Monday 19 August 2019

Japanese delights... bring the healthy diet home

Go beyond take-away sushi and bring healthy Japanese cuisine into your home with Fiona Uyema's simple recipes

Chicken gyoza from Japanese Food by Fiona Uyema
Chicken gyoza from Japanese Food by Fiona Uyema
Tofu nuggets from Japanese Food by Fiona Uyema
Edamame hummus from Japanese Food by Fiona Uyema
Japanese Made Easy by Fiona Uyema

I'll always be grateful to Japan for two reasons: it's where I met my husband Gilmar and where I found my passion for food. After growing up on a farm in a small rural village in Tipperary, I moved to Dublin to study Japanese in college. But it was only by living in Japan for three years that I truly experienced the different aspects of its culture.

During my college year abroad I stayed with a Japanese homestay family in a city called Takasaki, located in the heart of Japan, 100 kilometres from Tokyo. In the evenings I would sit at the kitchen table chatting to my homestay mother and watching her prepare that evening's meal. I became fascinated with Japanese food and everything about it.

The Japanese diet is one of the healthiest in the world. It is low in fat, with little use of butter or other dairy products - tofu, seaweed and dark-green vegetables are the main sources of calcium. It's high in good protein through daily consumption of fish and soya-based products, and contains many foods high in antioxidants such as green tea and miso.

A few years ago, after I'd returned to Ireland, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. During my chemo treatment I was in hospital for three months and I was horrified by the standard of food there. I knew that the Japanese diet would provide me with food packed with goodness that would help with my recovery, so every evening my husband came to the hospital with a Japanese bento. Thankfully, my chemo treatment was successful.

With cancer, obesity and dietary-related health problems on the increase in Ireland and across the world, I also wanted to share my recipes and encourage people to try them at home, as I truly believe that, by incorporating Japanese food into their diet, people can live healthier lives.

Chicken gyoza (chicken dumplings)

You can make these dumplings using different fillings such as minced pork, prawns or vegetables only. I usually make a large batch and freeze them as they cook well from frozen. Makes 25-30 dumplings

You will need

25-30 gyoza skins

Bowl of water for sealing the dumplings

Vegetable oil

80ml cold water for steaming

Sesame oil to season

For the filling:

200g good quality minced chicken breast

100g cabbage, finely diced

1 spring onion, finely diced

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated

3 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake

1 tsp sesame oil

salt and pepper to season

2 tbsp potato starch

For the dipping sauce: 2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

A few drops of la-yu (chilli-infused sesame oil) to taste


Mix together all the ingredients for the gyoza filling in a large bowl and set aside.

Before you start making the dumplings, place the gyoza skins, a clean bowl of water, a teaspoon and a large serving dish on the counter-top.

Place a gyoza skin on the palm of your hand, take a heaped teaspoon of the filling and place it in the centre of the gyoza skin.

Moisten the edge of the upper half of the gyoza skin by dipping your finger in the bowl of water and sliding it along the edge.

Fold the bottom half of the gyoza skin over the filling so that it meets the moistened upper half.

Start to pleat by folding the edges (make one pleat in the middle and two pleats at either side).

Press firmly on all pleats to ensure that the ingredients are secure within the gyoza skin.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-to-high heat.

Place the gyoza in the pan and fry until the base is slightly golden.

Pour 80ml of cold water around the edges of the pan and cover with a lid. Leave steaming for 10 minutes or until almost all of the water has evaporated.

Remove the lid and continue to fry until the water is fully absorbed.

Finally, drizzle the sesame oil over the gyoza and fry until the base of the gyoza is golden brown. Transfer to a serving dish.

Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and serve with the gyoza.

Tofu nuggets

This is a nice recipe for party finger food, for a tasty snack to enjoy at home or for a packed lunch.

Serves 4

You will need

300g tofu

50g panko

1 tsp milled dillisk (optional)

1 egg, beaten

Vegetable oil

For the dip:

1 tbsp wasabi paste

4 tbsp mayonnaise


To remove the excess water from the block of tofu, wrap it in kitchen paper and set aside for 10 minutes. You can place a weight (such as a book) on top of the block of tofu to help the water drain faster.

Mix the panko and the dillisk together and transfer to a flat plate.

Place the beaten egg on a flat plate.

Remove the kitchen paper from the tofu and, using a sharp knife, cut it into small bite-size cubes.

Coat all the tofu cubes in egg, then in the panko mix and arrange on a large plate.

Add some vegetable oil to a large non-stick frying pan and set the heat to medium.

Carefully place all the tofu nuggets on the pan and fry until each side is slightly browned and crispy (add more oil to the pan as you turn the tofu nuggets if necessary).

To make the dip simply mix the wasabi and mayonnaise in a small bowl and serve.

Edamame hummus

Apart from eating them directly from the pods, there are lots of other different ways that you can use edamame, such as tossing the beans into salads and stir-fries. This recipe is one of my favourite ways to use edamame.

Serves 2-3

You will need

1 tbsp sesame seeds

200g edamame (out of the pod)

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp sesame oil

½ clove of garlic,

Crushed juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp water

Freshly ground salt and pepper to season

A pestle and mortar blender


Toss the sesame seeds into a roasting tray and place in a fan oven preheated to 150˚C for about 5 minutes.

Using a pestle and mortar, grind the hot sesame seeds until cracked and ground.

Cook the edamame, then drain. If still in the pods, remove by using your fingers to gently squeeze the beans out.

Place the cooked edamame beans, ground sesame seeds and the remaining ingredients in a blender and blitz until the texture is nice and creamy.

If you think the mixture is too dry, then add a little more olive oil or water.

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