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Japanese Cooking at Home


Gabriel Lewis
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Do you make it with soft or firm tofu? And do you use one of the mixes you can buy in the supermarket, or do you make yours from scratch?

I prefer firm tofu in mine but I know many people who prefer the softer type. It is just personal preference. There is nothing wrong with the packs if you are only cooking for two and pressed for time. If you want to try it at home I highly recommend Ah Leung's ma po dofu, the pictorial can be found here. (Here is the list of all of his pictorials, many of these can be made with ingredients easily found in Japan)

If you do try a package one, I recommend any of the Cook-Do ones. This is my favorite. The package says it is good for 3 to 4 people but I find this serves about 2.... :hmmm:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Do you make it with soft or firm tofu? And do you use one of the mixes you can buy in the supermarket, or do you make yours from scratch?

Personally, I like to make it with firm momen dofu (= tofu). Check out the China... Forum, and you will find a thread on mapo tofu, where some say they like to use soft tofu. So, that's really depends on your preferences.

I used to use a premade mix (Marumiya's) for decades, but now I prefer to make it from scratch. Again, check out the China... Forum, you will find a nice thread on making mapo tofu.

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I tried the tofu Smallworld used for her salad. This tofu is new to me and new to our neighborhood Japanese market, Nijiya. The only difference between her package and the one I purchased was the writing. The one being offered here in Mountain View CA shows the kanji Otoko.

I was very surprised at how they packaged the tofu inside. It was wrapped neatly in paper and as soon as I sliced into it I knew it was going to be very creamy. Not only creamy, but very, very rich and pleasantly sweet. It wasn't quite kinugoshi/silken, but not quite regular/momen either because the texture was too smooth for momen. I really like it, but I did find it very filling - much more so than regular tofu. Not sure how they make this, but I can tell from the taste that they used very, very rich soy milk.

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I tried the tofu Smallworld used for her salad.  This tofu is new to me and new to our neighborhood Japanese market, Nijiya.  The only difference between her package and the one I purchased was the writing.  The one being offered here in Mountain View CA shows the kanji Otoko. 

I was very surprised at how they packaged the tofu inside.  It was wrapped neatly in paper and as soon as I sliced into it I knew it was going to be very creamy.  Not only creamy, but very, very rich and pleasantly sweet.  It wasn't quite kinugoshi/silken, but not quite regular/momen either because the texture was too smooth for momen.  I really like it, but I did find it very filling - much more so than regular tofu.  Not sure how they make this, but I can tell from the taste that they used very, very rich soy milk.

John and I talked about our experiences with Otokomae tofu in the tofu thread.

Their tofu has become so popular. I can find some of their products even in my small city. But, they are so expensive that have bought one only once.

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I tried the tofu Smallworld used for her salad.  This tofu is new to me and new to our neighborhood Japanese market, Nijiya.  The only difference between her package and the one I purchased was the writing.  The one being offered here in Mountain View CA shows the kanji Otoko. 

I was very surprised at how they packaged the tofu inside.  It was wrapped neatly in paper and as soon as I sliced into it I knew it was going to be very creamy.  Not only creamy, but very, very rich and pleasantly sweet.  It wasn't quite kinugoshi/silken, but not quite regular/momen either because the texture was too smooth for momen.  I really like it, but I did find it very filling - much more so than regular tofu.  Not sure how they make this, but I can tell from the taste that they used very, very rich soy milk.

John and I talked about our experiences with Otokomae tofu in the tofu thread.

Their tofu has become so popular. I can find some of their products even in my small city. But, they are so expensive that have bought one only once.

Although the texture is very creamy I haven't quite made up my mind whether I like this tofu over others. It is sweet to my taste (maybe too sweet for my taste) and the mouthfeel is crazy as it seem somewhat similar to panna cotta.

I threw away the package, but I wonder if they add anything to their tofu other than what's standard. Having said this it's very possible I may end up liking this tofu over others.

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When I was in Tokyo I had the most amazing menchi katsu at a katsu place. Anyone have a recipe? I have made tonkastu but never the minced pork cake version. Thanks in advance!

