The two Chinese characters notionally contained in the word furikake, 振 and 掛, mean ‘shake’ and pour’ respectively. That makes furikake as close a Japanese translation of the word ‘sprinkles’ as I can imagine. No chocolate sprinkles here, however; instead we’re talking about savoury sprinkles for rice.
Imagining plates of cool sashimi and delicate confectionery, we Brits don’t often associate traditional Japanese cuisine (washoku) with comfort food. With the exception of ramen, most of the winter warmers well known in Japan are not yet familiar here. In fact, with winter temperatures rarely rising above freezing in some regions, Japan is home to many hearty meals and steamy hotpot-style recipes. Shabu-shabu, oden and yudōfu are just three Japanese winter dishes that I’d love to see more of in the UK.
It’s fair to say, however, that we have plenty of our own traditional comfort food. We certainly need it; this week it was revealed that the optimal outdoor temperature for growing well-adjusted humans is 22°C, a level of warmth which no British city reaches on average. Particularly now that Christmas is drawing near and the cold is starting to bite, it seems everybody is gravitating towards the heavy, familiar recipes of tradition. Even I am following suit. As a result, we have recently enjoyed some interesting fusion dinners such as this one.
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On my table today:
- miso soup with shiitake, sweet potato and chives
- soy simmered squash (follow link for the full recipe)
- asparagus karashizu
- cottage pie
Notes after the jump!
What makes a Japanese salad recipe? It’s all in the dressing. This week I’ve been experimenting with three classic salad dressings, nihaizu, sambaizu and amazu, which give an unmistakably Japanese flavour to any combination of ingredients. Variations of these three dressings appear in many of the salad dishes known collectively as sunomono or ‘vinegary things.’ The process for all these dishes is a simple one:
- choose two or three complementary ingredients
- cut as you like (an assortment of thin shreds and delicate slices is best)
- cook or salt if required; vegetables can be used raw but can be softened or firmed up with heat or salt respectively
- chill (the ingredients; but also, just chill)*
- combine and dress with something that ends in 酢 (-zu)
* Even according to the supremely detailed Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, Japanese salads ‘are flexible ideas, not dogma’.
This summer, I fell in love with wafu pasta. All those incredible Japanese flavour combinations plus a classic Italian staple: what’s not to like? This delicious wafu spaghetti with garlic, lemon and miso salmon is easy, satisfying and ready in 10 minutes. Fork or chopsticks? You decide!
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So, you bought a tub of miso and made your own miso soup for a while. Congratulations! You are now a fully fledged fermented bean paste convert. But what to do when you’re bored of soup variations? Here are three easy ways to use miso you might not have tried!