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Japanese Dishes

Chicken or Pork Katsu

Katsu is a Japanese deep-fried cutlet. I make mine more like stir-fry, but I do use “Panko Flakes” which are Japanese style bread crumbs. These crumbs are very light and flaky, but larger flakes than store-bought American crumbs. They are more like crackers than bread.

Katsu is served over steamed white rice.

The secret to good katsu is two-fold:

  • Milenese cut meat or chicken breasts pounded thin
  • Katsu sauce

Katsu sauce is a vegetable and fruit sauce made from sugar, vinegar, apple puree, salt, tomato paste, prune paste, carrots and the old secret “spices.” I’ve never tried to make my own. This sauce is readily found in Asian stores. More and more frequently regular grocery stores are starting to carry it. The only brand I’ve ever seen in the US is “Bull-Dog.” It is also referred to as “Tonkatsu Sauce.”

To make one pound of Katsu: (Serves 3 to 4 people).

Prepare your steamed rice and any vegetable for the meal before you start the katsu cutlets.

Pour approximately one cup of panko style breadcrumbs on paper plate or waxed paper.
In large, flat bowl, beat one egg with 1/4 cup of water.

Dip the meat strips in the egg.

Place the strips, one at a time, on the breadcrumbs. Coat both sides carefully, pressing the crumbs lightly to help them stick.

Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a skillet and heat the oil.

Place the cutlets in the hot oil. You only want to turn these once so let the first side cook until the color of the top side starts to turn white. You can lift the cutlets to check the bottom, but try not to do it more than once.

It takes about five minutes for each side to cook, medium heat. If your cutlet is thick (1/2 inch) you will want to cover the pan while it is cooking. Milenese cuts or thinly pounded cuts cook fine without covering.

When both sides have browned, place on a clean paper plate to help drain any excess oil.

For a pound of meat, I use two skillets to cook all the cutlets at the same time.

For serving, cut the meat into strips and place on top of steamed rice. The katsu sauce can be served in a separate dish and used as a dipping sauce or you can make a nice design with the katsu sauce across the top of the cutlet.

Posted: July 31, 2006
Filed in Japanese Dishes

Imitation Crab–Make Your Own!

Imitation crab purchased in the store is extremely high in salt, but it’s really just pollack fish pressed and colored to resemble crab. Luckily it is very easy to make your own imitation crab–without the salt, but just as delicious!

Thaw and drain excess water from 1 pound of frozen Pollock fish. Marinate in:

4 tablespoons sweet white wine (I actually use a nectar pear wine–you can use Mirin, which is a common choice.)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon honey

When the fish is ready to cook place flat on lightly greased (I use olive oil) tin foil.

Bake in oven at 300 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until the fish flakes apart.
Squeeze or drain as much water as possible from the fish and chop. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are particularly good in California rolls. They also boost the nutrition!

Add and mix well: 1 tablespoon regular sugar. (Imitation crab is highly sweetened!)

Higher Salt Alternative Seasoning:
To make it taste even more like crab, add one can of real crab (or fresh, cleaned crabmeat.) Be aware that canned crabmeat is quite high in salt, but mixing in one can with the pollock dilutes the salt and adds to the overall taste!

Use the fish in place of most any imitation crab recipe—salads, California rolls, and dips. Because it is not “pressed” or colored, it may not work for recipes that call for crab sticks.

Japanese Curry

There are many types of curry dishes—curried rice, stews, curry flavored vegetables. This recipe most closely resembles curry that I had while in Japan. It is best described as a thick stew. I use S&B – Golden Curry Sauce Mix – Hot (Large) 8.4 Oz. rather than making my own curry roux. I do this not because I am lazy, but because I really like the flavor. Curry is not a single herb, which is why curry dishes vary so widely in types and flavors. By using the store-bought roux, I get a consistent flavor. The roux is available in most Asian markets, and it comes in hot, medium and mild. I use the “hot,” but it isn’t very spicy. Other people I know use half mild: – Golden Curry Sauce Mix – Mild 3.5 Oz. and half hot because the curries do seem to have a different flavor.

