foods on this page are likely to be generally unknown to
Westerners, even those somewhat familiar with Japanese cuisine.
While these foods may seem a bit strange to the novice,
they are common fare in Japan.
is nothing more than fermented soybeans and it's one of
those foods that you either love or hate, with the Japanese
themselves divided into pro or anti-natto camps! Connoisseurs
savor the servings of sticky whole soybeans, topping them
with a dab of hot yellow mustard and sweet shoyu before
greedily shoveling them down using chopsticks. That's my
favorite way of eating natto, plain and simple, but you
can also use natto in soups, okonomiyaki
(egg pancakes), or as a topping for hot soba noodles or
rice. Natto isn't to everyone's liking, but if you're adventurous
here is one easy recipe for soup.
MISO SHIRO (natto miso soup)
2 cups of dashi
for preparation method)
2 Chinese cabbage leaves, cut into half inch strips
1 tablespoon of red miso
1/2 cup of natto
1 green onion, chopped fine
dashi in a small sauce pan, add the cabbage and simmer until
tender (two or three minutes). Place miso in a small bowl
or cup and add some of the hot dashi stock from the pan,
mix well until thoroughly dissolved, pour back into the
cooking pan. Add natto and heat just until the boiling point.
Add the onion and serve.
is a gelatinous cake made from the starch of the "devil's
tongue" plant (a relative of the sweet potato). Konnyaku
is almost tasteless but has a distinct characteristic texture
(which is somewhat like tough gelatin). It's used mostly
for this quality, and you can find it as an ingredient in
many one pot dishes (nabemono). Konnyaku is sold in blocks
roughly the size of tofu blocks, but it's also available
in noodle form. If you are able to purchase konnyaku blocks
or noodles I highly recommend trying it in dotenabe.
You can also try this simple recipe, which calls for grilling
a block of konnyaku with sweet miso.
like using the red dengaku miso for this particular dish
as it goes well with the texture of the konnyaku. Cut the
konnyaku block cross ways into slabs an inch thick and place
them on aluminum foil. Broil each side until the color changes
and the konnyaku begins to brown. Now, spread one side of
the slabs with the dengaku miso topping and grill again
until lightly browned. Serve hot.
seaweed is extremely popular in Japan and is loved for it's
subtle flavor and slightly chewy texture. It's usually sold
dried but when reconstituted in water, swells up into bright
green leaves. Wakame is excellent when added to miso
Simply soak a teaspoon of the dried seaweed in water and after
it swells up (20 minutes), squeeze out the excess water, chop
into bite sized pieces and place into small bowls. Ladle the
miso soup over the seaweed and serve. The following recipe
is for one of the most delicious salads that I know of, in
any cuisine! It's made from wakame seaweed and kyuri
1 cup of wakame (soak 1/4 cup of dried
wakame to get 1 cup of seaweed)
1 kyuri (Japanese cucumber)
4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of shoyu
soaking the dried wakame for about 20 minutes, rinse it
well, drain, and chop coarsely (discard any tough stems).
Combine the vinegar, sugar, and shoyu in a small saucepan.
Stir over medium flame until the sugar dissolves, remove
from heat, allow to cool and then refrigerate. Slice the
cucumber in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into thin
rounds. Lightly salt the cucumber and let it stand a few
moments before squeezing out the excess liquid.
a serving bowl, combine the chopped wakame with the cucumber
slices and mix well. Pour the chilled dressing over the
vegetables and toss. Serve in small bowls topped with some
white sesame seeds.
is a type of seaweed that has a slight licorice flavor to
it. It's sold dry and it's leaves are tiny, black, and brittle.
When soaked in water to reconstitute, it wells up to more
than twice its original weight into a tender, delectable
cup of hijiki
1/2 block of abura-age
fried tofu), sliced
into 1/2 inch slivers
block of konnyaku (yam cake), sliced into slivers 1/2 inch
1/2 carrot sliced into slivers about 1/2 inch long
1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
the following ingredients together in a small sauce pan
1 1/2 cups dashi (see
for preparation method)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons shoyu
1 tablespoon mirin
the hijiki in a colander and then place in a bowl with one
cup of water to reconstitute (20 minutes), when the hijiki
is soft, place back in the colander to drain. Heat your
and add a little vegetable oil, quickly stir fry the carrots,
abura-age, and konnyaku until the carrots just start to
become tender. Add the hijiki seaweed and continue stir
frying being careful not to burn or overcook the vegetables.
Now add the stock, mix well and let simmer until half the
stock has evaporated. Serve hot in a small bowl.
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