My little knitted chef.
I cook Japanese everyday, well, almost every day. I do prepare Western style meals as pasta, pizza or our country’s favorite, baked potatoes, but most days, I cook Japanese.
When I tell that to my Briton friends, they seem to be very impressed. Maybe they are imagining sushi and tempura or these dainty dish with exotic ingredients you see on Master chef as Japanese cookery. But in fact, we have a variety of dish you can easily cook at home. Japanese food can be made easy and inexpensive.
All you need is the basic seasoning.
In Japanese cooking there are 5 basic seasonings ingredients which are essential in most Japanese cooking. They are: SATO (砂糖) Sugar, SHIO (塩) Salt, SU (酢) Vinegar, SEUYU (醤油) Soy Sauce, MISO (味噌) Miso. It is called Sa(さ) Shi(し) Su(す) Se(せ) So(そ) of seasoning, which is the “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) in Japanese.
So, basically, if you season your food with some of these seasonings, you get Japanese food no matter what ingredients you use to cook. Simple.
I show you one of the easy and very well loved dish called Niku-jaga (meat and potato).
It is a dish of meat, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce. Generally, potatoes make up the bulk of the dish, with meat mostly serving as a source of flavor.
Thinly sliced beef is the most common meat used, although minced/ground beef is also popular. Pork is often used instead of beef in eastern Japan.
It seems each family has their own version of Niku-jaga recipe. I use the stir-fry meat since you cannot get thinly sliced meat at supermarket in UK. If you are a vegetarian, you can omit the meat all together.
It is a very relaxed home cooking dish which doesn’t require accurate measuring or weighing, but here is the guidance. You can control the seasonings as you like.
3 medium sized potatoes, about 350 g cut into chunks
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1/2 carrot cut into chunks
a few mangetout or green beans (optional)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp rice wine if you have
2 tsp sugar
2tsp vegetable oil
a pinch or two salt to taste
Heat a pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, and fry onions until translucent. Add the meat and stir-fry until cooked through. Add the potatoes, carrots and continue stir-frying for about 3 minutes.
Add sugar, soy sauce, rice wine and 2 tbsp of water and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the carrots and potatoes are cooked.
This is a simple, one-pot-dish. I know some people cook with a lot of liquid, adding about 2/3 cup of water, but I grew up with this recipe and comfortable with this method. I like it less watery and prefer to steam ingredients rather than boil them. Add more water if you think you need to cook through the ingredients.
Add the green beans and cook uncovered until they are cooked through.
I like adding a bit of ginger to it. I also add soft boiled egg at the end.
We serve it with steamed rice. This dish is nice hot or cold.
When I am lucky to have a bit of left over the next day, I bake it in the oven or mash it all up and make it into croquettes.
See, it is so easy.