Add to a crockpot approximately:

1 ½ cups diced potatoes (I love to do half sweet potatoes and half red potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a great super food, high in nutrition!)
1 ½ cups diced carrots
1 ½ cup chopped onion
1 stalk celery, chopped (optional)
enough water to just cover the vegetables (about 4 cups)

approximately 6 oz curry block—it comes in various sized packages. I use a small package and sometimes throw in an extra block or two (half an additional package) depending on the size of the batch.

When the vegetables are tender, add 2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced into bite-sized morsels (you can use grilled beef or shrimp also—for those who hunt wild game that is gamier than you like, such meat is good in this dish—simply soak the wild game in milk overnight, drain and then grill it or cook in a pressure cooker. Add it to the curry crockpot mix with the vegetables. If you are looking for Game Meat recipes–try this book.

Cook all ingredients in the crockpot, checking occasionally to see if more water is required. The sauce should generally be about the consistency of a cream soup such as a clam chowder, but can be made thin like a broth soup.

Serve over fluffy white rice.

Warning: Do not add salt to this dish if you are buying a prepackaged curry sauce mix. There is more than enough salt in the curry blocks.

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Executive Lunch.
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Niku-man (Japanese Meat-Bun)

Nikuman is a Japanese meat filled bun. These buns are usually steamed and are served in many a quick-stop store in Japan. They are also sometimes filled with curried meat/veggies or a red bean paste. The recipe below is based on American ingredients (because that is what I can buy here!) but I’ve found these nikumans to be a satisfying substitute. I also usually bake mine, because it is easier than steaming and quicker. I make about a dozen at a time and freeze them for later use.

For the bun part, I purchase frozen dough–either frozen bread loaves (about 3 loaves are needed) or frozen raw dough buns (usually one package of frozen buns is enough.)

Frozen dough takes all day to thaw, so start it thawing the night before or very early the morning you want to use it. This dish is easiest to prepare if you make the filling and let it cool before rolling out the dough. Hot stuffing on the dough tends to result in the dough turning mushy.


2 one pound packages of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage (Any breakfast sausage will do, but if you use plain pork sausage, you’ll need to add other ingredients such as garlic and additional peppers to flavor it.)

8 to 10 cups of chopped Chinese cabbage (Use close to the whole head of cabbage, but some of them run very large!)

6 green onions, chopped (you can substitute regular onion–you need about a cup of onions)

2 jalapenos with seeds, chopped very fine/minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage (if you use sage flavored sausage, you can leave this out.)

1 tsp minced ginger (Asian market or online: Lee Kum Kee Minced Ginger – 7.5 oz.)

2 tablespoons sesame oil — make sure it is pure sesame oil and not a mix of oils! Buy at Asian market or online: Sesame Oil.

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

Brown the sausage in very large skillet or wok. As it browns, add the onions, jalapenos, sage, Chinese cabbage and ginger. I add the Chinese cabbage about two cups at a time. This allows the cabbage to cook down, leaving more room in the pan as you’re adding things. When the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, remove from heat. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. You don’t want to add the sesame oil early–this is a flavoring oil and if you add it too early, the flavor will cook off.

Stir the mixture well and allow to completely cool.

Roll out the dough into six to eight inch circles. Drain most of the liquid from the filling (I use this liquid to steam rice that I then serve with the nikumans.)

Place several spoonfuls of filling in the center of the dough and close the ends by pressing the dough together tightly. Place in freezer bag or cook immediately.

To bake frozen nikumans, place one or two in a tin foil pocket that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray. The foil should be loosely wrapped around the nikumans. Follow the temperature directions on the frozen dough package. For example, some bread is cooked at 450, while other recipes I have made from scratch have a lower cooking temperature (325). When in doubt, go with 350 degrees. Cook for approximately ½ hour with the tinfoil covering them, then open the tinfoil to expose the top of the nikuman. When the nikuman is lightly browned, they are done!

To bake nikumans that have not been previously frozen, less cooking time is required. That’s about the only difference!

Serve over fluffy white rice.


