Tag Archives: japanese

Recipe: Teriyaki Tofu with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

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I’m a foodie so I should be completely in favour of seasonal food. I am, to a certain extent. I welcome each new arrival, sprouts and the first frost-bitten parsnips in autumn, english strawberries and scottish raspberries in summer, plums in August. And then I get bored with them and want something new. The something new this month is Purple Sprouting Broccoli. It’s thinner and quicker to cook than it’s year-round cousin and it fully deserves to star in its own show.

I’m pairing it here with marinated tofu. Don’t worry about the strong flavours, it can stand up to them far more than its delicate frame would suggest.

teriyaki tofu broccoli salad photo DSCN0661_zps0c988fbf.jpg

Ingredients

Tofu & marinade
200g tofu, cut into 4 long pieces
10g grated ginger
3 tbsp soy sauce

Teriyaki sauce
Marinade plus
1 tbsp soy
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp sugar

Broccoli salad
1 handful purple sprouting broccoli
1 tbsp soy
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 spring onion, sliced

Put the tofu in a bowl and pour over the soy sauce and ginger. Cover, a set aside for at least an hour.

Blanch the broccoli in boiling for 3-5 minutes. You want the stalks to be al dente.
Drain and rinse in cold water to stop it cooking any further.
Mix the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic and sesame oil together and toss with the broccoli.
Let the broccoli absorb the flavour at room temperature for about half an hour.

Drain the tofu from the marinade and put into a hot frying pan with a little oil.
When the tofu is browned on all sides, turn the heat down.
Add the marinade plus the extra soy, garlic, rice wine and sugar.
Heat and stir around the tofu, until the sauce is reduced and sticky.

Serve the tofu beside the broccoli salad with the teriyaki sauce spooned over.
Sprinkle the sliced spring onion over as a garnish.

Serves 1 as a lunch dish

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Report: Japanese Matsuri Festival

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The Japanese Matsuri festival was held in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 6 October 2012. After a rainy week I was afraid it would be washed out, but although it was cold when I set out, it was a beautiful day when I reached Trafalgar Square.

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I don’t know how many attendees the organisers were expecting, but I should think they’re pleased because it was heaving when I got there.

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The main stage was set up by the base of Nelson’s Column. The food stalls were along each side of the square, with non-food stalls set up in front of the National Gallery.

I went straight for the food stalls.

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There was plenty of sushi, unfortunately, from a veggie perspective, it was nearly all fish-based. I found a stall selling vegetarian sushi and grabbed some.

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I might complain about the number of veggie options on offer, but I can’t complain about the quality of the one I ate. That has to be some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. It was all about the rice, sticky but firm and incredibly fresh.

I also tried some soy doughnuts.

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Sweet, but solid is the best description. Three of them had a sweet, red bean filling which didn’t have much flavour beyond its sweetness.

A much more flavoursome dessert was the Macha Green Tea Ice-cream.

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At first you don’t get much taste beyond the sweet, cold creaminess but as you swallow the tannin of the tea kicks in. It goes much like this: sweet cold cream, sweet cold cream, sweet cold cream, TEA!!!!

I don’t want to think that I exhausted the savoury vegetarian food options with my sushi, but looking at the other stalls, vegetarian food choices were few and far between. The frustrating thing Japanese food is that fish and meat steals into otherwise veggie food, so you can’t assume that the miso soup is vegetarian just because it doesn’t have lumps of fish or meat in it. It was disheartening to smell the most wonderful savoury aromas only to see nothing you could eat when you reached the stall.

The most interesting food I saw there was okonomiyaki pancakes.

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They looked great, but the stall was swamped by customers and it was not the time to ask for a detailed breakdown on what was in the pancakes and the sauces. And as it turns out a typical ingredient is bonito flakes so they would have been off the menu anyway. Grrrr.

I had a great time at the festival despite the veggie options, and the best sushi I’ve eaten counts for a lot. As I was eating my sushi the main stage had performers demonstrating the ‘Radio Taiso’ exercises that all Japanese schoolchildren do every morning. I think I need to start doing them on the train platform while I’m waiting for my train in the morning!

Restaurant Review: Tonkotsu

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I think my first bowl of ramen was at Tampopo on Manchester’s Albert Square in the late 90’s. I’ve been quietly addicted to the combination of slippery noodles in hot broth ever since. When I left Manchester Wagamama has been my consistent source of a ramen-fix, but I’ve always known there was better out there.

I have found it at Tonkotsu on Dean Street in Soho.
The place is small and busy at 7pm on a Monday evening. There is a first floor (according to other bloggers) but my friend and I were shown to a shared table next to another couple. The decor is all unvarnished wood and metal grills – a bit industrial, but pleasant enough in dim lighting.

As the dining room is small, so is the menu. There are three mains: Tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen and Miso and Shimeji Mushroom ramen (the veggie one). I suppose there aren’t many restaurants that can claim that 1/3 of their menu is vegetarian! Joking aside there are a good proportion of vegetarian side dishes to go with it.

I ordered the miso ramen and a plate of shiitake and bamboo shoot gyoza to share with my friend.

The gyoza arrived first. The dumplings were stuck together with the crispy side up. The shiitake filling was rich and savoury, but needed some of the chilli oil (on the table as a condiment) to give it a lift.

Tonkotsu, Miso & Shimeji Mushroom ramen - I think I scored a double-yolk on the egg!

