With Tokyo set to be the official host of the Olympics in 2020, interest in the city as a tourist destination is higher than ever. If you can’t make it to Japan for the games in person, you can still discover the wonders of Japanese cuisine at home thanks to Tim Anderson’s Tokyo Stories (£26, Hardie Grant). Taking you on a culinary tour of the Japanese capital, this brightly illustrated book features more than 80 recipes, from street food (Onigiri filled rice balls) and traditional home cooking (teriyaki tofu and hijiki patties) to Japanese food with an international twist (ebikatsu burger) and experimental dishes found in high-end hotel bars (lemon shio ramen). It’s a treat for your tastebuds and your kitchen shelf.
The below recipes are extracted from Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, £26) Photography © Nassima Rothacker.
JAPANESE CURRY-FILLED SAVOURY DOUGHNUTS
If something on a London restaurant menu was described as ‘katsu curry doughnut,’ it would be a rather novel thing. In Tokyo, just such an item has been around for nearly a century. In 1927 a baker named Toyoharu Tanaka began selling filled and fried ‘Western bread’, and it’s likely that kare pan was born from this. Today, curry pan is ubiquitous – every conbini sells a decent version and they even appear in school lunches, but you can also get very nice ones made by bakers or curry restaurants. It is best to make the curry the day before you need it, so you can chill it thoroughly. You will need a probe thermometer for this one.
MAKES 6 DOUGHNUTS
For the curry
15g (½ oz) butter
½ small onion, diced
10g (½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
10g (½ oz) curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
120ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) vegetable stock
½ carrot, peeled and diced
80g (3 oz) cauliflower, cut into small pieces
20g (¾ oz/scant ¼ cup) peas
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ketchup
Hot chilli sauce, to taste (optional)
For the dough
5g (1 teaspoon) instant yeast
60ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) lukewarm milk
2 large eggs, beaten
250g (9 oz/2 cups) strong white bread flour
50g (2 oz/heaped ⅓ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
3g (½ teaspoon) salt
15g (½ oz/1 tablespoon) caster (superfine) sugar
80g (3 oz) butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water or milk
40g (1½ oz) panko
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying (about 1.5 litres/52 fl oz/6 cups)
To make the curry, melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the flour, curry powder and garam masala, then cook the roux for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the carrot, cauliflower and peas and cook until tender, stirring frequently to ensure the sauce doesn’t catch.
Stir in the soy sauce, ketchup and chilli sauce, if using, then remove from the heat and chill thoroughly.
To make the dough, stir together the yeast and milk until the yeast dissolves, then stir the mixture into the eggs. Place the flours, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl (use an electric mixer with a dough hook, if you have one) and mix lightly, then add the liquid ingredients. Mix by hand or on a low speed for 2 minutes, then turn the speed up to medium and mix for another 7 minutes, or knead on a floured surface for 15 minutes. Add the butter and knead or mix for a further 5 minutes until no chunks of butter remain and the dough is very smooth and soft. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Roll the balls out into rounds about 10cm (4 in) across, then flatten out the edges a little (each round should be a little bit thicker at the centre). Place a big spoonful of curry in the centre of each round, then fold over and press the edges together firmly to tightly seal in the curry (if they open even a little in the oil, the curry will come gushing out). Crimp the sealed edges of each doughnut using a fold-and-roll motion like making a pasty, then turn the doughnuts onto a lightly oiled tray, sealed side down. Transfer to the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour.
Place the panko on a tray or plate. Brush each doughnut with the egg wash, then roll through the panko. Cover the doughnuts loosely in cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1–2 hours, or until they have nearly doubled in size.
Heat the oil to 160°C (320°F) and carefully lower the doughnuts into the oil, 2 or 3 at a time, sealed-side down. After a few seconds, flip the doughnuts over so the seam is now at the top (this will help prevent them from over-inflating, which causes the bread to be too hollow). Fry for 8 minutes, turning frequently, until they are golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before serving.
LAYERED PANCAKE OF NOODLES AND VEGETABLES
Okonomiyaki, the savoury pancake filled with ingredients of the customer’s choosing, is mostly associated with Osaka, to the endless ire of people from Hiroshima, who have their own unique style of okonomiyaki. The Hiroshima style is sometimes called ‘Hiroshima-yaki’ to differentiate it, but nothing annoys Hiroshimaites more than this, as in their view, it’s the Osaka style that is the inferior knock-off version. I’m not going to get involved in this rivalry, but I will say that Hiroshima okonomiyaki is indeed delicious, especially if you love noodles, like I do. In fact, it’s more like layered yakisoba, with noodles,
cabbage and toppings griddled separately from the pancake, which takes the form of a thin crêpe that gets draped over everything else. I do like the Osaka style, but it does dominate the okonomiyaki scene in Tokyo, and indeed all of Japan, and the world. So I especially like Hiroshima-style because it’s a bit of an okonomiyaki underdog.
