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.
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.
When on the island, at least one of my dinners is a grilled abalone. It’s a Big Island treat I must to have! I visit the farm with a cooler and ice to buy them. Once abalones get cold, they fell asleep and travel well for a few hours on ice. They are easy to cook if you have a grill or an oven where you stay. Just follow my instructions!
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.
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.
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.
There is no Japanese cooking class I teach or tasting event I host without mentioning Asahi Imports store. Besides having the best selection of sake and Japanese beer in Austin, they now make really good fresh snacks in store. Every time I shop there, I treat myself with their onigiri, and they are always amazing. Last time I’ve got onigiri with miso-braised shishito — to die for! Today I’ve made my own at home using the recipe below.
Tare (垂れ?, “tar-eh”) is a general term in Japanese cuisine for basting sauces used for grilling. Mannen Tare (10,000 year old sauce) is and old school tare created by continuous use in traditional yakitori joints, where skewers are partially grilled, dipped into the tare, and then grilled to doneness. Every dipped skewer brings some drippings of dissolved proteins and fats into the sauce, which makes its flavor more complex and concentrated. At home, we can make a pseudo version of tare adjusted to our taste.
Japanese soufflé cheesecake is also known as “cotton” cheesecake. It is extremely popular in Asian countries for its texture — fluffy and velvety creamy at the same time. I fell in love with it with the first bite. It’s a treat for a true cheesecake aficionados. Japanese cheesecake is not overly sweet, so having more than one slice at a time is difficult to resist. Enjoy it plain, or decorate it with whipped cream and fresh berries.
This is perfect quick dinner for two if you happen to have a leftover sushi rice and a piece of good sushi grade fish. Yellowtail is my favorite, but salmon, fatty tuna, or escolar are good substitutions. They are available in Central Market, frozen. When prepping ingredients, I slice fish frozen. I normally cook and serve this fried rice not plated. My husband and I put our chairs close to each other and enjoy eating it from cast-iron skillet.