To steam nikumans, place the buns in a bamboo steamer lined with extra cabbage leaves (the leaves are good steamed and they also provide a nice non-stick surface for the buns!) Steam for 30 to 40 minutes if the nikumans were not previously frozen. For frozen nikumans you will have to steam them close to an hour.

Posted: July 20, 2006
Filed in Japanese Dishes
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Sushi California Rolls

Sushi Rice
Making sushi rice is an art and a science. You may have to play with the amounts of water to get the rice sticky, but not gummy. You may want a little more sugar, a little more vinegar. Use the ingredients below as a starting point. The rice was made in a rice cooker, which means very little water boils off. It was also made with sushi rice—meaning the rice kernel has all the “grain” polished off, so less water is needed in order to cook the rice. You can use normal long-grained rice to make sushi rice, but it is harder to get the proper consistency. You will need to add more water for long-grained rice.

You cannot use instant rice. If you use a regular sauce pan to cook the rice, use a large one—when you stir in the vinegar mixture you’ll need room to mix it in properly. Also, if using a regular sauce pan, start the rice with cold water, simmering on very low and keep a lid on the rice the entire cooking time (this can be hard to do as the water will often boil over—if you must add water for some reason, match the temperature of the water in the saucepan. (Meaning, if the water is already boiling, add boiling water.)

In rice cooker:
2 cups sushi rice
3 1/8th cups water

While rice is cooking, mix in bowl:
¼ cup rice vinegar (example: Marukan Rice Vinegar 24 Oz.)

IMPORTANT, if you are adding your own sugar and salt as in this recipe, do NOT get a gourmet SEASONED rice vinegar. Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegars already have the sugar and salt added. They are a useful shortcut, but do not allow you to control the salt and/or sugar content.

1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon or so of water if needed so that the sugar and salt dissolve.

The rice is done when all the water is absorbed and is soft. In the case of a rice cooker, the cooker will shut off automatically. Let the rice sit covered for at least five minutes before mixing in the vinegar. While the rice is still hot, pour the vinegar mixture over the top and stir well. Mix gently so that you don’t smash the rice kernels and turn the whole thing to mush, but make sure the vinegar mixture is evenly distributed. Cover the rice again and allow it to cool enough to handle.

Preparing other ingredients for California Rolls

chopped crab Crab Mixture
Chop 16 ounces of crab (you can use imitation crab or imitation lobster, but real crab is the BEST) into small pieces. Make sure the crab is in small pieces, no larger than ¼ inch pieces. Larger chunks will fall out of the roll, especially after the roll is cut. Mix the chopped crab with just enough mayonnaise to help it stick together, about 4 tablespoons. WARNING: Do not use Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise. They are Not the same.

Peel one cucumber. Slice down the middle, lengthwise. With small spoon, scoop out seeds. Slice the remaining cucumber shell into strips approximately ¼ inch diameter. Fatter slices are harder to manipulate in the roll.

Peel, and slice in half lengthwise. Remove pit. Slice into ¼ inch slices. These will be a bit fat towards the center, but the avocado doesn’t usually cause problems.

Lay out a sheet of seaweed (example of nori) on a sushi bamboo mat (example). Have cup of cool water at the ready. Using a wooden spoon or plastic rice paddle, drop about a half cup of rice on the seaweed and spread a bit with the spoon. Wet your fingertips in the cup of water, shake excess water off and press the rice lightly against the seaweed until you have uniform coverage. Do not press rice all the way to the edges of the seaweed. Leave about a ½ inch of seaweed without rice on top and bottom. You want about a one to two rice kernel layer (not a thick layer) of rice across the seaweed.

Just south of center, put a row of crab, lengthwise across the rice (the crab should not be more than ½ inch tall—even less when you are learning because the more stuff in the middle, the harder it is to roll). Then put a line of avocado, and last, (north side) two strips of cucumber. Sushi Rice Spread Out
Rolling is a bit cumbersome. Hold the crab mix in place by pressing your fingertips against the cucumber. (The avocado squishes and so does crab, so you want the cucumber on top where you can kind of hold it as you fold the first roll around.) With your thumbs, grasp the bamboo sheeting and roll on top of the cucumber. Press down so that the seaweed sticks to the rice below. Begin Rolling
Release the bamboo and roll it forward. Note: Keep the bamboo away from the rice—you roll the bamboo sheeting only on the outside of the seaweed, moving the roll inside.

