During my college year abroad I did a homestay with a Japanese family in Takasaki, a city about 100 kilometers from Tokyo. In the evenings, I would sit at the table chatting to my homestay mother while she prepared that evening’s meal in her small, Japanese kitchen—where the most important appliance was the electric rice cooker followed by a small electric grill rather than the gas oven I knew from home. The food was always delicious and I was surprised how she could prepare a vast range of dishes from scratch with minimal fuss. I became fascinated with Japanese food and, without realizing it, began my journey to becoming a Japanese home cook.
After graduating, I returned to Japan to work as an English teacher, ending up in a beautiful rural village called Nishiyama in Niigata Prefecture. I got involved in different clubs and activities, immersing myself in the local culture—and by extension, the food. At calligraphy classes the elderly women attending shared their cooking tips with me, while farmer friends in the hiking club would give me harvested vegetables and rice along with a recipe for me to try.
The two recipes I’m sharing with you here were mastered in my kitchen in Nishiyama. Today, they are staple recipes in my kitchen in Ireland.
Without exception, everyone loves this salmon teriyaki recipe — it’s one of the most talked about recipes at my cooking classes. It’s definitely worth learning how to make teriyaki sauce from scratch and adding it to your kitchen recipe collection as it can also be used to flavor meat, chicken and vegetables.
- Vegetable oil (植物油)
- 2 fillets salmon (鮭)
- Handful of sesame seeds to garnish (ゴマ)
For the teriyaki sauce
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce (しょうゆ)
- 2 tablespoons sake (日本酒)
- 2 tablespoons mirin (みりん)
- 1 teaspoon sugar/honey (砂糖/蜂蜜)
1. Combine all the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce, mix well and set aside.
2. Pour a little vegetable oil into a non-stick frying pan on a medium to high heat.
3. Place the salmon fillets (skin-side down) on the frying pan and sear both sides of the fish.
4. When the fish is nearly cooked (place the salmon fillets skin-side down at this point) pour the teriyaki sauce over it.
5. Use a large spoon to continually pour the sauce over the fish fillets while continuing to fry.
6. Fry until the teriyaki sauce is reduced to the consistency of a syrup.
7. Garnish with sesame seeds.
Tip: Keep a close eye on the teriyaki sauce as it can quickly reduce on a high heat and start to burn.
Wakame and Tofu Miso Soup
When I lived in Japan I had miso soup almost every day. So, when I returned to Ireland, I really missed the taste of authentic miso soup. I could buy sachets in Asian supermarkets or order it in Asian restaurants but none of them compared to this simple recipe that you can make yourself.
Kombu and Shiitake Dashi (Kelp and Shiitake Stock)
Makes 1 liter
- 1 liter water
- 20g dried kombu – a piece about the size of a postcard (昆布)
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms (しいたけ)
1. Put 1 liter of cold water in a large saucepan.
2. Add the kombu and shiitake mushrooms to the water and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes. If you have time, leave to soak for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. This will fill the water with the flavors and nutrients from both the seaweed and the mushrooms.
3. Heat the water until it comes to the boil and then remove the kombu and mushrooms immediately.
4. This can be stored in the fridge for several days or you can freeze it.
Tip: This is an ideal stock for vegetarians. You can also make dashi using kelp only or replace the shiitake mushrooms with katsuobushi (dried fish flakes).
- 1 liter dashi (だし)
- 1 tablespoon dried wakame seaweed (ワカメ)
- 300g tofu, cut into bite-size cubes (豆腐)
- 2–3 tablespoons miso paste (味噌)
- Spring (green) onion, finely diced, to garnish (春タマネギ)
- Shichimi togarashi (spice blend) to season (七味唐辛子)
1. Heat the dashi in a large saucepan.
2. Once the dashi is boiling add the wakame seaweed and reduce the heat so that the dashi is simmering.
3. Gently toss the tofu pieces into the saucepan.
4. Dilute the miso paste in a small cup of dashi taken from the saucepan, then add to the saucepan and gently stir into the soup until mixed through.
5. To serve, pour the miso soup into a bowl. Then garnish with the onion and shichimi togarashi.