Thursday, June 30, 2011

Donabe-braised koya tofu and shiitake mushrooms

Small donabe pots are very versatile. You can use it for single (or 2)-serving one pot meal, or use it for making a small "okazu" or tapas-style dish. I often use 2 or 3 mini donabe pots to cook and serve different dishes on just a normal day for a balanced meal. Or, they are great for entertaining guets, too.

With my mini donabe, "Hakeme", I made shojin-style (Buddhist-style vegan) braised koya tofu and shiitake mushrooms.

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Two main ingredients, Koya Tofu and Dried Shiitake Mushrooms are both dry ingredients, which you can store in your pantry. Koya Tofu is a traditional Japanese ingredient. It's a freeze-dry tofu and also considered as a great health food, as it's packed with protein, minerals, etc. You can just rehydrate it in hot water (5-10 minutes). Then, press out the excess moisture and cut into desired size pieces. Dry shiitake mushrooms were also rehydrated in (cold) water for about 30 minutes.

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In the donabe, I combined 3 cups dashi stock (kombu + dry shiitake base), 2T sake, 2T mirin, 1T sugar, and 1.5T usukuchi shoyu (light-color soy sauce), and added rehydrated koya tofu (8-10 pieces, then each was cut in half) and shiitake (stems removed and quartered). The surface was lined with a piece of foil and covered with a lid, then the donabe was put over medium-heat. Once it starts boiling, the heat was reduced to simmer.

After about 30 minutes, the broth was reduced by almost half. I added about 1tsp sansho berries (optional) as a last touch, then turned off the heat. It was let rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Both the koya tofu and shiitake soaked so much broth and they became so juicy and also meaty. It's such a brilliant dish which can be prepared so easily. I like it hot, warm, or even cold.

Happy donabe life.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ita-wakame onigiri with donabe brown rice...This year's HB kick-off

I brought back an unique kind of seaweed from my last trip back to Japan.

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It's a delicacy called "Ita Wakame" (sheet wakame seaweed) from Shimane Prefecture of Japan. It's wild-caught paper-thin dried young wakame seaweed. Because it's so thin, you don't need to rehydrate it before eating it. You can use it almost like nori (roasted) seaweed. Ita Wakame is extremely rich in minerals and different vitamins. Also, while the kind I got was all natural (with no seasoning), it's packed with umami flavors with slight saltiness from the ocean.

We were going to our first Hollywood Bowl concert of this year, so I made simple onigiri (rice balls) with my double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san", and used Ita Wakame for it. First, I made simple brown rice (2 rice-cups) with Kamado-san, and tossed the rice with 4 tablespoons of roasted golden sesame and 2/3 teaspoon of sea salt.

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In a small cup, lined with a piece of plastic wrap, I lightly spread some Ita Wakame (I broke it roughly by hand). Then, I added 1/5 of rice and covered the top with more broken Ita Wakame. I gently wrapped the rice with the plastic and formed it into a triangle-shape ball. The key is that you have to do all the process while the rice is still very hot.

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Before the show at Hollywood Bowl, we were invited to a picnic event. It was fun.

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Once the concert started, we were hungry again and it was time for our Ita Wakame onigiri! It was fantastic. The seaweed softened up nicely and the brown rice was nicely seasoned with it.

The event was called, "Big In Japan", with the headliner YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra). We had a fun time!

Happy donabe life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2002 Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet, Meursault, Les Gruyaches with Fried Soft-shell Crab

I had this bottle for a while, and had an opportunity to open it a few days ago.

2002 Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet, Meursault, "Les Gruyaches". This is Fichet's old-vine (about 80-years-old) super lieu-dit, right below Les Charmes 1er Cru. The wine was slightly-shy in the beginning, but after about 10 minutes, it opened up beautifully with exotic spice, mineral, tropical fruits, etc. The flavor was very complex with a long finish. I could also smell the earthy character, like from a wide-spread field. Gorgeous.

