Being stuck at home doesn’t mean that amazing food is off the menu. More so than ever, now’s the time to start honing those cooking skills so you can whip up enjoyable dishes without having to strain your wallet.
And what better way to start than with the simplest Japanese dishes out there? Japan is the food capital of the world, and a lot of Japan’s staple dishes are super straightforward and can be cooked in less time than it takes to order a takeaway.
So, we’ve compiled four Japanese dishes which can be made in 30 minutes or less. You don’t need to be a master chef to pull any of these recipes off!
1. Beef Gyudon
Gyudon is a dish of thinly-cut beef strips, cooked in a sweet mixture of soy sauce, mirin and served on top of white rice. There are different things which be used as toppings to add flavor, but the most common is addition is sake. It’s often finished off with a fried or poached egg and pieces of sliced onion.
Gyudon originated around the early 1900s under the guide of a similar dish, Gyunabe. Gyunabe consisted of thin slices of beef slow-cooked in a pot over vegetables, and eventually, rice and savory toppings were added and the dish evolved in gyudon. It remains a quick, easy-to-make meal and a popular lunch in Japan. So popular, in fact, that it’s also made its way to the west! Here’s how Hana from the US makes her own beef gyudon.
- 3 eggs
- 100g sliced beef
- ½ tbsp honey
- ½ tsp white vinegar
- ¼ piece onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- ½ tsp ginger paste
- 150ml water
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 50ml white wine
- 170g white rice
- 200ml water
1. Marinate the sliced beef with honey and ginger paste, then leave it for around 10 minutes.
2. Pour water, soy sauce, white wine, sugar, and salt into saucer and simmer over medium heat.
3. Add sliced onion and marinated beef, stirring until beef has cooked through and liquid has reduced to a broth.
4. Ensure all the pieces of sliced beef are cooked evenly, then add salt and sugar according to taste.
- Hana, United States.
2. Baked Salmon Teriyaki
Simplicity is at the heart of this tasty teriyaki dish. Salmon is super healthy and easy to cook, so this one’s perfect for when you want to whip up something fast and still count the calories.
Traditionally, "teriyaki" refers to broiling or grilling food in a sweet soy sauce marinade, but the sauce itself has made its way to the west, and come to be known as "teriyaki sauce".
In this recipe, the salmon is baked instead of broiled, and then drizzled with a sweet teriyaki sauce made from mirin and soy sauce. Combined with a side of white rice, this baked salmon teriyaki is overflowing with Japanese flavors, both sweet and savory.
This one involves making your own teriyaki sauce too, but Kevin in the US has made it straightforward enough for even the most amateur chefs to pull off. Here’s his take on it.
- 450g salmon (de-skinned and cut into two fillets)
- 100g white rice
- ¼ cup mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp sugar
1. Combine the ingredients for the sauce (mirin, soy sauce, water, sugar) together in a large bowl.
2. Place your two salmon fillets in the bowl and marinate for 15 minutes, making sure both sides get covered with sauce.
3. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200°C and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil.
4. After 15 minutes, remove your salmon from the sauce, but keep the leftover sauce to the side. We will be reducing this to a thicker sauce to spoon over our salmon at the end.
5. Place your salmon fillets on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, flipping halfway.
6. While your salmon is baking, heat up a small pot over medium-low heat and pour the remainder of the sauce in. Slowly simmer the sauce until it thickens up. If the sauce bubbles when you tilt the pot, your sauce is ready! Remove from heat and wait for your salmon to finish baking.
7. After your salmon is done baking, spoon the sauce over each fillet and serve with a side of rice
- Kevin, United States.
Ochazuke isn’t that well-known of a dish outside of Japan, despite it being very simple to make and packed full of Japanese goodness. It’s a staple of the Japanese diet because it’s light, easy to prepare and full of nutrients.
"Ocha" refers to tea, and "zuke" refers to submerging or soaking. So, quite simply, ochazuke is white rice drizzled with either hot water, green tea or dashi (a Japanese soup stock or broth). Pieces of salmon are then added to the top for a rich contrasting flavor.
