chirashi sushi (scattered sushi).

However as this is a time for children what do children like to eat in Japan ? According to a survey with parents the top ten foods that children like to eat now are:

1: curry rice as the favourite 2: sushi 3:chicken karaage 4: hamburger steak 5: ramen 6: yaki niku 7: potato fries 8: Omurice 9:pizza 10:sashimi. When asking the parents what they enjoyed as a child things were pretty similar but in a different order but curry rice remained triumphant. A few replacements were korokke instead of yaki niku and omurice was at the number 2 slot with sukiyaki being at number 8 . There was no pizza or potato fries.
How about making some meals with Japanese children’s favourite foods for children’s day and celebrate with these with your family ?

Vegan hamburger steak

vegan Omurice

If you want to make curry rice you can just follow the curry recipe for my curry ramen and have it with rice for that traditional Japanese parent and child favourite meal.


Happy Golden Week !

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Burdock Root (Gobo) Kinpira きんぴら

Burdock root or Goboごぼうas it’s known in Japan is a woody looking stick often seen with soil still on it. It is a root from the chrysanthemum family and is cultivated in Japan as a vegetable, being planted and harvest twice a year. It is rich in fibre and is often used in Japanese home cooked meals. One of the most popular in Kinpiraきんぴらmeaning sauté and simmer. Kinpira makes a perfect side dish or an addition to a bento meal. It is made by shredding the gobo and sautéing in sesame oil with other root vegetables often carrot or maybe adding lotus root. It is then simmered in a sweet soy sauce.

The seasoning is made with 1 tablespoon each of sugar, sake and mirin add to this 2 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce. Set this aside.

Use one root of  Gobo, if it still comes with soil on it clean it gently under running water with a bristle brush. Gobo discolours quickly and the best thing to do is to just scrape the outer layer of the root lightly with a knife . I always do this under running water. Have a bowl of vinegar  water to hand and using a potato peeler peel off long strips of the root and put them straight in the vinegar water. Keep doing this until you have the amount you want and leave to soak for 15 minutes.

While it’s soaking peel strips of carrot the same and peel and slice lotus root if using.
Then take you peeled strips of gobo and carrot and cut them into long thin slices and put them in a pan.

Sauté the gobo, carrot and lotus root with sesame oil. Then add your seasoning cook until all the liquid has almost gone.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve if you like with chilli threads known as Ito Togarashi. These can be bought in the U.K. from Souschef. Link at the bottom or side of your page ( depending on your browser)

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Tofu Fish & Chips

I have been making my version of tofu fish and chips or (tofish) as some people call it for a while now, so it’s been very tried and tested.

What makes my recipe so different? Well I will let you in on a secret but before I do if you see the little Ko-fi icon at the top of the page I would really appreciate your support if you like reading my blog and using my recipes. I have been sharing my recipes for free for years but now it’s becoming increasingly hard to fund myself buying new ingredients to recipe test. If you would like to support me it would mean so much. All it takes is to buy me a virtual coffee. You can choose how many 😉. Thank you.
Anyway now that’s out of the way this ingredient that makes my tofu fish so different is…… Aburaage! Yes those fluffy fried tofu sheets that make inari sushi.

Let’s make them

You will need a pack of aburaage like this

Cut the end off to make one long pocket.

Drain a pack of tofu, wrap it in kitchen towel and microwave for one minute, this helps get rid of the excess moisture quickly. Cut two pieces big enough to slot inside your aburaage pocket.


( you can skip this part but I brush the tofu with the liquid from a jar of capers ) it gives the tofu a nice flavour. Then cut four pieces of nori seed weed so that you have a piece on the two flat sides of your tofu.


Then push them into your pocket. I find the easiest way is to get it in a little and then pick up the aburaage and shake the tofu in ( much like putting a pillow into a pillowcase).



Once they are inside make up some batter with three tablespoons of plain white flour and add a pinch of salt. I like to add a tablespoon of Yuzu juice, you could also add lemon juice. Then add a little water to make a thick batter. Coat the tofu in the batter then you can also tuck in the open end as the batter will help it stick down.

