Saturday, November 27, 2010

Takogohan (octopus rice dish)

Hey hey, it`s Saturday, baby! We`re planning to go to the city this afternoon, so I seem to have enough time to write this up and cook our lunch. I was hoping we could just have lunch/dinner outside like a real date, but I`ve spent too much yesterday for groceries. When I mentioned about dining out, his face was saying, "But what are you going to do with the food piling up in the fridge??"
Lesson for me: don`t buy any food at all on Friday night if I want to have lunch date on weekend.

By the way, this isn`t our lunch menu today, as I haven`t started anything with it.
This octopus rice bowl is one of so many kinds of what so-called takikomigohan (炊き込みご飯), or Japanese rice dish. It`s basically cooking your rice with other food ingredients. They can be vegetable, fish (grilled fish too!), or meat. Are they raw? Well, they can be both. I have no worries using raw vegetables in this dish as they get cooked very easily. But for fish and meat (I`ve never tried meat, though), I think I`ll cook them first before tossing it into the rice. I used boiled octopus for the rice. In Japanese, octopus is tako and rice is gohan, hence the name takogohan. This one is really easy and quick to prepare so I guess you might want to give it a try.

Here I have store-bought..or store-boiled octopus. I`ve never boiled octopus by myself, ever. I don`t want to either. I`ll say the same thing if you give me perfectly alive lobster to cook. I`m a complete chicken. In case you never tried one, octopus has a chewy texture, which probably quite similar with squid, although with less flavor. But I still love it!
So, cut up the octopus into chunks. Alright, I`ll use word "tako" instead from now on as it`s much quicker to write.

Start with washing and rinsing rice, add the tako chunks, garlic (or not. I have no self control), lots and lots of ginger, and dry shiitake mushroom.

Depend on how much rice you use, pour in water as recommended for your rice cooker. I usually bring up the water a bit higher (just a bit) from the marker line I supposed to refer. I think this will help the cooker to cook rice despite the amount of non-rice ingredients I used. It`s alright to just follow the marker lines, though. It`s better to have your rice ended up dryer than what you wanted, because you can add some water and recook it.
For seasoning, add soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Mirin too, if you want it to be slightly sweet. Lightly stir up the water.

Set it in the rice cooker and turn it on.

As I want a side dish for the rice, I prepared another quick and simple meal.
Fried eggplants. This is one of my MOST favorite vegetables. I`m sorry I don`t have nice step-by-step pictures to show you, but really, this is very simple to make.
Cut up the eggplants (any shapes you want, but no need to peel off the skin) and brown them on a frying pan. I simply sauteed them, but you can also quickly deep frying them.Set them aside.
For the sauce, mix soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and ginger (paste or powder will do great) in a small bowl.Place the eggplants on a plate and glaze the eggplants with this sauce. As I really love this sweet and savory sauce, I just pour it all over the eggplants.
Sprinkle benito shavings (katsuobushi) on top. If you have seaweed flakes, add them too. 
Side dish is done!

Here is another picture of fried eggplants I made before. With more sauce and fried garlic. I think I fried my eggplants longer in the picture above, that`s why their skins got so wrinkled up. But both tasted good!

Rice is done too! This is how it looks when you open the lid. Oh, I forgot to tell you one thing. As the rice will swell up during the cooking, the ingredients on the surface will rise up too. So, don`t cook the rice with the maximum amount designed for your cooker. If your cooker is a 3-cup cooker, try using 2.5 cup rice top, like what I did here. You can see how full it becomes when everything cooked up.

Now, final work. Mix it using your rice spatula so the flavor and ingredients completely combined.

Serve the rice in a bowl and place some eggplants on top.

Enjoy the rice, the eggplants, and your weekend!

For rice:
Shiitake mushroom
Garlic (optional)
Soy sauce

For eggplants:
Soy sauce
Oyster sauce
Sesame oil
Ginger paste or powder
Benito shavings (katsuobushi)
Seaweed flakes

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kimchi nabe (kimchi steamboat dish)

It`s getting really cold here at my place. My feet and toes aren`t happy. My stomach keeps screaming like every hour. Time for hot soup. Rephrase: Hot and spicy soup. All the photos below are actually taken a while ago and I am craving for it again now. 

So I made nabe and am planning to have it again very very soon. Nabe means Japanese hotpot or steamboat dishes. People usually have nabe at home or at parties during autumn till winter. Nabe dishes are very interesting and fun to make because of the almost unlimited varieties of options for ingredients used. Another fun part is nabe is usually served in one big clay pot or iron cast placed over stove with low heat to keep the soup warm with everyone gathering surrounding it and shares from the same pot, with individual bowls of course.
Don`t worry, even if you`re living alone, it doesn`t necessarily mean you can`t enjoy this stomach-, body-, and soul-warming nabe. You deserve this greatness.

