Category Archives: Japanese

Breaded Pork and Shiso Rolls

These rolls are the result of an exceptional craving for tonkatsu (Japanese breaded pork cutlets) combined with a desperate need to do something with an abundant crop of shiso leaves. I sliced the pork very thinly, seasoned it, rolled tightly with the shiso leaves, breaded and deep-fried. These crisp and aromatic rolls were perfect to celebrate probably one of the last harvests of this year’s balcony-grown shiso.

TIPS: Shiso (or perilla) is a Japanese herb (though it’s also used in Thailand and a slightly differently scented variety also in Korea), which luckily becomes more and more popular abroad (my two local gardening shops have been selling it potted for the third year in row). It grows in most climates, even on a balcony, so if you cannot get the potted plant, try sowing it. Unfortunately, shiso isn’t similar to any other herb I know, so I have no idea what can be used here instead. Certainly a herb which is still aromatic and good after being cooked (maybe Thai basil?).

My favourite way to have these rolls is with a mixture of mayonnaise and sediments from chilli oil (Taberu rayu), but they are also very good with soy sauce and chilli oil and I guess any dipping sauce will be delicious.

You can ask the butcher to cut thin pork slices or use a big wide very sharp knife (I now always do it on my own, it takes 5 minutes).

Make sure you have enough shiso leaves to cover the whole surface (more or less) of the slices. Otherwise you won’t feel the taste of shiso once it’s fried.

If you can get Japanese panko breadcrumbs, use them here. They are crisper and seem to absorb less fat than standard or homemade breadcrumbs.

Click here if you look for other recipe ideas with shiso.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves as a main dish for 4-5, if served with rice and vegetables, or as a snack/appetiser for 6 or 7 at least):

1/2 kg (about 1 lb) pork loin, without fat, cut into thin (max. 2 mm) slices

big shiso leaves (as many as the number of slices or double the amount if the leaves are small; they should cover more or less the whole surface of the slices)

salt, pepper

1 egg, beaten with a fork

2 heaped tablespoons flour

2 big handfuls of breadcrumbs (use the Japanese panko if you can)

oil for deep-frying (I thought 400 ml oil was enough for this amount of rolls)

Prepare three bowls: one with breadcrumbs, one with flour and one with a beaten egg.

Start heating the oil in a small deep pan (I advise placing it as far from yourself as possible; I always deep-fry on a hob next to the wall).

In the meantime season each slice of pork with salt and pepper (on one side only).

Place the shiso leaf/leaves on the seasoned side and roll very tightly (no need for skewers; these rolls will somehow “stick” together during the frying process).

Roll each roll in flour, then in the egg and finally in breadcrumbs.

Deep-fry until golden. (The oil is ready for deep-frying when some breadcrumbs thrown into it instantly change colour and stay at the surface).

Serve them either as a snack, a starter or a main dish. They need a dipping sauce (see the TIPS above).

Fresh Corn Pancake with Chives and Bacon

Fresh corn is the only vegetable I used to eat always in the same way: whole cobs, grilled or boiled, then salted and smothered with butter. Then, two days ago, I was watching a video from 3分クッキング (3-minute cooking), a famous Japanese food program and decided to prepare a  pancake they presented. To be frank, I didn’t have high expectations and was simply glad to try something new with fresh corn, but the first bite was so surprisingly delicious, I still keep on wondering how something so simple could taste so good.

I have adapted the recipe to my taste (for example smoked bacon instead of raw pork belly is my obligatory change in most Japanese recipes) and will probably tweak this recipe often in the future. As long as you keep fresh corn and chives or green onions, you can change many things here: if you don’t have garlic chives, use normal chives or green onion and crushed garlic clove instead; you can put on top whatever you want (any fresh seasonal herb you like eating raw, any spicy sauce or seasoning…), etc.. If you can read and understand Japanese, 3分クッキング is a wonderful huge source of easy home recipes with videos changing every week (but written recipes stay forever).

UPDATE: For those who might be interested, a Japanese friend has told me this type of pancake (called “chijimi” チジミ) is considered by the Japanese as Korean-style and is usually inspired by Korean green onion thin pancakes (this one, especially in the original recipe, did contain a big amount of garlic chives, which are quite close to green onion).

