Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

25/05/2011

White miso dressing

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 14:55

This is a classic Japanese dressing for bamboo shoots that works incredibly well on asparagus. It’s very simple:

2 tbl sweet white miso
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
2 tsp sake
a good pinch of yuzu (optional)

Just mix it all together and it’s ready. It’s particularly good the after a night in the refrigerator as the flavours mix together and mellow beautifully. You can also mess with the proportions – using only half the vinegar and sake makes a very thick salad cream type dressing.

24/12/2010

Kenchinjiru: Shōjin winter vegetable stew.

Kenchinjiru is a traditional winter recipe originating in Zen temples, and there are many variations. The basic recipe adapts well to the sort of winter vegetables that are available in Scotland right now. It’s dead simple, and really warming. The amounts given makes a large bowl suitable for a meal for one. It’ll serve up to four as part of a larger meal. This is more of a formula than a recipe, and it can be made gluten-free by using a proper tamari instead of shōyu.

For the soup:
2 cups dashi
½ tsp frying oil
¼ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp shōyu
1 tsp sake

1 shiitake mushroom, both fresh and reconstituted dried ones are fine. If using dried, include the soaking water in the dashi.

2 large leaves spinach, a similar quantity of any green leafy vegetable, or a few green beans.

½ block (100g) tofu, cubed – either silken or “ordinary” will do

Vegetables: (choose three)
Peel (if needed) and slice them thinly. The first four are traditional:
Half a small carrot
5cm length of daikon from the thin end of the radish
1cm lotus root (quarter, then slice)
5cm burdock root
a quarter or a golden or striped beetroot (the traditional red one will colour the soup)
half a small parsnip
10cm length of salsify
a quarter of a small turnip, more if very small.
a similar amount of whatever root vegetable you happen to have.

Extras (choose one):
½ block konnyaku, any savoury variety, broken into lumps, boiled and drained.
1 sheet aburaage, rinsed and sliced thinly.

Heat the frying oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegetables, mushrooms and konnyaku (if using). Stir fry very briefly, then add the dashi, shōyu and sake. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked through. Add the spinach and tofu, and simmer until the tofu is warmed through and the spinach slightly wilted. Stir in the sesame oil and serve.

04/12/2010

Spinach with pine nut dressing

This is a variation on a traditional Japanese dish, using pine nuts instead of sesame seed. The dressing can be made with practically any kind of nut or seed, but I had some pine nuts to use up, and they worked really well.

A bag of spinach (200-250g)
30g pine nuts
1 tbl shōyu
1 tbl mirin

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan, no oil, until mid-brown. Grind them as fine as you can and mix in the shōyu and mirin. Put to one side.

Thoroughly rinse the spinach and wilt by boiling it in as much water as sticks to it. Rinse in cold water, and gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You will probably have a sausage shaped lump of spinach at this point. Cut it into short lengths of about 2cm, and separate the pieces as you put them in a bowl. Mix in the dressing and leave for a while before serving at room temperature.

This recipe can be made gluten-free by using proper tamari instead of shōyu. You should use a high quality mirin, such as Clearspring’s Mikawa Mirin, for this dish – it’s worth it.

01/10/2010

Curry Udon

Filed under: Japanese, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:35

Yesterday, the Japan Centre sent me a link to their Japanese Curry Udon recipe. It’s almost vegan. The main problem with it is the tsuyu. All the commercial bottled tsuyu contains fish, as far as I’m aware. Last night’s tea was based on this recipe, and this is my version of it.

For the curry:
2 cubes of hot Golden Curry roux
400ml water
1 onion, chopped in chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunky triangles
2 small potatoes, cubed
4 cherry tomatoes, or one ordinary one, chopped
a handful of dark tvp chunks
vegetable oil for frying

For the soup:
400ml konbu dashi, or 400ml water and half a sachet (4g) instant dashi powder.
2 tsp shoyu
2 tsp mirin (use a cheap one here)

2 bundles dried udon, or two packets of fresh udon

Put the tvp chunks to soak in plenty of warm water about 15 minutes before you need them, then drain well.

Put plenty of water into a large saucepan and start to bring it to the boil. Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the onions, carrots, potato, tomato and tvp chunks for a few minutes until the onions are however you like them. Add 400ml water, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.

By now, the water in the big pan should be boiling so add a dash of oil and the udon, and boil them until they are tender. Drain, put into cold water, then drain again.

Meanwhile, put the soup ingredients into a smaller saucepan and bring them to the boil. Simmer very briefly and remove from heat.