This recipe includes sweetcorn, bacon and squid – one of my favourite combinations – but you can leave them out, or add all kinds of other things. You’ll need a griddle to make Hiroshima okonomiyaki.
MAKES 2 OKONOMIYAKI, WHICH IS ACTUALLY LIKELY TO BE ENOUGH FOR 4 PEOPLE
100g (3½ oz/heaped ¾ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
120ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dashi
½ hispi or flat cabbage, finely chopped
100g (3½ oz) bean sprouts
150–200 g (5–7 oz/small) tin of sweetcorn, drained
4 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
About 40g (1½ oz) beni shoga
6 rashers streaky bacon
200g (7 oz) prepared squid, scored and cut into 1cm (1/2-in) wide strips
2 portions fresh yakisoba/egg noodles (or dried noodles, parboiled)
About 150ml (5 fl oz/scant ⅔ cup) okonomi sauce, Kewpie mayo*, as needed
A few pinches of aonori
A few pinches of sesame seeds
Handful of katsuobushi
Whisk together the flour, dashi and 1 egg to form a thin batter. In a separate bowl, toss together the cabbage, bean sprouts, sweetcorn, half of the spring onions and half of the beni shoga. Set the griddle on medium-high heat and add a little oil, spreading it out into a thin layer with a spatula. Use a ladle to pour out 2 pancakes on the griddle, reserving about a third of the batter in the bowl. Top each pancake with the cabbage mixture, then drizzle the remaining batter of the top of each cabbage pile. Press down on the cabbage pile to flatten it slightly, and cook for about 5 minutes. Top each cabbage pile with 3 rashers of bacon, pressing them down, then deftly flip each pile so the bacon is on the bottom and the pancake is on top. Press everything down again.
Stir-fry the squid in a separate space on the griddle and add the noodles on top of the squid. Toss them together with about a third of the okonomi sauce, then gather them into a circle the same diameter as each pancake. Transfer the pancake-cabbage pile to the top of each circle of noodles and cook for another 5 minutes or so (the noodles should be nice and crisp on the bottom). Meanwhile, fry 2 eggs on the griddle – typically the yolk is broken, but I do like a runny yolk on my okonomiyaki. When the eggs are cooked, transfer them to the top of each okonomiyaki, then cover in okonomi sauce, mayo, aonori, sesame seeds, the remaining beni shoga and spring onions and katsuobushi. Enjoy straight from the griddle, if possible.
RICE AND FISH WITH TEA-INFUSED DASHI
Ochazuke is a Japanese home cooking staple, but you’ll also encounter refined versions at traditional Japanese restaurants. Rice often completes a
Japanese meal, and is typically found as one of the final courses in a traditional kaiseki meal, along with miso soup, and often followed by green tea to contribute a feeling of refreshment as well as satisfaction, like everything is being smoothly digested. Ochazuke combines all three – rice, soup and tea all in one. This is especially nice when you’re feeling under the weather, as it is simultaneously invigorating and comforting.
200g (7 oz/1 cup) rice
500ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) dashi
1 tablespoon loose green tea leaves or 2 green tea bags (I like genmai tea for this, but any will do)
1 tablespoon mirin
Sea salt, to taste
150g (5 oz) fish, cut into small pieces (any fish will do but something quite flavourful is best, like sea bass, bream, salmon or tuna)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
12g (¼ oz) sakura-ebi (tiny dried prawns (shrimp)) (optional)
4 teaspoons bubu arare or crushed senbei
1½ sheet of nori, cut into thin strips (or a few pinches of kizami-nori)
Cook the rice according to the instructions. Bring the dashi, tea and mirin to a low simmer, then pass through a sieve to remove the tea. Taste and season as you like it (it should not be salty, but you will need a bit to boost the flavour of the dashi and subdue any potential bitterness from the tea.) To serve, place the rice into bowls, and top with the raw fish, sesame seeds, sakura-ebi (if using), bubu arare and nori. Just before serving, pour the hot dashi-tea mixture on top of the fish, ensuring that the fish has been lightly poached in the process.
Kewpie mayo, by the way, is a Japanese brand of mayo with a bit more seasoning than standard Western brands. If you can’t find it, you can approximate the flavour by mixing ¼ teaspoon of dashi powder, ¼ teaspoon of Dijon mustard and some salt and finely ground white pepper into 100 g (3½ oz) of your regular mayonnaise.