TIP: In the original recipe “tare” (here a mixture of water, soy sauce and Korean chilli paste “gochujang”) is brushed on top of the pancake before the mayonnaise is added. I preferred my bacon to stay dry and crips (not moist), so I skipped it and added taberu rayu (thick chilli oil with sediments) instead. It worked perfectly, but it’s up to you which sauce you prefer.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 medium or big fresh corn cob

a big handful of chopped garlic chives or normal chives/green onion tops+1 crushed garlic clove

6 thin slices of smoked streaky bacon, cut each in 3-4 pieces

mayonnaise (I have used Japanese Kewpie low-fat ; I strongly recommend it because it’s really delicious, especially compared to other light versions)

oil for frying

chopped shiso leaves or chives or any other fresh herb you like

tare (equal amounts of soy sauce, water and Korean gochujang paste) or chilli oil, preferably with sediments (I have used my homemade Japanese taberu rayu), sriracha or any spicy sauce of your choice

Batter:

6 heaped tablespoons wheat flour

3 heaped tablespoons potato flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

100 ml chicken stock (or chicken stock in powder/cube dissolved in water)

1 egg

 

Cut the corn cob horizontally in half, place each half onto a chopping board and cut off the corn, starting from the top (you can also do it with a whole cob, but I found it more difficult).

Put the fresh corn into a bowl, add all the batter ingredients and mix well.

The batter should be like thick pancake batter, so if you think it’s too watery, add some more flour and if it’s too thick, add more stock or water.

Heat oil in a pan, spread a thin layer of the pancake batter (it shouldn’t be more than 1 cm thick), cover with pieces of bacon and cover.

Let it cook at medium heat for five minutes.

Lift the pancake and add about 1/2 teaspoon oil, move the pancake around the pan (it will maje the further frying easier) and flip it. Fry it for 5 more minutes until the bacon becomes crisp.

Place the pancake on a plate (of course bacon side up). If using tare (see the TIP), brush it over the pancake. Then add the mayonnaise, and (if using) chilli oil or another spicy sauce and finally chopped herbs.

Do the same with the remaining batter.

Spring Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savoury Pancake) with Wild Garlic

Okonomiyaki is one of the most frequent Japanese dishes in my house. From the beginning I took its name literally (it means roughly “grill what you want”) and never stopped improving, adapting to my changing palate and, of course, seasons. As a big garlic fan, I made crushed garlic the obligatory ingredient of every single batter. Last weekend I decided to add chopped wild garlic leaves instead and this seasonal twist made me discover one of the best versions (actually I wonder if it wasn’t even the best okonomiyaki in my life…). It’s definitely one of the best wild garlic dishes in my collection.

If you have never heard of okonomiyaki, it’s a kind of savoury pancake (sometimes called “Japanese pizza”), but the batter contains only a small amount of flour and lots of white cabbage. The magical side of every okonomiyaki is a generous choice of toppings added once it’s fried, and these usually include a special okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried and shaved bonito), green onions, pickled ginger, ao nori (seaweed “flakes”)… The basic cabbage batter can also be played with and enriched with sliced pork, beef, raw calamar or dried shrimp and it is often topped with thinly sliced pork belly, fried when the pancake is flipped. There are two main variations of okonomiyaki: Kansai/Osaka-style (the one I “practice” and describe above), and a very filling Hiroshima style, which contains also cooked noodles and which I find too heavy. 

As I have mentioned, I have experimented a lot with both the batter and the toppings. Most modifications are surprisingly successful and I can only hope the pancakes I make can still be called okonomiyaki….

