FOOD

Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum (Ume-ni)

HEro shot of Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum.

Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum is the dish that lets you eat the entire body of the sardine including the bones. The umeboshi (pickled plum), sake, and ginger in the simmering sauce eliminates the strong fishy smell of the sardines. They also make the bones so tender that you can eat them.

Looking at all the images of sardine dishes on the internet, it seems that Simmered Sardines is a unique way of cooking sardines. Most sardine recipes are either grilled, fried, or roasted. And of course, some recipes use canned sardines.

Today’s recipe, Simmered Sardines with Pickled Plum, is a typical Japanese home-cooking recipe. The dish goes so well with rice, but I think that it can also be a great appetiser with Japanese sake or other drinks.

Sardines used to be extremely cheap in Sydney. About 40 years ago, sardines were $1-2 per kilo. Aussies perhaps used sardines only as fishing bait. Now, the price has gone up to over $10, although they are still cheaper than most fish. And they are good for you.

About Ume-ni

When you simmer fish, meat or vegetables in a broth/sauce with umeboshi (梅干し, pickled plum), the dish is called ‘ume-ni‘ (梅煮). It translates to ‘simmered with plum’, but in this case the plum means pickled plum, i.e. umeboshi.

Pickled plums in a pack as well as a pickled plum on a plate.

There are many different kinds of umeboshi, and I talked about them in my post Daikon Salad with Pickled Plum Dressing. In the case of ume-ni, you need to use large, brown, soft umeboshi, like the on in the above photo.

The sourness of umeboshi can vary and some soft umeboshi might even come with other seasonings such as bonito …continue reading

    

Cold Brewing Japanese Green Tea

Cold brewing Japanese green tea start

To make tea with this method, use a ratio of one to two tablespoons of tea leaves per liter of water.

Place the tea leaves in the bottom of a large teapot or container.

Add water, cover the container, and place it in the refrigerator to steep. Let it steep in the refrigerator for about three hours.

When your tea is ready, give the finished pot a gentle swirl or a stir before you drink it, since leaves may settle at the bottom during brewing.

Cold brewing Japanese green tea add leaves

cold brewing Japanese green tea steep

Cold Brewing Japanese Green Tea (Iced Method)

Cover tea leaves with quality ice from purified water. Let the tea melt. It takes about 30 minutes to one hour.

cold brewing Japanese green tea add ice

Pour into a teacup or glass. Enjoy a healthy and delicious serving of cold Japanese green tea!

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How To Cook Rice The Japanese Way

How_to_Cook_Rice_4

This post – How to Cook Rice The Japanese Way – is all about the Japanese way of cooking rice. Preparing rice is one of the fundamentals of Japanese cooking. It is not boiled like pasta, it is cooked using the so-called absorption method. But there are more secrets to it.

I have included methods not only for cooking rice in a saucepan but also using a rice cooker in this post.

In Japanese culture, cooking rice (okome, お米) is almost an art. At home appliance stores in Japan, you will find so many different types of electric rice cookers on display.

About Rice in Japanese Cooking

Rice is one of the most important staple foods for Japanese people. People have a favourite brand of rice grain, and they strive to cook the best rice possible. Hence, most Japanese people have an electric rice cooker that will deliver consistent results.

Japanese rice is a short grain white rice that is fluffy and slightly sticky. Unlike long grain rice, including Basmati rice and jasmine rice, Japanese rice grains stick to each other when cooked. This is quite important because you can easily pick up a mouthful of rice with chopsticks.

Rice grains in a wooden measuring cup.

The brand of rice grain is also a critical factor. There are so many different brands from all over Japan as well as overseas and competition is fierce. Japanese farmers put a lot of effort into the pursuit of producing the best rice grain.

The high quality of rice however also means a high price. But many Japanese people say that they are happy to pay a lot for good rice, even if they have to buy cheaper side dishes to go with it.

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The 9 Best Japanese Knives You Need To Have In Your Kitchen

Best Japanese Knives - Shun Cutlery Premiere 8” Chef's Knife

Japanese knives have shot through the ranks in popularity over the years, and for good reason. When you’re traveling Japan and witnessing firsthand the precision and skill that sushi chefs display when slicing through fish, you’ll be immediately enraptured.

