Ueno Market

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Japanese Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and other grilled treats

Hopping off the JR train line at Ueno Station is recommended for any visitor to Tokyo, Japan. Ueno offers a concentration of world class museums and ancient Buddhist temples, many of which are accessible along the walking paths of beautiful Ueno Park. Today we explored an open air market in Ueno Park, and we were not disappointed!

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Japanese kindergarteners, looking spiffy in their school uniforms, were visiting Ueno Park on a field trip. So adorable! So well behaved! They melted my heart with their shy smiles.

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Aren’t these grilled fish interesting? At 600 yen (approximately $5.30) they were a fair price, especially considering that Ueno Park hosts many tourists.

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Non-food wares were expensive, but still fun to peruse. Aren’t these bonsai trees beautiful?

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Dango, a traditional sweet treat made from crushed rice, was delicious. At only 100 yen (approximately $0.89) for five bites, this was a very economical snack. It reminds me a bit of the Korean Garaetteok we made here at Crowded Earth Kitchen a while ago, with the addition of a delicious soy-based glaze.

Next time, we’ll feature photos from the fantastic Tokyo National Museum, also located in Ueno. Our world is small… have big fun!

 

 

Korean Garaetteok

WIN_20160424_142917Korean Garaetteok, a type of rice noodle, is fast becoming a staple freezer item here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. These noodles are fun to remove from the freezer on busy weeknights and use to quickly jazz up dinner. Often, I add a cup or two of frozen Korean Garaetteok into soups during the last 15 minutes of simmer time. Occasionally, I’ll allow a batch of Korean Garaetteok to thaw on the countertop before stir-frying in sesame oil for about five minutes. Stir-fried Garaetteok can be tossed with vegetables for a savory side dish, or lightly coated with honey and crushed peanuts for a fun dessert. Enjoy this versatile item!

WIN_20160424_122115Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups rice flour

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions

Step 1) Combine rice flour, boiling water, salt and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

WIN_20160424_122945Step 2) Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional 2 minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Transfer rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Knead with your knuckles (pressing into the mixture) for 5 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. If mixture is too hot for your hands, try pressing into the mixture with the bottom of a mason jar instead.

WIN_20160424_125954Step 4) Grease countertop with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Divide dough into 4 pieces, and use your hands to roll each piece on the greased countertop into a 12 inch length.

Step 5) Set the lengths of dough aside for one hour, uncovered. This will dry the dough slightly, allowing it to slice easier.

Step 6) After 1 hour, slice the dough on a diagonal into bite-size pieces approximately 1/2 inch thick. From this point, do one of the following:

  • Add your Korean Garaetteok to a pot of soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Delicious!
  • Stir-fry your Korean Garaetteok in sesame oil for about 5 minutes, until crispy on the outside. Toss with cooked veggies for a fun side dish, or drizzle with honey and crushed peanuts for dessert!
  • Freeze your uncooked Korean Garaetteok in an airtight container for later use.

Happy Cooking!

 

 

Chinese Tang Yuan Chicken Soup

WIN_20160424_133707Tang Yuan are glutinous rice balls – easy to prepare, versatile in recipes, and a delicious comfort food. In my German-American kitchen, the equivalent would be dumplings. Today we are making a simple chicken soup with Tang Yuan. Children and grown-ups alike have given this soup rave reviews. I think you’ll enjoy it, too!

One friendly tip: There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, so each of them is important! Please don’t skimp on the quality of the chicken stock by substituting cans of chicken broth or cubes of bouillon. Chicken broth is a watery, less flavorful cousin of true chicken stock… you’ll taste the difference in this soup. Bouillon cubes are mostly salt.

WIN_20160424_132041Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 cup glutinous rice flour (sometimes called “sweet rice flour” or “sticky rice flour”)

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 quart good quality chicken stock

1 cup diced celery (or substitute carrot)

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt)

WIN_20160424_132455Directions

Step 1) Combine glutinous rice flour, boiling water, and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

Step 2) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave the bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional two minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Transfer the microwaved rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Use your knuckles to press down on the mixture, kneading and compressing the mixture into a dough. Do this for at least five minutes, or until the mixture has formed a smooth dough. If the mixture is too hot for your hands, use the flat bottom of a cup or a mason jar to press down on the dough.