If you don’t have wild garlic/ramsons (click here to learn more about it), you might like one of these versions:

Okonomiyaki with Chorizo

with Chorizo

Okonomiyaki with Bok Choy and Chicken

with Bok Choy and Chicken

Okonomiyaki with Chicken

with Chicken

Okonomiyaki with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

with Eringi Mushrooms and Bacon

...with Red Cabbage and Garlic

with Red Cabbage and Garlic

Okonomiyaki with Green Onions

TIPS:

Okonomiyaki batter mixture: it can be bought in Japanese grocery shops or prepared from the scratch. Personally I am happy to prepare it from scratch since it takes two minutes and I’m sure it tastes better. I have seen different batter recipes; mine is composed of an egg, some flour, some dashi (Japanese stock), salt, pepper, baking powder and, last but not least, grated mountain yam (or yamaimo in Japanese), a slimy cousin of the potato (I find it in organic shops and I know Asian and Chinese grocery shops sell it).  It is not necessary, but in my opinion it largely improves the texture, making it lighter and fluffier. Yamaimo freezes very well (I freeze it peeled in individual portions and then grate when half thawed). When I don’t have yam, I skip it and when I don’t have dashi, I simply replace it, trying to keep the same pancake-like texture. The result is still delicious, albeit slightly different.

Okonomiyaki is always served with okonomiyaki sauce. I once bought it and it was much too sweet, so I was more than happy to learn from Hiroyuki how to make my own sauce, mixing ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in desired proportions. (Nowadays I go even further, replacing sometimes this sauce with my homemade Indian style tomato chutney)

Okonomioyaki mixture can be prepared in advance and fried/grilled the following day. As an addict, I often make a double batch and have it two days in a row.

Okonomiyaki toppings: these usually include okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi (flakes of dried bonito). Ao nori (powdered seaweed) is also very frequent, but I have noticed many Westerners dislike its “fishy” aroma. Personally I prefer to skip it and sprinkle with green onion or chives. Among my obligatory toppings are also taberu rayu (chilli oil with sediments) and very often tobanjan (Chinese chilli paste, which I buy in… Japanese shops and in Japan!). You can add of course whatever topping you like!

Preparation: 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

Batter:

5 slightly heaped tablespoons flour

30 ml (about 1 oz) dashi (Japanese stock, home-made or instant) or a mixture of milk+dashi or good quality chicken stock or simply water (though the latter yields the least flavourful pancake)

1 egg

3 cm/about 1,2 in grated mountain yam (yamaimo) (can be omitted, but then less flour should be added)

salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

10  bok choy leaves and stalks (or more if the bok choy is small), chopped ; if your bok choy has more leaves than stalks, use only half of the leaves, otherwise the pancake will be too soft (at least for me)

1 big handful of chopped wild garlic leaves

1 chicken breast

1 tablespoon oil

Toppings:

dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)

okonomiyaki sauce (or a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce) ; I have used here my Indian-style tomato chutney

mayonnaise

chopped chives or spring onions

2 tablespoons oil

(ao nori, or powdered seaweed)

(chili paste, oil or sauce, such as Taberu Rayu)

(pickled ginger)

(6 thin slices of smoked bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces)

Cut up the chicken breast into small cubes (1 cm x 1 cm). Season with salt and pepper, stir-fry until golden brown and put aside.

In a big bowl combine the batter ingredients. Adjust the consistency adding more liquids or more flour (the mixture should be very thick, not liquid and the batter should only bind the ingredients together and not dominate them).

Heat one tablespoon oil in a frying pan or on a smooth grill (called teppanyaki grill or la plancha).

Put half of the okonomiyaki mixture in a more or less round-shaped heap (you can adjust it on the pan).

Flatten delicately the pancake, but not too much. Otherwise it might fall into pieces when you turn it over. (My okonomiyaki is max. 1,5 cm/about 1/2 inch high).

If you use smoked bacon, place the pieces on top, cover the pan and let it fry at medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until you see the upper part of batter set. If you use an old-fashioned pan (steel or iron), you might have to turn down the heat to the lowest because it might burn.

Flip the pancake over, cover once more and fry for another 5 minutes until the bacon is slightly browned.

Flip over onto a plate and add your favourite toppings.

Repeat the same with the remaining batter mixture.

Chilli Lovers’ Preserving Reminder

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

In many countries imported fresh chilli is available all year round, but the most delicious aromatic local ripe chilli – the best for preserves – is sold only for a limited time. In my part of Europe the beginning of August is the best moment to start thinking about preserving this fresh aromatic chilli, find the most interesting farmer market stalls, check the stock of empty jars, lids and, most of all, make a list of the fiery treats that will fill one’s pantry or fridge this year.

