TRYING SOMETHING NEW
As one of those people who get bored with standard familiar dishes and refuse to eat the same old thing over and over, I love to switch up my meals often. Discovering new ingredients and tastes has something thrilling, worldly and cool to it. Taking on a challenge of creating a new exotic masterpiece in the kitchen, customizing it to my taste and making it my own is what fun cooking is all about.
A few months ago I have ditched my tedious saturday morning shopping routine at my neighborhood chain supermarket and started shopping at a small family owned Japanese shop in little Tokyo. It started out with sporadic visits for a piece of sushi salmon here and some seaweed crackers there. Before I knew it, I had replaced several everyday items with formerly unfamiliar products.
I was hooked on the different packaging style, new kinds of mushrooms, greens and spices and wanted to experience more of the praparation techniques and tastes. I admit I felt a little unaccustomed at first and it was a good out of comfort zone experience. But little research and just asking the staff will get you everywhere..
Here are some of my food staples that I always get:
- Sushi Rice – sushi, onigiri or on it’s own
- Nori Leaves
- Seaweed Snacks – an amazing chips substitute
- Ramen Noodles – I prefer frozen noodles and make my own soup
- Dried Shitake
- Rice Paper
- Edamame – my fave snack
- Miso Paste – taste for the soup & other dishes
- Brown rice green tea – my fave relaxing mode tea
- Peanut Sauce – amazing with summer rolls
- Gyouza – delish dumplings
- Sushi Salmon
GYOUZA & EDAMAME
One warm & hearthy, the other cold & fresh, make for great appetizers. In restaurants gyouza usually come in a set of five dumplings with some soy, but thats never enough. I buy them in bulk and enjoy making a big plate ful as a yummy tv snack on the weekends. Edamame are my other favorite snack, especially when things got to be quick. I just dump the frozen beans in hot water and let them defrost for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle some salt and enjoy.
I am obsessed with those! You can create thousands of variations depending on what filling you like. Cucumber, carrot, chicken, shrimp, salad leaves, mushrooms, whatever you like. Get creative, there are no limits. My favorite kind is with shrimp, avocado, shitake and seaweed rolled up and dipped in peanut sauce. Really hits the spot and a healthy, fresh alternative.
A bowl of ramen on a cold, rainy day. Abdallah and I enjoy a nice visit to Takumi’s Japanese Soup Kitchen for a bowl of Karage Miso Ramen evey now and then. There is no other food so satisfying and comforting as ramen. In winter I need some hot broth every other day and enjoy making my own. I usually cook it with shredded chicken breast, pak choi greens, shitake, and garnish with spring onion and some nori.
Many people assume that shushi making is complicated, time consuming and the ingredients are expensive and a pain to get. The truth is, you just need a japanese shop and a couple of rolling sessions to get the hang of it. The ingredients for sushi are not more expensive than a meat dinner. Most important: Get a nice, quality piece of fish! Get the rice cooking according to instructions, which will take about 30 mins. In the mean time you can prep the veggies and cut the fish. Once you have everything ready, rolling the maki will be a snap. I love the inside out roll with salmon, cream cheese, avocado and arugula or shripm and shitake.
Have fun experimenting! At the time I am trying out Onigiri, the stuffed rice balls and seriously want to get into Atsuyaki-Tamago, the art of layered omlette. What are your favorite Japanese dishes to create at home?