Step 4) Break off tiny pieces of dough and roll them into balls about the size of marbles. Be careful not to roll your Tang Yuan balls too large, especially if you are feeding children! Small, marble size Tang Yuan are more desirable.

Step 5) In a medium size pot, heat chicken stock to just below boiling. Add Tang Yuan balls, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add celery, ginger, and salt. Cook for an additional two minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Maki Sushi

picture683First, let’s dispel of a common American myth… sushi does not mean “raw fish.”  The word sushi refers to food made with cold, vinegared rice.  Often this rice is topped with raw fish or other seafood… but not always.  It is perfectly legitimate to prepare sushi using other accompaniments, such as vegetables or cooked eggs.  Maki Sushi, shown above, refers to sushi rice and any variety of fillings which have been rolled into sheets of toasted seaweed called nori.  These rolls are then cut into bite size pieces, and are often served with several condiments including pickled ginger, wasabi or Japanese horseradish, and soy sauce.

If this sounds unfamiliar, take a peek at the Asian foods section of your local supermarket.  Even in small towns and tucked away areas, you may be pleasantly surprised to find sushi rice (a short grain, white rice), nori sheets, and wasabi.  Adding Maki Sushi to your kitchen repertoire is a fun and healthy way to eat fresh!  Enjoy!

picture669Ingredients (Makes 6 rolls, or 48 bite size pieces)

2 cups sushi rice

3 cups water

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

picture6771/4 teaspoon salt

Assorted fillings, cut into long, thin strips.  Shown (left) are cucumber strips, red pepper strips, and surimi (mock crab sticks made from whitefish).  Other ideas include thin slices of avocado, carrot, and smoked salmon.  Use your imagination!

Directions

picture670Step 1) Rinse rice several times in cold water until water drains clear.

Step 2) After rinsing, combine rice, 3 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large pot with a tight fitting lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low, cover, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Step 3) Gently transfer cooked rice to a large bowl and spread rice up the sides of the bowl (gently!) with a rubber spatula.

Step 4) Combine rice vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.  Microwave for a few seconds until lukewarm.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Then, drizzle the vinegar mixture all over the rice.

picture679Step 5) Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the rice over a few times to distribute the vinegar as evenly as possible without mashing the rice.  Spread the rice up the sides of the bowl again.  The rice should look glossy.  Cover the bowl with a slightly damp cloth and let sit at room temperature for one hour.

Step 6) Center one sheet of nori in the middle of a bamboo sushi roller (very inexpensive; sold in markets next to the nori sheets).  As an alternative, try using a thin, flexible silicon baking mat instead of the bamboo.

Step 7) Carefully spread 1/2 cup of rice all over the sheet of nori, except for 1 inch at the top.  I find it is easiest to drop small teaspoons of rice all over the sheet and then spread them together – this helps avoid tearing the nori sheet.

picture680  Step 8) Place your fillings over the rice about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the nori sheet, as shown.

Step 9) It’s time to roll up your Maki Sushi!  This takes a bit of practice, but it’s not rocket science.  Using your bamboo or silicon mat, fold the bottom of your nori sheet up until it just barely covers your filling.  Press firmly and evenly along the bamboo or silicon, to give the roll a tight, uniform shape.  Continue rolling the nori sheet, being careful not to roll the bamboo or silicon “into” your Maki Sushi.

picture681Step 10) When you get to the top inch, dip your finger in water or vinegar and run your finger along the top edge of the nori.  This will help to seal your Maki Sushi.  Set aside, seam side down, and continue with your next roll.

Step 11) Slice each roll into 8 pieces using a very shart, non-serrated knife.

Step 12) After the effort that led you to this last step, be sure to respect the Japanese tradition of presenting food in an artful manner.  Have fun with this!  Put some thought into arranging your Maki Sushi on individual serving plates or a buffet platter, and garnish as you see fit.  Remember that wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce are traditional condiments, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other dipping sauces and toppings.

Last but not least… It really is OK to pop an entire piece of Maki Sushi into your mouth.  When pieces are small enough to make this feasible, eating Maki Sushi in one bite is considered proper etiquette.  If the pieces are too large, though, don’t worry about it.

Do you have questions? Ideas for combinations of fillings? Perhaps a photo of your own Maki Sushi that you’d like to share? Crowded Earth Kitchen welcomes your comments, below!