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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PiTCC Goes Japanese with Nikujaga from Just One Cookbook

It's the third Wednesday of the month...and it's time for PiTCC's Favorite Dishes from Around The World!

Today, I am sharing with you a dish from the Japanese Cuisine which Ryan and I really like. I am not sure if I have told you before that Ryan worked with a Japanese company right after we passed the engineering board exam until he left for the US. He had been on several job related trips to Japan ranging from one to six months, which made him love everything about Japan most especially its friendly people, its fascinating state of the art railway system, the heated toilet seats (LOL), the huge electronic stores in Akihabara and its cuisine, of course. Though I haven't been to Japan myself (except for those stop overs in Narita Airport on the way to and from the Philippines), I have come to love Japanese food mainly because I have been influenced by Ryan. When we were still in the Philippines, we regularly ate at Japanese restaurants in the Makati area like Saisaki, Sakura, Jipan, Tokyo Tokyo, Yoshinoya and Teriyaki Boy. Gyudon, Katsudon, Tendon, Unagi Don, Takoyaki and Yakisoba became my favorite Japanese food among many others. But our featured dish for today is something that we got to eat not from a restaurant but from several parties hosted by Ryan's Japanese boss. It's called Nikujaga which is basically a dish with meat, potatoes and onions stewed in sweetened soy sauce. 
It has been years since we last had this dish. Just like in the Philippines, it's not in the menu of the Japanese restaurants we've been to here in Texas. I've tried cooking it before but I don't think it came out as authentic as it should be...there seem to be some flavors missing. I'm truly glad that through my good friend Nami, I can share with you this simple but really delicious dish and we can all learn the authentic way of cooking it. I'm sure most of you know Nami...but for those who don't, well, let me tell you that she's one of my favorite bloggers. She was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan and now lives in SF Bay Area with her Taiwanese husband and two adorable kids. She's the author and co-founder of this blog called Just One Cookbook where you can find the most authentic Japanese recipes and cooking tips. I'm truly glad to have known her! With a husband like mine who loves Japanese food so much, having Nami and her blog is truly a big help! And today, I'm so honored to have her here on PiTCC! Without further ado, let me bring you our second guest blogger for PiTCC's Favorite Dishes from Around The World series...Namiko Chen!!! 

Hi everyone!  My name is Nami and I am the author, cook, and photographer behind my blog, Just One Cookbook where I share quick and easy Japanese food and recipes.  I’m really excited to be here today to share with everyone Tina’s favorite Japanese meal, Nikujaga.

Nikujaga (Japanese: 肉じゃが) literally means “meat and potatoes”, from two of the main ingredients niku (meat) and jagaimo (potatoes). It’s the Japanese version of beef stew; however, it contains a fairly small amount of meat.  The meat is added for flavor rather than substance, just like most of Japanese cooking.  It is simmered in the classic Japanese seasonings of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Unlike Western stews, the simmering time is much shorter because nikujaga uses thinly sliced meat.  Beef is commonly used for this dish but in eastern Japan, pork is more popular.
Nikujaga is a comfort food for the Japanese and it is a very popular meal cooked at home.  It is often considered as “mother’s taste” meal (“ofukuro no aji” in Japanese) as each household cooks it just slightly different.  The food itself is very simple and homely, and the warm bowl of your mother’s nikujaga brings one back to their roots.  It is probably the most popular dish among all kinds of nimono (Japanese stewed dishes). 

Thank you Tina for having me here today and I hope you and your readers will enjoy this dish!  Now let’s get cooking!

Prep Time: 15     Cook Time: 15     Yield: Serves 4
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced meat (usually beef or pork)
  • 1 pkg shirataki noodles
  • A couple of snow peas/green beans/green peas for decoration, accenting green color.
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cup (500ml) dashistock
  • 4 Tbsp. mirin
  • 4 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. sake
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

1. Make dashistock.
2. Cut the onion into 10-12 wedges.  Peel and cut the carrot lengthwise in half and chop into rolling wedges.  
3. Cut the potatoes into 4 wedges and smooth the edge of potatoes.  If the pieces have sharp edges then they are likely to break into pieces during the cooking process from bumping into each other.  We call this Japanese cutting technique mentoriSoak the potatoes in water to prevent from changing color.
4. Cut the sliced meat in half.  Rinse and drain shirataki noodles.
5. Remove string from snow peas and cook them in boiling water for 30 seconds and take them out. 

6. Then cook shirataki noodles in the boiling water for 1 minute and cut in half.  
7. In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat and sauté the onion.  

8. When the onion is coated with oil, add the meat and cook until no longer pink.
9. Add the potatoes, carrots, and shirataki noodles.
10. Add dashi stock and Seasonings bring to a boil.  
11. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium and skim off the scum.  Make sure all the ingredients are flat and most of ingredients are covered by the soup. 
12. Place otoshibuta and simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked.  Otoshibuta is necessary to maintain the shape of the vegetables being stewed.  Do not mix the ingredients while cooking; Otoshibuta will help the flavor circulate automatically.
13. Turn off the heat and discard the otoshibuta.  Let it stand until 30 minutes before serving.  The flavors will soak into the ingredients while cooling down.  If you don’t have time for this, it’s also okay.
14. When you heat it up again, pour the soup on top of the ingredients with a spoon a couple of times. Check the flavors for the last time.  When it’s almost ready, toss in the snow peas to warm them up.  When ingredients are heated through it’s ready to serve.

Note: Nikujaga tastes even better the second day so don’t worry if you can’t finish all the food.
~ ~ ~ o o o ~ ~ ~

My sincerest thanks to Nami for this very authentic Nikujaga recipe! 

Hope you will all try this Japanese dish...I'm telling you, you will love it!  For more authentic Japanese recipes, be sure to visit Just One Cookbook! You'll be truly amaze with Nami's cooking techniques and food styling!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!!