Japanese (and Korean?) Home Cooking Techniques
October 24, 2013 12:46 AM   Subscribe

Looking recently at home-cooked Japanese (and to some extent, Korean) meals, I notice again that they tend to be composed of several separate parts. I have trouble cooking multiple, separate pieces to a meal without creating exponential work for myself. I'm looking for videos demonstrating typical and/or efficient Japanese or Korean home cooking. Any language, with or without subtitles, is fine.

I'm interested both in specific recipes with multiple components served separately, or general technique videos. Even amateur "this is me cooking in my kitchen" videos will do if the quality is tolerable.

For the last couple of years, my cooking has been mostly single-pan, quick-cooking meals, paired with rice, pasta, noodle, or bread, possibly with condiments, leftovers, or preserved accompaniments. I've been getting more picky with specifics about my food as my appetite declines. I do much better with a meal distributed across multiple contrasting yet complimentary elements.

I have a nice rice cooker, which makes that part easy. The hard part is getting everything put together and cooked without exhausting myself, and without spending money and possibly diet points (complicated - not typical - see previous questions) on imported convenience ingredients like 10 different furikakes and sauces, instant mixes, and large packages of perishable ingredients I might only use once or twice.

So, I want to see how the average person in Japan does it. I'm aware of Cooking with Dog, Maangchi, and runnyrunny999. What else have you found interesting and helpful?
posted by WasabiFlux to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
I love home style Japanese cooking. I made up photo recipes for two of my favourite single bowl meals, Gyu Don (beef bowl) and Kabocha Don (pumpkin and beef/pork). No videos, but at least they are step by step. (There are a couple more recipes that are not my own, on my pinterest)

An easy way to cut the work load is to prepare things like the dashi (stock) in advance and keep a load of it frozen in your freezer at all times. If I have extra dashi I sometimes pour it into ice cube trays, and then its super easy to throw into stews, dons or miso soups. Admittedly, I usually end up using a few pans for my Japanese cooking, but over time I've got better at multitasking. I don't have, and don't ever want, a rice cooker. Well made rice from the pan is much nicer (crunchy bits!!)
posted by 0bvious at 1:05 AM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: CookPad
posted by epo at 1:28 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have really enjoyed the book "The Japanese Kitchen" by Hiroko Shimbo. A large part of the beginning of the book is dedicated to describing many Japanese ingredients including if it's possible to substitute them with other items or not. I haven't gone and made everything in the book or anything like that but I have relied on it to help me muddle through other people's recipes and I haven't had anything go horribly wrong yet. Of the recipes I have tried in it, they've all been elegant but relatively simple and home-cook-friendly, with excellently detailed instructions. A lot of them have suggestions for seasonal substitutions and it encourages you to use what's local.

I totally hear you on preferring meals that have lots of different contrasting & complimentary elements. Part of the reason I've gotten so into Korean food lately is the preponderance of banchan, all the side dishes. It's helped me to think of food less as discrete meals and more as dishes I can keep and nibble at until they are gone and it's time to make more. If you can find the time to make one banchan and a protein a night plus rice, and you just make four day's worth of that dish, you can have four banchan and a protein plus rice for dinner. Things like cold vegetable salads, quick pickles, kimchi, pasta salads, simple fresh fruit, cooked and marinated shrimp or tofu, small meatballs with a sauce, soup bases... All of these things keep for a few days in the fridge. Make one a day and build up a library of sorts. If it's bad or you don't like it, no big deal since you'll have your backlog from which to make a meal. This limits my stress and helps preserve the energy I need to do things like paying work, but also encourages me to get more creative.

On preview I see that epo beat me to CookPad. Seconding that link. It's fun to browse, too.

One thing that I know helped me move beyond one pot dishes is to get better cooking tools. And by that I don't mean fancy knives but rather lots and lots and lots of easily cleaned cheap stainless steel bowls and little ceramic ramekins. Make a visit to your restaurant supply store and stock up.

(While you're there also get a big plastic tub that you can fit in your sink. That way you can get all your bowls dirty in the process of making things with different flavors. Fill the tub with soapy water and set it aside so you can use your sink again. Dump the bowls in the tub. No long suffering with the sponge, just soak and rinse.)

Being confident that I wouldn't run out of bowls absolutely made a difference to the complexity of meals I was able to make with the same amount of energy, since I know now I'm not going to have to stop in the middle to wash something so I have a container, or wrestle with too-small or too-twee containers. The ramekins help me do things like spice mixes, cracking open a single egg and setting aside, chopping lots of herbs and reserving some fresh for finishing at the end, and so-on. When I make Japanese food, they're extremely helpful for keeping flavors separate until assembly time.

