But I did.
Trust me, I didn’t succumb to the traditional sushi rolls.
Instead, I had a delicious raw sushi roll at Organic Lives. Completely inauthentic, it was filled with a pecan pate, sprouts, veggies, avocado and mango. With the zippy fruit-based dipping sauce, it was so completely different from any sushi roll I have ever had. The only similarity was that it was a nori roll wrap.
Once the hubbub subsided after I returned home, I was craving a more traditional sushi roll. Without all the hard work of actually rolling the little buggers…
When I visited Japan, one of my favourite meals was eating sashimi at the Tsukiji Market, which is the wholesale marketplace for seafood in Tokyo. With daily auctions, this is where you can eat the freshest fish. The sashimi was unbeatable. I have never been able to enjoy sea urchin anywhere else. So fresh, it was so buttery soft and creamy.
I actually visited Tsukiji two days in a row and sampled sashimi from two different vendors. Both times, I ordered a sushi bowl with an assortment of sashimi. One resto had better sashimi and the other had better rice. The rice was so good, it eclipsed the fish. And I don’t really like rice, actually. I consider it filler in sushi rolls, when I would rather be eating the filling. I tolerate rice for the most part, but here, I learned how great rice can taste.
I have experimented with a few rices since my return, and I still remain partial to a short-grain Japanese-style rice. Recently, I bought the Taiwanese Yih Chuan Aromatic Rice, which has a faint aroma of taro (yes, on sale at T&T). It brings rice to the next level. The rice is nicely flavoured, shaped and most importantly, tastes great.
My whole preamble about rice is because if you are going to make a sushi rice bowl, you should try to use a nice rice! The dressing helps, too. The toppings, too. But let the rice get the spotlight it deserves as it isn’t supposed to be a bland side.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, I wouldn’t call this an authentic Japanese recipe, but a lively citrus-flavoured sushi bowl. Top with your favourite sushi toppings such as steamed asparagus, avocado, grilled tofu, and dare I suggest mango? (Mango, next time…). The key to keep this a sushi bowl, and not a rice salad, though, is to include the toasted nori strips. You can buy them pre-shredded, but you could also toast the nori and then cut it into thin strips yourself.
When you eat alone, you may eat things that are odd. Cereal for dinner? I did that one too many times while in university. So quick and easy! Unless you are making steel cut oatmeal, regular or quick cooking oatmeal falls into the same category: quick and easy meal. Since exploring savoury oatmeal for breakfast, I didn’t think twice about whipping up a batch of oatmeal after coming home from Vancouver and then again for breakfast the next day. I was craving something warm and homey, after eating a lot of raw foods last week.
With Vancouver still on my mind (the sushi capital of Canada), I decided to spice up my ponzu-flavoured savoury oatmeal with strips of toasted nori and goji berries. Seemingly odd ingredients, but all hailing from somewhere in Asia, it worked really well together! The goji berries plumped up nicely and offered a hint of sweetness with some chewiness. The nori brought a comforting sushi-flavour to the dish, the citrus from the ponzu was light and refreshing and the quick-cooking oatmeal was slightly lumpy, but in a good reminds-me-of-rice kind of way.
I have been experimenting with more unusual ingredients lately: maca, delicious! Carob, yup. And now goji berries. Can I blame Tess’ new cookbook all about superfoods? Perhaps… but blame isn’t the right word, praise is more like it. :) While I also believe that common fruits and vegetables are superfoods with all their vitamins and minerals, it is nice to spice things up with new ingredients. Taste is the most important, though, which is something I will never sacrifice (the health benefits of goji berries may be overstated).
But let me share a secret: these wacky “superfoods” don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Even seaweed (nori, etc) and dried mushrooms can be expensive at health food stores. However, people have been eating seaweed and goji berries for years. Head to where they are native to find cheap supplies – and no, I don’t mean China. Head to Chinatown or your favourite Asian grocery store (Sunny!). Here, goji berries may be labelled as red medlar, though, which is why they have gone under my radar until now. Goji berries are so much cheaper, only a buck or two, whereas I know Whole Foods charges a lot more.
While goji berries are a bit lackluster straight from the bag – they taste like a tart cherry in the guise of a dried raisin – they are much better once they are plumped up in the oatmeal. Because they aren’t cloyingly sweet like most dried fruit, this paired well with the savoury nori and ponzu sauce.
