My parents have always loved good food. As we were growing up, they would take me and my brothers out to eat what they deemed to be good food, whether in well-known restaurants or hole-in-the-wall places in Quezon City. I was exposed to different cuisines, different dishes—the same things cooked different ways.
But, if I’m being honest, I’m not a foodie—not in the way the rest of my family is.
Sure, I would have certain preferences, but if you sat me down and asked me to identify the difference between, for example, a P100 bowl of ramen and one that costs P500, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Because for me, food doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. When I lived alone, I defaulted to cooking everything in a pan and seasoning it only with salt and pepper (blasphemous in the culinary industry, I know). For someone who has wondered if technology would ever advance enough to teach us how to photosynthesize, food should be simple and easy to make, with flavors that aren’t too heavy on the tongue.
When I moved back in with my family after six months of being away, it was both with great excitement and great reluctance. Excitement, because I would be close to them again, and reluctance, because I would no longer be able to make one-person portions of my favorite dishes. It was a goodbye to my boneless panfried chicken breast and salad meals. Now, I would have to share dishes with my family.
Delicate and decadent
At first, it was difficult to find dishes that I both enjoyed and would be able to share with my family. Filipinos—and to that extent, Filipino cuisine—tend to give you dishes with flavors that hit you with the subtlety of a speeding truck. Filipino cuisine can be rich, decadent and heavy, making use of pork fat, soy sauce and vinegar. Delicious? Sure. Something I would enjoy eating every single day? Not so much.
But if there’s one thing we, as a family, all enjoyed, it was Japanese food. Japanese cuisine has a broad variety of dishes—ranging from fresh-cut sashimi to bowls of warm noodles. Its flavors are both subtle and heavy, delicate and decadent. The Japanese have even created an experiential way of eating: kaiseki, which starts with subtly flavored dishes and builds up more substantially. The best part? Most of their dishes are simple and easy to cook, once you understand the technique. It doesn’t eliminate stress, but it does lessen it. Truly innovative, the Japanese.
Now, let’s be real: I’m not going to share a whole kaiseki recipe with you (because one, that is expensive, and two, that is the job of a Japanese kaisekiéé chef and I am but a simple home chef) but I will share with you my favorite, relatively inexpensive dishes that both my family and I love.
With these recipes, gone are the days of me wishing I could photosynthesize—now I wish I could both photosynthesize and eat these dishes.
In one big bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Best served cold.
Oyakodon (Chicken and Egg Bowl)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ onion, sliced
2 c water
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp dashi powder (found in Japanese groceries)
2 Tbsp mirin or Japanese rice wine
½ Tbsp soy sauce
Spring onions, to garnish
Cooked rice, to serve
In a bowl, dissolve dashi powder and sugar in water. Add mirin and soy sauce. Set aside.
Put ¼ of the dashi mixture in a skillet pan. Add onions and sauté until translucent.
Add the chicken thighs. Cook for 5 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the rest of the dashi mixture, then bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.Whisk eggs in a bowl. Pour the eggs over the chicken, then cover and cook in low heat for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Serve over steamed rice and add spring onions if you prefer.
Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl)
½ kg thinly sliced beef
1 egg, poached
1 beef stock cube
1 medium sized onion, sliced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce
Cooked rice, to serve
Spring onion, to garnish
Saute onions in oil until translucent. Add the beef, and continue cooking on medium heat.
Add sugar, mirin and soy sauce. Saute until everything is incorporated.
Serve over steamed rice and with a poached egg on top. You may also add spring onions if you prefer.
Serves 3-4. —CONTRIBUTED
The author is a Master’s of Digital Marketing student at ESIC Campus de Madrid Escuela Superior de Ingenierios y Comerciales.
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