Author: Yukari Elliott

I am a Japanese food writer: I contribute regular articles to Japanese food magazines and I have had three cookery books published in Japan. Any business enquiries, please email to yukarishappykitchen@gmail.com

Japanese Style Curry Rice

You may have already had this dish in a restaurant that serves Japanese food. Its origin is actually British ‘curry and rice’ which was introduced to Japan during the Meiji period, therefore it was considered Western food at first.

Nowadays, however, curry rice is one of Japan’s national foods and an all-time popular menu at school diner.

One of the characteristics of Japanese curry is its thick consistency by using roux. A packet of pre-made curry roux slab was on the market in 1954 by a Japanese food manufacturer SB Foods and other manufacturers followed, fiercely advertising their products on TV. Curry became a popular home cooked dish as the sauce was able to be made instantly by dissolving the block of roux. In 1960, confectionary manufacture Grico developed blocks of curry roux using their techniques for making bars of chocolate by incorporating the breakable grids of blocks, like in chocolate, and this style hasn’t changed since.

The first dish I cooked in my life, under the guidance of my mum, was this curry recipe. It’s fairly easy, though you have to know some tricks. For examples, how to prevent burning after adding the roux and how to cook meat succulently.

Once you know these tricks, you can cook delicious Japanese style curry easily for your everyday home meal.

It’s been popular to put breaded chicken fillets on top of curry rice in the UK recently. If you want try the flavour of this, cook the curry following my recipe without potatoes, add readymade bread crumbs that were heated in an oven to crisp on rice, and then pour the curry. The crispiness of the bread crumbs and the curry sauce surprisingly goes well with.

I’m going to put the authentic Japanese curry recipe with a breaded chicken and pork on this blog soon, so watch this space!

Ingredients for 4

500g chicken thighs (deboned)

200g onions

140g carrots

250g potatoes

100g blocks of Japanese curry roux (1 packet)

40g butter

650ml water

Freshly grinded black peppers (optional)

Method

  1. Debone and cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces. Cut the onions in half and then slice thinly. Peel the carrots and chop into chunks. Peel the potatoes and quarter.2016111601
  2. Heat the butter in a large pot and fry the onions. When they become transparent, add the chicken and fry over medium heat until they are coated with the butter.dsc_5101
  3. Add the potatoes and carrots and fry for a further 3 minutes.dsc_5102
  4. Pour the water in the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiled, reduce heat and remove any scum. dsc_5105
  5. Place a lid and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the chicken is cooked.
  6. Add the curry roux and stir until dissolved.dsc_5110
  7. Place a lid and simmer for a further 5 minutes and it’s done.dsc_5112
  8. Arrange cooked rice on one half of the serving plates (the recipe for cooking rice is here). Pour the curry on the other half of the plate.dsc_5114

Key

  • Cut the chicken and the vegetables approximately the same size.
  • Stir-fry the chicken and the vegetables quite well in order to keep their flavours.
  • After adding curry roux, it’s easily burned. Stir frequently from the bottom of the pot in order to prevent burning.

How to cook perfect Japanese rice using a rice cooker

I know that most western people think plain white rice is boring, but we Japanese absolutely love it. Whether you want to serve with a main course, make sushi rolls or a Japanese style lunch box, cooking perfect white rice is crucial. If you cook rice quite regularly, investing in a rice cooker is a good idea, as it guarantees to cook perfect rice every time. After pressing a switch, you can forget about it until it’s done, plus you don’t have to spend a fortune on it – a simple rice cooker is inexpensive and works just fine.

Ingredients for 6 small portions

270g Sushi rice

300ml water

Method

  1. Wash the rice in a bowl. You can use the inner bowl of a rice cooker; just add water in a bowl and give a few stirs with your hand.
  2. Pour out the milky water; gently tilt the bowl and slowly pour the water out. You can use a sieve to drain the water instead.
  3. Repeat the washing and draining 5 times, then transfer to a sieve to drain.
  4. Add the washed rice and water in the inner bowl of a rice cooker. Give it a stir and start cooking.
  5. After the cooking process has finished, allow cooked rice to steam for 10-15minutes, and then serve immediately.

