Chilled Chinese Noodle Salad (冷やし中華)

July’s Washoku Warriors challenge was to make one of two dishes: Hiyashi Chuka (Chilled Chinese Noodle Salad) or Somen (Thin Noodles on Ice). I chose to make the hiyashi chuka because it was very flexible and came together in just a few minutes.

The recipe had two different dressing recipes and I chose the one that required no prep time and had the least amount of ingredients. I added a little more sugar and a little less sesame oil for personal preference. Next time, I would add a splash of plum vinegar or citrus juice to brighten the dressing a tad. The original garnishes called for were red pickled ginger, tomato, cucumber, shitake mushrooms, egg, ham, and sesame seeds.

I wanted to keep with the color scheme, so replaced the tomato with red pepper and switched out sesame seeds with flax seeds and some black sesame seeds. I omitted the ‘shrooms since I don’t care for them, and replaced the red pickled ginger (beni shoga) with regular pickled ginger. I also don’t care for cucumbers so next time I’ll replace it with zucchini. I don’t really like sesame oil, so I was very worried about adding it into the dressing. In the end, I was surprised that the smell of sesame was so strong, but the taste was just right!

This dish came together so quickly, yet was satisfying and light–there will definitely be a “next time” for this.
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「和」Zensai Parfait (前菜パフェ)

May’s Washoku Warriors challenge was to come up with a an original Wa (harmony) parfait based on the Zensai Parfait in Andoh’s book (p. 301) with 2 or more of the following: chunky bean jam, citrusy miso, brown sugar syrup, nutty miso (sweetened with ½ tsp sugar), and/or kinako mixed with cinnamon.

I chose to assemble:

– koshi an (store bought)
– brown sugar syrup
– nutty miso
– kinako/cinnamon
– cornflakes
– mochi
– 小桜 (sakura branch) candy

I could not find kinako anywhere near where I live, so I bought roasted soybeans (sold as “soynuts”) at Whole Foods and chopped them up in the food processor.

The brown sugar syrup was very easy to make, but I had no patience to wait for it to cool, so it was left out of the parfait.

I made the nutty miso using walnuts, but found it too salty to put in an ice cream parfait. Later, I found out it was because I forgot to add the sugar to make it a “dessert” sauce!

I also chose to use koshi-an I already had on-hand instead of making coarsely ground red bean jam as suggested in the original challenge.

I made these parfaits while a friend was over and set out all the toppings in individual containers so we could make the parfaits お好み-style (okonomi, “as you like”). She had: cinnamon buns ice cream + cornflakes + red bean paste + mochi + kinako/cinnamon mixture. I shared mine with my boyfriend (pictured above) and had: cinnamon buns ice cream + cornflakes + coffee ice cream + mochi + kinako/cinnamon + “sakura branch” candies.

While it was a bit time consuming to assemble or make the ingredients, the recipes all make large quantities so you can make parfaits instantly after the initial work ^_^. All of the ingredients keep for at least a few weeks. This is also a great alternative for those that don’t like Western-style sweets and prefer a more balanced sweet/savory dessert.

Citrus-and-Soy-Glazed Swordfish (梶木鮪の幽庵焼き)

April’s Washoku Warriors challenge was Spring. We were given the option of making kajiki maguro no yuuan yaki (梶木鮪の幽庵焼き), spinach steeped in broth — hourensou no ohitashi (菠薐草のお浸し), and/or temple style chowder — unpen-jiru (雲辺汁). I wanted to try the soup, but decided on the easier fish and spinach combination.

There was an interesting story in the book about the fish — the chef chooses the different chinese characters to display on the menu, reflecting his interpretation of the dish. I chose to display the characters that are used in the wikipedia entry for this dish, but there are two other popular uses.

The fish was surprisingly very tasty, and very easy to cook. I was a little wary of this recipe since I don’t like tougher white fish like swordfish and mahi mahi (which I substituted for the swordfish in this recipe because it was less expensive). The quick marinade and high-heat cooking method made the flesh tender and it flaked apart like the fish my dad made when we were growing up. There is also very healthy because I used less than a teaspoon of oil to sear the fish in.

I really wish we had yuzu around where I live, but alas, we don’t. I also didn’t have grapefruit juice to mix with lime and lemon to mimic the flavor of yuzu, but this dish was fine with just lemon and lime. The flavors were simple and bright, but next time I’ll double the citrus amount or cut the soy sauce in half. The end result’s shoyu flavor was a bit too strong for my taste.

The fish was served with ohitashi, rice, and roasted asparagus.

The ohitashi was the least successful part of this dish–probably due to the shortcuts I took in the marinade. I didn’t have soy sauce concentrate on hand for the ohitashi, but wanted to make this dish very quickly so I estimated the ratio of salt to sugar and added some water and instant dashi granules. The result was a little too ocean-y and far too salty. I used the leftover glaze and zest from the fish and mixed it in with the spinach and it became more palatable. Unfortunately, I don’t think the ohitashi is for me, but it may just be my dislike for leafy greens. The bright green color after blanching was very attractive though.

