Saturday, November 28, 2009


Thanksgiving time marks the beginning of the winter holiday season and with that comes holiday cooking. And with any great holiday cooking comes some planning. Oh yes, depending on what you serve and for how many people you have at your holiday dinner table there may be some leftovers.
By chance you are like me who is anything but traditional, turkey is just not going to do. For starters, it takes too long to make, it’s too big, too bland, it puts me into a catatonic state after I eat it, and finally, I am stuck with lots of leftovers. Especially when you only live with one other person, too many leftovers will get old quick. I have nothing against turkey or people who prefer turkey at the holidays. But if you would like to opt for something different then we take our holiday planning into consideration.

For Thanksgiving, we opted for a duck. Ducks are generally half the size of a turkey and often come with a premade packet of orange sauce. Before using that sauce you can add a qtr cup of orange juice & vermouth or vodka into the mix. Stir the mix and store it to cool while you prepare your duck. You can use prepackaged seasonings but if you can not find them you can make your own seasonings using white pepper, paprika, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and fresh ground pepper.

You’ll bake that duck according to its weight and internal temperature which should be around 180* when ready. Serve with sautéed mushrooms, green onions and mix with a wild rice and a side of cranberry.

Baste the orange sauce in the last ten minutes of cooking and you’ll have one memorable holiday dinner!

So now that we’ve covered our alternative to turkey and what to serve with it we are back to those leftovers. And here’s why I recommend a plan what you want to serve because unless you have a large family present you are going to be stuck with a lot of leftovers that will either bore you to death or end up in the dumpster.

Our six pound duck produced enough meat to feed four people. That left us with enough food to produce a second dinner. But why do the same thing twice? When I was a kid, if we did not have traditional Mexican tamales to off set the heavy turkey leftovers we would end up serving déjà vu of the night before and somehow it just wasn’t the same. But what do you want from leftovers? The late George Carlin had a great sketch about leftovers but you don’t necessarily have to rehash the same holiday plate that has since lost its luster. This is why when you consider any holiday bird consider the size, how many people you intend to feed, and what you plan to do with the leftover meat once the holiday is past. Hence our solution which we will call Kamotosoba (Duck with Noodles).

Cooking with duck opens possibilities. I wanted to make something Japanese with my leftover duck but opted to improvise with the items I had available on hand.

As stated in our title, this meal falls under Japanese inspired cooking. So here’s what we used:

Your leftover Duck
6 Shitake Mushrooms
2 pkg Yaki Soba Noodles
½ Onion
1 Carrot
1 tblsp Sesame Oil
1 cup Orange Sauce
Fresh ground pepper

The first thing you want to do is prepare your vegetables.

Cut the stems off the mushrooms and then cut the heads in half.
Next slice your carrots in wedges.
Then cut your onion in ¼” slices.

If you have a wok or a decent sized skillet, line your tablespoon of sesame oil to get the vegetables started.

Add your vegetables to your wok or skillet and occasionally stir while simmering. This should take no more than four minutes.

While your onions are doing their thing, slice your duck meat into smaller bite sized wedges then add them into the skillet or wok. Add pepper and stir for about two minutes. While the meat is cooking unpack the Yaki Soba noodles and add to the mix and stir for another minute.

Now if you managed to save some of the orange sauce from the night before you’re in luck!

As with any storage of sauces or liquids, evaporation can occur. To reconstitute your sauce add a ¼ cup of orange juice to your sauce and stir. This will bring life back to your sauce and remove any leftover trace of the previous night’s vermouth flavor. Once properly mixed, pour your orange sauce into the skillet or wok with the simmering meat & vegetables and stir for one minute and serve! This should serve about two to three people and will prove to be anything but the same old boring rehash of the night before.

You see, with proper planning you can have two great meals for the holiday and the day after without settling for the same old-same old. Our Kamotosoba came out very OIISHII and we hope yours will too!


Thursday, November 26, 2009


Last week we posted our little experiment we got from NHK and it was a big success. Not only did our Sake no Ebi Tsukune came out OIISHII, but people wrote to me directly and loved the recipe! Given the popularity of our take on Salmon Tsukune, we thought we would try our hand at Gyūtsukune which is literally a beef version of what we previously made. Like with Sake no Ebi Tsukune, we rarely follow instructions to the letter for one logistical reason or another but we do our best to show you or at least inspire you to do on your own.

Remember, were not trying to deprive anyone of making a living or claiming credit for something we didn't invent but merely showing you how we did at making some of the best Japanese dishes we can get our hands on. So if you're cool with that and not calling your lawyer...let's get cooking! Hajime!

