Grilling is an art in its own right in Japan. A simple way is Shioyaki: the fish is salted, left to chill overnight and grilled the next day. An essential element of a Japanese breakfast, together with pickled plums (Umeboshi), sweet yet savoury omelet (Tamagoyaki), rice, a bowl of miso soup and green tea. As you can imagine a traditional Japanese breakfast is rather nutritious and packed with flavours.
A well known grilling method is Teriyaki: the fish is marinated in a combination of soy sauce, mirin and sake for a few hours and then grilled, with the fish dipped in the sauce several times during the grilling process.
Another way is Saikyo Yaki: the fish is marinated in Saikyo miso for 5 days and then grilled. Saikyo miso is a white, slightly sweet, low sodium miso from Kyoto. The marinated and grilled fish is served with pickled ginger. Originally a way to preserve the fish, it’s now much liked because of the umami and the intriguing combination of flavours and aromas.
Best served with dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. The sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the marinated halibut.
What You Need
Two slices of fresh halibut (thin is best)
White Miso (preferable with less salt)
Pickled Ginger or Cucumber
Karashi (Japanese mustard)
What You Do
Start four or five days in advance. Coat the halibut with miso making sure the halibut is fully coated. Cover with foil and transfer to the fridge. Check on a daily basis if the fish is still covered. Using a small spoon carefully remove most of the miso. Rinse the halibut with water and dry with kitchen paper. The white flesh should now be slightly orange. Heat a non sticky pan until warm, but not hot, through and through. If too hot, the fish will burn. We set our induction hob to 6 (where 9 is the maximum). Add a bit of olive oil and then fry the fish for 2*2 minutes. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and karashi.
The original recipe is from Kyoto and combines fresh fish with Saikyo miso. This is a white, slightly sweet, low sodium miso. The fish is marinated in miso and then grilled and served with pickled ginger. Lots of umami of course and the intriguing combination of miso and fish. Nowadays salmon is often used when preparing this popular dish.
Our approach is slightly different. We use white fish (haddock preferred, but rouget, halibut or cod are also fine) and marinate it in red miso for four or five days. The flesh will become beautiful deep red and the miso will gently flavour the fish, without overwhelming it. It’s not a subtle starter but the taste is great especially when combined with pickled cucumber and karashi (Japanese mustard).
Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the marinated haddock.
What You Need
Two slices of Haddock (thin is best)
Red Miso (preferable with less salt)
What You Do
Start four or five days in advance. Fully coat the haddock with miso. Cover the dish with foil and transfer to the fridge. Check on a daily basis if the fish is still fully coated. Using a small spoon carefully remove most of the miso. Rinse the haddock with water and dry it with kitchen paper. The white flesh should now be red. Heat a non sticky pan until warm, but not hot, through and through. If too hot, the fish will burn. We set our induction hob to 6 (where 9 is the maximum). Add a bit of olive oil and then fry the fish for 2*2 minutes. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and karashi.
This year seems to be an exceptionally good year for Matsutake. Antonio Carluccio once described it is a much-overrated mushroom but we dare to disagree. Just smell it! Pine, pine, pine. A unique mushroom. We tried making this soup with shiitake, but the result is not as refined, delicate and well-balanced. The key elements are of course the (home-made) dashi, the matsutake and the shrimps. Kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and Mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour (and some extra flavour) to the dish.
What You Need
0,5 l of Water
10 gram of Konbu
10 gram of Katsuobushi
75 gram of Matsutake
Light Soy Sauce
If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This is a dry sake characterized by its refreshing taste and the wooden aroma of Yoshino cedar. A wonderful link to the matsutake. And if you bought a bottle of taru sake, then please use this sake for marinating the shrimps.
What You Do
With a damp cloth clean the matsutake. Be careful not to remove the skin. The root should be cut like a pencil. Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Gently warm the dashi, add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Cut the matsutake in 8 similar slices and add to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the matsutake) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps. Taste and add some more soy sauce and or yuzu if needed. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If available add some mitsuba.
