Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Gyoza with Nira and Cabbage

This is how I make mine. It’s easily enough for 60 small to medium sized gyoza.  
Gyoza wrappers. Allow 10-12 per person, more for teenagers. Freeze any left over filling, or make tiny meatballs and drop into simmering water for a quick Korean style soup with wakame and negi, sesame seeds.  

What You Need
 300 g ground pork
 2 bunches (roughly 300g) nira /garlic chives, finely chopped 
 2-300 g mild leaf vegetables such as cabbage, chingensai, hakusai, komatsuna, or 1 bag beansprouts. Chop finely. 
1 negi or Japanese dividing onion, finely minced 
1-3 cloves garlic, finely minced 1 finger of ginger, finely grated 
 1 T sake 
 1 T vinegar 
 1 tsp sugar
 1 t soy sauce or Thai fish sauce, or 1 T miso 
Black pepper 
 1 T katakuriko or arrowroot/cornflour etc. 
 Oil for frying, 
toasted sesame oil (goma-abura) to finish. 
 “Umami” ingredients such as finely chopped prawns, 3 soaked and minced dried shiitake…recently I don’t include these as I think they simply make the flavor too bland without adding much of their own flavor.
 ½-1 tsp salt, 
1 tsp sesame oil for nira (Use less salt if you used fish sauce in the gyoza, as it’s very salty) 

How to Do It 
Mix ginger, garlic, sake, sugar, vinegar, and pepper into meat and mix very well (at least 100 turns) with hands until pasty. Set aside. 

Mix finely chopped mild vegetables with no more than ½ tsp salt or 1 tsp soy sauce and rub in, leave to shed some water. Mix sesame oil and salt with finely chopped nira, rub in till slimy, drop on top of meat mixture without squeezing. Squeeze salted milder vegetables lightly, and drop on top of meat mixture. Mix vegetables into meat very thoroughly. 

Freeze any filling you are not planning on using. Depending on how much is left, mix in 1 t to 1 T katakuriko. This prevents weeping, and also makes for a juicy, tender texture.  

Forming Gyoza 
Get a small teaspoon, a cup with some water and 1 t cornflour in it, and the wrappers. Dust a board liberally with katakuriko. Have another board or large plate ready if you plan to take gyoza to the table to cook on a hotplate. If you are making a huge number, separate each layer of finished gyoza with a layer of plastic wrap dusted with cornflour.  
 Dip a finger in water and wet the rim of a gyoza wrapper. 
Dump 1 small t of filling in the middle, spreading it into a longish heap. 

You can find a video demo on youtube or use a gyoza press, but it’s amazing how fast you can make them with a little practice.

Bring sides close together, with the gyoza resting between thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand (Make a "C" and have the gyoza resting in the gap). 

Use the thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand to squeeze the edges together, and then push the fold in toward the center of the gyoza, so that the unclosed edges form pleats to either side. 
Move your dominant thumb and forefinger down out of the way and squeeze the pleats together to close, repeat so that each gyoza has 3-5 pleats. 
With the gyoza still resting between thumb and forefinger, push the belly of your thumb against it to form the whole thing into a slightly crescent shape, and place on the floured board.

 It is slightly easier to form gyoza with the pleats just on one side.  

Fry Them Up I recommend a smallish, heavy NON-Teflon frypan, as the nonstick pans tend to be very thin. If you have a burnplate that you can put under a Teflon frypan, so much the better. 

Heat frypan till a drop of water skitters, then add a bit of oil, and quickly pop in two rows of say 5 gyoza. Cook on medium or a little less until the bottom of a gyoza looks golden brown when you pick one up. 

Sprinkle a little sesame oil over the gyoza. Run a fry-slice under the gyoza to loosen them, and then pour over a little water and IMMEDIATELY slam a lid on. Cook for about 3 minutes. 

If you use the water from your cup of  cornflour/water, it may help form a lacy, crispy mat. Or it may make the gyoza stick to the pan badly, so try this trick when you have made gyoza a few times.

When a peek shows that the gyoza wrappers are looking slightly translucent, turn the heat up high but not scorching hot, to drive off moisture and crisp the bottoms. 

Remove to a plate, serve, and start again. I usually have two frypans on the go at once.
 Serve with a nice quality vinegar (I like black vinegar), soy sauce, and optional chili oil. Children may prefer mayonnaise with their vinegar and soy sauce. 

