Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tonkotsu Ramen Recipe ( almost)

(not so) Recently I made my first batch of Tonkotsu Ramen. (just found this post lurking in my 'to be published folder' from winter... ooops)

I won't lie  - I was pretty chuffed with my efforts. It is not often I'll spend a couple of days making stock for 2 bowls of noodles... had I known it would only yield that much liquid I would have started with a much heftier load of pork bones of course... 

Some people prefer a simple shio (salt), shoyu (soy) or miso based stock for their ramen, which are indeed much lighter bases, but for me - on a cold winter's night there is no Ramen that beats Tonkotsu ramen with its super rich, thick porky broth and quivering slices of 'soft as butter' pork belly.  

I did a little research and using my well practiced tastebuds as a guide I ended up making a rather decent bowl. The Ramen 'expert' (only so by comparative consumption) in the house gave it the big thumbs up.

But it did take quite some simmering - 12 hours in fact to break down the collagen from the pork bones which enriches the flavour and adds a certain viscosity.

Now for a very pale stock (which is preferred by some) you are supposed to chuck the cooking water when it starts to look like the photo below (but I don't mind my soup looking a little darker and I felt the flavour would be more concentrated this way.   

So a mixture of pork bones, spring onions, ginger, well-caramelised fried garlic simmered away for long enough to form a really decent drop. I slow cooked a nice slab of pork belly in sake and served slices of it over the noodles in the broth, with some extra, sliced spring onions. It was good - but almost too rich - which I never  thought I'd hear myself saying. So it is back to the drawing board. I'm going to give it another shot (making a much larger batch because cooking a pot of bones for 12 hours should at least provide enough broth for more than 2 bowls of noodles right? Once I have it spot on (at least in my eyes!) I'll be posting the recipe. Just a few little tweaks...

Ooh and there's a delicious chicken version I'm also going to test soon too! 

Tankuma Kitamise - Kyoto

So if you read my last post you will know I am just a little time poor at the minute and therefore postings will be very light on content/detail for the next little bit.... Apologies. But it's the option of sketchy or... nada - and nada's not really ideal for keeping a blog alive. 

So, here are some beautiful Autumnal dishes from a meal I ate a couple of weeks ago in Kyoto. This lunch was around 10,000 yen with some sake. Just over $100 AUD.

The image above is the Zensai - or substantial appetiser plate consisting of items such as salmon roe and pickled flower petals, rolled duck breast and wasabi,  fish rolled around beans and simmered in a sweet soy mixture, ohitashi of mushrooms, greens and chrysanthamum petals, fresh soybeans cooked in smoky dashi, mini sabazushi like sushi  - using Kamasu - a type of Baracuda instead of saba (mackeral) - detail below. And a small sweet made of sweet potatoes and red beans. 

The chef entertains a group of Japanese women who were fascinated by the Gaijin chick who was asking him for details about the food... although they knew I could speak some Japanese they spoke about me as if I wasn't sitting directly next to them. A surreal experience.  Lucky for me they were being polite.
Sashimi of Tai (red snapper), Maguro ( tuna) and ika (squid)

A young chef with a focus on preparing a broth for my next dish below - containing a fish paste dumpling wrapped around prawns, matsutake mushrooms, sandomame ( green beans), konnyaku and scented with green yuzu zest

Chef prepares a takeaway wooden bento for one of the customers. It was stunning. 
Gindara (black cod) marinated in saikyo miso before grilling and Tai grilled with salt. Turnip greens in sesame dressing. 
Working on a small radish flower for the above-mentioned bento.
Takiawase - simmered dish - seasonal vegetable, fish and tofu dish  containing a maple leaf of nama fu (wheat gluten), turnip with yuzu miso, pumpking, ko-imo (a type of taro/potato), thin pieces of sweet/smoked fish and yuba (soy milk skin)
concentration for the perfect duck slice to pop into the takeaway bento
Indulging the ladies once again... this time with a photo
Agemono - the fried course of tempura including hamo ( conger eel) , manganji peppers, prawns, their heads, shiso, pumpkin, sweet potato and lotus
The gohan or rice course was quite fancy here and contained seasonal matsutake, shiitake, shimeji, jako (tiny dried sardines) and manganji peppers. The pickles were  made from eggplant (which tasted remarkably like black olives), daikon and cucumber (detail below)
Bye bye ladies...
Refreshing dessert of Black sesame kuzu mochi, nashi, wine jelly, muscat grapes and crisp persimmon

Exterior of the restaurant - if you happen to be looking for it...

Here's the link to the restaurant site - you will see there are a few in the family....

If you don't speak Japanese - I recommend trying the branch at the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel. Or check it out when you are in Tokyo - however I have eaten only at this venue in downtown Kyoto  ( which, by the way, was really excellent as you can probably tell from the pictures.)

Like the look of this ? then you might want to hop over to my KYOTO WINTER TOURS PAGE!

Kita-Shirakawa Miwa

I'm just back from a few very busy but wonderful weeks in Japan and thought I had better start adding a few posts before my blog falls into a black hole...  life is rather full at the minute so I will jot down a few detail lacking notes to get us started - with a plan to return to it later.  (it's a great idea in theory...). Better than nothing I suppose. Please forgive my slapdash scratchings!

While the detail may be sketchy for the new few (hundred) posts do feel free to drop me a line if you have specific questions and I shall do my best to get back to you in a timely manner. 

Onwards and upwards....

I had very high expectations of 'Miwa' after a mighty fine, but simple, lunch earlier in the year. Our dinner was good, but not mind-blowing. Perhaps expectation was the killer.  I'd try it again - but possibly  just A la carte next time instead of the set menu. 
These were the dishes in order (I think the cost was around 4000y pp) - a starter plate above, sashimi below. 
Followed by a broth with hamo (conger eel), eggplant and mushrooms (below)
The fried course was tempura oysters (below)
Then came grilled fish - one in saikyo miso, one salt grilled (below). Green maple leaves and orange persimmons leaves signalling the end of summer and heading into Autumn.
Then  came the ochazuke - rice/broth/condiments (below and initial image).
And dessert - ice cream with "purin" sauce - otherwise known as a mashed up creme caramel over ice cream... a little disappointing. Although their "purin" on its own is very good and you can take it away in cute little jars.

(hint for technophobes - Please use google translate on the Japanese link above)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


That's right! 

My first tours sold out more quickly than a Maiko scootin' through Gion!

And I couldn't be more grateful. So blessed to be sharing my favourite city in the world with a wonderfully interested and excited bunch of people.  You know who you are!

Please see my Zenbu Haru  - Spring Tour Page  for  for more details on the upcoming April tour. 

Or simply email me to be added to the mailing list. 

Please note that numbers are limited. 
Cheers, Jane

Monday, October 7, 2013

I've been neglecting my poor blog lately. 

But I'm currently eating my way around Japan. Well someone has to right?

Judging by the number of chefs and other food peeps who have been consistently contacting me lately looking for details on where and what to eat, what to see etc I'm guessing I'm not alone. The interest in Japanese food grows stronger and stronger by the week - which makes me very happy. Such a fascinating country and food culture and I am honoured to be able to share. (Well to an extent - don't get me started on those who want to download, for nix, all the detailed information and contacts I've gleaned over 3 decades - to feather their own nests.... but I digress..) 

While I'm away why not satisfy your Japanese food porn addiction by following me on Instagram, Twitter or my Zenbu Zen facebook page.  

I apologise in advance for making you hungry. 

I'm busy doing some research and also making preparations for my upcoming cuisine and culture tours. The January tours are booked out but I am currently costing another couple of tours for later in the year so stay tuned if you are interested! 

Cheers, J