Hanami Picnic Food

 Like any picnic, you want food that will keep well, not take up a lot of space or be a lot of trouble.   These are some traditional Japanese recipes and often show up at hanami.  Of course, you can always do the KanzenSakura thing with a South meets East – have southern fried chicken and instead of potato salad, try the Hanami Salad or some pickled veggies along with other foods.  A note about onigiri – I think of it as “round sushi with stuff inside” and put things I like inside and can be square, round, or triangular. Cold sake, white wine, beer, apple juice, sparkling cider, champagne, water with lemon and mint….all are good to drink with this food.  よく食べる Yoku taberu  (Eat well!)

 

Hanami Salad

Hanami Salad 

8 oz  Rice vermicelli (fine noodles) or regular vermicelli

2-4 Spring onions

4 oz. asparagus

a few radishes

1 large carrot

2 tablespoons mirin (or sherry)

A dash of sesame oil (ordinary oil will do but add a few sesame seeds or a handful of peanuts to the salad to give it a nutty flavour)

A dash of light soy sauce

Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions and then plunge into cold water to cool. Drain really well even blotting with kitchen roll or a clean tea towel to remove as much of the excess water as possible.    Blanch or cook the asparagus for a couple of minutes and then plunge them in cold water too. Drain well, again trying to get rid of as much excess water as possible.

Chop the spring onions and slice the carrots and radishes finely into discs. Using a sharp knife cut 5 or 6 V shaped nicks out of the radish discs evenly spaced around the edge to make them into a flower. You can do the same with the carrots or use a flower shaped vegetable cutter (a metal clay cutter or cookie cutter will do just as well). (this makes them look like flowers!)  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well to coat with the oil, mirin and soy sauce.

onigiri 2

Onigiri – Rice Balls

4 cups of hot freshly cooked Japanese-style rice (What kind of rice can you use? No, you cannot use long-grain, jasmine, basmati, or Uncle Ben’s.) Short Grain (sushi rice) rice

2 sheets of nori seaweed, cut into 3cm/2 inch wide strips

Salt

You can add a bit of red coloring to some of the rice to make the rice pink.

 Fillings – Traditional. Some classic fillings are pickled plum (umeboshi), bonito flakes just moistened with soy sauce (okaka), bonito flakes mixed with pickled plum (umekaka), flaked cooked salted salmon (shake or shiozake), cooked salty cod roe (tarako), chopped up pickles (tsukemono) **See my blog on this site for Quick Pickles – “Quickles”

Non-Traditional Fillings:  Ground meat (pork or beef or a mixture), cooked with grated or chopped ginger, then flavored with soy sauce, some red pepper flakes, sake or mirin, and sugar. It should be quite dry. Curry flavored ground meat mixture works surprisingly well too.  Canned tuna, well drained and flaked, flavored with a bit of soy sauce and/or salt to taste.  Flaked corned beef.   Chopped up western style pickles (as long as they don’t have too much garlic in the brine), well squeezed to get rid of excessive moisture .   Chopped veggies such as carrot, spring onion, avocado, cucumber: sprinkled with a bit of rice vinegar and soy, chopped barbecue chicken or pork, chopped deviled egg, chopped pickled vegetables.         Non-Traditional fillings are often perishable.  Keep in mind for picnics during warm weather take appropriate precautions!

Wet your iclean hands with cold water, and sprinkle them with salt. Take 1/2 cup of the rice and place on one hand. Make a dent in the middle of the rice with your other hand. Put in about 1 tsp or so worth of filling in the dent.

Working rapidly, wrap the rice around the filling, and form into a ball. To make the traditional triangular shape, cup your hand sharply to form each corner, and keep turning it until you are happy with the shape. Practive makes perfect.

Wrap the rice ball with 1-2 strips of nori seaweed.  Repeat for the rest of the rice.

To bring along on picnic, wrap in plastic film or in a bamboo leaf (which is traditional). Some people prefer to carry the nori strips separately, and to wrap them around the onigiri when eating, to preserve the crisp texture of the seaweed.  (This is what I do)

tamagoyaki

Tamago-yaki Recipe – Sweet Rolled Omelet

3 eggs
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce

I like to add very finely minced spring onion and parsley to mine.

Crack your eggs and lightly mix them. You don’t want to incorporate air into them so the best way is to use chopsticks: stir them gently without whipping, but make sure that the eggs and yolks are completely homogeneous. Add the mirin, sugar and soy and gently mix in.

Use a paper towel to evenly spread a bit of oil in your pan. Heat it on medium low heat, then add the eggs so they cover the bottom of the pan.

After 2-3 minutes, the egg will start to cook and solidify. The eggs don’t need to be entirely cooked, in fact, they should be a tiny bit moist on top so that the egg sticks to itself. Using chopsticks or a spatula, fold the egg over onto itself twice, like how you would fold a letter into thirds. Don’t flip the eggs, just push them to the end of the pan.

