November 28, 2013

Japanese Potato Salad

Potato salad is a dish made from boiled potatoes, the versions of which vary throughout different regions and countries of the world. Japan has its own Potato salad, too. Japanese Potato Salad is similar to American’s; semi-smashed boiled potatoes mixed with mayonnaise. The biggest difference is in the mayonnaise. You have to use Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise. That is the key ingredient. Japanese mayonnaise tastes richer, more tangy and salty. It is very different from American mayonnaise. American’s is not bad, it’s just different.
Japanese Potato Salad contains a lot of vegetables. The most traditional ingredients are sliced cucumbers, carrots, onion, ham etc… The potato is almost like a bond for connecting the other veggies.  My Granma’s potato salad is like the above, and I loved it. However, my husband dislikes cucumber and carrot so I’ve never cooked this recipe since we got married.
Recently, I tried to cook potato salad with celery instead of cucumber, and very finely chopped carrot for him. It was a great success!! He loved the new version. Since then this salad has been one of my heavy rotation side dishes.

Japanese potato salad
By Natsuko Kure • November 28th, 2013

Serves 2
1 potato(8oz.)
1 1/2 TBSP. rice vinegar*
1/2 TBSP. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 pinch for celery
3 TBSP. Kewpie Mayonnaise**
1 stalk celery
2 slices of your favorite ham
2 TBSP. carrot,finely chopped
1 TBSP. Parsley, finely chopped
White pepper to taste

1. Rinse potato in running water. Put into microwave safe glass container, keeping wet. Cover with lid or plastic wrap (microwave safe), and heat in microwave for 7-8 min. Peel the skin using paper towels while the potato is still warm.
2.In a medium bowl add potato, and gently smash with masher or fork making sure you leave some chunks. Add sugar, salt, and vinegar, stirring. Last, add and stir kewpie Mayonnaise, and let it cool to room temperature.
3.Meanwhile cut veggies
Peel and thinly slice celery. Salt the celery to dehydrate. Set aside for 5min. Dice ham into 1/2 inch slices. 

4. Squeeze the water out of celery, and add to the potato bowl. Add the rest of veggies and ham, stirring. Season with pepper.

Additional Notes:
*You can use white wine vinegar instead.
** Kewpie Mayonnaise is the most popular Japanese mayonnaise brand. It
 is available in the Asian food aisle of most grocery stores and on

November 21, 2013

Agedashi Tofu

Do you drain tofu the right way just before using it? 90% of tofu consists of water. Because of the difference of temperature from refrigerator to room temperature, there will be water from tofu. If you use tofu with too much water inside, the dish doesn’t smell good, the flavor becomes murky, and it breaks easily.

Here is the best way;

Let’s make delicious Agedashi Tofu (Fried Tofu in Dashi flavor Suace) by draining tofu in the right way.

Agedashi Tofu
By Natsuko Kure • November 21th, 2013

Serves 2
1 pack (350g) silken soft tofu
2 TBSP. potato starch
2 oz. (60g) Enoki mushroom
2 TBSP. chives, finely chopped
Salad oil for frying
1 cup (240ml) Dashi stock, tsp. Dashi flakes in 1 cup water
3 TBSP. soy sauce
3 TBSP. mirin*
2 tsp. potato starch in 2 tsp. water
1/4 sheet Nori seaweed, torn into small pieces

1. To drain water from tofu
Remove the water from the tofu package. Wrap in paper towels. Put it in microwave and heat for 2 min (500w). Remove from microwave; change the paper towels to new ones. Let it rest for 2-3 min.

2.Cut Enoki mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces.

3.To make sauce
In a small pot, add Dashi stock, soy sauce, Mirin, and Enoki mushrooms; heat until boiling. Add potato starch in water to thicken the sauce. Set aside.

4Cut tofu into quarters. Spread out potato starch over a plate. Dredge the tofu in the starch, so that they are coated. Shake off any excess starch.

5. Heat oil over 350(180). When the oil temperature is hot enough, deep fry the tofu for about 3min or until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

6Pour the sauce into a serving bowl*. Place tofu in the sauce. Garnish with chives and Nori seaweed.

Additional Notes:
*mirin is an essential condiment used in Japanese cuisine. It is similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content. You can get it at an Asian super market.
*If the sauce cools while you are frying, heat again.

November 14, 2013

Chicken stir-fry Wraps

Sa Shi Su Se So is the s row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) in Japanese. At the same time, we express that as 5 basic seasonings ingredients which are essential in most Japanese cooking. They are: SATO (砂糖) Sugar, SHIO () Salt, SU () Vinegar, SEUYU (醤油) Soy Sauce, MISO (味噌) Miso. The order in which these ingredients are used is very important when you heat and cook (Marinade is exception). They are listed in order of light to strong flavors. Basically, the ingredients whose flavors are most susceptible to being changed by heat are added last, for example soy sauce or miso.

Sweet taste is difficult to penetrate so adding sugar first is usually advisable and allows more flexibility to adjust the sweetness with other ingredients. If soy sauce is added before sugar, it becomes very difficult for the sweetness to seep through the food.
Salt is added at the early stage of cooking because of its strong permeation and high absorption nature.  It is not only for flavoring but to pull moisture from vegetables and get rid of the smell in fish.
It is important to add vinegar after salt, especially for vegetables.  The vinegar will not seep in if there is too much moisture in the vegetables.
Soy sauce and miso come last because both are fermented foods and are most susceptible to being affected by heat.

What about Mirin or sake? If you are adding sake for additional flavoring, it goes in first before sugar. When Mirin, a type of rice wine similar to sake, is needed, it will be added last after miso. If you stick to this order, all flavors will become their richest. There are both practical reasons and chemical related reasons for this, and it is amazing how much of a difference it makes to your cooking.

Chicken Stir-Fry Wraps
By Natsuko Kure • November 14th, 2013

Print this recipe

Serves 2
½ lb. (200g) boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tsp. garlic, grated
1 tsp. ginger, grated
1 TBSP. sake
2 tsp. potato starch
½ red bell pepper
1 TBSP. Sesame oil
2 TBSP. soy sauce
1 TBSP. sugar
1 tsp. mint leaves, minced
½ tsp. sesame seeds
1 head Boston lettuce
½ zucchini, very thinly sliced using peeler (optional)

1. Cut chicken in half horizontally, and slice thinly. Season with S & P. Put into a bowl; add grated garlic, ginger, sake, and potato starch. Marinade for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise, remove the white pith inside, julienne.

3. Heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add the chicken; cook, stirring constantly, until opaque.  Add bell pepper and sugar; cook until glossy*, stirring constantly (for about 2 min). Add soy sauce, stir a little.

4. Turn off the burner, add mint leaves. Garnish with sesame seeds.

5. Serve in lettuce cups with zucchini.

Additional Notes:
*When it becomes glossy, it’s a sign that the sweet taste has seeped into the ingredients. It’s important to do before adding soy sauce. If soy sauce is added before sugar, it becomes very difficult for the sweet taste to absorb into the food.