Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Japanese curry

Japanese curry is a perfect example of a dish that doesn't originates in Japan, but which is so adapted to Japanese taste that it now be called a true Japanese meal.
A quick history lesson on Japanese curry teaches us that it was introduced into Japan late 19th century by the British, who of course were introduced to this meal by the Indians (India was a British colony at that time). After WOII the dish became very popular in Japan, and can now by ordered at one of the many Japanese curry restaurants and made a home through instant curry packages available at every supermarket. The taste of Japanese curry is now completely different from the Indian variant; it's sweeter, milder and the sauce is normally thicker.

Using widely available instant packages preparing Japanese curry becomes very, very easy to make; and all the different brands and variations ensure that everyone can buy the curry to best fit their own taste and preferred level of spiciness.

Instant packages will be in the form of either curry roux or curry powder. And you can choose which to use depending on your own preference. Normally we prefer to use curry roux, because you don't have to worry about measurements.

Curry powder

Curry blocks

Curry is normally served with white rice and a traditional curry has the following ingredients (2 persons):

  • 200gr beef (small pieces)
  • half onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 (small/medium sizes) peeled potatoes

1) Cut the vegetables and potatoes, and stir-fry the beef and onion in a fry-pan. (until beef has turned brown)

2) Add the carrot and potatoes and add water (check your instant curry package to see how much you will need, normally around 200-250ml) and let it simmer.

3) Then, add the instant curry (either curry roux or curry powder)

4) Let is simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes and serve with white rice

However, you can make curry with any ingredients you want! That makes it one of my favourite recipes to use up any left-overs in the refrigerator! We will share some of our favorite recipes later.


Friday, 8 March 2013

Yaki udon with sesame dressing

Sesame dressing adds a great taste to any salad, but recently we have been trying it in different recipes. Inspired by Japanese cooking programs on television (very entertaining!), we have discovered some great new uses for sesame dressing. It can really give a simple meal an interesting flavour. This time we want to share our absolute favourite sesame dressing recipe: yaki udon with sesame.

Ingredients (2p):

  • udon (2 portions for medium eaters, 3 if you are really hungry)
  • sesame dressing
  • Vegetables (pick anything you like or have left over in your fridge), we used:
    • 1 back of bean sprouts
    • 1 (small) broccoli (boil before you start the rest of the cooking)
    • 100 gr mushrooms
Our ingredients: bean sprouts, udon, (already boiled) broccoli, mushrooms
Video instructions....

or written instructions.:

First, the udon needs the be boiled according to instructions on the label. Normally a couple of minutes in boiling water.
boiling the udon
In the meantime you can heat some oil in a fry-pan, and stir-fry the bean sprouts and mushrooms for a couple minutes

Then, add the broccoli and mix together.

Add in the udon, mix together, and then add sesame dressing to taste.

And, you are already finished! Easy, and delicious!


Friday, 15 February 2013

Chicken Katsu

One of the most famous Japanese chicken recipes, is Chicken Katsu. Not surprisingly, you can order it many small restaurants and it is often put into bento boxes. During our last vacation to Shibu Onsen we ordered some chicken katsu at a small (little run-down) restaurant owned by an very friendly old man. Because the restaurant had a half-open kitchen we were able to see some of the cooking. And when he brought us our meals (really big), and we tasted it, it was really good! Definitely one of the best Chicken Katsu we had ever eaten. So, because we wanted to eat it again (and Nagano is a bit far for Tokyo) we decided to try and make it ourselves.

Ingredients (2p):
  • 300 gr chicken breasts*
  • pepper and salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • bread crumbs
  • frying oil
* you can also use pork or beef, then you will get respectively tonkatsu or beefkatsu, also very nice!

First you need to pound the chicken breast until they are approximately 1 a 1,5 cm thick.

Then, you need to prepare to egg and bread crumbs. Beat the egg, and place it in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, place a handful of bread crumbs

beaten egg
bread crumbs
 Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, dip it briefly in the beaten egg , and press it in the bread crumbs so the chicken breast is covered (both sides) with crumbs. Repeat for the other chicken breasts.

Heat around 0,5 cm of oil in a fry-pan. Put the chicken in the fry-pan and let it cook in the hot oil until the outside has a nice brown colour. Turn the chicken halfway through the cooking.

Chicken Katsu with rice

Serve it as side dish, or serve it with rice (and lettuce) as Chicken Katsu-don. Tastes best when topped with tonkatsu sauce.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Sweet potato (Satsuma imo) rounds

Japanese sweet potatoes (satsuma imo) can be used in many recipes. Since we really like the taste of the potato, we have tried many of these recipes (and have uploaded already quite a few). Recently we tried another Satsuma imo recipe, which was a great success so we want to share it today.