Unlike the heavier counterparts that you may be used to at home, Japanese knives are lighter and slimmer than most. Traditionally, chefs in Japan tend to favour sharpness and precision over heaviness and durability. Some say that Japanese knives were initially inspired by the long-revered Samurai sword. If you think of samurai swords in movies, they can easily slice through a tree trunk in one motion!

Now, think back to the Japanese dishes you experienced in Japan; you’ll notice how almost every dish contains minute details of every ingredient. Even the smallest of garnishes would have been prepared with utmost care to ensure perfect presentation.

That is the result of using Japanese knives.

Why Japanese knives are so popular?

You’re probably thinking, any proper chef would be able to re-create that! Well, that may be true, but most of us are normal beings who just want to prepare good home cooked meals for our families and friends. Most of us haven’t had years of training under chefs who have been slicing fish for 30 years!

That’s where Japanese knives come into play. The intense engineering and thought process that has gone into creating these small, lightweight pieces is beyond what people can imagine. Using these knives to prepare food in your kitchen is bound to elevate your cooking skills to the next level.

When you hold a Japanese knife for the first time, you’ll immediately notice that they’re thinner, lighter, harder, and see that they’re sharper than most. You’ll also find that, although the handle is majestic (they’re traditionally designed after Samurai …continue reading

    

15 Typical Japanese Meals you Can Make At Home

When asked about what they like best about Japan, many (international) will mention the food in their top three reasons. The Japanese sushi and ramen are world famous, but there is much more to discover than just these two, just think of all the different types of noodles and vegetables. Because Japan is an island country, it has developed a unique food culture with a range of ingredients produced within the country. Recently, Japanese food is getting more and more popular as a healthy cuisine with the number of Japanese restaurants around the world expanding rapidly. While there are traditional Japanese dishes that have been loved for over centuries, some […] …continue reading

    

Why are your teas fresher than other green teas?

Fresh green tea harvest

After harvesting sencha and gyokuro leaves are rolled, dried naturally, packed into large square blocks and wrapped in foil.

They are then carefully placed in wooden boxes and stored in a refrigerated room at a temperature of 1 degree centigrade. Humidity is strictly controlled.

Freshest Japanese green tea

Teas stored in this manner remain remarkably fresh for a year or more. This storage method is the standard procedure for producers of high-quality gourmet green teas.

You can buy fresh tea all year round

Teas are removed from this room, bagged, and sent to us weekly. An expiration date is on each bag you purchase. We keep a one week supply in reserve so we can ship to you within one business day.

Order fresh green tea shipped directly from Japan

Gyokuro leaves are usually aged for 3 months (or more for premium teas) before putting them into storage to give them a mellow, sweet taste.

No merchant who receives bagged teas from overseas and stores them until making a sale can match us in terms of freshness.

That is why it is important to order teas shipped directly from the source.

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Spinach Kuro Goma-ae (Black Sesame Dressing)

Hero shot of Spinach Kuro goma-ae (black sesame dressing).

Today’s recipe, Spinach Kuro Goma-ae, is a counterpart of the Chrysanthemum Leaves Goma-ae that I posted a long time ago. Instead of the white sesame seeds that are used for chrysanthemum, I used black sesame seeds and spinach.

I think that the black sesame seeds have more pungent and richer flavour than the white sesame seeds. When you use them in a large quantity like in Goma-ae (Sweet Sesame Dressing), you can tell the difference between the flavours.

But people do not use the black sesame dressing in the dish as often as the white sesame dressing, perhaps due to the colour of the sesame.

Maybe because of this, the food dressed in white sesame is called Goma-ae (meaning dressed in sesame seeds) instead of calling it Shiro Goma-ae to clarify that it is made with white (= ‘shiro‘) sesame seeds.

The foods dressed in black sesame seeds have been called Kuro Goma-ae (黒胡麻和え) to distinguish them from the white sesame dressing. ‘Kuro‘ (黒) is black in Japanese, as you probably guessed.

