Posted in Recipes

Quick Sushi Rice

Quick Sushi Rice 1

If you read much about Japanese cuisine, or even just scan recipes, you can certainly get the idea that the preparation of the vinegar dressed rice for sushi is a very arcane, almost ritualized process.  In fact, amongst Master Sushi Chefs the steps required to make the perfect rice for any given sushi preparation is as much a science as an art and can take a rigorous apprenticeship to perfect.

That being said, however, we need not be overly daunted by the prospect of making sushi ourselves. Today, I am going to share with you my method for making the seasoned rice. It departs from the traditional practice in that the vinegar and sugar is added to the rice as it cooks (rather than as it cools afterwards), but the simple process produces a perfectly acceptable sushi-style rice suitable for all sorts of further preparations…  Continue reading “Quick Sushi Rice”

Posted in Recipes

Kakejiru: Japanese Noodle Broth

Kakejiru 1

Kakejiru is commonly referred to as ‘noodle broth’ since it is commonly served as a ‘soup’ for  many types of Japanese noodle including Udon, Soba, and Somen. In particular, Udon served in  this broth, often with various toppings,  is called Kake-Udon and is a very popular dish both at home and as a restaurant offering or street-food snack. In practice, however, the preparation, whose name essentially translates as ‘gravy’ or ‘dressing’, has much wider application. Just as Kakejiru is based on the foundation Japanese stock Dashi, so too can Kakejiru be regarded as the base for many other Japanese broths, sauces and simmering liquids…  Continue reading “Kakejiru: Japanese Noodle Broth”

Posted in Recipes

Homemade Chinese-Style Preserved Pork Belly (五花臘肉)

Homemade Preserved Pork Belly 1

When I featured a commercially produced Chinese Preserved Pork Belly in a ‘Foodstuff’ post some time ago, I made a mental note to do a home-made version for you at some point. Unfortunately, whenever pork belly has appeared in our stores it has, until now, always been sliced and the slices are, as I discovered in a test recipe, just too thin to produce a decent result. A few days ago, however, I saw two one pound slabs of unsliced belly in our local store and I grabbed both of them. It is a shame that the rind has been removed but you can’t, as they say, have everything.

Many recipes for making preserved pork belly are quite complex and employ quite a variety of spices to flavor the meat. Some, especially recipes from Hunan, cold smoke the meat as well as salt-curing. Sichuan pepper is often used, as are Fennel, Cinnamon and Star Anise, but I don’t much care for the sweeter aromatics in this type of preparation and the version I will be making for you here is very straightforward and simple indeed…

Continue reading “Homemade Chinese-Style Preserved Pork Belly (五花臘肉)”

Posted in Recipes

Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky 1

My wife often buys those packages of factory-made jerkies that are almost ubiquitous in super-markets and convenience stores now. I’ll eat the odd piece occasionally but, to be honest, I am not terribly keen on any of them. I find they have very artificial, chemical tastes to them and the texture is very often very poor.

Years ago, before I was married, I used to buy some terrific beef jerky at our local farmers market. It was very simply seasoned and the thick, foot-long strips were cut lengthwise along the grain of the meat making them robust and chewy (unlike the thin, friable industrial varieties commonly available these days). It took a good 30 minutes or so to gnaw away at one of those suckers and that’s what made them so darn satisfying. Today, I am going to make some good thick pieces in the same manner, keeping the ingredients light and simple so as to leave the original taste of the meat and not completely mask it with hydrolyzed-soy and high-fructose corn-syrup…  Continue reading “Beef Jerky”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Edible Seaweed: Kombu (and How to make Kombu Dashi)

Kombu 1

You may, at one time or another, when walking on the shore, have come across a variety of large, ribbon-like seaweed cast up on the shore, possibly with the olive-green fronds still attached to a thick, rope-like stem. For years, I knew the basic type simply as ‘Kelp’ but, point of fact, that name actually includes a whole range of very different seaweeds (many of which are edible) and the sort you see pictured above is more properly referred to by its Japanese name ‘Kombu’ ( or, less frequently, ‘Konbu’).

