Archive for the 'Japanese' Category

Udon Soup with Vegetables and Tofu

A few weeks ago, I bought a book of knitting patterns for babies. I am a total novice knitter, so I wasn’t expecting to actually complete anything, but I’ve now made two hats!

I was only planning on making 1, but the first one turned out to be kind of huge, so I went back to the store, bought smaller needles, and adjusted the pattern just a little bit, and it looks like hat #2 will fit a baby head a little better.

My other baby-related updates:
1. I passed the 1-hour glucose test, so no gestational diabetes, YAY!
2. At 28 weeks I finally caved and bought some maternity pants. I got some insanely comfortable full-panel jeans from Gap and I love them.
3. I have not purchased any baby items other than a few books and outfits, because we are still trying to find a bigger apartment (this 1-bedroom is just not going to work!) I’m SO ready to start setting up the nursery…we just have to move first! (I am trying REALLY hard not to stress about the fact that we haven’t found a place yet).

And now I’d like to tell you about noodles.

I LOVE noodles and I really don’t discriminate – all forms of Italian pasta, Thai rice noodles, Korean sweet potato noodles, soba, udon, somen…

I think I ate noodles in some form every single day that we lived in Thailand and I never got tired of them.

When I got the fabulous cookbook Kansha for my birthday, I knew that noodles would be the first thing I made. This recipe doesn’t take long to come together, but it does dirty a LOT of pans! Fortunately, it doesn’t require too many exotic ingredients. The only thing you may be hard to find, depending on where you are, is the hoshi yuba (dried beancurd), but it can be left out with no issues. I skipped the thin fried tofu and daikon (the former because it seemed healthier and easier to just use regular tofu, and the latter because I’m not a huge daikon fan). I also added enoki mushrooms because Mike and I both love them.

I ended up adding a little extra soy sauce to the dish, so I would recommend serving it on the side so you can add as much as suits your taste. The fresh ginger on top is definitely a MUST!

(adapted from Kansha by Elizabeth Andoh)

3 dried shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
3 cups water
2 heads baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
16 ounces firm tofu, pressed and drained, then cut into thin, bite-size pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
6 ounces enoki mushrooms, cut into 1″ lengths
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp sake
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 sheets hoshi yuba or dried bean curd, broken into small pieces
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water
8 ounces udon noodles
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

Combine the dried mushrooms and 3 cups water in a bowl and let stand for 1 hour. Squeeze excess liquid out of mushrooms and slice thinly. Reserve the soaking liquid.

Bring a small saucepan full of water to a boil and blanch the bok choy for about 45 seconds, then plunge immediately into ice water. Squeeze out liquid and slice the greens and stems thinly.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high and cook the tofu pieces until golden on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the udon according to package directions.

Heat a large saucepan over medium. Add 1 tbsp oil and both kinds of mushrooms. Stir fry for about a minute, then sprinkle with sugar and sake and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the shiitake soaking liquid and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the carrot, tofu, mirin, and soy sauce, and simmer another 3 minutes. Add the hoshi yuba and blanched bok choy and stir well.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Stir into the vegetable soup mixture and turn the heat to high. Cook for one minute, stirring, then remove from heat and add the cooked udon. Divide among 4 bowls, topping each with a little of the grated ginger.

Eggplant and Tofu in Miso Sauce

I guess I should come clean, since Mike called me out in the comments of the last post, and publicly admit that I went to Bi-Rite Creamery twice in less than 24 hours (and for those keeping count, yes, that’s 4 scoops of ice cream in less than 24 hours. Fortunately we decided that calories don’t count on your birthday weekend.)

Sunday happened to be an awesome event in the Mission called Sunday Streets, which meant that a few blocks of Valencia and 24th Streets were closed to cars. Because we were back in the neighborhood, it just made sense to go to Bi-Rite again. This time I got brown sugar ice cream with ginger caramel swirl, and cinnamon ice cream with pieces of snickerdoodle in it. There are no words.

But about this Sunday Streets business. It was such a cool event!

Apparently about 25,000 people came out to participate, including the mayor of San Francisco!

We also tried a new (to us) and outrageously good coffee shop called Ritual (1026 Valencia, San Francisco). Mike’s co-workers raved about it and it completely lived up to the hype. My decaf latte was PERFECT! It’s kind of overrun with hipsters, but I’ll let that slide…

This weekend (and particularly our dinner at Cha-Ya) really made me want to cook more Japanese vegetarian food. For the most part, it just seems so nice and light and healthy (which is particularly important after going a little overboard on ice cream and cake). I found this recipe in Color Me Vegan, modified the ratios a little bit, and added some tofu. Over brown rice and with a side of cucumber salad, it was a great weeknight meal.

