Avocado Toast

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Yummy brunch! A slice of avocado toast and a tuna-leftover concoction!

Can you believe I’ve never tried avocado toast?! I absolutely love it! Super easy with an awesome play of acid from lemon, salt, and fattiness from avocado. And probably takes one minute to put together! Hello breakfast/light lunch with lots of vegetables and nutrients!

Avocado Toast

Makes 1 slice time: 1-2 minutes

Ingredients:

1 slice of multigrain bread, toasted (I also tried this on a whole wheat English muffin and it was great!)

1/4 of a ripe avocado

squeeze of lemon juice (1 tsp or to taste)

sprinkle of salt and pepper

sprouts

flax and chia seeds OR sunflower seeds

Directions:

Mash pieces of avocado onto the slice of bread until it looks like a spread. Squeeze lemon juice on top and add other ingredients to taste. Done. It’s just that easy

Original recipe from Cooking Light: Avocado Sprout Toast

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Rice and Broth Soup: For when you need some gentle food

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A gentle, nourishing broth

Want to be amused? Right now, search Pinterest for “light meals.” While half of these will indeed be light, the other half will be filled with things like fried sweet potato balls, 3 cheese ravioli, and stuff with kale. Now, I guess kale is “light,” but it’s not exactly gentle, nor what I want to eat when I’m feeling queasy! Which I was today. After some stomach upset involving some really rich food I was hungry, but wanting something gentle for my tummy.

I’m not sure if this dish really has a name, but there are several variations of rice with added liquid in Japan (probably with added tea is the most well known). This recipe evolved as I was making it, so some of the directions here call for a lot of “season/add ingredient” to taste. Which honestly, I think is preferable if your stomach is feeling off. Your seasoning preferences may be different than normal.

Basically: yummy broth + glutinous rice + gentle toppings. It was really good! My husband, who was feeling super healthy and fine also enjoyed this!

Ingredients note: I call for “water that you’ve boiled chicken in” or dashi. Why not chicken broth? Because western chicken broth is made with a lot of aromatics like onions, cellery, carrots, etc. I wanted to use the chicken water as a substitute for dashi, which is made with only fish and seaweed. (as an aside, Japanese chicken broth also has aromatics, but they’re different.) Depending on what kind of dashi you use, you could easily make this entire recipe vegetarian.

I also chose to do a 2:1 ratio of Japanese white rice to mochi rice so it would be extra sticky, and I could use the extra rice to make a sweet snack. You could definitely use normal Japanese white rice.

Rice and Broth

Serves Two, 20 minutes to make

Ingredients:

For the broth:

500 ml water that’s had chicken boiled in it, or dashi

Soy sauce

Usukutchi soy sauce (optional)

white sugar

brown sugar (optional)

for the rice:

2:1 ratio of Japanese white rice to mochi rice, cooked normally

for the sweet omelet:

2 eggs

1/2 tsp usukutchi soy sauce (can substitute normal)

1/2 tsp sugar

4 Tbs chicken water or dashi

1/2 tsp mirin (can substitute white sugar and a little water)

additional toppings:

nori

green onion, thinly sliced

sesame seeds (optional)

First: Set aside 4 tablespoons of dashi and bring the rest to a boil. Add sugar and the two soy sauces until you like the flavor. I probably added about 4 Tablespoons of mostly white sugar (some brown), and about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. I recommend adding everything 2 tablespoons at a time if it scares you to eyeball it. The broth is now done.

Second: Using chopsticks (or a fork) beat the egg ingredients until one uniform color (no egg whites separate from the yolk). I think it’s better not to use a whisk, to avoid frothy bubbles. Lightly oil a pan using a paper towel to make sure it’s thoroughly covered.

You now have two options: rolled omelets, or thin strips. Thin strips are easier.

Pour the egg batter into the pan and swirl it around until the egg has spread out to touch all sides.

For strips: Wait until the eggs have “set” and the top is glossy, but no longer liquid and mobile. Turn out onto a cutting board and slice into strips.

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These are the sliced version. WAY easier in my opinion! And easier to keep moist!

For a rolled omelet: As soon as one side has finished cooking, roll the omelet on itself to create a tight roll. Remove from heat and using a kitchen towel, paper towel, or sushi roller, roll the omelet tightly and let it sit in this shape for a minute or two. Remove and slice into rounds.

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Here you see the rolled version. Mine aren’t perfect. Ideally there should NOT be a dark line where it was rolled. But still yummy!

