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Specialty Japanese Cookware - September 2005 Newsletter

 

Japanese cuisine is a perennial favorite – but if you’ve never stepped inside the kitchen at a Japanese restaurant, chances are you’ve never come across specialty Japanese cookware items like a takoyaki pan (for making takoyaki, a kind of octopus fritter) or a hangiri (a wooden bowl used for properly preparing sushi rice.)

And while making authentic sushi, takoyaki and other Japanese dishes in your home may seem labor intensive and intimidating, it’s actually not so difficult if you have the right ingredients and equipment. Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen has a wide range of Asian cookware and utensils that include more recognizable items – like a cleaver or wok, to specialty items like an obanyaki pan and tamago pan. Why use these specialty items? Sure, there are Western cookware items that you can use as substitutes, but experts agree that having authentic pieces of equipment is well worth it. Not only will recipes be easier and faster to prepare, but the dishes you produce will look a lot better, too. Here’s a closer look at some of the specialty pieces available at Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen.

Takoyaki Pan

Also known as a takoyaki ki, this sturdy pan is used for making takoyaki. In Japanese, “tako” means octopus and “yaki” means “to grill,” and the result is ball-shaped fritter with bits of chopped octopus, cabbage, pickled ginger and green onions. Often served on a toothpick or skewer (for easier eating) – these snacks are topped with various condiments – including nori(dried seaweed), dried bonito (a mackerel-like fish) flakes, mayonnaise or Japanese-style Worcester sauce. In Japan, takoyaki is most commonly eaten as fast food or food festival fare – as numerous food stalls specializing in these tasty treats dot the streets of Japan. Also a side dish, takoyaki can also be served with a side of steamed rice, as is the fashion in Japan’s Kansai region. Takoyaki is catching on stateside, too – you can often find takoyaki stands at cities with larger Asian communities, though with the right ingredients and equipment you can make them in your own kitchen.

Making these octopus fritters in your home requires the use of a takoyaki pan. At Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen, our takoyaki pan is stove-friendly and made of heavy cast iron, which ensures even cooking. The pan has spherical-shaped molds to cook the takoyaki, while a playful octopus design adorns the top. You can cook up to 12 pieces at a time, and its wooden handle makes for easy handling.

Be sure to wash your takoyaki pan by hand – as cast iron is not dishwasher-safe. Here is a takoyaki recipe from about.com’s Japanese food section:

Ingredients:
· 1 cup flour
· 2 1/2 cup dashi soup
· 2 eggs
· 1/2 lb. boiled octopus chunks
· 1/4 cup chopped green onion
· 1/4 cup dried sakura ebi (red shrimp)
· 1/4 cup chopped pickled red ginger
· For topping: bonito flakes, aonori (green dried seaweed), worcestershire sauce or takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise

Mix flour, dashi soup, and eggs in a bowl to make batter. Thickness of the batter should be like potage soup. Put oil inside cups of a takoyaki grill pan. Pour batter in the cups to the full.

Add chopped octopus, red ginger, and green onion in each hole. Grill takoyaki balls, turning with a pick. When takoyaki become rounds and brown, remove them from the pan and place in a plate. Put sauce and mayonnaise on takoyaki and sprinkle bonito flakes and aonori on the top.

Tamago or Tamagoyaki Pan

Sushi bar regulars will recognize the egg omelet, or tamago sushi that is often served alongside other fish-topped sushi and rolls. Savory and a tiny bit sweet, this omelet, called tamagoyaki, is made of eggs, dashi (fish stock), sake, sugar and salt.

Tamagoyaki is best prepared with the use of a tamago pan, also called a tamagoyaki ki. Long and rectangular in shape, Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen carries two versions – non-stick and regular. For more information and care on the tamago pan, please see the “Ask Mrs. Lin” section of the website. Cooked in layers, tamagoyaki is also a popular lunchbox, or bento meal served with rice. Ingredients are easy to find and are carried in most supermarkets. We like this recipe for tamagoyaki, which is based on a recipe from The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo:

Ingredients:
· 4 eggs
· ¼ cup dashi (fish stock)
· 1 tbsp sugar
· 1 tbsp sake
· Pinch of salt
· Vegetable oil

Preparation:
Heat the tamago pan over moderately high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, and evenly coat the inside of the pan. Remove the pan from heat, pour off the excess oil, and wipe the pan with a paper towel. Place the pan over medium heat, and when the pan is hot, add about ½ cup of the egg mixture. Swirl the pan quickly to coat the bottom evenly with the egg mixture. Cook the omelet until the egg mixture is firm on the bottom but still looks wet on top. Do not let the egg brown on the bottom. Adjust heat as necessary by lifting the pan.

