Hijiki Seaweed and Carrots

Every so often you find that your cooking is in a rut and that you regurgitate the same recipes again and again. If you need a change of pace or are looking for healthier food alternatives I would, without a doubt, recommend Japanese food.

There is no sense in me going on about its health benefits. The beauty of Japanese women speaks for itself. Their delicious ultra healthy diet bestows them with lustrous hair, perfect skin and thin frames. In Asian hotels I do try and catch a glimpse of what they eat for breakfast: miso soup, fish or omelettes and am quick to hide my naughty pain-au-chocolat and bacon.

Dalian has a population of about 6,000 Japanese people so you are always bound to find good Japanese restaurants and ingredients. Jiu Guang has a great selection of Japanese style meats and ingredients. It’s pricey, but worth it unless you are an ace at meat chopping and slicing.

My Japanese pantry contains the following: miso paste of various colors and flavors, sake, mirin, wasabi, pickled ginger, soba, tofu, ichimi togarashi and seaweeds like hijiki and wakame.

With great speed and little equipment you can prepare most Japanese dishes. A bowl of miso with clams or tofu and seaweed is never more than 10 minutes away. Chicken teriyaki, a dish adored by children the world over, can be made in a flash.

In Japan, fish is revered and eaten in many ways from baked in salt to sushi. Rice, like in China, is a staple and vegetables accompany every meal. What makes Japan distinct is an emphasis on aesthetic harmony that compared to other countries is a critical part of food culture. The food is presented in a myriad of plates in all shapes, colors and sizes. Meals are also balanced by containing the five flavors: sour, salty, sweet, bitter and spicy. If you fall in love with Japanese food like me do rush to the top of floor of theTea Market and get yourself cheap Japanese bowls and dishes from the dusty and messy restaurant supply store there.

Japanese cold dishes are easy, beautiful and can be made ahead.

3 Salads

Tofu with bonito flakes and green onion

Ingredients

  • 1 block of silken tofu
  • 1 green onion thinly sliced
  • ½ cup of bonito flakes
  • 2 tsp. grated ginger
  • soy sauce

Cut the tofu into 4 portions or smaller if you desire.

Put in individual plates and sprinkle with the ginger, green onion and bonito flakes.

Drizzle with the soy sauce.

Hijiki with carrots

  • 1 cup of dried hijiki
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 2 small carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup of dashi (bonito stock)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sugar

Soak the hijiki for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse. In a wok add vegetable oil and stir fry hijiki until soft. Add carrots and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Add bonito stock and simmer until carrots are tender for about 10 minutes depending on size of carrots. Add mirin, sugar and soy sauce.

Healthy Japan

Spinach with sesame paste

Ingredients

  • 300 grs of spinach
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame paste
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of dash (bonito stock)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Bring salted water to a boil and add the spinach. Boil for a minute. Rinse with cold water and squeeze firmly and cut into small sections. Mix sesame paste, sugar, dash and soy sauce to make dressing. Mix with spinach and serve. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.