Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Turning Japanese

Dinner was okonomiyaki, daikon pickles, and Japanese cress salad with sesame dressing. It was good. Okonomiyaki is a very yummy Japanese fast food - it's basically a mixed pancake of whatever you want. I ate some really good ones in Kyoto shopping mall food courts a decade or so back. They decorated them with fancy mayo and sauce swirls and spiderwebs - try a google image search...

I added this to my regular repertoire last year, when our temporary housemate, Akiko, taught me how. It's good for using odds and ends of leftovers - ham, bacon, chicken, tuna, prawns, tofu etc. It must include cabbage, but the other ingredients are pretty free. I didn't actually find my proper recipe from Akiko, but I sort of remembered, and it worked OK.

I made a salad with some mixed greens, about half of the greens being Japanese cress. This is like watercress but larger, and even more peppery. You can buy Japanese sesame salad dressing from Asian grocers, but I didn't have any. I improvised with a spoon of tahini, a teaspoon of sesame oil and soy, mixed in to a tablespoon or so of commercial lime vinaigrette. With the pancake, salad and pickles, I'm now well stuffed.

Recipes follow
Recipe 1: Okonomiyaki

1 cup plain flour
1 egg
1 cup dashi
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 wombok cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
5 spring onions, chopped
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 yellow capsicum, shredded
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Japanese mayonnaise
Okonmiyaki sauce
Bonito shavings (optional)

Mix the flour, egg and dashi to a batter, and season with mirin and soy. Beat well to get rid of any lumps. Stir in the cabbage, meat and vegetables. It will look very coarse, not like a smooth pancake at all.

Heat up a tablespoon sesame oil in a smallish non-stick frying pan. Add half the mixture, and cook until golden underneath. Turn over, cook the other side, and then repeat with the other half. Swirl over some Japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce - make pretty patterns if you feel so inclined. Sprinkle on some bonito flakes, if you like them. I do, the bloke doesn't.

Note: If you're lucky & careful it won't break when you turn it, but no harm done if it's in pieces... The specialist ingredients like dashi (stock powder), bonito shavings, mayo and sauce are available quite widely - even in some supermarkets. The sauce is based on hoi sin, and if you don't have any, some hoi sin thinned with soy will do. Or go fusion, and try barbecue sauce.

Recipe 2: Daikon Pickle
1 daikon
1/4 cup salt
3 green chillies
1 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons white sugar

Slice daikon finely into half moons. Sprinkle over salt, then cover with cold water. leave to soak for a few hours. Drain, rinse well, and squeeze out excess moisture. Put in a nonreactive heat resistant container - a large jar, or glass bowl or the like. Chop chillies coarsely and mix in. Bring vinegar, mirin and sugar to boil in a saucepan, stir until sugar is dissolved, then pour over the daikon. Leave for at least 12 hours before using.

This is a fresh pickle, and probably won't keep more than a couple of weeks in the fridge.

P.S. Yes, I know what the song actually refers to. It wasn't quite that good :)

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