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JAPANESE MONTH: A SIMPLE ART: Steamed and Simmered Dishes

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapters about steaming, simmering, steamed dishes and simmered dishes.

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  1. Mushroom Relish, Shiitake Kara-ni
    Japanese Cooking, page 397

    Both of tonight's entrées were based on someone else doing some shopping. There was a box of button mushrooms that needed to be eaten, and this recipe seemed like the perfect way to cook them up.

    The mushrooms are thinly sliced and then braised in a mixture of sake and soy sauce. Oh do I need an otoshi-buta! This dish was just as salty as you would imagine, but was delicious when eaten with the unseasoned rice. We found that a little goes a long way, and even though I made half the recipe, there is some left for lunch tomorrow.

    Served with:
    Miso Soup with Enoki Mushrooms, Enoki no miso-jidaté, Washoku pg 117
    Deep-Fried Marinated Chicken, Toriniku Tasuta-age,Japanese Cooking, page 234
    Sweet Vinegar Dressed Carrots, Amazu, Japanese Cooking, page 242
    Quick Turnip Pickles, Kabu no Sokuseki-zuk, Japanese Cooking, page 323
    Cooked White Rice, Gohan, Washoku pg 137

    1. Buta Kaku-ni Nagasaki Style Braised Pork p. 389
      This is a two day process for cooking pork belly. Cook pork belly squares (I omitted the oil) on all 4 sides until browned. Put in a colander and rinse under hot water to remove excess oil (a neat trick that works on oily of fried foods like ganmodoki). Simmer pork with water, okara (I do not have access to fresh okara, so I made tofu Saturday morning), and ginger using an otoshi buta (drop lid) to keep pork submerged. Rinse to wash off okara, put in pot with water and simmer 30-40 minutes and refrigerate.
      1 hour before serving, simmer pork in dashi, sake, mirin, soy and sugar with otoshi buta for 30 minutes. Serve with pearl onions and snow peas simmered in dashi, mirin and usukuchi soy (light soy). We served this with a hanjuku egg (boiled egg with very runny yolk), karashi mustard (helps balance out the sweetness) and gohan. This was a very tender braised pork that is very filling (three cubes of pork were plenty), but also very timing consuming.

      7 Replies
      1. re: BigSal

        Wow, you made the tofu for the okara?! That sounds like quite an endeavor; is it very time consuming? You must have been pretty busy lately, judging by all of your recent reviews!

        1. re: Allegra_K

          Tofu is surprisingly quick to make, but I haven't mastered the technique yet. Commercial tofu's texture is still better than mine, but the taste is better freshly made. It's still a work in progresss. I started cooking from these books in January, since I will be out for part of February. I've finally caught up with my reviews. I've enjoyed reading your reviews. I love your dinnerware too.

          1. re: BigSal

            Thank you! I look forward to reading about your kitchen adventures as well.
            I've been slowly amassing a hodgepodge of dinnerware, so it's mostly only a couple of each design. I do have fun seeking out unique plates and bowls, with a particular fondness for Asian-inspired ones.
            And re: the tofu......that sounds like something I'd be very interested in getting my hands into! I'll have to give it a try one day. It turns out that the offspring actually enjoy tofu, so it wouldn't be a waste of efforts, either.

            1. re: BigSal

              BigSal, do you use store bought soy milk to make tofu or do you make your own? I've looking at www.instructables.com site - it has detailed tofu making instructions starting from soy beans. Lots of work and dirty dishes!:)

              1. re: herby

                I made my own soy milk, because I wanted the okara. I used the recipe from lafujimama. Buying soymilk will definitely shorten the process. Let me know how it works out if you make it.

                1. re: BigSal

                  Thank you for this! I will try both methods as soon as I have some time - crazy busy lately. I have both books now from the library and most basic ingredients. Really want to make miso soup with enoki mushrooms and hope to cook on Saturday.
                  One more question - did you use lemon juice or the salts?

                  1. re: herby

                    I used liquid nigari. I also have the nigari (salt), but have not tried it yet. Looking forward to reading your posts. The miso soup with enoki is a good one to start with.

        2. Spicy Eggplant (Nasu Itame-ni) p.396

          Following a parade of ho-hum dishes that were in tonight's dinner repertoire, I reluctantly resigned myself to another half-flavoured failure. I tentatively tasted the eggplants in the bowl. My eyes opened wide with surprise and delight. An emphatic "Mmmmm!" resounded in the room. Could it be? I believe I may have found an eggplant dish that rivals Ms. Dunlop's "Fish-Fragrant Aubergines", which is one of my favourite meals of all time.

