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Showing posts with label Japanese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japanese. Show all posts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Praise of Leftovers

I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to go out to restaurants and eat. 

Those are my primary directives, to borrow a Star Trek expression. I have a couple of others.
Waste nothing. Get good value out of whatever I buy.

Combining all those together means when I go to a restaurant I always bring home a doggie-bag so I always get a second (sometimes a third!) meal out of my restaurant meal. That saves money and I exercise my creativity transforming one chef's ideas into my own.

Portion control is another advantage. Because I know I am not going to eat everything on the plate, I save the calories for another day.

That probably sounds obsessive, compulsive or just nuts, but there you have it. Me in a nutshell.

For Zesterdaily I posted two recipes that demonstrate the method in my madness.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Yabu in West Los Angeles - Authentic Japanese

Living in Southern California, we enjoy rich ethnic diversity. Those of us who explore culture through cuisine are very happy about that.
Located in West Los Angeles, a good example of a neighborhood Japanese restaurant, Yabu (11820 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064; 310-473-9757has a devoted following.
Because Yabu has a much larger, sister restaurant in West Hollywood, when you call to make a reservation, you will be asked to confirm that you want to eat at the Pico restaurant.
You do.
There are lots of chain restaurants with Japanese names, but Yabu is the real deal. The kitchen prepares authentic Japanese comfort food, not unlike what you would eat in Tokyo or Kyoto.
Serving lunch (Mon.-Sat.) and dinner (Mon.-Sun.), the restaurant is perfect to drop in for a quick bite at the sushi bar or with family and friends to hang out at one of the tables tucked into the corners of the room.
Order cups of hot green tea, ice cold bottles of Japanese beers or hot (or cold) sake and try out new dishes as you enjoy easy conversation and good food.
The sushi selections are always fresh and made with precision. Affordable—unless you go crazy—sushi and sashimi can be ordered individually or as combination platters.
The beef tataki, a Japanese version of carpaccio, and the albacore tuna tataki are especially tasty (our son Franklin's favorites). The ponzu dressing is spicy enough to bring out the best of both.
In no particular order, here are some of the dishes we order whenever we visit: fried tofu, stir-fried lotus root (kimpira renkon), edamame, ten don (tempura shrimp and vegetables over seasoned steamed rice), eggplant, spinach in a miso sauce, miso soup, shishito green peppers, black cod and soboro don (finely minced chicken cooked in a ginger soy sauce with a bit of heat and served over donburi rice).
Come at lunchtime and try the combination of noodle soup (soba or udon) and sushi. Affordable and freshly made, the soup is light and flavorful, the noodles chewy and delicious. 
One of my favorites is the tempura udon. Inside the large bowl of soup are chewy udon noodles, slices of fish cake, vegetables and tempura. Ask for the vegetable and shrimp tempura on the side so they stay crisp and crunchy.
Yabu's tempura may be some of the best in Los Angeles. Light and fresh tasting, the shrimp, seaweed square, lotus root and sweet potato have their flavors enhanced, not overwhelmed, by the batter.
Everyone has his or her favorite sushi; mine are tamago (egg), baked crab in a hand roll (on the dinner specials menu) and spicy tuna.
For a small restaurant with a kitchen about the size of a Mini Cooper, you'll be surprised at the plentiful menu.
Make reservations by calling 310-473-9757 and be sure to mention you want to dine at the Pico location. Valet parking is available. Pay in cash and receive a 10 percent discount.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tempura Vegetables and Shrimp Congee

Congee is rice served "wet" in a broth with vegetables, tofu, meat, seafood, or poultry.

Congee is the Asian equivalent of Jewish chicken soup, perfect when the weather is cold and damp or you're fighting off a cold.  Served in a variety of ways, depending on the country of origin or what's in season, the basic dish is made with cooked rice, a liquid, and flavorings.
You'll find dozens of authentic, regional recipes in cookbooks and online, but in our kitchen "congee" is another way of saying repurposed deliciousness.

Whatever we don't eat at a Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai restaurant we bring home. Invariably, a container of rice is included along with the kung pao chicken, tempera shrimp and vegetables, stir fried beef with broccoli, or sweet and sour pork that we couldn't finish. 

Reheating these dishes at home is one option, but transforming them into congee is better.  For example, converting vegetable and shrimp tempura into an aromatic, deeply satisfying and delicious congee is one way this simple technique can turn left-overs into the best comfort food you've ever eaten. 

Tempura Vegetable and Shrimp Congee

Serves 2

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 tempura shrimp, tail removed
4-6 pieces tempura vegetables
1 cup cooked rice
1 garlic clove, skin removed, finely chopped
4 cups spinach leaves, washed to remove grit, stems and leaves finely chopped
4 shiitake mushrooms, washed, tips of the stems removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or from a can
2 cups water or miso soup or a combination of both
1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Cut the shrimp and tempura vegetables into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Saute on a medium-low flame the garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and corn kernels until lightly browned. 

Add the cut up spinach and water or a mix of miso soup and water. Raise the flame and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the cut up tempura vegetables and shrimp to the broth. Stir well and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the cooked rice, stir well and simmer a final 5 minutes.


