Fast soup recipe!
Originally this blog was dedicated to my love of sushi and sashimi. Over time it has expanded to include different types of Japanese food and so you’ll find lots of classic Japanese recipes such salmon teriyaki or spinach Ohitashi style. This is the type of food I love to cook at home and go back to again and again.
But while my heart may belong to Japan and all its culinary delights, my stomach sometimes craves other Asian flavours, which is why you’ll find Thai fish cakes or Malaysian laksa recipes on this blog too!
Today’s recipe is for a loosely Chinese style hot and sour chicken soup. I don’t know how authentic it is, it’s a version of a recipe I found on another food blog ages ago, but I can tell you it is quick to make and delicious!
Great for a cold night when you want something really warming and don’t have time to make ramen at home or trek to a Melbourne eatery to find a soup kitchen, this simple hot and sour soup is the kind of thing you can cook when time and hunger demand a quick feed. And if you’re wondering what makes the soup sour, it’s the mirin!
Hot and Sour Chicken Soup
- 400ml chicken stock
- a small chunk ginger or galangal bashed up
- 1 bashed lemongrass stalk – dry end removed and chop into pieces
- 1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 tbsp. approx. soy sauce
- 6 baby pak choi – sliced in quarters
- 50g bamboo shoots – drained and rinsed
- 150g sliced cooked chicken – no skin
- 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar or mirin
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 sliced spring onions – white part only
- Optional: sliced assorted mushrooms
- Optional: 1-3 small red chillies – finely sliced to serve
- Prepare ingredients as described above.
- In a pot combine the stock, ginger or galangal, lemongrass and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 12-15minutes.
- Remove aromatics using a slotted spoon or drain over a colander into a bowl/pot before tipping back into saucepan.
- Add bamboo shoots, pak choi, rice wine and sesame oil. Simmer for around 2 more minutes then taste. Depending on how salty is it from the stock, add soy sauce accordingly.
- Add chicken and simmer for another minute or two to warm through.
- Serve and top with spring onions and chillies in a small bowl so people can add them to their own hot and sour soup as desired.
Super simple comfort food
While it’s still autumn, Okayu – or Japanese rice porridge – is a good recipe to have up your sleeve before the onset of flu-season and it’s much simpler than other ramen soups. You might be familiar with Congee – Chinese rice porridge – and variations of this dish are popular in many different Asian countries, so it’s no surprise that Japan also has its own rice porridge recipe. This one is good if you’re trying to ward off a cold, or just don’t feel like cooking up a huge feast. The basic recipe is incredibly simple – just rice, water and a pickled plum (Umeboshi). But you can make it as flavoursome as you want by adding dashi stock, chicken stock or miso paste as you wish. If you’re feeling hungry or want to make it heartier, add vegetables and meat to taste. Okayu totally fits the bill for comfort food.
Okayu – Japanese Rice Porridge – a super simple dish.
Okayu Japanese Rice Porridge Recipe (serves 2)
- ½ cup short grain rice
- 3 cups water
- ½ tsp salt
- Shallots, finely chopped
- Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum)
- Sesame seeds
- Nori seaweed, shredded
- Add tofu, chicken, a beaten egg or vegetables.
- Rinse the rice in water and drain until the water is clear (just as you would when cooking sushi rice)
- Soak the rice in a pot for 30 minutes, then drain out the water completely.
- Add the water, cover the pot with a lid and put it on the stove on medium to high heat until it boils (stir once to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom).
- Turn the heat right down to low and cook the rice for about 30 minutes. Don’t lift the lid during this time!
- After half an hour turn off the stove and let it stand for 10 minutes. The rice porridge should be soft and thick.
- Add extra ingredients e.g. vegetables or meat.
- Serve in individual bowls and garnish with shallots, umeboshi, nori and sesame seeds.
Peanut satay sauce
Really good satay is really hard to find in Melbourne and so if I’m ever flying through Kuala Lumpur it’s the first thing I order when I go out for some street food! But as I’m a student and not a jet-setter, the opportunity to do this doesn’t come around that often and nowhere near as often as my cravings for some seriously good satay.
To deal with this problem I have recently started experimenting with different satay recipes at home. The internet is a wonderful resource of course and the best satay recipes always come from food bloggers who come or have family from Malaysia or Singapore!
Rasamalaysia has a terrific satay sauce recipe and one I definitely recommend trying if you’re a satay freak like me! The peanut satay recipe I have shared below is from Poh and I decided to go with this one because there is a video of her cooking it on ABC for those of you who like a visual aid when learning recipes online!