When the roll is in a nice rolled formation, squeeze lightly along the whole roll so that you tighten it evenly across the roll.
Press Gently, Keep Bamboo Roller Free of Rice
Take the bamboo sheeting away and you should have a nice California roll, ready to be cut.

You need a very sharp knife to cut through the seaweed without smashing the inner ingredients. Let the roll sit for 10 to 15 minutes. TIP: If you are having a lot of trouble cutting the roll, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Finished Rolling
Cut ½ inch pieces along each roll. Don’t start too close to the edges—the edge pieces are messy and ingredients tend to come squishing out. Cut about an inch in and the inside cuts will be nice rolls. The two ends will be messier and are for the cook to “taste,” and may not necessarily be presented. Sushi Finished Cut Roll

Soy sauce
In soy sauce serving dish, mix ½ tsp wasabi paste with soy sauce. If you are using “light” soy sauce, it is probably okay as is. Regular soy sauces may need to be thinned with a bit of water before adding the wasabi. If you are using wasabi powder make sure you first mix the powder with water to form a paste before adding it to soy sauce (it needs to be about the consistency of toothpaste or a little thicker).


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Traditional Japanese Udon

The broth for traditional Japanese udon is made from a mix of high quality kelp (konbu) and dried skipjack tuna (katsuobushi)–see additional links and pictures in the post about halfway down. The tuna is smoked and dried in a special process. While using these ingredients may make you think you’ll end up with “fishy” broth, luckily you’d be incorrect. The broth is a wonderful blend of flavors–a hint of smokiness, and if you had to guess, you’d probably think it was a unique vegetable broth.

It may be difficult to find these fine ingredients in the US, (there’s pictures of what they look like at the bottom of this post) but in case you are able, here is a recipe for making Udon broth. Once you have the broth prepared, you can make tempura (deep fried breaded veggies/shrimp) or you can serve with other boiled vegetables such as slices of yams, zucchini and onions. I just pan saute shrimp and put three or four in each serving. I then add the sauteed veggies.


Soak the following two ingredients in 7 cups of cold water in the fridge overnight:

About 25 grams of kelp (from my bag of kelp this was about 5 pieces) The closest I could find to the kind I bought from Japan was Eden Kombu, 2.1-Ounce Package

About 45 grams of katsuobushi (skipjack tuna) (this was about 4 to 5 pieces from the size I used). Look for something like this product.

After they have soaked, heat the water and kelp until just before the liquid boils. Strain out the kelp and fish/tuna/flakes.

Remove the broth from heat and add approximately:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup sweet cooking wine (Mirin (Sweet Cooking Rice Wine) if you have it or chardonney as a substitute)

1-2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 tablespoons honey

Taste the broth–it should taste smokey and rich. You can add more soy or sugar depending on the flavor.

Steam vegetables and/or sautee shrimp to add to the soup or prepare tempura. When these items are ready, add the udon noodles to the broth and heat thoroughly. Serve the tempura on top of the noodles so that the tempura coating doesn’t get soaked. If you plan to serve with plain steamed vegetables, just add the already steamed vegetables after you heat the udon noodles.

Here’s some more info about the ingredients:
Skipjack Tuna – A type of dried/smoked fish a lot like American Jerky (picture below). It’s possible that this: Snack Masters – Original Jerky – Ahi Tuna, 8 Units / 2 oz can be used to make the broth, but I have not tried it. It does contain salt, so backing off on soy in the recipe might be necessary. The picture is of tuna I got from Japan and is obviously a different brand.
fish jerky

Konbu — A special kind of kelp used in making broth. This is close to what I use: Eden Kombu, 2.1-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6)

Bonito flakes are often used as a substitute in making broth for udon or miso soup. They are quicker because there is only one step and they are also cheaper than the other two ingredients. To prepare, you boil these flakes and then remove the flakes. The broth is quite good, but not quite as rich and powerful as with the other two ingredients.

bonito flakes

Bonito flakes (example: Japanese Bonito Flakes 3.52 Ounces) are a step up in flavor from Hon-dashi–which are pellets much like American beef or chicken bullion cubes, only Ajinomoto – Hon Dashi (Soup Stock) 5.28 Oz. is basically fish-flavored pellets with no salt added. You might be able to find hon-dashi in the Asian section of your supermarket.