This edible algae (of which there are a number of different varieties) is not widely used in western cuisines but it is very popular indeed in the far east. It is harvested and eaten in Korea, and used to a lesser extent by the Chinese, but it is in Japanese cookery where the seaweed really shines. Indeed, Kombu is more than an occasional ingredient;  it is an essential item in the Japanese pantry and, as we shall see below, is a foundation stone in the cuisine as a whole…  Continue reading “Edible Seaweed: Kombu (and How to make Kombu Dashi)”

Posted in Experiments, Recipes

Roast Pork with Crackling II

Crackling Pork II 01

When I posted my Spicy Crackling Pork Appetizer recipe not long ago,  a fellow blogger followed up with comments which linked me to one of her own posts entitled: Roast Pork: Two Homemade Recipes. This very interesting article provided two different, but somewhat similar methods for achieving the lovely puffed, crispy skin on roast pork that I have always known as ‘crackling’. I was also interested to see that both methods incorporated an Asian technique for adding flavor to the meat as well.

Anyway, I was quite intrigued and, when I came across a pork roast with a good thick skin, I decided to take a look at the techniques. Although I began the process with some steps I outlined in my basic method for making crackling outlined in my earlier Roast Pork with Crackling post, I then followed up with something of an amalgam of the two processes outlined in my friend’s post…  Continue reading “Roast Pork with Crackling II”

Posted in Experiments, Recipes

Perfect Roast Pork Crackling

Crackling Pork 1

When I was a kid, both of my parents had the unerring ability to produce perfect crackling on a roast of pork. It was delightfully crunchy and crisp on the surface, with a terrifically toothsome chewiness beneath, and the soft, unctuous layer of fat underlying it all was incredibly sweet and salty at the same time.

Sadly, the ability does not appear to get passed down genetically for I have tried for years to produce the same results with only poor to middling success. I have, I must confess, only, been able, thus far, to achieve the right degree of crispiness in a small portion of the skin, while leaving the rest either burned, or else woefully flabby and underdone. The failure has been a sticking point with me since my earliest attempts in the kitchen.

The other day, I picked up a lovely roast complete with rind (something that only rarely appears in these parts) and I decided that it was time to solve this problem for good. After many hours of searching through dozens upon dozens of recipes on the subject (no two of which seemed to be alike) I managed to synthesize a procedure from all that information that finally seemed to work. I was so amazed, not to mention thrilled with the result that I had to share it with you here… Continue reading “Perfect Roast Pork Crackling”

Posted in Recipes

Basic Dumpling Dough (Wheat Flour type)

In a series of upcoming articles, I am looking forward to cooking a variety of different dumpling recipes and the whole point in today’s post is to provide a ‘reference’ recipe for the basic dough in order to avoid repeating myself several times later.

Before we begin, I should first specify exactly what it is I mean by ‘dumpling’…

If you do a search of the term at Wikipedia, you will find that the word dumpling encompasses a whole range of different culinary preparations and that, essentially, there are two main categories: those that are solid masses of dough cooked chiefly in liquid dishes such as stews, and the like, and those that consists of ‘wrappers’ around some sort of stuffing. In my upcoming posts, will be concentrating exclusively on the latter sort, with special emphasis on Chinese varieties.

Even when one considers Chinese cuisine alone, the range of dumpling types is incredible. Aside from the infinite varieties of fillings, there are multiple types depending on cooking method (boiled, steamed, deep-fried, shallow fried etc.), and also on the constitution of the dough. The various flours employed in the different doughs include glutinous (and non-glutinous) rice flour, corn starch, tapioca flour and wheat flour, all of which produce different results. As noted in the title, our basic dough will be of the all-purpose wheat flour variety. It is a very versatile and easy dough to make, typically used in such commonly known Chinese specialties such as Jiaozi (餃子), Shui Jiao (水餃), Wonton, Xiaolongbao (小籠包), the very popular Guotie (鍋貼) known as ‘Potstickers’ here in the West, and a whole range of other types beyond.

Let’s begin … Continue reading “Basic Dumpling Dough (Wheat Flour type)”