Sunday, September 19, 2010

Delicious Japanese Dinner: Miso, Onigiri, Char Siu Bao & Adventures in the Asian Supermarket

Early this morning I discovered a terrible craving for Japanese cuisine. After scouring the internet for the most delicious looking and doable recipes I settled on the amazing website of Just Hungry which I had explored before. (Nick and I are . . . kind of obsessed with food. And we love Asian cuisine. I know I've mentioned before what sushi freaks we are.)

A few hours of obsessive clicking later and I dragged Nick away from his videogames, proclaiming, "We have to go spend lots of money! I need this food to ensure my happiness!" He was smart enough to go along.

I wanted to make Onigiri (rice balls with a center of your choosing, we had chicken teriyaki), Miso soup, and Char Siu Bao (steamed pork buns). If any of those sound amazing, click on the one you want and it will take you to that recipe on the JustHungry website.

We needed wakame, kombu, and nori seaweeds, and some shaved bonito flakes, and then some miso and sushi rice. At the online asian market which would ship what we needed that added up to maybe fifteen bucks. At Whole Foods it was fifty.

Needless to say we didn't end up with the things I wanted. I just could not justify spending that much money on things that could be found for so much less. We did purchase enough to make a non-traditional miso soup and seaweedless onigiri, and started to drive home without all we wanted. But then Nick had a brilliant idea! He searched "Asian markets" on his GPS and found one! We quickly made our way there.

Once we arrived at our destination, courtesy of "Shut UP, Woman" (our affectionate nickname for our chatty GPS, our jaws hit the floor. We had found a huge Asian center! Florists and restaurants, and in the middle of it all a HUGE supermarket!

This supermarket was unlike our traditional American ones. As you enter you practically trip over a large glass display case full of dust-catches and knick-knacks, "ON SALE!!!", kind of like what you would expect to find in Chinatown. To the right was the vegetables, but it was full of bok choy and all kinds of mushrooms and weird fruits! We were fascinated and didn't have enough eyeballs to see all we wanted. We walked around the entire store. Most of it was in Japanese characters with English printed on the side. We passed chicken hearts, tripe, testicles, ducks, quail eggs, oysters, every type of noodle imaginable, and so many more different things!

We purchased chilled steamed buns with a lotus center and frozen pork buns, one of which we shared tonight. It was delicious. I didn't take a picture because we ate it too quickly. We got pocky (chocolate dipped biscuit sticks) and peanut mochi and noodles and all the types of seaweed that we needed plus some instant dachi (integral part of miso soup; made from seaweed, sardines, and fish flakes).

Exhausted, we ate some pocky on the way back home and quickly started our dinner.

The Miso was very good. After simmering the dachi in some water (it was stinky!) I added the miso, tofu, scallions, and wakame seaweed. We enjoyed it but it was a little fishier than we like so next time I will simmer the dachi for half the amount of time.

We steamed the pork bun in our makeshift steamer (saucepan and a sieve covered in tinfoil) that worked surprisingly well! We did steam it about seven minutes longer than it said because some of the steam was escaping. It tasted so good, even though the pork was really more of a pork sausage than the char siu (seasoned pulled pork) I wanted. Keep in mind that it was a frozen bun and not the amazing looking one on the website. Someday when I have a lot of free time and the necessary ingredients I will make them.

The Onigiri was deeelicious! Nick made the rice (short-grained sushi rice but not made in the sushi style where you add rice vinegar) because I am a total fail at making it edible. I had made chicken teriyaki and chopped it up and put that in the center before squishing it and then wrapping it in nori (seaweed typically found around sushi). We decided it needed more salt. We have two left for snacks, yummy!

Here are my onigiri wrapped with sliced nori. You can make them look really cute with faces and shapes but since it was my first time I decided to stick with what was easiest. Each onigiri had about 1/2-1 tablespoon of chicken teriyaki.

Nick is taking the first bite. We were both nervous--me if it came out well and him if it tasted good!

It was good! Here you can see the chicken teriyaki. Sorry it's blurry--I had to take the picture quickly because Nick was trying to eat it!

We still have our peanut mochi to have for dessert but we are so full now I don't know if we will taste it tonight!

Everything was very good and it was so much fun to go to the Asian supermarket and find things for much less than we would have paid elsewhere. We have a new favorite place to shop! Also, I suspect we will be asking Santa Claus for a steamer and a rice cooker this year! At least we will if this fascination with Japanese cuisine continues. And with how delicious everything is so far, how can it not?


Lisa S. said...

You forgot to mention how cranky you were after you went shopping! I 'm glad it was delicious.
Give me a call. If it wasn't for this blog I wouldn't know what you've been up to.


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