(adapted from Color Me Vegan)

makes 4-6 servings

3 large Japanese eggplants (about 12″ long), cut into french fry-sized strips
2 14 ounce blocks extra firm tofu, drained and pressed to remove excess liquid
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup white miso
6 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the eggplant strips with the sesame oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for about 6 minutes, or until softened but not falling apart. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Cut the tofu bite-sized pieces about 1/2″ thick.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wide frying pan over medium high. Add the tofu (in batches if necessary) and cook until golden, shaking the pan often. Add the eggplant.

While the tofu is cooking, combine the miso, water, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan and stir well. Bring to a simmer.

Remove the tofu, eggplant, and miso sauce from the heat and toss together. Serve over brown rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Quick Vegetarian Yakisoba

Yakisoba seems like such a good idea, but is usually swimming in grease and harboring hidden pieces of meat in between all the noodles and vegetables. It’s a shame because the basic idea is so good, but the execution usually leaves a lot to be desired. Or maybe that’s just my personal experience because the few times I’ve had it have been at mall food courts which don’t exactly rise to high culinary standards.

For this version, I used just a little bit of oil, and tofu instead of meat. I made a super simple sauce with mirin and soy sauce that contributed a nice balance of sweet and salty. I happened to have some dried Chinese yellow noodles, but fresh yakisoba would be great too. I just soaked the dried noodles for a few minutes until they were tender, and then drained and stir-fried them, but just do what the package of whichever noodles you choose tells you to do!


1/2 a small head of cabbage, cut into bite-sized squards
1 carrot, julienned
1/4 yellow onion, cut into thin strips
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and pressed then cut into small cubes
6 ounces dried yellow Chinese noodles
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tsp corn starch
a few pinches white pepper

If using dried noodles, soak or cook according to package directions. Whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, corn starch, and white pepper. Set aside

Put a few inches of water in the bottom of a large saucepan and set a steamer basket inside. Put the vegetables into the basket and place over medium heat for a few minutes, until vegetables are lightly cooked, brightly colored, and still crisp. Remove and set aside.

Heat the oil in wide skillet and add the garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds, then add the tofu cubes and cook, shaking the pan often, until golden brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add a few tsp of oil to the pan.

Drain the noodles and add to the pan you just cooked the tofu in. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring well, for about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture and tofu and toss to coat. Cook about three minutes more, then serve.

Cold Soba with Dipping Sauce

I almost always order something really similar to this any time we go out for Japanese food, but I figured there had to be a way to make it myself. Unfortunately this isn’t vegetarian (I occasionally eat fish products), but I’ve done some research and apparently you can make a substitute for bonito flakes using dried mushrooms and kombu kelp. I plan on trying that really soon and I’ll add the recipe here as soon as I do.


2 bundles (about 6 ounces) soba noodles
thinly sliced green onion
sesame seeds

dipping sauce
1 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 tbsp bonito flakes

To make the dipping sauce, boil the water, soy sauce, mirin, and bonito flakes together for about 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer and let cool completely.

Boil the noodles in a large pot of rapidly boiling water until tender (5-8 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water. Pile some noodles on a plate and sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve with a small bowl of dipping sauce on the side.

Teriyaki tofu and soba sushi rolls

I can be really, atrociously terrible at following directions, and this dinner, unfortunately, is a perfect example.

I’m not always like that though. When I worked in a lab and was doing all sorts of crazy things with DNA, using primers and different chemicals that completely intimidated me, I was the best direction-follower ever. I had to be, because I was doing someone else’s work and I really, really did NOT want to mess it up for them. When I’m baking a really complex dessert with a bunch of different components, I read through the whole recipe a bunch of times, and follow instructions to the letter. But a simple sushi roll with soba instead of rice? I thought reading the directions was kind of pointless.

