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Cooking with Sake

Few Japanese drink fine, expensive sake any times but at festive occasions. Typical home-consumption "nihonshu" over here is in a foil-lined box with a screw top, and costs from 5 to 8 dollars for 750 ml in the supermarkets, ranging along two dimensions from mild to fullbodied and sweet to dry. Alcohol content is always 13-14%, so they keep pretty well for a month or three at room temperature - nowhere near as readily oxidized or vinegared as grape wines. I admit to not being a connosieur but I do enjoy them, both cold and warmed. The cheap California sakes are perfectly fine for cooking, but the bottles are so big! Many recipes say you can substitute dry sherry if you don't have sake, which says something about how un-critical the quality of the sake would be. Once it is mixed with soy sauce, sugar, and ginger not much subtlety can be tasted.

Jan 26, 2014
Steveinjapan in Features

Eggplant parmesan fail - what am I doing wrong?

Yes, this method is pretty much what I use too.

Jun 29, 2013
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

In praise of mujadara/mujadarra/mujadarah!

(Just finished eating a batch, warm though).
I don't think the sauteed onions would be very good cold. You could leave them out and it would be fine cold.

May 05, 2013
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

In praise of mujadara/mujadarra/mujadarah!

I feel strange because I lived in the M.E. for several years (ate my way through would be correct too) but never had this dish. Now I shall remedy that! I like the looks of both recipes but have all the spices for the Ottolenghi/Tamimi recipe. My question is... if using whole coriander seeds, won't they be too hard and intense even after frying? Indian recipes usually call for them to be roasted and ground.

Apr 16, 2013
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Cumin-Coriander Chicken - outstanding!

That wasn't speculation - I did make it last night! The dominant flavor was coriander, which isn't the worst thing that can happen but I like more balance. 1/2 c coconut milk helped tone it down but next time I'd reduce the coriander. I did reduce the chillis because my family doesn't do real hot, so perhaps that was why the coriander pushed through.

Apr 14, 2013
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Cumin-Coriander Chicken - outstanding!

Disagree - if you use roasted and ground coriander seeds, better cut it down unless you want the coriander to overwhelm the other spices. The powder is probably less intense (keep it in the fridge or it goes stale fast!) so maybe 3T is OK.

Apr 14, 2013
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Curry Leaves: What Are They?

Curry leaves have a surprisingly pervasive but subtle flavor. All those other spices in the cumin-coriander dish probably overwhelm the 5 little leaves though. And yes, dried leaves are fine. If you roast them in a dry pan or sautee in a little oil they still add lots of goodness. I can't get them where I live, but bought a bunch fresh elsewhere recently and the Indian grocer told me how to dry them properly. Now that I know what they add to a dish I use them often, and will definitely try the Kerala chicken since I've never had a Kerala dish I didn't love.

Apr 12, 2013
Steveinjapan in Features

Good Japanese Cookbook for a Relative Beginner?

I also recommend Takahashi's book. It has loads of simple recipes and doesn't make such a big deal about preparation as many of the others do. My only criticism is the index, which sometimes uses the Japanese name of an ingredient and sometimes the English name. Between that and online searches for recipes or ingredients, I get by with preparing Japanese meals about 3 nites a week that the family enjoys. Yes, I can get all the ingredients down the street at my local supermarket and greengrocer, but the downside is that I usually can't read the labels on packaged foods!

Apr 05, 2013
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans

Thanks - I will search for your directions.

Mar 02, 2013
Steveinjapan in Cookware

What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans

FWIW, cast iron is fine if you have patience and consistent behaviour to keep them re-seasoned after burning, Stainless is a total bust - it looks great but never gets seasoned to a level that food does not seriously stick. I finally found some Korean-made nonstick pans that ljust might ast forever, never warp from excessive heating, and keep the food raised from the oil by concentric ridges to keep oil saturatio n to a minimum.

Mar 02, 2013
Steveinjapan in Cookware

Chole (Chana) Masala

It's a standard version of a non-fail delicious North Indian favorite of mine. You can experiment with spices, etc, maybe do what others suggest, but just don't over-salt it.

Feb 01, 2012
Steveinjapan in Recipes

Carp Easier to Swallow with New Name

Previous posters that I missed before: gefilte fish carp and Asian carp are very, very similar. The ornamental carp were bred by selecting mutant "regular-guy" fish. In the wild they revert to their normal genetic makeup. By all means use Asian eggs though.

Mar 14, 2011
Steveinjapan in Features

Carp Easier to Swallow with New Name

Carp, not edible??? Tell that to everyone who grew up on grandma's gefilte fish! (Mixed with another ground white fish such as pike, they are perfectly delicious.) Of course, the quality of the carp makes a difference... should come from rivers rather than slow-moving bodies of water since they are bottom-feeders like catfish.

Mar 14, 2011
Steveinjapan in Features

CHOW Tour Oakland, Your Thoughts On Where To Go?

Yes, Genova of course.... I just remember the tall glass jars of olives and pickled vegetables, and the perfume of the hanging salamis. Thanks for the recall!

Jan 14, 2011
Steveinjapan in San Francisco Bay Area

CHOW Tour Oakland, Your Thoughts On Where To Go?

It's been a long time since I lived in the E Bay, but Oakland's Chinatown was very authentic and untouristy compared to its neighbor across the Bay. Had some memorable meals there, including a chicken's-foot stew that I have not had the occasion (or nerve) to try again.

I wonder if that great old Italian deli is still there on Telegraph Ave in Oakland.

