Japanese food can look daunting for many home cooks but it shouldn’t be, according to Japanese-born food stylist/home economist, Aya Nishimura. While it is true that some specialist styles of Japanese cooking can take years to master, she says, food that is eaten at home in Japan is actually very simple and easy to prepare.
“Most Japanese food can be made very quickly as long as you get fresh ingredients and a few simple seasonings. The basic seasonings include soy sauce, miso, vinegar, sugar, salt, sake, dashi stock and mirin (Japanese food rarely uses spices). These eight flavours, used in different proportions and combined with fresh ingredients, are the essence of Japanese cooking.”
In her book, Japanese Food Made Easy, published by Murdoch Books, Nishimura sets out to show how simple, delicious and healthy Japanese food can be, with a fervent hope that it becomes part of people’s every day repertoire.
She takes popular recipes such as ramen, gyoza, teriyaki and tonkatsu, as well as Japanese dishes generally eaten at home, such as grilled peppers with bonito flakes, kakiage fritters and homemade fried tofu, and completely demystifies them.
She explains how to make your own teriyaki sauce, tonkatsu sauce, miso dressing and shichimi togarashi (seven chilli mix), the homemade versions a healthier alternative to store-bought and bringing instant flavour to the simplest dish. There are also recipes for making dashi broth, sushi or sashimi from scratch.
It’s a striking looking book with a neat, clean finish befitting a cuisine where visual appeal is as important as flavour. The author is a qualified chef who has worked for top London restaurants, catering companies and publications such as Jamie Magazine, The Guardian and Sainsbury’s magazine.
Her version of Karaage (fried chicken) is tasty as is, but also great served with grated daikon radish, Japanese-style potato salad and ponzu dipping sauce.
Buy your copy of Japanese Food Made Easy from Book Depository now (free delivery worldwide).
Buy your copy of Japanese Food Made Easy from Australian-owned Booktopia.
Recipe for Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)
1 egg white
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 cm (1¼ inch) piece of fresh ginger (about 50 g/1¾ oz), peeled and grated
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) boneless chicken thighs with skin on, cut into 4 to 5 cm (1½ to 2 inch) pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 cups (750 ml) sunflower oil, for deep-frying
100 g (3½ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
Mix the soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, egg white, garlic and ginger together. Pour the mixture over the chicken in a bowl and mix well. Place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
Heat the sunflower oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches 180°C (350°F).
Place the cornflour in a shallow dish, drop in the marinated chicken and toss to coat.
Slide one-third of the chicken pieces into the oil and cook for a few minutes until they just turn golden brown. Remove from the oil and leave to drain on paper towel while you cook the rest of the chicken.
Heat the sunflower oil to 190°C (375°F) and fry the chicken for a second time for 1-2 minutes, until golden all over.
Recipe and images from Japanese Food Made Easy by Aya Nishimura, photography by Lisa Linder. Published by Murdoch Books and reproduced with the publisher’s permission.
This story originally appeared in PS News.