There was no need for any condiments to boost the main course. The noodles were soft but springy at the same time, the mushrooms were cooked but still had bite and texture, the seasoned egg was firm with a soft yolk and a rich flavour, but it was the stock that blew me away. I’ve had miso before – savoury, umami but with flavours in the tenor range, maybe a bit of baritone. This miso was definitely in the bass section. It was deep, satisfying, mouthfilling. My friend loved the tonkotsu stock, but I didn’t feel I was being shortchanged by having the vegetarian option, not at all.

If they’re getting the ramen right, they’re also getting the service right. It was prompt, friendly and attentive. Table-turnover was pretty quick, and there’s an eat-up-and-go culture to noodle places, but when my friend and I made it clear we wanted to linger a bit we never felt pressured to leave.

I’ve never eaten ramen in Japan, so I’ll let other, more knowledgable, people speak to the authenticity of the ramen. I don’t care. I’ll be too busy thinking up excuses to go back.

Dinner for two, including beer and service came to £38.60.

Tonkotsu
63 Dean Street
London
W1D 4QG
0207 437 0071

Restaurant Review: Satsuma

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After our visit to Inamo, we still had a craving for Japanese food. The next restaurant on our list of ones to try was Satsuma down the road from Inamo on Wardour St. No gadgetry here, just a large menu with an impressive vegetarian selection and good service.

I went for the Tofu Steak Bento Box, with a side order of seaweed salad.

Tofu steak bento box

The bento box had fried tofu with a sprinkling of toasted almonds with a teryaki sauce, a couple of pieces of cucumber and avocado sushi, salad, crispy fried potato cake, rice and pickles. There was also a bowl of miso.

The tofu was great, crispy on the outside with a sweet teryaki sauce round it, a satisfying focus to the meal. The sushi was fine. The lettuce salad had that tangy salad dressing that I’ve only ever had in Japanese places. However, I question the whole ring of yellow pepper on it – how are you supposed to eat that with chopsticks? The potato cake was a bit bland, but then it’s a potato cake! A bit of wasabi and soy helped it along.

Seaweed salad

The great revelation of the meal was the seaweed salad. It was served over ice in a sundae glass. It achieved a mixture of crunch and slipperiness that tasted a whole lot better than it looks written down. It had a cooling dressing that had to have mint in it somewhere. It was completely refreshing and I think would work better than ice-cream to cool you down on a hot day.

I was impressed with Satsuma’s vegetarian selection. There were at least a couple of options in each section to choose from, so there were other bento boxes I could have had, which is great compared to the standard solitary veggie option you too often get. The only questionable item was the miso soup that came with the bento box. The standard miso soup on the menu wasn’t marked as vegetarian. I asked the waiter about it and he went to check. He came back, a little too quickly for a trip to the kitchen, to say that yes, the miso soup was vegetarian. I wasn’t convinced (and neither were my companions) so I took a quick sip. It had too deep a flavour to persuade me that it was based on a veggie rather than dashi stock, so I left it be. There was enough to eat without it so I didn’t miss it. Next time I go I shall make further enquiries.

Dodgy miso soup aside, it was a very satisfying experience. The service was quick and plentiful. The ambience was lively (for once I wasn’t on the loudest table in the place). There are great veggie options. It was very reasonably priced for Soho and Japanese food. Dinner for three, including wine and service came to £101.

Satsuma
56 Wardour St
London
W1D 4JG
020 7437 8338

Restaurant Review: Inamo

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It wasn’t the food that drew us to Inamo, it was the gadgetry. Inamo doesn’t have printed menus and the waiters don’t take your order, instead you have a touch-sensitive area on the table and the menu is projected on to your table. You make your selection from that. While you are waiting you can change the pattern that’s projected on to your table and maybe play a game of battleships with your friends (we didn’t).

The menu

The menu tells you that they aim to have your selected dishes with you within 15 minutes. In our case it took less than that, but they bring each dish as it is ready, so things will arrive randomly.

We stayed with the small dishes and side dishes rather than go for a main and there is a reasonable selection for the vegetarian.

First to arrive was the vegetarian temaki, two smallish handrolls of lightly steamed veg in rice, wrapped in nori. It tasted fresh and light, especially as the dipping sauce wasn’t the usual soy and wasabi mix. I don’t know what it was but it had a fruitier flavour rather than the salty soy hit and it complemented the rolls perfectly.

Veg temaki

Watch when ordering miso soup, as there are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. It was nice, it was miso, there’s not much else you can say about it.

Vegetarian maki rolls were five rolls with peppers and avocado, topped with a drop of mayonnaise. Again, fresh, light flavours.

Vegetarian maki

The cripsy silken tofu was nice. Crispy on the outside and melting inside with a oyster mushrooms and a deeply umami sauce. This, however, was the first menu item where I thought ‘is that it?’ £6.25 for four, small cubes of tofu and one mushroom, is expensive.

Crispy tofu

Having said that, Imamo is not a cheap-eats place. Dinner for two, including a glass of wine each and service came to £99. Special occasions only, I think.

The best item on the menu, was also the best value for money. The kai lan in black bean sauce was a plateful of steamed leafy vegetable. The black bean sauce add an umami sweetness to the iron-bitterness of the green leaf.

Tai lan with black bean sauce

That as a side dish with a main, rice and miso soup as a starter and you might get out of the restaurant without your bank manager complaining.

I enjoyed the meal. The gadgetry was amusing and it worked. The staff were helpful and prompt. The food was of excellent quality, but with a price to match. I’ll go back, but not until after next payday!