I don’t love cooking any less than I used to, but I’m starting to feel a little old and tired. Don’t be fooled by my youthful looks! Sometimes the world feels so big and unmanageable, and myself too small and weary to deal with it. Plus we’re almost halfway through 2013. What the fuck is up with that, man? Where did the last few months go? How is it possible that I’ll be leaving Japan in three months? That just can’t happen.
Anyway, one day at a time. One meal at a time. Nothing overly complicated – lord knows the world’s got enough of that. Just simple assemblies. More vegetables, and I’m eating far less meat than ever before. It’s weird. I used to eat so much meat – all that hong shao rou, bacon in everything, grilled chicken thighs. Now it’s all avocado and cucumbers and kimchi on toast. Everything is awesome on toast.
Also, until recently, I used to be one of those people who couldn’t fry an egg. This is not a joke. Waiting for the pan to get hot enough to fry an egg properly was miles beyond my patience, and I’d end up either overcooking (shitty, chalky yolk) or undercooking it (half-raw white). But lately I’ve taken to topping most things with a fried egg. Haven’t quite gotten a perfectly crispy white and oozy yolk just yet, but this set of instructions is probably the best on the internet. I’m on the way to fried egg nirvana! Fried eggs on everything!
There’s not much the humble fried egg won’t improve – like a plate of kimchi-tuna fried rice, which is just minced garlic, chopped kimchi (if it already tastes great as is, fried it will be sublime), two small cans of tuna, rice and scallions. Each ingredient added and slowly fried so that everything becomes fragrant and crispy. Probably one of the best things I’ve made recently, and it’s the first time I’ve ever added tuna.
One day I should write down a recipe for my usual garlic-kimchi-prawn fried rice. I’m not very original in the kitchen, and I haven’t reinvented the wheel, but this one’s a real keeper. Anything with Shao Xing wine is a keeper. So is kimchi and a fried egg on toast, by the way. Crusty white bread, toasted first for a minute, then another minute with the kimchi plus a dribble of its juice on top, just to warm it through. Slap that egg on top and eat. It’s pretty darn tasty.
Avocadoes are obviously here to stay – never without one or two in the pantry if I can help it. I had one sliced on a bed of hot rice and yet another fried egg this morning, drizzled with fish sauce (the excellent 60dam stuff – carted a small bottle back here from Hanoi) and Kewpie, finished with white pepper.
Of course there’s also been lots of avocado toast, and then a gorgeous riff on that involving yuzu kosho from Emma. And then there was this cucumber-avocado tartine from Smitten Kitchen‘s cookbook (see the photo at the top of this post). It’s already delicious minus the bread, and Japanese cucumbers work a treat. I’ve never been a reader of her blog, but this recipe is making me think I should start combing her archives. That, or getting a copy of her book for myself.
(Hint: my birthday is in July.)
I almost never cook with daikon, but I’m glad I tried this recipe out – it was super fast, not messy and the leftovers made an excellent bento. Had no negi on me that day, unfortunately, so scallions it would have to be. There is a lot about this recipe to be thankful about. I’ll be less oblique about that next time.
The only two cookbooks I have here are Nancy Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food (which is lovely and I’ll have to write about it sometime) and Fuchsia Dunlop’s land of plenty, which I cook from rather often because I love spicy food and so does my Chinese dormmate. She’s actually Sichuanese, and gifted me with hua jiao, dried chillies and doubanjiang when she returned from her brief trip back home. Every now and then she’ll request a Sichuanese meal from me, amusingly enough, but I’m usually more than happy to oblige. Sometimes one needs a massive kitchen project to destress. Here, part of a 6-dish spread from a mini Sichuan banquet we had recently, is a simple stir-fried spinach with the requisite peppercorns and dried chillies, seasoned with salt and a little sesame oil.
Lastly, steamed aubergines and a dipping sauce of homemade chilli oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Easy to make, even easier to eat. It’s lovely to have food that only has to taste mainly of itself – nothing more, nothing less.