Japanese cuisine beyond sushi and yakitori

“Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes” (Rizzoli, $40)
“Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes” (Rizzoli, $40)

“There is a perception outside of Japan that Japanese food is best left to the professionals,” observes Rika Yukimasa. “I assure you that is not the case.”

As evidence, the host of the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) cooking show, "Dining with the Chef," has written her first cookbook aimed at a U.S. audience, "Rika's Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes" (Rizzoli, $40), with recipes that can be made by most anyone, anywhere, on any weeknight.

The serene food styling, interspersed with floral Japanese tapestry motifs, compelled me to put that claim to the test, beginning with Soy Sauce Ramen. The umami-rich broth and noodles — afloat with tender slices of pork, a hard-boiled egg half, and sliced scallions — came together in under an hour, with time to spare for whipping up a side of broccoli salad tossed with a Gomaee Dressing (toasted, crushed sesame seeds, soy sauce, and a little sugar).

By week’s end, my repertoire included extra-crispy Japanese Fried Chicken; a tart and creamy potato salad punctuated with bits of onion and thin, crunchy slices of cucumber; and Yoshiko’s Meatloaf Hamburgers, a recipe from her mom made with beef, pork, and panko breadcrumbs and topped with a soy-seasoned ketchup and red wine reduction sauce. (Find the recipe at ajc.com/cookbooks.) Noting the high price of imported sake, she gives Western wine pairing suggestions for each recipe, a skill she picked up while living in northern California.

Now cooking home meals as a working mom back in Japan, Yukimasa demonstrates a keen sense of how to teach Westerners to incorporate traditional Japanese cooking techniques into their daily menus: spaghetti flavored with soy sauce and wasabi, chicken curry over rice, and sweet and sour pork ribs stewed in a pressure cooker.

Because I can walk to my favorite neighborhood Japanese restaurant for takeout when the urge for sushi strikes, I’ll leave the recipe for Rolled Tuna and Avocado Sushi to the experts for now. Next time, though, I’ll intentionally over-order the sashimi, just so I can try her chirashi (“scattered”) sushi: tidbits of raw fish and perhaps some vegetables, seasoned and served atop sushi rice.

Leftovers, Japanese-style: I can definitely relate to that.

Rika Yukimasa attributes this delectable meatloaf-hamburger hybrid to her mother in “Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes.” COURTESY OF RIZZOLI
Rika Yukimasa attributes this delectable meatloaf-hamburger hybrid to her mother in “Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes.” COURTESY OF RIZZOLI

Recipe: Yoshiko’s Meatloaf Hamburgers

Rika Yukimasa attributes this delectable meatloaf-hamburger hybrid to her mother in “Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes” (Rizzoli, $40). The wine-based sauce and pairing recommendation speak to the author’s time living in Sonoma wine country. I served it with one of her salad recipes: julienned and steamed potatoes and carrots, alongside a mound of blanched spinach – each separately in a simple gomaae (sesame seed) dressing. But it would be equally delicious paired with all-American mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Make sure to use microwave-safe plastic wrap to cook the onion; I put it in a small bowl and covered the top with the plastic. I made it into 6 patties instead of 4, and put the extras in the freezer for another meal.

Yoshiko’s Meatloaf Hamburgers
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Wrap the chopped onion in plastic wrap (see headnote) and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ground beef and pork, onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Add the salt, nutmeg, and pepper, and knead well by hand.
  • Divide the mixture into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece with your palms into a patty ¾ inch thick.
  • Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the burgers, turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook, covered, for 13 additional minutes. Transfer the patties to serving plates.
  • Add the wine, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and soy sauce to the pan and reduce over high heat until thick. Pour the sauce through a fine sieve directly over the patties and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 572 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), 45 grams protein, 53 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 16 grams fat (trace saturated fat), 197 milligrams cholesterol, 1,279 milligrams sodium.

Wine Recommendation: The sweet-salty flavor goes well with Valpolicella Classico or a good bottle of Syrah. California Zinfandel would also be a good choice.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.


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