To make the soup with bonito flakes: I simmer a cup of bonito flakes in 8 cups of water for 1/2 hour and then strain the bonito out. I add seaweed, chopped green onions, and minced mushrooms and cook about ten minutes. Then I add about 4 tablespoons of miso, dissolve it and serve! You can also add tofu, but do this last, otherwise it tends to get mushed up when you’re trying to dissolve the miso. The quality of the bonito has a direct effect on how much you need to use. You can always add more water to dilute it, but I’ve had to change the amount of flakes every time I change brands.

Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession and Recipes – Here’s a recipe book all about Ramen Noodles–making everything from scratch and a little bit about life too.

Udon or Ramen Noodle Broth (American Ingredients)

Udon is a wonderful Japanese noodle soup. In Japan the broth is made from fish and kelp stock. I buy the udon noodles frozen in an Asian store. You can also find them in the refrigerator section of most Asian stores. Some of the noodles in the refrigerator section have a broth packet in them, but other than being salty, there isn’t much flavor to them. Ramen noodles are also served in a similar type of broth–and I’m not talking about the store packets either!

To make your own authentic broth, you’re going to need Japanese ingredients–skipjack tuna and kelp.

What I generally do is start with a chicken or beef broth. To make either:


Obtain beef soup bones from your grocery–you may have to ask for them specifically at the meat counter. If you can’t find them, you can get a decent bone by purchasing a small chuck roast or other roast with a bone and carving out the bone to use in the stock. You don’t need a lot of meat on the bones.

Marinate beef and beef bones with two tablespoons honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 cup water. Bake in oven at 350 until the beef is well-done. Cool. In a stock pot, combine about 6 to 8 cups of water, 3 large stalks of celery, carrots, one whole onion chopped in half, mushrooms and Chinese cabbage. If you have bonito, you can add the flakes at this time (one packet contains about two tablespoons and since the broth is a combination, this should be enough.If you are making broth with only bonito, you’ll need to follow the directions on the package to figure out the water/bonito ratio.)

Simmer all ingredients for two hours and again, let it cool.

You then need to strain the broth–discard all the bones, bonito flakes and vegetables. You can sort/leave in the pieces of beef or not, as you prefer. If you wish your soup to have vegetables in it, add fresh chopped veggies to the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft.


Marinate 5 chicken thighs with two tablespoons honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 cup water. Bake in oven at 350 until the chicken is well-done. Cool. In a stock pot, combine about 6 to 8 cups of water, 3 large stalks of celery, carrots, mushrooms and Chinese cabbage. If you have bonito, you can add the flakes at this time (one packet contains about two tablespoons and since the broth is a combination, this should be enough. If you are making broth with only bonito, you’ll need to follow the directions on the package to figure out the water/bonito ratio.)

Simmer for two hours and again, let it cool.

You then need to strain the broth–discard all the bones, bonito flakes and vegetables. For udon, I do not leave in the chicken meat–I use it in another dish. If you wish your soup to have vegetables in it, add fresh chopped veggies to the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft.

Once you have a flavorful broth, you simply heat the broth and add the udon noodles. Cook until the noodles are tender.

Udon is often served with vegetable and/or shrimp tempura. The tempura rests on the top of the noodles so that it doesn’t become soggy. Tempura of any kind should be added after the udon noodles are warmed–add tempura to individual bowls just before serving.

Ivan Ramen – Here’s a recipe book all about Ramen Noodles–making everything from scratch and a little bit about life too.

Posted: February 10, 2007
Filed in Japanese Dishes
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