March 2013

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 3 extra: Nimono without dashi

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Not all nimono dishes need to be made with dashi. If one of the ingredients has plenty of umami on its own, you can make a dashi or broth from it without having to add any more. One such ingredient is squid (ika) or calamari. If you live in an area with a sizeable Italian, Greek or other Mediterranean immigrant population, as well as us Asians, chances are you can get a hold of good quality squid. If you can, get a nice one and try this quick and simple nimono.

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[From the archives: Easter bunny bao! One of the most successful recipes on JustHungry, these little light savory steamed buns are perfect for Easter. Originally published in April 2007.]

For a planned Easter lunch, I wanted to do something in the brunch realm, but with an Easter theme. Brunch purists may insist on eggs and pancakes and croissants and champagne for brunch, but for me 'brunch' means an early lunch feast after little or no breakfast, and so dim sum is my favorite kind of brunch.

Putting Easter and dim sum together, I devised these bunny shaped bao, or steamed buns. (The inspiration for the shape came from a pair of fluffy white bunny slippers I saw at a flea market last summer.) They are quite simple really: tender steamed bun dough is filled and formed into an oval, and the ears are cut with scissors. The faces are optional - for a minimalist bunny, you could just leave them blank and unadorned. Or, you could go all-out and add whiskers with slivered green onion, or whatever strikes your fancy.

The bunny bao could be stuffed with any kind of steamed bun filling (see my roast pork filled steamed buns), but keeping with the brunch theme, I've filled these with an egg, bacon and chive mixture. It all makes sense - eggs, and ham, and bunnies, plus spring chives. So very Easter.

You could of course omit the bunny-shaping part if you want to avoid the cuteness.

Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 3: Nimono (simmered dish) basics

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This is Lesson 3 of Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku. This lesson is about making nimono (煮物) or stewed dishes, while we make a simple stewed or simmered winter vegetable dish.

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Japanese Cooking 101: List of fresh ingredients for Lessons 3 and 4

Here are the shopping lists for Lessons 3 and 4 of Japanese Cooking 101.

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Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 2: Prep and Cook A Great Bowl of Japanese Rice

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A perfectly steamed bowl of plain rice is the unquestioned star of a Japanese meal. And here's how to cook it, in copious detail - in Lesson 2 of Japanese Cooking 101: The Fundamentals of Washoku.

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This bit of news crossed my path today via Twitter, and it has me scratching my head a bit. In December 2012, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) conducted a web based survey in 7 countries - China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, France, the United States and Italy.

Today, March 11, is the 2nd year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the north-eastern coast of Honshu, the main island of Japan. I would write many things about it, but I'd like to focus on some ways you can help the victims of the earthquake, besides the usual places such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, that you may not have been aware of.

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Just a short, sad update: as I reported earlier, the excellent revival of the legendary Iron Chef (Ryouri no tetsujin) program has been a flop, with very low ratings (as low as 5% of the viewing total in its time slot). On March 1st, Fuji Television formally announced that it will cease airing as of the end of March. (Source: various Japanese news sources, e.g. <a href="http://www.j-cast.com/2013/03/01167764.html"">here)

I really liked the new Iron Chef, so I'm so sad about this. Oh well.

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Japanese Cooking 101: Ingredients and equipment list for Lesson 2

Here's the list of ingredients and equipment you'll be needing for Lesson 2 of Japanese Cooking 101. We'll be tackling the heart of Japanese cooking, rice.

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