Back to the curry, when the vegetables are tender, add the cubes of roux one at a time and stir until they are completely dissolved. Add the soup and mix thoroughly.

Divide the noodles between two large bowls, then ladle the curry soup on top of them, and serve. It can be quite messy to eat.

Notes
You need to choose your curry sauce carefully – there are at least two varieties of Golden Curry, one of which contains beef and the other of which is vegan. The vegan one helpfully had the words “No meat contained” splashed prominently on the packet and seems to be made for the US market. Go for the hot variety, as Japanese curry is incredibly feeble compared to what we’re used to in the UK.

It would be much easier to make this by adding the soup ingredients to the vegetables right at the start, and that’s what I plan to do in future.

You can vary the curry ingredients according to what you have. The version given is a close interpretation of the classic Japanese curry. They have regular cubes of beef in theirs, and the TVP chunks are exactly right in this. Tofu, unless deep fried, doesn’t work too well, but gluten is good. I always add the tomato as it has a dramatic improvement without the flavour becoming too obvious.

22/05/2010

Spring Nimono

Filed under: Japanese, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:28

Spring nimono

When I was checking out the Sankō-in website while writing up my visit there, I noticed a reference to a cookbook written by the current abbess Kōei Hoshino: 精進豆料理 (Vegetarian Bean Dishes). A shopping accident quickly followed, and the book arrived from Japan a few hours before a package from London containing something ordered on the same day. The recipes in the book are divided up into months, with others in chapters for each season. I noticed quite quickly that Hoshino is not as concerned with precise measures for each dish, or timings, or any of the other stuff that we are presumably supposed to know! What follows is, therefore, not a precise translation of a recipe from the book, but my attempts to recreate it with what information I was given.

IngredientsIngredients

2 sheets aburaage
3 small taro
1 large half boiled bamboo shoot
¼ tsp shōyu
2 tbl sake
sugar to taste
a small amount of water

You will also need a drop lid, or some foil.

As you can see from the photo, I chose to omit the sugar and replace the sake with a medium-quality mirin. You could easily use rice syrup or any other sweetener. The bamboo shoots are the sort described as “winter bamboo shoots”. You can get smaller ones than the one shown in Chinese supermarkets. They come sealed in plastic bags with saltwater. They tend to be smaller, so use two of these and adjust the cutting accordingly. There are several types of taro available in both Chinese supermarkets, and Indian/Pakistani grocers. The ones used in Japan are hairy, so I opted for the hairiest variety.

In Japan, the three main ingredients are at their peak in the spring, but this recipe could easily be used with all sorts of roots and tubers, including potatoes. I think small white turnips would be particularly nice.

Putting it together
How to cut the vegetablesPeel the taro and cut into bite-size cubes. Parboil the taro for around 5-10 minutes. Drain and then wash the pieces thoroughly. Cut bamboo shoot in half, then into quarters, vertically.

Remove oil from aburaage by holding it under a hot running tap then squeezing. Cut each piece lengthways into three strips and tie in simple knots, keeping the strips flat (click on the images to enlarge):

Tying the knot
Completed knots

Put the taro, bamboo shoots and aburaage knots in a medium-sized saucepan, with the knots on top. Add water to the pan to a level about halfway up the vegetables and bring to the boil very slowly. Spend this time wondering where your partner/cleaner/cats hid the drop lids, or fashioning one from foil. When the water boils, add the other ingredients, stir very gently to mix, and drop in your drop lid (or insert your piece of foil). The idea is to hold down the veg so they do not break up – if you have a set of saucepans, the lid from the size below the one you are using will do. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the taro is cooked through.

The meal in fullThis quantity will serve two as a main dish with rice, or up to six is used as part of a larger meal. I had it with asparagus and broccoli tempura, konnyaku in miso, brown rice and a clear soup with hana fu and green soya beans.

23/04/2010

Buying sea vegetables

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 02:35

Looking at the search terms which bring people to this blog, I’ve noticed a lot them are questions about buying sea vegetables, usually in London.

Now, I don’t live in London, and only visit two or three times a year, but I do know the answer to that question, and it includes general information that can be applied to anywhere.

  • Organic and whole foods stores usually have the Clearspring range, which includes the Japanese staples, plus dulse (one of my favourites). Clearspring products are more expensive than many, but the quality is outstanding. There’s a list of stockists online.
  • The Japan Centre on Regent Street, next to Mitsukoshi, has the Clearspring range, several Japanese brands plus some obscurities. There is a small cluster of Japanese shops nearby on Brewer Street which also sell a range of sea vegetables.
  • Chinese supermarkets are another good source, and there are a number of those in Chinatown. The quality is more variable than in the health food shops or Japanese stores, but there are Chinese supermarkets in many cities.