I actually prefer menchi katsu to other kinds, I rarely make them as they are really cheap to buy in the supermarkets here. Here is some more information and a recipe. The recipe (with step by step photos) is on the second page. My favorite version of menchi katsu is actually half ground pork and half shredded cabbage, it is really wonderful.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Like Kristin, I make it a point NOT to make korokke and menchi katsu at home.

I like menchi katsu, particularly those with a lot of cabbage in them.

Here is a recipe IN JAPANESE, but you can view a video by clicking PLAY, on the right near the bottom. The recipe is basically the same as that linked to by Kristin, and calls for cabbage cut into 1-cm squares.

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Speaking of korokke I made a korokke that turned out particularly well recently. I sautéed minced cabbage in butter and then added some apple juice and cooked it until it became soft and the liquid was almost evaporated. Then I let it cool and formed small patties of the cabbage mixture and froze them. After they were frozen I covered them in mashed potatoes mixed with some milk and fried them like regular korokke. My friend dubbed them とろけるキャベツコロッケ melting cabbage korokke. I have since used the same freezing technique to make other unique korokke. Maybe I should put this in the urawaza thread.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night I bought a big pack of boneless pork loin chops (1" thick) at Costco, and as I was prepping some for the freezer, I decided that I wanted shogayaki tonight. I found an easy looking recipe on about.com (3 tbsp shoyu, 2 tbsp mirin, 1 tbsp sake, 3 tbsp freshly grated ginger to 1 lb of pork).

The kids ate it all before I had a chance to take a picture... I guess they liked it. :laugh:

Cheryl

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  • 3 weeks later...

Last night's dinner was sanshoku don 三色丼, sanshoku means three color. The topics can vary but you need to have 3 different colors. I made it with salmon flakes, nanohana (broccoli rabe) and iritamago (slightly sweetened scrambled eggs).

gallery_6134_5519_583997.jpg

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 2 months later...

That looks delicious. The bowl really brings out the colours! Very spring-like.

I received Elizabeth Andoh's "Washoku" for Christmas, and I've been cooking my way through it. I've made Hiroyuki's nikomi hamburg recipe before, but the sauce requires ketchup, which I usually don't keep on hand. In Washoku, there's a recipe that only calls for soy sauce and sake, so I tried that. It was a hit, and I made my hamburgers a bit smaller than she calls for so I'd have some meatballs for the next day's bento. It came out perfectly, and I was quite proud of myself!

gallery_41378_5233_157278.jpg

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  • 2 months later...
Do you make it with soft or firm tofu? And do you use one of the mixes you can buy in the supermarket, or do you make yours from scratch?

Personally, I like to make it with firm momen dofu (= tofu). Check out the China... Forum, and you will find a thread on mapo tofu, where some say they like to use soft tofu. So, that's really depends on your preferences.

I used to use a premade mix (Marumiya's) for decades, but now I prefer to make it from scratch. Again, check out the China... Forum, you will find a nice thread on making mapo tofu.

Umh, according to my mom, Japanese brand tofu seems to be softer than the Chinese brands.

Maybe that's why?

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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Do you make it with soft or firm tofu? And do you use one of the mixes you can buy in the supermarket, or do you make yours from scratch?

Personally, I like to make it with firm momen dofu (= tofu). Check out the China... Forum, and you will find a thread on mapo tofu, where some say they like to use soft tofu. So, that's really depends on your preferences.

I used to use a premade mix (Marumiya's) for decades, but now I prefer to make it from scratch. Again, check out the China... Forum, you will find a nice thread on making mapo tofu.

Umh, according to my mom, Japanese brand tofu seems to be softer than the Chinese brands.

Maybe that's why?

Hm...... Anyone??

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Let me be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea about most things Japanese, but I'm willing to learn!

I'm asking this on behalf of my girlfriend, who will be off to Japan for a year in a couple of months. While this forum is excellent in describing where to buy non-Japanese ingredients she's keen to get a feel for what most Japanese people cook day-to-day. Kristin's threads on Japanese foods are really interesting, but I'm always uncertain where they fit into Japanese home cooking.