The only alteration I have made is halving the amount of oil in the satay sauce. I know Poh says it’s needed to caramelise the spice paste but I find I can still accomplish this and prefer it not to be quite so oily.
What about you my satay sisters and brothers? What’s your favourite satay sauce recipe and do you know anywhere with great satay in Australia? I need to know!
If you like this recipe, you may want to check out other recipes of mine that go well with a cold beer on the weekend such as chicken karage and grilled chicken with miso.
Home-made peanut satay sauce recipe
- 15 shallots or 2 medium spanish onions, chopped
- 20 dried red chillies, stalks discarded, deseeded, soaked in boiling water until soft and drained
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 cm galangal, chopped
- 2 stalks lemongrass (pale part only and remove any dry outer layers)
- 1 – 2 tbs tamarind paste
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 100ml vegetable oil
- 1 cup approx water
- 2 tbs lime juice
- 500g salted, roasted, crushed peanuts
- Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, blitz shallots, garlic, galangal, rehydrated chillies and lemongrass in small batches to achieve a fine paste. Don’t add water, this will make the paste difficult to caramelise.
- Heat oil in a heavy based saucepan or wok till medium heat and pour paste in. Stir continuously until there is very little steam rising from the sauce and you can see it caramelising and smell the frangrance.
- Add water and bring to boil. Add tamarind, lime, sugar, only one teaspoon of salt. Add half the amount of peanuts after adding water to the sauce. The other half added just before serving, for crunch.
- Bring to boil again, remove from heat and set aside till required. You can make this a couple days ahead of time and keep in a glass jar in the fridge and then re-heat to serve. You can also freeze half the mixture for another time.
Traditional Japanese Bento Box
800 years to refine the lunch box concept
One of the most endearing aspects of Japanese food and culture are the aesthetics. From sushi to textiles, from calligraphy to chopsticks, there’s an art to everything – even the humble lunch box. If you thought lunch boxes were an American invention, just take a look at Japan’s bento box. According to Japanese industrial designer and author, Kenji Ekuan, before the bento box, people carried their lunch in leather pouches, linen sacks, wicker baskets and wooden buckets. Around the end of the 12th Century, a “dried meal” of rice called hoshi-ii was developed and carried in a small bag. Over the centuries the meal evolved to include ingredients of different textures like rice balls, pickles, vegetables and fish.
Ordinary people still continued to carry their lunch in bags, while the Japanese aristocracy enjoyed their midday meal in beautifully decorated lacquered wooden boxes. During the Edo Period, the bento box grew in popularity, but it wasn’t until the Meiji Period, in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, that it became a symbol of convenience for everyone. The portability and accessibility of the bento box took another step when shopkeepers started to sell them in train stations.
The contents of Bento boxes differ according to status, wealth, age, culture and creativity. They’re usually a healthier takeaway food option, as well as an aesthetically pleasing one. Presentation is super important! Mums often go to great lengths to make the bento boxes for their kids really fun and creative. They’ll shape the rice and ingredients into cute characters from popular comics and anime like Sailor Moon or Totoro.
Bento Boxes for kids often incorporate popular characters from comics and anime
From necessity to art form
There’s no doubt that the bento box has become an art form in itself gaining a following outside Japan. A quick Google search brings up hundreds of DIY bento boxes! To celebrate the amazing lunch-box creativity around the world, Bento & Co have announced the winners of the 2013 International Bento Contest.
349 people entered the competition from 37 different countries. The bento box entries were diverse, incorporating many different elements – not just sushi rice and traditional Japanese ingredients. Contestants used pasta of different shapes and sizes as well as colourful fruit and vegetables carved into different shapes.
This year’s winners are Yunita from Indonesia, and Erika from Japan.
You still have a chance to vote on the 20 finalists! So head to the website and cast your vote! If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a Bento champion, make sure you enter next year’s comp!
You did what?!
Speaking of celebrating diversity in the sushi world, while travelling in the United States I stumbled upon an unusual kind of sushi. But this type of sushi has got me all confused. I love sushi, for the delicacy of flavours, the soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, combined with fresh ingredients like tuna, salmon and avocado. Of course depending on the cuisine of the region and ingredients available, the styles of sushi changes. And yes [pun-alert], this is one recipe that rolls with the punches. Some delicious sushi recipes have emerged, the most famous of course being the California Roll, and even Japan has embraced it!
In Australia you can find strips of teriyaki chicken, beef, and tempura prawns inside sushi rolls, but is there such a thing as going too far? and if there is, what would that be…?
