Back to My Roots: Japanese Food at Home

Back to My Roots: Japanese Food at Home

When the weather warms up, especially during Spring, I crave Japanese food.  I think about cherry blossoms, kite flying and Tokyo street festivals and my taste buds go into a tizzy.  I want to have fresh foods, light flavors and eye pleasing dishes.  I want the best of Japanese homestyle cuisine.

Now, I’ve previously written about sushi and sashimi, and as I have admitted on live tv, these are items that I prefer to leave in the hands of master chefs.  At home, however, I love to enjoy a bowl of cold soba noodles, ginger flavored chicken or a savory Japanese curry.  This is my Spring time comfort food.

See my pictures here.

Cold, buckwheat soba (zaru soba) noodles are a favorite of mine.  Soba is often referred to as “Japanese spaghetti” because they have a similar texture and shape.  However, I find soba noodles to have more flavor as they are made from buckwheat instead of semolina.  They are typically served as a side dish, substituting for rice.  A bowl of mirin (sweet cooking wine, similar to sherry) spiked soy sauce accompanies the noodles as a dipping companion.  To make the dipping sauce, combine dashi stock (whether freshly made or from instant granules) with soy sauce, mirin and sugar to taste.  Boil the soba quickly (5-6 minutes) and rinse under cold water.

Matsukaze-Yaki is a sesame chicken loaf that is so easy to make.  Although there are many different recipes, I like to use ground chicken, finely diced leeks, freshly grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and sake.  I beat an egg then combine all the ingredients into a bowl.  Using a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, I flatten the mixture into a large patty.  I press sesame seeds into the loaf then brown on both sides until cooked through.  Although some people enjoy the loaf as is, I like to serve it with a miso-flavored sauce or a dollop of spicy Japanese mustard.

With a small salad, the sesame ginger chicken and cold soba noodles make the perfect Spring-time meal in minutes!

Zaru Soba Dipping Sauce
1 1/2 cups dashi stock
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all together and served with cooked soba noodles (cooled to room temperature).

Sesame Chicken Loaf

1 pound ground chicken (I do half breast and half dark meat)
1 small leek (light green and white parts only) finely diced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sake
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
Oil for pan
Japanese mustard (if desired)

Combine all the ingredients except for the sesame seeds in a bowl and mix well.  Heat a non-stick skillet with oil.  Once hot, press the chicken mixture into a flat disc in the pan.  Sprinkle with half the sesame seeds.  Flip the disc after a few minutes.  It maybe easier to cut the disc into quarters and individually flip each piece.  Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds and cook through, approximately 5-7 minutes over medium heat.

Transfer to cutting board and slice.  Serve with Japanese mustard or a soy-miso sauce.

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