Posts tagged ‘japanese food’

July 16th, 2011

Salmon belly

By now, we’ve all heard of pork belly, and if you are a sushi enthusiast, you may have even tried yellowtail belly and tuna belly.  Bellies are fatty delicious meat.   As long as they’re not ours, bellies are great.
Last month, I took a cooking class and learned to fillet a salmon.  The instructor was busily removing the fins, head, and bones when something horrifying happened.  He said, “Cut off the belly meat and discard it.” He did exactly that.  Right then and there, I felt like leaving the kitchen.  Throwing away salmon belly?!  I suffer through ridiculous traffic just to drive across town just to buy it.

If you have a Japanese neighbor, you’ve probably experienced the smell of grilled fish wafting in through your window. I can admit it–it’s not pleasant. It’s different from smelling a burger or a steak being grilled.  When you smell that grilled beef aroma, you’re already mentally debating the pros and cons of each local steakhouse. But smelling grilled fish?  It just stinks.  It must be horrible for my  seafood loathing American husband.  I try to be strategic, waiting until he leaves for work before I cook it, but no luck–even after a breezy afternoon with the windows open, he can smell that fish.  So I made a change; I started grilling using the BBQ grill in our backyard. I figured, if the grilling is the worst part, let my neighbors suffer. See, I’m half considerate, half selfish especially when cooking salmon belly; since it’s VERY fatty, there’ll be extra smoke coming out of the grill.

Just like pork belly, which  was only available at Asian grocery stores 10 years ago, salmon belly too, has not hit the American grocery scene.  But if you want to try this amazing dish, venture to your nearest Asian grocery store, then wash the bellies, soak them in salt water overnight, and grill them.  When fish is fresh enough, you really don’t need much preparation.  I usually put a little bit of ponzu sauce (a citrus based soy sauce) over the grilled belly.  If ponzu isn’t available, squeeze a bit of lemon and you are really in for a treat!  I suggest grilling the belly until it’s well done.  Because some parts are pure fat, it tastes better when it’s crispier.

Grilled salmon belly is an essential component to my perfect Japanese breakfast, along with rice, tofu with ginger and soy sauce, and miso soup.  You can’t tell from this picture, but my husband is next to me, eating his bagel, saying “I’ve got the better breakfast.” My simple reply?  “You’re wrong”.   This argument happens a lot at our breakfast table.

 

July 14th, 2011

Bento

I’m glad the concept of “bento” has made it to the non Japanese speaking world.  For those who still wonder what I’m talking about, a bento box is a single portion of a meal (usually lunch) in a container, hence “box”, for easy transport, that contains the elements of a balanced meal.  In it, there is usually rice, one or two vegetable dishes, and a protein.  You can make it home or easier option: buy it at stores (convenience stores, department stores, bento specialized stores) for between $5 and $12, or at restaurant for $10 and up in Japan or here in America at Japanese grocery stores near you.  My local favorite in Los Angeles is Nijiya Market, they often use organic and better ingredients.

I had lunch at BreadBar in Century City the other day and was happy to see Bentoboard on the menu.  Instead of a box, though, all the food came on a heavy cheese board.  Soup, two sliders, a cob salad and bread pudding for dessert for $17.  Looked very cute, and was VERY filling.  Every woman would order it, if this menu was found in the business district in Japan, but with one notable exception–the portion would be probably half the size, while the price, of course, stays the same.Typically, Japanese bento are either washoku, Japanese style with grilled fish, tempura, and cooked root vegetable, or Japanese interpretation of “western” food, youshoku style, with hamburg (similar to salisbury steak) with demi glace sauce, pasta, egg, potato.  Either way, bento usually come with white rice.  We also eat sandwiches (no crust) as bento.When mothers ask children what they want in their bento, Japanese children usually request youshoku style.  My husband doesn’t like rice, so when I make a bento box for him, it’s usually some kind of pasta dish which is actually easier to make than a Japanese style bento.  With bento, the key is that there should be at least one main protein and a few side dishes–Coming up with a variety each day is hard to keep up with!  I’m little relieved I don’t live in Japan anymore.  The idea behind the Bento Box is nice.  It reflects the wife/mother’s dedication to her husband/child, so there’s also a pride and ego factor reflected in it.  I’m not a lazy person, but if I was expected to make these kind of bento lunches everyday, I would be overwhelmed.  But making a big batch of pasta, and dividing it into a few Tupperware containers is something I can handle!