Recipe: Scallop and Corn Gyoza

Gyoza

Gyoza

Scallop and Corn Gyoza

Ingredients:

* 1/2 pound sea scallops

* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

* 1 clove fresh garlic, minced

* 1/4 cup soft tofu (preferably silken)

* 1/4 cup cooked white corn

* 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper

* 5 tablespoons minced scallion

* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

* 18 (3 to 4-inch round) wonton or gyoza wrappers

* corn starch for dusting tray

Prep Time: 20-30 min

Cooking Time: 15-20 min

Instructions:
Discard small tough muscle from side of each scallop and in a food processor puree half scallops with sea salt. With motor running add tofu in a stream and blend until just combined. Be careful not to over blend.

Transfer scallop mousse to a small bowl. Chop fine remaining scallops and stir into mousse with white corn, red bell pepper, scallion, and coriander.

Put about 1 tablespoon filling in center of 1 wrapper and moisten edge of wrapper. Gather edge of wrapper up and around filling, pleating edge. Gently squeeze middle of gyoza to form a waist, keeping filling level with top of wrapper.

Make 17 more gyozas in same manner and arrange on a tray dusted lightly with cornstarch. Gyozas may be made up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with plastic wrap.

In a large non-stick skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and fry gyoza bottoms until golden, about 1 minute. Add water and steam gyozas, covered, 3 to 4 minutes, or until filling is springy to touch. Remove lid and cook the gyozas until liquid is evaporated and bottoms are recrisped.

Serve gyozas with vinaigrette and garnish with coriander.

Eric Newman is an author for Teanobi.com where you can find fresh green tea and more.

Recipe: Newport Lobster Hiyashi Soba

Soba Noodles

Soba Noodles

Newport Lobster Hiyashi Soba

Ingredients:

Sauce:

* 5 tablespoons rice vinegar

* 7 tablespoons chicken broth

* 5 tablespoons light sodium soy sauce

* 1 tablespoon sesame oil

* 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Noodles:

* 4 packages of soba noodles (8 oz to 9 oz each)

* 1 tablespoon of sesame oil

* 1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds

Meat and vegetable toppings:

* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

* 2 medium eggs beaten

* 2 Japanese cucumbers

* 1 red bell pepper

* 1 yellow bell pepper

* 1/2 lb lobster meat

* 4 tablespoons shredded Japanese nori

* 4 teaspoons of Japanese red pickled ginger

Prep Time: 30 min

Cooking Time: 20 min

Instructions:
To make sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil. Pour liquid through a strainer to remove ginger and allow to cool in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, boil the soba noodles according to the directions provided on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add sesame oil and sesame seeds to noodles, mix in well, cover and chill in refrigerator.

Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil. Wipe excess oil from pan with paper towel if needed. Lower heat. Pour in egg batter and tilt the pan so the liquid is evenly distributed. Pop any air bubbles with a fork. Cook low for about 40 sections until the edges are dry and egg crepe pulls from pan. Flip over with a spatula and cook for a few more seconds until done. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Julienne sive the Japanese cucumber, lobster meat, egg crepe, and bell peppers. Put on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

When its time to serve, remove the chilled plates, noodles, and toppings from refrigerator. Place a serving of noodles on each dish. Arrange the even section of lobster, yellow pepper, cucumber, egg, and red pepper around the center of the noodles. Place a mound equivalent to one teaspoon of picked ginger in the center of the noodle dish.

Drizzle about 1/4 cup of sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle equivalent to one tablespoon of shredded nori over entire dish and serve.

For those who prefer a tangy flavor, sake can be added to taste.

 

Eric Newman is an author for Teanobi.com where you can find fresh green tea and more.

 

Ramen: Noodle Soup Redefined

Japanese Ramen

Japanese Ramen

I’ve been talking about so many rice-based Japanese food, that I nearly forgot that Japanese cuisine plays quite nicely with noodles as well. Ramen is an internationally notorious soup dish that contains Chinese-styled wheat noodles. Many Japanese innovations owe much of their fame to China, and Ramen is no exception. Ramen originated from China, and though the source of the name is debated, it is said to come from the Chinese word “la main” that means “hand pulled noodles.” Until the 1950s the dish was known in Japan as “Shina Soba,” meaning “Chinese buckwheat noodles.” (The term is apparently considered derogatory by Chinese.) The pivotal year in Ramen history was 1958, when instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando. Instant Ramen just from adding boiling water into a cup. I wish I could think of such things.