Sometimes greens go on sale, so when T&T had 2 bunches of watercress on sale for 88 cents, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying a new green. I didn’t even know what I wanted to make, but I knew it would come to me.
Of course, greens can easily be interchanged. Baby spinach may be sweeter, but Swiss chard could work as well. Want something with more bite? Add arugula. Want something with an even stronger peppery snap? Try watercress!
I love Japanese food because it highlights simplicity while balancing all the major tastes (bitter, sour, sweet, hot, salty, and delicate). While most of the Japanese dishes I make play more on the sweet side, I loved the change of pace with this more earthy stir-fry.
Adapted from ExtraVeganZa, I fooled around with the veggies, but the essence of the dish was the same. I swapped watercress for the spinach, used more shiitake mushrooms and edamame beans, and added in snow peas. The primary flavours were ginger as well as the earthy-flavour from the dulse (a kind of seaweed).
My only initial complaint was from the cornstarch, because I don’t really like it. It was more noticeable when the dish was eaten fresh, less so as leftovers. I found it important to deglaze the pan, although next time I would omit it and deglaze with less liquid. Otherwise, it was fine as leftovers. :)
Not sure watercress will make it into my backyard garden, though, as it doesn’t seem to be suitable without lots of water!
My mom has been reading my blog from the beginning. My dad, not so much. Last summer, he saw the picture of Silken Tofu Topped with Enoki Mushrooms and told me it looked awful. Maybe he said it looked gross. I can’t remember. To me, the picture reminded me how great the dish was. I saw the taste that I remembered, that I enjoyed, so I didn’t think it looked “gross”. Granted, enoki mushrooms are odd-looking things to the uninitiated. My mom still raves about one of my first photos of enoki mushrooms, and how alien-like they look. Attack of the mushrooms!!
Personally, I love enoki mushrooms and they are definitely one of my favourite mushrooms. They have a delicate flavour so the rest of the dish is what matters most. It is a shame they haven’t hit mainstream grocers just yet. I usually pick them up at T&T when they go on sale, but yes, my new favourite grocery store, Sunny Supermarket, also sells them. On sale to boot- 2 packages for $2!
I wanted to try something that highlighted the mushroom, instead of adding them to a stew. I spotted a great recipe in Kansha, the new vegetarian cookbook by Andoh, who also provided the original recipe for Silken Tofu Topped with Enoki Mushrooms in Washoku. The original recipe was a vegetable side but I decided to beef it up by doubling the vegetable portion and serving it overtop chunks of silken tofu as a main dish.
The prep was quite labour intensive if you follow Andoh’s suggestion of making thin matchsticks of carrots and ginger. I did it all by hand since I don’t have a spiralizer (yet). It made for a nice texture that complemented the enoki mushrooms really well, but since everything was stir-fried, I feel that simply shredding the carrots would be equally as good and way easier to do. But the taste, the taste was great. Andoh’s recipes are more subtle, not in your face, which is what I love. It was simple, tasty and completely Japanese. The zip from the ginger was great with the silky background of the delicate enoki mushrooms and silken tofu.
This is my submission to E.A.T. World for Japan.
I can and it tastes like this salad. It is light, fresh and filled with green vegetables bursting with flavour.
It may have been snowing this week, but I felt the the need to bring spring back into my cooking.
Unfortunately, my own pea shoots are still too small to harvest, so I went back to T&T to pick up some more pea shoots for an instant boost of spring.
Inspired by Gourmet (June 1994), the base of this salad comes from pea shoots, which are sweet like peas with a nice body from the stems and delicate leaves. I topped it with fresh sweet sugar snap peas, edamame and carrots and coated it in a subtle sesame dressing. The star of this dish are the veggies, not the dressing.
The thing I love about this salad, though, besides its mouthful of spring, is that it is a very satisfying salad. Deceivingly so, it fills you up. The edamame really helps to increase the fat and protein levels. While each serving of this salad has only 180 calories, it also boasts 11g of protein, 22g of carbohydrates (7g fiber) and 7g of fat. That is something everyone could use from a salad!
This is my submission to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for this week’s Magazine Mondays, to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, as well as to April in the Raw (substituting some of the toasted elements, and not cooking the edamame).
Last week was a bit of a tease.I was lamenting how it would be months before I could take my bike out. I was shocked when the weather turned around completely, with a few gorgeous spring days with highs around 15C. I quickly brought my bike into the shop to get its annual tune up, and was commuting to work earlier this week. Only to have snow come again the following day. It was such a slap in the face to have spring yanked out from under my bicycle tires!