The recipe is for making sweet potato baked rounds. (we are not sure how to name it.. maybe it can also be sweet potato cookies, or sweet potato cakes, anything will do!)

Ingredients (2p):
  • 1 Satsumo imo
  • sesame seeds
  • oil for frying
First, peel the potatoes (this will make it much easier to purée them and shape them into rounds later on) and cut them into small pieces.

Next, we are going to steam the potatoes till they become soft. Bring a small amount of water to boil, and place your steamer with the potato on top. You will probably need to steam for around 20 (-30) minutes for the potatoes to become soft.
If you don't have anything to steam with, you should also be able to soften en potato if you put them for around 10 minutes in the microwave (but we have personally never tried it, so double check the time and stand needed)

Let it cool down a bit and mash the potatoes. You can use a masher, but otherwise we have found that a normal fork also works just fine.

For the next step we shape the mashed satsumo imo into flat rounds (around 1,5 cm thick), and we add sesame seeds on both sides.

Heat some frying oil in the pan and bake the potato rounds (on both sides) for a couple of minutes.
Serve as a side dish with some soy sauce (or mayonnaise for a the less-healthy variant). Goes great with almost all rice-based meals.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Banana cake from the rice cooker

Although fruit can be quite expensive to buy in Japan, bananas are normally the cheapest you can get. Our local supermarket sometimes even has very good deals were you can buy large amounts of bananas (15-20) at a time for really cheap. Too good a deal not to buy! But we do end up eating a lot of bananas...
So, we have been trying different banana-recipes, and off course we also had to mix it with our favorite cake recipe. It turned out the be a really delicious cake, with the banana giving the cake a nice soft, smooth texture and sweet taste. Just like our other recipes, the cake is really easy baked (steamed) using the rice cooker. Absolutely fail-proof!

Ingredients (makes a cake with approximately 19cm diameter, and 3 cm height):
  • 125 gr flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 50 ml oil
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 or 3 bananas

First, mix all ingredients (except for the bananas) together. Make sure the batter is smooth.
Mixing the batter
Then, you add the bananas. Normally we just 'break' the banana into small pieces and mix it in the batter. No need to make it completely smooth, the banana-pieces should still easily be visible

Batter with the banana pieces mixed in
 Put the batter in the rice cooker, put it on cake-setting and let it bake for 30 minutes. (or what your own rice cooker requires) After the rice cooker has finished, wait until the pan and the cake has cooled down. Then you can turn over the pan and with a little shake the cake will come out perfectly.

Banana cake from the rice cooker

Friday, 25 January 2013

Soy fried Mushrooms

You can buy a great variety of mushrooms in Japan, and they can be used for a great variety of recipes. One of our favorite mushrooms is the shiitake-mushroom. However, the recipe we are preparing today can easily be made using any kind of mushroom you like.

Today's recipe is for a side dish of mushrooms, stir-fried in soy sauce. Very nice to add some onions and finish it with sprinkled sesame seeds on top.

Ingredients (2p):

  • Your own favorite mushrooms for 2 persons
  • Soy sauce (around 4 tbsp)
  • Optional: extra flavoring, for example half onion and/or sesame seed
First, wash the mushroom and cut them in desired size pieces (really, any size you like is good for this recipe). Also cut the onion in small pieces.

Heat some oil in a fry pan and fry the onions for a couple minutes. Then, add the mushrooms and fry again for a couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce in the pan. And let it simmer until the mushrooms turn into the brown soy sauce color. The liquid should have (almost) completely disappeared from the pan.

Serve on a plate, and add some sesame seeds on top. Very easy, tasteful and healthy side dish.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Mapo Tofu

Originally Mapo Tofu is not a Japanese recipe. It originates in China, but -as with many Japanese recipes that find there origin elsewhere in the world- it has been fully incorporated into the Japanese kitchen and adapted to the Japanese taste. It is served in many (Chinese) restaurant in Japan, and it is often made by people themselves at home. The fastest and easiest way to make Mapo Tofu is to use the instant packages, sold in much varieties at all Japanese supermarkets. We however find that it is much better tasting to make it completely yourself. It is not difficult or much time-consuming at all, so why settle for the taste of instant versions.

