Well, a trip to the far east was in store for us this evening. I love Japanese food, but I am a bit of a baby when it comes to trying new or unrecognizable things (unless I am in a different country, in which case my rule is, try everything). So, while I love a good tuna roll, you won’t find me eating eel. In any case, tonight we didn’t even eat sushi, since it just seemed like it might be overly complicated and there were other things I wanted to make.
Our menu tonight was a sampler of what are more typically Japanese starters than entrees. We had agedashi tofu (one of my favorite things to order when I go out for Japanese), gyoza, and miso soup. I was planning on making tamogoyaki (sweet omelet), but we ended up being a little rushed tonight as dinner was fit in between two apartment viewings (the dinner was successful, we passed on both places).
Links for the menu tonight are below. I found them all on the same website, which seemed to have a wealth of Asian recipes.
No Asian menu would be complete with out a trip to Uwajimaya, the Asian grocery superstore, since there were numerous items on the ingredients list that were not in my pantry – such as:
Dried bonito flakes
Dashi flavored miso paste
Bonito flavored soup base
Now, if you haven’t been to Uwajimaya, or a similar market, you should know that it is an overwhelming experience. Many of the products they sell do not have names written in English (though the price tags are), which can make it hard to find what you are looking for. Today, for example, I needed several sauces. This is the sauce aisle:
Eventually, I was able to find everything I needed (and a few things I didn’t).
One of the exciting parts of this project is trying new ingredients. While this can be tough on the budget (and on pantry space) it’s been fun to try new flavors. Quinn helped me organize all of the never-before-purchased (with a couple of exceptions) ingredients.
Because I knew we had a busy evening ahead of us, I made the gyoza several hours before dinner. These were supremely easy to make, especially once I got the hang of the pinching and folding of the wonton wrappers. I made twelve and still had filling leftover in the bowl. I stored them in the fridge for a couple of hours with no ill effects. I made the tentsuyu sauce for the agedashi tofu ahead of time as well.
When it was finally cooking time, the meal came together pretty easily. The gyoza fried up beautifully and the miso soup was particularly easy to make. The tofu, however, was the exception. The agedashi recipe calls for soft tofu and let me tell you, soft tofu is fragile. It was falling apart as I tried to coat it in corn starch, which was frustrating and messy. Then, once it was in the hot oil, it continued to fall apart. Basically, it was a hot mess. It did not make it to the table. What did make it to the table were the tofu puffs I bought for the miso soup. Tofu puff = deep fried tofu. Super easy! When I make this again (which I will) I am definitely going this route.
I was really happy with both the gyoza and the tofu. I had some concerns about the tentsuyu sauce, since I wasn’t completely convinced I purchased the right ingredient when I bought the dashi. (The dashi I bought came in a box and was basically like a bouillon mix. I think it was right, but it was hard to tell, since none of the dashi-seeming products were in English). However, my concerns were for naught, because it was really good. While it didn’t taste exactly like it does at my favorite sushi place, it was pretty damn good for a first try.
The miso soup was also tasty, although I don’t feel that the addition of the manila clams did much to improve upon the original. Perhaps this is because I just plain love old-fashioned miso soup and really don’t think it needs fancying up, but also because the clams didn’t seem to either offer any extra flavor or take on the flavor of the soup. I think in the future, I’ll just stick to regular miso soup. It was extremely easy to make. I have really no idea why anyone would ever buy those premade pouches – basically, this recipe requires three steps: chop, boil water, add ingredients. Yum.
All in in all, I was really happy with this menu. It was tasty, simple, and generally easy to make. It’s always satisfying when you take a restaurant favorite and are able to replicate it at home. I can see some of these dishes becoming staple items on our table. Serve it with a little sake, and you can’t go wrong!
Even Quinn enjoyed the meal – though mostly because she liked the chopsticks! (She had mac and cheese in a Japanese bowl and sniffed her gyoza).
ありがとう for a great meal, Japan!