All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.

2015-03-27

Kamatama udon / hot wheat noodles with egg and soy sauce

The udon-version equivalent of tamago-kake gohan! The dish is as simple as its rice counterpart but with more variety, because of the endless possibilities of toppings. This one is kama-age udon, where udon noodles are not chilled (and reheated) after boiling. The method naturally leaves the surface of udon slightly rough, which lets noodles mingle with sauce better for a richer taste. Toppings for kamatama udon (kama-age udon with egg) can be as minimal as chopped green onion or as elaborate as including mentaiko spicy salted pollack roe, nori seaweed, cheese, and so on. Below is our favorite, a simple combination of green onion, chives, toasted white sesame seeds and agetama tempura pearls.   



<Ingredients>

200g dry udon wheat noodles (futomen thick handmade udon noodles in photo)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp dashi
2 egg yolks
1 green onion
Tiny handful of chives
2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
2 tbsp agetama (tenkasu) tempura pearls

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451 calories (1/2 of recipe above); 12.2g protein; 8.7g fat; 73.6g carbohydrate; 528mg sodium (with namajoyu/kijoyu fresh soy sauce; 431mg with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 587mg with regular soy sauce); 210mg cholesterol; 2.9g fiber


<Directions>
1.

Boil udon according to directions on package.
(When using thick handmade udon, turn off heat 2-3 minutes before the cooking time indicated on package, let sit for 1-2 minutes, and drain.)




2.

In the meantime, heat serving bowls by pouring boiling water.
Thinly slice green onion, and chop chives.


3.

When udon noodles are almost done, discard hot water of serving bowls, and put egg yolk (breaking or not breaking egg yolk is up to you).



4.

Mix soy sauce and dashi, and heat up the mixture (microwave for 5-10 seconds).


5.

When udon reaches desired softness, drain.
Put udon noodles over egg yolk, and top with green onion, chives, sesame seeds and agetama
Pour soy sauce + dashi mixture.
Ready to serve.

(Mix everything before eating, and enjoy.)

<Notes>
  • The whole egg (with egg white) can be used. Eggs can also be half-cooked like onsen tamago. I do not like raw egg white, so only the yolk is used above. Including egg white also adds about 60-65mg of sodium.
  • Ideally, the egg (yolk) should be semi-cooked when eaten. For this reason, take eggs from the fridge hours in advance; keep serving bowls as hot as possible; mix hot udon after putting in serving bowls if necessary (to cook the egg); make sure soy sauce + dashi mixture is hot, etc.
  • Other popular toppings include shichimi pepper, katsuobushi bonito flakes, shirasu young dried sardines.
  • Dry udon noodles are high in sodium (1700mg/100g dry udon). When boiled, around 90% of the sodium is said to be released in boiling water. The above nutrition figure is based on 85% of sodium content being released in boiling water, to be conservative. (Just to give an idea, when 90% sodium is released in boiling water, the sodium intake figure above would fall by 85mg.) The figures go down significantly if you do not finish the egg and soy sauce mixture pooled after eating the noodles.
  • Use good udon! Handmade Sanuki udon from Kagawa prefecture would be the first choice -- Kagawa officially calls itself "the udon prefecture," and kamatama udon originally comes from Kagawa. I like to use handmade udon from Himi, the west-end city of my hometown prefecture, Toyama. Himi udon is much chewier and resembles mochi rice cakes. Thicker udon noodles are recommended for this recipe, especially in cold months. Finding your preferred handmade udon is fun too, if you are into noodles.
  • Kama in kamatama implies kama-age, which in turn implies an udon cooking/serving method and means "directly from the pot" (kama means "pot"); tama is a shortened form of tamago [egg].

2015-03-12

Satsumaimo no tonyu kokonattsu purin / sweet potato and soymilk coconut pudding

This is for people who like a little dessert after meals. It is very mild and will not steal the spotlight from the main meal or overwhelm your mouth with clingy sweetness. Also great as an afternoon snack. A small amount of kuromitsu, a molasses-like syrup made with kurozato muscovado, provides the deep aroma and taste of this creamy dessert.




<Ingredients>

(2-3 puddings)

100g cooked satsumaimo Japanese sweet potato (yakiimo roasted; in photo)
6 tbsp tonyu soymilk
6 tbsp coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
5g gelatin (slightly more than 1/2 tbsp)
3-4 tsp water (to soak gelatin; not in photo)

1 tbsp kuromitsu muscovado syrup (for serving)

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149 calories (1/3 of recipe above); 1.7g protein; 5.6g fat; 22.0g carbohydrate; 11mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol; 1.0g fiber


<Directions>
1.

Soak gelatin in water.



2.

Wrap satsumaimo in plastic, and heat it up in microwave for 30+ seconds. 
Peel, and strain into a bowl.
Add maple syrup, and mix well.




3.