No use sulking, as there are still lots of great things winter provides, like hearty soups and stews. There are many dishes to warm up the soul when outside is so cold.
Like this Japanese Stew. While I am usually leery of making Japanese recipes from a non-Japanese cookbook, I still ventured to make a Japanese Winter Stew I found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health. I swapped the veggies around, though, for a more authentic feel (power to random purchases from Chinatown!), but really, you could throw in any seasonal vegetable. I kept the sweet potato and tofu, but I substituted daikon for the turnip, added in 100g of chopped enoki mushrooms and used 4 oz baby spinach instead of mustard greens. I then topped each serving with chopped green onions and drizzled with a touch of toasted sesame oil. This is a powerhouse of a winter stew, overflowing with vegetables, yet with the comforting miso taste but zippy from the chili flakes and ginger. It balances out so nicely, which is what Japanese cuisine is all about.
I find most food bloggers have very positive opinions about their food. They generally always love it.
Personally, I try to share recipes that I have loved, as well as normal, and the not-as-great ones. It helps to gauge how great I think the great recipes are. I also keep a list of my favourites for easy identification. I got a bit of flack for calling my Turkish bulgur salad with pomegranate and almonds the best salad ever, but truth be told, it was also called the best salad ever from the blog that I found it on. It also deserves the title. :)
I like to try other food bloggers’ favourite recipes. A while back, Ashley listed her favourite tofu dishes, and I was eager to try her Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant, adapted from the Rebar cookbook. With a lemon, miso and wasabi dressing (I substituted Aleppo chili flakes), I knew it would be tasty. The key is to press your tofu so it can absorb a lot of the marinade. As Ashley suggested, I made this with an overnight marinade for the tofu. I used the same dressing for the eggplant the following day, and in no time, it was ready to be baked for a quick meal. I preferred the tofu with the marinade the most, but it also worked well with the eggplant. Feel free to use your favourite vegetable. A good, tasty tofu recipe.
I was waiting patiently all summer. My heirloom tomato plants were late bloomers, you see. I ate a few tomatoes here and there when I noticed them earlier in the season, but nothing that I could harvest as a meal. Now my plants have a lot of tomatoes for the picking.
This is fusion cuisine at its best, where the classic Italian flavours from the caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar) are infused with Japanese flair.
First, a portion of small cherry tomatoes are poached, lightly cooked and skinned. The remainder remain raw and are halved. The textural contrast, with the skinned poached tomatoes and the raw crisp tomatoes was wonderful. Heirloom tomatoes, with their varying colours and tastes work really well with the mix (my green zebra tomatoes were the most sweet of all!).
Next, the traditional buffalo mozzarella is replaced with silken tofu. I realize this is sacrilegious to the purists. My brother ate caprese salad every day throughout this honeymoon in Italy, it was that good. Buffalo mozzarella can be a difficult find, and to be honest, I really liked the silken tofu as it sopped up the extra dressing. It was light, tasty and incredibly filling. This was a main meal salad, especially when I added the baby arugula.
The typical basil is replaced with shiso, which is a Japanese herb that tastes similar to mint. I decided to pluck basil from my balcony instead of searching out shiso.
The dressing was changed from a heavier balsamic to a light sherry vinaigrette with deep tones from the sesame oil and soy sauce. Now I knew this was a definitely a Japanese interpretation.
This is a tad more work than a standard salad, but trust me when I say the poaching of the tomatoes are worth it. The variety of both flavours and textures are remarkable. Together, we have a delicious salad.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to My Kitchen, My World, featuring Japanese dishes this month, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Dil Se, and to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring sesame.
This weekend, I might die. Hopefully, not literally. But I am nuts. I hope I can still stand on Monday.
All summer, I have been training to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall and back again. A double imperial century, or 320km. A double metric century, 240km, if we chicken out. Either path will be difficult.
A few of my latest training runs have been cancelled due to rain, so I am hoping that the weather will be nice (no rain, no wind) this weekend. Last I checked, everything was good to go, but nothing matters except the weather on the day. Heck, on Monday it wasn’t supposed to rain either, but at 9am, after 3km, it started to rain. We took shelter for an hour to re-evaluate. It continued to rain. We watched another episode of Dexter. By this time, we decided to forego my last 120km training ride and hit the pool instead.