Chili oil (ra-yu) is not at all hard to make and keeps for ever. But that's another post.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sauce for Yakitori

This post is really more about the sauce than the yakitori.
Get as much chicken breast or boned chicken thigh as everybody is likely to eat.
Japanese naganegi (like a round leek) if available.
Cut meat into cubes a bit bigger than 1/2” and thread onto skewers, alternating with chunks of leek on some skewers. Leave enough room to hold the end of the skewer.
Grill, preferably over charcoal, and when a little charring is evident, pick up several skewers at a time and dip into the sauce below, allow excess to drip off a little and return to grill. Repeat until done.
Some skewers should be grilled just with salt, without sauce.

Tare or Sauce There are easier ways to make tare, but this is particularly tasty, and has a good consistency without being floury.
trimmings from chicken
ml mirin
ml soy sauce
2 spring onions, or green half of negi or dividing onion
chili pod
garlic clove
g demerara or raw sugar

Chicken trimmings - ideally about 4 wingtips, but any chicken part with plenty of skin, cartilege, and bone, but not much fat, is perfect.
Grill chicken trimmings and onion until some browning shows.
Bring mirin, soy sauce, garlic, and dried chili to the boil.
Stir in sugar.
Add chicken and onion.
Simmer for around 30 minutes - a larger batch will take around 2 hours to achieve a slightly gelatinous syrupy texture and plenty of chicken flavor.

Cool and store in a narrow glass jar - ready for dipping skewers of grilled chicken in.
Boil up "tare" after every use, and strain and add remaining tare to any new batch that you make up.

Chicken Simmered in Vinegar & Soy

I think this may be based on a Filipino adobo. Serves 4 as a main or about 10-20 as an appetizer/bento dish. This is good warm, but also great cold - the lack of oil means that it is not greasy, and the vinegar cooks to a slight but uncloying sweetness.

1-2 dried chilis
Several slices ginger
Bayleaf or two.
1 star anise if you want a more Chinese flavor.
1-3 cloves of garlic
2 T Chinese shaohsing rice wine or Japanese sake
1/3 c soy sauce
1/2 c rice vinegar or mild vinegar
1 kg chicken wings, wingsticks, or drumlets

Douse chicken in boiling water and drain.
Lay neatly in pan in a single layer.
Pour over about vinegar, soy sauce, Chinese wine or sake, and a few spoonsful of water so that liquid comes at least halfway up chicken pieces.
Sprinkle liberally with paprika (improves color, omit if you don't have any).
Add garlic cloves.
Add several slices of fresh ginger.
Add spices.
Use a drop-lid or cover roughly with silicon paper, and simmer for 1-2 hours (good crockpot dish if you are willing to move to a pan and reduce the liquid for about 30 minutes at the end, and works well in a pressure cooker too).

Kentaro's Taco Rice

This is a plate dinner to serve up to 4 (if they aren't teenagers)...a kind of flat donburi, where the rice is topped with shredded lettuce and taco fixings.

Cook enough rice for 4, and shred a pile of lettuce leaves, 4-5 leaves depending on size.

Cube one big tomato and an avocado.
Squeeze lemon or lime juice over the avocado. I like lots of lemon or lime juice over the finished dish too, especially in hot weather.

1 bag plain tostitos or nachos chips

3/4 c grated cheese

Wet seasoning mix:1.5 T tomato ketchp
2 T worcestershire sauce (Japanese - use less if using western Worcestershire sauce)
1 T sake
1 scant T red pepper, to taste
1 t soy sauce
0.5 t curry powder or ground cumin

Dry seasonings:2 pinches salt
black pepper, ground

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 T oil
300 g ground meat (pork or beef)

Heat up a frypan, and hold your hand about 10 cm over it. When you can feel the heat but it’s not too hot, add the oil to the pan. Fry the garlic. If it’s too hot, take the pan off the heat and stir it quickly, because garlic burns very easily.

When the garlic smells good and looks golden, add meat, salt, pepper. Stir-fry it.

When the meat is mostly brown, add the wet seasoning mix and stir it in. Cook just a bit more, until there is no raw meat, and taste a bit to see if it needs more salt.
Don’t forget that the cheese and tacos are salty.

Serve the rice onto dishes. Scatter lettuce over the rice, then add a dollop of met. Top with tomatoes and avocado, another squeeze of lemon or lime if liked, and sprinkle with cheese and crumbled tostitos. Grind more pepper over if you want.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shoyu-jiru (Soup with Shoyu base)

Shoyu-jiru is a northern thing. I've been comparing different versions, and decided that I prefer a straight shoyu broth, with no sake or mirin. Since this is a clear soup, it's surprisingly colorful and cheery. No tricks, just simmer away!