She's more than happy to cook with whatever produce is ubiquitous in Japanese shops and make the kind of affordable weeknight meals that parents would prepare for their families. We were hoping to get a heads up on what kinds of ingredients are easy to come by and are found in most regular Japanese home kitchens? Sort of the Japanese equivalent to mince meat and tomatoes for spaghetti bolognese, or potatoes, milk and butter for sausages and mashed potatoes.

Any ideas?

Dr. Zoidberg: Goose liver? Fish eggs? Where's the goose? Where's the fish?

Elzar: Hey, that's what rich people eat. The garbage parts of the food.

My blog: The second pancake

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I knew we had a topic on this! Here...

Japanese pantry

Most everyday cooking topics are listed under 1) season. e.g. "Shun no mono - natsu" (seasonal items, summer), 2) preparation technique e.g. "nimono" (simmered dishes", or 3) ingredient, eg, "gobo" (burdock root).

Meanwhile here a few other topics, old and new, that might be of interest:

Japanese cooking at home is one topic to read through, though not all respondents are here in Japan.

Japanese cookbook recommendations

Best Japanese Food Magazines

Favorite Japanese food products

A Calendar of Japanese Foods

What's for dinner

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I hate to flog my blog, but that's what I'm dealing with right now...how do I feed my husband and I using local, seasonal ingredients? I'm having to re-learn cooking, and how to set a table, and change my perceptions about how a meal should be composed, but it's a process I'm enjoying.

If she's going to be living alone, then donburi are a great solution. Just fry up some meat and veg, steam some rice, and have some store-bought pickles on the side, and dinner's served.

Hiroyuki's Dashi, Soy, and Mirin ratios thread really helped me get a handle on the basics of Japanese cooking, and it's a glimpse into how a Japanese person puts together meals. His eGullet blog is also great for this. click

And don't forget Smallworld's eGullet blog!

I also recommend Elizabeth Andoh's "Washoku", which I'm currently cooking my way through. It gives an excellent run-down of a traditional Japanese pantry, and gives recipes that use everything available in a Japanese supermarket. The only criticism that I could level at it is that it's perhaps too traditional, and a lot of the recipes are quite time consuming the first time you do them. I think these days, more and more Japanese families are relying on mixes and simpler preparations to make their week-day meals. I've heard a lot of buzz about "Harumi's Japanese Cooking", which I think reflects a more contemporary style of cooking, but I haven't had a chance to look at it myself.

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Another great resource for anyone starting out is the http://www.justhungry.com/ (and also http://www.justbento.com/) website.

I've updated the cook book list with my opinions on some books which I think are ideal for someone in her situation.

---

I don't know where she'll be living in Japan, and this actually will play a big part in the kind of food she'll be having.

I've spent some months living in central Tokyo where I had use of a kitchen, and I have to admit, making food for myself at home wasn't always economically viable. I could see how cooking for a family would make sense, but for a single person, with food being as cheap to buy prepared as it was, making food from scratch seemed, perversely, quite extravagant. I was there to support my then boyfriend (now husband) through a bereavement, finances weren't great and I tried to be as frugal as possible.

Home cooking ended up being preparing rice, noodles, miso soup, vegetables and fruit (you quickly learn to find the best places to get fruit and vegetables economically). Almost everything else I'd buy already prepared to supplement this. Especially as many stores selling pre-prepared food reduced their prices considerably just before closing time.

The only 'foreign food' I ever made was pasta and risotto.

If I'd lived in a less urban area I imagine that it might have been more cost effective to cook at home. My own 'culture shock' involved getting used to the differences in price between foods in London and Tokyo - what was cheap in Europe: fruit, vegetables, rice was expensive in Tokyo, what was cheap in Tokyo: eating out, ready-cooked deli items was expensive in Europe. Occasionally you'd find a prepared fruit salad (made with fresh fruit) was cheaper than the unprocessed fruit sitting alongside it.