Deep-fried sushi. Photo by Loozrboy
Ok, so I still don’t know whose idea it was to do this, and as I said I’m still very conflicted about it. But someone decided to lightly fry the ENTIRE sushi roll. This gives it a light, crispy texture on the outside. Yes, I admit it. It’s delicious! Of course the batter is tempura batter – anything heavier would destroy it. But even so, sushi is a symbol of healthy food the world over. Is it akin to blasphemy to fry sushi of all things?
A few people clearly think so. And looking at some of the frying going on here, it seems like, in sushi’s case at least, less is definitely more.
It’s all about the batter
Yet, sushi chef, Marisa Baggett, points out that the enjoyment of fried sushi is it’s “delightful crunch”, and having tried it for myself, I have to agree. Marisa is a sushi chef who studied at the California Sushi School under sushi master Nobuo Kishimoto. She says it’s all about the batter.
If you want to try it out, then you’ll need to put your sushi rolls in the fridge for 5 minutes before frying and Marisa also recommends dipping them in rice or potato starch before you dip them in the batter. Also FYI, these babies only need 3 minutes in the pan to cook. So go easy.
What do you think? Are there some things that just shouldn’t be done to sushi?
Coleslaw with a kick
Whenever I go to Thailand I eat tons of spicy papaya salad – a crunchy, spicy, salty and citrusy salad that goes perfectly with fish, larb and sticky rice. This recipe I make at home will never be as good as the ladies pounding away with their mortar and pestles in the markets and street food stalls of Thailand but at least by knowing how to make basic papaya salad recipe I can in a small way enjoy this dish at home.
Some papaya salad recipes call for tamarind paste or pulp and others put small crab in for an even stronger flavour. You can search for version of this online but if you’re after something simpler, let me recommend this simple salad recipe below! There’s no need to afraid of using unripe papaya by the way – it is green and hard – which is what gives it the needed crunch!
Like this type of shredded salad recipe? Check out my Japanese coleslaw recipe.
If you’re looking for more Thai recipes, have a look at these delicious recipes for tom yum soup and Thai fish cakes.
Spicy Papaya Salad Recipe
- 400g unripe papaya – peeled and julienned
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 80g long beans – destalk and slice finely in half
- 1 carrot – peeled and julienned (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
- 2-3 small Thai chillies – depending on how hot you want it
- 3-4 tbsp fish sauce
- 4-5 tbsp lime juice
- 20g dried shrimps – soak to soften
- 40g peanuts – toast in a dry frypan
- 3 tbsp palm sugar
- Peel the papaya and shred into thick long matchsticks using a mandoline.
- Soak the papaya in cold, preferably filtered water.
- Crush chilli, garlic, dried shrimps and most of the toasted peanuts in a mortar. Pound with the pestle to mesh the ingredients together than add the green beans and pound away a bit more to bruise and soften the beans.
- Add papaya, tomato and carrot (if using) to a bowl and cover with the mortar mix. Toss through to enure it is all coated.
- Serve on a plate with the remaining toasted peanuts scattered on top.
Japanese style soba salad
Eating soba noodles always make me feel like I’m really taking care of myself, with the added bonus that they are really tasty too! Quick to make and great on their own or in soups, soba noodles are a must have in my kitchen cupboard at all times.
Ths simple soba salad recipe is one I make almost every week. It goes really well with salmon teriyaki and veggie dishes like marinated mushrooms and served on its own for a quick meal on the go.
If you’re a fan of soba noodles like me, why not try this soba zaru recipe or south-east Asian soba noodles.
Simple soba salad recipe
- 200g dries soba buckwheat noodles
- 25g Hijiki seaweed – soaked in water to soften – drain thoroughly
- Small handful enoki or shimeji mushroom – thinly sliced
- 50g beansprouts
- 1tbsp sesame oil
- 1tbsp Japanese soy sauce
- 1tbsp sesame seeds – lightly toasted
- Cook soba as instructed on pack and drain in a colander.
- Drizzle noodles with sesame oil and toss to coat.
- Toss the mushroom in a dry frypan to soften and when they have after a couple of minutes, add the beansprout and toss through before adding to the soba noodles.
- Gentle toss noodles with the rest of the ingredients, using your hands for best results.
- Take and adjust seasoning as needed.
