Japanese cuisine is getting really popular nowdays. The Japanese diet is very fit and healthy. The most popular Japanese dishes usually have a soft taste. The Japanese chefs follow one rule – they don’t use too much spices. Isn’t it too bland then? Not really…. Everyone who decides to eat the dish can season the dish according to their own needs. The Japanese assume, however, that the excessive amount of spices only causes the loss of the original flavor of the carefully prepared dish. The most popular dishes are: sushi, dango and onigiri.
1. Sushi (すし)
Sushi is a dish known all over the world. It’s a dish prepared of vinegared rice, usually with some sugar and salt, accompanied by a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, often raw, and vegetables.
For the rice
300g sushi rice, 100ml rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
For the Japanese mayonnaise
3 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp soy sauce
For the sushi
25g bag nori (seaweed) sheets, choose from the following fillings: cucumber strips, smoked salmon, white crabmeat, canned tuna, red pepper, avocado, spring onion
To serve with all styles of sushi
wasabi (optional), pickled ginger, soy sauce
How to prepare
1. To make sushi rolls: Pat out some rice. Lay a nori sheet on the mat, shiny-side down. Dip your hands in the vinegared water, then pat handfuls of rice on top in a 1cm thick layer, leaving the furthest edge from you clear.
2. Spread over some Japanese mayonnaise. Use a spoon to spread out a thin layer of mayonnaise down the middle of the rice.
3. Add the filling. Get your child to top the mayonnaise with a line of their favourite fillings – here we’ve used tuna and cucumber.
4. Roll it up. Lift the edge of the mat over the rice, applying a little pressure to keep everything in a tight roll.
5. Stick down the sides like a stamp. When you get to the edge without any rice, brush with a little water and continue to roll into a tight roll.
6. Wrap in cling film. Remove the mat and roll tightly in cling film before a grown-up cuts the sushi into thick slices, then unravel the cling film.
7. To make pressed sushi: Layer over some smoked salmon. Line a loaf tin with cling film, then place a thin layer of smoked salmon inside on top of the cling film.
8. Cover with rice and press down. Press about 3cm of rice over the fish, fold the cling film over and press down as much as you can, using another tin if you have one.
9. Tip it out like a sandcastle. Turn block of sushi onto a chopping board. Get a grown-up to cut into fingers, then remove the cling film.
10. To make sushi balls: Choose your topping. Get a small square of cling film and place a topping, like half a prawn or a small piece of smoked salmon, on it. Use damp hands to roll walnut-sized balls of rice and place on the topping.
11. Make into tight balls. Bring the corners of the cling film together and tighten into balls by twisting it up, then unwrap and serve.
2. Dango (だんご)
Dango is a Japanese dumpling made from rice flour mixed with uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour. It is different from the method of making mochi, which is made after steaming glutinous rice. Dango is usually finished round shaped, three to five dango are often served on a skewer. Generally, dango comes under the category of wagashi, and is often served with green tea. It is eaten year-round, but the different varieties are traditionally eaten in given seasons.
120g Sticky Rice Powder, 120g Tofu, 3 Tablespoons Sugar, 1 Tablespoon Green Tea Powder, 2 Drops Food Colouring (Red)
How to prepare
1. Mix the Sticky Rice, the Tofu and the sugar to form a certain kind of dough for making Dango. Make a round ball with the dough.
2. Split your round ball into three pieces. Add the green tea powder to one of the pieces. Mix it with your hands until it has gotten a uniform green colour. Leave the second piece of the dough as it is and now add 2 Drops of red food colouring to the third piece. Mix it with your hands until it has gotten a red uniform colour.
3. Now divide each of your three pieces of dough into five parts. Now you should have 15 parts of dough. Five will be red, five white, and the remaining five green. Form each of the 15 parts into balls by rolling them with your palms.
4. Boil the 15 pieces of dough for about 2 to 3 minutes. Then, let them cool down. Then, take 3 pieces of dough each different colour. Get a skewer and pierce the 3 pieces of dough on. The order doesn’t really matter but it’s more traditional in Japan to put the green one on first, then the white, and finally, then the red.
3. Onigiri (おにぎり)
It’s a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in nori. Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, kombu, tarako, mentaiko, takanazuke (pickled takana) or any other salty or sour ingredient as a natural preservative. Most Japanese convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors.
300g/10½oz Japanese short grain rice, 1–1.5 large nori sheets (approx. 20cm/8in square)
For the umeboshi filling (optional)
5cm/2in kombu (approx. 5g/⅛oz), soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sake, 1 tsp mirin, 1 tsp sugar, 2 pieces umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), 1 tbsp sesame seeds
For the sweetcorn filling (optional)
15g/½oz unsalted butter, 1 small tin sweetcorn, drained, or ½ a corn cob, kernels cut off, 5g/⅛oz bonito flakes, 1½ tsp soy sauce, pinch sea salt
How to prepare
1. Wash the rice in five changes of water. Drain in a colander, transfer to a pan and leave to soak in about 400ml/14fl oz water for about an hour.
2. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil over a medium–low heat – this should take 10–15 minutes. There is no need to open the lid: you will hear the rice bubbling, or see when the bubbles lift the lid. Turn the heat down to low and cook for a further 10–15 minutes (if you’ve been tempted and opened the lid, give it a little boost of high heat for 10 seconds).
3. Turn off the heat and leave the rice to steam in the pan for further 10 minutes.
4. Once it has steamed, stir up the rice from the bottom of the pan a few times, then divide into either four or six smaller portions.
5. While the rice is cooking, prepare the fillings you’d like. To make the umeboshi onigiri, take the kombu out of the water and cut it into thin strips, then simmer over a low heat with half of the soaking water, the soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. When most of the liquid has evaporated, take off the heat and set aside to cool.
6. Take the stones out of the umeboshi and roughly chop.
7. To shape the onigiri, wet your hands and sprinkle a small amount of salt on them, then take a portion of rice into one of your hands. Make a little hole in the middle of the rice and place half of the umeboshi and half of the kombu in the hole, then mould the rice over the filling. Keep rotating the rice ball in your hands as you gently form a triangular shape. Repeat to make either two large or three smaller rice balls.
8. To make the sweetcorn onigiri, melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the corn and fry for 3 minutes. Add the bonito flakes and soy sauce, stir briefly and take off the heat. Add a pinch of salt and mix with the remaining rice. Shape into two or three triangles or balls.
9. Cut the nori sheet into four or six strips. Place an onigiri at the centre of each strip of nori and fold the sides up.
Strange as the names of dishes may sound… they are worth trying because of “healthy reasons”. A traditional Japanese cuisine diet is well-balanced, featuring more fish than red meat, pickled food, plenty of vegetables and rise. It involves little highly processed food and lower sugar intake. Generally speaking, this Japanese diet is low in calories and full of nutrients.
Aricle written by Zuzanna Rakowska and Amelia Widomska from class 1f, edited by M.Kossak