Although Ramen usually comes garnished with many toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, green onions, “Kamaboko”, and corn, it’s categorized and judged on quality primarily on the basis of the two fundamental components: soup and noodles. Thus there are several variations of Ramen one can find in Japan. The noodles can come in various lengths and shapes: Thin, thick, curly or straight. Ramen is further divided into the following four categories based on the soup type:

Shoyu
Prepared using plenty of soy sauce. Soup is a thick brown colored broth. Shoyu Ramen is tangy, savory and salty.

Shio
This is one of the oldest versions of Ramen soup, based on salt. It’s considered the simplest and lightest of all the soups, though its variation, “Shio-Butter,” is probably a bit more hearty (and tastier…).

Tonkotsu
Tonkotsu translates literally to “pork bone.” Soup is a cloudy white colored broth. Definitely one of the more heavy soups.

Miso
Miso Ramen is the newest version of Ramen which was developed in Hokkaido. Its broth features a combination of abundance of Miso with oily chicken. Tonkotsu or lard is added to the soup to make it thicker and slightly sweeter.

Goma
Goma Ramen has a thick and strong-tasting soup based on white sesame seeds. This isn’t one of the more traditional types of Ramen, and cannot be found in any Japanese restaurant, but I strongly urge you to seek it out.

When you get the chance to visit Japan, you can indulge yourself in the world of Ramen by paying a visit to the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, established in 1994. Although, if you were to ask me, I would rather spend my time on a Ramen-tasting quest for Japan’s best Ramen joint.

 

Josh Shulman, Author of “All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen” [ http://www.allyoucanjapan.com ]

All-You-Can Sushi in Japan

Sushi

Sushi

When we think of Japan, sushi is probably one of the first things that come to mind. It may come as a surprise to you that this world-renowned Japanese food has an inspiring slum dog-to-millionaire history. The sushi that we all enjoy today has its historical roots in fermented fish and rice dishes, but the contemporary version is based on a fast-food dish that catered to Tokyo theater-goers and passers-by in the late 1700s, precisely because it consisted of non-fermented fish. This was known as “Edomae Nigirzushi,” that utilized fish caught in Tokyo (Edo, back then) Bay.

Most people don’t realize that the name “sushi” refers to the vinegar-rice – not the raw fish. In other words, sushi with raw fish, fresh cucumbers, or even cooked eel, is all sushi because it is accompanied (or accompanies, rather) that sweet-sour-and-bitter sushi rice we all love. If you’re only interested in the raw fish, no problem – just ask for sashimi.

Japanese sushi comes in several shapes and forms. Interestingly, you don’t see sushi in roll form (“maki”) nearly as often in a Japanese sushi restaurant as you would in a Western sushi joint. In Japan, expect to have mostly “nigiri” sushi – a hand-formed piece of rice, topped with a fish or veggie and a dab of wasabi or other toppings. Just as an anecdote, “nigiri” sushi evolved from a popular street food where rice and fish were pressed together into a bamboo box.

Prices vary even more. Today, you can easily pay ¥30,000 for a 3-star Michelin experience for 20 pieces of sushi at the famous Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo’s Ginza Station (featured in the film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”), or get small boxed sushi at a convenience store for ¥250. At the cheap end there are the ¥100 per plate “kaitenzushis,” or “running sushi.” The price, however, does not necessarily reflect the taste, because sushi is mostly about the rice – and rice isn’t expensive. The price tends to correlate with the freshness of the fish, as well as its serving size. Either way, you are sure to find a sushi eatery that fits your fancy (and your budget).

If you’re new to sushi eating in Japan, here are some helpful tips:

1. The green tea and the fresh ginger serve as palate cleansers. So take a drink and a bite between your delectable sushi. I say this ginger-tea combo is better than the French counterpart of cheese and wine. My French friend agrees.

2. It’s equally acceptable to eat sushi with chopsticks and with your fingers. If you’re not comfortable with the former, there’s no need to embarrass yourself.

3. When dipping sushi in soy sauce, make sure you dip the topping, and not the rice. Adding soy sauce to rice in Japan is offensive, especially if it’s specially treated sushi rice.

Travel smart: Get the real Japanese experience without breaking your wallet!

All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen http://www.allyoucanjapan.com

Top 7 Bizarre Japanese Foods – Eat Them or Leave Them!

