Since we came back from Japan, E and I have been desperately trying to engrave rapidly fading souvenirs and tastes upon our memory. Isn’t it crazy how quickly we get back to our daily routine, even after a trip halfway around the world?
Over time, I’ve learned that one of the best ways to revisit a place you loved is to cook something from that destination, a dish linked to a cherished memory. A few days after our return home, I took out a small booklet that I had bought a few months ago, written by Humble Bean, a favorite blogger of mine. The author, Azusa, felt compelled to do her part for Japan’s earthquake and tsunami victims, being Japanese herself and having a special affection for two of the hardest hit areas, Iwate and Fukushima, after visiting twice as an exchange student. She gathered a collection of her favourite recipes into a booklet which she sold on Etsy, with all proceeds going to recovery efforts in Japan.
There are so many different ways to help the Japanese people recover from this heart-wrenching disaster, and it’s not too late to do so, even though several months have passed since the event. Troubles are far from over, and thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild their homes and find work. If you want to help, here are three ways you can send a modest contribution their way, while being inspired to make delicious Japanese dishes at home (they also make fabulous gifts!):
- Humble Bean Recipe Booklet
This booklet features 9 greatest-hits plus 2 new recipes from the contemporary Japanese food blog, Humble Bean (http://humblebeanblog.com). Perfect for someone who enjoys cooking and/or loves to eat Japanese food. 23 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, cover printed on ivory card stock, with an origami insert, and saddle stitched.
- PEKO PEKO: Family Friendly Japanese Recipes
A cookbook to support Japan’s recovery, offers 120 full-color pages packed with gorgeous photography and nearly 60 family-friendly Japanese and Japanese-inspired recipes contributed by 56 of today’s best and brightest food writers, bloggers and photographers.
- The Nudie Foodies: Food Bloggers Peel for Japan
The Nudie Foodies features 18 knockout recipes and full-color photos of the delectable and scantily-clad food bloggers who created them. Best of all, when you purchase this book, 100% of the net profits are donated to AmeriCares relief efforts in Japan post-earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe.
Sukiyaki is a classic Japanese dish which is slowly cooked straight at the dining table. A big sukiyaki (usually cast-iron) pot, set on a portable burner, is filled with beef, vegetables and tofu, gently simmering into a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Diners gathered around the pot pickup food with chopsticks and dip it in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs before eating. Many Japanese restaurants specialize in sukiyaki and this kind of meal can get pretty expensive, especially when prime beef cuts are served.
Humble Bean was inspired to turn this classic dish into a weeknight meal by simply grouping all of the main sukiyaki ingredients into a hearty and satisfying one-bowl treat: beef, vegetables, tofu and noodles are simmered in a delicious sauce, when poured on top of rice (which makes it a donburi – rice bowl). The dish is topped by a poached egg which, when broken, coats all the ingredients with its rich goodness.
The dish contains konnyaku (shirataki) noodles, which is a unique Japanese ingredient that contains next to no calories and carbs. Because I couldn’t find these at home, I used soba noodles – which is probably a travesty but I love the noodle’s hearty taste. I think rice vermicelli would make another fine substitute (if you’re not shocked by my idea’s lack of authenticity). To learn more about konnyaku and shirataki, visit Just Hungry’s page about this intriguing ingredient. If you find serving noodles on top of rice is a bit heavy, you can always forgo the rice and serve a bigger portion of noodles, or vice versa.
You’ll understand that I’m drifting off the authentic recipe here, but the important thing is that the flavors are spot on. And it’s a simple, nutritious, and heart-warming meal to serve on a cold winter night.
Sukiyaki Don (Sukiyaki on Rice)
Adapted from Humble Bean
Makes 4 servings
7 oz [200 g] thinly sliced beef
2 small leeks, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
7 oz [200 g] cooked konnyaku noodles (or other noodles you like)
7 oz [200 g] extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 package enoki mushrooms
2 big handfuls of greens (you can use chard, spinach, napa cabbage, etc.), cut into bit-size pieces
½ cup [125 ml] mirin
½ cup [125 ml] sake
½ cup [125 ml] shoyu
2 tbsp [30 ml] sugar
4 poached eggs
2 cups [500 ml] cooked sticky rice
Cook the noodles of your choosing according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then rinse under cold water and reserve. Make the sauce by combining the mirin, sake, shoyu, and sugar in a bowl and whisk.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, add a small amount of oil and fry the leeks until softened a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the tofu and fry until golden, then add the beef and sauté until browned. Add the noodles, enoki and greens and toss to mix. Immediately pour the sauce mixture over the entire pan, cover and let simmer until the vegetables are cooked, about 5 minutes.
To serve, put ½ cup sticky rice in the bottom of each serving bowl. Top with the sukiyaki mixture, then with a poached egg. Serve piping hot with Japanese pickles.
A giveaway to benefit Japan’s tsunami victims
I have an extra copy of Humble Bean’s recipe booklet to give away, and I’m throwing two tasty souvenirs from Japan into the package: candied yuzu peel and dried ume plums (both from Muji, the fabulous Japanese lifestyle store).
You can get up to four entries to win:
– Tweet the following – don’t forget to include the link (worth 2 entries):
Japan’s tsunami victims still need help! Visit @foodnouveau to learn how to contribute & enter a tasty #giveaway! http://bit.ly/vBeQOu
– Leave a comment on this post, using the form below (worth 1 entry)
– Become a fan of Food Nouveau’s Facebook page and leave a comment on it so I know you entered the giveaway (worth 1 entry)
The giveaway is open to readers from US and Canada. I will randomly draw a winner using random.org on Thursday December 1st. Good luck!