Serve hot.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another 30 Minute Meal: Ginger-Soy Black Cod

Black cod cooked in a ginger-soy poaching liquid is a deceptively simple dish that cooks up quickly and has deeply satisfying flavors. Popularized by the Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto, his complicated recipe can be simplified with excellent results.

The fish can be served with steamed rice and simply braised or sauteed vegetables like spinach with garlic and shiitake mushrooms.

Ginger-Soy Poached Black Cod

The ginger-soy poaching liquid can be reused several times.

After the fish has been cooked and all solids removed, the liquid can be kept in the freezer in an air-tight container for several months.

When you want a quick meal, defrost the poaching liquid, simmer, add the black cod pieces, cover, and you'll have a meal on the table in 10 minutes.

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds black cod fillets, washed, pat dried
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 cups sake
2" piece of ginger, peeled, julienned

Method

Carefully inspect the fillets for bones. There will probably be a row in the middle of the fillet.

Using a sharp knife, slice along the bones and remove in a long strip. Don't throw out the strip because it can be marinated in olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and roasted in the oven or grilled on a bbq. Have the bones as a cook's treat.

Cut the fillets into rectangles 1 1/2" x 2" for easier handling.

In an uncovered large pan or dutch oven, create the poaching liquid by simmering together the sugar, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and ginger for 10 minutes. Add the black cod pieces, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

Remove the cod with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve 2 cups of the poaching liquid, straining and pouring the remainder into a sealed container and freeze.

Return the cod and 2 cups of poaching liquid to the pan, reduce and thicken over high heat, spooning the thickening sauce over the cod, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with steamed rice or sauteed garlic spinach with shiitake mushrooms.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ramen at Home, Quick and Easy

At some point in their lives, everyone eats Cup o' Noodles. They're so easy to make. Just pour boiling water into the styrofoam cup with it's nest of noodles and bits of dried vegetables, cover, and a minute later you have overly salted "soup" and mushy noodles. On a cold, drizzly day, that can be ok, but it's not a meal-of-choice. Ramen is a step up from Cup o' Noodles, but the same principle applies. Boiling water + instant noodles + "flavor packet" = soup and noodles with vegetables bits. Real ramen bears no resemblance to the packaged ramen in the market. In Japan, ramen restaurants are favorite neighorhood hangouts, usually with a counter and several tables. I've noticed that patrons in ramen restaurants don't do as much talking as they do in other kinds of restaurants. I think that's because the ramen is simply too delicious to want to talk.

People who love ramen get very obsessive about their noodles. The Official Ramen Homepage has hundreds of recipes for packaged ramen contributed by fans. Rickmond Wong is the ramen fan-extraordinaire. Profiled in the LA Times by Russ Parsons, Wong's web site rameniac.com gives a comprehensive survey of ramen restaurants in LA. Everyone has their favorite. Anne Lai sent me to Little Tokyo to try the ramen at Daikokuya (327 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles 90012, 212/626-1680).

A narrow passageway of a restaurant, Daikokuya is on the north side of 1st Street, half-way between San Pedro and Alameda. Of the half-dozen ramen restaurants on the block, only Daikokuya is packed with people at the tables and bar. Besides ramen, Daikokuya also has other traditional Japanese dishes: rice bowls, bento boxes, chicken teriyaki, mixed tempura, pork cutlet, sushi, and sashimi. But it's the ramen I came for, and while there are a dozen varieties to try, I wanted the specialty of the house: Daikoku Ramen, a large bowl of pork soup with noodles, fatty Kurobuta pork, a whole boiled egg, seasoned bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and green onions.

I took my place at the counter and watched the cooks drop baskets of noodles into the large pot of boiling water. The customer to my right, Jason, could tell I was a first-timer. He helpfully suggested I add some of the minced garlic and pickled ginger condiments to the soup. A good call.

All the ingredients are delicious, but it's the soup itself that makes the ramen at Daikokuya so memorable. If you've seen the Japanese comedy, Tampopo, you know how hard the shop keeper struggles to perfect her pork bone broth. She has to work from early in the morning until late in the evening to get the flavors just right.

I like to adapt restaurant techniques to cooking at home, but while I love the broth, that's too much work for me. I'll use homemade chicken stock instead. What I do take away from Daikokuyo is the realization that fresh ingredients can turn a lifeless package of noodles into a sumptuously refreshing meal.

At home, ramen is quick and easy to make as long as you have a good supply of homemade chicken stock in your freezer. For the dried ramen noodles, there are hundreds of brands, flavors, and varieties. Try to find one that has the least amount of chemicals in their ingredients' list. Health Food stores sometimes carry packages of organic ramen. Almost any of your favorite fresh vegetables and cooked meats will work.


Ramen at Home
Yield: 1 serving
Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients

1 package ramen
½ carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
½ cup broccoli crowns, washed, sliced
1 shallot, peeled, thin sliced
2 Italian parsley sprigs, washed, use only the leaves, whole or chopped
½ cup shredded chicken, cooked
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 teaspoon scallions, washed, sliced into rounds, green and white parts (optional)
1 hardboiled egg, sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Method

Follow the directions on the package to make the ramen noodles, then drain them and set aside. In a small pot, sauté the vegetables and chicken in the sesame oil until lightly browned, add the chicken stock and soy sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cooked noodles. Stir well and serve in a large bowl, topped with the scallions and the hardboiled egg if you want.