yohshoku

The Mystery of Japanese "Sauce"

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About that ingredient in Japanese recipes that’s just called “sauce”. continue reading...

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What's your national dish - or, is there any such thing?

Scenes from the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum (新横浜ラーメン博物館)

Did you know that ramen is considered to be one of the two main National Dishes of Japan? continue reading...

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Takenoko Miso Potage: Creamy Bamboo Shoot Soup With Miso

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A very simple creamy soup, made with a quintessentially Japanese spring vegetable, bamboo shoot or takenoko. continue reading...

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Japanese basics: Nanban sauce or vinegar (Nanbansu)

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Three versions of a versatile Japanese sauce that can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce or dressing. It's called Nanban or "wild southern savage" sauce. continue reading...

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Taimeiken, Nihonbashi, Tokyo - home of Tampopo Omuraisu (rice omelette)

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I finally made it to Taimeiken, an old time yoshoku restaurant in Nihonbashi, to indulge in the original Tampopo Omuraisu (rice omelette). Yes, that Tampopo. continue reading...

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Layered Cabbage Casserole - Kyabetsu no Kasaneni (an everyday favorite)

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(From the archives. A perfect leave-to-cook, warming dish for a cold evening! Originally published December 2008.)

Some dishes dazzle you with their prettiness. Others may look plain, but are just plainly delicious. This simple, filling yet healthy winter dish of cabbage layered with a meat and tofu stuffing and then poached in a flavorful liquid belongs to the latter group. continue reading...

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Spaghetti Napolitan

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Continuing my yohshoku mini-marathon, here’s the infamous Japan-ized pasta dish called Napolitan or Naporitan. (Japanese doesn’t have an L or R sound, which is why Japanese people often mix them up when speaking Western languages.) As far as I know, there’s nothing remotely Neapolitan about Napolitan, except for the use of spaghetti. It is made with a creamy ketchup-based sauce, and has the salty-sweet flavors that Japanese people love. continue reading...

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Menchikatsu (or Menchi katsu)

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While I make Japanese style hamburgers all the time, I rarely make menchikatsu, its breaded and deep-fried cousin. I guess it’s the breading and deep frying that deters me - it’s a messy process, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. So I made these ones for the blog! Fortunately they were consumed very eagerly. continue reading...

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Hambaagu: Japanese hamburger steak

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As promised, here is my recipe for making Japanese style hamburgers or hamburger steaks, one of the quintessential yohshoku or Japanese Western-style dishes. They are called hanbaagu (though they are sometimes called hambaagaa, but that variation usually refers to the kind that comes sandwiched inside a bun) in Japan, and are very popular for lunch or dinner, and are eaten as a side dish to rice (okazu) in Japanese homes. In fancier restaurants that specialize in yohshoku, they might be eaten with a knife and fork, but at home they’re eaten with chopsticks. Whenever Japanese food magazines have a poll about popular okazu, hamburgers are always in the top three, especially amongst kids.

They don’t have much in common with the American style of hamburger, except for the fact that they both start off with ground meat. A Japanese hamburger has more in common with meatloaf, and a rather similar texture. They are similar to the old TV dinner standby, Salisbury steak, but I think a lot better. continue reading...

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Yohshoku in the New York Times (but it's not Hambagoo!!!!!)

The New York Times has an article today about yohshoku, Japanese-style western food. Long time readers of Just Hungry will know that I’ve been slowly introducing you all to yohshoku for some years now. continue reading...

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Hayashi raisu (rice): Japanese beef stew

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Hayashi raisu or hayashi rice is a Japanese version of a rich beef stew. It’s a classic yohshoku (Japanese-adapted Western food) dish. continue reading...

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Wafuu Pasuta (wafuu pasta): Japanese style pasta

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The word wafuu may sound like someone trying to say yahoo and not quite succeeding, but it actually means “Japanese-style” in Japanese.

Italian style pasta has been popular in Japan since the post war period. In the beginning it was served with Italian, or at least Western European, style sauces, but some time in the ’70s or so people started to experiment with Japanese flavors. Essentially, things that are usually eaten with white rice were mixed into or put on top of spaghetti and other pastas. These are known as wafuu pasuta or wafuu supagetti (say these out loud and you’ll know what they are), and became popular on the menus of Japanese cafés (kissaten) and the like.

There is at least one restaurant in the U.S. that I know of that has a couple of wafuu pasuta dishes on their menu - Basta Pasta (warning: icky Flash-only site!), in New York. They don’t really go far enough in my opinion though. If you love Japanese flavors you’ll probably love wafuu pasuta too.

Most wafuu pasuta recipes are very quick and easy to make, so they are great for quick dinners. Incidentally, to achieve a more Japanese texture cook the pasta about a minute or so longer than you might otherwise, so it’s a bit past al dente. Japanese people generally prefer softer pasta.

Following are three of my favorite quick and easy wafuu pasuta dishes. continue reading...

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Corn cream soup with intentional lumps

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What’s the soup of your childhood? The one that your mother made for you when you had a cold, needed cheering up, or just as a treat? For me, there’s no question: it’s corn cream soup.

Corn cream soup (and yes, it’s called like that, not ‘cream of corn soup’ or ‘creamed corn soup’) belongs to the yohshoku category of Japanese home cooking. It’s an old fashioned, milk based potage, with creamed corn in it. It smells milky, and tastes sweet and savory. It’s loved by Japanese kids.