Microwave soymilk and coconut milk for 40-50 seconds (no need to boil), and add to satsumaimo mixture.


Mix well.



4.

Microwave gelatin for 10-15 seconds to dissolve.
Swirl gelatin in satsumaimo mixture while mixing. 
(There would be approx. 360cc of satsumaimo mixture.)



5.

Pour into 2-3 cups, and refrigerate for a few hours.



6.

Before serving, pour 1 tsp kuromitsu over each pudding.


<Notes>
  • The pudding has a creamy consistency. Reduce the amount of soymilk and coconut milk for a denser texture.
  • The coconut taste is subtle. Use more coconut milk and less soymilk for clear coconut taste and aroma.
  • Adjust the amount of maple syrup according to the sweetness of satsumaimo. If cooked satsumaimo is very sweet, it may not be needed at all.
  • If only fresh satsumaimo is at hand, roast, steam or microwave it until soft. Roasting results in the sweetest taste and is highly recommended. You can cook satsumaimo the day before, and keep it in the fridge.
  • When made with milk, calories, sodium and cholesterol figures go up slightly to 153kcal, 23mg and 4mg.
  • Photo at right shows the same recipe made with murasaki-imo (also called murasaki-satsumaimo) purple sweet potato.
  • Kabocha pumpkin is a great substitute for satsumaimo.



2015-03-10

Kuromitsu / muscovado syrup

A common syrup made of chunks of kurozato muscovado cane sugar and used for a number of sweets in Japan. The aroma and taste of typical kuromitsu syrup made with kurozato and water only is a bit too powerful for me, and I make my kuromitsu milder by blending in some brown sugar.






<Ingredients>

(Yields approx. 120cc or 8 tbsp kuromitsu syrup)

70g kurozato muscovado cane sugar
30g brown sugar
100cc water

****************************************************************
Whole recipe above: 381 calories; 0.6g protein; 0g fat; 97.7g carbohydrate; 31mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol; 0g fiber

1 tablespoon: 48 calories; 0.1g protein; 0g fat; 12.2g carbohydrate; 4mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol; 0g fiber

1 teaspoon: 16 calories; 0g protein; 0g fat; 4.1g carbohydrate; 1mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol; 0g fiber


<Directions>
1.

In a small pot, put kurozato, brown sugar and water, and let sit for 20-30 minutes to soften kurozato.



2.

Bring mixture to boil on medium low heat while crushing kurozato chunks with back of spoon.

Once boiling, reduce heat to very low, and simmer until it thickens slightly to the consistency of maple syrup.




<Notes>
  • The syrup becomes somewhat thicker when cool, so stop simmering before it reaches the consistency of honey.
  • Kurozato [lit. black sugar] is muscovado cane sugar that has not gone through  centrifugal processing and mostly comes in solid chunks. Granulated form is also available, and soaking this form in water is unnecessary. I assume dark non-centrifugal muscovado would be the same as kurozato or at least a perfect substitute, but I have not tried it yet.
  • Kuromitsu literally means black syrup.
  • Keeps in a jar in the fridge for at least a month.
  • The proportion of 7 parts kurozato and 3 parts brown sugar as above (or even lighter with 3 parts kurozato and 2 parts brown sugar [60g kurozato and 40g brown sugar in above recipe]) gives me enough of the rich depth and aroma of kurozato.
  • Instead of brown sugar, mixing other types of syrup in the mixture of kurozato and water can also soften the taste and aroma.
  • Very nice on pancakes too! (amazake buckwheat pancakes with bananas in photo at right)


2015-03-07

Itokoni / root vegetables and azuki beans simmered in broth

While itokoni is not very different from my usual root vegetables miso soup, it does offer something new -- azuki beans. Itokoni made with root vegetables, konnyaku yam cake and usuage thin deep-fried tofu or atsuage deep-fried tofu is a regional dish from Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata prefectures. My aunt who lives in Namerikawa in Toyama brought us a pot of itokoni one day in late fall, and that was when I first discovered the magic of azuki beans, which make an ordinary soup slightly starchy and subtly mellow. As a young child, I did not really like soy sauce- or miso-tinted brownish simmered dishes; they all looked so unappealing and almost discouraging to eat, but Auntie Namerikawa's itokoni really grabbed my heart, and I begged her to bring us itokoni again and again. The recipe below tastes just like her itokoni.





<Ingredients>

Approx. 100g yude azuki (boiled azuki beans; 85g azuki and 15g azuki cooking water in photo)
1 satoimo baby taro root (55g in photo)
6-7cm carrot (32g in photo)
1-2 cm daikon radish (50g in photo)
7-8cm gobo burdock root (28g in photo)
2cm konnyaku yam cake (40g in photo)
1 small or 1/2 large usuage thin deep-fried tofu (10g in photo)

For broth
200cc kobu dashi (water with 5-6cm square kombu kelp)
1/2 tsp sakekasu sake lees
2 tsp miso

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141 calories (1/2 of recipe above); 7.7g protein; 2.7g fat; 21.6g carbohydrate; 238mg sodium (with reduced-sodium miso; 300+mg with regular miso); 0mg cholesterol; 8.7g fiber


<Directions>
1.
Boil usuage to get rid of excess oil. Pat dry with paper towel.