          The details: Eggplant is halved lenthwise, deeply scored on the diagonal, and cut crosswise. I only had a handful of the egg sized Indian eggplants on hand, which I merely cut in half. I made a half-recipe, as I am the only eggplant lover in my household, though I regret not making a full batch.
          I then stir-fried the halves in a wok(only using a T. or so of oil), making sure to sear to a lovely luminous deep purple, and seal the cut edges to a golden brown with a few blackened bits. Seeded dried chilies are also stir-fried with the eggplant, though I left the seeds intact and used the full amount of chilies, giving the dish a perfect amount of heat that I've been missing this month.
          To the eggplant is added an addictive elixir of dashi, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. This is then covered with a drop-lid (or not covered at all in my case)and simmered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced slightly. The eggplants are then served in deep dishes with the sauce ladled over top.

          I don't know what it is about this dish that makes it so irrisitable, as the ingredient list isn't all that extraordinary, but this is easily the best item that has come out of these cookbooks so far. The sauce is a perfect balance of sweet, salty, and smoky, and the eggplants are buttery-soft in texture, having a delightful wok-hay flavour to them. It took less than 20 minutes from start to finish, used hardly any oil, and most importantly, tasted magnificent. It makes me wonder what other treasures are hidden within the binding of Tsuji's masterpiece.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Allegra_K

            Andoh has almost the same recipe, Ginger-Stewed Eggplants (Nasu No Suzu Ni) page 192. I made it a few days ago. No chili but lots of ginger juice including the peelings. We liked her version but I think it would have been enhanced with a little more heat.


            1. re: Allegra_K

              Spicy Eggplant, pg. 396

              We had this last night, and really liked it too. Allegra has already detailed the recipe well. I made two deviations, these days even for Asian dishes, I cut my eggplant as direct brush lightly with veg oil and bake it in a hot oven for 20 minutes, maybe not as quick as stir frying/pan frying, but no mess no fuss. That's what I did here, then finished the dish in a sautee pan, heating a little oil w/ the chili, adding the pre-cooked eggplant, tossing it to get some chili flavor, then adding the sauce ingredients. My second deviation was to reduce the sugar from 2TBS (half recipe) to 1 tsp, which was plenty sweet for us.

                1. re: qianning

                  I've noticed that Tsuji uses a heavier hand with sugar than Andoh. Unlike you, I haven't been reducing it at all, and my sweet tooth has been very happy!

                  1. re: Allegra_K

                    I think I read somewhere that sugar use in japan is very regional....which is my excuse to reduce the sugar, as we are definitely from the less sugar preferring area.

                2. re: qianning

                  That looks great. What sort of proportions of dashi: mirin:soya sauce does it use? (I don't have access to the book but am longing to try it!)

                  1. re: tavegyl

                    full recipe- 8 small (4") eggplant, 2 dried chili, 3/4 C oil, 1&2/3 C dashi, 1TBSP mirin, 4TBSP sugar, 2TBSP soy.

                    I used 2 chinese eggplant, 2 TBSP oil, and 1tsp sugar for a half recipe, all other ingredients halved; and it all came out fine....so my suggestion is go with your gut on what would work for your taste.

                    1. re: qianning

                      Lovely, thanks. Coincidentally, I have almost exactly that amount of dashi needing to be used up this evening...

                      1. re: tavegyl

                        Tried it over the weekend, and quite enjoyed it. I reduced the sugar - great tip. I also increased the dried chilli a little. Result was something smooth, silky and intensely aubergine-y, very gentle and comforting. I didn't adore it instantly, but it really grew on me through the meal.

                        And while we're talking mirin, I'm in the UK and used this one:


                        It seems to be made by the same company (Sumiya) which makes the one recommended by Big Sal, as linked further down the thread, so I'm assuming it's the same product. Available in Japanese shops but also in Waitrose.

                3. re: Allegra_K

                  I made the eggplant dish tonight and since this is my first night cooking Japanese food, probably should not have. I found it too sweet and bland, the two super hot dried chillies not adding any heat to the dish. I am reserving the final judgement till tomorrow in hope that the dish will bloom but most likely not as Japanese dishes are meant to be eaten at once.

