Friday, 15 May 2009

Discover Japanese Food #2: Atsuko's "Kinpira" (THE EAST Campaign in Association with Atsuko’s Kitchen)

On a sunny day, why not take a bento (lunch box) to have a picnic in the park. Kinpira is a style of dish using crunchy vegetables and basic Japanese seasonings. It’s a great idea for your bento box, as it’s a simple and quickly cooked dish. Renkon is the rhizome of the lotus plant which grows in muddy water. It is full of fibre and vitamin B12 which helps absorb iron. You could also make this dish with other types of root vegetable. You could use parsnips or salad potatoes, or celery to give a crispy texture. Renkon can be found fresh, vacuum packed, or frozen, from Asian supermarkets. It is very important not cook it too long, as it will lose its texture.

300g renkon (lotus roots)
1 carrot
1 age (fried tofu)
Seasonings:1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp shoyu (dark soy sauce)
1 taka no tsume (chilli pepper)
A little of sesame seeds (ground)

1. Slice the renkon and carrots into thin round slices (If you use fresh renkon you need to soak it in vinegar and water for 10 mins, then strain it. This will remove any bitter taste and stop the colour from darkening).
2. Wash the age in boiling water. Squeeze the excess water from the age, and dice.
3. Remove the seeds from the chilli and slice as thinly as possible.
4. Heat the frying pan, add the sesame oil.
5. Fry the renkon and carrots. When the oil coats all the vegetables then add sugar, mirin, 2 tbsp of shoyu. Sprinkle chilli over the pan, seasoning evenly.
6. Add 1/3 cup of water, bring it to the boil. Cover with lid.
7. Reduce the heat to medium, simmer for 4 mins.
8. Take the lid off, add 1tbsp of shoyu then increase the heat until liquid has evaporated.
9. Serve it with the sprinkled ground sesame to give some aroma.

* Next Recipe will be “DASHIMAKI TAMAGO” (which is egg roll in the bento box)

About Atsuko
Atsuko is from Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main Japanese islands. Kyushu is an island rich in agriculture, with an abundance of fresh local produce, and a reputation for good food. Ceramics are another famous export, with fine porcelains from Arita, Imari, Satsuma, and Karatsu being recognised worldwide. Atsuko's dishes are inspired by her mother and grandmother, whose love of cooking with traditional techniques has been a great influence. Although there are many instant stocks and flavourings available to simplify Japanese cooking, Atsuko prefers to make these herself, recreating the delicate and subtle flavours that can only be obtained through traditional methods. Now based in London, Atsuko has been sharing her knowledge of Japanese cooking with a series of courses which introduce some of the family favourites, as well as the use of the five main ingredients - salt, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and miso. These form the basis of almost all Japanese dishes, and learning the correct methods is the key to understanding Japanese cuisine. The classes are informal and hands-on, resembling more a dinner party with friends than a classroom lesson. There's no fancy sushi on the menu, just everyday home style favourites you might find on the table in any Japanese household. The course is comprised of 5 classes held over a 5 week period. Individual and group lessons are also available.
For information on Atsuko’s courses, visit:

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