----

Looking in the refrigerators of Japanese Family members I see lots of foods that keep for at least a week in a tupperware container (examples are kinpira, spinach with sesame and Korean kimchi). Japanese Home Cooking, for many people cooking for just themselves, involves rice, miso soup and a selection of foods from the refrigerator. Perhaps with some fish or meat prepared at home or bought ready-cooked.

Soba and udon noodles are popular as is ochazuke.

And then there are classic dishes such as mabou dofu (tofu and mince with Chinese seasonings), oden (a selection of fish pastes and vegetables) and niku-jaga (meat and potatoes) which are popular amongst students for a reason.

She can save a lot of money if she can develop a taste for natto :smile: .

If your girlfriend finds herself based in a city, she may find herself eating out much more than she might expect to. It may take a while to work out how to save money by eating at home.

---

And separately, there's the issue of drinks. If she gets a taste for them, there are plenty of products that allow you to make large quantities of cold drinks economically. Tea bags and powders allow you to make up litres of cold green tea. My own favourite are the bags of roasted barley - you just pop one of these into 1-1& a half litres of cold water and leave in the fridge to 'brew' for half an hour or so. The end result is called Mugi-cha

There are vending machines everywhere, and with the warm weather, the temptation to buy bottles and cans of drinks is overwhelming. The costs quickly stack up.

By making cold green tea or mugi-cha at home you can keep these down to a minimum (just refill plastic bottles and pop them in the freezer to take out with you).

Edited by MoGa (log)
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I thought the March Foodblog from smallworld (Amy) was pretty amazing--especially the home cooking!

ETA: (Sorry, I just saw that nakji mentioned it.) :smile:

Edited by Rehovot (log)
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Do you make it with soft or firm tofu? And do you use one of the mixes you can buy in the supermarket, or do you make yours from scratch?

Personally, I like to make it with firm momen dofu (= tofu). Check out the China... Forum, and you will find a thread on mapo tofu, where some say they like to use soft tofu. So, that's really depends on your preferences.

I used to use a premade mix (Marumiya's) for decades, but now I prefer to make it from scratch. Again, check out the China... Forum, you will find a nice thread on making mapo tofu.

Umh, according to my mom, Japanese brand tofu seems to be softer than the Chinese brands.

Maybe that's why?

Hm...... Anyone??

I can only go on the differences I've found in London. Tofu packaged by Japanese companies (not necessarily in Japan - an example is the Mori-nu/Morinaga brand) and sold in tetra-brik containers is indeed very soft, smooth and silky, even the 'firm' kind.

When I buy fresh tofu in liquid from the refrigerator from Chinese, Japanese and Korean stores in London, the texture is different. More 'fibrous' somehow, or perhaps better explained as being more 'al dente'.

I don't necessarily prefer one to the other - the qualities of each lend themselves better to different cooking styles. I don't like frying so much with the 'Japanese' tetra-brik style of tofu, then again I prefer the texture of it raw to the 'Chinese style' fresh tofu.

I end up buying more of the 'frim' tetra-brik styles. They last a while so are convenient, also my fridge is tiny and this tofu doesn't need to be stored in it. I can easily change the texture and make it firmer (and better for frying with) by wrapping and draining it with a weight on top. By pressing and draining for several hours (rather than just one or two) I can get it to approximate 'Chinese' tofu. I can't get 'Chinese' tofu to approximate 'Japanese' tofu.

I can't compare 'Chinese' tofu with that sold in China, but the tetra-brik kind of tofu is very similar to store bought and freshly made tofu I've eaten in Japan.

However, as what I have been calling 'Chinese' tofu is available from Japanese supermarkets in London, I would be surprised if this kind wasn't available in Japan also.

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Another great resource for anyone starting out is the http://www.justhungry.com/ (and also http://www.justbento.com/) website.

I've updated the cook book list with my opinions on some books which I think are ideal for someone in her situation.

---

I don't know where she'll be living in Japan, and this actually will play a big part in the kind of food she'll be having.

I've spent some months living in central Tokyo where I had use of a kitchen, and I have to admit, making food for myself at home wasn't always economically viable. I could see how cooking for a family would make sense, but for a single person, with food being as cheap to buy prepared as it was, making food from scratch seemed, perversely, quite extravagant. I was there to support my then boyfriend (now husband) through a bereavement, finances weren't great and I tried to be as frugal as possible.

