Seaweed is an important part of the Japanese diet, from sushi making to simple stocks and salads. Here is a list of the seaweeds that I regularly use for cooking and that you can find in my recipes.
Kombu (kelp) seaweed
It’s filled with umami (the fifth taste) and one of the main ingredients used to make Japanese cooking stock (dashi). It’s also used for salads and stews. Kelp seaweed can be found along the coast of Ireland.
Nori is best known outside of Japan for wrapping sushi rolls and onigiri (Japanese rice balls). Nori can be bought as roasted seaweed sheets or milled (aonori). This type of seaweed is relatively easy to find in most supermarkets. Once opened, nori sheets need to be stored in an airtight container or they will lose their crispy texture. Ao-nori (milled nori) is often sprinkled over dishes such as okonomiyaki and yakisoba just before serving.
Wakame can be bought as small dried pieces. It is added to miso soup and salads. Be careful how much dried wakame you add to a dish as these tiny pieces of seaweed expand once they are in water.
This is a reddish-brown seaweed that you can easily find along the coast of Ireland. It is packed with vitamins and minerals. It can be used in cooking and baking.
The first thing to learn before you start cooking Japanese food at home is how to wash and cook Japanese rice properly. Click here to see my post on washing and cooking Japanese rice.
To understand the importance of rice in the Japanese diet you only need to look at the word ‘gohan’, which means both meal and rice. A typical Japanese home-cooked meal always includes a bowl of rice accompanied by soup and several other communal dishes, including vegetables, fish and meat, to give a nutritionally balanced meal.
I lived in a rural village called Nishiyama on the western coast of Japan for two years. It was surrounded by endless rice fields and mountains. There I got to truly experience the importance of rice in Japanese society. I remember one neighbour who warmly welcomed me to Nishiyama village with gifts of his own harvested rice and seasonal vegetables. I became good friends with him and his wife, and learned so much from them about Japanese food and culture. One day they brought me along to their rice field to watch their son plant rice seeds. After witnessing the hard work involved in planting, cultivating and harvesting rice, I gained a deeper appreciation for this sacred grain.
At home I prefer to serve rice in small Japanese-style bowls rather than on plates, as it’s easier to control portion sizes this way. The concept of communal eating and the use of chopsticks during eating also help control the amount of food eaten during a Japanese meal, without people having to make a conscious effort to do so.
Kombu & Shiitake Dashi (Kelp & Shiitake stock/broth)
Makes 1 litre
1 litre water
20g dried kombu (kelp) – a piece about the size of a postcard
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Put 1 litre of cold water in a large saucepan.
2 Add the kombu and shiitake mushrooms to the water and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes. If you have time leave to soak for a few hours or overnight (in this case, place in the fridge). This will fill the water with the goodness and umami from both the seaweed and the mushrooms.
3 Heat the water until it comes to the boil and then remove the kombu and mushrooms immediately.
4 This can be stored in the fridge for about 3 days, or you can freeze it.
Tip This is an ideal dashi for vegetarians.
Edamame are young soybeans in a pod. I loved this popular snack when I first moved to Japan as a student, as they are really cheap to buy and tasty, and go surprisingly well with beer. Generally, edamame can be found in the frozen section of Asian speciality stores or larger supermarkets. They are sold in the pod and also out of the pod. I prefer using edamame in the pod when serving as a simple snack or finger food and then using edamame out of the pod for when I’m making a dish with them.
To cook frozen pre-cooked edamame, place them in a large bowl and completely cover with boiling water. Leave for a few minutes, then drain. Fresh raw edamame should be cooked in a saucepan of boiling water for about 5 minutes and then drained.
Serve edamame with an empty bowl to dispose of the pods. Remember you can’t eat the pods! Check to see if the edamame have been pre-salted or not and then season to your liking with freshly ground sea salt.
To eat edamame simply pop the beans out of the pod using either your hands or your mouth. To add a nice kick to your cooked edamame sprinkle with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) or just cayenne pepper.
This is so easy to make, uses very few ingredients and is filled with flavour.
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
cooked Japanese white rice (1 rice-cooker-measured cup of uncooked rice, 160g)
soy sauce to season
sesame oil to season
shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) to serve
1 In a non-stick frying pan heat a generous amount of vegetable oil over a medium to high heat and add the garlic.
2 Fry the garlic until slightly browned and crispy, then remove from the pan, place on a small plate and set aside.
3 Add the cooked rice to the garlic-infused oil still sitting in the base of the frying pan and fry until the rice is evenly covered in the oil and hot. Add the garlic.
4 Drizzle a small amount of soy sauce and sesame oil over the rice and mix well. Take off the heat and divide between two plates.
5 Using the same frying pan, add more oil if necessary and put over a medium to high heat.
6 Crack the eggs into the frying pan and cook to your liking (preferably leave the egg yolk runny).
7 Place one fried egg on each plate on top of the rice. 8 Sprinkle shichimi togarashi over the egg and rice to
This is one of my favourite summer recipes, it’s quick and easy to make at home. You don’t need an ice-cream maker for this recipe and it takes about five minutes to make. So give it a try and I’m sure you’ll be experimenting with different flavoured ice creams once you see first-hand the rewards of making your own.
2 tablespoons ingredient matcha powder, mixed with about 4 tablespoons water
500ml double cream
300ml condensed milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 Using a fork or a small whisk, mix the matcha powder and water together until all lumps are dissolved. Set aside.
2 Whip the cream until soft peaks form.
3 Stir in the condensed milk, lemon juice and matcha mix using a large spoon. Mix well together.
4 Transfer the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.