Gyūtsukune at a glance looks allot like our earlier stab at Sake no Ebi Tsukune. The preparation methodology is the same but the ingredients make this it's own Tsukune. Now earlier this week I had bought a thing of basil leaves and shitake mushrooms. What drove me nuts was that somewhere in the middle of my 101 distractions which are impeding the completion of my Samurai Novel I am writing, I forgot what the hell I bought the basil leaves for! Ok, now that our memory came back to us after a heavy workout in the Shinkendo Dojo, my delayed memory recalled researching recipes at NHK's cooking page. It was there that I was introduced to both the fish and meat Tsukune recipes. As I previously mentioned before, I don't always follow or in some cases understand some of the directions I come across but that never stops me from making a good meal and neither should it stop you. As in my subtitle for my page, I will give you both Japanese and Japanese inspired cooking.

So getting back to our Gyūtsukune.... as with any recipe you'll some ingredients. The original recipe called for ground beef and pork. I have a general distrust of pork in this country so I opted to make my Gyūtsukune without pork otherwise I would have to call it Nikutsukune(Niku=meat / Gyū=beef). So here's what we used:

1lb of Ground Beef

5 Shitake Mushrooms

3 Basil Leaves

1/2 Carrot

1/2 Onion

1 Egg

1/2 Cup of Mirin

1/2 Cup of Soy Sauce

2tsp of Oil ( We use Olive Oil but Vegitable Oil is ok too)

2tsp of Sugar

2tsp Flour

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

3 Basil Leaves

As with our earlier fish based Tsukune, we recommend prepping your main ingredients first and the sauce second.

So first thing is first.
Take your Shitake Mushrooms and cut the stems off first.
Take a good sized mixing bowl and be ready to throw them in.
Slice and dice your mushrooms into tiny pieces.
You will repeat this slice & dice process with the onions and the carrots.

The original recipe called for six basil leaves.
We used three so the basil wouldn't overpower our dish.
If you have ever cut fresh basil leaves then you'll know exatly what I mean!

Once you have your basil, mushrooms, carrots, and onions chopped up into little pieces throw them all into the same mixing bowl.
By this point this should be smelling pretty good and you haven't thrown in the meat yet!

When working with raw ground beef, I like to use Lawry's Seasoning Salt. No Japanese recipe I know calls for it but that's what I like to use it and it's never thrown a dish so far so we'll use it here. Throw in your ground beef and use a dash or two or in my case three of the seasoning salt. You'll want to add roughly around the same amount of pepper into your ground beef. If you happen to have a black peppercorn grinder bottle like me then you're in even better shape.I recommend them.
Mix your meat with the vegetables into the mixing bowl. Add one raw egg and two tablespoons of flour. Mix everything we've mentioned so far in the mixing bowl until your meat becomes sticky. You'll want it that way to shape them. With the addition of an egg and some flour those of you who tried to make the Sake no Ebi Tsukune will appreciate this. After you have all that mixed return your meat to the refrigerator to keep cool while we move on to our sauce.

Like before, you'll take your 1/2 cup of Mirin, 1/2 cup of Soy Sauce and your 2 tsp of Sugar and pour into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about two minutes. After that you'll want to place your mixture in the refrigerator to cool down and retrieve your meat so you can move onto the next step.

The idea of this next step is to take your ground beef and shape them into a small flat hamburger like shape.

Once you have your meat shaped and ready to go, break out your sauce mixture and turn up that fire.

Add a tablespoon of oil into your sauce and stir it in before you add your meat.

Like with the previous tsukune post you'll want to fry them until evenly browned on both sides. This should take around five to six minutes depending on how big yours comes out.

After your Tsukune is browned and ready, serve it with a good Teriyaki sauce. We recommend Kikkoman Original for this dish and believe me it brings out a zesty flavor you are bound to enjoy. You'll never want to make teriyaki burgers the same way again!

So there I was, standing there with a handful of mixed ground beef when Tina suddenly goes over to Soy Sauce Queen's page and discovers she just happened to post a different variation of the same idea. Hers is called Hakusai Hamburger Steak. I was like oh shit! What's the chance of that happening! Seriously, I didn't see her blog until I was halfway done cooking. Hopefully Misa isn't going to think I'm trying to rip her off! We wouldn't do that to Misa Sensei. She has been very supportive in our endeavors as we are of hers so please visit her page if you'd like to see another way how to cook with hamburger meat the Japanese way.

We sure hope you have enjoyed this recipes and all the recipes we've posted here.
We appreciate all your comments!

Monday, November 23, 2009

魚料理 Sake to Ebi Tsukune

Konnichi-wa! Your “Gaijin-Gourmet” has returned with another fun recipe from Japan. Ok, I didn’t actually go to Japan since my last post but thanks to the internet and books, I can share with you my recent cooking experiences with both traditional and Japanese inspired culinary cooking. So let me share with you a seafood dish I learned from an NHK cooking show that we tried this last weekend called Salmon & Prawn Tsukune.