Third: If you have an electric stove, place the nori directly on the turned off (but still hot) burner until it has shrunk in size, and darkened in color. For gas, turn the flame on medium, and use tongs to hold the nori above the flame.

Fourth: Place toppings on top of rice and ladle a little bit of broth over it. Enjoy!

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Before adding broth
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After adding broth and sesame seeds. Time to eat!

 

Bonus recipe:

Smoosh the left over rice up with a spoon or rice scoop until it clumps together a bit. Using hands moistened in water, loosely pack the rice into small balls. Combine kinako powder and white sugar (to taste) in a separate tupperware. Toss the balls in the powder. This is essentially ohagi minus the sweet red bean paste in the middle (which you can buy in a can and add if you want!).

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Yeah, there’s no getting around the fact that these are SUPER ugly! But they make a light and sweet snack.

Gochujang Tofu

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I’m not vegan, but I’m always super excited when I manage to make something that is. Maybe because:

A) For some reason I perceive veganism as super difficult and exotic.

B) Any time I can cut down on meat I feel like my meal is a lot healthier.

C) So many vegan and vegetarian recipes suffer from a lack of umami (the savory flavor), so I’m really happy when I find one that’s delicious and well balanced flavorwise.

So basically I felt like a super hero that just ate something really delicious after making this recipe. And guess what? It was actually really easy!

This is a spicy Korean sauce with a little bit of sweetness. Serve it with rice and a variety of Korean side dishes like bean sprout namul or takuan/danmuji (the yellow pickle).

Gochujang Tofu

Serves 2, 25 minutes

Ingredients:

400 grams (14 oz. or 1 large block) firm tofu

1 1/2 Tbs (22 ml) Cornstarch

Oil for frying

For the Sauce:

2 Tbs (30 ml) Garlic, minced

4 Tbs (60 ml) Gochujang

2 Tbs (30 ml) Sesame oil

4 Tbs (60 ml) Soy sauce

2 Tbs (60 ml) Sugar (used 1 part white sugar to 3 parts raw sugar, but use whatever you want)

1/4 tsp (1.2 ml) Apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup plus (or a large handful) green onions, sliced

1/4 cup (60 ml) sesame seeds (optional)

Water

Step One: Press your tofu between some paper towels for 5 minutes to a half hour. Cut into desired size (I cut mine into 1 cm cubes) and dry with a paper towel. In a large container toss the tofu with the cornstarch until all pieces are lightly coated.

Step Two: Depending on how fast you are in the kitchen, you can do this while doing step three. Combine all sauce ingredients except water together in a clean saucepan. Add the water a few tablespoons at a time until you have a thick sauce consistency to your liking (I used about 1/4 cup of water).

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So much spicy yumminess!

Step Three: Heat oil in a large pan. It doesn’t need to be super deep, but enough that you can fry each side of the tofu pieces in it. Test a small piece of tofu before putting all of them in. The oil should immediately start sizzling and bubbling when the tofu touches. If not, let the oil heat up some more.  Add all of the tofu to the oil and fry each side until it’s a very light golden beige (approximately 2 minutes per side). To me, it looks just a little bit lighter than a chicken nugget. Remove tofu to paper towels to drain and blot off any excess oil.

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Desired “golden beige” color

Step Four: Heat the sauce until it bubbles. Immediately combine sauce with tofu and serve immediately. This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so I would combine a little at a time until you’ve reached your desired “sauciness” level.

 

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That’s it! Time to eat!

Thanks to the bloggers out there with all the different versions of this recipe that inspired this one. Especially Food52’s Gochujang Tofu with Scallions which mine is heavily based on.

If this were an academic paper with a “further work” section: Make a sandwich with this tofu!

Japanese Hamburg Steak

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ハンバーグ Japanese Hamburger Steak

One of the things English speakers quickly learn in Japan is the difference between hambaaga and hambaagu. The first one is your typical hamburger. The other one is a hamburg steak. Apparently, in the States we also have this, and it’s called Salisbury steak. I say apparently because I’d never heard of it before moving to Japan.

Hamburg is a super soft steamed patty made with ground meat, and some stuff to bind it together. There are lots of different toppings and sauces, but I like the wafu “Japanese” style. It’s topped with a sweet teriyaki sauce and grated daikon. For a Hawaiian twist, use a slice of grilled pineapple for the topping!

Fun fact: Hamburg is one of children’s favorite foods in Japan!

