Fusion Spaghetti for Morning Sickness (or a Light and Healthy Meal for Anytime)

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Nothing says fusion food like shiso on spaghetti! Or in this case my substituted mint.

This post was written originally way back in February or March, when I was in the early stages of pregnancy. But, since it was early, I wasn’t keen on posting about it on the internet. This week I’m at 33 weeks, so no more worries about everyone knowing!

So, the other day I was browsing around the bookshelves at my local Japanese bookstore. And by local I guess I mean all the way downtown in the somewhat Asian part of town. Anyways, while I was browsing I stumbled upon a guide in Japanese for pregnancy. It was so cute! It had tons of cute illustrations and color coded bullet points. But what most impressed me, was that it had specific recipes aimed at pregnancy tummy troubles such as morning sickness, bloating, and constipation.

This really impressed me because all What to Expect When You’re Expecting has to offer is a suggestion to eat 6 times a day healthily. A search of the internet turns up all sorts of wacky things for morning sickness food: steak, mac and cheese, ice cream. And while food aversions can vary greatly from person to person, I find it hard to believe that the puking women out there really want a giant steak for dinner. However, obviously I can’t know, since I only have my own experience to go on.

This recipe starts really simple for the super sick feeling (the original recipe from said pregnancy book), but you can build it up and add more depending on how much and what kind of food you can handle (or for the non-pregnant people in your life). I have nausea, but no barfing (so far), so my stomach may be able to handle more than yours.

Fusion Spaghetti

serves 1-2, 10 minutes

Ingredients:

Basic version:

spaghetti for 1-2 people

salt

pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (be careful that it hasn’t gone rancid!)

Fresh shiso, mint, or basil chiffonade (aka thin strips)

1 Fresh beefsteak tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces

Optional add ons:

Black olives

Seasoned tuna:

1 can of tuna packed in oil (138 grams or 5 ounces. My can listed 2 weights, this is the “fish” weight)

1/2 Tablespoon mirin

1/2 Tablespoon white sugar

1 Tablespoon usukutchi soy sauce (can substitute 3/4 Tbs. normal soy sauce)

First: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain immediately. In a mixing bowl add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Top with tomatoes and shiso (or your chosen herb).

If you want more substance: Open the can of tuna and try to press as much excess oil out of the can as possible. Heat a frying pan to medium and add the tuna directly (no need for extra oil). Add the mirin, stir it around, and let it sizzle for a while. When it starts to look a little flaky, and less like a big wet mess, add the sugar and stir. After 30 seconds to a minute, add the soy sauce. Cook until it looks a little bit flaky and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat. Add desired amount of olives and tuna to your spaghetti. Bon Appétit!

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Nutritious and light! In hindsight I probably would have used less olives 🙂

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.

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.

Bento: Dry Curry Omu-rice

One of the things that I love about Japan is that their restaurants openly acknowledge that most women don’t eat as much as men. Many restaurants have special “Ladies’ Sets” on their menus with smaller portion sizes. I can never imagine this happening in the politically correct US!

One of my favorite cookbooks is a perfect example of Japanese being unapologetic about gender stereotypes in food and portions. It’s called Bento that Make Men Happy, 男の子のよろこぶお弁当. The cover shows a bento with a large portion of fried chicken. All of the recipes in here star large, meaty, protein heavy meals. You know, stuff men like to eat! 🙂 While I am definitely not a man, I really like these bentos too!

Today’s recipe comes from this book. It’s called “Dry Curry Omu-rice.” Basically, it’s rice topped with curry powder flavored meat sauce and an omelette. If you’ve had omu-rice, it’s similar, except the sauce is dryer, it’s flavored with bell pepper and curry powder, and is not mixed in with the rice.

If you have a food processor, you can probably make this in less than 10 minutes. If not, it’ll depend on how long it takes you to mince vegetables. Bento are made to be served at room temperature, so the seasonings will probably taste strange or a little “off” if you try them while they’re hot. Don’t refrigerate this bento, because the rice will get dried out and gross. If it’s really hot where you live (I’m jealous! It’s cold here!) you can add a cold pack next to the bento box to keep everything out of the “danger zone” to prevent bacteria growth.

Portion Sizes: This recipe makes one bento for a hungry large portion eater. When I make this for myself, I usually reduce the curry recipe by 1/4.

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Dry curry, an omelette, rice, and a side of pickles. I promise it tastes amazing, even if this picture is ugly!

Dry Curry Omu-rice Bento:

Start with an empty bento with your desired amount of rice! If you feel really sleepy after eating this, then it was probably too much rice!

For the Curry:

1/2 Large European or American Green Bell Pepper (or 1 Japanese Piman), minced

1/8 Large White Onion, minced

2 Centimeters of a Really Fat Carrot (2 cm, or 1 inch diameter), minced

50 Grams ( 1/10 lb) mixed ground beef and pork

2 Tablespoons Ketchup

1/2 Teaspoon Curry Powder

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Pepper

First: Combine meat and vegetables in a frying pan and cook on high heat until the meat is mostly not pink. Don’t add any cooking oil, the meat will release oil as it cooks.

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Everything in the pan, before it’s cooked.

Second: Add the remaining ingredients, and cook on medium high until the liquid from the ketchup is gone. Remove from heat, and layer over rice in a thin layer.

