SOY simple - authentic Japanese recipes
Rustle up authentic Japanese dishes in a matter of minutes with these delicious recipes by Tim Anderson.
THE BEST MISO SOUP
Miso soup is like a bacon sandwich: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. Instant miso soup from a packet is totally fine, but next- level, from-scratch miso soup is nearly as easy to prepare, so you may as well upgrade!
4 tablespoons miso - use a red or barley miso if you can
1 tbsp mirin
2 spring onions (scallions)
2 tbsp dried wakame or a handful of fresh spinach (or both)
Embellishments, such as asparagus, courgettes (zucchini), squash or kale, cut into pieces slightly smaller than bite-sized, or mussels, scallops, etc. (optional)
1cm strip of lemon peel, white pith removed, cut into fine shreds
350g (12 oz) block of firm silken tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 pinches of toasted sesame seeds
Combine the miso, dashi and mirin in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cut the white part of the spring onions into pieces 1cm (½ in) thick, and add those to the pan. Finely slice the green parts of the spring onions and reserve for the garnish.
Reduce the soup to a simmer, add the wakame and/or spinach and cook for just a minute or two. Now is a good time to add any embellishments you might like - for example, asparagus in the spring, courgettes in the summer, diced squash in the autumn, kale in the winter, and mussels or scallops pretty much anytime. These are strictly optional but they will add another dimension of flavour and texture to your miso soup and make it that much more satisfying.
Cook for just a few more minutes until the veg or shellfish are cooked through and tender (but not soft).
Add the lemon peel and remove from the heat. Divide the tofu into deep bowls, pour over the soup and garnish with the sliced green spring onions and sesame seeds.
MATCHA MASCARPONE POT
Matcha is the espresso of green tea - thick, intense, sharp and short. Its bitterness is invigorating for some, off-putting for others, but it's that intensity that makes it work so well in desserts - especially with sweet, creamy flavours like that of mascarpone or similar soft cheese. This is one of the easiest ways to enjoy matcha - even if you don't really enjoy it on its own.
2 tbsp full-fat (whole) milk
1 tbsp matcha, plus a little extra for dusting
1 tbsp vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla pod
500g (1lb 2oz) mascarpone, at room temperature
75g (2½ oz) crème fraîche
100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
Whisk the milk and matcha together, breaking up lumps as best you can, until a thick, glossy, paint-like mixture forms.
Add the vanilla and stir it through, then add the mascarpone, crème fraîche, sugar and salt.
Whisk until everything is smooth and incorporated, then keep whisking to thicken and aerate. You are essentially making a whipped cream using the fat in the cheese.
Stop whisking when soft peaks form, then spoon into cups or glasses. Sprinkle a little matcha on top of each before serving.
CHICKEN AND EGG RICE BOWL
This comforting recipe has a name that's kinda cute, kinda disturbing if you translate it directly: 'parent and child' rice bowl. Which I suppose, at the very least, is a little more poetic than 'chicken and egg'. At any rate, it's very delicious. It doesn't usually contain butter or mushrooms but for me the combination of butter, eggs, mushrooms and sweet soy is irresistible.
80g (3oz) butter
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
100g (3½ oz) shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp caster or granulated sugar
4 large portions of cooked rice (350-400g/ 12-14oz uncooked)
2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
Pinch of Shichimi Togarashi to serve (optional)
Melt the butter in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, then add the onions. Cook until the onions soften and brown, being careful to avoid burning the butter. Add the chicken thighs and mushrooms and cook until these begin to brown as well, stirring frequently.
Pour in the dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar and let it reduce slightly, coating the chicken. Reduce the heat to low and crack in the eggs.
Break up the yolks and stir the eggs gently a few times; you should keep them very loose and runny, almost like a sauce for the chicken and rice. When the eggs are cooked to a semi-scrambled consistency, remove from the heat.
Scoop the rice into deep bowls and spoon over the chicken and egg mixture. Garnish with the spring onions and the Shichimi, if you like.
BEEF, ONION AND SWEET SOY RICE BOWL
Gyudon - a humble bowl of beef on rice - is kind of like the Japanese equivalent of a burger. It's fine for lunch, decent for dinner, but where it really shines is well into a night of heavy drinking. Sweet and beefy and savoury and satisfying (and almost impossibly cheap in Japan), it's something I could eat for just about every meal, just about every day.
400g (14 oz) skirt/hanger/flank steak
2 tbsp oil
4 onions, thinly sliced
2cm (¾ in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely julienned
200ml Sweet Soy Sauce (see recipe)
4 large portions of cooked rice (350-400g/12-14 oz uncooked)
40-50g (1½-2 oz) red pickled ginger
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
Place the beef in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up, then slice it against the grain into very thin strips.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan (skillet) and add the onions. Cook over a medium heat until they are soft and brown, then add the beef and ginger. Let the beef brown a bit, then add the sweet soy sauce and dashi and let it reduce slightly, to the consistency of a thin syrup.
Place the rice in deep bowls and spoon over the beef and onions along with the sauce, then garnish with the pickled ginger and sesame seeds. If this doesn't make you feel all warm and wonderful inside, you may be some kind of robot.
Sweet soy sauce
Makes about 350ml
200ml soy sauce
100ml sake, water or dashi (this is mainly to take the edge off the soy sauce)
100g dark brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and bashed (optional)
4cm piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced - don't bother peeling it (optional)
2-3 teaspoons cornflour, mixed to a slurry with 1 tablespoon cold water
Combine all the ingredients except the cornflour slurry in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the consistency of a thin syrup - it should reduce by about a quarter. Remove the garlic and the ginger, if using, then whisk in the cornflour slurry and boil briefly until nice and thick. Leave to cool, and keep in an airtight container in the fridge indefinitely.