Roll your battered tofu in bread crumbs and shallow fry in a neutral oil ( I used coconut butter) but you could also use sunflower oil. Fry on both sides until golden, then remove and drain on some kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil.


You can serve these Tofish in the traditional way with some chunky chips ( fries ) and mushy peas.

I actually used mashed edamame beans here mixed with guacamole and grated wasabi.  All you need is a squeeze of lemon and some condiments like tartar sauce, mayonnaise or tomato ketchup. As a finishing touch I sprinkled over some ao-nori seaweed.

Hope you will enjoy these as much as I do.

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Mister Donut Pon de Ring

Mister Donut is a large donut chain with stores all over Asia. Originating actually in the USA they first came to Japan in 1971 opening a store in Osaka. Now you see them every where. Mister Donut is now known in the USA as Dunkin-Donuts.
I first came across Mister Donut in Japan when I was catching the Safege suspended monorail at Ofuna to Enoshima. I had heard that they did one vegan donut called Fuka Fuka Yaki and is intended for customers with allergies. On entering the counter is filled with all kinds of flavours but the vegan one you have to ask for as it’s stored in the freezer you say “Atatamete kudasai” at the counter (can you warm it please).

I have tried making these donuts at home  a few times but this is by far the easiest way (it may not be the traditional method but it’s the simplest and with just a few ingredients!)
It’s Easter weekend and I thought I would make the Mister Donut signature pon de ring  which consists of 8 small donut balls in a ring shape.

These are just dipped in vegan chocolate to look like the traditional pon de ring but you could dip them in pink icing maybe for Sakura season.

You will need:

96g of Dango flour (glutinous rice flour)

96g of pancake mix

200g of silken tofu

(vegan chocolate or icing of choice)

 

Method:

Combine all your ingredients to make a dough. Make a ball and flatten it out and cut into 8 pieces like this.

Then take each piece and do the same again

Roll each triangle into balls and put them side by side in a ring shape slightly touching on pieces of square cut parchment paper.

When you have made all 8, add some neutral oil to a pan enough to half submerge your donuts. I used Tiana coconut butter that has no smell or you could use something like vegetable oil. Heat up the oil and a few at a time lower the parchment in to the oil using a spatula.

Fry until golden then remove the parchment and flip them over to cook on the other side.

Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack, while you cook the rest.
If your dipping them in chocolate break up the chocolate into a bowl and melt by placing the bowl just inside a pan of simmering water to melt. Then take each pon de ring and half dip in chocolate and replace back on to the wire rack, you can sprinkle with a little coconut if you like.


I placed mine in the freezer for five minutes just to set the chocolate.

Like all fresh donuts they are best eaten on the day you make them.



There are some delicious vegan donuts available in Japan now what’s your favourite? I think one of mine has to be Good Town Doughnuts In Tokyo, not all their donuts are vegan but they have a few options.

This place has now closed down. However I have just heard they have now moved inside next door to the little bakery Tokyo as of June 2021.

Also there is The Little Bakery Tokyo next door which do the most delicious vegan cinnamon rolls.

I just can’t wait until we can travel again until then I hope you try making these pon de ring for a little nostalgia of Japan. Happy Easter!

 

 

Blog, Spring Food

Live by the (Shun) 旬 The philosophy of Seasonal eating part 2 Spring Equinox

When you see Sansai 山菜 on a menu in Japan it is a sign that Spring has arrived! When people think of Spring in Japan of course the beautiful Sakura is the first thing that comes to mind, but delve a little deeper and there is something emerging from the soil towards the warm spring sunshine up in the mountainous regions. A variety of edible wild green shoots start to push through the soil these are nature’s bounty known as “Sansai”. People can forage for these edible treasures to use in Japanese cuisine. Often seen in Shojin Ryori Buddhist temple food. Nowadays you can see cultivated varieties  also in the supermarkets of Japan. Although thought to be many varieties these are the most commonly used ones.

