May 31, 2012

Cooking in Japan

A reminder of what the kitchen looks like.
When your kitchen in your apartment has just one stove, one sink, no hot water, no plug, and next to no storage space, cooking is no joke. It takes zen-like patience and skill. It takes focus and precision, because if you get even slightly too vigorous in your actions, you will knock everything off the shelves. It takes creative thinking, like bringing your dirty dishes into the shower with you to wash them in hot water. It takes questionable hygiene practices, like chopping up your onions on the floor because you have no bench. Tears have been shed, tantrums have been had, and things have been broken... but in this post I would like to share a week's worth of recipes. Mainly just to prove to Mum that we actually have been cooking in Japan.

It should be noted that we do most of our food shopping at the Lawson 100 convenience store just up the road, where every ingredient can be bought for 100 yen (about $NZ1.60). They even sell a small variety of fresh fruit, veges and meat. This place is like a haven for a student budget. Also, interesting cultural difference - although in NZ families tend to do one big grocery shop per week, it's typical for Japanese people to go to supermarkets or convenience stores nearly every day, and just buy as much as they need for the next day or two. It's very rare to see a supermarket that even has big shopping trolleys. As a former checkout chick, this sort of thing interests me. Sorry. Anyway.

Things you can cook in Japan with limited money, appliances, space and skills: 

1. Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake)
Served with a smile.
Need: Okonomiyaki flour, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup water, chopped up cabbage, tenkasu (tempura bits), any kind of pre-cooked meat you like, soba noodles (optional). Okonomiyaki sauce and mayo for topping. How: Mix everything in a bowl to make batter. Pour batter on frypan to make pancakes. Flip. Serve with okonomiyaki sauce and mayo.

2. Nikujaga (Meat and Potatoes)

 Need: 200 g thinly sliced meat (pork or beef), chunks of onion and potatoes, 2 spoons each of sake, mirin, and sugar, 4 spoons of soy sauce, cup of water. How: Fry meat, add onion and potatoes. Add all other ingredients. Boil for about half an hour until potatoes are cooked and have soaked up broth.

3. Yakimeshi (Fried Rice)
Have rice cooker, can cook rice.
Need: Rice, rice cooker, soy sauce, egg, frozen veges, packet of chopped up mini 'wiener' sausages. How: Cook rice using rice cooker. Fry an egg on stove, cut up, put aside. Put cooked rice in frypan with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Fry the rice. Add frozen veges, sausages, and egg.

4. Yakisoba (Fried Noodles)
Need: Soba noodles, chopped up cabbage, little bit of meat (pork or beef), yakisoba sauce. How: Cook meat in frypan. Add noodles. Cover in yakisoba sauce. Add cabbage. Stirfry everything.

5. Curry Rice (Curry and, um, rice)
It is acceptable to use a spoon to eat this dish.
Need: Rice cooker, rice, beef, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, cup of water, instant curry roux. How: Put rice cooker on. Fry onions and meat. Add other vegetables. Pour in cup of water and boil until potatoes are soft. Add two of the curry blocks, and cook until desired thickness. Serve with rice. 

6. Gyudon (Beef Bowl)
Need: Rice cooker, rice, beef (despite the name, pork works too), onion, chopped up cabbage, yakiniku sauce. How: Put rice cooker on. Fry onions and meat. Squirt with yakiniku sauce. Stirfry with cabbage. Serve on top of rice.

7. Bacon Sandwich (The 'I Hate Cooking in Japan' Dish)
Need: Bacon, Bread. How: Fry bacon. Prepare bread. Place bacon on bread. Assemble.


  1. Does Ryan cook or was that all you?

    Hey, my whole flat is like that. We shop everyday for the next day's daily needs and the current evening's meal; we are SO Japanese!

    1. You are so Japanese. All of you. Especially Ilija.
      Half and half, these recipes are mostly mine (except okonomiyaki, Ryan is best at making that), and Ryan has his own little cooking repertoire.

  2. It's like camp cooking. Are these photos authentic, your own cooking or google images?

    1. They are indeed authentic pictures of my own cooking.

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  4. Another sign you're turning Japanese: drawing condiment smiley faces on your food.

    Pretty soon you'll be writing "好き" in ketchup on any omelets you make for Ryan.

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