Japanese Food?

Yesterday I visited an Asian market.  This was kind of an exciting moment for me, for a couple of different reasons.  First, I love Asian food.  I love eating it and I love trying to make it.  Second, I’ve never been to an Asian market and I’ve always wanted to go to one, mainly to see weird stuff, like marinated chicken feet.  (And I did see those, fyi, and they were sick.  Chickens’ toenails are weird.  And don’t even get me started on the beef omasum.)   Third, there were a few things I wanted to get, like rice noodles and curry, and I thought they might be cheaper there.

Also, I recently read this article about how, in general, the Asian lifestyle and diet are so much healthier than Western ones, and this contributes to their longer lifespans and lower rates for obesity and disease.  Of course, a lot of this has to do with their high vegetable, fish, and rice intake versus our hamburger, french fry, and soda intake.  But one thing the article mentioned repeatedly was that in Asian cultures, it’s all about balance.  Balance in how you eat, balance in work, balance in your personal life….just balance, okay?  This inner balance is also reflected in the market, where there is an extremely large variety of meats, produce, spices, noodles, rice, and tons of other items.  If you compare it to an American grocery store, it’s a lot different.  Honestly, it’s hard to describe….it just seemed like there was a lot MORE to choose from in the Asian store.

So I ended up getting some Ana Yaki Nori roasted seaweed, some bean sprouts, a big jar of curry, and some Soba Japanese buckwheat noodles, and something else, but I can’t rememeber what, and it was all like $13….definitely cheaper than if I had tried to buy that in the regular store (although I doubt they even carry some of those items).  I had no idea what I was going to do with all this stuff.

Fortunately, food ideas come to me frequently, probably because 96% of my thoughts are focused on food.  I recalled the miso soup that they serve at Japanese restaurants and thought I could come up with something similar.  I had some chicken that had been in my fridge and if I didn’t cook it soon, it would probably grow legs and walk outta there.

(That reminds me….one time, I bought a package of chicken breasts at the grocey store.  I put everything in the trunk, unloaded it when I got home, and forgot about it.  Let me add that it was July.  A few days later, I notice a faint odor as I’m driving around.  I thought I had a kid with a poopy diaper, but nope, that wasn’t it.  I briefly look for the cause of the smell, find nothing, and figure it will go away.  The next day, the smell is stronger.  I look longer, find nothing, and wonder if an animal has perhaps gotten trapped somewhere under the car and died.  The next day, I get in the car, and the stench is overpowering.  Like there was a corpse riding shotgun or something.  I mean…damn. It was foul.  Even my toddler has to comment now…”Momma, peeeeeeewwwwww.”  Now, I’m ready to dismantle the entire vehicle to find whatever it is.  Fortunately, I don’t have to do that because it occurs to me that I hadn’t previously checked the trunk.  Sure enough, I open the trunk, and green and brown fog starts pouring out of it.  Not really….but it you could see smells, that’s what I would’ve seen.  There, in the way back of the trunk, is one package of partially liquified chicken breasts that had been sitting in there for several days in 90 plus degree weather.  Sick, huh?)

Okay, who’s still hungry? Back to the food! So I’m planning imitation miso, chicken, and some jasmine rice.  That’s the other thing I got at the Asian market that I couldn’t remember.  I love jasmine rice….so light, so fluffy, so fragrant.  I trim the fat off the chicken, throw it in a container, and dump on some teriyaki, ponzu, and sesame oil.  I throw in a little minced ginger and garlic as well.  It’s the kind of person I am.

Add me to your kitchen - I will make your life easier.

The rice goes in the rice cooker with some scallions and a little sesame oil.  By the way, you need to get a rice cooker if you don’t have one.  Sooo easy.  In the past, I burned rice every time I cooked it.  With the rice cooker, you throw it in, turn it on, and walk away.  Perfect rice every time.  Love it.

For the soup base, I have some chicken broth in the fridge I need to get rid of as well.  It goes in the pot.  However, it’s not enough, so I add a couple of beef bouillon cubes and some water.  You may be thinking, chicken and beef stock together? What a weirdo this girl is.  And  you’re absolutely right.  I am a complete weirdo.  Then I add the following: cubed tofu, sliced scallions, bean sprouts, chopped baby portabella mushrooms, the seaweed, and some pepper.  Meanwhile, I’ve started water boiling for the Japanese noodles since those are going in the soup as well.  By the way, those sort of look like worms when they’re cooked, and I really don’t like worms.  Luckily, they don’t taste like worms. 

Then I order to Trent to fire up the grill.  In a nice way.

Now, I have never made this meal before, and I have no idea how it’s going to turn out.  I have ruined plenty of meals with this sort of experimentation, but that’s just part of the learning process.  Sometimes it’s terrible and you want to blow chunks across the table, other times it’s a beautiful marriage of flavors that makes everyone smile (except my son, who only smiles about pizza, chicken nuggets, and cereal….I’m workin’ on him though).

Ding! The rice cooker is done.  Blub, blub, blub…the soup is simmering!  Ssss….ssss…sss…..okay, that’s supposed to be chicken on the grill, but I don’t really know if that’s what it sounds like.   I don’t grill, remember?  Everything is just about done….

It’s done!

Aerial view!

I must say, I thought this one turned out.  The rice was yummy (thank you, rice cooker), the chicken was perfectly flavorful and moist (thank you, Trent), and the soup was reminiscent of restaurant miso (thank you…..me?). 

If you wanna make it, here’s everything you need:

Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
Firm tofu, cubed
Scallions, chopped
Mushrooms, sliced
Bean sprouts
Asian-style noodles, cooked (I used Japanese buckwheat noodles)
Salt and pepper to taste

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Teriyaki sauce
Ponzu sauce
Sesame oil
Fresh ginger, minced
Fresh garlic, minced

Jasmine rice
Scallions, chopped
Sesame oil or any other seasoning  you wanna throw in

For the soup, throw it all together in a large pot and heat. Pretty simple stuff. 

For the chicken, trim the excess fat off, put it in the marinade.  I used about 1-2 tbsp. each of the teriyaki and ponzu, and about 1/2-tbsp. of the sesame oil.   I also used about 1 tbsp. each of the minced garlic and ginger.

For the rice, it’s kind of up to your personal taste.  I threw in a handful of green onions and maybe a tsp. of sesame oil, but you don’t have to do either of those things.  Or you can do more with it.  Totally up to you.

I have no idea if this qualifies as “authentic” Asian food, but it’s close enough for me.  Enjoy!


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