Friday, January 22, 2010

Japan in January

Moving along further in the alphabet, we traveled to the Asian country of Japan. Several of us have (more or less) recently become enamoured of sushi, so this was a logical visit for us. As well, there are only so many countries starting with the letter 'J.' According to, the only countries starting with 'J' are:

Jamaica (and we already visited the Carribean country of Barbados)

Jan Mayen (would have to consult Google maps to find out exactly where this is)


Jersey (New??? or who knew there was a state that was also a country?)

Jordan (already did Egypt)

Japanese Appetizers...

It was unanimously decided that the tempura vegetables that we had were the freshest and lightest tasting veggies that we'd ever had tempura style...they were fabulous!

Tempura Vegetables

3/4 cup light beer

3/4 cup rice flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small sweet potato

vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

8 asparagus spears, trimmed

16 sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 small red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch rings

1 pinch sea salt (optional)

soy sauce (for dipping)

1 white radish, peeled grated (daikon)

2 lemons, cut into wedges

Directions 1

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the beer into the flour until just combined (will be a bit lumpy).

2. Stir in salt and cayenne.

3. Peel sweet potato and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.

4. Using a large heavy saucepan, deep fryer or wok, heat 2 inches of oil over medium-high heat to 350°F.

5. In batches of 3 or 4 pieces, dredge veggies in batter to coat completely, letting excess drip off.

6. Fry, turning, until golden coloured (2 to 3 minutes).

7. With a slotted spoon, remove cooked vegetables from pan and transfer to paper towel lined, rimmed baking sheet to drain off excess oil.

8. Season with a pinch of sea salt if desired.

9. Keep warm in oven set to 200F while frying remaining veggies.

10. Each diner should have a little bowl of soy sauce, a tiny dish of grated white radish (daikon) and a few lemon wedges to season his/her food.

11. Serve with hot rice.

We also had other futomaki rolls as our appetizer:

Crab and cream cheese rolls

1 cup white rice

1 teaspoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cucumber

imitation crabmeat, leg style (I used real canned crab)

cream cheese

nori sushi sheets

Directions1. 1

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the ginger and rice. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.

2. Add the rice vinegar and salt to the rice, mix well.

3. Lay out your seaweed sheets.

4. Moisten your hands with water and divide the rice evenly between the 2 seaweed sheets, flatten the rice. Leave about a half inch of space not covered with rice at the top of the sheets. This will make the sushi roll easier to close.

5. About an inch from the bottom, arrange the crab, cucumber and cream cheese in a straight line, from one side to the other (left to right).

6. Gently but firmly, roll the sushi as tight as possible (from bottom to top), being careful not to rip the seaweed sheets.

7. Wet a very sharp knife and cut the rolls into individual pieces of sushi.

Inside-out avocado rolls with cashews

1 large avocado (or 2 small avocado)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably Japanese)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon wasabi paste (optional)

3 ounces cashews (roasted, salted cashews work well)

3-4 chives

2 sheets nori, seaweed cut in half

2 cups cooked rice, seasoned with sushi vinegar seasoning (see #315511 Easy Sushi Rice)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

Directions. 1

1. Peel the avocado and cut into small chunks. Put in a bowl with the lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt and wasabi, if using. Toss and mash slightly, but not until mushy. Divide into 4 portions.

2. Chop the cashews very finely and put in a bowl. Chop the chives very finely and mix with the cashews. Divide into 4 portions.

3. Divide rice into 4 portions.

4. Mix 1 cup water with the rice vinegar in a small bowl and set aside to use as hand vinegar, to rinse your hands and keep the rice from sticking.

5. Put a sheet of plastic wrap on the rolling mat. Put 1/2 sheet of nori on top, rough side up with the long edge towards you. Dip your fingers in the hand vinegar, take 1 portion of the seasoned, vinegared rice and spread it out in a thin layer over the nori, leaving about 3/4" bare on the far edge.

6. Sprinkle one portion of the nut and chive mixture on top of the rice and press it in gently with your fingers.

7. Carefully lift the whole thing up and flip it over so the rice is face down on the plastic wrap. To make this easier, you can lay another piece of plastic wrap on top of the rice, flip everything over, and remove the extra piece of plastic wrap next to the nori.

8. Put 1 portion of the avocado in a line along the long edge of the nori closest to you.

9. Using the rolling mat, carefully roll it up, then cut in half, then cut each half into 3 pieces, giving 6 pieces.

10. Repeat to make 4 rolls, for a total of 24 pieces.

The dipping sauces were AMAZING!

Dipping Sauces:

Wasabi Cream a la Kris

¼ scant cup of sour cream

¼ scant cup of buttermilk

2 (or more to taste) teaspoons wasabi paste

½ of a large avocado

Sea salt to taste

Thoroughly mix sour cream, buttermilk and wasabi paste.

Mash in avocado (more or less to desired consistency)

Salt to taste

Ginger Mint Dip a la Kris

6-8 fresh mint leaves

2T. chopped ginger

½ cup of mayonnaise

⅛ cup of sour cream

½ teaspoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon lime juice

salt to taste

Put all ingredients into a mini-chopper and thoroughly chop

Adjust seasonings as needed


We tried to duplicate the spicy tuna rolls that we like at Akira, a local restaurant. However, apparently sushi grade tuna is hard to find, and has also jumped in price to about $25 a pound. So, we settled salmon, which was substituted into this recipe. Below are the spicy salmon rolls (with some of the spicy sauce) and also some avocado rolls with and/or without shrimp (on the right hand side. We also served a generous helping of pickled ginger. Recipes are below:

Spicy Salmon Roll with Special Sauce


· 1/3 cup mayonnaise

· 2 tablespoons hot chile paste

· 1 teaspoon hot chile oil

· 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

· 4 sheets toasted seaweed (yakinori)

· Prepared sushi rice (at least 3 cups cooked rice), recipe follows

· 1/2 pound sushi-quality fresh tuna, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips

· Wasabi paste

· 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions

· 3 tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds


In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, chile paste, hot chile oil, and sesame oil and stir to combine.