While loading up on carbohydrates hasn’t been proven to work as well in women, I have been scouting out high carb meals this week. Oatmeal sprinkled with pomegranate molasses, is a new favourite for breakfast. Welcoming pasta back into the mix, including this Japanese-inspired noodle dish I found at 101 Cookbooks.
It was a simple dish with subtle flavours. I thought the ginger would overpower the dish, but it blended seemlessly with the noodles and broccoli. The mint and basil worked well together with the chili flakes in this Japanese dish.
If I was truly carb-loading, I would omit the tofu (72% carbs) but I think tofu adds a certain filling factor, so I kept it in. Good thing I am a woman! ;)
This is my submission to Regional Recipes, featuring dishes from Japan, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook, to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Abby of eat the right stuff and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I know tofu gets a bad rap, but I rather enjoy it. It sops up flavours while cooking and can be molded into many different directions. One of my favourite kinds of tofu is silken tofu. I still remember the first time I tried it; my friend added it to an orzo soup simply because it was close to its best before date. The tofu was cut into small pieces and every time I ate a piece of tofu, I felt like I was eating from a cool cloud, a pillow of silkiness – in a good way! It was my first introduction to tofu and I was hooked. I started adding it to my soups, too, and cold noodle salads.
This is one of my favourite dishes, especially when enoki mushrooms are on sale, as the silky, melt-in-your-mouth tofu is paired with pale, tender, enoki mushrooms smothered in a delicate, subtle dashi broth flavoured with soy sauce, mirin and sake. It is a snap to put together but it is important to warm the tofu so that it is heated all the way through. This is simplicity at its finest, very much the quintessential trait of Japanese cuisine. Depending on the mushroom you choose, this dish vary from delicate as I described with the enoki mushrooms, to more robust with maitake mushrooms.
Enoki mushrooms are hands-down my favourite mushroom and here is another lovely summer dish for enoki mushrooms: Enoki somen.
It is my pleasure to join the Washoku Warriors this month, featuring our favourite dish from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh (the original recipe is posted here). I am also submitting it for this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole.
I have a love/hate relationship with restaurants. I love trying new foods, but hate the heavy cost, of both funds and calories, that typically go hand-in-hand with restaurant meals. Plus, as I get more adventurous in the kitchen, I feel that I can make it better, cheaper, and healthier if I have the time to experiment. A year ago, I thought Japanese cuisine was impossible to make in my own kitchen, but after getting a few staples, it is easy to make tasty Japanese meals at home.
This post is all about the carrot-ginger-miso appetizer salad you find ubiquitously in Japanese restaurants. I never thought of making it myself until I saw it on Smitten Kitchen, who proclaimed it to be the best salad after adapting it from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP.com. Whiz together a couple of ingredients in your food processor or blender and you have a silky, spicy, creamy, zesty and salty dressing in one. Use it to top lettuce and avocado for a wholesome, delicious, complex veggie treat prior to your main meal.
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month featuring avocados, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Vegetable Marathon featuring carrots as well as to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).
This is another super simple show-stopper of a dish (even simpler than the sinfully delicious mushroom bourguignon) but you need a bit of advance prep. Or in my case, the 5 day miso marinade was perfect when I spotted black cod on sale but already had my meals planned for the beginning of the week. Once you buy fish, you need to cook it soon. But you can wait a bit while it marinades in miso.
This is the popular Black Cod with Miso, made famous by Nobu. I was excited to try it at home after I had it at an overpriced Toronto restaurant, since it was darn tasty. Incredibly tasty! Flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish with a sweet and salty miso sauce. Absolutely heavenly. I knew I could recreate heaven in my kitchen, so off I went.
I ended up skipping the the step to grill the fish, and ended up baking the fish for around 20 minutes. The fish was really good but not as mouth-watering as what I had at the Spice Route. I suppose that is why you pay $23 for the teeniest piece of fish. Next time, I will try to follow the recipe a bit more closely to see if that helps lock in the juices. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious (and pleased even fish haters), I just know it can be better. I am salivating just thinking about the next time. :)
The weather has been fabulous for spring so far in Toronto. A great time to start riding the bike! Warmer weather, though, brings cooler dishes, which is why I loved this dish. It melds a variety of Asian flavours together with my one of my favourite noodles, soba. The fresh green veggies, including baby bok choy, snow peas and spinach, are lightly steamed, then combined with cool silken tofu in chunks and smothered with a ponzu soy sauce.
