Thursday, 8 July 2010

Harumi's summer: Rice bowl with stir-fried veggies & teriyaki chicken

I must not buy cookbooks and foodie magazines, I must not buy cookbooks and foodie magazines, I must not buy...

And the reason I must not buy them is that I have been asked by the landlady to move out of my rented apartment after 15 years, as she wants to move in! I really don't know who she thinks she is! It is a terrible imposition, this not being able to buy cookbooks and--- (you get the picture).

I know it in my mind that I need to be shedding rather than adding to my foodie hoard, but heart wants what it wants. All of which is to say, I couldn't resist the latest edition of Haru-mi magazine, Harumi Kurihara's eponymous quarterly featuring, this time, izakaya-style recipes for summer.

Surprisingly, summer cooking in Japan does not necessarily mean light food. The humidity and high temperatures here can really zap the energy, and quite often people want a hearty meal to get them through the dog days of summer. Grilled eel is a case in point: Some enterprising eel purveyor back in the 1800s hit upon the idea of flogging his oil-rich catch as just the thing for boosting flagging energy levels during the summer. And just like that, a connection was made between eel eating and Doyo no ushi no hi (the hottest day of summer by the traditional Japanese calender; July 26 this year).

But I digress.

As I was saying, Japanese people often seek out substantial, well-seasoned food when the temperatures soar, so it is no surprise that quite a few of the dishes in the summer edition of Haru-mi are fairly hearty. This rice bowl being a case in point.

With a soy-and-sugar seasoned mince topping AND slices of teriyaki chicken, you might expect this to be stodgy, but the herbs and lemon keep this meal-in-a-bowl on the right side of the line.

The recipe does require some Japanese groceries, so do read it through first.

-- Mirin is a sweet sake used extensively in Japanese cooking. If you can't get it, you could try this substitute, just a plain sugar syrup or a dash of sugar at a pinch (but I wouldn't recommend this in this recipe).
--Katakuriko (dogtooth violet or more commonly potato starch) is used for thickening sauces and, as in this recipe, to give a distinctive mouthfeel.

On the other hand, you won't need store-bought teriyaki sauce for this recipe. Yay!

Rice bowl with stir-fried veggies & teriyaki chicken

For the ground meat topping

200g beef or pork mince
2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar

For the stir-fried veggies
100 g bean shoots, roots removed
1/2 small zucchini, cut into 4 cm long batons
1 small red (bell) pepper, halved and cut into thin slices
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp powdered chicken stock
salt & pepper

For the teriyaki chicken
4 chicken fillets
salt & pepper
Katakuriko or cornflour (cornstarch), for dusting
2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tsp sugar

steamed rice
lemon halves
coriander leaves, mint leaves and toasted sesame seeds (optional) to garnish

1 Make the ground meat topping. Heat Japanese soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a small pot, add the mince and stir, breaking up with bamboo cooking chopsticks, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow the meat to absorb the remaining liquid.

2 Prepare the bean shoots, zucchini and red pepper.

3 Make the teriyaki chicken. Remove any fibrous parts from the meat, place between layers of cling film and flatten with a rolling pin [Saffron: lazy folk, like me, can just flatten the fillets right on the chopping board with the heel of their hand (I won't tell, if you don't)]. Cut each slice in three width wise. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dust each piece with katakuriko or cornflour. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry chicken on both sides. Remove from the pan.

4 Wipe out the frying pan and bring the Japanese soy sauce, mirin and sugar to a boil. When it becomes glossy, add the cooked chicken and toss well to coat. Remove from the pan.

5 Heat a little more oil in the pan and toss the zucchini and red peppers until slightly softened. Add the bean shoots and toss until heated through. Add powdered chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste.

6 Place a single serving of rice in each of 4 domburi or pasta bowls. Top each bowl with a layer of vegetables and a layer of the ground meat topping, sprinkle with coriander and mint leaves, and place the chicken slices on top, sprinkling over any teriyaki sauce that remains. Squeeze lemon over and garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.


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