Definitely make dashi ahead of time, but you can also do prep work on a lot of standard ingredients beyond that. Slicing onions and keeping them ready for dicing or cooking as-is isn't going to go to waste. Neither is washing and drying your produce right after you buy it so you can pull it straight from the fridge and use. There's also cutting and freezing meat in separate bags/wrappers, making your own wafu salad dressing and keeping in a jar, hard boiling eggs, rehydrating dried ingredients like seaweed and mushrooms, and more, depending on what you like to eat. Basically, if you find yourself with energy, you can always find something to do ahead of time in the kitchen that will help you down the road.

I know a fair number of Japanese expatriates living in Seattle. I think what's helped me cook more like them (when I want to) is the idea that cooking is a part of eating. So is shopping and cleaning up afterwards! But it's all part of the same process. It's helped me encourage myself to have more variety and pay closer attention to what I'm doing, instead of being as end-goal-focused as I have been.
posted by Mizu at 2:04 AM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just Hungry has a good introduction to Japanese cooking, a series called Japanese Cooking 101. She explains how all these different components come together for a Japanese meal and how it's done in practice:
A balanced Japanese meal is supposed to have__ 一汁三菜 - ichijuu sannsai - 1 soup, 3 side dishes, to go with the rice. ... The bare basic Japanese meal is 一汁一菜 - ichijuu issai - 1 soup, 1 side dish, plus the bowl of rice. ...

In practice, on an everyday basis most families would have maybe 2 side dishes plus some pickles or something. But this is the ideal anyway. And it’s not impossible to achieve since many dishes can be prepared in some bulk in advance, especially the nimono. What makes things a little easier for the cook when preparing Japanese food is that not everything has to be piping hot. The soup certainly should be, and the rice should be freshly cooked and hot too. And some yakimono or protein dishes should be too. But the side dishes to round out the meal don’t need to be.
As Mizu points out above, in both Japanese (and Korean) cooking, most of the side dishes (banchan) are prepared in quantity ahead of time, and you might make one or two banchan a day. You make more banchan as you run out, or because you want different banchan, or the farmer's market had something cheap. So you bring these out for your meal, and do not make everything all at mealtime.
posted by needled at 3:20 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, I want to see how the average person in Japan does it.

Mrs. Tanizaki is a Japanese national and we mostly eat Japanese food at home. Based on my years in Japan, I think our home eating would be pretty typical.

Japanese home cooking really isn't that involved or complicated. For example, here is a recent dinner from our house. (Mrs. Tanizaki will sometimes send me a picture of what's for dinner that night). As you can see, there's not a whole lot of contrasting side dishes. It's no more complicated than "meat and two veg". It is very common to have single bowl/plate meals. This will only be as complicated as you make it.

I know you're not big on "10 different furikakes and sauces, instant mixes", but a lot of instant items do get used. Keeping dashi in the freezer is not something we would think to do, for example. Just about everyone makes dashi at home from a powdered base. I'd also recommend picking up some pickles such as takuan, tsubozuke, fukujinzuke, and so on. A lot of ingredients, such as soup bases, furikake, seaweed, and so on, are dried so they are shelf-stable - you wouldn't need to worry about things going bad. The ”five Ss" of Japanese cooking are soy sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar, and miso. Most any recipe is going to use several of these ingredients, so they'll be the core of your Japanese pantry. I'd also have mirin, sake, and sesame oil. That will cover the great majority of recipes and then you can acquire other ingredients as needed.

Since you have a rice cooker, I would recommend looking up some takikomi gohan recipes. And yes, do check out Cookpad. Cookpad will really show you Japanese cooking as it is actually done in Japanese households. Just about everyone in Japan uses it.

Since language is not a problem for you, search YouTube for きょうの料理, an NHK show that features daily recipes to be made at home. Unfortunately, a lot of the videos seem restricted in terms of what countries may view them. However, I was at least able to view this video. Using 料理 レシピ as YouTube search terms will also bring up many instructional videos.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:20 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I like this lady because it cracks me up because her dog is on the counter when she cooks. She does have great videos for cooking, though! Cooking with Dog
posted by Yellow at 6:33 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your Japanese Kitchen is a fantastic cooking show from Japan that is shown sometimes on PBS. Every show features an amateur or novice cook from another country who learns how to prepare the dishes and the web site has a compete archive of recipes with photos, too.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:38 AM on October 24, 2013

Seconding cooking with dog!!! Delicious simple accessible and CUTE Japanese cooking vids.

For Korean I dump gochujang into everything... it's not that challenging of a cuisine, not that I've seen anyway.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:41 AM on October 24, 2013

Seconding Just Hungry and Just Bento. The author's instructions on making rice had me making perfect rice from the start (after many, many, many failures). Cookpad seems really interesting too.

For Korean, I'd suggest Maangchi.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:11 PM on October 24, 2013

Best answer: Korean food as done in this Korean American household.