Home cooking ended up being preparing rice, noodles, miso soup, vegetables and fruit (you quickly learn to find the best places to get fruit and vegetables economically). Almost everything else I'd buy already prepared to supplement this. Especially as many stores selling pre-prepared food reduced their prices considerably just before closing time.

The only 'foreign food' I ever made was pasta and risotto.

If I'd lived in a less urban area I imagine that it might have been more cost effective to cook at home. My own 'culture shock' involved getting used to the differences in price between foods in London and Tokyo - what was cheap in Europe: fruit, vegetables, rice was expensive in Tokyo, what was cheap in Tokyo: eating out, ready-cooked deli items was expensive in Europe. Occasionally you'd find a prepared fruit salad (made with fresh fruit) was cheaper than the unprocessed fruit sitting alongside it.

----

Looking in the refrigerators of Japanese Family members I see lots of foods that keep for at least a week in a tupperware container (examples are kinpira, spinach with sesame and Korean kimchi). Japanese Home Cooking, for many people cooking for just themselves, involves rice, miso soup and a selection of foods from the refrigerator. Perhaps with some fish or meat prepared at home or bought ready-cooked.

Soba and udon noodles are popular as is ochazuke.

And then there are classic dishes such as mabou dofu (tofu and mince with Chinese seasonings), oden (a selection of fish pastes and vegetables) and niku-jaga (meat and potatoes) which are popular amongst students for a reason.

She can save a lot of money if she can develop a taste for natto smile.gif .

If your girlfriend finds herself based in a city, she may find herself eating out much more than she might expect to. It may take a while to work out how to save money by eating at home.

---

And separately, there's the issue of drinks. If she gets a taste for them, there are plenty of products that allow you to make large quantities of cold drinks economically. Tea bags and powders allow you to make up litres of cold green tea. My own favourite are the bags of roasted barley - you just pop one of these into 1-1& a half litres of cold water and leave in the fridge to 'brew' for half an hour or so. The end result is called Mugi-cha

There are vending machines everywhere, and with the warm weather, the temptation to buy bottles and cans of drinks is overwhelming. The costs quickly stack up.

By making cold green tea or mugi-cha at home you can keep these down to a minimum (just refill plastic bottles and pop them in the freezer to take out with you).

Word.

Especially the bit about economies of scale - I do a lot of home cooking for my husband and I because it's economical for the two of us - but if I were alone, I doubt I would bother. Most of my single co-workers seem to survive on konbini food and spag bog cobbled together from ingredients bought at the 100 yen shops. Horrors! That's why I recommend donburis - if she tires of supermarket take-out or tuna-mayo omusubi, it's nothing really to buy a small portion of meat and have a small bottle each of mirin and soy on hand in the cupboard and slap it together when she gets home. Because prepared rice can be pricey, it's a good idea to cook that for herself - I usually make a big batch on Sunday, portion it, and freeze it for the week. Donburi saved my life last fall when we were living in a Leopalace, and couldn't accumulate any reasonable pantry staples.

Or, she could simply freeze some rice and pick up some pre-made side dishes or pickles at the supermarket on her way home - add some instant miso soup to that, and you've got a reasonably square meal in no time.

MoGa, I've recently started making my own cold teas at home. I put them in a thermal flask in the morning, and I don't have to spend the whole day trying to find a place to ditch my PET bottles.

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Absolutely true - hard to justify cooking for one in central urban areas.

100 yen shops often sell single-serve packs of fresh vegetables (often pre-cut!).

You can buy slightly insulated packs for pet bottles, so you can refill your used pet bottles at home and drag them off to work every day (I send my kids with those too - really is too expensive to buy 1-2 bottles daily). If you take one small bottle frozen, and one just chilled, you'll have enough to last you the day even in summer.

When I was a student in Tokyo, I regularly made okonomiyaki - perfect 1-plate dish! In fact, who needs a plate...

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