Mapo Tofu is a spicy dish that combines ground meat and tofu. The different textures of the meat and the tofu make this a delicious meal. If you want, you can easily adjust the spice level to you own liking, but traditionally it is served quite spicy.

Ingredients (2p):

  •  200 gr ground meat
  • 1 package of tofu
  • rice for 2 persons
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 0,5 tbsp doubanjiang (adjust amount to you own desired level of spicyness)

 Fry the ground meat in the pan (no need to add oil).  Optionally add some salt and pepper for seasoning.

Mix the miso paste, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and water together and add in the pan, and bring to boil.

Lower the heat and add the tofu (cut into pieces)

Now add the doubanjiang. Start with small amounts, try the taste, and add more if desired.

Serve with rice, and enjoy!

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Daigaku-imo is recipe made with Japanese sweet potatoes (satsuma-imo), that have been given a sweet caramelized taste. The name of the recipe literary means 'university potato'. Originally this was a recipe that was popular among university students, because it is a cheap, sweet recipe full of calories. And I have to agree, it is a great snack (or meal) to eat when you are studying all day for your next test.
It's pretty easy to make. Which student would want to spend a long time in the kitchen while you need that time to study anyway?

Ingredients (circa 2p):
  • 1 Sweet potato (Satsuma-imo)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 50ml water
Originally, most recipes call for more sugar and less water. We prefer it this way: sweet, but not overly sweet; and easier to make since you don't have the risk of the sugar caramelizing too fast and getting hard before it is on the potatoes. 

Cut the potato into small, bite-size pieces. Heat some oil in a fry-pan and bake the potatoes till they are soft.

Mix the soy sauce, sugar and water together and heat in a small saucepan.
When it starts simmering, add the potato-pieces in the saucepan. The saucepan will now be really full, no problem, you just have to stir really well so that the sugar-mixture will attach to all potato-pieces.
When all of the sugar-mixture has been attached to the potato-pieces, you put off the heat, and serve the daigaku-imo. Put them on a plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

It tastes good warm, so perfect as a side dish. But it also tastes good cold, so make some extra and put the rest in your bento-box (for when you are studying at the library the next day ;)


Friday, 9 November 2012

Carrot-cake from the rice cooker

Our next cake recipe will be for carrot-cake form the rice cooker. Just as easy as all the other cake recipes, and the carrot gives the cake a sweet taste, a soft texture and some extra vitamins (so you don't have to feel too guilty if you eat a bit too much from this cake ;-)

 Ingredients (makes a cake with approximately 19cm diameter, and 3 cm height):

  • 125 gr flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 50 ml oil
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 carrot, grated
The baking process is pretty much the same as all our cake recipes: mix all the ingredients together. Grating the carrot can be a little tedious, but really gives the cake a nice taste.

Grating the carrot

Mixing the batter, gets a nice orange colour
 Put the batter in the rice cooker, put it on cake-setting and let it bake for 30 minutes. (or what your own rice cooker requires) After the rice cooker has finished, wait until the pan and the cake has cooled down. Then you can turn over the pan and with a little shake the cake will come out perfectly.

Finished carrot cake

Saturday, 27 October 2012


With the winter coming (although we still have some nice warm days in autumn) it will be time to make some delicious Japanese winter dishes. Oden is a typical Japanese one-pot winter dish, in which all ingredients are slowly simmered in the soup. Preparation-time is very fast, but the dish will also require at least 30 minutes (more likely 40) waiting time.

Ingredients (2p):
  • 1/3 daikon, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1 atsuage (deep fried tofu), cut into large slices
  • 2 or 3 ganmodoki (fried tofu fritters), cut into halves
  • 5 chikuwa (tube-like fish paste cakes), cut into pieces 
  • hanpen (surimi fish cake), cut into triangles
for the soup:
  • 700 ml water
  • 2 tsp dashi powder
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
Feel free to change the ingredients; add some potatoes (peeled) and konnyaku, substitute for other tofu or fish paste cakes.

View our how-to-make movie...

..or use the written instructions and photo's:
Top: Daikon & Boiled eggs
Middle: Atsuage & Chikuwa
Bottom: Hanpen & Ganmodoki
First step is the preparation: boil the eggs (around 5 minutes) and peel them. Cut all other ingredients as listed above.

Then, take a big fry pan and mix the ingredients for the soup together. Place the rest of the ingredients in the soup (do it the Japanese way and group the ingredients together). Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and put on the lid, then let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes. (the daikon should have become soft) Make sure you do not run out of soup, else add some extra dashi-water and soy sauce.

Ingredients arranged in the soup
Finished simmering