Today I wanted to talk about a new project I started with my Japanese friends, Mimi and Ryu, here in Marche.
For the time being, it is Youtube only (sorry, it's in Italian...), and we will try to upload one recipe a month, plus another video explaining Japanese food culture. Hopefully, we can expand to other channels and do something even in person, but for now, we are playing it by ear.
Mimi and Ryu are in charge of the food, and I do the video, plus the food and wine (or beer) pairing!
So, why I wanted to start this…
First of all, before Covid, I would go back to Japan once a year and get my fix of Japanese food then. So I must say I never really miss that much of it.
But now, it has been almost two years since I last went back, and I am seriously started to miss real Japanese food. Yes, this is my first reason, I miss good Japanese food!
Secondly, recently, Japanese food has gotten really popular in Italy (even here in Marche), and I see many new places opening up, and they are not just sushi places (thank goodness)! This is great, however, I feel that there is still a lot of misconception about Japanese food (and culture) in Italy. A lot of people think that we eat sushi every day… Oh, how I wish! Do not get me wrong, I love sushi, but there is much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi and sashimi! That is why we did not want to do a simple recipe video but also to explain our culture.
Now the menu for April. We did 3 types of Onigiri. Tuna Mayo (tuna with mayonnaise), which in Japan is everyone's favorite. A Mazegohan with smoked salmon and peas. Mazegohan is cooked rice tossed with other ingredients, usually something seasonal. Unlike a typical Onigiri where the ingredient is stuffed in the middle, for a Maze Gohan, you mix everything together. And last but not least, a vegetarian Onigiri with pan-seared green onions and soy sauce called Negi Shoyu in Japanese.
Also, some Karaage, Japanese fried chicken. Karaage is usually made by marinating the chicken thighs with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, etc, which is coated lightly with potato starch before frying. However, Ryu has a very unique and EASY way of making them! Now, you have got to watch the video, right?!
Onigiri and Karaage are classics to put into your bento box that can be eaten warm or cold. Trust me, they are still going to taste great after a few hours.
As for the food and wine pairing part, I opted for a beer this month. Did you know that we are big beer drinkers in Japan? Perhaps not so much the younger generation these days, but we still have the custom to start the night with "toriaezu nama", meaning, “draft beer to begin with”. Perhaps many of you think that our go-to drink in Japan is Nihonshu (sake). Well, I would say rather, it is beer!!
So to kick off our youtube series, we paired our bento box with beers from local brewery Ibeer.
In Japan, the most popular beer style is a lager. At Ibeer, they make a really mean one, but I chose some ales since the food was pretty rich in umami, and we had some fried food as well, so I thought a beer with a bit more body was needed :)
First off, a very food-friendly, and one of my favorite beers of theirs, an American Bitter. It has a lovely hoppy aftertaste but is not too bitter, so for those of you who had enough of IPAs, I would strongly recommend this one! Then, also a Red Ale. Defiantly fuller than the Bitter, but still nice and crisp, and it is a beer that goes down easy. The Red Ale I especially liked with the Negi Shoyu Onigiri. The toasted notes of the beer paired wonderfully with the umami from the soy sauce.
If I may say so myself, this can be one hell of a picnic! For some ingredients, you may have to go to the Asian market, but we try to give some substitute options so you could easily have some authentic Japanese right at home.
Let me know what you think of the videos, and if you hit that subscribe button, we sure will appreciate it! For May, we hope to do Kakuni (braised pork belly) and talk about Japanese rice and how to cook it properly.