Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and your successes

pii_bii
Bento-ing from: Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 33 weeks ago.

(from the forums. Share your mishaps and successes!)

I have come to a point where I have been experimenting with Japanese and Japanese-inspired dishes for long enough to become quite philosophical about my mistakes and become more and more confident to try new things. My biggest successes have been since I started frequenting Just Bento and Just Hungry (I’m not just ass-kissing, it’s true!) but I started when I was about 18 and I guess over the years I’ve learned quite a bit. Looking back at those days, I remember making sushi with overly gloopy, sticky rice, and struggling with tamagoyaki, but I also have disasters even now. The successes make up for those disasters and luckily I have a few of those, too!

I was wondering, what are forumers greatest sucesses with Japanese cookery? Those dishes which make you really proud, and make you think you’ve really come a long way? On the flip side, what comedy disasters have you learned from over your time cooking?

Mine? Disasters - Gloopy, doughy tempura (my first Japanese teacher told me she did the same, years ago), a few weeks back. Also, MASSIVE fat udon which looked like tagliatelle…which was only yesterday blushes Sucesses - Today’s udon, which were with renkon and fresh asparagus - delish. Also, my last tempura experience, when I felt I’d finally nailled it. I must admit, I added some sparkling water, which is a little trick that is probably not totally okay…but it really worked!

So, I’d love to hear about everyone else’s successes and disasters along their Japanese cuisine journeys!

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ibii
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 10 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Oh wow, let's see --

- I struggled a lot to make tamagoyaki and always burned it at first
- Making gluey and goopy rice because I didn't wash it first !!!! At first I thought that was normal but now I am quite picky about the quality of my rice...
- Accidentally making teriyaki sauce with rice vinegar instead of mirin ;-; (luckily I realised before eating it though...)
- Either making nikujaga incredibly soupy or into a paste like curry... I have greatly improved though!
- Frequently burning karaage or other fried things --;;
- Using very lean meat to make hanbagu so it ended up being nearly flavorless ):

As for my successes:
- making homemade dashi and miso soup
- making good gyuudon
- finally making good dishes of everything listed above :P

moonshae
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 9 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Tamagoyaki... my first one had about double the water because I was running from the computer where the recipe was to the kitchen and well, numbers are important it seems. Now they're failing because of the size of my eggs I think. Much tastier though than my first one which was goo.

Success would have to be miso chicken. The Boy loves this so much, he'd eat it everyday if I could be bothered making it.

Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Failures are many!

I do not pretend to cook authentic Japanese food. I take ideas and convert them to my lifestyle. Which leads to interesting results.

Making sushi with brown rice has proven to be complicated. First time, great! Second time a cake of gooey mushy rice (and I had made a lot too!). I never figured out what I did wrong. Now it's still hit and miss. And I have a electronic cooker too!

Same thing with Oyakis. First time, they were delicious, the second time they were NASTY, dry and just wrong. The other 3-4 times I made them they were Delicious though!

I tried to make Tamagoyaki once, lets just say that I will have to work on it and let it go at that. I'm just a beginner wannabe. But I'm having fun!

I'd say my best success was a daikon-miso soup I did. Delicious!! My sushi rolls are pretty nifty too half the time, the other half well, they are edible, just not pretty.

I'll get this figured out!

arkonitebabe
Joined: 14 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 47 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I'm still struggling!!!
Sucesses would be sushi, onigiri........... ermmmm!

Failures - loads! Tamagoyaki, I can't get these at all. Just can't do it, end of. Miso chicken - I will have another go at this but my first and only attempt was really super salty. Don't know what happened as I followed the recipe.

Want to try miso soup now as I adore the ready made blue dragon brand sachets. Kinda scared to though!!

____________________________________

www.arkonite.net
www.arkonitebento.net

pii_bii
Bento-ing from: Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Thanks for putting this on the front page, Maki! I am enjoying hearing about everyone's experiences.

Céline
Bento-ing from: Avignon or Lyon, depends › France
Joined: 10 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 15 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I'm still experimenting a lot, but I already remember some resounding... disasters:

- Tempura, and deep-fried stuff in general. I've just given up on deep-fried stuff : even if I like a good vegetable tempura or katsudon, I've just accepted the fact that I'm no good at cooking them...
- Kabu no yuzu fûmi, or vinagered cooked turnips... turns out one cannot substitute european turnips for japanese turnips in some recipes !