Now, first thing first. Nabe needs dashi, or Japanese soup stock. Four big items used in combination in preparing dashi are dried shiitake mushroom, kombu seaweed (kelp), katsuobushi (benito), and niboshi (small dried sardines). Dashi preparation also calls for soy sauce, mirin (Japanese sweet wine), and vinegar. When I made my nabe, I only had shiitake mushroom and kombu in hands. I also don`t usually add mirin/wines in my cooking routines for personal reasons. But to me shiitake mushroom and kombu are good enough to make a great nabe. If you happen to have all those ingredients, you surely can go experimenting to find your own best version of dashi

And here comes my disclaimer: This picture below is an additional step I made.
If you have read my other posts, you would perfectly notice how chili and garlic define my life. Just keep reading this, you`ll understand why I added chili and garlic other than my "craziness" reason.
If you want to stick to the common Japanese nabe, please skip to the next step.

Saute chili and garlic. Because they`re beautiful and loving each other. I can smell love in the air.

Now meet dashi stars: kombu seaweed and shiitake mushroom. Smell them. Hhhhmmmm....
I figured how to use them simply by reading the directions written on the packages. For shiitake mushroom, they need to be soaked in cold water for like 20-30 mins or more. Slices take shorter period to get rehydrated than whole dried ones do. For kombu, lightly clean off some dirt by wiping it with kitchen paper before tossing it in water. See the white parts on these kombu? Those are amino acid that gives the good and famous umami flavor, so don`t overdo the cleaning. To be honest, I still don`t know which is dirt and which is the good white, but I just wipe it to make me feel better. LOL. But please let me know if you know some more details, I beg you.

Another confession from me. I didn`t (and don`t) exactly soak the shiitake for the recommended period. My stomach (and his!) and I have a low level of patience.  So I just toss the mushroom and kombu in right away after I`m done sauteing garlic and chili and pouring in water.

 Next is fish. Yes, I used cod fish (it`s called "tara" in Japanese). It`s a popular choice for fish. You can use meat instead if you want.

There you go, honey.  Keep the soup simmering

Finally, kimchi.  It`s RED, spicy, crunchy and soft (oh..yum!) pickled white cabbages, the traditional side dish from Korea. So this is another reason why I sauted garlic and chili. Kimchi has them too!
I-love-kimchi. Shoot. I`m salivating now. I need tissue paper.

Together with kimchi, add some more vegetables to give this nabe extra fibers and nutrients. I used nira (garlic chives) and ennoki mushrooms. I can feel my waistline getting smaller already.

When the fish is cooked and the vegetables get wilted, season with soy sauce, fish sauce (this is also additional choice from me), more chili if you want it spicier, salt, and pepper.
Rice? Of course you can have it too. But this time I`m perfectly happy slurping this nabe only.

Oh, and as you might notice, I use my regular cooking pot. I don`t have nabe-specialized pots, but I don`t think it should stop me for making nabe. It shouldn`t stop you either. Trust me.

Dried shiitake mushroom
Dried kombu seaweed (kelp)
Cod fish
Nira (garlic chives)
Enoki mushroom
Soy sauce

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hainanese-ish chicken rice

Do you know three things I love the most? Garlic My husband, garlic, and procrastinating. I`ve learnt the last one very well when I was in grad school. Turns out I`m still pretty good at it. I know, it`s not something to be proud of. That`s why I forced my self to sit here and start typing before I started wondering why I can`t be more productive. Two posts in a day! So not typical of me.

Well well, still related to my previous post about Malaysian dishes, this time I`m going to show you how to cook my Hainanese-ish chicken rice. For the XXXth time, I must remind you that this recipe is somehow not the real Hainanese chicken rice. It`s either I had to or I wanted to modify the ingredients and the way to cook it. I was happy with the result, though. My husband loved it too (well, he kind of had to, lol), So let me share our happiness with you.

Before I go further, I think it`s better for you to know that it takes 3 big parts in preparing this chicken rice. Boiling the chicken, cooking the rice, and preparing the sauce. However, I, for so many (laziness-related) reasons, only worked on part 1 and 2. I would show you more on this later on.

Spice paste. Now I just realized that I mostly start my cooking rituals with sauteing spice paste. And I also realized that that`s exactly the part that makes me happy. The aroma, the sizzling sound, the stirring..oh..wonderful. The only downside is when my hair ends up smelling like a shrimp paste. Well, that`s his problem, not mine.

So, for the paste, from what I got from here and there, it only needs ginger and spring onion. I was like ,"What?!"  as my mind was anticipating with a long list of spices. But I just had to trust those recipes I guess. But, due to my crazy addiction on garlic, I include some of it (a lot, actually) in my paste. See? Two spices plus one. So simple as it is!