Finally, last time I was there, there was a stall on Borough Market which sold Welsh laver bread. I can’t find it on their list of traders, but there again, I can’t remember what else they sold.

07/04/2010

Japan: some additional vegan konbini goodies

As mentioned yesterday, Herwin Walravens’ Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide contains a handy summary of the few vegan items available in Japanese convenience stores. There are a few others too.
Sesame tofu package
Gomadōfu (ごまどうふ) is one of the non-tofu “tofu”s. It’s sesame milk set with kūzu and is rather pleasant if you like sesame. There are a number of similar looking items, some of which are flavoured tofu – shiso (しそ – perilla) is a vegan one of these; others are the aforementioned jellies set with kūzu, including a black sesame version. One warning: if you see a package very similar to the one shown, but yellow, it’s a savoury egg custard thing. The kanji for egg is very distinctive and worth learning to recognise: .
vegan daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart
The second discovery is a daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart. I’m afraid I forgot to photograph it until I’d eaten half of it, but the photo is enough to get the picture. The container has a small amount of lettuce at the bottom, then loads of shredded daikon, topped with a variety of seaweeds. There is no salad dressing, so you might want to sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce or something. I have been through the ingredients list with the proverbial fine toothed comb and all it contains is the lettuce, daikon and various kinds of seaweed. They’ve neglected to sneak in any fish whatsoever. Let’s hope no English-reading person at Family Mart notices this post and gets the “error” corrected!

I’ve been eating a lot of inarizushi while I’ve been here. It’s one of my favourite foods, so I’m not at all upset about it. There are many variations, and I have yet to find one that isn’t vegan. You can get it with mushrooms, or sansai (山菜 – mountain vegetables, edamame and many other things. The only non-vegan version of which I am aware is a regional variation which uses thin omelette instead of the tofu pouches. I’ve never actually seen it anywhere.

There are several varieties of small sushi roll which are vegan: the classic cucumber (adding mayo to them seems to be an American trick), yellow pickled daikon, natto and one I’d not seen before – kanpyo dried gourd reconstituted. Note the sachets of soy sauce that come with convenience store and supermarket sushi aren’t – they’re a mixture of soy sauce and fish stock. Buy your own wee bottle of soy sauce.

I am here for three weeks and can’t eat out for every meal or I wouldn’t have money to spend on capsule toys, yaoi, robots and weird Hello Kitty items. I have a kettle in the room, and there is a microwave oven in the hotel, so I plan to expand my horizons a little. I have a nice small miso bowl from Muji and a larger plastic noodle bowl from a 100 yen shop. I brought some sachets of a vegan instant dashi (enough to tide me over till I find a shop that sells it) and a small bottle of soy sauce with me. I have already bought a small bag of sweet white miso, a package containing mixed seaweed and wheat gluten coils, some fried tofu and some vegan instant ramen bought from a macrobiotic shop. The supermarket near Akihabara station sells fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles, so I can easily put together a hot meal in my (pokey) room on the cheap. I’ll try and remember to blog my efforts.

06/04/2010

Review: Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide

Filed under: Reading matter — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 09:58

Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide cover

I’ve been in Tokyo for the last week, and am finally ready to catch up and write some restaurant reviews. First though, a book recommendation.

Last time I was here, in 2007, I picked up a small booklet called the Tokyo Kyoto Osaka Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide and it proved invaluable. When I heard of a new edition coming out not long before I came back, I asked a friend who lives in Tokyo to mail order a copy for me in time for my arrival. This new edition is colour and much expanded – it’s now the Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide.

Not every vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant is listed. The important thing about this guide is that the author, Herwin Walravens, has personally visited and eaten in every restaurant which has a full entry. He’s clearly an enthusiastic eater, as the vast majority of vegan restaurants are to be found within. There are plenty of photographs of the food, and the restaurants themselves, and the maps are useful. A section at the back includes shorter descriptions of interesting eateries the author has not yet managed to visit.

Further appendices contain information on veganism in Japan, and how to survive in convenience stores, including photographs of the few vegan products there are. I’ve found a couple more, which I will blog about later.