Fiona
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Tamagoyaki was always a difficulty for me. xD I tended to end up with it getting browned, which was irritating. That or the egg not quite cooking properly and leaking out when I tried to pick up a rolled section to add the next layer.

Rice also gave me a lot of difficulty -- I'm still getting accustomed to my new cooker. I normally making too much, and it would always be mushy. But last night, I finally cracked the secret to making enough rice for 1 person AND getting it to cook properly! :D (1/2 cup rice to 1/2 cup water, as it turns out). Tasted great. The grains were distinct but stuck together exactly as they should. :D I'm so happy <3!

Peter
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Epic Failure: Overcooked the life out of oyakodon - rubbery eggs, soggy onions, tough chicken...

Glorious success: I hosted a tonkatsu party last winter and cooked tonkatsu for over 30 people. Nothing burned, nothing soft and oily, just beautiful golden deliciousness...

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 17 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

There are at least two distinct phases in the evolution of my Japanese cooking skills. During those first, pre-internet, days I was very happy to be complacent about the food and took advice from recipes and cooks who were (I can see with hindsight) just as unfamiliar with the cuisine as I was. This led to strange fusion concoctions, like udon or soba in soup stocks flavoured with excessive amounts of lime juice or sickly sweet teriyaki sauce stir fries.

And then I went to Japan, met my partner, started sharing meals with him, this forced me to take a closer look at what I’d picked up. Best thing was that it urged me out of my complacency and I started to look at Japanese food as ‘real food’ not some exotic playground to fart around in. And the dishes I make now are far more delicious as a result.

The worst disasters I’ve had were with okonomiyaki; a succession of tasteless cakes of vulcanised rubber batter entombing the unfortunate sliced remains of innocent fish and vegetables. Even I don’t know why I persevered so much with this. On the upshot, it’s now one of my biggest successes. Not only have I converted my non-okonomiyaki loving husband with Maki’s recipe, I even like what I make more than the examples I’ve eaten in Osaka.

Udon is another success, my own aren’t as good as what I’ve tried in Takamatsu but we do prefer them to those served even in decent Tokyo restaurants.

I still have an awful lot to learn but I’m really happy with my progress now.

kips
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I can never wrap my maki tight enough. Drives me nuts.

I tried to make sweet kanpyo to put inside my maki, and the kanpyo just dissolved in the broth. I still don't know what happened.

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I have had a couple of failures when it came to making onigiri, but other than that I have not had too many failures. Only little ones that years of experience cooking can hide ;)

But overall I would say that my cooking of Japanese foods has greatly improved, and like working with any other spices and flavors it just takes some practice to fine tune them to your preference. I would also say that I am far more particular about my foods than I used to be, properly made, quality food (like rice and pasta) really does make a difference to me.

tsuko
Bento-ing from: San Diego › California › USA
Joined: 1 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 38 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

My latest success has been making my own chuuka manju/nikuman/bao/whatever you call them! I've loved those since I tried them in San Francisco's Chinatown years ago, and even though it's a time consuming recipe, the result is definitely worth it.

Like everyone else, my first attempt at a tamagoyaki was an epic fail! I think I've got it down now, and I bought a nicer pan with better heat distribution to make it easier. I also failed at making brown rice...I followed my rice cooker instructions, but somehow the water bubbled over and turned my counter into a starchy, watery mess! After that, I've been sticking to my faithful white Japanese rice, hahaha.

Laura
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I'm definitely improving, but some dishes just don't turn out very Japanese. I make a tasty dish I like to call nikujaga: my DH calls it Laura-jaga (he likes it too.) When I first started making oyakodon I always overcooked the eggs. When we moved to a new apartment that has a gas stove rather than electric, I discovered I do have the ability to make great oyakodon since I can adjust the heat quickly.

LA
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Just discovered your blog. It's lovely!
My most memorable failure in Japanese cooking was when I tried to make nikujaga for a class project. My friends/victims had to wait 2+ hours for it to be done, and I didn't have any kobudashi, so the meal was super bland. In addition, it sort of fell apart (I learned a new word out of it from a friend: 煮崩れ :P Also, apparently, a person who can make nikujaga well will be a good wife; my future husband is doomed) Just kinda sad all-around.

Laura
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

When I first started to bento, I've never tried Japanese food in my life. Houston's more of a chinese, viatnamese and korean cuisine. So my recipes came online through bento websited and stuff. I first noticed many recipes used normal ingridients that my kitchen was stocked with. But then I came upon a website that told about REAL JAPANESE ingridients. (Justbento.com)

My first success would be tonkatsu. It came out perfectly the first time, tasted good and I was pleased. And everytime I make it, perfect! Panko rocks!!