When the spices start smelling wonderful, dump in chicken and pour in some water just a little bit upper the top of the chicken. I was planning to serve this chicken rice like the real one, but then I just thought, oh I`ll just go with shredded chicken. It`s easier to serve (I`m terrible at cutting) and store the leftover. So, I cooked the chicken in a pressure cooker. This saves me a lot of energy and time.
So, set the cooker`s lid on, and let it cook.

While the chicken is being cooked, watch your favorite TV shows. Or update your Facebook status. Or wash the dishes. Or (nicely!) ask your husband/boyfriend to wash them. There`s nothing you can do until your chicken is ready, really. You need the chicken stock to cook the rice anyway.
Alright, if you insist, you can start preparing the rice. First, you need to saute a garlic and ginger paste. Then, throw it in together with washed (wash and rinse it, please) uncooked rice in a rice cooker. I also used shiitake mushroom and yuba. Trust me, nothing can go wrong with all those ingredients. 

Now, the chicken is ready now. First thing to do is take out the chicken and set them aside.

Then, using a laddle and strainer, bring the chicken stocks carefully into your rice cooker. I wanted to skim off the excess fat floating on top of the stock, so I used that strainer. Don`t worry about loosing the spice goodness, because the stock has a lot of chicken and spice flavors and you already added freshly prepared spice on the rice. Don`t forget the salt but not too much, because you still can adjust it later when the rice is cooked. Lightly stir up the rice, then turn the cooker on.
By the way, save some of the chicken stock for serving.

And back to the chicken. I was holding this bowl while watching TV with him. Boy, I`m tired.

So this is to show you why I`m so crazy about my pressure cooker. I only used my wooden spatula to break them apart very, very easily.
Season the chicken with sesame oil (very important!) and ginger powder. Salt and pepper too, because I did not include any salt at all during the boiling process. I completely forgot about the salt, but it turned out alright, because this way I can control the salt easier. Duh! This is me talking about low sodium food. 

And I was carried away being a chicken shredder. Keep adjusting the taste while shredding it up. When you`re done, set it aside.

When your rice cooker says, "Your rice is ready, Princess", open it, and quickly stir it up.  Adjust the taste too.

 Arrange the chicken on top of rice and serve with the soup.
 And what is that red thing that suddenly appears? So this is the reason why I didn`t include the sauce. I have my shrimp and tofu balado (spicy tomato gravy) for its side dish.
I must say that the balado a bit overpowered the chicken rice due to the heat and sweetness, but other than that, we really enjoyed the rice! I overate.

For chicken:
Ginger (whole and powder)
Spring onion
Sesame oil
Salt and pepper

For rice:
Shiitake mushroom
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Curry laksa

I guess I haven`t told you that I had a one-year living experience in Kuala Lumpur. It (aka. the food) was awesome! Although Malaysian and Indonesian food basically share similar hints of taste, I kept enjoying new sensation in my mouth when I had my meals from the restaurants and food hawkers. Nasi lemak was my DAILY breakfast for a year. Chicken rice was my lunch. Roti chanay was my afternoon snacks. And curry laksa. And grilled stingray fish with sambal. And SUGARCANE drinks! I happily and undoubtedly gained weight very quick that time.

So, in part of my attempts in rebuilding the Malaysian food fiesta in my life, I made curry laksa. I was lucky to come across a laksa recipe from Almost Bourdaine. I fell in love with her gorgeous laksa photo and decided to give it a try. The thing is, I don`t have some of the ingredients, so I just omitted them. If you never have any laksa before and are curious with the taste, I recommend you to use her recipe for a real reference. But if you don`t mind following what I did, have a look and feel free to make your own version of laksa.

Start with blending garlic, onion (shallot if you have), chili, dried shrimp (mine was Japanese dried shrimp) and ginger into paste.

Saute the paste and add a tsp of shrimp paste (or more, or not at all).

Stir in chili powder, curry powder, coriander, and lemon grass. Smells good already?

Now, throw in boiled and shredded chicken into the paste. Tell you what, whenever I need shredded chicken, my pressure cooker comes to rescue. Just cook the chicken for 20 mins and another 15 mins to release the pressure and break the meat apart effortlessly with a wooden spatula. It`s perfectly shredded. Don`t forget to reserve the stock. It`s precious.

Now pour in the stock through a strainer to filter out the nasties. Yes, I put ginger when I cook the chicken as I always find it gives a wonderful smell.

After the chicken stock, pour in coconut milk. Stir up. Oh, I added some mushrooms here. I have a mushroom addiction too. It`s cute, delicious, healthy, and CHEAP. No reason for not liking it.