I love seafood and always have since I was a kid. I picked this recipe based on the ease to make and the obtainability to find all the necessary ingredients. I don’t read kanji but I do shop in Japanese markets in Little Tokyo (I like to think of it as my training for shopping in Japan). With this in mind I imagine if you are in Japan and can’t read the kanji labels finding what you need should for this meal will be as easy as pointing at the items you will need.

You can find salmon pretty much anywhere here or in Japan. So scoring a pair of salmon fillets for should be no problem. For the second item in this seafood doubleheader, the recipe calls for prawns. Prawns you say? Not to panic. Let me explain. I live in Los Angeles, so most markets mainly sell shrimp instead of prawns. What’s the difference you might ask? Not much to tell you the truth. Prawns are generally larger than their shrimp cousins. So in other words, you can do this exactly as the original recipe called for using prawns or improvise like me with the more easily obtainable large shrimp available in most American seafood sections at your local markets. Successfully acquiring a pound of each fish we can now move on to what else you’ll need.

1lb Salmon Fillet
1lb Shrimp or Prawns
½ Onion (White onion is good!)
1tsp Sake
3fl oz Mirin
3fl oz Japanese Soy Sauce
4tsp Lemon Juice
4 square inches of Konbu
Salt & Pepper
Thinly Sliced Ginger

This photo is of the konbu kelp we purchased at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo.
If you are in Japan and can not read Kanji reference this photo!

The first thing you want to do is open all the windows because the place is going to smell fishy! Ok, (if you don’t live in a little box like me) maybe not. But seriously you’ll want to start with the shrimp. Do not buy precooked shrimp. Use shelled shrimp. Like with any meal involving shrimp, you will want to de-shell and de-vein your shrimp before you do anything else. This can prove to be time consuming but necessary to de-vein shrimp.

Your stomach will thank you later.

Once you have your shrimp ready you can bring out your salmon fillets.

Make sure you have all bones and any skin removed before proceeding.

You will then want to slice your fish into tiny bits and mince them.
You do this for both shrimp and salmon.

After you do this place the two fish in a bowl together.

Next you’ll want to take that half onion and chop it into just under a qtr inch bits. If you are familiar with Mexican Civiche’ it’s the same process.

If you happen to have one of those “Slap Chop” slicers then you are in business!

Once diced into tiny bits, throw your onions into the bowl containing the fish.

Add Salt & Pepper (sparingly according to taste) and the sake then mix it all together. Once mixed, cover it and place it back in the refrigerator to stay cool while you move onto the part.

Now in many Japanese recipes they tell you to start with your sauce or Dashi stock first. Of course when working with fish you might want to do that second. It’s really up to you but for practical reasons I always prep my fish or meats first especially on a hot day. Need I say more?

For our mixture well now break out that Mirin. If you are still not sure what Mirin is it’s basically sweet cooking sake. You can find this in any Japanese market or in most major American markets that have an Asian Foods section. If you live in a place where they don’t carry mirin but do carry regular sake then don’t despair. Add a pinch of sugar and stir into sake and there’s your mirin!

Now that we’ve covered mirin, let’s pour your mirin into a pan and bring it to a boil. Once you’ve hit the boiling point turn down your heat and simmer for two minutes. Next, add lemon juice and that konbu kelp. If you can’t find Konbu nearby you can always order it on line from any of the Japanese market sites I have listed here on the side. You’ll only need to buy one package and trust me, you won’t use it that much but it’s good to have for when you need it. Once you have the konbu and lemon juice mixed in with the mirin, add the soy sauce and place it back in the refrigerator to cool.

While that’s cooling bring your fish bowl out and prepare to get busy! If you have ever eaten Scandinavian food you may be familiar with Fiskballar – fish balls. This isn’t the same thing but the concept is the same. Take your fish mixture and shape them into balls. NHK recommends 5cm. If you live where we don’t use metric think about the size of an Italian meatball and you are in business! With our experience we found this to be easier said than done. The fish didn’t hold their shape so easily but with patience you can make this work. Just don’t make them any larger than this or they won’t retain their shape when you deep fry them. Once your fish is shaped into balls you are ready to go.

Final Steps.

Use a good sized pan for your mixture and pan fry the fish balls until they are nicely browned.
Once they are browned you are ready to serve.
Garnish them with thinly sliced ginger or shredded ginger and serve with a dash of Ponzu Sauce

You can find some great ideas and recipes on NHK World’s website. They do a great job showing you on their Japanese Kitchen show how to cook delicious Japanese meals. However, their website’s instructions could prove to be confusing.
As I have explained before, I don’t come up with these recipes. But what I do on here is share with you how I made these dishes and hopefully show you how you can too.

We certainly loved how OIISHII the Tsukune came out and it’s a definite “Gohan mo Ichido” for us. I hope it will be one for you too.