Sunday, August 26, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 12] Curry Beef Udon with Slow Cooked Eggs

It’s Shinya Shokudou time again!  This week’s challenge is Curry Udon (咖哩烏龍麵), or in Japanese カレーうどん.

Apparently Curry Udon is a popular dish in Japan, but for some strange reason, I have never had it before so I don’t know how it is supposed to taste or look.  No worries, when in doubt, I can just Google it!  It looks like it’s just basically udon in a soup made of Japanese curry, but since there isn’t a standard recipe for it (at least not one that I could find), I decided to come up with one from scratch instead of adapting someone else’s recipe.  I used beef slices for the soup curry and for a nice touch, I added an onsen tamago, the Japanese for slow cooked egg (see here for recipe).  I personally think this dish is more suitable for a cold winter night, but Mr. Bear loved it so much he even slurped down all the soup till the last drop!  Woohoo!!! My very first recipe and it was a success!!!  I’m so excited I’m bouncing off the walls!!!

Serves 2
Difficulty: Easy

750ml dashi stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 small carrot, cut into small pieces
200g of sliced beef
4 slices of Japanese fish cakes
2 blocks of Japanese curry roux
2 packs of frozen Sanuki udon noodles – I like Sanuki udon for its chewiness but in fact any kind of udon will do
2 green onion, finely chopped
2 slow cooked eggs (onsen tamago)

1. Prepare two slow cooked eggs according to the instructions here.
2. Prepare dashi stock.
3. In a medium sized pot or a large frying pan, heat oil and sauté the onion and carrot until the carrot starts to turn soft and the onion turns translucent.  Add the dashi stock and curry roux and bring it to a boil.  Stir constantly to make sure the roux dissolves completely.  Heat the curry on medium low until it starts to thicken, for about 7-10 mins, stirring once in a while to make sure the curry soup does not get burnt.
4. In the meantime, cook the udon in another pot of boiling water.  Drain and place udon in a large bowl.
5. Cook the fish cakes and beef slices in the boiling water and place them on top of the cooked udon.
6. Pour the curry soup over the noodles and top with green onion and a slow cooked egg in each bowl before serving.  Enjoy!

1. I used instant dashi powder for the stock this time.  The brand that I’ve chosen makes exactly 750ml of stock per packet so it’s really convenient.
2. I like my beef slightly on the rare side so I only cook it for about 30 seconds in the boiling water until it turns pink.  The heat from hot curry soup when poured over the meat will continue to cook the meat as well.  If you prefer your meat well done, you can also fry it with the onion just before you add the dashi stock and the curry roux.

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

【Lazy Bear's Recipes】Onsen Tamago (Slow-Cooked Egg)

Mr. Bear always says eggs are his all time favourite food.  I love eggs too!  Eggs are most versatile - you can have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and there are so many ways to cook them.  I am quite proud to say that I'm an expert in cooking eggs. A sunny side up egg was the first dish I ever learned to cook when I was a little kid.  Over the years, I've mastered many other ways one can cook eggs. Soft boiled, hard boiled, scrambled, poached, sunny side up, over and easy, steamed or even the 荷包蛋 the way my mom likes it, i.e. a fried egg with crispy edges, served over rice with soy sauce; you name it, I can make them for you.  My colleague roommate was always surprised how I could always make a perfectly fried egg. But unfortunately, my culinary spirit seemed to have stopped right there until I married Mr. Bear.

Recently I realized there's still one egg cooking technique I haven't conquered yet, and that's the Onsen Tamago 温泉卵. They are traditionally eggs slow-cooked in hot springs.  Of course I don't have an onsen at home, but I've seen many recipes out there employing the sous vide method to make onsen tamago.  However, unless you have one of those sous vide machines at home, making eggs using this method involves a cast iron pot, an oven, a themometer and constantly standing by the oven for 45 minutes to make sure the temperature stays at precisely 63.5 degrees Celcius, which is a ton of work and a bit too persnickety if all I want is an egg that I can put in my noodle soups or on top of my pastas.

I did a few experiments and finally figured out a quick and dirty way of making decent onsen tamago.  I admit they are not the best, but given the amount of time and effort required I'd say they are definitely good enough.  I've made my onsen tamago using this Lazy Man's way a few times since then and it has not failed me so far.  The eggs are great on their own serve in a bit of dashi stock, soy sauce and mirin or simply a couple tablespoons of bottled soba tsuyu.

