Japanese sweet potatoes can be dry. They are sometimes even dry when they are in soup. I discovered a good way to cook Japanese sweet potatoes so that they are always moist and soft. This way is also really easy and convenient. I used the rice cooker. You can do this with regular sweet potatoes (さつまいも), the golden flesh kintoki imo (金時芋) and the orange flesh annou imo (安納芋).
How to cook Japanese sweet potatoes in a rice cooker
Wash and trim the ends (if necessary) of the sweet potatoes. Put 1-2 cm of water in the bottom of the rice cooker. Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork a few times just to make sure they don’t explode. Cook small or medium sized potatoes in a quick cycle (早炊き or 白米急速). Larger potatoes should be done with a full cycle. That is all.
Note: You can wrap the potatoes in foil, if you prefer. The ones I cooked while wrapped still had a soft skin so I am not sure you can get a crunchy skin in the rice cooker with water.
I spotted this recipe on Cookpad (Japanese) and I couldn’t resist trying it. It looked simple and I knew if I made one small adjustment it would be fabulous. I happened to have some mackerel in the fridge and the supermarket had a bag of super ripe tomatoes on the discount veggie rack and I knew it was fate. The original recipe called for one can of tomatoes but they are in season now so fresh is best. I will try this again with canned tomatoes but I think I will splurge on expensive canned tomatoes as the freshness of the tomatoes was one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much.
Mackerel simmered in tomato sauce
4 mackerel fillets – make sure there are not too many bones
3 small tomatoes, cut into large chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, diced/minced
1 tablespoon flour (to make gluten-free use rice flour)
salt and pepper to taste
splash of white wine or cooking sake (I used cooking sake)
Sprinkle some salt on the mackerel fillets and let them sit for five minutes. Dice/mince the garlic and saute it in the olive oil in a frying pan (large enough to fit all the ingredients) until it is fragrant but no darker than light brown. Pat the mackerel fillets dry with some paper towel and sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper. Add the fillets to the pan and brown on each side. They don’t have to be fully cooked at this point. Once they are brown add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer everything on medium for about ten minutes. the fish will be fully cooked and the flavors will have melded. Serve.
If you are in Chigasaki on Sunday, June 9th please join me for a Hummus Workshop at Serendipity Cafe. You can find more details here.
I think one of the first frozen foods I had in Japan was frozen onigiri. The hubby bought them one evening and I was skeptical. I don’t really like frozen food and these seemed to simple to be good. I loved them. Haven’t bought them since but they did inspire me to explore the world of yakionigiri. There have been terrible results in the past but now all is good. I haven’t perfected them but they are pretty good. I usually use the frying pan but I tried them in the riceball plates of my waffle iron and was pleased. It’s so easy. Since I need to have some food prepped in the freezer for work day breakfasts, lunches and dinners, freezing riceballs seemed to be perfect. You can just reheat with miso soup for a quick meal. They are best heated in a toaster oven so they don’t get too soggy. I use the grill setting in my microwave but keep the pan on a lower level than when actually grilling.
Basically, lightly salt the rice and make riceballs. If you need a tutorial, check out this one on Just Hungry. In a small bowl mix a bit of soy sauce and grated ginger. Lightly oil a frying pan and heat up the pan on medium. When the frying pan has heated up, place the rice balls and fry until they are just starting to turn golden. Turn over and either brush or sprinkle with a spoon the ginger soy sauce mixture on the cooked side. Just a little at a time so the riceball doesn’t fall apart. When the other side has started to change color turn over again and repeat with the sauce. Now you can fry them until they turn a deeper color. If you are freezing them, cool them completely before putting them in the freezer. Either thaw at room temperature or microwave for about 30 seconds and then put them in the toaster oven until they look nice and toasty.
For the first couple of Thanksgivings and Christmases it didn’t even occur to me to miss turkey. All of a sudden, about a week before my third Christmas here, I felt I had to roast a turkey. Since rarely went out of my way to get food that wasn’t sold in the local supermarket, I had no idea where to look. I was in Shinjuku that evening so I decided to pop into the basement of Isetan and check out the meat shop. I was lucky. They happened to have these tiny one and two kilogram turkeys for 3500 yen and 5000 yen respectively. They were imported from France. Not knowing where else to look, I bought one of the little ones and took it home. It was the best turkey I had ever had and worth the price. Thanksgiving the next year was a bit more of a challenge because turkeys aren’t hard to find around American Thanksgiving Day in November but Canadian Thanksgiving Day is a full month earlier. Luckily Nissin had one the right size.
The next Christmas I happened upon one in the supermarket in the Meguro station the day before I was going to go off in search of one. Lucky. Eventually I learned about The Meat Guy and that solved all of my problems. You can order a couple months in advance and have it delivered the day you would have taken it out of the freezer so you don’t have to worry about freezer space.
Where to find turkeys in Tokyo *updated*
- Nissin has turkeys year round from 3-4lbs to the huge 20+lbs
- National Azabu had turkeys before it shut down. They should have them again now.
- Meat counters of large upscale department stores – only around Christmas
- Some upscale supermarkets will carry them at Christmas time – ask at the meat department.
- A friend buys her Christmas turkey from her local Hanamasa (website: Japanese language only) but I have never seen one at the ones I’ve visited so you would have to ask. Ask for ターキー(taakii) not 七面鳥 (shichimenchou) as many people associate the roasted bird with the English word and the live bird in the wild with the Japanese word.
