the hinata diaries

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Japanese for beginners

Having recently discovered the food wonderland that is Meidi-ya, decided to invite some guinea pigs (aka Jean, Francois and Sebastien) over for a light and casual Japanese dinner. Here's what we had:

(P.s. I know all my pics feature the same one or two plates, I'm working on it! In the meantime, I'm open to all donations of cool crockery :) )

French beans in black sesame paste

Pretty simple, blanched french beans, storebought black sesame paste, and top with toasted sesame seeds.

Green tea tofu

Found green tea tofu at Carrefour and was so fascinated I decided to try it last night. Verdict: it tastes exactly like regular tofu, and the green colour, while unique, doesn't exactly scream "eat me!"... in fact, if anything, it screams "I am an industrial cleaning agent!" Served it cold and topped with crushed pistachios and salmon roe (ikura). If I do this again I'll probably toast the pistachios before crushing to give it extra crunch, and possibly add a light soy dressing.

Crab and spring onion salad

Bought what I thought were de-shelled crab legs at Meidi-ya, only to find out upon my return home that it was actually fake crab meat! At $11 for 140g, it was definitely a disappointment. That said this is probably something like No. 1 Superior Grade Fake Crab Meat - it tastes worlds better than the horrible bright red ones you get in your yong tau foo, and took me several re-takes to confirm that this was, in fact, not the genuine article.

The decision to make a spring onion based salad was inspired by the abalone spring onion salad I had at Hutong in Hong Kong. You can check out the pic here.

For the salad, toss 140g of shredded "crab" meat with thinly sliced white segments from 2 stalks of spring onions. Dress with 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon mirin and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. The dressing brings out the sweetness of the meat while the spring onion delivers a sharp, spicy bite. Very addictive even for non-fans of raw onion like me.

Oxtail broth with konnyaku noodles

The soup was made from onions, celery, carrots, leeks, konbu and the oxtail, with the noodles only added at the last minute (not sure if they'd expand or get too soft if left longer). I served the soup without the veggies, looks pretty bland in the photo eh? Would serve it next time with the konbu, some shabu shabu mochi and garnish with spring onions (was so hungry by that time that I just wanted to get the food into bowls and start eating). Thin layer of oil aside, this tasted very wholesome, while the noodles added a playful crunch.

Garlic fried rice

One of the drawbacks of having limited plates and even more limited photography skills: you can't really tell but I'd shaped the rice into a little mound using a tea cup in a sad attempt to improve my food presentation :)

The fried rice recipe is a lazy take on Harumi Kurihara's garlic fried rice, featured in Harumi's Japanese Cooking. My way:

  1. Fry garlic slices in vegetable oil, add rice. Drizzle with soy sauce, stir fry till rice is lightly golden.
  2. Serve immediately, topped with bonito flakes.

Doesn't get much easier than that eh? Harumi-sensei's recipe calls to add granulated chicken stock to the rice, as well as sliced shiso leaves. I've found that he granulated chicken stock added a rather artificial (although nonetheless yummy) MSG-like taste which I can do without. The shiso leaves are a nice addition (subsitute with equal portions mint and basil if you can't get shiso leaves) that make give the rice depth, colour and an element of sophistication, like a fancy nasi ulam. I'd recommend making the effort to procure the shiso leaves if the rice is to be eaten as a dish on its own. If it's gonna get mixed up with other dishes, the light flavour of the shiso will probably get drowned out anyway, so no need to bother.

So there you go, easy peasy Japanese home cooking, hinata style!


  • i don't mind being a guinea pig either! *yum*

    By Blogger inspirethereal, At 12:04 AM  

  • you're more than welcome to be! btw, just checked out your profile, i just finished reading marcus aurelius' meditations too!

    By Blogger hinata, At 10:12 AM  

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