This brilliant concept (which I will definitely be making again now that I know what I did wrong, comes from the fabulous vegan blog BitterSweet. Basically, you’re supposed to tie a bundle of soba noodles together at one end, boil it, then cut off the tied end and roll the bundle up into sushi. It seems so simple, but I just assumed you were supposed to tie both ends, boil, drain, cut off the string, and roll them up, starchy, clumped-together ends and all. I guess common sense isn’t really my forte. Anyway, after realizing that a bunch of the noodles were uncooked in the middle, I went back and figured out the error of my ways. I think I like sushi made with soba even more than sushi made with rice, and the addition of baked teriyaki tofu made this a complete, satisfying meal.

(inspired by BitterSweet)
1 16-ounce block extra firm nigari tofu (I used Trader Joe’s High Protein Tofu)
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-2 tsp grated ginger

sushi rolls
2 carrots, julienned
1 English cucumber, seeded and julienned
1 avocado, cut into strips
6 sheets of sushi nori, toasted (I just hold them over the low flame of a gas burner for a few seconds)
3 90g bunches of soba noodles
wasabi, soy sauce, and pickled ginger for serving

To prepare the tofu, preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a shallow baking pan. Cut the block of tofu lengthwise into strips about 1/2″ x 1/2″ by 4″. Toss them with the soy sauce, mirin, ginger, and garlic, and arrange in a single layer in the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times, until brown and firm. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the noodles, divide each bundle in half, and tie at ONE END with a piece of kitchen twine. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the bundles for about 6 minutes, or according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and let dry for a few minutes.

To assemble the sushi, cut the tied end off the noodle bundle and place the noodles on the nori. Add a few tofu sticks, some carrots, cucumber, and avocado, then roll up tightly using a sushi mat (or if you’re cheap like me, a piece of wax paper.) Slice with a very sharp knife and arrange on a plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients (you may have some tofu left over, but it’s great diced and added to salads.)

Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger.

Summer Soba

This morning almost felt like summer. It was sunny, it was warm, and I felt kind of miserable on my run because of it. I’m just not used to temperatures above about 65 when I head out in the mornings! Can’t complain though…we definitely get spoiled here.

For about the four hundredth time I’m trying to make more recipes from my cookbooks. I pulled out Japanese Home Cooking and the Summer Soba instantly jumped out at me because of the warm day we had. I love how pretty and composed the plate looks, and of course I love just about anything made with soba noodles. I deviated from the recipe in the book a little bit – I marinated the cucumbers, and baked some tempeh to add a little extra protein. I like the flexibility with recipes like this – you could put all sorts of different fresh vegetables in here and it would look and taste amazing.

(adapted from Japanese Home Cooking by Shunsuke Fukushima)

makes 2 large servings

8 ounces tempeh, thinly sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp freshly grated ginger

1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 eggs
salt and pepper
pinch sugar

3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 bundles soba noodles (about 6 ounces total)
1 sheet nori, toasted and cut into thin strips
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Prepare the tempeh: mix the soy sauce and ginger, then evenly coat the tempeh slices, cover, and chill for about 4 hours. Then place in a greased baking dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool, then cut into matchsticks.

Prepare the cucumbers: toss the sliced cucumbers with salt and sugar, then stir in the vinegar and let stand for about an hour at room temperature.

Prepare the eggs: Beat well with a pinch each sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium, add the eggs, and cook until set, then flip to cook through. Remove to cool, then cut into thin slices.

To make the dressing, mix all ingredients and set aside.

Boil the noodles just until tender, then drain and rinse with cold water. Arrange on 2 plates, then pour some of the dressing over the noodles. Arrange the avocado, cucumbers, egg, tempeh, and nori on the plate, and sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish.


Having never been to Japan, I have no idea whether or not this is authentic. A close relative of these Korean pancakes, this has a light, fluffy texture thanks to the water and small amount of flour mixed in with the egg. There are also lots of great flavors coming together, between the serrano chiles and red onions inside, and the fancied-up ketchup, nori, and sesame seeds on top.

I made this for dinner at a friend’s house and the pictures were terrible. I thought about blogging it anyway, but I know how unappealing photos can ruin any chance a reader will ever try a recipe. I was stoked when Mike asked for this for dinner only a few days later, both because it’s really fast and easy, and because it was still light out. After pulling it off the stove and adding the toppings, I took it out to my front porch, which is where the best light is in the evenings. Maybe not the perfect photo, but a whole lot better than the one I started with.

And now, my wonderful readers, I want to hear from you about your okonomiyaki, because I have a feeling this will be in the dinner rotation a lot. If you’ve got your own recipe, or ideas for toppings, please let me know in the comments!