Use your oily paper towel to spread a tiny bit more oil in the pan and add a bit more of the eggs. Lift up the log of already cooked eggs so that the raw eggs are touching them. When the new layer of egg is almost cooked, fold the eggs over onto themselves again. Repeat until all the eggs are used.

Wrap in saran wrap and using a sushi mat, press the tamago into a rectangle shape. Let cool completely, slice and enjoy!  Or you can just into thirds instead of halves like a conventional omelet and cut into slices.  Videos making tamogyaki can be found on YouTube.

 

照り焼き Teriyaki

Teriyaki is a way of Japanese cooking. Teriyaki is a combination of two Japanese words: “teri” and “yaki”; teri means luster, and yaki means grill or broil. This recipe is for oven baked teriyaki wings. You can of course use chicken thighs, legs, chunks, pork, beef, tofu…..cook on an inside grill or yakitori grill, or outside on a gas or charcoal grill. That is up to you. Be careful as the sugar and mirin content can easily cause food to burn.

To make a teriyaki dish, ingredients are broiled, roasted, or grilled after being marinated in or basted by teriyaki sauce. It’s sauce that brings the shiny look (teri) to the ingredients. You can buy teriyaki sauce in a bottle at the grocery store, but authentic teriyaki sauce is very easy to make. To make teriyaki sauce, basically soy sauce, mirin, and sugar are used. Other ingredients can be added. It is possible to substitute mirin with sake and sugar BUT the key ingredient in teriyaki sauce is mirin. Mirin adds luster to ingredients. Teriyaki sauce can be used for glazing and marinating meats and vegetables.

The recipes for the wings and the sauce were given to me by my “authentic Japanese” partner of years back. We enjoyed entertaining and feeding our friends. These wings, chunks of nice fatty beef, deep fried tofu (see post), umeboshi and other quick pickles along with some of my Southern American specialties made us extremely popular. This is good party appetizer/sports watching/entrée food.

Between good food, good conversation and good music, it truly was the best of South meets East!!! どうぞめしあがれ (douzo meshiagare – eat well) or, as my granddaddy used to say, Eat ‘til your little belly drags, Y’all!

desired amount of wings (I usually allow 6 full wings per person)
teriyaki sauce
sesame seeds
scallion, thinly sliced

Wash the chicken and cut at joints into two pieces. Frugal Hint: I save the tips in the freezer to make broth. Wash again and pat dry with a paper towel. Put into a non-reactive bowl and marinate the wings in the refrigerator with a generous amount of the teriyaki sauce for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. Mix well making sure wings are covered. Cover with plastic wrap.

This is oven method: Preheat oven to 375. Either use a broiling pan with racks or, lay cooling racks over baking pan. Spread the wings in a single layer and evenly spoon sauce over the wings. Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 30 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven, remove the foil and place back into oven for about 10 – 20 minutes until skin becomes crispy. Move the wings to a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and very thinly sliced scallion.

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

2/3 c. mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 c. good soy sauce (I use low sodium soy sauce)
4 ½ tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/3 c. white granulated sugar
4 – 7 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbs. grated fresh ginger
Dash of black pepper

Mix ingredients well and slowly heat until bubbly, stirring. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until thickened and flavors are blended. This will keep in covered container in refrigerator for several weeks. Makes about 1 1/2 c. sauce.

teriyaki chicken wings

Karaage Chicken – Osaka

Fried Chicken – Karaage
I received this recipe from an engineer from Osaka.  He said it was the ONE dish he could make and he fixes this dish after a busy week.  He and other Japanese engineers and their spouses get together and bring food they get homesick for while here in the States.  He said this was also good made with chicken wings.  I agree!!!  Karaage chicken is very popular in Japan, often enjoyed as a snack on the way home from work with a beer.  I found this dish to be equally yummy with Southern Sweet tea.  NOTE:  I add a sliced scallion to the marinade.

Ingredients
4 chicken thighs, each cut into about 8 pieces or 4 whole chicken wings, disjointed into 8 pieces

Marinade
3 Tb light soy sauce
2 Tb sake
1 inch fresh ginger, grated finely
4 Tb Corn Starch
Oil for deep frying (I use peanut oil because it can be heated to a nice bubbling high without burning or smoking)
Lemon or lime slices to garnish
Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Dipping sauce:
4 Tb light soy sauce
1 Tb granulated sugar
2 Tb sake
1 star anise
Simmer the above in a small pot for 5 minutes.

Pat chicken pieces dry, and marinate in the soy sauce, sake and fresh ginger for at least 10 minutes (longer is fine). Heat oil in a small pot suitable for frying, pan or wok to a medium heat. Drain off marinade and toss chicken with the corn starch to coat. Shake off any excess and then cook pieces in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the cooking vessel. Cook until they are crispy and cooked through – about 4-6 minutes each. Serve with small bowls of dipping sauce and lemon or lime wedges.

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