I’m intrigued by the Japanese. They have the most advanced technologies, they are forward thinking in so many ways, they have the most amazing sense of packaging (and design), their sense of honour, family and culture is extremely strong, and in light of the recent tsunami disasters – they are the most resilient and united people in the world!
I would love to visit Japan one day soon. Now that we’re back on this side of the globe, that dream is so much more possible. It is still an expensive place to visit, but it’s on the list. We’re working on it. For now, the closest Japanese experience for me is food. Sushi, sashimi, ramen, udon, teriyaki, tempura, teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, matcha ice-cream and I could go on and on….
I haven’t tried many Japanese recipes to date, something I should rectify. I’ll get onto that – starting with this recipe. It’s nothing new to many people who love baking. Japanese cheesecake, unlike its Western counterpart is crustless, soft and fluffy, light on the sugar factor and very dangerous.
It’s dangerous because it’s so easy to forget that you’re eating a cheesecake. This cotton soft wonder is so light that you could eat the entire cake and not feel a thing. Takes a lot of self control!
It’s fun to bake – however this time round my cake puffed up a lot during baking and when it cooled, it shrank back and caused the top to go all wrinkly. It’s still soft and doesn’t affect the taste at all, but it’s just not as pretty. I like pretty. Let’s hope I get yummy AND pretty next time.
140g fine granulated sugar
6 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
250g cream cheese
100 ml fresh milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
60g cake flour
20g cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 tsp salt
1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.
2. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
3. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and mix well. Pour into a 8-inch round cake pan (Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper).
4. Bake cheesecake in a water bath for 1 hours 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 160 degrees C.
Okonomiyaki is a savoury Japanese pancake. A traditional Osaka style okonomiyaki is usually made with flour, grated yam, dashi, eggs and cabbage and the toppings usually include meat (usually pork / bacon) and or seafood such as octopus, squid or shrimps. The Osaka people have way better marketing skills as this is the version that is predominant throughout the world. The Hiroshima style okonomiyaki has the ingredients in layers instead of being mixed in the batter and they sometimes have noodles, cheese and a fried egg as topping options and I have personally never tried the Hiroshima version. Like I often say, marketing is very important. Go Osaka!
Now, this homemade easy-peasy version is made from basic, common day to day ingredients. The flavours will definitely be enhanced with actual bonito flakes, japanese mayonnaise and the proper okonomiyaki sauce. However, not everyone has access to these wonderful japanese goodies and so, we make do. And I’m happy to say that it’s still as tasty. If you’re keen to try out the traditional recipe, see this.
Makes about 6-8 small pancakes
- 1 cup – all purpose flour
- 1 cup – dashi stock (I used diluted chicken stock instead)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 – head of cabbage, shredded
- 6 – 8 strips of streaky bacon (1 strip per pancake)
- Makeshift okonomi sauce (1/4 cup bbq sauce mixed with 1 tsp worchestershire sauce)
- Regular mayonnaise
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and stock with a pinch of salt and whisk till you get a smooth batter.
2. Add in the shredded cabbage and beaten egg. Mix well.
3. In a hot greased skillet, place about 5 – 6 tablespoons of the cabbage mixture – keeping it as round as possible. (Just like you would a pancake) Lower the heat and keep an eye on the bottom to make sure it doesn’t burn.
4. In the meantime, slice one strip of bacon into 4 one inch pieces and place them on the topside of the cooking pancake. After about 2 – 3 mins or until the bottom is nicely golden, flip the pancake. The bacon should now be on the underside, busily browning away. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes or until bacon and the rest of the pancake is cooked, crisp and golden brown.
4. Remove from skillet, and top with mayonnaise and the bbq sauce mixture. Serve hot. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday. For people in the UK, it’s also called Pancake Day. Basically the traditions of Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday where the sombre season of Lent begins. Where the more religious-inclined take to a period of praying and fasting. Where foods such as sugar, fat and eggs were restricted. (Omg!) Which is why on Shrove Tuesday, you celebrate with a feast full of food made from sugar, fat and eggs. I guess in the old days, that means pancakes? Whatever it was, I’m happy it’s Pancake Day.
Which led me to post about a Japanese pancake. Hmm…I guess it’d do. Pancakes – savoury or sweet are just as good!
And in line with tradition, I will be having buttermilk pancakes for dinner tomorrow and I can’t wait!
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Ahh…that age old question…
Oyako donburi, also known as Oyakodon and is literally translated as ‘parent and child rice bowl dish’ which is a reference to the chicken and egg combination. Apparently there’s a fish version, with salmon and roe! Talk about taking this poetic comparison to a whole different level.
Oyakodon is a simple dish of chicken and egg stewed in a broth of dashi or chicken stock, mirin and soy (or shoyu, if you want to be more authentic) and served over freshly cooked rice. It’s simplicity is very much in line with the Japanese way of cooking and it’s one of the more popular rice bowl dishes alongside ramen and soba meals in traditional Japanese restaurants.
Plain Japanese rice drenched with the stock combined with mirin and soy is simply divine – with chunks of tender chicken, soft sweet onions and cloud-like tufts of egg.
2-3 cups cooked Japanese rice
2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
3 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup dashi stock (or chicken stock)
2 teaspoons of mirin
1 teaspoon of Japanese soy sauce (shoyu) – you can use regular light soy sauce
Salt to taste
Chopped spring onions
- Add stock, mirin and shoyu to a pan, bring it to a simmer then add in sliced onions.
- Cook onions for about 2-3 minutes till it’s just tender, taste the stock and season accordingly with salt. Lay chicken pieces evenly over the onions. Let the chicken simmer in the stock for about 4 – 5 minutes, covered. Then turn the chicken pieces over and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Pour beaten egg evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle some of the spring onions. Do not stir. Simmer till the egg is almost set – you do not want it to be totally hardened.
- Serve the chicken and egg equally over two bowls of freshly cooked rice. Garnish with more spring onions.
Udon is a thick, wheat based Japanese noodle, popular cooked in a soup or stir fried. It’s one of those noodles that is rather fool-proof to cook. It’s springy and easy to handle – there’s low risk of overcooking or turning it to mush. On its own, the udon noodle is pretty tasteless but it is great for handling all sorts of sauces and flavours.
Like the soba, the udon can pretty much be cooked with anything. Vegetables, meat, fish – whatever you fancy. In short, use your creativity. This is the best kind of cooking I reckon!
This version of yaki udon is made with veggies, chicken and loads of yummy sauce for the noodles to soak it all in.
2 chicken breasts, sliced and marinated in light soy
4 heads of bok choy
1/2 a small napa cabbage
fresh minced garlic
thinly sliced and julienned ginger
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp mirin
cornflour for thickening sauce
Fry ginger and garlic till fragrant before adding in marinated chicken. Stir fry the chicken till almost cooked then add in noodles, vegetables and all the sauces. Mix it well in the wok. Add in about 1/4 cup chicken stock, cover and simmer for 10 mins. Mix 1.5 teaspoons of cornflour with a tiny bit of water, stir it in the noodles to thicken the sauce before serving.
A quick and delicious weeknight dinner – oh, do be careful of sauce splash action if you’re a noodle slurper!!