One great positive about this meal is that I was able to make a bento out of the leftovers!

April 21st – Yuuan yaki swordfish; roasted asparagus; spinach ohitashi; kumquats; rice.
Pictured on a Wall-E notebook!

Soy-Glazed Burger (てり焼きバーガー)

January’s Washoku Warriors challenge was Comfort Food. We were given the option of two recipes: Miso Ramen (味噌ラーメン) or Soy-Glazed Burger (てり焼きバーガー). I initially wanted to make the ramen because I have some miso sitting in my refrigerator, but upon further inspection the recipe seemed a little more intensive and had some ingredients that I didn’t happen to have on hand. Unfortunately, for the past week I’ve been buried under feet of snow so I’ve been limited to what my local organic supermarket has in stock. Plus, burgers are an easy sell to my boyfriend!

I halved the recipe and though the burgers were a little on the large side, there was some left over for bento! I did add a little bit too much onion and didn’t mince it finely enough. Other than that, I would have mixed the miso a little bit more into the meat before making patties.

  • drizzles of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 of a small yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup panko
  • 2 tbsp beaten egg (about 1 large egg)
  • 1 tsp miso
  • 1 tbps sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp hot water
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce

Heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until wilted and slightly aromatic but not browned. Add 1 /2 tbsp of sake and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the onion to cool to room temperature.

As the onions cool, combine the beef, panko, egg, and miso into a separate bowl. Add the cooled onion and knead until evenly distributed. Divide into equal portions and form patty shape.

Drizzle some more oil into the previously used skillet and place over medium heat. When hot, add the patties and sear on the first side until browned (about 1 minute). Flip and sear the second side, pressing to flatten. Lower the heat, add 1/2 tablespoon of sake, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes (medium to medium well).

While the burgers are cooking, mix sugar and hot water until combined. Then add soy sauce. Return skillet to high heat, add sauce and move pan around until burgers are evenly covered. Flip the burgers once after a minute to make sure they are evenly glazed.

Plate when still hot, as you like. I chose to eat it open face on half of a bagel with some lettuce. Traditionally, it’s served more similar to loco moco style, with rice and the extra sauce served over it.

I really liked the miso in the recipe, but the large amount of onion in the burger made it taste more like meatloaf. I also chose not to put the extra sauce on the patty since I could see all the fat and grease from the meat in it. Not sure if I’ll ever make this recipe again, but it’s an interesting take on the standard hamburger. Since it’s cooked in a covered skillet, it keeps all of it’s juices.

O-Shougatsu Dishes (お正月料理)

December’s Washoku Warriors challenge was New Years (O-Shougatsu). We were given the option of three recipes: New Year’s Salad (紅白なます), Fiery Parsnips (きんぴら), and “Smashed” Burdock (たたき牛蒡). I chose to do the first two because the process for the gobou seemed a bit time consuming in comparison to the others.

I made the kinpira for my family’s New Year celebration on January 1 (more on this later). Everything seemed to be going really well and looked like it might even taste good, until I added in the soy sauce. Right when the soy sauce hit the pan, it caramelized and made the whole pan give off a burnt smell. The parnips tasted fine themselves, with a nice root-y flavor, but I couldn’t get over that burnt smell.

I just made the namasu and I love it! The recipe is very easy and it’s a dish that most everyone will like. The fruit in this salad mixes with the “dressing” (or pickling sauce) and gives it a nice pleasant sweetness that reminds me more of dessert than an appetizer salad. I will definitely make this again because it doesn’t have many ingredients and it only takes a few minutes to make. This makes a great accompaniment to a meal or a nice, healthy bento-filler.

I’m glad that I finally found a recipe from Washoku that I absolutely love and it has common ingredients and is very easy to make!

Kohaku Namasu (New Year’s Salad)

  • ~3.5 inches of daikon, shredded (yield ~7oz)
  • ~1 inch of carrot, shredded (yield ~2oz)
  • two measurements of 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. Sweet and Sour mixture
    • 1/4 c. plum vinegar, 2 tbsp each of sugar, dashi, and water
  • 1 small dried apricot (or fruit of choice), shredded
  • 1/2 tsp. yuzu peel or lemon zest

Peel and slice the vegetables. Put the carrot and daikon in separate bowls, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of salt each. Allow to sweat for 2-3 minutes and then press between fingers, gradually increasing pressure. Rinse briefly with cold water and drain all liquid. Combine vegetables and fruit and toss to combine. Drizzle the sweet and sour mixture over top, gently toss, and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.

This salad is full of vitamins and is said to bring good luck because red and white are auspicious colors (red carrots grow in areas of Japan around the time this dish would be made). Kohaku Namasu actually means “red-white” and “(vegetables) pickled in vinegar”. The strands of vegetables also look like ribbons, which connote prosperity, but also longevity!