4 c (800 ml) konbu or niboshi dashi or water (water is fine if you are going to use chicken or satsuma-age/chikuwa etc.)

2 T shoyu (taste before serving, you may prefer a little more)

Stuff to go in the soup...you should have a hearty bowl of bits and pieces, just covered with broth:



Konnyaku - I like it cubed for this dish

Fu (gluten): use slices of fried fresh fu (abura-fu) if you can get it, or sheets of pressed fu or other dried fu, soaked in warm water about 10 mins, then squeezed dry and sliced.

Seasonal and optional items:

Chicken pieces (or less traditional but useful, chikuwa)

Sweet potato (soak slices or cubes in water and rub in the water to loosen surface starch - color will be much brighter when cooked)

Burdock root (gobo)

wakegi or Dividing onions such as naga-negi

Greens: komatsuna or chingen-sai - best added at the end, to retain bright color.

Sato-imo - peel thickly and parboil in one or two changes of water before adding to soup.

Eggplant - tends to look awful in miso-soup, but is fine in shoyu broth!

Grilled mochi turns this soup into a regional o-zouni for New Year.

Toppings - finely chopped negi in winter, myouga in summer.

The Thoroughly Modern Inari-zushi

This is strrraight (well, roughly) from NHK's "Tameshite Gatten" version, because it works. Recently, I've thought that inari-zushi were too sweet...but if you tone them down, they are too bland. When I read the NHK version, I immediately noticed the sushi rice - NO SUGAR! Aha! 

I do sometimes make sushi rice with no sugar, and I'm convinced that the sweetness of modern sushi rice has a lot to do with how long the sushi sits around after being made, and also the move away from salad-type homestyle chirashi-zushi, or sushi wrapped in tofu or leaves to the eye appeal and easy serving of nigiri and maki. No-sugar sushi rice doesn't stick together as well, and can get dry...but that's no problem with inari-zushi, and the fresh taste of vinegar is perfect with fried tofu pouches with the traditional strong flavor.

These are tasty but not cloying, perfect picnic and bento food, and a very good dinner with shira-ae (tofu-dressing and vegetables) and vegetable soup in a shoyu broth.

Sushi Rice for Inari-zushi

Per 2 cups (Japanese rice cup measure) of rice:

75 ml rice vinegar

scant t salt (4 g - bit less  is OK if using 1 T red pickled ginger, finely chopped)

1 T finely chopped red pickled ginger (the cheap type you buy pre-shredded)

1 T toasted black sesame seeds

Alternatives - finely chopped green shiba-zuke (cheap type), 1 t salt-pickled sansho seeds, white toasted sesame seeds plus finely shredded green shiso leaves.

Inari-zushi Pouches

3 slices thin fried tofu (aburage, usu-age)  1 pack - 6 pouches if pre-cut.

The cheap type are thinner and better for this dish than expensive products! Make plenty, these freeze well. If not prepared for inari-zushi, pop the aburage on a chopping board and use a rolling pin or several long chopsticks to roll back and forth a few times - this loosens the two layers. Cut in half into two squares, then gently pull apart to make pouches.

simmer 3 minutes in plenty of water, then drain. Use a saucer, drop-lid, or large strainer/colander to keep tofu under the surface of the water.

In clean pan, heat till dissolved:

5 T sugar (about 1/3 J cup)

3 T shoyu (1/4 J cup)

300 ml water

Replace aburage, and use some kind of drop lid, and simmer till liquid has almost gone. If you want, you can leave them overnight for flavor to penetrate fully, and reheat before using next day, but they are perfectly tasty used straight away.

I don't squeeze them, but lay them to drain on a cake cooler or kitchen paper etc.

With wet hands, take 2 small T of rice and gently squeeze to make a ping-pong sized rice ball. Pop into the pouches, pressing into corners if you feel you must, then lay upside down on serving plate so that the opening doesn't show.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watalian Pork in Cabbage Leaves

I found a great recipe for pork fillet dipped in beaten egg and coarsely ground hazelnuts, then rolled in cabbage leaves and baked in chicken stock flavored with cumin and caraway seeds....then bedded down in a cheesy sauce made with the remaining stock. Sounds wonderful, but somehow this is what happened when it moved into my lazy kitchen...

