Jan 30, 2016

Japanese Pork Slices and Napa Cabbage Hot Pot (豚バラと白菜の重ね鍋)

This is a pretty versatile and eye-pleasing Japanese hot pot recipe. The two main ingredients for this recipe - napa cabbage and pork belly slices work well with slightly sourish dipping sauce. Basically all you need to do is stacking up the napa cabbage and pork slices on the side then put other preferred ingredients in the center. Pour in the stock or even use some water/dashi seasoning mixture for extra flavors.

Japanese pork slices and napa cabbage hot pot -



Ingredients?


  • 1 small or 1/2 regular size napa cabbage 
  • 1 box pork slices
  • Some tofu or preferred hot pot ingredients
  • Some vegetable stock or chicken stock (can be substitute with water, 1 packet of dashi seasoning, and Japanese soup base)
  • Some chopped scallion
  • Some freshly ground black pepper


Dipping sauce:

  • Some grated radish 
  • Some ponzu sauce (can be substitute with light soy sauce and lemon juice)
  • Some chopped scallion
  • Some finely chopped cilantro
  • Some finely chopped chilies
  • Some peeled and finely chopped garlic cloves


How?

Homemade stock is the best but you can use store bought vegetable or chicken stock and adjust with additional seasonings. Even water with one packet of Japanese dashi seasoning (such as Hondashi) with some light soy sauce work just as well.

Lay one napa cabbage leaf and top with one pork slice, repeat a couple times and finish the last layer with cabbage -


Trim the top and bottom edges if desired, but not necessary. Chop into shorter sections, but not longer than the height of the pot. Arrange around the pot but saving some space in the center. 

Put any preferred hot pot ingredients in the center, I used tofu mixed with Chinese yam. Other suggestions can be grilled semi-firm tofu, shiitake mushrooms, or even a mixture of fish balls and squid balls -


Pour in the already seasoned stock till 80% to 90% full. If using plain water, pour in the water and add in the dashi seasoning along with just a little bit of light soy sauce. Avoid over-seasoning since this will be served with flavorful dipping sauce -


Bring to a boil then cover with lid. Lower the heat to keep it at a light simmer and cook for 15 minutes. 

Once ready, sprinkle some chopped scallion and black pepper -


As for the dipping sauce, you can simply use ponzu dressing mixed with some grated radish, chopped scallion, chopped chilies, chopped garlic, and chopped cilantro. My personal favorite is adding a touch of lemon or lime juice and zest instead of using pre-made ponzu sauce. However, if you can find fresh yuzu then go for it, the citrus aroma is incomparable but it sure comes with a hefty price in the states.


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Jan 25, 2016

Dine in Kyoto's Historic Building - Toriyasa 鳥彌三 by the Kamo River

More than 200 years old restaurant along the Kamo River, Toriyasa is one of the Japanese Cultural Properties famous for its chicken hot pot and other chicken dishes.



This restaurant was also on a Japanese TV show introducing what bushi/samurai likes to eat back in the days. The host was saying that Sakamoto Ryōma, a prominent figure during the Bakumatsu period dined in Toriyasa several times. 



Once stepped inside, the wooden structure, the squeaking floor, and the lighting will gently take you back in time -



Took my shoes off and followed the waitress to the second floor into a tatami room -





The friendly auntie-like waitress noticed that I was taking pictures. She asked if I want to follow her to the other seating area overlooking the Kamo River for some pictures -



Toriyasa offers outdoor tatami seating during late spring/summer months. Other scenic view rooms are also available.



Throughout my meal, there were mainly two auntie waitresses managing the tableside service and one young man carrying the heavy hot pot to the room. None of them speak ok English. They do have English menu but not too helpful. Instead, they prefer verbally informing the customers which dishes are available and ways of preparation. Dinner hours only serves chicken hot pot along with other smaller dishes. 



Local sake from Kyoto Fushimi area -



Chicken liver to go with sake -



Light soy sauce based but slightly sweet with a hint of yuzu.

Hassun/seasonal appetizers -



Mackerel oshizushi (pressed style sushi), sesame tofu, citrus tofu, sweetfish roe, edamade, etc. This meal happened during fall months, which reflected on plate/room decoration and ingredients selection. That's one main reason why I love Japanese food, it's like admiring an art form in a much easier and delicious way.



The auntie waitresses are very nice and attentive. Despite the language barrier, they still try to chat with you in a non-intrusive way. Their expressions and tone of voice make you feel warmed and welcomed. 



Slightly different from the more familiar shabu shabu, Toriyasa serves hot pot made with two main ingredients - chicken and water. Sounds simple, but it actually takes three full days of attentive cooking to achieve such thick and collagen-filled stock -



Tableside service almost from the beginning till the end. The waitress cooks and serves the food at your own paste.



First bowl of soup was mixed with quail egg and some salt flakes -



Look at the color of the chicken soup, all the chicken essence has already melted in the soup after cooking for three days straight.