2.

Cut ingredients into matching size.
Here, satoimo and carrot are cut into 7-8mm thick rounds, daikon into 7-8mm fan shape, gobo and konnyaku into 7-8mm squares, and usuage into 2cm squares.
Soak gobo until use (5 minutes max).



3.

In a pot, put kobu dashi, root vegetables (gobo, carrot, daikon, satoimo) and sakekasu, and bring to boil on medium low heat.

Place lid to prevent moisture from escaping (but do not completely close! Satoimo tends to create lots of bubbles when it starts to boil and makes broth overflow).



4.

Boil konnyaku for 1 minute, and drain.




5.

When dashi is nearly boiling, remove konbu.
Reduce heat and continue simmering ingredients for 5 minutes or so.




6.

Occasionally check pot, and skim foam as it appears.



7.

Add konnyaku and usuage, cover, and continue simmering until ingredients reach desired softness.




8.

In the meantime, take some broth from pot, and loosen miso.



9.

Add azuki (and azuki cooking water).
When broth boils again, add miso, and mix well.
If time allows, let it completely cool (highly recommended). 



<Notes>
  • If your boiled azuki is not completely soft, add it at an earlier stage.
  • 3 tbsp (approx. 45g) dry azuki beans yields about 100g yude azuki (boiled azuki). Boiling time varies by how old/fresh azuki beans are; 1 hour is usually enough. 
  • Sakekasu is added to cut back on miso while giving rich taste and aroma to the soup. If not available, plain yogurt works (add it with miso). Yogurt adds a minor amount of sodium.
  • This regional dish is flavored with either miso or soy sauce.
  • The proportion of goodies and broth varies by family or temple (this is a common temple dish, as described below). Some are much soupier and some are quite dry.
  • As with other simmered dishes, this takes on full flavor after it has cooled once. Without letting itokoni cool completely, it might taste a bit weak. If this happens, add a small amount of shoyukoji soy sauce rice malt or soy sauce.
  • This is also the dish served at the late-November Buddhist memorial service of Shinran, a 12th-13th century Japanese monk and founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect. He is said to have had strong ties to the three prefectures mentioned above, and because of the religious connection, this itokoni is cooked with kobu dashi or water -- no animal ingredients go into the dish.
  • Itokoni featuring azuki and kabocha pumpkin is probably more common in other prefectures.
  • Itokoni literally means "cousins simmering/simmered." I had long thought that "cousins" referred to similar ingredients such as the root vegetables that go into the dish. However, a widespread story is that it is a pun on the expression "oioi," which means doing something in sequence (adding ingredients starting with tougher ones), and "nephew, nephew." Two nephews together make cousins. (Realistically, there is no such set phrase "oi oi" or nephew nephew.) 


2015-03-02

Atsuage to mizuna no ponzujoyu-ni / deep-fried tofu and mizuna simmered in citrus soy sauce

The citrus note from ponzujoyu refines this simple pair of everyday ingredients.





<Ingredients>

2 atsuage deep-fried tofu (216g in photo)
Handful mizuna (60g in photo)
100cc dashi (katsuo-kobu bonito-kelp or kobu kelp dashi recommended)
1 tbsp ponzujoyu citrus soy sauce

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175 calories (1/2 of recipe above); 12.8g protein; 12.2g fat; 3.1g carbohydrate; 137mg sodium (when made with homemade ponzujoyu using 50% reduced sodium soy sauce; 350+mg when made with store-bought ponzujoyu); 0mg cholesterol; 1.6g fiber


<Directions>
1.

Place atsuage in boiling water or pour boiling water over atsuage to get rid of excess oil.
Pat dry with paper towel.



2.

Cut atsuage into squares.
Cut mizuna into 4-5 cm.
Keep mizuna covered to prevent it from drying or wilting.


3.

In a pot large enough to hold atsuage in a single layer, put dashi and ponzujoyu, and bring to boil.


4.

Put atsuage, place otoshibuta drop cover directly on top, and simmer on medium low heat for 3 minutes.
Flip atsuage, place otoshibuta drop cover again, and simmer for another 3 minutes.

Remove from heat, cover pot, and let cool (completely, if time allows).



5.

When ready to finish cooking, return pot to heat.
Flip atsuage, and heat through.


6.

Move atsuage to one side, and place mizuna in open space.

Tilt pot to pool broth, and cook mizuna in broth while mixing with chopsticks often.
When mizuna is cooked through, it is ready to serve.



<Notes>