Difficulty: Easy

1 egg
600ml water

1. Bring 500ml of water to a boil in a small pot.  Make sure the water level is high enough to cover the egg.
2. Remove the pot from heat and add the remaining 100ml of water to the boiling water.  Add the egg immediately and cover with a lid for 12 minutes.
3. Put the egg in cold water to stop the cooking process.  Crack the egg into a bowl and serve!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 11] Oyakodon

We have already reached the eleventh chapter of our Shinya Shokudou cooking club.  I bet many of us didn't expect we would make it this far when we started, but we are just having too much fun cooking, sharing, learning from each other and making new friends week after week!  Our member base is now over 30 people from all over the world, and next week, we are going to have our first gathering.  I can't wait to meet some of the members in person!

We have already planned the menu for the next five chapters.  I'm pretty excited because they are all dishes that I want to learn!  One thing that I've discovered over the last few weeks is that a lot of the Japanese dishes look complicated when you have them at a restaurant, but in fact, if you are willing to try, they can be quite easily replicated at home - all you need is a good recipe and an experimental spirit!

The challenge for this week is Oyakodon (親子丼). Oyako means "parent and child" and Oyakodon is essentially chicken (parent) and egg (child) over a bowl of rice. Don comes from the word Donburi which means "a large bowl".  I must have had Oyakodon (親子丼) over a hundred times at restaurants in the past but I've always had the impression that it's not easy to make especially if you have to keep the eggs light and fluffy.  It turns out that it's a very simple dish, so simple that I can add it to my Lazy Man's Recipe series.  You don't believe me?  Try it out for yourself and see!

Adpated from Cooking with a Dog's recipe

Serves 1
Difficulty: Easy 

50ml dashi stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sake
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon mirin
1/2 small onion, sliced
75g boneless chicken thigh, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 eggs
1 bunch of mitsuba (Japanese three-leaf parsley), cut stems into 1 inch strips and leave the tips (the three leaves as garnish) 
200g fresh steamed rice

1. Crack the eggs in a small bowl and beat the eggs lightly.
2. Mix the dashi stock, soy sauce, sake, sugar, mirin and heat the mixture in a small pan.  Add the onion  slices to the mixture and distribute them evenly.  Cover with a lid and simmer for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
3. Add the chicken pieces and cover again.  When the chicken is almost cooked, flip them over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. When the chicken is fully cooked, pour 2/3 of the egg into the pan, cover and simmer for 10 seconds.
5. Add the remaining egg mixture and mitsuba, cover and turn off the heat immediately.  Allow to sit for 15 seconds.
6. Put hot steamed rice into a large bowl and quickly pour the chicken and egg over the rice.  Served immediately.

Let's take a look at other members' Oyakodon!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 10] Hiyashi Chuka

Time flies! We've gotten to the 10th chapter of Shinya Shokudou Cooking Club already!  This time we're making a refreshing cold dish that is very suitable for hot summer days like today.  Hiyashi Chuka 冷やし中華 (中華涼麵) is cold ramen noodle salad served with a colourful variety of toppings.  Popular toppings include cooked ham, egg omletes, cucumber and tomatoes but honestly you can almost put anything that you like so it's the perfect way to clean out the fridge.

The Japanese are very specific about their food (and almost everything else in general) and because they have distinct four seasons, their food selections always change with the seasons as well.  Hiyashi Chuka is a good example.  Hiyashi Chuka is a very popular dish in Japan, but it's often only offered in restaurants in the summer time, just like sukiyaki is considered a winter dish only. I remember when I was an exchange student in Nagoya many many summers ago, my very hospitable host family was asking me what I wanted for dinner one day.  I told them I wanted sukiyakis because it's one of my favourite Japanese food (and besides, I didn't know that many Japanese dishes back then).  They all looked at me in horror as if I just requested for some kind of food that is forbidden in Japan.  It was really funny because for Chinese people, we can pretty much have hot pot anytime of the year.  We just have to make sure we have the air-conditioning blasting on top of our heads!

