We've had friends staying with us for the last 2 1/2 weeks. With belly laughs over old stories, conversations to carry on, places to visit, and kids streaking around in circles...I haven't really felt like blogging much lately. Sorry about that! Thankfully I had a few extra posts stored up for just such an occasion, that have carried me through the last couple weeks.
Our friends Bethany and Jimmy, recently moved home from Japan. They have lived there the last two years with their little girl, teaching English in the small mountain town of Funehiki and immersing themselves in the culture. Japan offered gracious new friends, new experiences and foods, a bilingual 5 year-old, and at times...hard life lessons. They are truly thankful for their time overseas, and find themselves a little culture-shocked to be back in the states!
Of the many cultural difference we've discussed, the FOOD as you can imagine, was quite different! The Japanese diet includes much more fresh produce than Americans generally eat, lots of protein, and very few sweets.
Bethany explained that cooking in Japan was quite an adventure! Ovens are usually too small for cookie sheets or 9X13 inch dishes, and meat is ALWAYS pre-cut into thin slivers at the market. She had to adapt many of her family favorites to compensate for the lack of classic "American" ingredients and learned to cook simple Japanese dishes. This is one she shared with me last week!
Sukiyaki (ski-ya-kee) is a traditional dish usually cooked on a "hot-plate" at the table. It's a very social meal. Families and friends circle the sukiyaki pan stirring with chopsticks and taking bites as the components are ready! The meat (usually paper-thin pork or beef) and veggies are poached in a sweet sake-based sauce and served over sticky rice, once they've simmered down.
The dish looks prettiest when first put into the pan, but the muddled brothy aftermath is the true show-stopper! As I don't own a hot-plate, we piled around our kitchen island and served up the steamy mixture to both families. Everyone sat slurping and Mmmming over the sukiyaki in a way that let me know I'd be making this again and again!
Most of the ingredients were easy to find. The only issue we had was getting our hands on Konnyaku noodles, a yam starch, gelatinous noodle used widely in Japan. We never could find the noodles, but did find a block of Konnyaku and cut it into thin strips. It's considered a health food and has almost no flavor. I believe it's added simple for it's funky texture. Bethany said it could be skipped or easily substituted for another veggie!
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. ~Oprah Winfrey
1- 1 /12 lbs. thinly sliced pork loin
12 oz. shitake or crimini mushrooms
6-8 oz. Enoki Mushrooms
2 bunched large green onions, greens removed and cut into 1 pieces
1/2 head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup baby carrots, cut into quarters by length
12 oz. firm tofu, cut into cubes
9 oz. Konnyaku noodles
1 Tb. oil
2/3 cup Shoyu (soy sauce)
6 Tb. Sake
2/3 brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Flash freeze the pork for 30 minutes so it is slightly firm, this will enable you to cut it VERY thin, without moving around so much!
Prepare all the veggies. In Japan they like to cut little designs in the mushroom tops! We stuck with simple Xs.
Mix the Sukiyaki sauce. Heat a large skillet to medium-high. Add a tablespoon of oil and a few pieces of meat. stir the meat around moving the oil over the bottom of the skillet.
Then add about a 1/3 inch of sauce to the skillet. Pile the meat, tofu, noodles and veggies in the skillet.
Allow the ingredients to cook down for several minutes--stirring occasionally until it's cooked through. Remove the sukiyaki and serve over sticky rice (sushi-style rice) and repeat with the rest of the ingredients!