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.