In my recipe, I have chosen cooked ham, imitation crab meat, cucumber, egg omletes, tomatoes and cooked shrimps as my toppings.  For the tare sauce, I used the lemon soy sauce from Cooking with a Dog's Hiyashi Chuka recipe.  Cooking with a Dog is a YouTube cooking show about a Japanese woman (aka The Chef) who cooks WITH her super adorable toy poodle called Francis.  If you haven't tuned in to this YouTube channel before, do it!  There's almost 100 videos with very straightforward preparations of Japanese home cooking and they all look so very delicious!

Serves 2
Difficulty: Easy

2 bags of ramen noodles
4 slices of cooked ham, cut into fine strips
5-6 cooked shrimps
1 Japanese cucumber, cut into fine strips
1 tomato, cut in 12 wedges
1 cup of imitation crab meat, shredded finely
1 teaspoon with sesame oil

For the lemon soy sauce dressing:
100ml chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Karashi (Japanese Hot Mustard) to taste

For the egg omlete:
2 eggs
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon corn starch

1. Mix all the ingredients for the lemon soy sauce (except for the Karashi) in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine and put the mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
2. Mix the corn starch with water until dissolved and add the mixture to another small bowl with the eggs, mirin, sugar, and salt.  Beat the egg mixture until uniform in colour.
3. In a small non-stick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Pour half of the egg mixture into the pan and quickly swirl the pan to spread the egg into a thin layer like a pancake.  When the egg is almost cooked, turn off the heat and flip the egg.  Use the remaining heat to cook the other side.  Transfer to a chopping board when done.  Repeat this step for the rest of the egg mixture and pile the second layer on top of the first one on the chopping board.  Cut the egg omlete into fine strips and set aside.
4. Cook the ramen noodles in a pot of boiling water according to the instructions on the package.  Drain and rise the noodles with running cold water and then transfer cooked pasta into a bowl with ice water.  Drain the noodles completely and toss it with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
5. Serve the noodles in a chilled plate and top it with the shredded egg, cucumbers, crab meat, ham and tomatoes.  Drizzle the dressing over the noodles and serve the Hiyashi Chuka with karashi hot mustard.

1. Adding the corn starch in the egg will help the omlete stay together when fried.
2. Similar to my Scallops and Salmon Roe Cold Pasta recipe, you can put the serving plates in the freezer just before you start cooking.  Serving the cold noodles on a chilled plate will keep it cool while you're eating it.

Let's take a look at other members' Hiyashi Chukas!

Monday, August 6, 2012

[Shinya Shodukou - Chapter 9] Sake Steamed Clams

The challenge for this week's Shinya Shodukou is Sake Steamed Clams (酒蒸蛤蜊), or in Japanese あさりの酒蒸し (Asari no Sakamushi).

There is a Cantonese saying, "三分材料, 七分師傅", meaning for a good dish, only 30% comes from the ingredients, the skills of the chef accounts for the other 70%. However, when it comes to Sake Steamed Clams, this rule doesn't really apply. This is a very simple dish to make and the secret lies completely within getting the freshest quality clams. Determined to get the best clams out there, I got off work early one afternoon to go to the fresh seafood stall by the pier, only to find out that I forgot it was the fishing moratorium the whole June and July and there were NO fresh clams! I then went to two grocery stores in my neighbourhood and I couldn't even find any frozen clams either.

In desperate circumstances you call for desperate measures. I called up my favourite restaurant in town for white wine steamed clams and the owner/chef (let’s call him Chef N) was very kind to sell me some of their raw clams.  Their clams are freshly shipped from the US three times a week and I’m pretty sure these are some of the best clams I could possibly find out there. With these clams, I knew I was well on my way to success already! Chef N also generously shared with me the techniques of making the perfect white wine steamed clams that they serve in the restaurant. I took his advice but substituted the ingredients with what I think would add a bit of Japanese touch and the outcome was irresistibly good!  After we finished the clams, Mr. Bear made some plain white somen noodles to go with the broth to make sure not a drop of it is going to waste.