                  My apartment smells like the sea and I am liking that being a huge sea lover living in a land locked city:)

                  1. re: herby

                    Did you use the full amount of sugar? I ask because we often find both Andoh & Tsuji's recipes too sweet for us, especially dishes that have both mirin & sugar, so I just leave the mirin at full strength and reduce or eliminate the sugar, with good results.

                    1. re: qianning

                      I used the full amounts of both mirin and sugar. I thought it would be very sweet and decided to try as written because I was too uncomfortable changing the recipe. Plus I bought crappy mirin (kikkoman). I will be on a lookout for a better mirin and throw out this one once I have something to replace it with. Next time the recipe calls for mirin and/or sugar I will use my own sense just as you do.

                4. Fried Cod in Broth (Tara no Age-ni) p.382

                  I had pulled some fish out of the freezer to use for another meal that fell through. Luckily, I discovered this little gem.....
                  Chunks of cod fillets are blanched, dredged in flour, and deep-fried to a golden brown. I skipped the blanching portion, as I had used thin skinless (hey, options are limited around here!) fillets of basa in place of the cod. As the fish is gently bubbling, a simple broth is made of dashi, mirin, sugar, soy sauce, & sake, and set to simmer. The crusty fish is then placed into the broth, which of course softens the delectable crisp texture. I silently wept on the inside as I slid the pieces into the liquid, certain that I was going to ruin a perfectly good fried fish. I couldn't have been more wrong. The fish-and the coating-soak up the flavourful solution, the crust softening and swelling yet remaining intact. The oil from the deep-fried layer imbues the simmering liquid as well, adding a luscious mouth-feel.
                  When the fish is simmered for around 10 minutes, it is carefully spooned to individual bowls and the remaining sauce is ladled around the pieces. Finely grated ginger and sliced green onion are scattered atop the fish to complete the dish. Both of the garnishes seem to be very important components in the final dish.....I was very generous with the green onion, and it was perfect. I had only made a half recipe, and really regret that I didn't at least double the liquid, as the leftover broth was fantastic over rice.
                  My spouse warily surveyed the items at the table. He hasn't been as enthusiastic about Japanese month as I have, and so approaches each new dish with much caution. I am happy to report that he gave this two emphatic thumbs up, and told me I could make it any time. Win!

                  1. Sake Simmered Flounder (Karei Nitsuke) pg. 224

                    Wow, fabulous, OMG & all that, in short we loved this dish. Take a mixture of sake and mirin (you need good alcohol mirin, not the corn syrup stuff) and heat in a pan, flambe the mixture--mine wouldn't ignite, so I just gave up and moved on--add dashi, dark & light soy, bring to a boil, add the fish, cover with a drop lid and cook on high for about 10 minutes, serve. I came within inches of scorching this, and have made a note by the recipe "watch like a hawk after 6 minutes", and I will see that note in the future, 'cause I'll be making this again.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: qianning

                      That sounds and looks delicious!
                      I just realized that I have been cooking with inadequate mirin this entire time. When I ran out a couple of days ago, I bought a much more expensive variety, and wow, is there ever a difference. There is an actual fermented rice taste in it, instead of that viscous corn syrup stuff that I thought was the norm. I hope it makes a difference in the cooking, too. Looking forward to trying some mirin-reliant dishes now.

                      1. re: Allegra_K

                        so true about the mirin. if nothing else this month i've learned that kikkoman aiji mirin is pretty awful stuff.

                        1. re: qianning

                          Where are you getting the better mirin, and what is the brand?

                          1. re: MelMM

                            Big Sal, who unlike me knows what she's talking about, recommends this one:

                            I haven't had a chance to order it yet, but am having much better results with Morita organic mirin (it is made from rice and is 8.5% alcohol, still too low but better than the supermarket stuff, and doesn't have corn syrup added) than I had with the standard kikkoman. We have a fair number of Korean and Japanese focused groceries in the greater Boston area that carry the Morita.

                            Also, doing some research on this on the board, I learned there is an Eden brand mirin that some folks like quite well and which Whole Foods carries. That might make it easier for you to find if there aren't any Japanese focused grocers near you. I haven't personally tried it though.

                            One last thing, I'm starting to look for "Hon Mirin" in some of our better stocked liquor stores; so far no real luck, but, due to licensing laws, that would be the place to find un-salted mirin at least around here.

                            1. re: qianning

                              OK, that helps. The Eden brand mirin is what I've been using. When I heard the rest of you talking about lousy mirin, I wasn't sure where the Eden fit on the spectrum.

