What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Japanese cuisine?
If you’re a foreigner who hasn’t been too adventurous when it comes to Japanese cuisine, chances are you’re thinking sushi, ramen, or tonkatsu.
Although these are delicious dishes commonly eaten in Japan, Japanese cuisine has so much more to offer.
Here are three simple Japanese dishes you can cook yourself at home if you’re looking to expand your culinary horizons.
Ochazuke, a dish that literally means “tea” and “immerse,” is made with cooked rice soaked in green tea.
An extremely simple dish, it’s a great way to use up leftover rice. Its toppings are also commonly found in a Japanese household, such as seaweed and sesame seeds.
Often eaten as a quick meal or comfort food when feeling down, teas such as green tea, hojicha or genmaicha can be used. If you prefer something savory, you can use dashi stock instead.
While you can add any toppings you want, common toppings include salmon flakes, umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum), bubu arare (tiny puffed rice cracker balls), and green onion.
Here are the ingredients I used:
- japanese rice
- Sesame seeds
- Shiso leaves (perilla)
I used hojicha for the tea, but you are free to use whatever tea you want, like green tea and genmaicha. Floral teas and black teas, however, probably won’t pair very well with rice.
After you’ve prepped your salmon, added your toppings — I used sesame seeds and shredded shiso leaves — and steeped your hot tea, you’re good to go.
You can also replace the salmon with salmon flakes from a bottle if that suits you better.
Finally, if you prefer a touch of acidity to your food, you can add kurozu, or black vinegar.
You can get this black vinegar, hojicha, sesame seeds and instant Japanese rice from the online Japanese grocery store Groceries by umamill.
A healthy side dish made with vegetables and tofu, shiraae (which roughly translates to “white” and “to dress the vegetables”) is a typical Buddhist cuisine and is perfect for vegans.
It’s really easy to do too.
Simply prepare some green vegetables, such as green beans or spinach with Japanese mustard (komatsuna), tofu, white miso, sesame seeds and soy sauce.
You can get soy sauce and miso here.
First, drain the tofu (I have silken tofu but firm tofu works best for this recipe) wrapping it with paper towel.
Leave to rest for about 30 minutes. If you want, you can place something heavy on it, like a frying pan or a tray with a few cans for added weight, to speed up the process. Then you can also squeeze out the excess water.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the sesame seeds (I used my mom’s old set that I dug out somewhere in the back of the kitchen cupboards).
Add sugar, miso and tofu to the sesame seeds, which should have been ground into a fine powder), to make a sort of paste.
For the exact measurements, you can refer to this recipe.
As for the green beans, boil them but do not overcook them so that they retain a crispy texture.
Then cut them diagonally.
Add a little soy sauce to season the green beans, mix well and let sit for a few minutes.
Then mix the paste and the green beans together.
Once you’re done, you can put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before serving, or you can serve it right away.
There you go, the shiraae dish is finished.
Tonjiru is a hot and hearty soup that literally means “pork soup” in Japanese. Although it’s a classic winter dish, it can be enjoyed all year round (yes, even in the heat and humidity of Singapore).
Besides pork, you can add plenty of root vegetables to the soup, such as radishes, carrots, and burdock root. And like the other two dishes mentioned above, you can customize the dish by adding your favorite ingredients, making it a great way to enjoy all your favorite veggies in one dish.
Here are the ingredients I used:
- Pork belly
- Napa cabbage
- Fish cake
You can get konnyaku, fishcake, and dashi here.
First cook the pork slices with sesame oil, then add your root vegetables.
In the meantime, I also seasoned the konnyaku slices with salt and boiled them first for about three minutes to get rid of the fishy smell.
Next, add the rest of your ingredients to the pot, along with the dashi stock.
Once the ingredients are cooked, add a little miso paste to taste and let the broth simmer over low heat. Be careful not to let it boil because miso loses its taste and some of its nutrients when boiled.
The dish is then ready to be served!
If you want to try these dishes for yourself or buy Japanese ingredients, you can check out Groceries by umamill, which brings you ingredients straight from Japan.
From now until the end of March, get free shipping (applicable for next day delivery) and S$10 off your purchase if you spend at least S$30 with promo code MOTH202202 (valid until the end of March).
Top image by Kayla Wong
This piece sponsored by Groceries by umamill inspires the writer to want to cook more.