Now meet YUBA. Yuba is a dried byproduct from tofu making process, other than okara. From what I read, yuba is formed like a thin film on the surface when the bean is being boiled. It contains the bean fat that floats on top of the water and thus you can feel the oily part of yuba when you touch it.
The real curry laksa recipe calls for tofu cubes, but I happened to have this yuba in my fridge. Why not??

Throw in some yuba to the soup and they will instantly soften like curdled egg white.

Season the soup with salt and pepper and adjust the spiciness. When you`re done with it, turn off the heat and set the soup aside. Now continue with preparing the mee, or mie, or noodle. I used ramen noodles and bean sprouts just like the original recipe.

But  I substituted the vermicelli with this. White konnyaku noodle. Hopefully this will lessen off the calories. Can it??

Arrange egg noodle, bean sprouts, and white konnyaku in a bowl.

Laddle the hot soup, garnish with scallion, and here is the curry laksa. All goodness in one bowl.


For spice paste:
Dried shrimp

Curry powder
Shrimp paste
Coconut milk
Salt and pepper

Chicken, boiled and shredded
Chicken stock
Shimeji mushrooms
Tofu or yuba
Ramen noodles
Vermicelli or konnyaku
Bean sprouts
Scallion for garnishing

Friday, November 19, 2010


So my blots showed no signal whatsoever. For the X-th time. This isn`t my first time error and trialing in experiments. But still I feel exhausted with the constant "nothingness" moments. Good thing is, my petite kitchen is always there for me. To be honest, when I got home pretty tired, I really can`t be bothered with putting something on the stove. Our lifesaving store always welcomes us anyway. Change my clothes and go to bed are on my top list. But when I still have any energy and willpower left, I`m always keen on cooking. If some people need a glass of wine when they get home at night, I need to saute my garlic and chili. I wonder if I can get these wonderful aroma from a scented candle. Man, how cool is that! I`m going to stop blabbering because there is a more fun thing to talk about.
We`re actually part time vegans. But only for a very super duper special occasion. An occasion where we have tempeh in our freezer. Being Indonesian, having tempeh isn`t something special, really. But being Indonesian living abroad, that`s another story. Lucky for me though, there is an Indonesian who owns a tempeh factory in Japan. Thank you, Mr. Rusto! I adore you!

This time I made these two dishes in one post because the preparation is quite similar (translation: both require sambal). They are pressed tempeh with sambal and stir-fried tempeh with wakame seaweed.

Alright, guess I`d like to start with pressed tempeh first. Slice the tempeh and fry it until golden brown. The thicker your tempeh slices are, the more oil you need. Your call.

When you`re done frying, set them aside.

And here comes my lover. Sambal. With tomato puree. I hate to say that I didn`t shoot the previous step in making sambal. But these are what I usually use: chili (of course!), garlic, onion (shallot if you`re lucky to have them), ginger, and kencur (or not). After making those into spice paste, continue with sauteeing until fragrant. Add powdered chilli to boost the redness.It always takes extra effort to make sambal with dried chilli looks like a real sambal with fresh chilli. 

And here is the other star. Shrimp paste. I love this Thai shrimp paste for its readiness. Just for a quick hint, especiallly if you`re a first timer, shrimp paste has a very very very strong smell and taste. Like durian and stinky beans, it`s either you like it, or hate it. So, to decide whether you use it or not, smell, and taste it. If you aren`t happy, put it back and quickly pass the paste to your (South East Asian) friends. They will love you more and more.

But if your tummy growls after tasting it, add the paste to the spice while sauteeing. Mine is growling loudly now just talking about it.

After the shrimp paste, prepare tomato puree and add it into the sauteed spices.

Stir up...oh I use kaffir lime leaves too. Season with fish sauce, salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar.

Now this sambal looks done to me.

Next, place some fried tempeh on a plate, spread the sambal over, and...

Get your weapon. No, get your pestle. I use my (new-unused) wooden pestle, hence the wrap covering as I hate to see it gets greasy. It just came to me like a year later that I could have just wrap the pestle instead of covering the tempeh. Duh.
In a traditional and right way to do, these are all done on a stone mortar and pestle. But this is me living in a FarAwayLand. So grab anything you think you can use to make the tempeh flattened.

Now they`re ready for you. Quick get your rice! Have I told you I can be a vegan with tempeh and sambal??

And the other dish. If you have extra tempeh. Dice them and fry until golden brown.

Stir-fry with sambal.

Wakame seaweed. This is how dried wakame looks like. Blackish dark green and really dry.

Soak them in water for 5 minutes or until they swell up and turn to brighter green. Throw in the rehydrated wakame to the tempeh and sambal.

Stir up...

And you`re done! 

Spice paste for sambal:

chili powder, optional
shrimp paste, optional
fish sauce
tomato, pureed
lime leaves
salt pepper to taste
sugar, a pinch (or depends on how sweet you want it to be)

tempe, fried
wakame seaweed, rehydrated