Kamo Nanban Soba | Buckwheat Noodles Soup with Duck Breast and Scallions

Kamo Nanban Soba

Duck is one of my favorite ingredients, and Kamo Nanban Soba became one of the most repeated summer soups in my kitchen. This dish can be made with duck tsukune (meatballs) and/or seared and thinly sliced duck breast. Duck meatballs should be pre-cooked, and they are the best when grilled. I prefer duck breast in this dish. One breast is enough for two portions. It takes time to render fat from its skin, so it makes sense to start doing it while making buckwheat noodles. The rest is simple — baste the breasts with hot rendered duck fat until 80% cooked, let rest and cool, keep refrigerated until ready to serve the soup. Thinly sliced and arranged on top of the soba in a bowl, the duck is cooked to complete doneness with steaming hot stock poured right over it.

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Miso Marinated and Roasted Fish | Saikyo Yaki

Halibut Saikyo Yaki

Saikyo Miso originated in Kyoto — a city that has been a center of politics, economics, and culture for more than a thousand years—and has been cultivated by the elegance of royalty. (Saikyo means “west city,” the former name for Kyoto.) Saikyo Miso has been a valuable part of the Imperial Palace’s hare (soul rejuvenation) ceremonies and has developed along with the food culture of the capital city. It is known for its generous amount of rice malt, its sweetness due to its low sodium content, and its beautiful light beige color.

The fermentation period for this miso is relatively short which contributes to the color and the buttery, smooth consistency. Compared with other miso, saikyo has the least amount of salt (5 percent to 10 percent) which minimizes the intense flavor to a naturally sweet, mild taste. Fish fillets are marinated in sweet miso for at least 2-3 days or up to 5-7 days for thicker slices before being grilled.

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Kumiage Yuba | Fresh Soy Milk Skins

Making Kamiage Yuba

I say those are lucky who have never tasted certain delicacies because they don’t know what they are missing. If you didn’t enjoy eating fresh creamy and dreamy melt-in-your-mouth soy milk skins in Kyoto — kumiyage yuba — you obviously don’t miss it. With a tiny drop of freshly grated wasabi and diluted with dashi soy sauce for dipping, it is something to crave for. Fortunately, it is easy to make at home.

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Maslenitsa | Crepe Week, Day 6 | Crème Brûlée Crepe Cone

Crème Brûlée Crepe Cone

Are crêpes better when they’re turned into cones? (c) I remember Tokyo pastry houses and bakeries surprised me. It seemed like Japanese pastry chefs took the best from European traditions and creations and perfected them even more. It was true for inexpensive street food and for desserts at luxurious, exclusive places. So, don’t be surprised to see many videos and blog stories full of excitement about Japanese crepe cones, which became a common street food in Japan. Crème Brûlée crepe cone is also a Japanese idea. I saw the pictures and I wanted it! Is it possible to make it at home without special equipment (large diameter crepe makers, spreaders, etc.)?

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Cinderella Pumpkin Soufflé Cheesecake

Cinderella Pumpkin Souffle Cheesecake

This recipe is based on me Japanese soufflé cheesecake, which is also known as “cotton” cheesecake. Very popular in Asian countries for its texture — fluffy and velvety creamy at the same time — it is getting more and more known in the U.S. Just like regular cheesecakes, this souffle cheesecake can be flavored with vegetable and fruit purees. This pumpkin cheesecake is as soft and creamy as a mousse, with delicate flavors of honey and pumpkin.

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Ramen: Creamy Chicken Stock | Tori Paitan | 鶏ガラパイタン

Tori Paitan Ramen

Creamy chicken stock for ramen is now my number two favorite after tonkotsu. Torikotsu uses the same technique but requires less time and efforts to make it than tonkotsu — it is much easier to gelatinise chicken cartilage and connective tissues and extract flavors from less dense chicken bones. Most of the myoglobin is neutralized during the fist step of soaking chicken in cold water. To make it efficient, chop chicken wings and legs to smaller, 1-2″ pieces to expose bones marrow. As a result, there is significantly less scum to skim during the second step. Just like for tonkotsu, it is essential to remove the foam that appears, but keep the chicken fat and emulsify it into the creamy stock later, during the rapid boiling. Pressure cookers are very helpful and streamline the last stage of making chicken paitan even more if you are working on just a few portions. For the recipe below, use a 10-quart stock pot.

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Ramen: Pork Belly for Ramen | Chāshū | チャーシュー

Rolled Pork Belly Chashu

Chāshū is my favorite meat ingredient for ramen. Just like ramen, it came to Japanese cuisine from China and transformed into a very different dish. Originally, char siu 叉燒 is a kind of barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine. In Japan, it is meaty pork belly slowly cooked in a flavorful broth. At the end of cooking, pork belly loses a lot of fat and becomes very tender and soft. Every bite of chashu melts in the mouth. For ramen, chashu os served thinly sliced. A very similar Japanese recipe for cooking pork belly to serve it with cooked rice, hot mustard sauce, and pickled vegetables is called Buta no Kakuni (豚の角煮, “pork cut square and simmered”). For both recipes, pork belly can be skinless or with pigskin, based on personal preferences and availability.

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Ramen: Eggs for Ramen | Ajitsuke Tamago | 味付け玉子

Ajitsuke Tamago

Every time I invite people to experience ramen for the first time and they pick the toppings, I suggest to include eggs. In the menu, they read “pickled” or “marinated” next to the eggs and say “No.” I smile and order extra eggs for my bowl of ramen, because I know what’s going to happen next — they will see them, ask for a bite, and I’ll have to share. Why didn’t you order them? — I ask. They are simply expected to be similar to American vinegary pickled eggs, which do not have a lot of fans these days. Ajitsuke tamago are completely different. They are soft with runny yolk and seasoned in a savory broth based on soy sauce. They are delicious!

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Grilled Eggplant, Japanese Style | Yaki Nasu

Grilled Japanese Eggplants

Charring eggplants on grill, open fire, under the broil/salamander, or inside special kitchen devices (e.g., Bulgarian chushkopek) is known and widely used around the world for a reason. Burning and peeling off skin definitely improves the texture of grilled vegetables, but more than anything we crave for that sweet smokiness added to the eggplant flavor. The beginning and the basics are the same — grill, peel, slice/chop/mash. Sauces, spices, herbs, seeds, nuts, and other added vegetables make the difference, turn grilled eggplants into a dish that belongs to a specific cuisine.

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