But what is ponzu? It is an Asian sauce made from mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes and kombu, and occasionally soy-based, with a note of citrus tang from yuzu. But what is yuzu? It is a citrus fruit from East Asia, that looks like a small grapefruit but tastes like grapefruit and mandarin orange. It is difficult to find yuzu here, so it can be substituted with a blend of juices from other citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, etc). There are recipes to make your own ponzu sauce as well but I buy mine from the store.
I have discussed other Asian ingredients and where to find them in Toronto, in previous posts here and here, and ponzu sauce can also be found at Asian markets like Bestwin and T&T. I can’t say I’ve seen it at Loblaws and the like, but I haven’t checked. I found it on amazon as well.
Ponzu sauce is nice as a replacement for soy sauce in many Asian dishes and has the added benefit of less sodium. It is also a great dipping sauce for gyoza (Japanese dumplings).
This dish was adapted from Gourmet (July 2008), and despite having a long ingredient list and many directions, is quite simple to prepare but does leave many dirty dishes to clean. However, it is definitely worth it. You can use an assortment of seasonal Asian vegetables, steam them until crisp but retain their colour (blanch them if you are incredibly worried, but I chose not to dip anything into ice water and it was fine). The noodles can be cooked under the steaming vegetables, to save time. The sauce is nice but the ponzu flavour is not overwhelming. If you cannot find the ponzu sauce, substitute it with a bit more soy sauce, or omit completely. It makes a lot of sauce, which is tasty but could likely also be decreased by 3/4 or more. The crowning touch is the chilled silken tofu which melts in your mouth and brings that coolness to your palate. I found the dish best when served completely chilled the next day as leftovers, when the sauce is added just before serving.
I am submitting this glorious spring dish to a few places this time: my second submission to Health Nut Challenge 5 featuring Cruciferous Vegetables, hosted by Yasmeen Health Nut, to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Thyme for Cooking and to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays.
I love wandering through ethnic grocery stores. There are always fruits and vegetables I don’t recognize. I wonder what they taste like, how to cook them, where they are grown, etc. One of my favourite grocery stores is Bestwin, which I like to describe as a low-cost Asian and Indian grocer. Since I started cooking Japanese, it has been a great way to find affordable Asian ingredients. My goal is actually to try every wacky fruit, vegetable and herb there.
The first one I will tackle is Nira, also known as Chinese chives or Garlic chives. It is in the same family as garlic and is similar to garlic more than chives. It is sold in big bundles but unfortunately doesn’t keep very long. It is common in Asian cooking (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) as well as fusion cuisine. Some other recipes with Nira, that I can’t wait to try, include Miso Soup with Nira, Spring Garlic Chive Soup, Yaki Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings), Japanese Iri Doufu (Scrambled Tofu with Nira), Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Chives, Pancakes with Garlic Chives and Ground Pork, Stir-fried Chinese Chives and Pork, Orecchiette with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes, and Garlic Chives, and Pan seared Halibut with Garlic Chives-Ginger-Coconut Sauce.
I recently got together with a friend who shared delicious Japanese spring rolls at a potluck. It is hard to get excited about spring rolls, but these were special. They were the best spring roll I had ever tasted. I needed to know what went inside those crispy layers, and thankfully she shared it with me. I am not sure what makes them so special, but I think the secret ingredients are the dried shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and nira which balance out the flavours and bring crunch. Enjoy!
As well, this week I am hosting my first blogging event! I have been a fairly regular contributor to Weekend Herb Blogging, and figured it was about time for me to participate as a host. So here I go with WHB #231! These Japanese spring rolls are my contribution this week.
Weekend Herb Blogging, now hosted by Haalo, is all about sharing information and recipes about any herb, fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, seed, flower or plant. For complete rules, check them out here. Otherwise, send me your name, name of dish, post url, location and photo until Sunday, May 2 at 5pm EST at saveur11 AT yahoo DOT ca.
Allow me to introduce to you the yummiest eggplant ever: Baked Asian Eggplant with Miso. I picked up a few Asian eggplants on sale, but this recipe would also work with regular eggplants, although you’d likely need a longer baking time. You basically bake the eggplants until they are soft all the way through, then add a sweet miso paste and broil it to melt it with the sometimes bitter eggplant. Pure heaven. And purely easy. Why bother going to a resto for something you can make so easily at home?