Hello Japan! February: Japanese Cooking
February 26, 2011 36 Comments
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. It is organized by Tanabata of In Spring it is the Dawn. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. This month’s task is to make something Japanese.
Last month, I’d bought some sushi, which I had never eaten before. So this month I was keen to try a different Japanese meal. But although I did eat a “Japanese meal” I still failed miserably at the task.
I decided to get a Japanese cook book from the library. They had one. Yes, one. They had a few others in the catalogue that they could get for me from other branches but hey, one book is enough. The book was Wagamama Cookbook by Hugo Arnold.
It’s a cook book with recipes from the Wagamama restaurants, a Japanese fast-food style restaurant that can be found in several bigger cities around the world.
This sounded great. The book has a good selection of all kinds of Japanese foods. At first sight. Totally missing are classics like sushi and tempura. The book has lots of stir-fry recipes and marinated meat recipes.
While I enjoy stir-fries, I don’t consider them typically Japanese. Maybe because of the addition of certain ingredients it would taste different from the stir-fries I normally make (with a chinese-style sauce) but I didn’t find this interesting enough. As far as the many meat recipes in the book are concerned: I don’t eat meat.
I do eat tofu, and there were a few recipes I could have made. But: every recipe asked for some ingredients that I could not find at my supermarket or the more exotically stocked organic supermarket. For instance, I needed shichimi (7-herbs) for one recipe and since this seemed to be the distinctive Japanese ingredient of the dish, Tahu Katsu (fried tofu in breadcrumbs and herbs), I didn’t feel I could substitute that with something else.
Another recipe that looked interesting was Yasai Chilli Men (stir fried vegetables with tofu and soba noodles – yes, I was getting desperate so stir fry was an option again) which at first sight looked like something I would be able to make until I read the final ingredient: chilli sauce. Not just any chilli sauce, but the one from page 27 with 13 different ingredients. Right!
Desperate for a “recipe” I used a packet of yakitori sauce I already had, and fried some white rice from the day before with some Quorn pieces and some frozen peas, for lunch. How about that for my improvised Japanese meal? No, you’re right, it’s pretty bad going.
Anyway, the yakitori sauce was new for me too, and it seemed to taste mainly of soy sauce with something sweet. According to the Wagamama cook book, which has a recipe for yakitori sauce, it contains sake, soy sauce, mirin (oh, I love that, see my sushi encounter) and some sugar.
My plans to make something typically Japanese failed but I can recommend the Wagamama book to people who are interested in Japanese food, can get their hands on the ingredients and are willing to look beyond the standard sushi and tempura.