Nabe (hot pot) with salmon and vegetables

Nabe (hot pot) is a favourite for the winter season, and a part of food culture in Japan. During the cold weather, families gather around a nabe (a ceramic pot) on the table, cooking and eating it together.

Cooking nabe is actually quite simple yet the results are superb. You boil vegetables and meat or fish in one pot and enjoy the umami flavours from each ingredient.

I chose the ingredients you can easily get outside of Japan for this recipe.

In order to enjoy the real umami flavours from the ingredients, just salt is added for seasoning, therefore it’s important to choose fresh and high standard ingredients.

Nabe is nutritious yet low in calories. With a variety of ingredients, nabe is a very satisfying dish and ideal when you are watching your weight.

Choose any ingredients you like. You can make a tasty nabe for vegetarians and vegans.

I added dried shitake mushrooms today. When vegetables are dried, their taste intensifies. Although dried vegetables are a part of traditional Japanese food, people rediscovered them as a good way to eat vegetables in recent years in Japan.

You can find dried shitake mushrooms in large supermarkets. Alternatively, you can use other dried mushrooms, or fresh ones. Mushrooms are the essential ingredient for this recipe as they release their umami flavour in this dish.

Except for the mushrooms, you can substitute any other ingredients that you find in your fridge and enjoy your own delicious and healthy nabe!

Ingredients for 4

100g Kale (you can substitute for cabbage or Chinese lettuce)

80g bean sprouts

100g leek, diagonally sliced (you can substitute for spring onion)

200g salmon fillet, cut into bite sized pieces

4 dried shitake mushrooms (3 heaped tbs if they are already sliced)

800ml water

50ml rice wine (or dry sherry, dry white wine)

1 tbs salt (preferably sea salt)

Method

  1. Add the dried shitake mushrooms in the measured water and leave them until soft.
  2. Arrange the kale leaves in a large pot.
  3. Arrange the leak, bean sprouts and salmon on top of the kale. Add the softened shitake and the liquid.dsc_5002
  4. Add the rice wine and salt, then cook over a high heat with the lid on.
  5. Once boiled, lower the heat and simmer until cooked while skimming off any scum on top.dsc_5004

Key

  1. When the ingredients in the pot become scarce, add cooked rice or noodles and simmer further to fully enjoy the soup which is enriched with the umami flavours from the ingredients. It’s the Japanese way!
  2. These foods listed below make delicious nabe. Cut into bite sized pieces and simply add to your pot; Chinese lettuce, cabbage, watercress, bean sprout, carrot, leek, spring onion, any mushrooms, chicken, prawn, cod, mussels and other shellfish

Karaage; quick and easy! Japanese style deep-fried chicken

Karaage, Japanese style deep-fried chicken is one of the nation’s favourites and the great thing is that you can arrange different flavours almost infinitely.

This recipe is for those who love karaage and want to cook them quickly and easily, as it uses chicken breast.

Do you know that Karaage is great with beer? With this recipe, you can make Karaage in no time when you fancy a beer.

Ingredients for 2-3 people

270g chicken breast fillet

80g potato starch

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

[For marinade]

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs rice wine or dry white wine

2 tbs oyster sauce

10g ginger (grated)

1 tbs sesame oil

2 tbs sesame seeds (toasted and grated)

Method

  1. Cut the chicken breast fillet into a large bite sized pieces. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and add all the ingredients for the marinade. Stir well and rub the marinade into the chicken using your hand, then leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Add 50g of the potato starch and rub well, then add the remaining potato starch and rub until the chicken pieces are evenly coated.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan to around 160-170℃. Deep-fry the chicken pieces until they are cooked through and the colour becomes lightly brown.

Onigiri; Japanese rice balls with tuna, chive and ginger

Onigiri, also known as a rice ball, is made of rice often wrapped in a nori seaweed sheet. Because of its portability, onigiri is a popular choice for lunch or a snack, just like a sandwich.

Although you can buy them in shops throughout Japan, onigiri is associated with the nostalgic conception of handmade with love, therefore it’s still regarded as the soul food of Japan.