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See how wet this is? It still needs to be cooked for a few minutes to remove moisture.

For the Omelette:

1 Large Egg

1 Pinch Pepper

1 Pinch Salt

1 Teaspoon Butter

First: Beat together egg, salt, and pepper.

Second: Add butter to clean frying pan on medium to high heat, and wait until it melts. (To test if the temperature is right, add a small amount of egg. It should cook on contact.) As soon as it has melted, add the egg mixture. As soon as it hits the pan, give it a quick stir. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently roll the omelette onto itself. Tilt the pan if you need to, to make this easier.

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Hopefully your non-stick pan doesn’t stick like mine did 🙂

Third: Remove omelette from heat and place over dry curry layer.

For Pickles:

1/2 Baby Cucumber (about 4 cm, or 2 inches)

4 cm Celery (about 2 inches) (optional)

1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar (more authentic) or Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Teaspoon Sugar

1 Pinch Salt

First: Slice vegetables about 5 mm thin (a little bit under 1/4 inch)

Second: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Or put in a small tupperware container with a lid and shake it up. Put in a small cupcake paper or silicone, to separate it from the rest of the food. If your bento box is not going to be carried upright, wrap them in saran wrap, or package them separately, so they don’t get vinegar in everything else.

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Finished!

It’s done!!!! Have a wonderful day and eat your bento for lunch!

In case anyone is curious about the original recipe and cookbook, it’s here.

Cooking Japanese Rice in a Pressure Cooker

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As everyone knows, rice is the most important staple in Japanese cooking. (Almost) every meal is going to have rice. Surprisingly, it is really hard to make the perfect batch of rice!

I’ve tried to make rice in a normal pot on the stove more times than I can count, and it always turns out pretty awful. I’m embarrassed to say that I can only make good rice using a rice cooker. And now, as of today, using a pressure cooker. I was surprised at how perfect my rice came out. It even had a beautiful glossy sheen! And it was incredibly fast, excluding the time spent soaking and cleaning the rice, it only took 17 minutes!

I’ve included a lot of information about making Japanese rice in general here. It really is harder than it sounds, yet incredibly easy once you know everything you need to know.

So here we go, here’s how to make perfect Japanese rice!

First: Make sure you have actual Japanese rice. Your rice package should say “koshihikari” on it. Or, if it’s in Japanese, こしひかり (in this case, the writing might be written out vertically). This is the most common variety of rice in Japan. A lot of the “Japanese” and “sushi” rice outside of Japan is actually Calrose rice. Calrose is a mid-sized grain, whereas koshihikari is small grain. Here’s a picture from Wikipedia:

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By Richardchoitt (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Notice that the one on the right is a bit bigger? That’s the Calrose. It’s a hybrid Japonica strand, and it’s not actually that common in Japan. Personally, I also find Calrose bland. An authentic Japanese rice will be have a small grain like Koshihikari. There are a few other varieties that aren’t called Koshihikari, but are still small grain. These should have a similar taste, if you feel like trying them. (Fun fact: “sushi” rice is the same as normal Japanese rice, you just cook it differently and season it.)

Second: Wash Your Rice

Pour out the desired amount of rice into a bowl and add cold or room temperature water. Rinse and swirl the rice around until the water is clear. This usually takes about 5 refills of water for me. Be a little bit more gentle in the last 3 rinses, because the rice will absorb the water and break easily. What does gentle mean? Don’t rub the rice together in your hands, just swish the water through it.

For whatever reason, the cups that rice is measured in are different from normal measuring cups. 1 rice cup is usually 180 ml (about 3/4 US measuring cup). I’ve used ratios for this recipe, so you don’t need to worry too much about it. But in terms of servings, 2 rice cups is enough for two very very hungry people.

Third: Drain Your Rice

Using a mesh strainer (or any strainer with really small holes), allow the rice to drain and dry out for at least 30 minutes. An hour is good too. (If you don’t have time and need rice NOW, skip this step, and let your rice sit an extra 5 minutes in the final cooking. It won’t taste as good, but it’s not bad)

Fourth: Cook Your Rice (Finally!)

Add water and rice to your pressure cooker. For Japanese rice, you’ll want a ratio of about 1:1, if your rice is really old (like over a year), you may want to increase the ratio of rice to water to 1:1.20 (some recipes say up to 1.5, but I find that that’s way too much water and makes the rice soggy). If for some crazy awesome reason, you have rice fresh from the paddy, use about a tenth of a cup less water per cup of rice (1 cup rice: 0.9 cups water).

Close up the pressure cooker and use high heat. Once the rice comes to a boil, the pressure cooker should lock itself closed. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand with lid closed for 10 minutes, or until the seal releases itself.

Open lid and use a rice paddle (or wooden spatula) to stir the rice and release excess steam. For best results, use a slicing motion with the edge of the paddle and then lift and flip the rice around. Be careful not to smoosh the rice! 5 slices and flips should be sufficient.

You’re done! Enjoy some awesome rice! Or in Japanese: itadakimasu!

Special thanks to akin.co at Cookpad. The pressure cooker method part belongs to her. Here’s a link to her recipe in the original Japanese.

Want to learn even more about Japanese rice? The Wikipedia page has some good information.