The waitress added some veggies into the pot. She was making dipping sauce while waiting for the ingredients to be cooked -



Single order of karaage/Japanese fried chicken -



The coating was already seasoned and has a grainy texture, moist but not soggy. Every piece of the chicken was so tender and juicy, and the sensation when biting into that grainy crust was very addicting -



It was during the matsutake season, one of the expensive mushrooms in Japan, I often think of it as chanterelle in Asia -



How can one miss the chance of having fresh quality matsutake while in Japan? So I picked the smallest one and the waitress suggested to simply grill the matsutake in order to enjoy its full aroma.

Second hot pot serving, the waitress also added some chili powder to the dipping sauce -



The boiled chicken skin was not oily at all since most of the fat has already melted into the soup. Very tender and bouncy piece of meat. The ponzu sauce provided a refreshing touch.


Look at that layer of collagen-goodness floating on top -



The waitress kept serving small portion of food right after I finished the previous one -



The last few bowls of soup got much more condensed and sticky, in a good and delicious way -



Matsutake came right on time. The excitement level was comparable to seeing truffle slices on my plate -



Very aromatic and concentrated mushroom scent, even came with tiny hint of earthy bitterness tone -



This serving came with yuba, the thin layer that flows on top during the tofu making process -



Cooking two more ingredients - 



Good thing the waitress was the one doing the cooking, if let me do it, I would have thrown all the ingredients into the pot from the beginning.

White meat served last -



Little box on the side for toothpicks -



Mochi/sticky rice cake -



Possibly my top three favorite mochi ever. Never a big fan of sticky food but this one was cooked till almost falling apart but still managed to hold on its shape. 



Fully absorbed the essence of chicken soup and won't cling on teeth. Very moist yet still got that distinct chewy texture -



Kyoto tsukemono/pickled veggies - 



Pickled veggies for the zosui/porridge at the end of the meal. 

So the waitress poured a bowl of rice to the soup -



Stirred and cooked for a short moment. Mixed in beaten egg and scallion, covered with lid and waited till the egg reaches the right texture -



The egg was semi-cooked with that silky texture remained -



This is the best part of the whole meal. Every grain of rice fully absorbed the chicken umami, sweetness from the vegetables, and stock essence, all in this one little bowl -



My lips turned sticky after eating it because of the collagen in the soup. My whole body felt very warm and comforting (maybe stuffed too) after three bowls of zosui. 

Hot tea and hot towel after the meal -



Ended the night with sweet and juicy persimmon -



Puffed belly.

I've dined in about six Michelin starred restaurants during this trip and hands down Toriyasa has the best service. It's not the formal serving style often get at a high-end restaurant. In fact, it's more like eating at a homey place where sincerer caring happens. I guess here at Toriyasa, not only the food provides warmth, but also the friendly waitresses that take care of customers throughout the meal. 

Toriyasa currently holds one Michelin star status.


鳥彌三 Toriyasa
〒600-8012 京都府京都市下京区西石垣通四条下ル斉藤町136
136 Saitocho, Kiyamachi Shijo Sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
(075) 351-0555
*Outdoor tatami seating available from 5/1~9/30
*Opens for lunch and dinner, reservation is highly recommended















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Jan 19, 2016

Quick Snack in 15 Minutes - French Toast with Nutella Sauce

Not sure if I should thank or blame my friend for a Costco-sized Nutella jar. It was a present over the holidays, a fattening one. To make better use of it, I simply mixed the Nutella with some milk and turned it into an even more delicious sauce for an even more devilish French toast snack.

Maybe I should blame myself instead, but oh my, this idea was greedy yet so delicious.


French toast with Nutella sauce -




Ingredients (for 2)?



  • 2 thick cut brioche toast slices
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup Nutella
  • 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Small pinch nutmeg
  • Some whipped cream 


How?

Mix 1 large egg, 6 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and small pinch of nutmeg in a flat-surfaced container -




Prepare a double broiler, slowly heating up the Nutella and whole milk while whisking these ingredients constantly. Use less or more milk depending on the texture, the sauce should be pourable but not too runny -




Dip both sides of the brioche toast slices into the egg mixture. Soak the toast for about 30 seconds each side if using thick cut version. If uncertain, it's better to have a less moist French toast than a very soggy one since the bread might break apart easily. In addition, you can always compensate the dryer toast with extra sauce on top. Take a few practices but should be able to get a hang of it.


Use a non-stick flat surface pan and turn to medium high heat. Transfer the slices over and toast till both sides turned slightly browned. Flipping back and forth a couple times is fine as long as not breaking the toasts.


Transfer each toast onto a serving plate and drizzle some Nutella sauce -




Top with whipped cream and more Nutella sauce if desired -




The whipped cream gets flat soon after since the French toast was still very hot when I took the picture. You can also serve it with some fresh fruits and crushed nuts, but I'll save a fruitier version of French toast recipe next time. As for this, a simple Nutella will do just fine.



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