(thank you to my friend Masami Instagram (veggylife_m  in  Japan for the images) udo, nanohana  and warabi 

Kokomo (こごみ 屈) Ostrich Fern can also be (Kogomi or zenmai ) known as fiddleheads 

Fuki no tō (ふきのとう 蕗の薹)

Yomogi (よもぎ 蓬)

Nanohana (なのはな 菜の花)

Wasabina (わさびな 山葵菜)

Take no ko (bamboo shoots)  (たけのこ 竹の子

Yama udo (やまうど 山うど)

Shungiku (しゅんぎく 春菊)

Field Horsetail 土筆 

Warabi (bracken shoots ) (蕨)

Below are some lovely young wasabi leaves and flowers in season at the moment, you can buy them from the Wasabi Company the link is either down the side or at the bottom of the page depending on your browser. They are delicious in salads or pickled in vinegar.

I have often been intrigued by these vegetables not only because of the shape of them but every spring there is an explosion of people in Japan cooking them and sharing their creations on Instagram.
I did manage to get some precooked packages of sansai vegetables and also some lovely other ones fresh from the Japanese vegetables growers I use Nama Yasai Farm.

Shungiku ( edible chrysanthemum leaves )

So using a mixture of fresh and packaged sansai I wanted to create three  meals you can make easily using what ever you can find. Even if you cannot get mountain vegetables you can use other vegetables for instance : Udo is also referred to as Japanese mountain asparagus so I will be using asparagus instead.
You may also be able to find the parboiled sealed packet variety of bamboo shoots ( I do not recommend the tinned variety as they have other ingredients added).

Nanohana is related to the broccoli family and is the young shoots of the rapeseed plant so I suggest using tender stem broccoli instead. The boiled packet of mountain vegetables I got from the Japan centre has bracken, bamboo shoots kikurage, enoki and nameko mushrooms and carrots.
The first meal is a simple rice bowl with these vegetables mixed in known as Sansai maze Gohan. If your using the packaged vegetables they are precooked and ready to use just drain and rinse under running water.


All you need to do is cook up some rice I recommend adding a little mirin and soy sauce to the liquid you cook your rice in . You could also use kombu dashi . Just soak a piece of  kombu in water over night. Rinse your rice as normal and put in your cooker or pot. Add kombu dashi and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and mirin to each cup of rice used. This will add a nice flavour to your rice. Once the rice is cooked mix in your vegetables Maze Gohan means mixed rice . If you are using other vegetables steam them before mixing in except leaf vegetables which can be just mixed straight into the hot rice. I added some extra shimeji mushrooms and strips of aburaage ( fried tofu ).

The rice also can be used to make onigiri. This is an omusubi (meaning gently pressed not squeezed).


The next is a country style meal originating from Tsugaru region Aomori prefecture. A nutrious soup with miso or just a soy sauce broth with mountain vegetables and other vegetables added like carrot, gobo and daikon. Also to give the soup extra sustenance deep fried tofu (aburaage ) or freeze dried tofu (Koya-dofu) is added.  This soup is called Kenoshiru. The vegetables are normally cut into chunks and as well as tofu sometimes beans like fava or lima are added. Just use a kombu dashi again for your broth. I sautéed in sesame oil then simmered  any uncooked vegetables in dashi  first then add tofu and any precooked veggies. Finally add your miso or soy sauce and any greens which ever you prefer.

Served up with some warm crusty homemade fresh bread spread with shio-koji tofu (see post for recipe) and some tsukemono, there are pickled wasabi flowers in there.

The final meal you could try is Ankake Mountain Vegetables. Ankake basically is a thick starchy sauce, this dish uses the mountain vegetables with dashi, soy sauce and potato starch from Hokkaido.