Place 1 piece of toasted seaweed on top of a sushi roller (makisushi), with the short end closest to you. Using lightly wet fingers, press enough rice onto the seaweed to completely cover the seaweed, and press firmly so that rice adheres to seaweed. Turn seaweed over so that rice side now faces down. Arrange strips of tuna on top of seaweed, with the tuna strips running vertically in line with the short side of the seaweed, about 1/3 of the way into the seaweed sheet.

Spread a small amount of wasabi on the tuna, then sprinkle with sliced scallions. Using the sushi roller as a guide, carefully begin rolling the seaweed up, pressing as tightly as possible so that the roll is firm and compact. Once the roll is completely rolled, reposition roll on sushi roller and press again. Sprinkle sesame seeds on a flat surface and lightly roll in seeds to coat. Allow roll to sit for a few seconds before slicing with a sharp, damp knife.

Cut roll into 6 or 8 pieces and serve with dollops of sauce spooned on top, or alongside for dipping. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Mitsuko's Perfect Sushi Rice:

· 3 3/4 cups Japanese rice, such as Nishiki (or 5 rice maker cups)

· 3 3/4 cups water (or 5 rice maker cups)

· 1/2 cup rice vinegar

· 4 tablespoons sugar

· 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, add rice and cover with lots of water. Stir rice in water with your hands, then pour off most of the water, and agitate 10 to 15 times by quickly moving your hand back and forth, swishing rice against side of bowl. Rinse the rice several more times, until the water that drains off of the rice is almost clear. Transfer the rice to a colander and let drain for 1 hour, undisturbed. Transfer the rice to a rice cooker, add the water, cover and cook as directed by manufacturer's directions.

While the rice is cooking, bring rice vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, and then remove from the heat. Add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When rice is done, allow cooked rice to remain in rice cooker for 10 minutes. Transfer rice to a large shallow mixing bowl (traditionally a wooden tub, called a hangiri), so that rice forms a mound in the center of the bowl. Using a diagonal slicing motion, gently cut into rice with a wooden paddle (called a kijakushi), and pour cooled vinegar mixture over top of rice. "Cut" rice several times to evenly distribute vinegar mixture, then allow to cool. Gently turn rice over from time to time with paddle so that rice cools evenly. You might want to consider using a fan if time is of the essence. When rice has cooled to body temperature, it is ready to use for sushi rolls. Rice can be kept at the proper temperature by placing it in an insulated container such as a small ice chest, covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Yield: enough rice for at least 7 large rolls (futomaki)

And teriyaki chicken - which was particularly nice because it didn't taste too salty, unlike most off-the-shelf teriyaki sauces.
Teriyaki Chicken

½ c soy sauce

2 Tbsp mirin

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp oil

12 chicken drumsticks


1. Place all ingredients except chicken in small pan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 mins.

2. Heat oil in skillet, add chicken in batches and brown on both sides over high heat.

3. Return all chicken to pan, add sauce, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Serve with (what else?) rice.

We also made these yummy green beans.

Green Beans in Roasted Sesame Seed Sauce

1 lb slender green beans, trimmed

2 Tbsp white sesame seeds

6 cm piece of ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp mirin

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp white sesame seeds, extra


1. Cook the beans in large pan of boiling water ( I might steam them instead, next time), plunge in cold water to stop cooking, drain again and set aside.

2. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat, shaking pan until they are golden brown. Pound the seeds in a mortar and pestle until a paste is formed (the mixture will become damp as oil is released from the seeds)

3. Combine the paste with all ingredients but the extra sesame seeds. Pour the sauce over the beans and then scatter on the extra sesame seeds and serve.

NB: the beans can be flavoured in the sauce overnight, if desired.

Below is Rob's big dish - he loves sesame! The steak was fabulous!

Steak in Roasted Sesame Seed Marinade

2 Tbsp white sesame seeds

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 cm piece of ginger

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sake

1 tsp caster sugar

1 lb sirloin

3 scallions, to garnish

1 Tbsp oil

Dipping Sauce

4 cm ginger

½ tsp togarashi

½ c soy sauce

2 tsp dashi granules (we subbed fish sauce)

2 Tbsp water


1. Roast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over low heat for 2 mins, shaking, until seeds begin to pop. Crush the roasted seeds with mortar and pestle.

2. Place the sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sake and sugar in bowl and dissolve sugar. Please steak(s) in shallow dish and pour marinade over top. Marinate for 30 mins or longer.

3. To make dipping sauce, cut ginger lengthways into very fine strips and combine with rest of ingredients. Whisk until well combined.

4. Cut spring onions lengthways into very fine strips (about 4cm length) and place in a bowl of iced water. Leave until they are crisp and curled; drain.

Lightly brush the oil over steaks and grill (preferable – yum!) or fry them for 3-4 mins per side. Let rest for 5 mins before slicing on the diagonal. Garnish with spring onion and serve with steamed rice and dipping sauce.

Recipes and photos will follow with the Japanese desserts!

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