Last night before going to bed, I realised there was no rice left in my pantry. I totally forgot to replenish the stock, which is an absolute shock in a normal Japanese household (thankfully it is not that hardcore at our place). Anyway, I had to think quickly to come up with an alternative. Since there was some cooked rice kept in the freezer, I decided to whip up fried rice in the morning. (Just so you know, rice defrosted in microwave is not ideal for packed lunches, becauae it gets too dry and hard as it cools down. It may work if you steam it once again before packing, but I can’t imagine doing it in my busy morning!)
Menu: Fried rice (with egg, spring onion & dried ‘jako‘ baby sardine), Pumpkin with chicken soboro, Cucumber & cherry tomato salad, Boiled green beans
Menu: chicken spring roll, wakana rice with scramble egg, boiled broad beans, steamed pumpkin, cherry tomato
Kiwi fruits for dessert
The evening before, I took my first ever attempt to make spring rolls. Against my wishes, I usually avoid deep frying for two reasons. One is the greasy smell (my kitchen is not separated from the living room and is located right next to the main bedroom which sliding doors are always open for spatial purposes – as per strict instructions from my architect husband). The other reason is of course the high calories; it’s always shocking how much oil is involved in making something so addictively tasty.
But with my recipes running out for my daughter’s daily packed lunch, I couldn’t help but step into an unfamiliar yet exciting territory: the world of deep fried food. Thinking about all the possibilities opening up, it thrills me. My mom makes delicious tempura, and it’s about time that I acquire her skill. Oh never forget, potato and meat crocket…reminds me of my childhood when I used to buy a fresh and super hot one at a butcher on my way back from school and ate it as I walked home. It was great snack… I preferred that to icecream. Aji-fry (deep fried yellowtail fish), and tonkatsu (Japanese style pork schnitzel) with sweet Japanese Wooster sauce… Ah picturing them in my mind makes my mouth water.
Hmmmm, I really need to think about the ways to tackle grease in our tiny kitchen and apartment so to speak…
Anyway back to my first spring rolls. I put chicken mince (mixed with grated ginger, soysauce, sake, mirin, and leftover egg white), sliced cabbage, cheese, and shiso leaves in the spring roll sheets and deep fried them. Came out better than I expected, and most importantly, our little big girl loved and eat them all!
i was very hungry when i decided to cook 麻婆豆腐 mabo-tofu for dinner last night. mabo-tofu is a chinese dish, made with tofu, minced pork, chopped leek, ginger & garlic, tasted with 豆板醤 (doubanjiang, chinese spicy bean paste) and 甜麺醤 (tian mian jiang, chinese sweet soy paste). it’s easy & quick to make, highly nutritious, appetising and satisfying.
i once read somewhere that the dish is not regarded as a sophisticated dish among chinese people. “mabo-tofu” means “grandmother’s tofu”, based on which you can guess that it is something people eat at home but not at restaurants.
anyway, for whatever reason, japanese love this dish. you can find prepackaged sauce mix of mabo-tofu at any grocery stores, but i like making it from scratch. here is the recipe:
麻婆豆腐 a la keiko (for 2 people)
1 pack of tofu (silk)
150g of minced pork
20cm of white leek
1 clove of garlic
1 piece of ginger, roughly the same size as the garlic clove
1 table spoon of cooking oil
1 1/2 tea spoon of doubanjian
1 1/2 tea spoon of tian mian jiang
1 cup of water
1 tea spoon of chicken stock powder (this time, i used kelp powder instead)
1 table spoon of sugar
salt & pepper to taste
1 tea spoon of sesame oil
1 table spoon of mixed starch, mixed with 2 table spoons of water (to be prepared in a separate small bowl)
1. drain the water out of tofu by putting the tofu on a strainer.
2. finely chop the garlic, leek and ginger
3. in a large frying pan, pour the cooking oil and quickly stir-fry the garlic in low heat
4. once the smell of garlic emerges, add ginger & leek, and stir-fry a bit more (make sure not to burn the ingredients)
5. add the minced pork, put it to medium heat, pour salt & pepper to taste and stir-fry a bit more
6. once the colour of the pork became brown, add the water, bring it to boil
7. add the stock powder, doubanjian, tian mian jiang, and sugar. mix well
8. taste the sauce to make sure it is salty, spicy, and tasty enough – if it is too spicy, add a bit of sugar. if it is not spicy enough, add a bit of doubanjian. if it is not tasty enough, add a bit of salt and stock powder.
9. once the sauce is ready, cut the tofu into dices (2cm x 2cm)
10. add the diced tofu into the sauce and mix it very gently with the sauce (otherwise the tofu gets broken into pieces)
11. once the sauce is mixed with the tofu, turn off the heat and pour the sesame oil
12. add the well-mixed starch mix from the rim of the pan, and mix gently with the sauce and tofu – the starch will give nice & thick texture to the sauce
done! serve it with freshly cooked white rice. 謝謝！
i love improvising dishes using leftover ingredients from previous days. i love it even more when my attempt works out well.
the idea of this dish came from leftover fresh noodles (for stir fries) and some cabbage. i didn’t want to use the ready made powder which comes with the noodles to give out the taste of worcester sauce, and wasn’t in the mood for using pork slices i normally use for stir-fry noodles. ok, i thought, maybe i should be a bit more adventurous this time, and grabbed a big squid and a pack of crams at the shop and rushed out of there to head back home.
in our kitchen, the battle started with the squid. it needs to be cleaned with running water, skinned, and then gutted (unfortunately i broke the ink bag, so it went straight down the drain…). i asked for my husband’s help, who is equally inexperienced with any type of fish, letting alone cooking it. when pulling out of some soft bones from the squid, we held the flesh from both sides with our eyes closed at the same time, quite not getting what exactly we should be doing. not sure if we followed the right routine to clean a squid, but it finally started to look edible.
after the squid fight, the rest of it seemed quite easy. stir-fry chopped garlic & chili pepper with vegetable oil, put crams in, and when the shells start to open put the sliced squid, and after 10 seconds or so pour in a half cup of sake (rice wine). i did this thinking it could remove the overly fishy taste out of the dish. put salt & pepper to taste, and put it aside.
in a different pan put more oil, this time stir-fry onion, kōngxīncài（空心菜）, and cabbage. after a few minutes, put the noodles in, and stir-fry for 2 more minutes or so. when the ingredients in the pan get mixed, add the seafood which was put aside earlier, and a bit more salt & pepper to taste. at the end, pour in some oyster sauce & nam pla (thai fish sauce) from the rim of the pan. lightly stir up all the ingredients before putting off the heat.
sprinkle some chopped chives & green (i used leftover trefoil, 三つ葉）over the noodles before serving.
the dish from the sea, satisfied our taste buds greatly, worth the battle.
another typical summer dish in japan is Chinese influenced dish called “hiyashi chuka”, cold chinese noodles, made with cold egg noodles, topped with strips of cucumber, chicken filet & egg crepe and some cut tomatoes.
for the sauce, i mixed soy sauce, a little bit of white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar is also fine), sugar, ground sesame, and a few drops of sesame oil. once done, pour it over the nicely decorated ingredients, and it’s time to slurp!