Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

Here’s a simple Japanese inspired dinner tonight. I’ve posted variations of most of these recipes before. They’re all very simple and quick, perfect for week night.

The menu:

Baked shiitake & pleurote w sesame oil, garlic and lemon juice
Spicy sautéed green beans
Fat and tender okra roasted with yaki glaze
Cold cha soba w garnishes and dipping sauce

We paired this with Akitabare koshiki junzukuri “Northern skies” saké  which went very well with the mushroom dish but something sweeter would have been better the beans and okra.

Spicy sautéed green beans


  • 30 ml (2 tbsps) peanut or canola oil
  • 500 gr (1 pound) green beans, trimmed, washed, dried
  • 3 dried hot chilis, cut up
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) ginger, minced
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) chili with garlic sauce
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) rice wine vinegar
  • 60 ml (4 tbsps) mirin
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
  • 45 ml (3 tbsps) tamari
  • 15 ml (1 tbps) toasted sesame oil
  • salt to taste
  • 30 ml (2 tbsps) toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

In a wok on high heat, heat 30 ml oil until hot. Add the dried chilis, garlic and ginger. Stir briskly for about 30 seconds. Add the string beans and cook 4-5 minutes until done but still crispy. Then add the vinegar, wine, sugar, chili sauce and salt, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil, stir, and serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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Here’s the last bit of the Japanese dinner. Look at the previous 3 posts for the entire menu.

Robata Yaki is grilled food, this time okra, asparagus and scallions. It could not be easier. Just brush veges with a little oil and grill on the BBQ or in the oven. You can baste the food with the yaki sauce or simply serve with a little sea salt.

I forgot to shoot of the asparagus, sorry!

Yaki sauce

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) sake
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) mirin
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) Japanese soy sauce

In a large pot, bring the sake and mirin to a boil. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat, add soy sauce and simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy.

Maitake, bunashimeji and shiitake mushrooms baked en papillote with sesame oil, sake and garlic.

Cultivated Japanese mushrooms are not quite as fragrant as wild mushrooms but they’re now easy to come by. Hokto Kinoko, a Japanese producer, opened a mushroom “farm” in the USA in 2009. Their organic mushrooms are cultivated on a substrate made of non-genetically-modified ground corn cobs and rice bran, packaging is kept to a minimum and they’re relatively cheap at $2-3 per 3.5 oz package.

Mushroom papillote before and after baking.

This dish is usually made with butter which I have replaced here with dark sesame oil.


  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) bunapi shimeji (white beech mushrooms)
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) buna shimeji (brown beech mushrooms)
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) maitake mushrooms (hen of the woods)
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) dark sesame oil
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) saké
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) smoked sea salt
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges


Separate shimeji and maitake into small clumps, slice the shiitake. Assemble the mushrooms on a large piece of parchment kitchen paper or foil, add garlic, sesame oil, sake and sea salt. Cover with an other piece of parchment paper or foil and seal well. Bake at 175C (350F) for 30 minutes. Open the papillote carefully, transfer its content to a serving plate and garnish with lemon wedges.

Now pour yourself an other glass of saké and enjoy!

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Continuing with Saturday’s Japanese dinner, here are a couple more recipes.

Cha soba noodles with traditional garnishes

Cha soba is green tea flavoured soba. Here it’s served cold with various garnishes and dipping sauce.


  • 240 gr (half pound) dry green tea soba noodles
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) sesame oil
  • 1 sheet nori, toasted and cut into match sticks
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 cm (1″) piece of ginger, grated
  • wasabi paste

Dipping sauce

  • 350 ml (1½ cups) water
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) Japanese soy sauce
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) mirin
  • 2 ml (½ tsp) sugar


Cook noodles in boiling water for 3-4 minutes until done but still firm. Carefull not to over cook them. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer to a bowl, toss with sesame oil and seeds.

In the oven or better, over an open flame, toast nori sheet then use scissors to cut into match sticks.

Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool.

Arrange noodles on 4 plates, sprinkle with nori. Serve with individual bowls of dipping sauce. Present green onion, ginger and wasabi paste separately so people can garnish as they like.

Serves 4

Nasu dengaku

(grilled eggplant with miso glaze)

This is classic Izakaya fare. If you can’t find Japanese eggplants use any other young and small eggplants.

For grilled eggplant

  • 4 small Japanese eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
  • vegetable oil for brushing
  • sesame seeds

For glaze

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dashi
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) mirin
  • 60 ml (1/4  cup) white miso
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) corn starch
  • yuzu kosho pepper to taste (optional)

Start by making the glaze. Combine dashi, sugar, mirin, miso and corn starch together. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in yuzu.

Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and score the flesh to grab the sauce. Brush with oil and grill on a BBQ or under a broiler until the tops are a nice brown and the eggplant is cooked but still quite firm.