This is nice served either with rice or udon noodles a typical dish from Iwate prefecture or Kyoto style with some tofu. Cook up any uncooked veggies first maybe add daikon and carrot other mushrooms like shiitake or shimeji to a pan and sauté with a little sesame oil then add in dashi around 2 cups simmer until your uncooked vegetables are almost ready then add your precooked veggies, and  any leaves like shungiku or mustard greens and aburaage strips (fried tofu cut into strips ) finally to your dashi add tamari or soy sauce and mirin a tablespoon of each also a little ginger juice is nice too. Now turn off the heat.  Mix a few teaspoons of potato starch into a bowl with some water to form a slurry this is called katakuriko and gradually add this to your pan. Now turn the heat back on and carry on simmering and stirring until the sauce becomes thicker. Add a final dash of sesame oil for extra flavour.

I added a sprinkle of mizuna flowers for extra colour. Served with rice, tsukemono, Japanese potato salad and a Botamochi for dessert.

As we now look forward to longer days and the chill of winter turns into warmer weather with the Spring Equinox or Shunbun we could make a popular wagashi made at this time in Japan called Botamochi, in the Spring named after the tree peony Botan, in the autumn the same wagashi is called Ohagi named after the clover bush hagi.

The equinox is a Buddhist festival in Japan known as Higan or in the spring Haru no Higan, at this time the wagashi maybe taken along with flowers or incense to ancestral graves as offerings. The wagashi is eaten to call to the ancestors for protection of the rice fields. The confection is made from pounded sweet Mochi rice with a red bean filling. They are often rolled in kinako ( soy bean flour ) or ground black sesame, some are reversed so the red bean paste is on the outside. If you would like to make these for yourself please check out my previous posts for Ohagi and Botamochi.

As the wheel of the year is turning once more seasonal bounty ingredients in Japan include sansai ( list above), asparagus, spring cabbage, new potatoes, broads beans, broccoli, shiitake and wasabi.

I hope no matter where you are in the world you can think about your own Shun ingredients see also my first post on this (Live by the Shun the philosophy of seasonal eating part 1 Winter ) and make some seasonal foods for yourself.
Happy Spring Equinox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food

Shio Koji Tofu

Shio-Koji 塩糀 translates to salt mold it is a really versatile natural seasoning used in Japanese cooking to enhance the umami of food.

It is made by fermenting cooked grains traditionally rice with water, salt and aspergillus oryzae the mold also used to make miso, soy sauce and sake. Shio-Koji can be used instead of adding salt, it makes wonderful tsukemono (pickles) and can be used in soups and marinades. Shio-Koji is known as an all purpose seasoning, a  good probiotic due to its fermentation and it can help to strengthen the immune system it is also high in B vitamins and essential amino acids. Shio-Koji looks a bit like porridge with a sweet slightly fermented smell.
It’s easy to make yourself you will need.
300g of rice koji like the one below.

90g salt, 450ml of water and an airtight container.
Just mix together in your container and place in a warm area to ferment for around 10 days, stirring once a day for the first 3 days. Leave the lid slightly ajar. This will keep in the fridge when ready for 6-10 months.

Other than that you can buy it already made like the one shown below.

Today I’m going to use Shio-Koji to make Shio-Koji tofu, it’s really simple to make and turns out a bit like a soft cheese.

Just cut a block of medium tofu in half ( you can use more but I like to make around this amount every time.) Put the tofu in a pan of simmering water and simmer for around 10 mins. Remove for the pan. You now need to get rid of the water, you can try pressing it but I find that wrapping it in a clean cloth or kitchen towel and leaving it for a few hours works ok. When your tofu has dried out put your tofu on a plate and coat all  sides with shio-koji rubbing it gently in. Put your tofu in a zip lock bag squeezing out the air and seal it. I also then put the zip lock bag in a Tupperware type container. Place this in the fridge rubbing in the shio-koji every now and again. Leave for  7 -10 days then remove from the bag and gently wipe away most of the shio-koji. You can now use this on bread or crackers with a nice chutney.


It goes well in a salad as a substitute for feta or as a sandwich filling.

Why not try it in a caprese style salad with a drizzle of olive oil herbs, tomato and fresh ground black pepper. Perfect for summer picnics.