Thursday, October 23, 2008

Congee, Tempura and Miso Soup Recipe

I tried out some new recipes while making lunch yesterday, so I thought I'd share them.

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on building habits and skills to transition from making North American meals to to making Japanese/Asian inspired meals instead. My set of matching dishes is slowly being replaced by all different sizes and shapes of dishes, each carefully selected and gorgeous on its own. My fridge and cupboards have been filling up with new and foreign ingredients for me to try. My goal is to get to a point where I can throw together a gorgeous, balanced Asian style meal without giving it much thought, rather than taking the 'easy' route of making the pasta or meat and potato type meals I grew up with and are ingrained in my psyche. I want it to become second nature. But it's a lot of work getting there, building up a repetoire of recipes and understanding the versatility of ingredients so that nothing gets wasted.

For example, I bought a large piece of gobo (burdock root) to use in the soup pictured below. Of course this is a small bowl of soup, so I didn't end up using the whole thing. Rather than wasting what was left, I took it as an opportunity to experience the different textures and flavours that can be created with this vegetable. I tried kinpara gobo, gobo and carrot braised with soy sauce and mirin and really liked it. And I tried tataki gobo, gobo boiled, smashed and mixed with sesame paste (I didn't care for this one). So nothing went to waste and I learned a little more.

One habit I've been attempting to build is to make soup with every meal, in traditional Japanese style. The first step was learning to make my own dashi stock, a lightly flavoured fish broth.

Here is the recipe:

Recipe: Dashi

- 15 Square inches of dried kelp (kombu)
- 1/2 cup dried bonito flakes
- 4 1/4 cups of cold spring water or filtered water

Rinse kombu and place in a pot with the water. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Slowly heat the pot until you see the bubbles that it is just starting to boil.

Remove from heat. Sprinkle bonito flakes on the top of the broth. Let sit for three minutes and then strain through cheesecloth so that you are left with only the broth.

It's really quick to make so I've started to keep a pitcher of it in the fridge at all times. This allows me to make a bowl of soup very quickly at mealtime. The recipe makes about 4 cups and my soup bowls hold 3/4 cup of soup, so it doesn't get a chance to go bad, I make a new batch every couple of days.

I'd also like to mention that I don't like the taste of fish, but this broth is so light tasting and has a bit of a smokey flavour, so that when seasoned with other ingredients, I quite enjoy it. The taste is so light in fact, that when I made it the first time using tap water, the flavour of the broth was completely overpowered by the minerals in the tap water, that's why the recipe calls for spring water.

So here is the lunch I made yesterday. My apologies for the picture. I realized after I took the pictures that everything is brown! So it doesn't look very appetizing I'm sure (although it really was delicious) but perhaps you'll try some of the individual components if not the whole meal.
For the rice dish, there is a small bowl of congee, a Chinese word for rice porridge. Congee is the Chinese equivalent to chicken soup, in that it's a comfort food that is served to sick people. I am in love with this food! It's hearty, delicious, and incredibly inexpensive and simple to make. I bought a bag of congee mix called '8 Treasure Congee' that contains about 20 servings for $1.65. It's basically a mix of white rice, black rice (that's what gives it the purple-y brown colour), green and red beans, barley, peanuts, cornmeal and something called flower beans, so it has both carb and protein content. You can make it at home easily, but I find it's just as easy to buy it premixed.

The recipe is incredibly easy. Throw 1/4 cup congee mix, 2 1/2 cups water, and a small packet of beef boullion in the rice cooker and press start on the porridge setting. You may have to run it through more than once to cook up all the water (On my Sanyo rice cooker I cook it on the 'porridge' setting and then a second time on the 'normal' setting and it comes out perfect). That's it! You can add meat or veggies to it of course, but it's also delicious on its own.

On the left are some tempura sweet potato wedges. My tempura skills still need work, so I will wait to post a recipe for that. The small dish above that contains dipping sauce for the tempura, a mix of dashi, soy sauce and mirin.

Finally there is a bowl of miso soup.

To make this, first fry thin slices of gobo in a bit of sesame oil for about a minute(to prepare gobo for use, run it under cold water and scrape of any dirt with the back of a knife). Mop up any remaining sesame oil with paper towel and add 3/4 cup of dashi, 2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp mirin and brought to a boil.

While the dashi is heating, in your soup bowl place one green onion, sliced, and 1 1/2 tsp white miso.

Add some thin carrot slices to the boiling soup and allow to simmer for about a minute, until carrots start to soften.

Spoon a little of the soup into the soup bowl and mix with the miso so that the miso becomes soft and smooth. This is to make it mix easier with the rest of the soup. Pour the soup from the pot into the bowl and stir. Serve piping hot. Serves 1 but recipe can be easily adjusted for more servings.



I was in China in October and indeed fell in love with 8-Treasure Congee. Even bought a bag of the premixed stuff in the supermarket.

Good writeup here. I must get a rice cooker. For so many reasons. Until then, may I ask how long approximately your rice cooker takes to cook it?


Hi Krilli!

My rice cooker takes a really long time for congee. Probably close to an hour and a half. It's definitely one of those meals that you have to plan in advance if you want to make it.

But once it's ready, the cooker will keep it warm for 24 hours. You should definitely get one!

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home