Monday, February 16, 2015

Anime Club: Japanese Food Tasting

My anime club teens had specifically requested that I host a Japanese food tasting at one of our meetings, so I was happy to oblige! The first thing I did was figure out what dishes are popular in Japan. I went here and here to get ideas.

Next I made a list of possible dishes and then visited my local Asian market to see what they had available.

Here are the dishes I ended up making:

1. Soba Noodles

Soba is a very popular noodle dish in Japan that can be served in a variety of ways. I decided to serve the mori/zaru version, which means they are served cold with a chilled dipping sauce. I purchased a package of soba noodles and the ingredients for the tsuyu sauce from the Asian market. I found a good recipe for tsuyu from Alton Brown.

Soba noodles

Note: Mirin, which is one of the ingredients in tsuyu, is a sweet cooking rice wine. I didn't feel completely comfortable serving something with wine (as little as there may be) to my teens so I went searching for an alternative. If you Google "mirin substitutions" you'll find some out there. I went with an alcohol-free mirin called Honteri, which I purchased from this website.

Tsuyu sauce w/ soy sauce alternative for the less-adventurous

This was the most popular dish! The teens loved the noodles and the sauce. I had 16 teens attend and 1 1/2 packages of soba noodles was plenty for the teens to come up and get seconds.

Also Note: I wasn't sure if I could make the soba ahead of time. I cooked it at home about 2 hours before the club meeting and by the time I was ready to serve the noodles, they were already pretty gummy. So I just ran them under cold water again to loosen them up and that seemed to do the trick.

2. Gomaae with Spinach

This is another popular dish. Gomaae is a side dish that's basically a sesame dressing. One way to serve it is with spinach. I found a recipe for the dressing here.

Note: I substituted the sake and sugar for the Honteri. I added the equivalent of 3 TBSP Honteri instead of the 2 TBSP sake and 1 TBSP sugar and it tasted fine. 

Dressing and spinach

3. Umeboshi

Pickles are a large part of the Japanese diet and I wanted to challenge my teens' taste buds. So I found a jar of umeboshi at the market, or pickled plums. These did not go over as well as the soba or gomaae.

4. Mochi

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake. The market I visited had several kinds, but I chose the red bean paste mochi. I had mixed reviews on this treat.

Red bean paste mochi (left) and Umeboshi (right)
All in all, this was a fun experiment in Japanese cuisine!

Have you ever done a Japanese food tasting? What did you serve?

Also see my blog posts on sushi rolling and my Anime "Thanksgiving" for other food ideas.

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