Sunday, July 29, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 8] Hamburg Steak (Hambāgu)

I love Japanese style Hamburg steaks, or Hambāgu (ハンバーグ) as the Japanese call it and I am seriously wondering why it never crossed my mind to learn to make it at home until I have to make it as my Shinya Shokudou challenge for this week.

The Japanese seem to have this amazing ability to take anything from a foreign culture, improve it, and call it their own. A Hambāgu is a perfect example.

So what is a Hambāgu? It is "a popular Salisbury steak dish in Japan. It is made from ground meat with finely chopped onion, egg and breadcrumbs flavored with various spices, and made into a flat, circular shape about a centimeter thick and 10 to 15 cm in diameter." (Wikipedia) Do not confuse a Hambāgu (the topic of this post) with Hambāgā (the hamburger sandwich), although they are similar in appearance and both very common in Japan.

I search the Internet for a good Hambāgu recipe and finally settled on this one from Marc Matsumoto of No Recipes because it sounds pretty interesting to add silken tofu to the patty. I didn't change the recipe much except that I used a mix of ground beef and pork instead of just beef as in the original recipe and I added mushrooms in the sauce.  I probably over-reduced the red wine because as you can see in the picture there wasn't a lot of sauce (I love to eat the sides with the sauce), and the fact that I added mushrooms probably soaked up some of it as well; but other than that, this recipe is awesome.  I like how it uses both caramelized and fresh onions and the silken tofu does make the patty more moist and tender. I also made 偽主婦ki琪's cauliflower mesh as a side and it goes wonderfully with my Hambāgu!

Adapted from the recipe of Marc Matsumoto

Makes 8 patties
Difficulty: Intermediate

For the patty:
1 large egg
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef (I used a mix of both beef and pork, about a 7:3 ratio of beef to pork)
180 grams (6  silken tofu
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce:

100 grams button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tonkatsu sauce (Worcestershire sauce works too)
1 tablespoon demi-glace (optional)


1. Add a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan and sauté the mushrooms.  Set aside.
2. Add a little of oil to the frying pan and sauté half the onions and all of the garlic until medium brown and caramelized. Let it cool to room temperature.
3. Combine the meat, tofu, sautéd onions, raw onions, panko, egg, ketchup, oyster sauce, parsley, soy sauce and black pepper in a large mixing bowl and knead all the ingredients together until it is uniform in color and sticky in texture.  Mold into 1" thick patties.
4. Add a little bit more oil to the frying pan that you fried the onions in and place over medium heat. Fry them until they have formed a dark brown crust on one side, then use a spatula to carefully flip them over and brown the other side.
5. After you've fried all the patties, drain off any excess oil (but don't wash the pan as the brown stuff is what will give your sauce flavor). Add the red wine and boil until it's reduced by about half in volume. Add the ketchup, water, tonkatsu sauce, and demi-glace and stir to combine. Place the patties and mushrooms back into the pan, cover, and cook for 7 minutes, flipping them over once in the middle. Cook uncovered for another 3 minutes to thicken the sauce a little.
6. Immediately serve with fresh tomatoes, steamed broccoli and cauliflower mesh. You can also use other sides as you wish.

Let's take a look at the Hambāgu from other members!



Saturday, July 28, 2012

【Lazy Bear's Recipes】Mentaiko Pasuta 明太子パスタ

This morning a friend asked me, "don't you think it's hard to find time to cook?" I do, but truth is, I can't eat out all the time anymore. Not that I don't enjoy going to restaurants and the company of family and friends over dinner, but usually after a few consecutive nights of eating out, my body will start to complain. I guess I'm getting old.

Last week I spent many late nights in the office and by the end of the week I was so sick and tired of eating takeouts I just couldn't take it anymore. I dragged my tired self to the grocery store just before closing and bought the ingredients to make a 30-minute meal.  My go-to recipe of late is the Mentaiko Pasuta 明太子パスタ, pasta with spicy cod roe.

And no, I didn't spell the word pasta wrong.  Pasuta (パスタ) is the Japanese spelling of the word and obviously this fusion dish is all about harmonizing Italian pastas with Japanese ingredients.  The best thing is that this dish is super easy to make, something that you can literally throw together in 30 minutes from start to finish, and if I'm really hungry that includes eating and cleaning up as well.

What's better than having hot, delicious homemade food after a long day of work?  Starting from this post, I am going to bring you a series of what I call the "Lazy Bear's Recipes", for all of you who also enjoy a little home cooked dinner, without having to slave in front of the stove for hours after a long day at work. I hope you like them. =)

Serves 4
Difficulty: Low

1 packet mentaiko (usually has 2 to 3 sacs)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2.5 tablespoon Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise
1/4 cup of cream
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 sheet nori, cut into thin strips
6 leaves of green shiso, sliced very thin
170 grams sphaghetti pasta

1. Cook the pasta in salted water in a large pot according to the instructions on the package, usually about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cut each mentaiko sac in half and scrape out the roe from each into a mixing bowl, discarding the membrane.
3. Add melted butter, cream, mayo and black pepper to the bowl and mix well.
4. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the mentaiko sauce.  Toss the pasta until every strand of it is coated with the sauce evenly.
5. Plate the pasta and sprinkle some nori and shiso strips over it.  Serve immediately.