International Chefs Battle it Out
From 6-8 March, Japan held the first ever World Sushi Cup where 18 international chefs battled it out. They came from all over the world including a few rather unlikely sounding sushi destinations such as the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
The competition was organized by the World Sushi Cup Japan Committee and the Chiba Prefectural government (where the event took place). The aim of the World Sushi Cup is to celebrate diversity in the sushi world, and to promote cleanliness and hygiene standards in sushi restaurants outside Japan.
As sushi has spread to all corners of the globe, chefs have incorporated local ingredients, giving their own distinctive flair and modern twist to this Japanese delicacy. Soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi have had to step aside to make way for some creative combinations.
The World Sushi Cup competition was split into two categories – one for individual chefs and one for chefs representing restaurants.
Sushi. Photo by chloester.
And the winner is….
The individual chefs had 50 minutes to prepare two plates of sushi. It was a tough call but after over an hour’s deliberation, the judges declared Danish chef Pepi Anevski, of Umami restaurant in Copenhagen, as Chef of the Year. Anevski’s plate of Scandinavian-influenced nigiri, impressed the judges with his concept of the four-seasons. Winter featured lightly grilled scallop, dusted with a powdered butter emulsion. While summer featured greentea smoked salmon, topped with dried strawberry puree and chopped peppermint.
Japanese chef Takeshi Matsumoto came second, while American chef, Jeff Ramsey, came third.
Ramsey began his career as a sushi chef and has won a number of awards for his renowned modernist style of cooking. At the competition he merged contemporary and traditional techniques.
On March 7th and 8th restaurant teams were given one hour to prepare 200 pieces of sushi, but again the Scandinavians were victorious! The prize for Most Outstanding Sushi Restaurant went to Saiko in Malmo, Sweden. Chef Pontus Johansson created a gourmet salmon nigiri, which featured fried salmon, rolled in gold dust, aioli sauce made with Swedish green garlic, and thinly sliced hazelnuts sauted in soy sauce.
The techniques were amazingly creative and diverse. Toshihiko Ochi, from El restaurante Kokoro in Uruguay, created a sushi roll with dried beef and chilli sauce. While Romanian chef Georgiu Gavril used tomato sauce in his “Dracula Roll” – which seems a little blasphemous.
In any case this is definitely one way to celebrate and showcase the creativity of sushi chefs around the world. I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s competition!
Walking down Little Bourke Street or any strip of Asian restaurants and the smell and sight of steamed buns always gets my mouth watering. In China these buns are called baozi but in Japan we have a very similar recipe for steamed buns called ‘nikuman.’ You can put any filling you like in nikuman, minced pork is common but so is a vegetable based filling, azuki bean paste and curry flavoured meats. Shops like 7-11 and Ministop do their own ranges of steamed buns with all sorts of other food flavoured fillings such as chocolate, pizza or cheese and sausage!
I love to grab one to eat walking around Melbourne if I’m hungry and on the run but they are fun to make when you’ve got friends coming around for a beer and a snack. Some of my other favourite Japanese recipes to snack on with a cold Asahi are chicken karaage – aka fried chicken pieces – and sticky chicken wings.
The steamed buns taste best eaten straight from the steamer but if you have leftovers you can always slightly dampen the outside of them and re-steam them for a few minutes the next day. If you want to serve something along with the buns – other than beer that is – try my Japanese style coleslaw recipe – it goes really well!
Steamed bun recipe with pork filling
Ingredients – makes around 16 small buns
- 250ml plus 100ml warm water
- 2 tbsp. plus 1 tbsp. fine sugar
- 2 pinches fine salt
- 2 tsp. instant dried yeast or 1 x 7-9 gram sachet
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil plus a little bit more for rolling dough
- 600g white bread flour – also known as strong flour or type 00 flour
- Baking paper – cut out 16 7cm x 7cm squares
- 1/2 cabbage – steam to soften, then squeeze dry and finely chop
- 500g minced pork
- 3 spring onions – white part only, finely diced
- knob of ginger – around 2 ½ tbsp. once minced
- 2 small gloves garlic – peeled and minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 1 heaped tsp. sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce or 1 tbsp. soy sauce and ½ tbp. oyster sauce
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- In a large mixing bowl, combine sifted flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the salt.
- Fill a 250ml cup with tepid warm water and stir in dried yeast and 1 tbsp. sugar. Leave in a warm place for around 5 minutes or so – until the yeast activates and a frothy foam head develops.
- Make a well in the dried ingredients and pour in the yeast/water mixture and mix together by bringing in a little flour at a time. Add the remaining water. Pour in the sesame oil and bring dough together in a rough ball.