Cover the cut side with the glaze, sprinkle with sesame seeds and put under the broiler until caramelized (watch it, this happens very fast and you don’t want to burn them).

Serves 4


This glaze is quite delicious on very fresh grilled tofu (the stuff you buy from vendor in Chinatown not the bricks of rubber you find at the grocer).

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Here is the second part of Saturday’s Japanese dinner. For the full menu and a list of sakés, please have a look at part 1.


For many, a Japanese dinner without sushi is unthinkable, so we had sushi. Good and easy finger food. I won’t include a recipe here as there are hundreds of places online where you’ll find good, detailed instructions on sushi making.

Takuan (pickled daikon radish) and  ume (pickled Japanese plum) + cucumber sushi are classic vegetable rolls. Avocado + yamagobo rolls are my creation, I think, as I’ve never seen them out there.

Yamagobo isn’t pickled carrot has I’ve heard it described before but pickled burdock root. Its crisp texture, mild bitterness and earthy flavour complement the rich and creamy avocado very well or at least that’s my non-Japanese-chef appreciation of it. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Cucumber, wakame and tororo sunomono

Sunomono is a vinegary vegetable salad. This version had cucumber and 2 kinds of seaweed. Tart and refreshing, it’s a good palate cleanser after a richer dish.

Tororo konbu is a little harder to find but so worth it. I don’t think there’s any substitute for its flavour and texture. It’s basically kelp soaked in vinegar for a day, dried and shaved into hair thin silvery filaments.  It’s used in soups, as a flavouring for rice balls and in sunomono. I’m thinking smoked Tororo konbu could make an interesting substitute for bonito flakes (tuna, therefore not vegan) omnipresent in Japanese cooking. I’ll have to experiment with that.


  • 1 small cucumber, sliced thinly
  • 250 ml (1 cup) wakame seaweed, soaked, drained and cut into 5 cm (2″) pieces
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) dry tororo konbu seaweed, torn up.
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) rice wine vinegar
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt


Put the cucumber in a bowl, add salt and set aside for 20 minutes. Squeeze cucumber to drain well. Mix vinegar and sugar in a bowl. Add wakame and cucumber and mix well.  Serve garnished with tororo konbu.

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Saturday night, after a little excursion to Mitsuwa, we had a Izakaya style dinner. Lots of small plates to go with several different sakés. Sort of like Japanese tapas.

On the menu was:

  • Miso soup with tiny cubes of melt-in-your-mouth tofu
  • Takuan,  ume + cucumber, avocado + yamagobo sushis
  • Cucumber, wakame, tororo sunomono (seaweed  salad)
  • Cold cha soba with garnishes
  • Nasu dengaku (grilled eggplant with miso glaze)
  • Robata Yaki okra, asparagus and scallions
  • Maitake, bunashimeji and shiitake mushrooms baked en papillote with sesame oil, sake and garlic served with a squeeze of lemon

Mitsuwa has a massive selection of sakés… We went a little nuts! They were the main attraction at dinner of course and though we didn’t quite polish off these 4 bottles we never the less over indulged.

Junmai Daiginjo Nama
Ehime, Japan
500 ml
Aromas of ripe tropical fruit. Off dry.

Shirakawago Sasanigori
Junmai Ginjo Nigori
Gifu, Japan
300 ml
As all Nigori, this saké is unfiltered which gives it a cloudy white look with a sweeter, mild and fruity aroma.  Floral and apple notes. Would also be great with spicy dishes.

Tokubetsu Junmai
Yamagata, Japan
720 ml
Full-bodied, medium-dry. Notes of apricot and almond.

Rin Draft Saké
Fukushima, Japan
500 ml

Brewed from 100% organic rice. Rich, creamy and buttery aromas.

All were served chilled.

Starting at the beginning, here’s a recipe for dashi, the base of much Japanese Cuisine.

Vegan Dashi (Soup Stock)


  • 1 liter (4 cups) water
  • 15 cm (6″) piece of kombu
  • 3 dry shiitake mushroom
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) mirin
  • 30 ml  (2 tbsp) shoyu


Rinse off kombu if necessary. Put the water in a pot, add kombu and shiitake and soak for 1 hour.

Bring nearly to the boil, simmer gently for 20 mins. Remove kombu, add remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 more minutes. Remove shiitake and reserve for other use.

That’s it. Now you’ve got a tasty dashi.

Next we’ll use this dashi to make miso soup.

Miso Soup with tofu and scallions


  • 750 ml (3 cups) dashi soup stock
  • 150 gr (5 oz) silken tofu
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp) miso paste
  • 3 scallions, thinly chopped


Put dashi soup stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Cut tofu into small cubes and add them to the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Dissolve the miso in a small amount of hot dashi and add to the soup. Add Scallions, stir and serve.

Remember never to boil the soup after the miso is added or you will kill all the good stuff.

Serves 4

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