Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The YM's favourites 4: Shoga-yaki and Italian-style egg & tomatoes

This duo is a classic combo in our house whenever we have a Japanese food week. It is normally a trio (with a yummy simmered eggplant and tofu dish), but time is short these days as my commute has blown out to 70 minutes (on 3 "lovely" crowded trains) due to the company's relocation to down-town Tokyo. Other full-time working mothers out there will know that every minute counts in the mad after-work dash to get food on the table, dishes done and everyone bathed and ready for bed. Sadly, my new regime now puts some of our favourite dishes out of reach during the week.

However, both these dishes do not take long once you start cooking, so it is best to have everything ready before you start. Also, if you are having rice, make sure you start it first (g).

Shoga-yaki is sliced pork quick-fried in a ginger, miso and mirin flavoured sauce. It is very flavourful, but you do need to be careful that you don't leave it undercooked or let it get too dry by overcooking it. It is a matter of seconds between the two, so give this your undivided attention--and have your serving plate at the ready--to avoid disappointment. This is my interpretation of the dish, based on a cooking demonstration I once saw at my supermarket here in Japan .

Sliced meat of various types and thicknesses is readily available in all supermarkets in Japan, but if you have to slice it yourself, a semi-frozen block of meat is your best bet. You don't need paper-thin pork for shoga-yaki, just aim for as close to 1--1.5 mm as you can.

You could probably use any kind of miso (Japanese fermented bean paste), but if you have it, white miso (which is actually more mustard-brown than white) works best.

Mirin is a syrupy-sweet Japanese sake used in cooking. Many places on the Net have it that can substitute with sweet sherry, but I think this substitute will give you a better result. If neither of these is suitable/available, sugar syrup will work at a pinch.

The Italian-style egg and tomato dish is so named in the original Japanese recipe. I guess the addition of Parmesan cheese makes it so (?!?). I like to boost the garlic quotient and, although it's not in the OR, add some nice Italian herbs (I use the mix here). I had some leftover fresh basil this time, and it supplemented the dried herbs very nicely. Sometimes I also add a finely chopped spring onion or two as well.

Shoga-yaki: Japanese pork slices in ginger-miso sauce

2-3 tsp miso paste, white for preference
2 tbsp mirin
1/4 medium onion, finely sliced
3 cm fresh ginger, finely julienned
400 g sliced pork, trimmed into bite-sized strips

1 Blend the miso and mirin in a small bowl and set aside.

2 Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan until hot. Add onion and ginger, and fry over medium heat until the colour changes. Add pork quickly, one slice at a time, to ensure even cooking. Pour over miso-mirin mixture and stir-fry quickly until no longer pink. Immediately remove from pan into a serving dish.

"Italian-style" egg and tomatoes

4 eggs
1 tbsp Italian herb mix (I use the one here)
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1/3 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil, divided
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 Lightly beat the eggs and add herb mix, Parmesan cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

2 Heat half the oil in a medium frying pan until hot and add the egg mixture. Cook on high, and when eggs begin to set, stir quickly with cooking chopsticks or a wooden spoon. Remove to a plate while still not fully set.

3 Heat remaining oil and add garlic. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes are cooked to your liking, add the cooked eggs back into the pan and stir-fry for around 30 seconds, or until well mixed and heated through. Remove to serving dish and eat immediately.


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