Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cooking Local

I promise, promise, I will get pictures and info of Shuri Castle up soon! I want to make sure I am able to include some of the history of the castle as well, so its going to be more time consuming!

One of my *many* goals of living in Japan was to learn how to cook some local cuisine. Some of my favorites are sushi, yakisoba, ramen, and miso soup, so I thought I'd start there.

Yakisoba was on the menu for dinner last night and was so simple it should be branded with an EASY button. It literally means "Yaki" (Fried) + "Soba" (Noodles). Unbeknownst to me, there are a few varieties of Yakisoba. The first is a sauce yakisoba, which is made by pan frying the noodles and goodies together with yakisoba sauce. Kata-yakisoba are crunchy, deep fried noodles, and shio-yakisoba is a dish seasoned mostly with salt. I opted for the sauce yakisoba.

Here is the final product. This was SO delicious and yummy, I highly encourage anyone who likes yakisoba to try it out at home! This is Turf's favorite meal in Japan and he has been craving it for weeks! Here's a quick rundown of the recipe:

Add 2 Tbs. Sesame Oil (or vegetable oil) and 2 cloves minced garlic to a wok/large pan. 
Add the meat (I bought beef that was pre-cut for stir fry into strips. Pork, chicken, and shrimp would be good too) and cook until no longer pink or until done. 
Drain the meat and return to pan with additional 2 Tbs. Sesame Oil and 2 cloves minced garlic.
Add in desired vegetables (I added in a frozen bag of mixed stir-fry veggies) and pan fry to desired texture (I like mine a bit crunchy). 
Break apart Soba noodles and add directly to pan with meat and veggies. The noodles look like this: 

Then, add in Yakisoba Sauce. I used a little less than half a bottle.
Some places sell packaged soba noodles with the sauce in packets (powder). Add in one packet of seasoning for each pack of soba noodles, and in this case you'd need to add in about a 1-1/2 cups of water with the noodles and seasoning packet. 
Pan fry everything together for another 5 minutes and serve while hot!

Beware: I tasted a bit of this stuff on its own and almost gagged. It smells terrible and tastes very strong on its own, but takes on a COMPLETELY different flavor with the noodles, meat, and veggies. DELISH!

And finally, there is the sushi dilemma. Most of you know what happened last time I attempted sushi, but if you somehow missed it, just know that it didn't end well. I ended up with a bunch of rice with nori and all the other goodies mixed in and eating it with a fork. It tasted great, but was obviously missing the "roll" and melding of flavors that sushi rolls are supposed to have.

This second attempt was a bit better (I was at least able to roll it), but I have come to discover that sushi is an art, and I'm not very good with new challenges! So here's what I did differently this time:
I used this sushi rice recipe. The texture of the rice is very important to the rolling of the sushi- it needs to stick together. A few people said that there was too much rice vinegar in this recipe, but I made it as it was and thought it was great. I'd say this sushi rice was much better than the rice I made last time. 

Now, I realize that a California Roll is not traditional Japanese sushi. Actually, it originated guessed it... California. I also read that the "inside out"roll- Uramaki- also originated in the States. Americans didn't like seeing or eating the nori on the outside, so the sushi chefs began making the rolls inside out to accommodate the tastes of the region. This was in the 70's and eventually the goodness of the California roll spread throughout the world. :)
Anyway, I guess I'm just not very Japanese, because this is my favorite. The roll went a lot easier this time, and I think its because I had a good sushi rice. It actually stuck together when I rolled it up this time!
*Note: I did make the sushi rice last night, so I refrigerated it overnight and when I went to start making my sushi the rice was all crumbly- not the tender, sticky texture it was last night- so I popped it in the microwave for a few minutes to "wake it up" and let it cool down again completely before I started. This definitely helped the rice regain its original texture. 

Here are my rolls with some hot chili sauce on top (love the spice, HATE wasabi)"

Unfortunately, these friends did not make the cut....literally! I guess my next step is to work on my cutting technique. I made sure I had a wet knife before I started cutting, but the end pieces just squished and crumpled into a big mess. I still ate them, in the same way I ate the sushi I made on my first attempt :)

What are your favorite Japanese recipes?

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