Mushroom and Pork Nabe
…and melt your cold cold heart…
Oh Winter: the season for simple social nabemono. Gather ’round a hot pot and share a meal to warm your body and spirit.

I have finally begun to move kitchen things into the new house. I designed my old tiny kitchen myself to be as efficient as possible. This kitchen is large, with plenty of counter acreage, but it’s been a puzzle to figure out where things should be stored. There is plenty of cabinet space but much of it requires a ladder to reach! The drawers don’t slide well so I can’t pack too much weight into them. The bottom cabinets are deep and need slide-out trays in order to make items in the back accessible. Oh, the problems of such plenty!
At least Mikey knows where he belongs.

Nagasaki-Style Braised Pork: Buta Kaku-ni

Braised pork belly, buta kaku-ni, is a special occasion dish—so very rich and succulent that one wouldn’t eat it everyday. Today is this blog’s third birthday so celebrate with me! It’s Thanksgiving Day, and while it’s too late for you to make this recipe for the holiday, it would be perfect to serve as an appetizer for your other holiday parties.

Japanese Baby Back Ribs

These Japanese style pork ribs are a mouthful:
tender, sweet, salty, spicy, and sour.
The surprise is that they are not grilled (yakimono), but simmered on stovetop!
Nimono (simmered) dishes are an essential part of Japanese cooking. Meat, fish, or vegetables are simmered in a flavorful liquid (usually dashi) containing one or more of the basic flavors:
Sa Shi Su Se So
(satoh=sugar, shio=salt, su=vinegar, shoyu=soy sauce, miso=fermented soy bean paste).
Almost like music: do ray me fa so la te do 

Spicy Sesame Sauce: Buta Shabu Shabu
Chilled fruits and vegetables, cool thin slices of pork, and a spicy sesame dipping sauce make a festive summer meal. The colors are beautiful and everything can be prepared ahead of time.”Open sesame!” Seeds explode from the ripe pods on sesame plants. Depending on the cultivar, seeds will be ivory, golden, red, brown or black.

Have you ever wondered where sesame seeds come from?

no go ma po to fu“The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes.” — Julia Child

The other day, I had a craving for mapo tofu. I wanted an easy to make dinner, which would not dirty too many dishes. Hey! I like a bit of spice in my life! As it happened, it was a simple thing that caught me unaware.
This recipe uses cornstarch as a thickening agent. Cornstarch is a flour made by grinding the endosperm of dried corn kernels, much the same way that wheat flour is made.

√ Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of wheat flour and it produces a clearer sauce.
√ An acidic liquid (juices, vinegars, wines), weakens its thickening power by about half.
√ It is best to mix it with water before incorporating it into a sauce, as it clumps easily.
√ If the sauce is overheated, or overstirred, it will begin to breakdown and lose thickening power. If you freeze a sauce thickened with cornstarch, it will become ‘spongy.’

Shoyu Ramen from Scratch

You don’t need a recipe to make shoyu ramen! Once you have made your stock, chashu (and its broth), menma, and garlic paste, all that remains is to cook your noodles and arrange the food in your bowls. This post has links to recipes for all the component recipes to make ramen at home. Plus links to posts about buying ramen noodles and menma!

Chashu: The pork on ramen!

Japanese ramen has fans around the globe. Ramen has become a dish with infinite variations, so simple: just noodles, liquid and toppings. Yet its cultural place is complicated: it is not exactly a soup, nor is it only a noodle dish.
For many, it is a quixotic search for the perfect ramen: a culmination of delight.

Some toppings on this noodles + stock / mystical dish are used frequently. Slices of flavorful fatty pork belly is one such accoutrement. And very delicious it is; but it’s not beautiful to look at. Take a look, my readers at some lovely seasonal flowers before we approach the meat and bones of the matter.

Ramen Stock
Japanese ramen stock is an elusive elixor of aficionados. I’m talking about a wonderful stock which can be used for making an assortment of different kinds of amazing ramen.
The stock is relatively easy to make, but it is not for the squeamish. It involves lots of bones and some scary cuts of pig all boiled together with “secret flavorings” in a large cauldron.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
——Macbeth Act IV, Scene 1, Wm. Shakespeare

Ja-ja-men: Japanese Spicey-Pork and Udon
I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.”
— Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest)
Jajamen is a recipe which came to Japan from China through Morioka city, the center of Iwate Prefecture. Morioka is famous for three major meins(麺(noodle dishes): wanko soba, Morioka reimen and Morioka jajamen: fat hot udon noodles with minced cucumber, leek and special miso.
Diners add vinegar, chili oil and garlic as they like. After eating, raw egg and reserved udon water are added with several seasonings. This is called Chiitan. (scroll down to see the pictures)

Japanese Braised Pork Belly

Succulent buta no kaku-ni is a rich and warming cold weather Japanese dish requiring hours of steaming or simmering. Spring is now leafy and flowerful, but the temperatures vary from freezing one day, to 80° the next, so this was a dish of opportunity—because the day was chilly, and because the pork belly was in my freezer.
Many now popular Chinese and Western influenced recipes in Japan are part of a cuisine developed in Nagasaki between the 17th and 19th centuries when Japan’s only contact with the world was through that port city.
The foreign recipes were redeveloped by the Japanese to make them their own “Shippoku Ryouri.” The foods of such a meal are served Chinese-style, with serving dishes in the center of the table, rather than placing each of the components before each diner at the table—sort of ‘family-style,’ which is meant to encourage communal conviviality.

Braised Spareribs, Japanese Style

We had a real piggy dinner. A good Japanese house-wife would never make such a dinner: no variety of colors, similar cooking methods, and pork and pork.

I’d planned to make buta no kakuni but when it thawed, it looked very small: not enough for a dinner. My freezer is getting empty but it’s still got surprises… I have no idea why I froze 6 spare ribs, but there they were.

Rib recipe today, belly recipe tomorrow…