I’m not Japanese, but I really like Japanese food. I’ve realised that trying to cook authentic Japanese food outside Japan and without a historical and cultural connection to that food tradition is quite a challenge. But, it’s still worth trying! You can read more of my thoughts on how to cook Japanese food when you are not Japanese in my last post here.
This dinner menu is an example of what I would call a “Japanese inspired” or even a “Japanese style” meal. It’s really not that hard to make and uses ingredients I can access in my non-Japanese part of the world. Plus, in our household we all really like this type of food (except for one, who doesn’t like fish, but she’s the one who would have miso soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day if she could!).
A simple Japanese style dinner
Here’s the menu:
- Rice (white rice, short or medium grain, served plain)
- Miso soup with tofu and wakame
- Salmon fillets with ginger and soy (just a small piece for each person)
- Japanese style omelette
- Green beans with soy and sesame
- Pickled ginger on the side
The quantities in the recipe are based on serving 4 people. However, they are approximate and can be flexible depending on the number of people you are serving. Also, many of the seasonings are “a bit of this, a little of that” and added to taste. Taste as you go, adding more of the seasonings as needed, remembering to err on the side of caution to allow the main ingredients to speak for themselves.
It can be hard to find authentic Japanese ingredients outside of Japan. In Japan the supermarkets sell a huge range of pre-made sauces in bottles twice the size and half the price of what I can find in my local Asian grocery, if I’m lucky to find them at all.
- Soy, ginger, mirin, sake (cooking sake is fine), miso paste and sesame seeds
As you get more into your Japanese style cooking, you might be ready for the next layer in your toolkit with ingredients like these (if you can find them!):
- Pickled ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar, wasabi, nori (dried seaweed) in sheets or small strips, Japanese mayonnaise, wakame (sea vegetable), dashi stock, dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi), Japanese chilli spice mix (nanami togarashi), etc
Add more ingredients to your toolkit as you go. Stock up on fresh ingredients such as tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, beans, egg and fish.
I think the trickiest part of this menu to master is the technique for cooking the egg. After watching amazing Japanese cooks do it, and experimenting myself many times, I think I’ve finally got the hang of it. Authentic Japanese omelette pans are a rectangular shape, but any large, flat, non-stick pan will do.
Pour the egg mixture into the pan then lift and swirl the pan until the egg covers the base. After a minute or so you will see parts of the egg change colour as it cooks. Use a flat spatula or egg flip to get underneath that cooked section and gently fold it over all the way along the centre line of the pan. Lift and swirl the pan again, allowing the uncooked egg mixture to run into the cleared space on the base of the pan. Repeat the process of folding over the cooked sections and lifting the pan to allow the remaining mixture to cook. You should end up with a flattish cylinder of egg across the diameter of the pan, made up of several folded layers of egg.
Now, you could slice and serve the egg as it is or, if you want to make it a lovely shape, lift it carefully onto a piece of baking paper on top of a bamboo sushi mat (which you can buy in a supermarket for a few dollars). Roll the egg mixture fairly tightly inside the paper and bamboo mat and press lightly on the top to make your cylinder a bit more like a rectangle. The warm egg will take the shape quite well. Slice and serve warm, or allow to cool and refrigerate to serve cool later.
We use a shiro (white) miso paste which you can find in many Asian grocery stores and health food shops. Our favourite feature ingredients in miso soup are diced cubes of silken tofu and wakame, a sea vegetable. Add anything you like, really, such as delicate mushrooms or finely sliced snow peas. I haven’t included the instructions for miso in this recipe, as you can read how we make miso soup in this post here, or follow the directions on the miso paste packaging.
Looking for more simple Japanese style recipes? Here are some more of our favourites:
- Okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake
- Onigiri, or rice balls
- hand rolled sushi, or temaki sushi
- San shoku donburi, or three colour rice
Cute food graphics by our Cherry Blossom #3