For the language learners out there: The word たね (tah-neh) is used for both seeds and meat patties.

Japanese Hamburg

Serves: 2 (makes two patties)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup grated daikon

thinly sliced green onion or shiso

For the hamburg:

250 grams ground pork and beef mixture

1/2 beaten egg

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1/3 cup panko

1/3 cup milk (or soy milk)

1/4 onion, minced

Sauce

3 Tablespoons of each: water, sake, mirin, soy sauce

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 tsp corn starch

 

First: Combine all hamburg ingredients and stir until it combines into a slightly sticky homogenous mixture. Divide in half for large patties, or 4 for small ones.

Second: lightly throw each patty from hand to hand. This will compact the patty and get rid of any extra air. Shape it into a round circle.

Third: In a frying pan add a enough cooking oil to coat the pan and gently place the patties in it. Brown both sides of the patty. After each side is browned, add half a cup of water, cover with a lid. Allow to steam for 4-6 minutes, or until cooked through.

Fourth: Wipe out any remaining water in the pan. Combine sauce ingredients and pour over the patties. With a spoon, keep pouring the excess sauce in the pan over the meat until the sauce has thickened and the hamburgs are coated in shiny brown layer.

Fifth: Remove from heat to serving plates. Ladle extra sauce over the patty, and top the patties with shredded daikon, green onion, and a tiny spoon full of sauce over the daikon.

Itadakimasu! Let’s eat!

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I was too lazy to make any side dishes…

Thanks to orangepage.net for the original recipe! They also have some lovely pictures that are much more appetizing than mine ^_^;

Chashu: Braised Pork

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Chashu: The perfect meat for any bowl of ramen.

YUUUUUUUM! I am still in shock that this turned out so well! I recently got a cookbook about making ramen. However, once it arrived from Amazon, and I started looking through the recipes, I was worried that it wasn’t authentic and was more of a fusion-cuisine book. But, I decided to wait and try some recipes before passing judgement. I am so glad I did! While I am still evaluating the rest of the recipes in said book, this chashu (or chyashu, if you want to be even more Japanese in your pronunciation) recipe is spectacular. And surprisingly hands off. As long as you have four hours to sit in your house and make sure your stove doesn’t spontaneously catch fire, this is a great recipe for you. Or, if you have a slow cooker, you could probably safely leave your house and still enjoy this!

So, what is chyashu? Basically, a very soft pork that’s been simmered in a sweet soy sauce mixture. Typically, it’s served as a topping for ramen. But you can also serve it with rice, green onions, and Japanese mayo for a tasty and quick treat (brown rice goes really well with this). I haven’t done it yet, but I think this would also be awesome in steamed buns.

Even though this is a “Japanese” recipe, it’s Japanese in the same way nachos are American. As an American, I would say that nachos are Mexican food, not American (though I’m pretty sure they don’t exist in Mexico). Most Japanese will tell you that ramen and chashu are Chinese food. I find this super funny, since Japan is famous internationally for its ramen! In case you’re curious, Chinese char siu is roasted, but the Japanese version is simmered. The seasonings are also slightly different.

Chashu

Serves 4-6 Time: 4-12 hours

Ingredients

1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) pork belly

1.6 liters (6 cups) water (If you have a very large stockpot, use 10 cups, or 2.4 liters)

945 ml (4 1/2 cups) soy sauce

500 grams (2 1/2) cups sugar

1 green onion, cut in 1/2

1 1/2 Tablespoon sized knob of ginger (3 cm diameter, 1 cm thick), peeled

175 ml (3/4 cup) mirin

30 ml (1/8 cup) sake (optional)

Special materials: kitchen twine

First: Cut the pork belly to a length of about 4-5 inches (8-9 cm), and roll it tightly, so that the fatty side faces outwards. Tie it in place with cooking string. This makes the meat cook into a nice circular shape.

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My local grocery store didn’t have kitchen twine, so I cut up a cheese cloth.

Second: Add the pork and remaining ingredients to a large stock pot. If your stock pot only holds around 2-3 liters (like me) add everything except the water first. Then, add as much water as you can fit into the pot at the end. If you have any extra pork belly that didn’t get tied up, just throw it in as is.

Third: Bring to a boil and skim off any foam for 1 minute. Reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 4 hours, or until the pork is tender. As it simmers, skim off any additional foam. If you were unable to add the full amount of water, add more as the water evaporates off.

