A few basics of Japanese cooking: shoyu is Japanese soy sauce; Kikkoman or Yamasa is probably your best bet. (Look at the ingredient list: real soy sauce is made from soybeans, salt, and water, plus maybe sodium benzoate or similar substance as a preservative. If it has anything else, it's not soy sauce and it's not worth buying). If you use Chinese soy sauce, don't be surprised if the meal tastes like Chinese food instead of Japanese food.
Snow dried tofu is an ancient (it dates back to around 1100 A.D.) method of preserving tofu tantamount to freeze drying. Begin preparation of this delicacy about a week in advance.
1 package (16 oz.) tofu
4 cups water
3/4 cup miso
Drain and slice tofu and freeze overnight. Early in the day, remove to refrigerator. In the evening, drain and return to freezer. Reepat.
Bring water to simmer; add miso and stir until clumps are broken up. Add tofu, return to simmer and serve hot.
2 whole (or 4 split) chicken breasts
1/3 cup sake
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock (see below)
Skin and bone chicken; add skin and bones to two cups of cold water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer; let simmer 2 hours. Cut chicken into bit sized cubes; mix 1/3 cup sake, 1/8 cup soy sauce, and 1/4 cup sugar to form marinade. Pour over chicken, and let sit for a few hours,
When ready to cook, mix remaining soy sauce, sake; add chicken stock and set oven to broil. Skewer chicken; broil 10 minutes or until half cooked; turn chicken over and brush basting sauce over chicken. Cook until done.
Oshitashi is spinach. Americans are used to mushy, overcooked, frozen spinach that's pretty awful; the Japanese method of cooking avoids all of these, provided you follow these directions...
1 package (10 oz.) spinach
Roasted sesame seeds
If you can't find roasted sesame seeds, roast them in a pan (without oil). Be careful; they tend to pop and have bits of sesame seed fluff fly all over the kitchen.
Wash spinach and remove stems. In a 5 quart pot, add 1 inch of water to the bottom; bring to a boil. Add spinach a few leaves at a time. Cook only until all leaves wilt, then immediately remove from heat. Drain and rinse with cold water (again, immediately). Squeeze out remaining water; sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve with soy sauce.
Most people dislike rice. Having tasted "minute" rice, and having seen the recipes for rice given in most cookbooks, I can understand why: "minute" rice is disgusting, and following a cookbook recipe for rice will give you starchy goo: cookbooks use a ratio of about 2 parts water to 1 part rice, when you really only need about half that much water. If you want plain white rice (or, more likely can't find shiso leaves, the English name for which "beefsteak plant",), leave out the shiso leaves. For the best possible rice, I'll tell you the Ancient Asian Secret for making perfect rice: it's called a rice cooker...
5 cups medium or short grain rice
2 package shiso leaves (about 20 leaves)
In a bowl, rinse rice until discarded water is no longer white. Drain rice, and put into a large saucepan (preferably non-stick!). Add 5 cups of water; let soak for half an hour. Meanwhile, rinse shiso leaves, and cut into slices. After half an hour, cover pot and put over high heat until the rice begins to boil; add shiso leaves, reduce heat to medium boil, stirring occasionally. When all the water has been absorbed, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Serve hot, and either eat plain or with tsukemono.
My theory is that all great cuisines of the world stem from the need to preserve food. This gives us sushi, sauerbraten, lox, and a lot of other stuff. Tsukemono is pickled vegetables; here I've used cucumbers, but other vegetables used include eggplant (Japanese eggplant, not Italian), daikon (Japanese radish), and just about anything else you can think of.
Ingredients3 pickling cucumbers
Dissolve salt in water. Clean and rinse cucumbers. In a bowl, place cucumbers and pour salt water over. Put plate and weight on cucumbers, and let sit about a week (in the refrigerator for best results).
Optional: after a few days, remove cucumbers. In a piece of saran wrap, layer 1/4 inch of miso and roll cucumbers, sealing tightly. Let sit in miso for as long as you can afford the shelf space. When ready, wash off miso and serve cucumbers, sliced, over rice.
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