Natto - Fermented Soy Beans

Natto – Fermented Soy Beans

Japanese cuisine has been heavily exported around the world, with Japanese restaurants popping up on a daily basis in the Western world. Sushi is arguably the most well known Japanese dish, and most restaurants indeed end up being centered around it. Throughout my blog I’ve been introducing you to many alternative dishes and praising the Japanese cuisine for its wide variety and tastes that are comparable to none. However, Japanese dishes are not always user-friendly. There are several bizarre foods originating from Japan, for which the taste is… acquired with time. These usually don’t end up on your plate in your local Japanese restaurants. Here are the top seven (not necessarily in order of bizarreness):

1. Natto
Are you brave enough to gulp down food that gives out an aroma of old gym socks that haven’t been washed for a decade? Natto is a food item that is made from fermented soybeans. Think slimy, sticky beans in a small Styrofoam container, looking like they have been kept there for several generations. It’s actually one of the healthiest dishes the Japanese cuisine can offer. Usually, Natto is served for breakfast on top of hot white rice, together with a special sauce and a hint of mustard. Sometimes Japanese people mix in raw egg to the dish just to add to its bizarreness. I find the whole thing delicious.

2. Umeboshi Plums
If you think lemon heads are sour, you must have not heard about or tasted Umeboshi Plums yet. These salty and sour pickled plums range in variety from small to large, and from juicy and soft to rather dry and hard. Some may seem quite innocent, and actually hit you with their sourness only after a few seconds, causing you to make a run for the nearest ocean for relief.

3. Inago
Inago – a great appetizer consisting of small brown crispy crickets/grasshoppers on your plate! These friendly creatures are marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sake and then dried. The handsome grasshoppers have all their internal and external organs and heads left intact for you to swallow down as well.

4. Shishamo
First of all, Shishamo is practically impossible to be eaten with chopsticks. These small fish of about 15cm tall get grilled before you find them on your table with their head and tail intact. Actually not all that bizarre considering the other stuff on the list here.

5. Mozuku
Pick a few hairs from your scalp and examine the stringy cluster to understand how Mozuku looks like. Mozuku is a type of seaweed generally served cold with vinegar dip. Absolutely mouthwatering. These algae from Okinawa are very nutritious, with many Mozuku-based supplements now being marketed.

6. Dried Octopus or Squid
You just need to open the food packet to know why this food item has been added to this list. The octopus and squid are seasoned and dried in rings or shreds, looking nothing like their original forms. The dried and chewy food is served as a snack to go along with beer. Nowadays it’s easy to find these in Asian food grocers around the world. Try them, they go great with beer.

7. Konnyaku
The dish is made from the wild Konnyaku potato. If you are a dieter, this dish is for you, as it has practically zero calories and is devoid of sugar, fats, protein, and also almost any taste. It is magically filling, however. Eating this slippery and bouncy chunk of gelatin definitely will make you feel weird. Konnyaku is usually a part of Japanese stews and soups, including Oden (remember that?). By the way, yet another dish virtually impossible to grab with chopsticks.

 

Josh Shulman, Author of “All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen” www.allyoucanjapan.com

Okonomiyaki – The Japanese Pancake That Has it All

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

An attractive, prosperous and busy city, Hiroshima is the home to a plethora of sightseeing destinations and so attracts thousands of travelers from all over the world. Your visit to Hiroshima, Japan is incomplete without enjoying several of its regional food specialties. Okonomiyaki, literally meaning “fry what you like,” is the most flavorsome item of Japan, specifically in Western parts of the country. Though it is not easy to describe how it exactly looks like, you can view it as something sandwiched between pancake and pizza.

The pancake mix is based on spring onion, flour, cabbage (the secret ingredient), and egg, but the best thing is that you are free to add anything that you like – hence the name. Most often, you will find squid and pork Okonomiyaki in Japanese restaurants, but a few also offer special toppings like rice cake, cheese, shrimp and beef, or all of the above. It’s definitely a low-budget food so go ahead and pig out.

You can prepare this extremely luscious item in two ways – Hiroshima style and Osaka style. While the more mainstream Osaka style fries the mixture and toppings all together inside the pan, in Hiroshima the constituents are not mixed up, but rather cooked separately and only then combined. In Hiroshima, each and every constituent is first piled in order and then noodles are placed in between.

Sauce has its own importance in the food item. The sauce color is dark brown and the taste is crisp, which many add on the Okonomiyaki together with mayonnaise. When the dish is all ready, an egg is sometimes cracked on a griddle and it gets rolled over the top of the Okonomiyaki. To add more to the taste, it is recommended to sprinkle dried bonito flakes and nori (seaweed) at the end. Noodles make an important ingredient of the dish, and so are included usually as well.

Most interestingly, Okonomiyaki is more of a cultural thing than a Japanese culinary treat. Since Okonomiyaki cooking is entirely free-style and involves a central pan into which anybody can throw practically any topping, “Okonomiyaki Parties” are quite popular. These normally include a good amount of alcohol, Okonomiyaki till you pop, and some Japanese entertainment (check out the Usavich animation series).