(adapted from Asian Vegetables by Sara Deseran)

3 eggs
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups finely shredded napa cabbage
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 serrano chile, finely chopped
2 tbsp canola oil

1/3 cup ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 tbsp sake
1 tsp soy sauce

crumbled nori
toasted sesame seeds

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

To make the pancake, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the water and whisk until blended, then stir in the soy sauce, salt, flour, and vegetables.

Heat the oil in a 10″ skillet. When hot, add the egg mixture and cook until golden brown on the bottom (about five minutes). Carefully slide the pancake onto a plate, then invert so the raw side is down in the pan. Cook for another few minutes, until that side is also golden. Transfer to a serving plate, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with nori and sesame seeds. Cut into wedges to serve.

Soba with Spinach and Tofu

While I love pretty much ALL noodles, I think these buckwheat soba noodles are my favorite. I made a simple stir fry flavored with oyster sauce, and tossed it with soba for a quick and healthy dinner.

Shopping here has definitely been a big adjustment; I’ll have an idea of what I want to make, then get to the store and find that a few key ingredients just aren’t available. It makes meal planning a challenge, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon.

I couldn’t decide how to categorize this recipe, so I put it under both Chinese and Japanese, because it has elements of each.

8 ounces soba noodles
a few tsp oil (such as canola or peanut)
12 ounces firm tofu, drained and cut into thin 1″ by 1/2″ rectangles
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
about 20 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 large bunch spinach, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
pinch white pepper

Cook the soba for about 6 minutes in a large pot of rapidly boiling water.
Drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Heat about a tsp of oil in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown on all sides. (You may need to cook the tofu in two batches, depending on the size of your pan.)
Set cooked tofu aside.
Stir together the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, broth, and white pepper
Heat another teaspoon of oil in the pan over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
Add the mushrooms and oyster sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the spinach (waiting until some cooks down before adding more, if necessary), and then the tofu and stir well.
Add the noodles to heat through, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Mushroom-Miso Soba Bowls

For me, comfort food takes many forms.  I will happily dig into a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese, or I could just as easily be delighted with a bowl of miso soup.  This dinner is a nice compromise, with the hearty soba noodles, earthy flavor of miso and shiitake mushrooms, and freshness of green onions and bok choy.  It’s simple, vegetarian, and perfect for a crisp Fall evening.

(adapted from The Healthy Headonist by Myra Kornfeld)
a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms (use more if you want a stronger mushroom flavor)
3 cups boiling water
2 tbsp dark miso
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound brown button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
6 ounces soba noodles
3 bunches baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cooked, shelled edamame
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 sheet nori, toasted and cut into thin strips
Pour boiling water over mushrooms and let sit for at least half an hour.
Drain mushrooms and reserve all the soaking liquid.  Chop the mushrooms.
Mix 1/2 cup mushroom liquid with the miso in a small bowl and set aside.
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and cook the soba noodles.  Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok and add the ginger and garlic.
Stir-fry one minute, then add the bok choy and both fresh and soaked mushrooms.  Pour in the soy sauce and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
Add the bok choy, edamame, and mushroom liquid to the skillet.  Cook for about 4 minutes.
Add the soba and miso mixture and cook for another 3 minutes.
Put noodles into bowls, ladle some broth over them, and garnish with green onions and nori.

Donburi style chicken

This is a great way to cook chicken without adding any fat, and it gives the meat great flavor while keeping it tender.  Served over rice, it’s a delicious and simple meal with a nice amount of protein to keep you going. I added a lot of broth to my bowl, as you can see in the picture, but you can decide how you want to serve yours.

(from Japanese Home Cooking by Shunsuke Fukushima)
1 cup water
5 tbsp soy sauce
5 tbsp mirin
1 tsp instant dashi
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz chicken thighs, skin removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 tbsp chopped parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten 
2 cups steamed rice
1 scallion, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Place water, soy sauce, mirin, dashi and sugar in a shallow frying pan with a tight-fitting lid.
Bring to a boil, then add onion and chicken.
Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is opaque and onion is soft, 8-10 minutes.
Add parsley and gradually pour eggs over liquid in pan.  
Tilt pan so eggs cover bottom. 
Cover and cook a little longer until eggs are almost set, about 1 minute.
Remove pan from heat before eggs are completely set.
To serve, place rice in individual serving bowls and top with egg, chicken and stock mixture.
Garnish with chopped scallion.


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