As the author is a Dutch man, writing in two languages, neither of which is Dutch, the English can be a little interesting in places, but the occasional head-scratching moment does not distract from the sheer quality of this guide and the information it contains. If you are vegan or vegetarian and are visiting Japan you absolutely need this book. Remember – you probably can’t afford the international roaming charges to access the Happy Cow’s Tokyo listings, nor Vege-Navi (a really good resource which allows you to find restaurants by nearby railway or metro stations) on the move.

Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide by Herwin Walravens, Children of the Carrot. ISBN: 978-90-813822-1-2. Price: ¥1680 plus postage. Updates are regularly posted to the book’s website.

09/01/2010

London: Itadaki Zen

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 11:56

How long did you expect it would take me to try out a Japanese vegan restaurant? Well, I arrived in London on Thursday afternoon and went to a gig in Islington that evening, so I didn’t get out to Itadaki Zen until Friday lunchtime.

The space was light and pretty much what you’d expect. The menus were printed on handmade Japanese paper, and the napkins were folded in a different way on each table. Ours were in the form of a lotus flower around a small bowl, and it seemed a shame to undo them.
an elaborately folded napkin in the form of a lotus flower

To drink, we both went for one of their specialised “teas” – Itadaki Tea – a creamy, somewhat nutty soya milk concoction served in miso bowls. Just right for the cold, snowy weather.

I ordered the lunchtime sushi set, and my partner had Misonikomi Udon. My set arrived in a bento and included two spring rolls and a mashed potato salad, as well as two types of gunken (carrot and okra), two nigiri (nori tempura and inari) and a pair of matching rolls. The photo shows the set after I’d had a bite of one of the spring rolls. The shouyu came in a small clear plastic dalek with instructions clearly printed on top: ここをプッシュシてくださ, it said, “please push this”.

The Udon were served in a miso broth with julienne strips of aburaage fried tofu), carrot and cabbage – another dish which really hit the spot.

We were impressed with the food and decided to have dessert – this is supposed to be an indulgent break, after all. The desserts were mostly kanten – agar-based jelly – and my partner opted for a sesame one. Feeling adventurous (I can make kanten at home!), I tried warabimochi – small mochi made from potato starch instead of rice and dusted with toasted soya flour. The latter proved very difficult to eat with the implement provided, but was considerably better than it looked. It wasn’t too sweet, which suits my tastes.

At nearly £30 for lunch for two, it’s not a particularly cheap place, but also not expensive by London standards. I’d like to go back in the evening to try one of their set meals, but have no time on this trip.

Itadaki Zen, 139 King’s Cross Road, London, WC1X 9BJ‎. Phone: 020 7278 3573‎. [Map]

28/11/2009

Japanese tofu article

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 12:14

Kimiko Barber goes In search of traditional Japanese tofu in today’s Financial Times.

02/06/2009

Veggy Steady Go!

Filed under: Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 13:02

I can’t resist Japanese bookshops wherever I am, even though my ability to read Japanese is pretty limited at the moment. When I was in Seattle I found myself in Kinokuniya browsing for filthy gay manga anything of interest. It was there that I spotted the first two issues Veggy Steady Go!, which bills itself as Japan’s first vegetarian magazine (日本初のベジタリアン・マガジン!!) and urges us to eat more vegetables (もっと野菜を食べましょう!- this is the form you always see translated as “Let’s do whatever!”). Now, cookery is one of the areas where my ability to read Japanese is a little less limited, and resistance was futile.

Issue one includes the traditional article on going vegetarian and material about different style of vegetarian eating, including macrobiotics, raw foods, something called Natural Hygiene, whose proponent looks really unhealthily skinny, and ayurveda. There’s news about products of interest to the vegetarian, and a travel guide – brief articles on Germany, Denmark, and New York and longer in-depth pieces on London (but why is that fish shop mentioned?), Paris and, unsurprisingly, Japan. There are recipes – a curry, vegan carrot muffins (I’ll be having a go at that one), risotto, a French-style macrobiotic dish etc, all of which appear to be vegan.

Issue two focusses on vegetarian people, with interviews with a couple of actresses, a woman who runs a café and an author, plus two people who talk about being vegetarian in London and New York respectively. There’s a three page item, probably advertorial, on the Maman Terrace shops and restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka — I’ve eaten at the Osaka branch, and it wasn’t bad at all. The article I most want to translate is on Shoujin Ryouri – the cuisine of Zen temples, and my favourite food in the whole world. It seems to focus on two places where you can eat the cuisine.

