Tag Archives: japanese

chawanmushi: savory japanese custard

25 Jul

My Chinese grandma always made delicate, silky, steamed egg custard in a large ramen bowl that she would swirl a spoonful of oyster sauce over before serving. We’d scoop a jiggly portion onto our rice to eat alongside our meal.

The Japanese have their own version called chawanmushi, which is served in individual lidded cups at the conclusion of a meal. Traditionally, each cup of custard contains a piece of shrimp, chicken, ginko nut, and vegetable such as mushroom or snow pea.

Recently, J and I decided to try our hand at a mushroom chawanmushi as part of our Shabu Sunday ritual. Since we were boiling a large pot of water for our shabu shabu, we steamed the chawanmushi in the same pot beforehand.

Unlike the Chinese-style steamed custard, chawanmushi uses dashi stock and sake instead of chicken broth, plus a little soy sauce and sugar.

The secret to making any great custard is proper cooking. For steamed eggs, you want to put your heatproof dish in at a high boil, then a couple minutes later, turn it down to low—or completely turn it off, as my grandma does—and let it slowly cook for the majority of the cooking time.

Traditionalists will also tell you to gently whisk the eggs with a pair of chopsticks in a figure-8 pattern for an hour, so no bubbles form, but I tend to believe a quick pour through a fine mesh sieve and a skim with a spoon does just as well. When you add mushrooms as we did, you can hardly tell where any bubbles form on the surface.

Our first time around, our chawanmushi came our flawlessly. Silky, delicate heavenly spoonfuls of custard and perfectly plump mushrooms. Like sunshine in a cup!
chawanmushi: savory japanese custard
sunshine in a cup

* 3 eggs
* 2 cup dashi soup stock
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp soy sauce
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp sake
* 1/2 cup enoki mushrooms or 4 shiitake mushrooms, stem removed and thinly sliced

Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Try not to bubble the eggs. Mix cool dashi soup stock, soy sauce, salt, sake, and sugar in another bowl. Add the dashi mixture in the egg mixture gradually. Strain the egg mixture.

Put mushrooms in four chawanmushi cups. Fill each cup to 3/4 full with the egg mixture. Cover the cups.

Preheat a steamer on high heat. Carefully place cups in the steamer and steam on high heat for three minutes. Turn down the heat to low and steam for about 10-15 minutes or until custard is set. Serves 4.

Advertisements

mom’s spicy gobo

18 Jul

One of my favorite questions to ask: “If you had to eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

I’ve heard a range of answers, but most Asians, including myself, agree the only logical answer is Japanese food: sushi, ramen, izakaya, bento boxes, yakitori, donburi, chawanmushi, shabu shabu, curry, mochi, green tea ice cream… the variety is immense and the favors range from homey to refined.

Of the many Japanese munchies I love, spicy gobo (also known as burdock root), is a toothsome side dish–perfectly salty, a little crunchy and spicy to boot. I love it as a vegetable side for any Japanese-inspired meal.

Gobo is a fibrous root vegetable that tastes like a very earthy potato. You’ll find it in the grocery store in 1-2 foot lengths with a brown hairy exterior. You need peel it and slice it into matchsticks for this stir-fried recipe. You can also cut it into thicker diagonal disks for cooking in stews like Kabocha, Pork & Gobo Stew. Either way, gobo is delicious, healthy, and Japanese(!), so you should try it.

mom’s spicy gobo
root-toot-toot!

1/2 lb. gobo root (peeled, silvered and soaked in water for 15 mins)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dried shrimp, soaked to soften then drained
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
dash of black pepper
1 large carrot, julienned (optional)

Sauté shrimp in oil on high heat in a large skillet.
Drain the gobo and add to pan with shrimp. Stir fry for about two minutes, then add all other ingredients and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Test gobo — it should be firm, but comfortably chewable. Serve as a side dish for two.

tsukemono: fresh cucumber pickles

16 Mar

Contrary to popular belief, sushi in San Francisco is complete crap with the exception of two microscopic sushi joints in Japantown. Both seat only a dozen guests and require reservations, which are tricky to get when neither answer the phone — and when they do, they hardly speak English.

Kiss Seafood is my undisputed favorite for impeccably fresh fish, on-par with what I’m used to back home in Hawaii. Ino Sushi has a slightly lower quality of fish, but amazing traditional tsukemono dishes (fresh pickles). Happily, I will slurp up the entire bowl of cold, crunchy cucumber slices soaked in a savory vinegar brine. I treasure the delicate paper thin slices of baby cucumbers no wider than a nickel in diameter.