A very special mushroom, to say the least. Well known throughout Japan, China and South Korea as a true delicacy. Matsutake smells like a pine wood forest and its taste is intense, aromatic, lasting and unique. As if you could taste Autumn. It’s an expensive mushroom (around 110 euro per kilo) with very limited availability. But if you happen to find it, be sure to buy it. Between 75 and 100 grams is fine for two.
The Matsutake makes this into an unforgettable dish. It will bring you back to earth in a split second. Smell it, taste it and feel how satisfying and relaxing it is.
Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the Matsutake.
What You Need
75 – 100 gram of Matsutake
Some Spinach (preferably what is called the ‘wild’ version, cleaned and without the stem)
Soy Sauce (reduced salt)
What You Do
Clean the Matsutake and cut in small dices. The size you would like to eat them (Matsutake doesn’t shrink like many other mushrooms; it remains firm). Warm the soy sauce, add a touch of sesame oil and flavour with very small cubes of ginger. Fry the Matsutake gently in a skillet in some olive oil, no longer than 3 minutes. In parallel blanch the spinach in the liquid. Quickly drain the spinach and set aside. Reduce the liquid and taste. Add some excellent sesame oil and whisk. In parallel chop the spinach. Put spinach on a plate, gently add some sauce and then sprinkle the Matsutake over the spinach..
If we say ‘Japanese food’, you will probably think ‘sushi’, ‘sashimi’, ‘yakitori’, perhaps ‘udon’. But Oden? Probably not. Such a shame because Oden is a really wonderful dish. Oden for lunch or as a course in a typical Japanese menu: tasty, light and full of surprises. Oden is a stew that requires a bit more work than you would expect and of course time. It also requires some shopping, given some of the ingredients are not easy to find. We are not from Japan so we humbly present our version of this (wintery) classic. We hope it inspires you to cook Oden and enjoy it as much as we did.
Wine and Sake pairing
We preferred a glass of Chardonnay with the Oden during our dinner; others preferred a glass of cold sake. The stew is rich in flavours, umami of course, but not spicy, so we would not suggest a Gewurztraminer of a Sauvignon Blanc. A Chardonnay (with a touch of oak perhaps) will be a good choice.
What You Need
For the Dashi
20 grams of Dashi Kombu (Rishiri Kombu)
25 grams of Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes)
For the Stew
Chikuwa Fish Cakes
One Pack Konnyaku
One Pack of Gobo Maki Burdockroot Fish Cakes
1 sheet of Hayani Kombu
2 boiled eggs
Abura Age Fried Tofu
Mochi (Sticky Rice Cake)
Soy Sauce (preferably one with less salt)
What You Do
Start by making one litre of dashi. This seems simple but requires precision. Clean the kombu with a wet cloth and put into one litre of cold water. Gently raise the temperature to 80° Celsius or 176° Fahrenheit. Remove and discard the kombu. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the katsuobushi, bring to a boil and immediately set heat to zero. Wait 5 minutes or so. The katsuobushi will sink to the bottom of the pan. Now very gently pass the liquid through a wet towel. Do not squeeze, just give it time. The result will be a great, clean dashi. Cool and set aside. Next step is to peel the daikon and slice it (2 centimeters is best). Now use a sharp knife to plane of the edge of the daikon. This improves the presentation and it is supposed to stop the daikon from falling apart. Cook the daikon for one hour in water. Drain and set aside. Step three is to cut the konnyaku in triangles and cook these in water for 15 minutes. Konnyaku is made from the konjac plant and is specific for the Japanese cuisine. Step four is to cook the sheet of Hayani Kombu for 5 minutes. This is young kombu and edible, different for the one you used when preparing dashi. Let cool a bit, slice and knot ribbons. Not sure why, but is looks great when you serve it. Now it’s time to add the dashi to the pan (should be a clay pot, but we stick to our Le Creuset), add one tablespoon of mirin, one (or two, depending on your taste) of soy sauce, add the daikon, the konnyaku and the fish cakes. We served our oden as a course during dinner, so we limited the number of ingredients. If served for lunch add boiled eggs, fried tofu and mochi. The last two ingredients have to be combined by putting the mochi into the tofu. Allow to simmer for at least 2 hours. Best is, as always, to serve it the next day. Serve with some karashi (Japanese mustard, which is different from wasabi by the way).