Food Fitness. Nourish your body.
For the most part, Americans enjoy consuming and experimenting with foreign foods, but Japanese dishes have not caught our attention much at all. The Japanese have been a part of America for more than 150 years, yet we never incorporated their cuisine into our food much. Perhaps we should learn some of their dishes, as they can be very healthy as well as incorporating a large variety of foods.
Ancient Japanese wisdom says that you use eight colors to serve a meal (red, blue, green, brown, black, white, silver, and gold). They also felt you should eat thirty different foods every day for a well balanced diet. Here in America we have a hard time incorporating five different food groups into our diets.
The main rule of thumb in serving Japanese food is that the dish must be as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. For instance, salads are small and mounded in the center of a dish to allow the beauty of the cook's work to shine through. Sushi, one item that has caught on here in America supposedly represents the movement of the sea. The tea ceremony in Japan has been elevated to a centuries-old ritual intended for recognition of the importance of the mundane.
Japanese cuisine is a nice change of pace for our diets and can be fun to create if one enjoys cooking. Why not try your hand at it? Following is a list of some of ingredients you will need to have on hand if you are going to delve into some of the dishes presented here.
Rice Vinegar is preferable to regular distilled vinegar for many uses, particularly for salad dressings. It has a higher acidity than household vinegar but the flavor is more genteel because of added sugar.
Soy Sauce (Shoyu)
Only use soy sauce in cooking. When called for in a recipe, no substitute may be used. Soy sauce is known for being high in sodium; consider trying Lite Soy Sauce to curb the sodium content.
Sweet Cooking Wine
Created with rice, this wine is sweet and syrupy.. Look for the brand Kikkoman.
Miso. This is a fermented soybean paste and is an essential cooking ingredient. The protein is important in a diet that for years was largely vegetarian.
Dashi. This is a fish-based broth. Incorporated in many dishes, from salad dressings to noodle sauces, this broth can be purchased in instant and bouillon form, or you can substitute canned chicken or vegetable broth in recipes.
Try a Miso Vinaigrette
2/3 cup cold-pressed organic canola oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 heaping teaspoons red miso
1 level teaspoon honey
Shake all ingredients together in a jar or blend with a hand blender. Toss with greens.
The following ingredients are for the pro's of Japanese cooking, or to the very daring.
Burdock. Burdock Root is a lake root loved in both Korean and Japanese food.
Konbu. Commonly known as kelp, this comes from the ocean and is one of the many forms of seaweed used in Japanese cuisine.
Sushi. True sushi is an art, as the nation's shortage of sushi chefs is proving.
Sweet Simmered Beef and Onion over Rice
1-1/2 cup short-grain or medium-grain white rice
1-1/4 cups dashi (fish stock)
2 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
7 ounces sirloin beef, sliced thin across the grain
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Three eggs, lightly beaten
Rinse rice. Combine rice in a bowl with 1-3/4 cup cold water. Soak rice for one hour. Cook rice in its soaking water. When the rice is done, combine dashi, sake and mirin in medium skillet and bring mixture to boil over medium heat. Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. Reduce heat to low and cook for five minutes.
Add onion and cook until it is soft, three to five minutes. Add beef and cook for two minutes. Add soy sauce and cook for two to three minutes more.
Pour eggs over beef and onion and cook, covered, one to two minutes.
Divide cooked rice among individual plates and top with beef, onion and egg mixture. Pour a generous amount of remaining cooking broth over each serving. Serve dish with chopsticks and a spoon.
Recipe makes three servings.
Nutritional information per serving:
Calories from fat: 15-percent
Stir Fried Rice and Chicken (Chikin Raisu)
4 cups day old short-grain white or brown rice
3 tablespoons butter (divided)
One medium onion minced (about one cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt to taste (divided)
One small carrot minced (about 1/2 cup)
7 ounces boned and skinned chicken breast, cut into 1-inch squares
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/4 cup ketchup
Fresh ground black pepper
Day old rice is lumpy, so quickly rinse it under cold tap water. Drain rice well. Heat wok or large skillet over medium heat, add butter and when butter melts, add onion. Reduce heat to low and cook onion until it is soft, about ten minutes. While onion cooks add 1/4-teaspoon salt.
Add carrot and cook for one minutes. Add chicken and cook until outside is white. Add chicken stock and remaining salt, raise heat to medium-high and cook until liquid is absorbed.
Add rice and peas, turn the heat up to high and continuously stir until rice heats through mixes with chicken. Add the ketchup and black pepper and stir thoroughly. Serve with a fork and spoon, not chopsticks. Recipe makes two main dish servings.
Nutritional information per serving:
Protein: 31g Fat: 17g
Calories from fat: 32-percent
Red Bell Pepper and Okra with Nihaizu Dressing
2 red bell peppers
5 ounces okra
Nihaizu dressing (recipe below)
Heat broiler or grill and cook red bell peppers until their skins are lightly charred. Place peppers in brown paper or plastic bag and let them steam for ten minutes.
Skin, stem and seed peppers, and remove their white ribs. Cut peppers into two-inch long strips. Cook okra under broiler or on a grill until skins turn light golden. Cut okra into one-inch slices crosswise. Serve vegetables drizzled or tossed with nihaizu dressing.
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
In small saucepan, combine both ingredients and bring to boil over medium heat. Turn off heat and let mixture cool. Store dressing in refrigerator for up to one week.
Recipe makes four servings.
Nutritional Information per serving:
Japanese Style Beef Stew
1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless chuck, cut into 1-inch to 1-1/2-inch thick chunks
2 cups chicken stock, water or dashi (see note)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin, honey or sugar
10 nickel-size slices of ginger
Black pepper to taste
1-1/2 ound peeled butternut, pumpkin or other winter squash or sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt to taste, if needed
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, sear meat until nicely browned on one side, about five minutes. Transfer chunks to medium-size casserole.
Add stock to skillet and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping until all solids are integrated into liquid. Pour into casserole with soy sauce, mirin, ginger and pepper. Peel lemon and add peel to mixture. Juice lemon.
Cover and cook on top of stove, or in a 350-degree oven, maintaining a steady simmer. Check meat every 15 minutes. When meat is tender, about 45 minutes, stir in squash and cook until squash is tender but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in salt if necessary, then juice.
To make dashi, immerse a 4-inch piece of kelp in 2-cups of water and warm it over low heat (do not boil) for about ten minutes. Add a half cup of bonito flakes and turn off the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes, then strain.
Kelp, a seaweed, and dried bonito flakes are sold in Japanese or Asian markets, where kelp is called konbu, and in health food stores.
Recipe makes four servings.