Notes & Tips
Asian Chicken Bouillon Powder
As a busy mum, I often use ‘Instant Dashi Stock Powder’ for Japanese soup. I recently discovered this Chicken Bouillon Powder at an Asian grocery store and this is great for Asian cooking. I can make Asian soup stock instantly. To make Ramen soup, I mix Dashi and this bouillon powder.
‘Lee Kum Kee’ seems the most popular brand, but there are some other brands such as ‘Knorr’. It’s good to have one in your pantry if you like Asian cooking.
Typical Japanese Meal
The phrase ‘Ichijū Sansai’ means ‘One Soup & Three Dishes’ and that refers to the makeup of a typical meal in standard Japanese cuisine. When I prepare Japanese style dinner, I always cook Rice, Soup, Main Dish and two Side Dishes. Traditionally they are all served at same time in the order as the left image.
Main Dish is protein dish with fish, chicken, meat, tofu or egg.
Side Dish 1 is often vegetable or potato/root vegetable base dish.
Side Dish 2 is often pickled vegetables or vinegared vegetables which are refreshing.
How To Slice Meat Thinly
Keep the piece of meat in the freezer for one or two hours. This doesn’t mean that the meat should be frozen solid hard. It just needs to be half frozen and hard enough to slice thinly. And also slice the meat relative to the meat grain.
Some local butchers are happy to do the job for you using their slicing machines. Why don’t you talk to your butcher what you are after? You need to select the right part of meat carefully, depending on what you are going to use them.
Many people prefer dried shiitake to fresh ones. For some dishes, dried shiitake is certainly preffered.
Sun-dried shiitake have more Umami flavour and they are the great source of vitamin D.
Unfortunately most commercially produced dried shiitake are not sun-dried. Why don’t you make them by yourself? It is easy to sun-dry shiitake under our strong Australian sun.
Simply leave them in the sun for 3 to 4 days until they are completely dry. They are now full of Umami and vitamin D.
Substitute for Mirin
Mirin 1 = Sugar 1/3
Mirin is used to add sweetness and umami to the flavour. It also helps to erase fishy smell when you cook seafood. It contains alcohol. If you can’t find it or you want to use sugar instead, use 1/3 tablespoon of sugar for 1 tablespoon of mirin.
These days most supermarket stores sell ‘mirin flavoured seasoning’ which is not ‘Mirin’. The real ‘Mirin’ is often called ‘Hon Mirin’ and smells like Sake (Rice Wine). Sake and Sugar can replace ‘Mirin’.
In Japanese cooking, satō (sugar), shio (salt), su (vinegar), Shōyu (soy sauce) and miso (miso paste) are commonly used for seasoning.
There is a specific order that these seasonings should be added to achieve the best flavour. My mother taught me to remember the order ‘さしすせそ’. The word ‘しょうゆ [Sho-o-yu] (soy sauce)’ starts with the sound sho, however it used to be written ‘せうゆ’ [se-u-yu] and started with the letter せ.
1 さ (sa) – さとう [sa-to-o] sugar
2 し (shi) – しお [shi-o] salt
3 す (su) – す [su] vinegar
4 せ (se) – せうゆ [se-u-ui (shōyu)] soy sauce
5 そ (so) – みそ [mi-so] miso
So the order is sugar first, then salt, then vinegar followed by soy sauce and miso comes last.
MSG and Umami
Read about MSG at Wikipedia >
If you concern the safety of taking MSG, use natural ingredients. Dashi stock can be made quite easily using Dried Shiitake, Katsuobushi (Bonito), Konbu, Iriko (Dried Sardines) and other dried fish flakes that are all available from Japanese or Asian grocery stores.
See ‘How to make Dash Stock’
Toast Sesame Seeds
Health benefits of sesame seeds are widely known. I use Toasted Sesame Seeds for cooking a lot. So I regularly toast the seeds and keep them in an airtight container ready to use always.
I recommend to use a saucepan rather than a fry pan to toast the seeds. Keep shaking and tossing over the medium heat until light golden. The hot saucepan will keep cooking after removed from the heat and turn the seeds golden.