I have chosen here my favourite fresh chilli pickles and condiments, successfully tested every year (some short-term preserves are made even dozens of times a year). All of them are easy to prepare and guaranteed as addictive. Some can become long-term preserves, some keep for a limited time in the fridge. I hope my fellow chilli lovers will find at least one of them worth trying and those who cannot stand the heat might substitute chilli with sweet peppers. Write to me if you have any questions or problems.

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Chilli Jelly

Chilli Jelly

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Habanero and Oil Paste

Habanero and Oil Paste

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Easy Lazy Eggless Baked Chicken Katsu (Breaded Chicken Breast)

baked_chkatsupTonkatsu 豚カツ (breaded pork) and especially chicken katsu チキンカツ are among those Japanese dishes I could eat practically every other day. Until recently, I thought they had a huge disadvantage : being deep-fried. (I don’t find deep-frying difficult, complicated or dangerous and actually like it, but avoid it due to the fat and calorie content.) This was until I discovered Nami’s (Just One Cookbook) revolutionary solution : baked chicken katsu. Thanks to her, suddenly, tonkatsu and chicken katsu have switched from a rare special treat to a guilt-free staple!

If you have ever deep-fried chicken katsu or tokatsu, the ingredients of this lighter baked version are the same: flour, beaten egg and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), all used to coat the meat. The only difference is that panko is stir-fried until golden before the meat is coated, which takes only a while, so the process is quite easy. However, since I’m a lazy cook, always in search of shortcuts, after a dozen of baking sessions I started to wonder what would happen if I skipped the flour and egg coating stage… One day I simply brushed chicken breasts in oil (to make them stickier), coated in stir-fried breadcrumbs and baked as advised in Nami’s recipe. Even though oil-brushed meat is less sticky than an egg coating, the amount of panko is enough to make it still deliciously crisp. This baked chicken katsu might look less attractive than its deep fried version, but it’s so much quicker, lighter and easier, I just couldn’t wait to share it with you.

Personally I find both the three stage-coated and this lazy, one stage-coated chicken katsu equally delicious, but it might not be to everyone’s taste, so check the beautifully photographed Nami’s Baked Chicken Katsu together with a very helpful video.

TIPS: You can use any fat or oil of your choice. After many tests I have become crazy for coconut oil in both panko frying and meat brushing stages. The final flavours have only a hint of coconut aroma and I love it.

You can fry some panko crumbs in advance, cool them down and keep in a closed jar for several days. Strangely they still keep crisp and you can skip their stir-frying process.

Chicken katsu and tonkatsu are served in Japan with a special tonkatsu sauce (easily available at Japanese groceries but I prefer much more less sweet homemade version) and ground white sesame seeds. I also like it with ponzu (yuzu citrus and soy sauce mixture) and… mayonnaise+ taberu rayu (garlicky chilli sauce with sediments, see how to make it here).

Quick Chilli and Garlic Oil with Sediments

Quick Chilli and Garlic Oil with Sediments

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

2 small chicken breasts or 1 very big (if you use very big chicken breasts, halve them lengthwise)

8 heaped tablespoons of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 tablespoon coconut oil+ 1 more for meat brushing

salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan (at low heat). Slowly stir-fry the panko crumbs (don’t stop stirring because at a certain point they quickly burn) until they become golden.

Once they cool down, place them on a plate.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Coat the chicken breasts in panko, pressing with your hands (pat more with your hands if you want more of the crunchy crust!).

Place on baking paper and bake for about 20-25 minutes (depending on the breast size and the oven) until, when pierced with a tooth pick the running juices are clear, not pink.

If you intend to eat with chopsticks, cut the breast into bite-sized pieces before serving.

You can serve them with tonkatsu sauce (in every Japanese grocery shop), but personally I love them with mayonnaise and hot sauce (such as sriracha or taberu rayu) and, in a lighter version with ponzu (soy sauce and Japanese citrus sauce).