We had it at The Spice Table in Downtown LA, and the best pairing with this wine was their beer-batter fried soft shell crab! It was actually my second time to try the dish...I got lucky to try it again by the end of the season. The crisp batter with the naturally-sweet crab flavor complemented the rich character of the wine very well. The sauce (duck-egg based) was not overpowering, and the creaminess worked perfectly, too.

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I've been going to The Spice Table (already) many times since it opened a few moths ago. The food is always great and so as the service there. Among the items I always order there is chicken liver pate, fried cauliflower, and chicken curry. Their Hainanese chicken is also superb...I must say the best in town. I'm probably going back again next week!

California-style bibimbap in Pasadena

I had a surprisingly nice lunch in Pasadena last week.

It was a relatively new place called, Cham Korean Bistro (walking distance from where I used to live). Their food is not necessarily fusion, but the dishes are more like "California-style" Korean. So, you can imagine lots of colorful vegetables etc. with healthy choices.

My friend had a cold noodle dish. She liked it.

I had their version of dolsot (stone-pot) bibimbap. It came in a cute skillet with a handle. I loved the presentation. A fried-egg in the center was surronded by multi-grain brown rice, and the rice was topped with lots of vegetables with your choice of main item (I picked pork). I quickly started mixing the ingredients in the sizzling hot skillet.

Ready to eat. It was really nice, and I loved the fact that there were a lot of vegetables in the dish. Perhaps, the seasoning was a bit too sweet to my taste, but overall it was a very nice dish.

The place was packed during the lunch time. Other dishes looked very nice, too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shio-koji pork chops in donabe skillet

Shio-koji x donabe cooking = super delicious

I marinated thick cuts of pork chops in shio-koji paste for 2 days. The paste was lightly wiped off and the meat was seared in my black toban (donabe skillet). What's great about toban is that you can make a quick steak or saute dish in it and bring it right to the table for service. It also cooks faster than a regular pan, as toban builds intense heat in it and it also gives the effect of FIR (Far Infrared Radiation).

4-5 minutes on one side, flip and splash a little sake to the skillet, and cook for a few more minutes over medium-heat.

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The dish was ready. I just served it with chopped cilantro and lemon wedges. What a tasty dish!

Happy donabe life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meaty nights in K-Town: BBQ to slow-roasted whole duck

One night at Park's BBQ in Koreatown.

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Their marinated kalbi is among the best in town. We also did shrimp, bulkogi, and finished with yukgaejang (beef soup). Now Park's is such a high-profile restaurant, but their food is consistently good!

A few days later, I was at Dha Rae Oak for their roasted duck. This is another place I keep coming back to. We were a group of 7 girls, so I ordered 2 ducks ahead of time. Since it takes 4 hours to roast the duck, you need to order it at least 4 hours in advance.

They make really good seafood pajeon. Crispy outside and chewy inside.

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The main dish of the night...stuffed clay-pot roasted duck! It's cooked as a "yakuzen" (medicinal) style, so the stuffing has black rice, nuts, dry herbs and fruits inside. The meat is so tender that it falls apart just by using a spoon. Also, the nice thing is that it doesn't taste greasy, as it's roasted with cheesecloth wrapped all around, so during the slow roasting, the grease is soaked by the cheesecloth and excess grease drips to the bottom of the tall clay pot. It's just such a nice dish.

We kept eating like vultures.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shio-koji recipe...Donabe-steamed cauliflower and chick pea salad

You can make wonderful vinaigrette with shio-koji. Because shio-koji is filled with umami flavor (koji culture breaks the starch into amino acid), it adds the extra layer of flavor to the salad.

One small head of cauliflower was cut into smaller pieces and quickly steamed in my donabe-steamer, "Mushi Nabe" until tender. Other ingredients were a can of chick peas (drained and rinsed), a few small radishes (thinly-sliced), and some chopped cilantro. They were tossed in the shio-koji vinaigrette...the recipe is below.

Shio-koji Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon shio-koji paste
1 tablespoon lemon jjice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
a pinch of each salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.