JAPANESE COMFORT FOODS AT HOME
If you’ve ever been obsessed with mukbang (Korean social eating) videos, you might have come across Yuka Kinoshita. She’s a Japanese competitive eater by day, YouTube blogger also by day in which she uploads daily videos of herself consuming huge quantities of food. DAILY.
If you’ve also ever watched Unbreakable, for every spectrum there’s an equal opposite. Hers may be packing away upwards of 5000+ calories (!) a day while remaining seemingly super healthy and skinny. On the other end of the spectrum, from every gym machine test I’ve done, my body seemingly needs very little, about 1230+ a day. It’s almost hypnotic, with more than a little envy, watching her eat from a bowl three times the size of her entire self.
Her videos also put me out of a cooking cycle where I had become fairly repetitive with making and eating the same vegan / vegetarian favourites - cashew creams in lentil curries, grilled eggplants and tofu a dozen ways, hummus and tahini-ginger dressing slathered on everything.
Anyway, this isn’t about that. My obsessing with watching her daily videos really put me on a Japanese cuisine bender. Most often her videos are of eating 10 packets of instant noodles or surviving spicy noodle challenges, though she turns to making basic Japanese recipes at home too. When she ate her way spoon by spoon through a 5KG bowl of rice with pickled salmon in black pepper, I bookmarked the recipe and bought sashimi grade fresh salmon, something I never really cared for to try at home. When she slurped up a bowl of mentaiko (pollock roe) cream soup udon, I Googled mentaiko and where to get it. Her butadon (pork bowl) fired up such a strong craving that I immediately went out to get ingredients for that very day. It reminded me so much of our time in Tokyo and how much we loved Yoshinoya bowls.
I racked up quite the bill at an online specialty grocer for imported Japanese goods, discovering it had what I needed and so much more. I bought a majority of what I needed to make some of her frankly very simple foods, as well as some bits I’d never seen elsewhere, like dried cuttlefish which we snack on while enjoying sake. Also picked up okonomiyaki flour and sauce in anticipation of what might be a very enjoyable Japanese savoury pancake and sake night.
For lack of further understanding in Japanese cooking, I am deriving all my pleasure from what I’ve googled and seen through her videos, where the Japanese recipes are fairly straightforward. It leaves little room for using shitty ingredients. I bought as high quality as I could and as fresh as I could. I fussed over the washing of eggs in preparation for cracking raw yolks onto the bowls to avoid contamination. Oh yes, raw egg yolks - simply irreplaceable in the butadon dynamic, and unparalleled as a dipping sauce on its own for sukiyaki.
I’m surprised by how easy and how delicious these recipes came together, even with flexing very little skillset in the kitchen. They’re fairly indulgent though, so it’s not likely to have this every week. Moreover I've stopped craving meat in general (recently started paying more attention to what I eat and being more picky about having a variety of vegetables in my bowl) so after a day or two of these meals my body basically pined for vegan buddha bowls. But on the days when I want to have something special without breaking the bank going out to Japanese restaurants, it’s nice to know I can have something like a fresh salmon bowl or a delicious sukiyaki hotpot at home.
I cook everything to taste, so dial up and down any ingredient you think you prefer more of.
Butadon (Pork Bowl)
300g pork belly sliced thinly, shabu shabu style
spring onions, chopped
2 egg yolks (make sure your egg is pasteurised before eating the yolk raw. It is clean and commonly available in Japan and Singapore but not all countries)
1 white onion, sliced
1 cup dashi (I buy the powder mixed with water)
2 tbsp sake, preferably Junmai
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce (preferably Kikkoman brand as this makes a difference in the taste)
1 tsp grated fresh young ginger
- Boil dashi and sliced onions together, about 5 mins
- Add sake, mirin, sugar, soy, pork belly and boil about 5-10 mins
- Add ginger and cook for a further 5 mins. Onions should be translucent, almost caramelised
- Spoon everything on top of a bowl of Japanese rice, serve with pickled ginger Japanese style or do what I do and add pickled cucumbers for a refreshing, tangy crunch.
300g fresh, sashimi grade salmon. Sliced to preferred thickness (I like mine on the plump side)
200g-300g tsuyu (Japanese soup base. Use as much as you need to cover the salmon when marinating)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp cracked fine black pepper
1-1.5 tbsp yuzu pepper (see image above for the green packet stuff, commonly known as yuzu kosho. It is spicy and salty so adjust as much as you like)
2 egg yolks
Perilla leaf, chopped spring onion (optional)
sushi vinegar (for mixing into the Jap rice, if that's your thing)
- Mix all the ingredients (except rice and yolks) in a bowl and marinate the salmon for 4-8 hours.
- Serve the salmon atop a bowl of Japanese rice, sprinkle with perilla leaf or spring onion
- Crack a raw egg yolk into the bowl. Makes a difference! The marinade is also great to reserve if you want a bit more sauce for the rice.