Posts Tagged ‘japanese’

Surprise! Lunch tastes good

May 7, 2013

15 mintues before I have to leave for work… do I have time to make a salad? Do I have anything good to make a salad with?

Cucumber Seaweed Salad

Cucumber Seaweed Salad with tofu, turnips, and a spicy citrus soy sauce dressing

Given this typical morning routine and my general aversion to salads (lettuce), I’ve been resorting to rice with a vegetable on top recently. But I need to fill up on vegetables. Need to learn to like salads. Well that’s not true, I really enjoy a large salad at restaurants. So why don’t I like ones that I make? Why don’t I like making salads?

Two reasons are the dressing and washing lettuce. Dressing is fat (which tastes pretty darn good!) but pouring that much oil on top of vegetables seems to defeat the purpose of having a pile of vegetables. And washing lettuce? And storing it just long enough that it doesn’t go bad and you don’t have to buy it every other day? What a pain! So I generally avoid salads.

Today, however, I surprised myself! Threw a salad together with just a few ingredients and it even tasted good. The key to this one was the dressing which amazingly contained no oil. As with most salads, this is a very flexible recipe and includes what just happened to be in my fridge. It reminds me of the classic cucumber salad which consists of cucumbers covered with vinegar but influenced by a Malaysian dipping sauce and Japanese ingredients.

Cucumber Seaweed Salad

created on-the-fly by Sarah Johnson

  • lettuce
  • cucumber
  • turnip (chopped)
  • tofu (diced)
  • scallions
  • seaweed (dried and shredded)
  • ¼c sweet soy sauce
  • 2T lime juice
  • ½t sriracha
  1. Clean and chop all the vegetables and tofu to your liking.
  2. Layer the ingredients in a dish: lettuce, tofu, cucumbers, turnips.
  3. Sprinkle seaweed and scallions over the salad.
  4. Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, and sriracha and mix well.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy!

Notes and Variations

The variations are endless. I just grabbed things from the fridge that were already chopped to make my life easy. I think most things will go well with this. I stopped myself from adding sesame seeds (I add them to everything!) and mushrooms because I had another dish for lunch that had them in it.

The most significant part of these instructions is the lack of measurements. It is entirely up to your tastes, preferences, and what’s available. Only have radishes? Great! Pickled radishes? That sounds delicious! Making salad for 10 people? Pile the veggies on and quadruple the dressing amounts. Don’t like spice? Leave out the sriracha. Like spice? Add more sriracha! Red pepper flakes work well in this dressing too, but you should let it sit overnight for the flavors to blend properly.

I’m interested to hear what experimentations and combinations work well.


Start with Perfection

May 24, 2012

I love a good soup. The flavors blend together so you can’t tell what’s in it yet each elememt contributes something that would be lost without that specific ingredient. A perfect harmony of the fewest possible ingredients that creates intrigue and comfort in one spoonful.

Perhaps I have astronomical aspirations or am embellishing the simplicity of soup. The reason, at least, is because I cannot make a simple clear stock. I use my leftover chicken bones fanatically – to the point of buying and roasting a whle chicken just so I can make some stock. I pile on the veggie scraps, taking care to leave out any pungent ones like broccoli or cabbage. I’ve made some good lentil soups and pumpkin is a personal favorite. And yet a simple egg drop soup is beyond me.

I found the ideal I’ve been striving for in giant bowls of noodles at Japanese restaurants so I raided the library for all non-sushi Japanese cookbooks. I read through Harumi’s Japanese Cooking first for a quick and easy introduction to Japanese dishes, then consumed myself so thoroughly in The Washoku Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh that I wound up buying a copy. Both books confirmed the secret to a delicate, clear broth is seaweed! I don’t understand the science of it but apparently seaweed is gelatinous and imparts this quality to the broth when cooked carefully, as well as a very light flavor which can be enhanced by dried tuna flakes or mushrooms.

Stock Ingredients

Dried tuna flakes (bonito) and seaweed (kombu) are all that’s needed for a perfect stock.

The result? I’ve made soup every week for the last two months!

Fish Stock

inspired by Harumi’s Japanese Cooking and Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh


  • 4½c water
  • 15-20" piece of seaweed
  • ¼c dried tuna flakes
  1. Soak the seaweed in the cold water for 15min.
  2. Bring the water just to a boil over medium heat.
  3. As soon as the water is boiling, add the tuna flakes and drop the heat to low.
  4. Turn the heat off and remove the seaweed and tuna flakes after a few minutes (the tuna will start to sink).


I am not an expert in Japanese cooking or ingredients. I am only just learning. However, there is a wide variety of seaweed available and seaweed itself, from what I’ve read, is a misnomer. It should be considered a leafy green that grows in water. Kombu is recommended for making stock. I don’t know why. Perhaps it has the best gelatinous properties. It is important not to rinse it before use as the salt-like granules on the seaweed contribute to the stock’s character.

Tuna flakes (bonito) are available in many Asian markets and have a very strong smell but do not overpower the stock as they are used for just a few minutes. I encourage you to try making the stock as is but for vegetarians and those who do not like fish or strong fish smells while cooking, substitute a few dried shitake mushrooms.

Savory Rhubarb… it can be done!

May 9, 2012

Happy Spring! And what a fortuitous assemblage of circumstances I had to celebrate.

  1. At the market last week I saw the first rhubarb of the season and did a dance. Then bought some and had to figure out what to make with it besides a pie or tart.
  2. I got a new bookshelf for my cookbooks and decided to look through one for some Spring inspiration when I found an old list of recipes I wanted to try tucked inside the cover. The most interesting is the one that follows.
  3. I had a whole striped bass in the freezer that I bought for an undetermined special event.
  4. I recently read through some japanese cookbooks and, as a result, not only had miso and soy sauce on hand, but also had a quick method of making fish stock in my repertoire (involving seaweed and tuna flakes).

With all of these events perfectly aligned on a free weekend, I defrosted the fish for a celebration of a savory rhubarb meal and a not-so-warm Spring.

Striped Bass with Rhubarb

Striped bass stuffed with rhubarb and onions baked in a sauce of miso, soy sauce, and fish stock.

Fish with Rhubarb and Onions

inspired by Amy’s recipe collection, originally published in the New York Times


  • 1T white miso paste
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 1t fish sauce
  • 1c fish stock
  • 1 fish, whole (striped bass)
  • 2T peanut oil
  • 1T ginger, minced
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1c rhubarb, chopped to ½"
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet.
  2. Toast the ginger in the oil until just brown.
  3. Add the onion and rhubarb and cook until soft.
  4. Blend the miso, soy sauce, and fish sauce in a bowl.
  5. Add the fish stock to the mixture.
  6. Add the liquid to the skillet and stir to cover the onion and rhubarb.
  7. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the onion and rhubarb and pour the sauce over the fish.
  8. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, then turn the fish over and bake for 20 minutes more.


I modified this recipe from the original based on what I had in the house and it seemed to be forgiving in the vegetable department. I subbed a yellow onion for scallions but I think any onion-type food would do (mmm… shallots). I used striped bass but the original is made with tilapia. The biggest difference was the cooking method. You’re supposed to stir fry pieces of tilapia but I had a beautiful whole fish in the freezer so I chose to bake it stuffed. And what delicious success I had! Any white fish would probably work well. The important piece of this recipe is really the sauce and the rhubarb.