Watalian Pork and Cabbage Rolls

1 liter of water simmered with whatever chicken you feel like making stock out of. (Wings can be grilled, drumlets simmered adobo-style, and other meat could be turned into sandwiches or salad, but really needs to become chicken cream croquettes). With the caraway flavoring, excess stock is best suited to a germanic cabbage/potato soup.

Add to the broth:

100 ml white wine or 2 T mild vinegar and about 1 t sugar

1-2 T cumin seeds

1-2 T caraway seeds

If you have no access to cumin or caraway, try warm, bright/aromatic herbs such as rosemary with ginger, or ginger in the broth, with shiso or yuzu garnish

Salt to taste

Bring stock to the boil.

About 4 big or 8 small cabbage leaves. Take a whole cabbage, and cut right through the bases, then ease the leaves off from the base upward. Don't fret about minor splits. Cut some of the thickness off the main rib, and toss each leaf into the simmering stock. Pull out and drain when a little soft. Some seeds will adhere, don't fret.

1 pork fillet - divide into portions and slice each portion. Pork fillet is sometimes very cheap, but if not, "roast" is probably more tender.

2 beaten eggs

1 pack good quality ground sesame (usually about 70 g)

1/2 t salt

Mix eggs and ground sesame, drop pork in and coat all sides.

Roll up each serving. This is so easy, no zillions of ingredients, no kneading of meat mixture - just slip onto a leaf, slop on more mix, roll up, and slap in a pot. Done. Doesn't need to be too neat, the egg encourages it to hold together anyway.

Bring a little of the stock to the boil in a frypan or saucepan, pop in the rolls, cover, and simmer about 20 mins till cooked.

Serve with just a little of the cooking liquid, and a drizzle of ponzu (citrus juice/soy sauce) on top, or ginger juice and shoyu...as you prefer.  You could slice partway through each roll to make the dish more chopstick-friendly.

Rice with Roasted Soybeans

Rice with boiled soybeans is good...but rice with "iri-daizu" (dry-fried/parched/roasted soybeans) is quicker, tastier, and free of that soapy soybean texture. Iri-daizu are to be had cheaply the day after setsubun, and also at this time of year, just before the new crop beans hit the market, but as bargain-bin beer snacks, they are never very expensive at any time of year. They make pretty good "instant" 5-flavor simmered beans too (go-moku mame).

You can double the amount of sake/soy sauce, but I prefer a lighter taste. You can also add in almost any of the usual takikomi gohan suspects, but slightly salty ingredients work best.

Takikomi Gohan with Iri-Daizu

per cup of rice:

1/2 t sake

1/2 t soy sauce

pinch salt, OR 1 t shio-konbu (salted konbu, or salted hijiki etc), OR 1-2 T semi-dried whitebait (shirasu-boshi - my favorite addition to this dish). 

Very simple - wash your rice and into the rice-cooker with it, along with your other ingredients. I add the shirasu-boshi at the end, so that they don't lose too much flavor.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Frozen Tofu Nuggets, Three Ways

There are plenty of recipes using frozen crumbled tofu out there...I wasn't that interested until I started using silken rather than cotton tofu. Cotton tofu works too though.

Frozen tofu nuggets

1 pack tofu, cotton or silk, 300g frozen and pressed, then squeezed to about 130g in weight, crumble into bowl

1/2 tsp ginger juice

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp kochujang or miso

1 T peanut butter

To coat: 1 T each soft flour and cornstarch/katakuriko

 Mix and squish together, make about 10 nuggets (1 T each) roll in flour mix, deepfry. 

These soft nuggets are great in meatless "subuta" (sweet and sour pork) or with a tangy sauce for lunchboxes.

 Tofu sausages

300g silk tofu frozen, pressed and squeezed to about 130 g in weight, crumbled

1 c fresh soft bread crumbs

4 T grated onion

1/2 tsp salt


1/2 t brown sugar

1 T vinegar

1 t soy sauce

1/4 tsp red pepper (more is too spicy unless you want really spicy nibbles)

Cumin & coriander


Marjoram or oregano, sage

2-3 T grated cheese optional (for the grilled crispy squares option)

 Mix together, form sausage shapes, roll in 1 T each soft flour and cornflour and deep fry.

Or, press out into squares and grill in oven toaster 10-15 mins (crunchier in thin layers).

The sugar and vinegar add more interest to the flavor, and give the herbs something to argue with.