Now, while my mother was a pretty good cook generally, she did have trouble getting some things right. Her curry for instance was always rather watery. And her corn cream soup, instead of being silky smooth, always had little lumps of undissolved roux. I loved those little lumps though - they tasted like tiny dumplings. Later on when I started to make my own corn cream soup I followed recipes, so my corn cream came out smooth and lumpless. That was fine, but I missed the lumps from my childhood memories. So, I incorporated them back.

Everyone uses canned corn to make a corn cream soup. You can be fancy and use fresh, but that lifts this humble soup into the realm of gourmet special-occasion big deal cooking, which is not what my memories are about at all. I have adjusted the usual way of making this soup by using whole corn rather than creamed, since whole corn cans have more actual corn in them and I suspect less added sugar, and I like the mixture of crushed/creamed and whole corn kernels. Besides, creamed corn cans are unheard of here in Switzerland. continue reading...

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Japanese Dry Curry

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While the standard curry dish in Japan is a kind of curry stew served on plain rice, dry curry, which is a sort of fried rice with curry flavor, is almost as popular. And unlike the stew-type of Curry Rice it’s very fast and easy to put together.

What makes it Japanese really is the use of japonica (medium-grain) rice. Dry curry made with Japanese rice makes a great obento lunch, tasty at room temperature or warmed up in the microwave. The stick-together moist quality of the rice keeps it edible where a dryer stay-apart rice like basmati might taste too dry. Dry curry also has the mixture of sweet and savory, which appears quite a lot in Japanese food, especially the kind that comes from the Kanto (Tokyo-area) region where my family is from. continue reading...

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Japanese beef curry (Curry Rice)

Beef curry (Japanese style)

Japanese curry belongs to the group of typically Japanese foods that have origins in European cuisine, called yohshoku. Curry is tremendously popular in Japan - it's on the menu at just about every 'family' restaurant and department store restaurants, and there are curry-only restaurants as well as ones that specialize in high class yohshoku in general.

Japanese curry, called curry rice (or kareh raisu) since it's always served with rice, is not much like the curries from India, Thai or other places with better known curries around the world. The best way to describe it is probably to say it's like a English style stew with curry. (It's not at all like the curries you get in modern Britain, which are firmly in the Indian or Pakistani curry families.)

beefcurry_closeup1.sidebar.jpgIf you've ever been to a Japanese grocery store, you've probably seen the blocks or bags of curry base taking up an inordinate amount of shelf space. Competition amongst curry base makers in Japan is fierce. The bases are pretty convenient to use, but these days I use them less and less, since I discovered that making curry properly from scratch is not that much more effort than making curry with a readymade curry base. Commercial curry bases contain things like sugar or corn syrup as ingredients, plus some of them use mystery fats (always check the ingredient lists). I add sweetness just via the vegetables, especially a huge mound of slowly sautéed onions.

Either way, to get the most flavorful curry takes a long time. This is definitely a slow-cook meal.

This recipe for beef curry can be adapted to other kinds of meat, or to vegetarian options too. I've included instructions for using a store bought curry base as well as making your own curry roux base. continue reading...

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Japanese beef curry, closeup

Japanese beef curry, closeup

Japanese Potato Salad

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More about Yohshoku

Previously, I wrote about yohshoku, or Japanese-style western cuisine. Prompted by a question from Elise, I've done a bit more research on this. (Much of this is gathered from a book in the Just Look Just Cook cookbook series from Yomiuri Shimbun Co., called "Yoshoku in Japan". (Note that it can be spelled Yohshoku or Yoshoku.)) continue reading...

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Tonkatsu, Japanese deep fried pork cutlet

tonkatsu, Japanese deep fried pork cutlet
tonkatsu, breaded deep fried pork cutlets

Tonkatsu is a typical Japanglish word - ton is pig or pork, and katsu derives from the word cutlet. Tonkatsu is one of the western-style Japanese dishes that can be classified as yohshoku. However, tonkatsu is so popular in Japan that there are even restaurants that only serve tonkatsu and similar items such as kushikatsu (bite-sized fried bits of pork and other things on a skewer).

One of the key ingredients for tonkatsu, or any breaded deep-fried item in Japanese cooking, is panko. In recent years panko has been adopted by the trendy world of cuisine, but it's not anything special - it's just dried bread crumbs. The thing that makes panko unique is that the flakes are bigger and crunchier than the kind sold by non-Japanese food manufacturers.

You can buy panko ready-made at Japanese food stores, or make your own. To make your own, take off the crusts of day-old good white bread. Flake the white part of the bread by hand, not the food processor, which would turn the bread into powder. Spread out the bread crumbs on baking sheets and dry in the oven at a very low temperature until the crumbs are thoroughly try - not colored, just crunchy. You can store this in tightly sealed plastic bags or containers for quite a long time. continue reading...

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Yohshoku or yoshoku (or youshoku): Japanese-style Western cuisine

So far I have been writing about Japanese foods that are quite traditional. The flavors are based on the SaShiSuSeSo of sugar, salt, rice vinegar, soy sauce and miso, plus the all-important dashi soup stock. In Japan, this kind of food is called washoku, or quite literally “Japanese food”. continue reading...

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