- On a clean surface, scatter some flour so you can easily knead the dough. Knead dough for around 10 minutes – until nice and smooth. You are after stretchy, elastic dough that does not stick to your hands – carefully add a little more water or flour to achieve this if necessary. Roll up into a ball, put in a clean dry bowl and cover with cling film. Let it rest and rise for 30 minutes – it should almost double in size.
- During this time you can get on with making the filling. Other than steaming, drying and chopping the cabbage, you don’t need to cook anything else for the filling. Some people like to quick fry the garlic and spring onions to soften their flavour a bit but usually I don’t bother to do this. If you want to them off first just do this separate and then add this to the remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine – the best way to do this is with your hands, so it all mixed up and becomes one integrated mass. To make sure you distribute the filling evenly you can now scoop it into 16 even balls if you wish.
- Now get back to your dough! Pummel the dough a few times and then give it a final knead before rolling into a long log shape and cut into 16 even pieces – or 8 if you want bigger buns.
- Soak a clean tea towel in water and squeeze out. Then put a little sesame oil on your palms do you can roll the buns into shape without sticking. Do this now, placing each bun under the wet tea towel once rolled into shape to keep it from drying out. Next roll around half of them into flat discs and try to get the edges of the disc especially thin. Keep them covered by the damp tea towel.
- Put the filling balls or around 2 big tablespoons inside each dough disc, then bring the edges up together, twisting the top and pressing together. Another way of closing the top of the bun is with a folding/crimping motion. Continue with the first 8 buns, placing them on their wax paper square once made and again placed under the tea-towel. Repeat with the final 8 steam buns.
- You will then need to steam the buns in batches. Fill steamer with water and bring to the boil. Place a few steam buns in the basket – leaving enough room around them because they get bigger again! Place a damp clean towel over the steamer before putting the lid on so that no condensation drips down on the steam buns. Steam at a rolling boil for 15 mins, or 20 minutes if you have made bigger buns. You can always open a bun at 15 minutes to ensure it is cooked inside before removing.
- Serve as is or with a dipping sauce such as soy sauce mixed with sake or rice wine vinegar, a few spring onions or finely minced chilli or ginger.
If you love sushi and sashimi you need to get on the gari train! Gari is pickled ginger, the pale pink and sometimes light cream/yellow looking stuff you get served with various Japanese dishes but most commonly sushi. As well as finding it next to your sushi, there will often be a few pieces of pickled ginger in a bento box too.
Traditional Japanese recipes, all pickled vegetables in Japan are called tsukemono. Gari was originally served alongside raw fish so that the antiseptic properties in ginger could counteract the possible risk of bad fish. It also works as a palate cleanser to be enjoyed in between different types of seafood.
Easy to make, I always have a jar of home-made gari in my fridge. To achieve the pale pink colour associated with this Japanese recipe you need to use very young, fresh ginger. If you find it doesn’t turn pale pink it means you’ve used old ginger – which will still taste fine – don’t worry! As well as turning a pretty pink, young ginger is simply more tender and fresh tasting than old ginger and that’s why it is preferred for this particular Japanese recipe.
If you look at packets of gari in Asian supermarkets in Melbourne you will see a lot of them use beetroot or artificial colouring to achieve a pink colour. I would prefer no additives at all and since it’s so simple to make – not to mention cheap – there is no reason not to make pickled ginger yourself!
Next time you make oven baked salmon with gari, try making it yourself at home! Pickled ginger also goes really well with this raw tuna and avocado salad.
Do you do any pickling at home? I’d love to know what other people are pickling out there!
Japanese recipe: picked ginger
- 500g young fresh ginger
- 1 ½ cups rice vinegar
- 1 cup fine sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. fine salt
- Begin by washing the ginger in tepid water. This will also help you to remove the skin. Do this by scraping along the sides of the ginger with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon. If you try to cut off the skin you will probably lose some ginger in the process.
- Using a very sharp knife or mandolin, slice the ginger into very fine pieces. Place in a bowl and cover with the salt. Leave for around 40 minutes or up to 1 hour. The salt will release liquid from the ginger. After this time has elapsed you can either lightly dry the ginger by patting it with paper towel or leave it as is. If you do the latter it will produce a slightly stronger gari taste.
- Place the ginger slices in a glass jar that has been sterilised with boiling water and has a firm fitting lid. It will need to be a heat resistant container.
- In a small saucepan combine rice vinegar and sugar and bring to the boil. Pour this over the sliced ginger in the jar and leave with lid off to cool down.
- Secure with lid and store in the refrigerator.