About Black, White and Golden Sesame Seeds

You may think that white sesame seeds are made from black sesame seeds by removing the black outer skin. But that’s not the case. Black sesame and white sesame are different species.

Zoomed-in photo of Spinach Kuro goma-ae (black sesame dressing).

In fact, there are also golden sesame seeds that are the golden-brown colour. Because of the colour, the golden sesame is also called brown sesame.

In terms of market share, white sesame seeds are by far the most commonly available. They are followed by black sesame and then golden sesame. I have never tried golden sesame, so I don’t know the flavour difference.

All three kinds of sesame seeds have a very similar nutritional …continue reading

    

Mille Feuille Hot Pot (Nabe) with Pork and Chinese Cabbage

Hero shot of Mille Feuille Hot Pot

Hot pot recipes are usually easy. Among those easy hot pots, this Mille Feuille Hot Pot is the easiest nabe recipe. Chinese cabbage/nappa cabbage and thinly sliced pork belly are layered, then placed in a pot to look like a large flower. The simple dashi-based broth enhances the flavour of the cabbage and pork.

When you Google search ‘mille feuille recipe’, you will find the layered puff pastries with cream. But today’s dish is a savoury hot pot. The French ‘mille feuille’ means thousand leaf. Because the cabbage leaves in the hot pot are layered, Japanese people call today’s dish Mille Feuille Nabe (ミルフィーユ鍋).

It is said that this hot pot became popular after the food corporation, Ajinomoto broadcast a TV commercial for their dashi stock powder in 2010. In the commercial, it was introduced as a layered pork and cabbage hot pot.

But it was subsequently called Mille Feuille Nabe and became very popular. Many things named using foreign words tend to become trendy in Japan, because people think that they sound fancy and “cool”. There are many good reasons why Mille Feuille Hot Pot became popular.

  • Fancy name
  • Easy to make
  • Only two main ingredients
  • Tasty!

Taking some food onto a serving bowl from the Mille Feuille Hot Pot

The Australian summer is over, and we are well into autumn. When I see beautiful Chinese cabbage on the shelf of the vegetable shops I have to buy a whole cabbage, even if I am the only person living in my house and it will be too much. I then have to think about Chinese cabbage recipes to use up the whole cabbage.

Today’s dish, Mille Feuille Hot Pot (Nabe) with Pork and Chinese Cabbage can consume quite a bit of Chinese cabbage.

What’s in …continue reading

    


Why are First-Harvest Teas Better?

First-harvest Japanese green tea

There are 2-3 tea harvests in Japan each year. The first harvest is in late April or early May. There are 1 or 2 more harvest during the summer.

Japanese Green Tea Online only ships first-harvest teas

There is a tremendous difference in quality between teas from the first harvest and all the rest.

First-harvest teas not only taste better they also contain more polyphenols and vitamins than second and third harvest teas.

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Space Onigiri: Do these long-lasting Japanese rice balls taste any good on planet Earth?

We put the JAXA-endorsed product to the test.

When you’re miles away from home and looking for something to perk your energy and lift your spirits, you can’t go past a favourite childhood meal to give you the boost you need.

That’s the theory behind Japan’s Space Onigiri, developed by Onishi Foods and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a meal for long-term stays on the International Space Station (ISS).

Luckily for us, these space-bound rice balls are also sold on Earth, so when our cosmos-loving reporter Masanuki Sunakoma came across one at a store inside Tokyo Station recently, he immediately purchased it and took it home for a taste test.

▼ The product contains “Alpha Rice” that doesn’t require cooking.

Following the simple four-step preparation process illustrated on the back of the bag, Masanuki first removed the small oxygen-absorbing pack…

…And then filled the bag with water, up to the dotted line, essentially hydrating the rice inside. While cold or boiling water can be used for this step, Masanuki chose to add cold water.

Then it was time to shake. Masanuki resealed the top of the bag and shook the whole thing around 20 times. Once this was done, all that was left to do was wait, and seeing as Masanuki chose to use cold water instead of boiling water, the rice ball would be ready to eat in 60 minutes instead of 15.

▼ Once an hour had passed, Masanuki opened the top of the bag and peered inside.

The …continue reading

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