- Costco – you can actually call and ask them before you make the trip out
On the internet *updated*
Note: if you have an average sized microwave/oven you will probably want to go for a 1-2kg bird but be sure to measure the inside of your oven to check. I now have a 30L oven and find a 5kg is a great size.
I have been working on the rice cooker cookbook nonstop for the last little while and have scarcely had time to cook non-rice cooker meals. This may be the first time I have used my oven in about a month. I baked these in the pre-lunch heat since it really doesn’t make a difference when your living room is already 30 degrees to begin with.
Up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t cook or eat stuffed peppers. For some reason I used to strongly dislike the taste of cooked green peppers and that kept me from exploring all kinds of peppers. I now quite like cooked green peppers and enjoy them in a variety of dishes. I decided to go with texmex seasoning and red peppers today as it is hot, hot, hot.
Stuffed Red Peppers
2 red bell peppers
150 grams ground chicken
1/2 cup spinach ribbons
1/3 cup panko (aka bread crumbs)
1 1/2 teaspoons taco spice
1 sleeve tomato paste (1 tablespoon)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and take out the seeds while leaving the shape intact. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the remaining ingredients with your hands until fully combined. Divide the mixture into four balls and stuff each pepper half with a ball. I like to press the meat into the corners of the pepper but you can leave the mixture in ball form and set it in the pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the meat browns on top. Serve when cooled to a suitable temperature.
This would taste great topped with cheese and salsa.
Tomato paste in Japan
Tomato paste isn’t that hard to find in Japan. Look for トマトペースト (tomato peesuto) near the canned tomatoes. You can find it in small cans and in one tablespoon sleeves which I prefer. I love the sleeves because I usually only need a tablespoon at a time. The box of six sleeves is under 200 yen (at the time of writing this post).
As you can imagine, now that I’m working on a rice cooker cookbook, I have been making a lot of food in the rice cooker. I love how easy it is. With summer in full force, I don’t seem to have the usual cooking energy and five minutes of active prep works for me.
I’ve been having a harder time with cakes because I have a three cupper and cakes need a wider area like a five cupper. What a great excuse for a new rice cooker.
Here is what I’ve been working on.
Pineapple Curry Chicken
Daikon and chicken in a gochujang sauce
I don’t cook fish often. Not because I dislike it but because when we were young my sister and I refused to eat fish (aside from freshly caught rainbow trout) so it is not part of my food past. Since coming to Japan I have started cooking fish but usually in Japanese food. I probably haven’t made any ‘Western’-style fish in over a year. I already had a balsamic reduction vegetable stir fry on the menu so Japanese flavors wouldn’t match. We picked up some sea bream and I googled how to cook it and Jamie Oliver videos came up. This particular video look the most compatible to what I had in the fridge. Is it sad that after nine years in Japan I still have to look up fish names. By that I mean I don’t know the English names because they mean nothing to me because my lack of fish in the past. My whole understanding of fish and their tastes is in Japanese.
Baked Sea Bream
Inspired by Jamie Oliver
2 sea bream fillets
salt and pepper (freshly ground, if possible)
a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 a medium-sized onion, diced
juice of one lemon
a few dashes of dried thyme
garlic powder (or one clove of fresh garlic, minced)
Preheat the oven to 200C. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and set aside. Dice the onion and saute in olive oil until soft. If you are using fresh garlic add it to the onion and saute. Spread half of the cooked onions on the bottom of a lightly oiled pan. place the sea bream fillets on top of the onions and place the remaining onions on top of the sea bream. Place the cherry tomatoes sliced side down on top of the fish and onions. Drizzle the lemon juice over everything. Season with garlic powder (if not using fresh), salt and pepper. Cover with tin foil and bake for fifteen minutes, uncover and bake an additional five minutes. Serve.
Sea bream = たい = 鯛 = tai
I make pizza on Friday nights but I only make dough every couple of weeks. Dough takes time even though only about ten minutes of that is active. One doesn’t always have the ninety minutes to two hours to make homemade pizza and that shouldn’t stop you from having it. Luckily, pizza dough freezes really well. You can freeze it after it has risen and all you have to do is take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge (not on the counter) in the morning. If you forget to pull it out in time put some hot tap water in a large mixing bowl and float your dough (still wrapped) in the water until thawed. Don’t use boiling water as it may kill the yeast.
There are two ways to freeze it:
- freeze dough balls in ziploc bags/tupperware – after you thaw the dough you can press it out in your pan, sauce and top.
- press the dough out on some parchment paper (oven paper オーブンペーパー), freeze and then put in a ziploc bag. For this method you have to make sure that you don’t forget about the pizza before you put it in the ziploc bag. You can also sauce and top the pizza so that it just needs to be thawed. You want to freeze it before putting it in the bag so that nothing sticks. The same goes with thawing, slide it out on to your pan, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.
seI’ve got another rice cooker lentil recipe for you. My last recipes, Thymely Rice Cooker Lentils and Spicy Rice Cooker Lentils, have become quite popular and I think more needs to follow. The instructions are very complex so follow them carefully.
Sausage and Cabbage Rice Cooker Lentils
2/3 cup brown lentils
1 chicken bullion cube
1 cup purple cabbage, chopped finely
15cm celery, chopped roughly
1 sausage, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
Wash the lentils and put them in the rice cooker. Fill up the water to the one cup level. Add everything else and push start. When it is done, season with salt and pepper, if required and serve hot.
I needed something fast last night so I went for some frying pan curry. It was almost the same as last time except I added maitake mushrooms tofu as well as spinach.