Because of how easy it is, this recipe is going into my collection of Lazy Man's Recipes, provided you get good clams, of course! ;)

Serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 as an entree 

Difficulty: Low 


500g (~1 lb) fresh clams 
150ml sake 
1 bunch of mitsuba (Japanese three-leaf parsley), cut stems into 1 inch strips and leave the tips (the three leaves as garnish) 
1 shallot, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and finely julienned 
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped 
1 tablespoon of butter 
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 
A dash of black pepper 


1. Remove the sand from the clams by adding them into a bowl of heavily salted cold water (so that it tastes like sea water). Cover the bowl with damp newspaper. The clams will relax and spit out the sand. Rinse well before cooking. 
2. In a shallow pot with a lid (Chef N said the lid is the key!), heat the olive oil and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot, ginger, garlic and mitsuba stems and fry until fragrant. Sprinkle black pepper. 
3. Add the clams to the pot and add sake until the liquid covers about 1/3 of the height of the clams. Cover and simmer for 2.5-3 minutes or until the clams open. 
4. Taste one clam, the juice released from it should be salty enough. If not, adjust the flavour by adding salt or water to match your taste. 
5. Scatter with mitsuba leaves and serve hot.

Let's take a look at other member's Sake Steamed Clams.



Friday, August 3, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou - Chapter 1] Nikujaga

I'm trying very hard to catch up on the Shinya Shokudou Cooking Club challenges that I missed.  The very first challenge the club members were asked to do was a stable in almost every Japanese household called Nikujaga (肉じゃが), Meat and Potato Stew, 馬鈴薯燉肉. "Niku" literally means meat and "jaga" means potato. I was told that nikujaga to the Japanese is like mac n cheese to the Americans. It invokes a certain feeling of homeliness and nostalgia. In Japanese, this is called "ofukuro no aji", おふくろの味, meaning the "mother's taste". Every housewife in Japan knows how to make nikujaga and it's often one of the first dishes a woman learns how to make (so that she can cook for her boyfriend/husband)!  I have to say that it was quite appropriately picked as the first dish for our cooking club because even for something as common as nikujaga, usually every housewife has her own recipe and secret ingredients, and this is what this whole cooking club is all about. Every Sunday at 11pm when I post my recipe, I am also waiting by my computer at the same time, eager to find out how the other members made the same dish. There are always surprises and we learn many new tips and tricks from each other. This whole internet community makes cooking so much more fun than doing it at home by yourself!

Back to my recipe, this time I've choosen to adopt Masa-sensei's version (simply because it was the first one that came up when I googled for "馬鈴薯燉肉", haha). The step-by-step instructions on his website is very easy to follow.  And again, for those who don't read Chinese, I've translated the recipe in English for you.

Serves 4
Difficulty: Intermediate

500 grams potatoes (I used Hokkaido Baron potatoes and they soaked up the sauce very well), peeled and cut into wedges
100 grams carrots, cut into "rolling wedges"
1 1/2 medium sized onion, cut into half-inch wedges
200 grams ito-konnyaku (This is a jelly-like noodle made from the root of a plant)
A few snap peas (I omitted the greens in mine because I forgot to buy them. Masa-sensei uses string beans, but I've seen more people use snap peas instead. It's really there to add colour to the dish so it doesn't matter what you use actually)
200 grams beef slices, cut in half
500 ml water
5 tablespoons soya sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sake
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin

1. Bring water to a boil in a small pot and cook ito-konnyaku for about two minutes to take away the fishy smell.
2. In a large pot, add a little bit of oil and fry the beef slides in medium heat until half cooked.
3. Add the ito-konnyaku and half of the onion slices and fry for about 2 minutes until the onion starts to become soft.
4. Add the potatoes and carrots and fry for a minute. Add the water and turn up to high heat and bring to a boil.  After 2-3 minutes, scoop out the bubbles and oil floating on top.
5. Combine soya sauce, sugar, sake and mirin in a small bowl.  Reduce to low heat and add the seasoning to the stew and stir gently.  Cook with the lid on for 30 minutes.  (Masa-sensei recommends using a disposable lid made out of aluminum foil as it will help the ingredients absorb the flavour better.)
6. Add the rest of the onion and cook until all potatoes and carrots are turns soft.
7. Add snap peas and cook until they just turn bright green.  Serve immediately with rice.

Note: I made this using the prettiest Lilac Le Creuset dutch oven my friend got me as a "Grand Opening" gift for this new blog!  Here's a picture as she made her debut today! =D

Let's take a look at other member's Nikujaga.


日式馬鈴薯燉肉 (肉じゃが) (附食譜)【深夜食堂煮婦同樂會】第一彈 


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