Use sushi rice or Japanese rice, as they are sticky and stay moist even when cooled down, so the onigiri keeps its shape and remains tasty.

Ingredients for 6 Onigiri (approx. 100g each)

270g Sushi rice

½ tsp salt

300ml water

95g tin of tuna in oil (after squeeze out excess oil from the tuna)

30g chives (finely chopped)

10g ginger (grated)

6 sheets of nori seaweed (cut large sheet to the size that can just wrap the rice ball)

Method

1. Wash the rice in a bowl. You can use the inner bowl of a rice cooker.

*Just add water in a bowl and give a few stirs with your hand.

2. Pour out the milky water.

*Gently tilt the bowl and slowly pour the water out. You can use a sieve to drain the water instead.

3. Repeat the washing and draining 5 times, then transfer to a sieve to drain.

4. Add the washed rice, water and salt in the inner bowl of a rice cooker. Give it a stir and start cooking.

5. After the cooking process has finished, allow cooked rice to steam for 10-15minutes. Add the tuna, ginger and chive, and then mix well. Let the rice cool slightly.

6. Divide the rice, each portion weighing 100g. Form them into a ball shape using both your palms, pressing gently and lightly.

*For a triangular shape, use your palms as a mould by bending your finger from your knuckles on your right hand, and straighten your left hand. Rotate the rice a few times while pressing.

7. Wrap the rice ball with a sheet of nori seaweed.

Tamagoyaki; Japanese style rolled omelette

Tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) is a traditional Japanese dish and a popular choice for bento (a boxed lunch), as well as a side dish for everyday family meals.

There is a special rectangular pan just to make tamagoyaki, however, I’ll be showing you how to make them without using it. I’ll be using simple ingredients and an easy method for this recipe, so why not try making it?

Ingredients for 1 tamagoyaki (for 2-3 people)

3 Eggs

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 ½ tbs vegetable oil

Method

  1. Place a sheet of foil on a bamboo sushi mat.dsc_4658
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl, then add the sugar and soy sauce. Beat well with a whisk.dsc_4657
  3. Heat the oil in a frying-pan over a high heat, and pour the eggs swiftly. dsc_4659
  4. Using a wooden fork or spatula, lightly mix the eggs and gather to make a rectangular shape. Make sure the eggs are coagulated but still soft.dsc_4661
  5. Place the omelette on the foiled mat. dsc_4662
  6. Roll the omelette tightly. Leave it as it is until cooled down, then put it in the fridge to set. Once set, cut it into large bite sized pieces.dsc_4663

Key

A bamboo sushi mat (makisu or makisudare) is a Japanese cooking tool and commonly used to make sushi rolls. It’s made of woven bamboo with cotton string. You can find one at a world food section in a large supermarket or an oriental grocery.

Japanese style pasta with Mushrooms and bacon

You might never have heard of “Japanese style” pasta before.

Although we love Italian pasta dishes in Japan, some of us couldn’t resist experimenting cooking pasta with Japanese ingredients and flavours, mostly with soy sauce.

Japanese style pasta was put on menus since 1958 and has become popular ever since in Japan.

This recipe doesn’t require any special ingredients. Enjoy the rich flavour of the mushrooms, as well as the interesting fusion of butter, vinegar and soy sauce.

 

Ingredients for two

160g Long pasta (such as spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle)

80g Mushrooms (such as brown, portobello, oyster, shiitake or wild)

4 slices Streaky Bacon (85g approx.)

40g Butter

1tbs Soy sauce

1tbs Vinegar

Salad cress

 

Method

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions. Save 3 tbs of the cooking water for later.

 

  1. Cut off the hard tips of the mushrooms, then tear them into a bite-size pieces by hand. Slice the bacon into 1cm wide pieces.

 

  1. Heat the butter in a frying-pan. Add the bacon and mushrooms then stir-fry. Add the cooked pasta and 3 tbs of the cooking water. Mix well.

 

  1. Add the soy sauce and vinegar. Mix well and place on a serving dish. Arrange the salad cress on top. Serve immediately.

 

Key

  1. You can mix several types of mushrooms or just use one type if you like.
  2. Check the taste before adding the soy sauce, as the saltiness of bacon can vary.