Jan 14, 2011
Steveinjapan in San Francisco Bay Area

No Shame in the Garlic Press

I seem to go through a lot of garlic presses so decided to get a really good one this time. Found a Zyliss susi here in Japan for around $30. I couldn't see spending $50 for the next better one. As advertised, the susi easily presses the clove without peeling, and it's also easy to clean out. (You don't need to clean out after each clove - it will do 2 or 3 before clogging. The finish seems dishwasher-proof. So far so good, but the hinge pin has popped out a few times and I had to resort to my (could not live without) Marine Goop to hold it in. Still, it is such a vast improvement over the run-of-the mill garlic press that I remain pleased.

Jan 13, 2011
Steveinjapan in Features

Asian-y Tofu Scramble

Six eggs seems like an awful lot for 6 oz. of tofu. Here in Okinawa tofu is not only a staple but much more delicious than what's generally sold in the US, and Okinawan "Champuru" just might be the original tofu scramble. It's pretty free-form but usually uses tofu, veggies (especially the bitter gourd called go-ya (chu-gwa in Chinese) , and thanks to the American GI's ..... SPAM!

Jan 04, 2011
Steveinjapan in Recipes

Pork Stock

As ipsedixit said, it is a way of life in Asian cooking, and Japanese are positively fanatic about good pork stock with noodles (see the great old film Tampopo!). A local foodie friend told me that real Japanese noodle soups use pork and bonito (dashi) broths in combination. I often add Thai fish sauce to my cooking, salad dressings, sauces, etc, just a few drops at a time, to see the effect (usually quite nice).

Jan 01, 2011
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Best chicken stock ever - thanks to Sam Fujisaka and others

Been making chicken stock for a long time, going way back to Adelle Davis' healthy eating guides. Sooo much better than canned stock or godforbid, boullion cubes (only in an emergency!). I use all bones with whatever meat is clinging to them, saved in the freezer from roasts, curries, whatever, until I have a half a potful. I usually break the large bones and back to let the marrow out quicker, which gives a lot of flavor. No skins for me, thanks (too fatty). Adelle suggests acififying the water with a few Tbs of vinegar to get more calcium out of the bones and it also gives a little tang. I throw in a limp carrot, maybe some cilantro roots or parsley, soft celery - don't overdo it. Onion won't hurt in moderation. Usually I simmer for an hour uncovered, or more, to condense the liquid. Then I strain and let cool. The fat rises while cooling and then after you refrigerate the bowl or container you can just lift off the hardened fat before you use the gelatinous stock. Usually I end up with enough to freeze some -- it keeps well for months in the freezer in pint containers.

Jan 01, 2011
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Beef Stew with Soul

How much bourbon??????

Jan 01, 2011
Steveinjapan in Features

Liquid smoke?

If you are talking about lox or gravlax, it is normally "cold-smoked" for a short time for flavor, after the traditional processing that removes moisture from the fillet and gives the flesh the characteristic texture. An ordinary smoker would cook the fish too much. I was desperate to make my own lox but did not have this technology, so I tried adding a few drops of Wright's to the salt/sugar/pepper that the salmon fillet is processed in. I've done it twice now and it permeated the fillet along with the other ingredients, and comes out after 3-4 days tasting and looking like the best Nova lox. I have only a few drops left so will someone please send me a new bottle?

Feb 12, 2010
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Your Favorite Lasagna (not a discussion re traditional lasagna)

Neither ricotta nor cottage cheese are available in Japan. There are several recipes around for tofu substitute for ricotta, but I have used this simple one with great satisfaction:

1 pound firm tofu, cubed and drained
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp seasoned salt or rock salt

Mash with a spoon or potato masher to desired consistency. You won't believe how good it tastes in lasagna.

Dec 25, 2009
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking

Eating Sushi in Okinawa

After years of trial and error, I'd recommend Miyabi (several around the island but we go to the one in Shintoshin) for real Japanese sushi - not rolls, but if you ask for them you will get them. They are the "rotary" or kaitenzushi so you pick and choose, but we discovered that if you go off-peak when they don't put the made ones out, the quality is way better because they are fresh-made. Order off the menu (English available), same price Really excellent, and it's hard to get out of there, stuffed, for more than 1000 yen per head. Another similar place is the Yumangi chain, but the quality was not as good last few times we went to the one in Haebaru.

And for you Tokyo/Hokkaido sushisnobs --- there are several places in Okinawa (different category from the above ones) that can go head to head with any of yours, and for a fraction of the price.

Dec 25, 2009
Steveinjapan in Japan

Informal poll-- how many New York Chowhounds realize that if you order "chow mein" in New York you're actually getting chop suey? [moved from Manhattan]

My thoughts as a long-gone but native New Yorker.... Why in the world would anyone even order those 2 abominations when there are an infinite number of superior Chinese dishes????? Even 50 years ago we had Cantonese moo goo gai pen and mu shi pork, and that was in Brooklyn!

Dec 25, 2009
Steveinjapan in General Topics

Leftover soba noodles

I'm finding that leftover noodles is the Philosopher's Stone of the refrigerator. Not only is a quickie yakisoba possible using other leftover ingredients, and all the other possibilities mentioned so far, but... my fave is something I was served in a "snack" pub by a food-loving and totally lovable "mamasan": Cold somen (I've used soba too) mixed with a blend of drained canned tuna and mayonnaise, flavored with a little sesame oil and topped off with chopped green onions. You can make it in about 1 minute, and kids love it.

Dec 24, 2009
Steveinjapan in Home Cooking