I’m going through a bit of a Japanese phase at the moment. A lot of people, who haven’t had the joy of visiting Japan, would be forgiven for thinking that the Japanese only eat fish and rice. Not true! (Well, the rice bit may as well be true, noodles be damned!) However, Japanese cuisine does contain lots of meat dishes to complement the bountiful supply of fish that their island has blessed them with. This week I’m going to be posting two delicious Japanese recipes, one using beef, one using chicken, to introduce you to another side of Japanese cooking that is accessible to everyone.
A lot of people can be put off by the fact that you have to buy special ingredients but these are rarely something you can’t find in the supermarket (if you want a sure fire hit in one place head for Waitrose, they stock an excellent range, including decent sake). If you have a local Chinese supermarket then they almost always stock Japanese ingredients too.
Of the essential ingredients I shall start with the hardest to track down, dashi powder. The box above is usually what you’re looking for. I always find it in the Chinese supermarket, although I think I saw a different brand in Sainsburys once. It is a fish stock made from bonito flakes (dried tuna) and konbu (dried seaweed). Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with with a half decent substitute so there’s legwork needed here.
Happily, the other essentials are easy to find. Kikkoman soy sauce is the authentic Japanese one but can be rather pricey. You can substitute with light soy sauce but the flavour is a bit stronger, however, I don’t think a Western palate will object. Mirin is a sweet cooking sake and can be found in any supermarket. Sake is the final piece in the jigsaw and luckily it is much more available now than it was even a few years ago. If you fancy drinking it then, as with most alcohol, it pays to spend as much as you can. If you’re simply going to cook with it then I wouldn’t bother. A dry sherry can be used as an emergency substitute… But only in an emergency!
Armed with these essentials (and some granulated sugar) whole new avenues of Japanese cooking are at your fingertips! At first you may think that all recipes look the same from the ingredients list but Japanese food is all about subtlety and the slightest alteration of ratios makes such a difference to the finished product.
Now let’s start with Gyudon. Gyu means beef and -don is a bowl of rice with something on it. This dish is the specialty of Yoshinoya, a chain of eateries found all over Asia. It’s cheap, filling and delicious. A sort of beans on toast type meal, nothing fancy but very satisfying!
~400g beef thinly sliced (I just use very cheap steaks for convenience)
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
300ml hot dashi stock
5 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sake
Sticky rice to serve
– Put the dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
– Add the onions and simmer for 10-15 mins until the onions are soft.
– Add the beef and cook for 3-4 minutes until the beef is cooked through.
– Serve on a bowl of sticky rice, with a little pickled ginger if you like it.