When the egg mixture has set, use cooking chopsticks or a spatula to quickly roll it from the far end of the pan toward you. Push the rolled omelet to the far end of the pan. Coast the entire pan again, including the bottom of the rolled omelet, with 1 teaspoon of oil. Wipe off any excess oil in the pan with a paper towel, and add ¼ cup of egg mixture into the pan. Spread the egg mixture over the bottom of the pan, lifting the center of the rolled omelet with chopsticks so the egg mixture flows underneath. Cook the egg mixture until the bottom is firm. Roll the new egg layer around the original roll to double its thickness. Repeat this process until all the egg mixture is used; you will probably make seven or eight layers in total. When adding oil, use only a little, and wipe away any excess or the omelet will become greasy.

Slide the finished omelet out of the pan. Let cool to room temperature and serve, or refrigerate in a covered container up to a day. Cut into 1-inch cylinders. Can be served with grated daikon or soy sauce on the side.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Obanyaki Pan

This sturdy pan is used to make obanyaki, a popular cake-like snack made of flour, egg and sugar and filled with sweet bean paste called anko that is made from azuki beans. These round treats are made to resemble oban, Japanese coins that were used during the Muromachi (1333-1568) through the Edo (1600 – 1868) periods. Valuable and wielding enormous purchasing power, oban was originally used only for transactions in imperial court.

Our site sells an obanyaki pan with four coin-shaped wells in cast iron, which allows for even cooking and will give the obanyaki a crisp, golden color. Patterns in the wells imprint the obanyaki with authentic Japanese designs, which are typically served on special occasions to represent luck and happiness.

Ingredients for obanyaki are easily found at most supermarkets. The batter is similar to pancakes, while the filling is made from azuki beans – which can be found in Asian groceries or health food stores. Those wanting to make obanyaki in your home can use our recipe for taiyaki (which uses the same ingredients but is fish-shaped, rather than coin-shaped) with this pan. The recipe appears in our June 2005 newsletter on azuki beans.

Sushi Oke/Hangiri

Known as a hangiri, or sushi oke, this large wooden tub is used for properly making sushi rice. Common in sushi bars and restaurants, Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen offers these flat-bottomed tubs in a variety of sizes ranging from 11 inches to 16 inches in diameter for making perfect sushi rice in your own home.

In Japan, these tubs are made of unfinished cypress or pine. To make sushi rice, hot cooked rice is mixed in the hangiri with a dressing consisting of rice vinegar, sugar and salt. The wood helps serve two purposes – first, it absorbs some of the moisture so the rice, which is already moist from cooking, doesn’t become mushy or watery. This moisture also treats and conditions the wood during normal use. Second, it helps retain an appropriate amount of heat. The large surface area of the tub is important as it helps moisture evaporate quickly allowing the rice to cool down. In a pinch, those without a hangiri can use any unfinished wooden bowl, or glass or ceramic bowl as a substitute. Metal ones are not recommended as it can cause a reaction with the vinegar. It is recommended that the hangiri be soaked in water for 30 minute before use, as the rice will stick to dry wood. Other utensils used in conjunction with the hangiri for sushi rice is a shamoji, or wooden rice paddle, a uchiwa, a fan to help cool down the rice and a fukin, a cotton cloth used to cover the rice while it cools. For more on rice and sushi (including recipes) – please see our newsletter from May 2001, “Rice Cookers can Cook!” and June 2001, “Yummy Sushi for your Tummy.”

Cooking Chopsticks

While these extra-long chopsticks may be hard to eat with, they will definitely helping in the cooking department. Easily one of the most-used utensils in Asian kitchens, these chopsticks, which are called ryoribashi in Japanese, help with stirring, picking up, whipping, beating, turning and more. Thicker and more robust than standard chopsticks, these chopsticks are easy to grip and provide a strong hold. Its long length provides cooks with ample space from the stove, so you can stir-fry, or turn deep-fried items in oil over without burning yourself. Our site offers a pair of cooking chopsticks that are 13 inches in length and are made of wood, though some pairs can measure up to 17 or 18 inches in length and are made of materials like bamboo or metal. Most Asian homes are equipped with cooking chopsticks in wood or bamboo – which is able to withstand the high temperatures of wok cooking or deep-frying.

Now that you are ready to prepare authentic Japanese dishes with authentic Japanese tools, practice beginning and ending your meals with formal expressions of respect, as the Japanese do. Before a meal, diners say the phrase “itadakimasu” which means, “We are going to receive the meal.” Afterwards, they end the meal by saying “gochisosama” – which means, “It was a feast.” Happy feasting!

 

OUR 2005 NEWSLETTERS

Full Of Fortune

All About Sushi (part II)

Secret Lives Of Geisha

Specialty Japanese Cookware

Rice The Golden Grain

Summer Wedding Gift Guide

Azuki Beans

Washi Paper Production and Uses

Symbols of Happiness and Longevity in Asian Culture

Bamboo – A Versatile Plant

Symbolism in Asian Motifs and Patterns

Fortune Cookies: The Real San Fransisco Treat

 

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Squared Iron Tamago Pan (6160)

Iron Tamago Pan (6121)


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