At home, I attempted my own bastardized version of traditional tsukemono using a seeded English cucumber, dried wakame, and instant dashi. J and I were pleasantly surprised by the spot-on result and ate all of the pickles in just one sitting!

ino-inspired cucumber tsukemono
to pickle your fancy

* 1 Japanese or English cucumber (peeled, seeded, and sliced very thin on a mandolin)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried wakame (reconstituted for 10 minutes in cold water)
* 1 teaspoon instant dashi (dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water)
* 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
* Bonito flakes (optional)

Combine liquid ingredients in non-reactive bowl. Add cucumbers and drained wakame. Marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Serve as a side dish topped with bonito flakes as a garnish.

Since these are fresh pickles, they must be served day-of or at the latest the next day, or they will get mushy.

kabocha, gobo and pork stew

25 Oct


Food and weather. Any mathematically inclined cook will tell you the two are inversely proportional: Heat wave, ice cream. Chilly rain, stew.

After a handful of Indian summer days in October, blustery weather and frigid rain has finally set in. Not wanting to stray far from home, I headed to the Chinese grocery store for kabocha (pumpkin), gobo (burdock root) and pork shoulder.

I love kabocha pumpkin for its creamy texture, petite size (easy to handle), and quick-cooking (when compared with the other squashes of the season). There’s a heartiness and sweetness to its yellow flesh, plus you can eat the nutritious green skin. Kabocha is a favorite of the Japanese, who serve it simply boiled, hot or cold as a vegetable side dish.

To make it a complete one-pot meal, I decided to braise some pork shoulder with the kabocha and an earthy Japanese root vegetable called gobo. Served over steaming hot white rice, this Japanese stew becomes the highlight of any rainy evening.

kabocha, gobo and pork stew
a culinary haiku about sunshine on a rainy day

* 1 lb pork shoulder
* 2 lbs kabocha pumpkin
* 2 foot-long pieces of gobo (burdock root), peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4″-thick pieces
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 5 cups dashi
* 1/4 cup mirin
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 1/2 cup sugar

Cut meat into 2-inch pieces and pat dry with paper towels (do not rinse). Spread meat on a large piece of waxed paper or the butcher paper it came in. Sprinkle flour over meat, toss to coat, then shake meat in a colander to rid it of excess flour; do in batches if the colander is small.

Coat bottom of a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven with a thin film of oil and set pot over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add enough meat to cover bottom in 1 layer. Cook, without stirring, until meat lifts easily from pot with tongs and is well browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer meat to a plate and continue with remaining meat, adding more oil to pot in between batches as needed.

When last batch of meat has been removed, add some of the dashi to pot, stirring to released browned bits. Return meat and any accumulated juices to pot. Add gobo and all of the remaining ingredients except for the kabocha to pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 60 minutes or until meat is tender.

Meanwhile, with a large, heavy knife, cut the kabocha in half through stem end. Scoop out and discard seeds and strings. Cut kabocha into 1-inch chunks.

After meat has cooked 1 hour add kabocha to the pot. Let liquid come to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes more. Serve over white rice.

Serves 6.

coconut mochi (chi chi dango)

11 Oct

As a 4-year old, the most coveted candy on earth was Tomoe Ame, a small turquoise and orange box filled with chewy pale pink candies that came wrapped in magically edible rice paper. The candy itself was ambiguously fruity and stick-to-your-teeth sweet, but none of that mattered because each box promised an “Amusing Toy Inside!” — usually a cat sticker. It was like Crackerjacks for Asian kids.

The adult (and super awesome) version of Tomoe Ame would have to be Chi Chi Dango, a simple coconut flavored mochi made of mochiko (rice flour), sugar and coconut milk. Once baked, the ingredients form a sweet sticky rice cake that you can cut into bite-sized pieces, dust in flour, and wrap like over-sized candies.

coconut mochi (chi chi dango)
revel in your infinite patience as you wait for this to cool down

* 1 pound mochiko (16 oz box)
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 can coconut milk (12-14 oz)
* 1 ¾ cups water
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* red food coloring (or color of choice)
* katakuriko (potato starch), for dusting

Combine mochiko, sugar, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, blend coconut milk, water, vanilla, and 4-6 drops of food coloring. Gradually incorporate wet ingredients into the dry, mixing well.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees or until set.

Let cool completely (preferably overnight, but ~4 hours also works), before cutting into bite-size strips with a plastic knife. Lightly dust the pieces with katakuriko. You may substitute mochiko, cornstarch, or kinako (soy bean flour) for katakuriko. Wrap in wax paper like candies or store in tupperware. Lasts 2-3 days.