Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Untangling My Chopsticks" & "Japanese Cooking" - Japanese Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl and Japanese Fried Pork

Date I made these recipes: August 3, 2008

Untangling my Chopsticks – A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbott Riccardi (this is an essay with recipes)
Published by: Broadway Books
ISBN: 0-7679-0851-1 © 2003
Recipe: Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl (Oyako Donburi) – p. 31-32

Japanese Cooking by Gail Weinshel Katz
Published by: Weathervane Books (This book is part of a Creative Cooking Series that published cookbooks of food from several countries)
ISBN: 0-517-244861 © 1978
Recipe: Fried Pork – p. 35

“Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so…” (lyrics from Turning Japanese by The Vapors, 1980).

Okay, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration and yet for one moment in the kitchen, I did turn Japanese in order to make these recipes.

I was inspired to take out these two books after meeting with a Japanese friend who used to play clarinet with me in my community band when she and her husband lived here while he was going to graduate school. Now, ten years later, she and her husband returned for a brief visit along with her two sons, now ten and eight and I met up with them for a very American dinner. She wanted someplace kid friendly and so we met up at Yum, a very fun restaurant by Minneapolis’ Lake Calhoun. (I highly recommend the macaroni and cheese)

No sooner had they caught the plane back to Tokyo then I made a grocery list and went shopping at an Asian market, United Noodles, in Minneapolis.

Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, United Noodles is a fun store. They carry grocery items for every Asian food imaginable along with house wares and even Chinese herbs. I was soon overwhelmed in the Japanese aisles, mostly because I didn’t know what I was looking for, but quickly sought help and all was well. Well, actually, all was almost well; I was so excited to have the dashi I needed for a recipe that I didn’t stop to consider that the jar I bought contained a half a cup and not the cup I needed for the recipe. Oh well, oh well. It still turned out just fine.

I do apologize to those of you who are not near an Asian market because you will likely not find the two main ingredients, mirin (Japanese cooking wine) and dashi (Japanese cooking stock, similar to bouillon) , in a regular grocery store. But you might be able to substitute by using another type of cooking wine and regular granulated bouillon. Let me know if you try it. If all else fails, it looks like you can mail order some ingredients; check out United Noodle’s website for more details: (By the way, dashi is listed under the full product name of AJINOMOTO hondashi. Make sure you buy two bottles!)

Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl (Oyako Donburi) – makes 4 servings
4 cups hot cooked rice
1 cup dashi
¼ cup soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
4 large eggs
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½-inch nuggets
1 bunch of scallions (about 6), trimmed and cut into 1-inch batons

Prepare the rice

Pour the dashi into a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, along with the soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes.

Break the eggs into a bowl and stir with chopsticks until the yokes and whites are mixed but not totally blended.

Add the chicken to the dashi mixture and then gently pour in the egg. Sprinkle the scallions over the egg. When the egg starts to become firm, after about 3 minutes of cooking, gently stir it with your chopsticks. (The chicken and scallions will have finished cooking in the hot liquid). NOTE: That’s not quite what happened. The egg was firming up way before the chicken got done and since nobody likes raw chicken, I threw the whole thing in the microwave for a minute or so. The egg got a little bit more done than I would have liked but the flavor was still there.).

Lay out four deep soup bowls. Spoon even portions of the rice into each bowl and top with the soupy chicken and egg mixture.

Fried Pork – Makes 4 servings
1 medium red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons ground sesame seeds (Note: forget that noise—I threw them in whole!)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry (Not to be confused with rice wine vinegar)
1 pound sliced pork, ¼ inch thick
2 tablespoons oil
2 ounces transparent noodles or very thin spaghetti
1 medium cucumber, cut into thin strips
1 medium tomato, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar

Remove seeds from pepper; dice it fine. Mix with scallions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and rice win or sherry. Marinate pork in this mixture for at least an hour.

Heat oil in frying pan. Drain pork; brown well on both sides in hot oil. Cut into smaller pieces, if desired.

Prepare noodles or thin spaghetti. Combine with cucumber and tomato strips. Place on platter along with the pork.

Prepare sauce by blending the vinegar, black pepper and sugar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mirin is used primarily for sweetening. Plain sugar is a reasonable substitute. Mirin is very delicate though, so don't use as much sugar as mirin. Use one-third to one one-half the amount.

Dashi has a delicate ocean flavor. For this chicken dish, you could use unsalted chicken broth to make a tasty meal. Without the dashi, however, it won't really be japanese.