When traveling in Japan, make sure you never decline an invitation to an Okonomiyaki party, or at least order one of these Japanese pancakes at a restaurant (the cheap price without doubt underestimates their heavenly taste). Or, just hop on a Shinkansen bullet train and have some of the famous Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. There’s actually an entirely multiple-story building dedicated to it, packed with small, budget-friendly Okonomiyaki shops.

 

Josh Shulman, Author of All-You-Can Japan
http://smartjapantravel.wordpress.com

Japanese Breakfast of Champions

Tamago Gohan

Tamago Gohan

If you want to live past 50, better lay down your spoon and flush the cereal down the drain. Throw out all the Pop-tarts while you are at it. Japan boasts an average life expectancy of 82.6 years, and it all starts out with breakfast.

Modern Japanese breakfast has become somewhat similar to Western cultures, consisting of boiled or fried eggs and toast. These days even cereals are becoming quite popular. But the traditional breakfast that has been giving Japanese society the strength to endure the never-ending “Salary-man” workdays or the harsh farming and fishing lifestyles is quite different from what you may be used to.

Traditional Japanese breakfast always consists of rice as it is the staple food of the country. Alongside the rice or on top of it you will find various seafood and fermented foods. One very popular and healthy rice topping is “Natto” that I described in one of my earlier posts. These are fermented soybeans, first seasoned with mustard and soy sauce before placing the slimy and smelly clump on the steamed rice. Absolutely disgusting, and will put your adventurousness to the test – until you get used to it. I personally love it. Other seafood items on Japanese breakfast menus include dried horse mackerel, known as “Aji” or broiled salted salmon fish.

“Tamago Gohan” is another Japanese breakfast favorite, and can be easily and quickly whipped up. Take a bowl of steamed sticky white round rice, break a raw egg into it, add some soy sauce, and mix everything up. Consume with strips of “Nori” – Japanese dried seaweed – or specifically “Ajitsuke-nori” for extra flavored seaweed. If that sounds a little too much, perhaps the “Tamagoyaki,” a Japanese version of a rolled omelet, will be more to your liking.

Some prefer to take “Okayu,” a type of congee or thick rice soup, as part of their breakfast. This Japanese dish is very nutritious and easy to digest. Okayu is often served with toppings such as onions, fish eggs, and “Umeboshi” – a pickled plum. “Miso” stock can also be used to flavor the Okayu, though Miso soup is often a component of Japanese breakfasts anyway. The soup includes hooped green onion, tofu, “Wakame” seaweed and numerous herbs.

“Can I at least have my cup of Joe,” you ask? Hey, something has to get you going in the morning, right?

Josh Shulman, Author of “All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen” http://www.allyoucanjapan.com

Mochi – Japanese Rice Cakes

Mochi

Mochi

Japanese food is a combination of art and taste. Its cuisine has a distinct flavor and appearance. Lot of importance is given to the aesthetic and pleasing presentation of the food and you can get a feel of the season and the mood of the chef too. It is even believed that the food possesses a soul.

How to Make Mochi

“Mochi” is a Japanese rice cake made by pounding steamed glutinous rice (also known as pearl rice, sticky rice or botan rice) with wooden mortars and pestles, then cut into blocks or molds. The sticky quality of the rice allows it to harden quickly. The flattened and cut pieces are cast into rectangular or round shapes and are readily available in the market. The hardened rice cakes can be then boiled, fried or grilled, as they soften back into sticky substance with a crispy crust. They solidify quickly so they are to be eaten while hot (usually with some soy sauce), but make sure to pace yourself as there is a grave danger of choking. Yes, choking. Good food comes with a price.

Mochi is used in traditional celebrations as well in Japan. It is used as an ingredient for a soup called “Zoni” eaten on Japanese New Year’s Day, and even to decorate Japanese homes (not the soup, the Mochi). During the spring and autumn equinoxes, when the day and night are at equal length, sweet Mochi rice balls are cooked and relished while gazing up at the moon, imagining rabbits that are said, according to folklore, to be pounding Mochi rice.

These rice cakes are used in various recipes, but the best by far is grilling small pieces that are wrapped in bacon. Ask for “Mochi-Bacon” at Yakitori restaurants or Japanese Izakaya pubs. You simply cannot go wrong with bacon…and mochi.

