Taste of Hong Kong Shrimp Rolls

One of the things I miss most living in Japan is good dimsum. Manila boasts of many Chinese restaurants with Cantonese chefs serving authentic Hong Kong style dimsum. My favorite is the affordable Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan. Here in Japan, I have learned to make my own dimsum and these shrimp rolls satisfy my periodic craving. They're extremely easy to make and require only a little oil for pan frying (I use extra virgin olive oil). Yes, they are as good as they look.

1-2 pcs hanpen (Japanese style fish cakes)
200g fresh uncooked shrimps, peeled, devined and chopped finely
½ onion chopped, or 6 stalks spring onions, chopped
1 T katakuriko or corn starch
1 packet stock granules or ½ t Bragg's Liquid Aminos
pepper to taste
10 pcs (1 pack) spring roll sheets
oil for frying

Put the hanpen in a bowl and mash with your hands. Add in the shrimps, onion, katakuriko, stock granules, and pepper and mix well. Wrap about two tablespoons or less of filling in a spring roll sheet. Pan fry until golden brown.

Vanishing Tonkatsu

Every now and then, I get a craving for something fried. While I love tempura, I find them too messy to make. I  am more than happy to pay 500 yen for a rice bowl topped with assorted fresh tempura at the tempura chain Tenya. Tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) on the other hand hits the spot and is quite easy to make -- my four year old prepared the pork pieces herself (she does everything before the frying part). You only need as much oil to cover the pieces on a flat frying pan. Chop into bite size pieces before serving and watch them disappear before your eyes.

3-4 pieces of pork chops or pork loin (boneless), thinner slices cook better and faster
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
1 egg beaten
dried breadcrumbs
oil for frying
Worcestershire sauce

Season the pork in salt and pepper. Dredge with flour. Dip in the beaten egg, then coat with bread crumbs. Pan fry in oil until done. Keep the heat low so as not to burn the outside and flip the pieces midway through. For the sauce, mix Worcestershire sauce and ketchup in a 1:1 ratio.

I Swear It's Not Store Bought Niku Jaga

Niku jaga (braised meat and vegetables) is to the Japanese as adobo is to Filipinos. It is a good hearty fare that reminds one of home. This is one of the easiest Japanese dishes to cook and it's a great one-pot dish that's got protein and veggies in it. I once invited a friend to come over for a simple dinner of niku jaga and rice. She insisted that my niku jaga must have been store bought. She has placed an order for a huge batch that she can reheat at home.

1 T oil
250 g beef or pork thinly sliced
1 onion sliced into rings
2 potatoes, cut into wedges
2 carrots, cut into wedges
1 pack of ito-konnyaku or shirataki, boiled in water then rinsed
1¼ cup water
3 T sugar
2 T sake
3 T soy sauce
1 T mirin

Heat oil in a pot and fry up the meat. Add the ito-konnyaku or shirataki, onions, potatoes and carrots. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add sugar and sake. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and mirin. Simmer until all the liquid is gone. Serve with seven spice.

Un-Mapo Tofu

Growing up, a visit to a Chinese restaurant is often not complete without an order of mapo tofu, one of my dad's favorites. Mapo tofu, being a Sichuan dish, is typically spicy and I remember we would order it with instructions to make it "mild." When the dish arrived, my dad would add chili peppers to his portion and work up a good sweat eating. Now I have learned to like the spiciness of a good mapo tofu dish but my two kids are too small to tolerate even a little spice. And so I cook this un-mapo tofu, a kid-friendly version that's still tasty but without the characteristic red hot chilies. 

2 cloves garlic, minced
about 5 stalks spring onions, chopped, save some for garnish
2 T sesame oil
100 g ground pork 
1 t chicken stock granules
1 T sake
2 T mirin
1 T soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce
1 block tofu, sliced into cubes  (I like using soft tofu) 
1 T katakuriko or corn starch dissolved in 2 T water (this is your thickener)

Saute the minced garlic and chopped spring onions in the sesame oil. Add the ground pork and cook until done. In a small bowl, mix the next 5 ingredients (you can quickly do this while the pork is cooking) and pour it into the pan. Mix to heat through and add water if necessary. Next toss in the cubed tofu and be careful as you work to coat it with the sauce. Thicken the sauce with the katakuriko or corn starch dissolved in water. Remove from heat and top with spring onions.

Not Your Dad's Red Lentil Curry

I have never cooked lentils before and never had them growing up. We recently received a big sack of red lentils and I had absolutely no idea what to do with them. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything came to the rescue (Every home should have this book!). I went with what looked like the easiest lentil recipe: lentils with curry or dal. Bittman had a basic recipe and a variation and because I couldn't decide which one to do, I combined them and used whatever spices I had and omitted some that I didn't. The result was so good my husband who didn't like lentils before* said he's now converted and can eat this everyday, twice a day even.  I don't think that big sack of red lentils will last us very long.  (*His dad used to cook lentil soup which they dreaded, thus, Not Your Dad's).

1½ cups red lentils, washed 
4 cups stock (if making this vegetarian, use vegetable stock; I like chicken stock though)
salt and pepper to taste (some stocks already contain enough salt)
1 T curry powder (Mark Bittman has a curry powder recipe but I just used ready-to-use curry powder)
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground cinnamon
¼ t ground cardamom
½ t ground cumin
2 T butter
1 T minced garlic
1 T grated ginger
cilantro, chopped for garnish

Put everything except the last four ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat cooking gently and stirring occassionally until lentils are soft and mixture thickens. Heat butter in a separate skillet and add the garlic and the ginger and cook until they almost begin to brown but not quite. Remove from heat and pour everything including the butter into the lentils and mix. Top with chopped cilantro.

My husband also likes to top this with shredded cheese.

Excited to try this recipe? Get red lentils from iherb now here.