Kitchen essentials
- doenjang (contrary to ethnomethodologist I almost never use gochujang)
- cabbage kimchi (I almost caved and started going to Korean church to get the good stuff, but one of the Korean supermarkets has a decent bottled version that actually is fermented)
- frozen pork belly
- tofu (extra soft for soondubu, firm for doenjang stew)
- package of frozen mandu (the itty bitty ones)

You can make a kimchi/pork stirfry (2 ingredients only!), doenjang soup (dollop of doenjang, some onions potatoes zucchini or whatever is on hand, some tofu), and eat with rice. Or you can fry up pork belly, get some good lettuce/sesame leaf and do ssam wraps with doenjang/gochujang. My mom is an expert at dduk mandu soup - soup stock, dduk, mandu, green onions - but I haven't branched out yet.

We tend to buy all our banchan (the kind that lasts a bit longer like cucumber kimchi, sauteed greens, pickled peppers; sadly bean sprouts are a gotta-eat-em-up fast banchan) because we are not that good at cooking and making one main plus a soup is about what we can handle.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:25 PM on October 24, 2013

Response by poster: I have lots of Asiatic ingredients sitting around from the always-too-tempting shopping at the Korean/multi-ethnic super-supermarket. Both doenjang and gochujang in the back of the fridge and a tub of shiro miso. Soy sauce, mirin, and sake for cooking, of course. Sesame oil, sesame seeds, a big bag of gochugaru. Katsuobushi, kombu, wakame, and on and on. But they're always plenty I don't have. Then again, I'd need 3 fridges to hold the staples and condiments of every cuisine.

On a slight tangent, as I'll be heading to that market tomorrow: what kinds of premade banchan, that doesn't last near-indefinitely in the fridge, can I reasonably freeze? Of the ones I've seen there, I'm guessing the marinated squid and octopus, maybe the marinated garlic scapes (they're rather tough)... how about the tiny marinated crabs?

I'm not sure I trust the labeled expiration date on some of them. Obviously the soybean sprout namul is only 2-3 days out, which I believe... but I wouldn't eat marinated, possibly raw crab a month after I bought it. Kimchi I have no problem with; I keep eating it until it's gone or until it no longer tastes good.

They have a good collection of kimchi, but I'm often disappointed in an overabundance of umami that overwhelms me and breaks my appetite - and the packages are too large for me to buy more than one every so often. But I'll keep trying, looking for a good one.
posted by WasabiFlux at 2:20 AM on October 25, 2013

Best answer: Heh, my mother has 3 fridges and she cooks mostly Korean - one of them is a kimchi fridge, but another one's mostly full of banchan, both made by her and others. That's another thing that happens in Korea, you don't make all the banchan yourself, as you have relatives, friends, and even neighbors dropping banchan on you, in addition to buying banchan at the banchan shops.

I don't personally know of anybody freezing banchan - most of these were developed before refrigerators became common household appliances, so you essentially have two classes of banchan, those intended to be eaten quickly, like namul, and those intended to last some amount of time, like the items marinated in soy.

My concern about store-bought banchan, and kimchi, too, especially in your case is that they tend to be loaded with salt and oftentimes MSG. I have noticed that kimchi made with MSG has that "overabundance of umami" and I find I can only eat one or two pieces before it becomes unappetizing. The labeling is hit-and-miss so it's hard to tell what they actually put in the banchan or the kimchi, at least in Korean supermarkets in the U.S.

My friends and I used to complain it's hard to eat Korean food regularly at home when one is single, for the reasons you mentioned - handling store-bought amounts of banchan is much easier with even just one additional person in the household. Single people tend to revert to kimchi, packaged toasted laver and some kind of protein (a fried egg, some grilled or pan fried meat, etc.) along with rice for homemade meals, and not have the plentiful spread of banchan you see in restaurants or at the family table.
posted by needled at 4:10 AM on October 25, 2013

Best answer: Ditto on not freezing banchan. What my parents do put in the freezer to make things easier is pre-chopped green onions (for soups!) and minced garlic and minced ginger (because the bottled version of minced garlic just doesn't have enough heat). My two favorite long-keeping banchan I buy for the fridge are jangjorim (expensive though!) and myeolchi (I like the teeniest anchovies the best).

I think if you can make one "main" and a soup/stew, plus the slow accretion of banchan you will have enough variety in the meal to tempt your appetite. Dduk guk is really super easy and I find that adding the teeny mandu makes it texturally more interesting. I'd skip the egg strips and just stir in a cracked egg a la egg drop soup. I don't have any more ingredients than you do (well maybe a bottle of hot oil for the times I want to make soondubu).

Good luck. I'm still figuring out the eating Korean at home thing.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:59 PM on October 25, 2013

Incidentally, This may be a better link to more of Cooking With Dog videos.
posted by Yellow at 2:55 PM on October 25, 2013

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