See I told you? This is almost as easy as instant noodles!

Quick tip: Since this is the "Lazy Man's Recipe", I am going to share with you my quick trick of melting the butter.  Instead of using another saucepan or putting it in the microwave (by the way, Mrs. Bear does not own a microwave), put a pair of long chopsticks horizontally over the pasta pot and put the butter in a small bowl on top of the chopsticks while you're cooking the pasta.  The heat from the pot will melt the butter instantly!  This saves energy and saves you from washing another saucepan!

Monday, July 23, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 7] Tomatoes Wrapped in Pork Belly

The assignment for this week's Shinya Shokudou cooking club is Tomatoes Wrapped in Pork Belly (五花肉蕃茄卷 or 豚バラトマト巻き). I'm glad that it's a simple challenge as I had been clocking quite a number of overtime hours at work this week. The dish itself is really nothing more than what the name suggests - you wrap tomatoes with pork belly slices and you grill them up, that's it. The tomato becomes soft and sweet after grilling and the natural fat from the pork belly actually enhances the flavour. They are always a crowd pleaser whenever we serve them at our family BBQ. Some people like to use bacon instead of pork belly slices because in that case you don't even have to worry about seasoning. To make it substantial enough as a dish for dinner tonight I threw in some leeks and Japanese green peppers I had in the fridge since I'm already firing up the oven anyway.

Cherry tomatoes 
Pork belly, thinly sliced 
A dash of salt and black pepper 
Bamboo skewers 

1. Place bamboo skewers in water to soak. 
2. Cut the pork belly strips into half-length. Put the cherry tomato towards the end of the pork belly strip, wrap tight and thread them onto the skewer. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. Heat up the oven to 200C and grill until the pork belly turns brown and crisp, about 5 minutes on each side. For better results, use a grill (with medium high heat) Serve immediately.

Let's check out the other members' dishes this week!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Banana Bread

I have tried many banana bread recipes in the past and was not able to find the perfect one. A while ago, I saw a recipe from 偽主婦ki琪’s blog and she mentioned that it came from her brother who is a pastry chef at a 5 star hotel. I made a big batch using this recipe last weekend and I don’t think I’ll look much further for another one. This banana bread is moist and delicious with loads of banana flavor! As opposed to the other banana bread recipes I’ve used, this one uses the muffin method by melting the butter instead of creaming which gives a dense and chewy texture. The original recipe uses only granulated sugar. By the time I was onto the fifth loaf, I ran out of white sugar so I did a little experiment by substituting half of it with brown sugar. We sampled both versions, the one with brown sugar is more moist and rich in flavor and the one with white sugar is more dense and light in flavor. Both were very good, so I guess it just comes down to a matter of preference of what you like more. 

偽主婦ki琪’s blog has step-by-step instructions with pictures in Chinese, but for those who can’t read Chinese, I’ve translated the recipe for you here. Thank you 偽主婦ki琪 for the amazing recipe – it’s definitely a keeper!

2 1/2 ripe bananas (偽主婦ki琪’s recipe asks for 2 bananas but Mr. Bear requested for more so I threw in an extra half.) 
100g unsalted butter 
100g white sugar (or 50g white sugar + 50g brown sugar) 
3 egg yolks 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
1 tablespoon rum 100g plain flour 
50g bread flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 egg whites 

1. Preheat oven to 170C. 
2. Mash bananas in a large mixing bowl until well-blended. Add in the lemon juice and mix well. 
3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. 
4. Add sugar, butter, egg yolks, rum, and vanilla extract into the banana mixture and whisk them together. 
5. Add sifted dry ingredients into the mixture to form the batter. 
6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. 
7. Add 1/3 of the egg white into the batter and mix well, then fold in the rest of the egg white. 
8. Lightly butter bread loaf pans and pour the banana mixture in. 9. Bake at 170C for 30-40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The tops of the loaves should be a nice toasty brown. 
10. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homemade Pork Jerky (Bak Kwa)

I have promised my colleague S that I would post the recipe for my homemade bak kwa for a long time but I never got a round to do it.  Since I have a little bit of time tonight, I decided to write about it first among all the other things I want to blog about.

Ever since I was a kid I had always been wondering how pork jerky is made.  Pork jerky is pretty expensive if you buy them in a store so I was under the impression that the process of making it must be very complicated.  It was until I saw my friend J posting her secret recipe on Facebook that I realized I can possibly make this at home too.  All you need is a big oven, a few pieces of parchment paper and saran wrap, a rolling pin, and of course, lots of pork.  I improvised J's recipe a little and here is Mrs. Bear's very own version of bak kwa.  I don't have to go to Bee Cheng Hiang for this anymore!