Optional Fourth Step: While it’s simmering, place a piece of baking parchment with holes cut in it over the top. This will help keep everything wet, even though the pork is floating.

Fourth: It’s now done! Let it chill in its own juices overnight before cutting to get thinner, prettier slices. Or eat it right away! To reheat: combine meat slices and a small amount (about 1 Tablespoon) of water or the meat juice, cover, and microwave.  The liquid keeps the meat from drying out while you heat it up.

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Sadly out of focus, but you can sort of see the round shape 😦
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Miso ramen with chashu, bean sprouts, and green onions
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Chashu rice bowl: chashu, rice, green onions, and Japanese mayonaise

Big thanks to Simply Ramen: A Complete Course in Preparing Ramen Meals at Home by Amy Kimoto-Kahn for this recipe! 🙂

 

 

Tamagokakegohan: Egg and Rice

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Easy breakfast!

This is probably the simplest thing you can make for breakfast. I love it. When I first wake up, I have a hard time eating a big meal. This is a really gentle meal to start your day off with but it still gives you some protein to make it to lunch without getting hungry. As a big plus, it is super fast. I hate doing a ton of cooking while I’m still waking up!

At first, I thought this meal didn’t have a name, but then I saw it on a menu somewhere. They called it “TKG” tamagokakegohan, literally “egg mixed with rice.” Feel free to change the toppings! Kimchi’s really good with this too!

Ingredients note: Make sure your eggs are high quality ones that you feel safe and confident eating raw. If you’re in doubt, you probably shouldn’t make this recipe. The steam of the rice might cook the egg slightly, but not much.

Egg and Rice

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 medium bowl of hot cooked rice (or however much rice you want)

1 Tablespoon green onion, sliced into small rings

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (or more, depending on your personal taste)

Directions: Mix it all up! The egg should get kind of foamy looking. Done!

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Put it all in a bowl.
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Mix it all up! The egg will foam a little.

Soboro Donburi: Rice Bowl with Crumbled Toppings

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Soboro donburi!

Soboro-don is probably one of the easiest Japanese meals you can make. It’s super sweet and savory, and makes a great meal for lunch or dinner. Soboro donburi, or soboro-don for short, literally means “finely crumbled rice bowl.” Its toppings consist of crumbly things like ground beef or pork and scrambled eggs. Usually, there are also some vegetables; peas are especially popular.

This is super fast to make and looks pretty. Eat this hot or make it ahead as a bento. It’s also highly customizable in terms of portion sizes. Just add more rice or more of a particular topping!

Some fun history about rice bowls (one dish meals with rice and some kind of topping): According to Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: a Simple Art, rice bowls first became popular in Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912). People were busier and having a one-dish meal was a lot easier than the multiple small dishes found in more traditional cooking.

A Note on Ingredients: A lot of Japanese cooking calls for saké, but don’t worry about using anything fancy. You can buy a cheap one specifically for cooking. It should be in your local Asian market next to the mirin and soy sauce.

Soboro-don

Serves 2

Ingredients

White rice

For the Eggs:

4 eggs

1/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon saké

1 Tablespoon light soy sauce (usukuchi) (or substitute 1/2 Tablespoon normal)

1 Tablespoon sugar

For the Meat:

1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger

120 grams (4 ounces) ground beef and pork mix

3 Tablespoons saké

1 Tablespoon normal or dark soy sauce

1 Tablespoon sugar

Vegetables:

1/4 cup carrots (about half a large carrot), julienned and cut 2 cm or 1 inch length

1/4 cup (58 ml) water

1/4 cup (about 50 grams) raw peas or snap peas cut into bite size pieces

For meat: Combine all meat ingredients and cook on medium high heat until cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir it as it cooks to make the texture more crumbly.

For Eggs: Beat together all of the egg ingredients. Stir and scramble them on medium high heat until they have a slightly dry and crumbly texture.

For carrots: In a frying pan combine carrots and water and cover with a lid. Allow to boil and steam until the carrots turn a more vibrant orange (about 30 second to 1 minute). Remove from heat immediately, drain, and run under cool water. Alternatively, microwave carrots and water for about 30 seconds in a covered bowl or plate. The goal is a very slightly cooked carrot that is not completely soft.

Assembly: Arrange the ingredients in groups over the rice.

Finished! (or in Japanese dekita!)

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Let’s eat!

This recipe comes from Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: a Simple Art. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks and still considered the best Japanese cookbook written in English after 30 years! It also has tons about Japan’s culinary history as well as cultural tidbits.