                              I'll keep an eye out for the other brands when I'm at an asian market.

                              1. re: qianning

                                After reading the above comments and doing a bit of Googling I understand that Hon Mirin is difficult to find outside Japan. Also, it's more or less sweetened sake. There is a short-cut substitute recipe that may or may not be the thing to use. I have been using a supermarket mirin without HFCS but it does contain fructose. I wonder if anyone knows if the following is in fact an acceptable substitute for Hon Mirin...


                      2. Tortoiseshell Tofu (Tofu Bekko-ni), Pg. 398

                        This recipe from Tsuji's book was really a baby step for me. That's OK, of course, since I had to start somewhere without being scared to death about ingredients or procedure. This was perfect and the outcome was surprisingly delicious. I liked the way several substitutions were acceptable here. Original recipe states any kind of tofu may be used and lists firm as the principle ingredient but silky will be a "special treat". I used firm but will definitely use silky next time. Also, either dashi or light chicken stock may be used... I used chicken stock. When the tofu has finished cooking the top has a beautiful thick glistening brown color while the bottom layer is a lighter hue. Lovely on a white plate.

                        So, to the recipe: In a medium pot combine stock, sugar, mirin, dark soy sauce and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer and slowly add a pinch of salt. I omitted the salt. Cut the tofu into quarters and slide them into the liquid being careful to keep the sauce simmering not boiling. As the tofu simmers ladle the sauce over top and down the sides. Do this for about 4 minutes. Using an offset spatula take out the tofu and plate two pieces to a serving. Keeping the liquid simmering add a slurry of water and cornstarch. Simmer and stir till sauce has thickened, then ladle over the tofu. Garnish with shredded ginger.

                        We both liked this tremendously. The texture was smooth and lightly flavored by the sauce and the sauce was almost like molasses but without that iron flavor. Simply beautiful. Side dishes were steamed green beans with a chili/garlic/ginger/sesame sauce and udon noodles in an onion/garlic/ginger/soy/sesame sauce.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Gio

                          Wow, that sounds really good. I'm not a total tofu convert yet, so have thus far been overlooking the tofu recipes. This seems like a perfect way to use up the leftover silken block that's been sitting in the fridge. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

                        2. Sake Simmered Mackerel, page 225

                          Made this as part of a birthday dinner for my mom and this dish absolutely stole the show. At the Chinese fish market my mom apologetically asked if she could get some mackerel too (in addition to a whole striped bass) since she loves it but my Dad won't eat it so she doesn't usually make it. I like mackerel too, so we picked up a smallish whole spanish mackerel which looked nice and fresh.

                          The mackerel gets filleted and then sake is brought to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Lay mackerel in the boiling sake and let come up to a boil. Then pour in mirin and let come back to a boil. Then pour in soy sauce and ginger and let some back to a boil and finally add a pinch of sugar.Then cover with drop lid (or regular lid in my case) and boil on high until done.

                          He explains that the staggered addition of liquids rids the fish of odor. Certainly seemed to work! We like fatty fish but have occasionally been overwhelmed by the fishiness of mackerel. This mackerel was delicious, and not too fishy at all. In fact, everyone was fighting over the mackerel and its savory sauce and the steamed whole fish was like an ugly stepsister.

                          This will definitely be going into the rotation. Quick, easy, healthy, loved by kids--- so glad I went back to this book for this recipe!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: greeneggsnham

                            sounds fabulous. mr. qn loves sake simmered mackerel, i really should look at this recipe, thanks for write it up.

                            1. re: qianning

                              It really was good.

                              When I unearthed this thread to write me post, I saw your Sake Simmered Flounder reviewed above. That reminded me that I should try that one as well. Looks delicious. Did you use a whole flounder?

                              1. re: greeneggsnham

                                Sounds delicious, green! As this thread poped up I saw Allegra's review of Fried Cod in Broth and must make it - I have a piece of cod filet that would be perfect for it. Thank you for writing your review - without it I wouldn't think about looking into Japanese Cooking for a cod recipe!

                                1. re: greeneggsnham

                                  I did use a whole flounder. I've made it at least once since then, and it worked the second time too (sometimes I suffer from beginners luck with new recipes--can I repeat them is always a big test!). I'd probably cook fish using Japanese recipes a lot more often than I do, because we do both love them, but I never seem to plan well enough ahead to have the right side/veg dishes in the wings.