Monday, March 14, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

I'm sure all of you have heard the devastating news coming from Japan in the last couple days.  I've been watching both American and Japanese news in excess and am heartbroken when I see the videos of entire villages and large expanses of farmland being washed away.  Luckily, all my friends, family, and acquaintances in Japan all live in Tokyo or south of Tokyo, so they were able to get out unscathed, mostly.  Some had trouble getting home that evening due to transportation issues, but all in all, they are much better off than others.

This event and my excitement of finding my Baachan's house on Google maps the other day and seeing her street on Street View has made me very nostalgic of Japan.  Whenever I think of Japan, the first and generally only thing that I miss is the most delicious food.  I think whenever people think of Japanese food, they don't really get beyond Sushi and Teriyaki.  Oh, but there is so much more!  (First of all, Teriyaki is barely Japanese and Sushi is great, but not something that people eat everyday.)  I just start thinking about the food markets in the department store basements that sell fresh croquettes (deep fried mashed potatoes), gyoza (pot stickers), fancy cakes and cookies, various meats on sticks (I'm not a vegetarian in Japan), and all the other delicious, fresh food that you can take to go.  Then there are the bakeries that sell the most delicious pastries and breads and... the rice.  The rice just tastes better in Japan.  Trust me.  Couple that with Baachan's home cooking and I'm in heaven.

Which is a perfect segue into what we had for dinner last night.  Reminiscing about Japan made me hungry.  So, despite the cold I've been fighting for the last few days, my sis and I went all out and made Tempura.  mmmmmm...

For those of you who don't know, tempura is a pretty quintessential Japanese food where you batter and deep fry food items like prawns and various vegetables.  You can pretty much tempura anything (I don't know if you can use tempura as an adjective, but I just did) and it just makes it all more yummy.  I don't have a recipe for the batter, but for it to be considered tempura, it has to be a very light, airy batter that doesn't fell greasy.  I used a Just-add-water kind of batter from a box because I found it in my pantry.  We tempura-ed sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and sliced sweet onions mixed with chopped up shrimp.  We also boiled up some soba (buckwheat noodles) to go along with our tempura.

The dipping sauce for both the noodles and the tempura is a mixture of dashi stock (a basic stock made from dried bonito flakes and kombu, a type of kelp) and soy sauce.  You can also add grated daikon radish, but we forgot.  This sounds really complicated, but you can buy a concentrated liquid of this so you don't have to make it yourself.  For the dipping sauce for the noodles, it's also good to add some wasabi and shichimi (a spicy mixture of seven different ingredients) and some nori.

Sometimes, you just have to feast.

Don't worry, we didn't eat all the noodles.
And what did we have for dessert?  Well I tried my hand at Kasutera again, and this time beat the hell out of the eggs until they were soft peaks.  Turns out that might have been the problem.  It didn't fall nearly as much as the first two times, though this time I had to take it out of the oven mid-bake, for about 30 seconds, to adjust the oven racks because the top was burning and that caused it to fall a little.  Slowly but surely, I will conquer this cake!

Japan Pride!

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