500 grams of ground pork
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon Hua Tiao wine
1/2 tablespoon Chinese rose wine
a dash of white pepper
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of honey, diluted with 2 tablespoons of water

1. Mix all ingredients (except for honey water) in a large mixing bowl in one direction until the meat turns gluey.  Let the mixture stand in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
2. Preheat oven at 100C.
3. Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of a baking tray.  Place parchment paper on the kitchen counter and put about half the meat on top.  Cover the meat with saran wrap and flatten the meat using a rolling pin to form a thin sheet of 2-5mm, as desired.  Slide the meat (together with the parchment paper) onto the baking tray and peel off saran wrap.  Repeat this step until all the meat is used up.
4. Place baking tray into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until the meat is dry and solid to touch.
5. Remove meat from oven and cut into size and shape preferred, using a cookie cutter or pizza cutter.
6. Place cut meat onto a new piece of baking paper or wire rack. Brush honey water over the meat and grill until the pieces turn brown on both sides and the edges slightly charred. Keep your eyes on them because once the honey water is added they get burned very easily.

Note: this pork jerky does not have preservatives, so it’s better to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat in microwave or oven when needed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 6] Buta Kimchi

Inspired by the popular Japanese manga, Shinya Shokudou (深夜食堂), a virtual cooking club was formed by a small group of passionate home cooks.  Shinya Shokudou means "a late night diner" in English. The manga is actually a collection of short stories set in a small eatery only opening after midnight.  It has a standard menu consisting of just a single choice, but the owner will try to cook any dish that the patrons request. The stories revolve around the lives of the patrons and usually one simple local dish is featured in each chapter.

Founded by blogger 偽主婦ki琪, she initially recruited some of her close friends to join exclusively, and now the member base has expanded to over 20 in just 6 weeks! The idea of this cooking club is that all the members will cook the same dish and blog about them on the same day.  The list of predetermined dishes of course comes from the manga but the members are encouraged to come up with their own recipes.  This is like the Iron Chef for the housewives!  The members "meet" virtually every Sunday and today is my first club meeting!!!

The topic for this week is Buta Kimchi (泡菜豬肉). Known as Jaeyook Bokkeum (재육볶음) in Korea, Buta Kimchi (豚キムチ) is the Japanese rendition of this spicy pork and kimchi dish.  I have always wanted to learn how to make this so I couldn't be more thrilled to find out that is my first Shinya Shokudou challenge.  The problem is, I have never made Japanese dishes at home so I had no idea how to make Buta Kimchi. I was prepared to make this dish every day starting the Monday until it comes out right so I wouldn't be embarrassing myself in front of all these experienced cooks in my first appearance.  Fortunately, it worked out very well the first time and Mr. Bear was very relieved that he doesn't have to eat the same thing every day for the last week.  Here's my Buta Kimchi recipe.  To show my respect to the club, even though this is a simple dish, I bought Kurobuta pork belly slices for it, but I'm sure regular pork would taste just as good. =)

Serves 3
Difficulty: Low

500g sliced pork belly
2 cups kimchi, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 spring onions thinly sliced

1. Heat up a frying pan until very hot and sear the pork belly slices on both sides.  There's no need to add oil since there's enough natural fat in the meat already.  Transfer the meat onto a plate leaving just a tablespoon of fat in the frying pan.
2. Add the kimchi and onion to the frying pan and stir fry for a minute. 
3. Mix the gochujang, soy sauce, garlic and sugar together in a small bowl. Return the pork to the pan along with the seasoning and continue to stir fry until the kimchi turns translucent and the pork becomes tender, about 5-8 minutes. If there’s any extra liquid remaining at the bottom, turn the heat up to high and reduce until the sauce coats the meat and the kimchi. 
4. Turn off the heat, drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with spring onions and serve.

p.s. You may have noticed that the title of today's post is Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 6. When I joined this club last week, the other members have already completed five challenges already. 

p.p.s As I was expecting to go through many failed attempts before I could get it right, I bought a lot of kimchi.  I used the leftover kimchi on the next day for Miss G's favourite Korean Tofu Stew, which I will blog about separately.  For the time being, I hope you enjoyed my Buta Kimchi. =)

Let's take a look at other member's cooking!

1. Chairlady 偽主婦的生活日記


3. 方家小廚

4. Mrs. Horse Little Workshop

5. 維維媽

6. 為食二人組的喪食足跡

7. Jobe's Cooking

8. 芝士的生活點滴

9. Viviana 英倫廚房筆記

10. 黃金太太廚房的事

11. 玻璃朱城

12. 鬼嫁料理手帳

13. Serendipity

14. OL醉愛廚房

15. WongC9

16. 噹噹

17. 東海堂。拾壹樓


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