Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Japanese Comfort Foods

So, when you think of Japanese food, what do you think of?  The sushi chef with the hachimaki around his forehead, thinly slicing fish and slapping it on pats of rice with a "Hai!"?

Sushi, while the most famous of Japanese foods, is in most cases not a daily food.  You are much more likely to dig into broiled fish, vegetables, maybe a pot of curry.  I love the cooked spinach here, which is doubly surprising, since I despise boiled spinach in the States.  But add some soy sauce, some sesame oil and fresh sesame seeds, and it's a whole other critter.

My kids favorite meal is nikujaga (literally meat and potatoes), a real winter comfort food.  It's a very simple meal to make, why not try this one night?

Take 1 lb of thinly sliced meat (you could substitute hamburger in a pinch) and brown it in a deep pan.
Add 2 onions, sliced into thin wedges, 2 chopped carrots, and 4 or 5 peeled, chopped potatoes.
Pour 3 cups of water in and bring it to a boil, then simmer for 5 or 10 minutes.  Skim off any fat or foam that forms.
Mix up the following sauce, then pour it over the top of the vegetables:  3 T sugar, 3 T mirin (a very sweet sake for cooking - if you can't find it, you can substitute regular sake or cooking sherry, plus 2 more T of sugar), and 6 T soy sauce.
Cover and simmer at very low heat for about an hour, then let some of the water boil off and it's done.

 Stir it carefully (the potatoes will be falling apart), and you'll have a mildly sweet and sour stew which you can eat with white rice or a baguette, maybe a salad or miso soup on the side.

If you try this, please let me know how it goes.  Feel free to add anything that appeals to you, like peas, snap peas or shallots.

1lb beef or pork, thinly sliced or shaved
2 large onions, wedged into 16ths
2 large carrots, randomly chopped into roughly 1-inch segments
4 or 5 potatoes, peeled and cut into large bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 c water
3 T sugar
3 T mirin (you can substitute cooking sherry and sugar, but the mirin has a much richer taste)
6 T soy sauce

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