Tidbits Review – Everyday Harumi
Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara (Raincoast Books)
Kurihara, author of two other books on Japanese cuisine, is a household name in Japan. She moved to London to write this cookbook so that she could come to a better understanding of how Westerners eat. That information would help her write recipes that require easy-to-find ingredients and little time expenditure. Her time in London convinced her that Japanese cooks have a wider variety of home-grown fruits and vegetables at their disposal, and that they also seem to have an infinite number of words to describe different ways of cutting vegetables. Everyday Harumi has 192 pages, 75 recipes and lots of great food pics.
My Take: The book’s subtitle is “Simple Japanese Food For Family & Friends.” Simple being the operative word here. Although I’m a fan of eating Japanese food, I’m not a fan of cooking it. No, I don’t have anything against miso, nori or pickled anything. It’s just that those and other Japanese delicacies have something against me. Right. I realize that statement may sound just a tad paranoid. Let me explain. The wonderful depth of flavours that permeate dishes like Shrimp and Chicken Ankake Donburi, or Yakitori and even Hot Noodle Soup with Sliced Duck seem impossible to duplicate outside of a fully stocked restaurant kitchen. How might a cooking enthusiast like myself hope to replicate these and other complicated-sounding dishes in the comfort of her own small kitchen? Enter Harumi.
“Japan’s most popular lifestyle authority” describes herself as just “an ordinary housewife.” Hmmm … ordinary. The word just rolls off the tongue. Maybe cooking up a Japanese meal isn’t so hard. If Harumi can do it, so can I! With that affirmation well in hand, or mind as it were, I launch into my first attempt at Japanese cuisine. I decide to make Ginger Pork with Bok Choy and Green Beans with a Sesame Dressing on a busy weeknight. All ingredients were easy to come by at my local supermarket, except for mirin. Mirin (pronounced meereen) is a Japanese rice wine, and finding it could be challenging. If you live in Ontario, don’t bother paying the LCBO a visit. It doesn’t carry mirin. Your best bet is your nearest Asian food store. If you can’t find it, use apple juice (like I did) or sherry with a tablespoon of sugar. Both make very good substitutions. The recipe directions are short and easy to follow. Within about 20 minutes, I had managed to start and finish a very good Japanese meal.
13 oz pork shoulder
11-1/2 oz bok choy
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
sunflower or vegetable oil – for frying
salt and pepper – to season
1. Briefly freeze the pork as this will make it easier to slice. Slice the pork as thinly as possible, then wrap the slices in plastic wrap and tenderize by hitting with a rolling pin.
2. Remove the plastic wrap. It is important to ensure that the pork is at room temperature before cooking.
3. Separate the white stem from the green leaf of the bok choy. Cut the stems lengthwise and the leaves in half.
4. Blend the soy sauce and mirin together, add the grated ginger, and mix to combine.
5. Put a little oil in a skillet over high heat. Stir in the bok choy stems then the leaves and stir-fry for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on the plates that will be used for the pork.
6. Dip the pork slices into the soy and ginger mixture and quickly brown in the hot skillet. Serve with the bok choy.