Samantha has recreated this traditional Japanese classic at home in the Netherlands. She’s made the dashi version for that authentic Japanese touch, and she’s added a little twist with wasabi and tenkasu at the end. Here’s how she does it.
- 1 salted salmon (or ½ fillet of salmon and pinch of salt)
- 1 cup cooked Japanese short-grain rice
- 1 tsp Bubu arare (crispy puffed rice pallets. Or use Japanese rice crackers as an alternative)
- 1 tsp shredded nori seaweed (kizami nori)
- ¼ tsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 2 stands Mitsuba (Japanese parsley) (trefoil, or ⅛ scallion, cut into small pieces)
- Wasabi (optional, for taste)
- 1 cup dashi
- 1 tsp mirin
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- ⅛ tsp kosher/sea salt (use half for table salt)
1. Bake the salted salmon fillet (shiojake) at 200°C degrees for 25 minutes. If you’re using regular salmon, season the salmon with salt and set aside for 10 minutes before baking. When it’s cooked, remove the skin and bones and break up the salmon flesh into flakes. Set aside.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour the soup into a small teapot.
3. Now serve the cooked rice in the serving bowl. Place the shredded salmon and sprinkle the rice cracker, nori, and sesame seeds on top.
4. Pour the dashi until it covers half of the rice and top with kameya wasabi furikake and tenkasu.
- Samantha, Netherlands
4. Teriyaki Glazed Pan Fried Chicken
We've already looked at a salmon teriyaki, but cooking the chicken version can involve some quite different steps, and tastes drastically different! So how do we make it?
Just a quick note, some people like to marinate the chicken in this dish for a few hours before cooking it, so this one might need a little prepping beforehand. However, most Japanese people don't marinate it at all! So you can choose whether to marinate it for as long or as short as you like.
We've touched on the meaning of teriyaki, but the word itself comes from ‘teri’ meaning shiny or glazed, and ‘yaki’ meaning fried, and it combines to create a much-loved dish consisting of meat cooked in soy sauce or rice wine. If you want to finish the dish off with a side, it works amazingly well with white rice, noodles or a side salad.
Garnishes can be adjusted to suit your tastes, but Xacher from the UK has finished his teriyaki glazed pan chicken off with toasted sesame seeds to add a little crisp to the dish. Here’s his recipe:
- 1 clove garlic, finely diced
- 1 small bit of ginger, finely diced
- 1 tsp Sesame seed oil/tahini oil
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 50g brown sugar
- 120ml soy sauce
- 150ml mirin
- 50ml sake
- Toasted sesame seeds (for thick sauce)
- 2 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small shallot, diced finely
- 2 tbsp lemongrass powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar/molasses
- 10g curry powder
- 10g fresh coriander
- Salt and pepper
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
1. Pre-heat your pan to high and add in your oil, garlic and ginger. Cook until golden brown and burning, about 2 minutes.
2. Add in your brown sugar until it starts to caramelize, about 30 seconds.
3. Add in your soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Add in your toasted sesame seeds for a thicker sauce, opt out for a runnier sauce. (If you can't buy toasted sesame seeds, just roast them normal sesame seeds in the oven for about 10 minutes on 200°C)
4. For a runny smooth sauce, cook for about 5 minutes and stir constantly. Remove from heat when done. For a thick sauce, cook until stiff, about 8 or 10 minutes.
5. Set sauce aside. (Recommendation: microwave it for about a minute before pouring to keep it hot at max power).
6. Chop up your chicken thighs into cubes/smaller chunks.
7. Rub your chicken thighs with olive oil and season all ingredients.
8. Mix and marinate with chicken as desired.
9. Pre-heat pan to medium high, add in oil and sear for about 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
10. While searing, add in rosemary and thyme sprigs. Baste chicken until it turns dark golden brown.
11. Place your chicken on a plate and glaze your teriyaki sauce over it. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with fried rice/white rice.
- Xacher, UK
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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