Josh Shulman, Author of All-You-Can Japan [ http://www.smartjapantravel.wordpress.com ]

Japanese Food – Yakisoba Recipe

Yakisoba

Yakisoba

Looking for something uniquely Japanese to eat and want it fast? Yakisoba is the answer. It’s a traditional Japanese dish that is very easy to prepare. Yakisoba is basically pan fried noodles. It is a commoner’s food, not very fancy, and it’s usually prepared as a snack or as picnic food. The noodles used in this dish are not regular noodles, but buck wheat noodles. These are thicker and darker than the Chinese Chow-Mien noodles, and are much healthier. Careful though, because most of the buck wheat noodles sold in stores are not made from 100% buck wheat, but rather mixed with regular wheat.

Yakisoba Recipe:

So the ingredients that you will need to cook this mouthwatering treat are: Thinly cut cabbage, pickled ginger, dried green seaweed, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and finely chopped pork or squid. Add oil into a frying pan and toss in the finely chopped meat and cabbage. When they are cooked take them out of the pan. Next, put in the noodles to fry. Meanwhile, mix together the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup with a spoon in a small bowl. Once the noodles are fried for a few minutes, add the sauce mix and with it the previously fried cabbage and meat. Stir everything up, remove onto a plate and garnish with some pickled ginger and dried green seaweed. Voila!

Yakisoba tastes best when served hot. To make the dish more interesting you can use different sauces like chili, soy sauce, and even sweeten it with some honey or sugar. Instead of pork/squid you are free to experiment with chicken, tofu or shrimp. Toss in some more vegetables like onion, cabbage, snow peas, capsicum, carrots or anything else you can think of for that matter. As with any other food in Japan, this can be bought already prepared in supermarkets and convenience stores, or in an instant cooking form.

 

Josh Shulman, Author of All-You-Can Japan [smartjapantravel.wordpress.com]

Photo used under the CC license, credit: http://flickr.com/photos/80378665@N00/4568230523.

The Eternal Battle – Shabu-Shabu Vs Yakiniku

Shabu-Shabu

Shabu-Shabu

Popularly known as the ‘Land of Rising Sun’, Japan is a vibrant country that offers infinite options for eager holidaymakers and adventurous travelers. As I have always claimed, the most important aspect of Japanese travel is its huge culinary variety. Many scrumptious dishes of this country are popular across the world for their amazing flavor and serving style, but since most people are familiar with and/or have tried only sushi (and perhaps the dishes I’ve described in earlier posts), I would like to announce a fresh culinary battle: Shabu-Shabu vs. Yakiniku. These two Japanese food items are guaranteed to leave you mesmerized till the next time you travel in Japan (yes, there will most definitely be a next time).

Shabu-Shabu, literally translating to “swish-swish,” is an item where thinner, usually higher quality slices of meat are “swished” momentarily inside large pots containing steaming water, or seaweed (“combu”), or salt based soup. They are instantly cooked, after which they are dipped into one of many sauces, “tare,” to choose from – vinegar, sesame, salt, and more. As usual, a bowl of hot white rice cooked to perfection is always there, held in the palm of your free hand – or in my case gulped down immediately and waiting for seconds. Besides the meat, Shabu-Shabu restaurants offer seafood and vegetables as well to cook inside the pots. When done eating, if still hungry and/or drunk, it is a Japanese custom to add rice or noodles to the now rich tasting soup to finish off the meal – and fight off the following day’s hangover.

Yakiniku is another popular Japanese way of preparing bite sized meat and veggies on griddles. It is actually a Korean-style barbecue, thus more widely known. With Yakiniku, translating to “fried meat,” small pieces of meat (not as thin as Shabu-Shabu), mainly beef and pork, together with raw vegetables are cooked on a grill platter throughout the period of meal, few pieces at a time. Then, these mouth-watering chunks of meat are plunged in the sauce/tare, which is made of soy sauce mixed with fruit juice, garlic, sugar and sake. Once prepared, Yakiniku is served with…yep, rice, as well as with Korean side dishes like Yukhoe and Kimchi. This luscious Japanese dish goes oh too well with beer – be careful.

Due to the increasing popularity of these two culinary items of Japan, sometimes it seems like there is a sort of competition going on between the two, but perhaps I could be making that up to dramatize things. That being said, they do compete for the same niche of party or celebration meals, as both are relatively expensive (Shabu-Shabu more than Yakiniku). Interestingly, some people prefer Shabu-Shabu for lunch, while leaving Yakiniku for dinner. I would say that Yakiniku and Japanese restaurants serving it are more tourist-friendly, and many relate more to the stronger taste of fried BBQ meat. On the other hand, you would have to look much harder than your local Korea-town for an authentic Shabu-Shabu experience.

So, what will it be?

 

Josh Shulman, Author of All-You-Can Japan (http://smartjapantravel.wordpress.com)

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