There are many more recipes (hooray!), and they come from all over the world. There’s an Indian-style chickpea curry, Jamaican baking, Spaghetti alla Genovese and potato salad — the latter, as is common in Japanese magazines, being to advertise a particular brand of soya mayonnaise. There’s a feature on vegan home cooking. The travel guide concerns itself with vegetarian eating in Okinawa, a part of Japan where they eat more soya and fresh vegetables than anywhere else in the world, but also tend to put pork in everything. They’ve also noted the existence of Lush cosmetics.

I notice from their website that there’s a new issue out, but I’m not sure where I’ll be able to get it in the UK as I haven’t seen it in either of the Japanese bookshops in central London.

23/03/2009

Bukkake Soba

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 18:19
Bukkake soba

Bukkake soba

Yes, that really is the Japanese name for this dish, and I have no intention of calling it anything else. Even though the word bukkake is just a form of a verb meaning “to splash” or “to sprinkle”, its colloquial meaning is very appropriate for this dish.

Bukkake soba is essentially cold buckwheat noodles topped with a thick sauce and drizzled with tsuyu, a thin dipping-type one. The thick sauce is usually white, too. The version below is based on a recipe from a Japanese-language cookbook and is for a single portion.

1 bundle soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)

for the thick sauce
approximately ½ cup very soft tofu, such as microwave tofu
50g yamatoimo (about 5cm or 2 inches)
a bowl of water with about 1tsp vinegar added

for the tsuyu
3 tbl water or konbu dashi
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl mirin

to garnish
1 small spring onion
a lump of wasabi to taste (optional)

Put the yamatoimo to soak in the bowl of water for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, slice the spring onions and make up the wasabi, if necessary.

When the noodles are ready, drain them and plunge into cold water. Drain again, thoroughly, and place in a large bowl.

Put the tsuyu ingredients into a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and set to one side.

Grated yamatoimo;

Grated yamatoimo


Peel the yamatoimo and grate finely—the finest Microplane is good for this job. It will come out as a sticky liquid. Don’t panic. Stir it into the tofu. It will be slimy. This is deliberate. Pour this mixture on top of the noodles.

Dribble the tsuyu into the bowl around the edges and garnish with spring onions and the wasabi. The wasabi can be mixed into the tsuyu.

Eat and enjoy the expression on your flatmates’ faces—this is one of those dishes that tastes much better than it looks! Then tell them what it’s called.

Notes
Yamatoimo is available from the Japan Centre in London, and in the massive See Woo supermarket in Glasgow. I used the King Soba brand of organic 100% soba this time round, and I’m afraid I was not impressed. They’re not chunky enough, and stick to one another far too easily.

Microwave tofu experiment FAIL WIN

Filed under: Experiments, Japanese — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 14:39

I need yosedoufu—a very soft tofu made in a bowl, usually as needed—to make bukkake soba (yes, that’s the real name of the dish), but it’s not the sort of thing you can get here. I was wandering around the web when I encountered (in context, I’m not going to use the phrase “came across”!) this Japanese recipe for making tofu in a microwave, which looked as if it was just what I needed and used ready-made soya milk as a basis.

The sort of soya milk you need

The sort of soya milk you need

I gathered together my ingredients and equipment. I chose Plamil Organic soya milk. It’s important that soya milk used for tofu contain nothing but soya and water, and the recipe suggests that it needs to be at least 10% soya beans. The Plamil milk is 14% soya. The only other similarly simple brand I could find was a Provamel variety that was only 8% soya beans. As well as that, I needed nigari, of which I had two types in stock – a liquid Japanese brand, and a more natural-looking mix of salty stuff and water from the wholefood shop over the road:

Two types of nigari

Two types of nigari

The recipe appeared to be using the Japanese liquid type, so I went with that. I used a microwave saucepan, as that was large enough to hold 500ml of soya milk. The instructions were to mix the soya milk and nigari while cold, then divide between single portion bowls and microwave for 4 mins 30s in a 500w oven. I kept it all in the pan, and set my 850w oven to 600w, then microwaved it for 3mins 30s.

It did not turn out as tofu. I let it stand, and it didn’t curdle at all. Eventually, when it was cooled, I added a second teaspoon of nigari and repeated the process. The nigari was out-of-date, but it’s a mineral, so I can’t see why there’d be a problem. When it had heated, I checked the temperature and it was over the 75°C needed for coagulation to work. Again, it was liquid, so I let it stand. I checked again when it had dropped below the coagulation temperatute and I did not have tofu. I did, though, get fresh yuba! Which I ate, there and then.

Fresh yuba.

Fresh yuba.

Next I plan to use the more natural nigari and see what happens. (Update: this worked. Now to make bukkake soba.)

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.