 Pumpkin Tofu Sausage

300 g silk tofu frozen, pressed and squeezed to about 130 g in weight, crumbled

Steamed pumpkin, same weight as tofu

about 1/2 c soft breadcrumbs (depends how moist the pumpkin was)

1-2 cloves garlic (depending on size) and 1 t kalonjeera or cumin seeds, fried in 1 t oil

1/2 t salt


1 t crumbled dried sage

1/2 t brown sugar

2 t vinegar

 To deepfry:  form into sausages, roll in flour/katakuriko.

To bake: either grill on an oiled tray in an oven toaster, or roll up in greased foil or baking paper and bake in an oven toaster

The pumpkin/garlic/herb flavor is a winner. Leave out breadcrumbs if you don't need sturdiness (when stuffing vegetables, for example).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Green Grows the Shiso!

While early in summer, after the rainy season, is the best time to gather shiso leaves for drying and other preserves, it's not too late...and for coughs, including the green seed-heads makes a better brew.

For that "I think I'm coming down with..." feeling, a cup of tea made with red shiso leaves (I dry mine and keep a bag in the freezer) is warming and soothing.

Green shiso seems to be even better for the cough stage, though. This is my favorite shiso in shochu - drink in hot water for coughs, or with water and/or ice as a tipple.


1.8 liter pack of White Liquor 

Green shiso leaves and fresh seeds or flowering tops: 130 dried leaves, 200g fresh. 

150-200g rock sugar or 1c honey

70g ginger (sliced)

4 lemons – Peel, remove pith, slice over a glass or china bowl. Discard pith and pips.

Place all ingredients in a large glass jar. Boil a saucer to sterilize and use to weight down floating leaves if necessary. Remove lemon and ginger (you can also make this liqueur without them) after 1-2 months, and leave shiso leaves at least 3 months.

For coughs, sip 20 ml straight or dilute with hot or cold water, once or twice daily.


 White Liquor contains about 35% alcohol, while ordinary shouchuu contains 20-25%.

Leaves: Use around 130 leaves semi-dried (pull up plant soon after rainy season, hang in airy shade 2-3 days), or around 200g fresh leaves. Don’t chop the leaves up.

Strain through gauze, and take 20 mls daily. (Most herbal liqueurs are safe up to 4 times this amount split into 2 daily doses). 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Must be about time I posted to my blog...

Home-made Preserved Sardines"

This comes from Masako Sato's "Watashi no Hozon-shoku Note", a book that preserves a whole era, not just a few foods. I made it again recently, and it's so simple to make and tastes so fresh that I wondered why I'd forgotten about it.

10 smallish fresh sardines (get the ones labeled "for sashimi", and if you can get them filleted as "sanmai-oroshi" when you buy them, so much the better).

Make the following dressing and allow to cool.

Heat until the garlic sizzles:

1 clove garlic

50-75 cc olive or other vegetable oil

Allow to cool before mixing in:

50-75 cc mild vinegar (rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, mild cider vinegar)

Fresh lemon juice or lime juice

1 t coarse salt

Set aside to cool while you prepare the fish.

Scale and wash the sardines, cut off heads and tails, open and remove guts and blood along spine. Drop into a bowl of salted water as you work.

Pull off the tough outer membrane, leaving the inner skin. It's easiest to do this working from head to tail. Remove fins at this stage.

Lay opened fish skinside up on a board, and run your fingers firmly down both sides to loosen the vertebrae. Flip fish over, and pull the backbone off, working from tail to head.

Slide a knife under the fine rib bones, and cut off in one layer. Trim each fillet neatly, and line up in a bamboo or metal colander, or failing that, a plate or stainless-steel/enamel tray.

Sprinkle with the following, and leave for around half an hour:

1-2 t coarse salt

several grinds of black pepper

Bring some water to the boil, making a court-bouillon by adding:

a few peppercorns, black or white

1-3 bayleaves, to taste

several parsley stalks

at least 2 slices of lemon or a dash of vinegar

Lower the entire colander into the gently boiling water, and leave immersed for 3-4 minutes. If this is not practical, slide a fish-slice under several fillets, without separating them, and immerse the fish slice in the boiling water.

Remove the colander or fish slice when the fish are just cooked, and allow to drain. Pack neatly, head to tail, into a suitable container, layering with:

1/2 to 1 onion, in rings or coarse shreds

1/2 lemon

Parsley to taste (not too finely torn up, so that it doesn't stick to the fish but just flavors it)

Pour over the "dressing", cover with wrap or greaseproof paper and weight lightly with a plate, etc. Store with a lid in the fridge at least overnight before using.

Great with salad as a light summer meal, great on toast, and even better with a side of caponata.