The one where I kept having to tweek was teriyaki sauce. It makes a giant difference when sake is added. At normal grocery stores, in the imported section, they'd have mirin but no sake. I went to an asian grocery store and there it was. I looked one for cooking only and found one. I used it to make teriyaki, used the default recipe, and it came out DELISH!!

Rice is still my disaster. Could be I'm not a fan of rice. But you can't eat teriyaki and other stuff without rice. I dread making it stovetop, and I bought the cooker and still can't figure it out. However, I saw the 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 water method which I haven't tried. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

nutmeg
Bento-ing from: Greenville › North Carolina › USA
Joined: 6 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 28 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I just joined the site, and would like to share my diasters and successes!
Disasters:
Making miso according to the directions on the pouch! ( A nice big, steamy bowl of liquid salt!! Yum!)
Making rice in a thin, old pot. (I was surprised to discover that "use hydrolic jackhammer to remove stuck-on rice from bottom of pan." was not a standard part of the rice-making proceedure.)
Realizing that onigari need not be pressed so firmly into shape that one develops carpal tunnal syndrome from shaping them.
Sucesses:
Using less miso when I make soup! (You would think this would be obvious, but it took me several tries to figure this one out!)
Buying a decent rice cooker! Now I have lovely rice every time! And I bought a nice thick pot to make smaller quantities on the stovetop. I am saving a fortune on jackhammer rentals!
Using a meatballer to help me shape onigari. I make smaller sized ones, press gently, and have thrown away my arm splint.
I hope everyone enjoys this site as much as I do!

conanchibi
Bento-ing from: Sydney › Australia
Joined: 8 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 29 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

My first try out of Japanese dish was sushi. I made it with a friend, and turned out pretty strange in comparison to usual sushi.
Tasted not bad though (well... we make it... so it wasn't so bad >.< ) The second time did not turned up to be what I wanted it to be, but I think I am getting better at it (duuuh...)
My first success was tamagoyaki. My sister loved this and has been wanting me to make her one. I got it right on my second try (thanx to Maki's website)
Second success was onigiri, I think, another thanx to Maki's method. But now I am using the thing to instantly shape the onigiri. Less disaster for me and I can come up with different cute shapes...
Today I am going to try the omuraishu... crossing my finger for good luck (^^)

Conanchibi

BarbJ
Bento-ing from: Cupertino › California › USA
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 29 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Disasters: Well not a complete disaster, but not great. I've tried making sushi at home and like conanchibi's experience, it was strange. Not inedible,it was OK, but not great.

Since then I've gotten much better at making rice, and more familiar with Japanese cooking in general, so I may try again. But it's a lot of work, and with a good sushi place so close by, it may not really be worth the effort.

First time I made miso soup. Yuck! I put weird things in it and used chicken stock. This was before I discovered Just Hungry and Just Bento. I think the only thing miso about it was the miso!

Tried to make udon, same thing, weird stuff in it. Plus cooked it too long and the noodles were mush!

First success: Onigiri. Yummy!
Next was real miso soup. I've gotten really good at making dashi. and have miso for breakfast fairly often.
Then kareh raisu, or curry rice. Twice I've made it now, first time was pretty good, I tried to make it from scratch. Second time I caved and used a box of S&B Golden Curry roux. I hate to say it, but I think I liked the boxed roux curry better. Oh well.
Next Hayashi raisu, very yummy! Then Nikujaga, if you can't tell I love braised meat dishes in general. lol.

Now that it's getting warmer, I'd like to try some Cold Soba noodles. Hubby may like it as he already likes pasta salad, so cold noodles themselves doesn't faze him. My favorite Japanese restaurant has these on the menu right now, so I think I'll try theirs first to get an idea of the flavor. Then try it at home. Wish me good luck!

____________________________________

BarbJ
http://barbsblab.blogspot.com/

kirakane
Bento-ing from: Phoenix › Arizona › USA
Joined: 8 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 29 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

Well let me see.

I keep trying to acquire a taste for nato. But nato is nasty in/on/above/bellow anything I put it on and I can't put my finger on why I don't like it since I'm ok with stuff like stinky tofu.

And yama imo is not like any other yam. It has the magical property of turning whatever stew you mix it with into the consistency of snot.

So multiple disasters cooking with these two ingredients.

MitarashiDango
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 28 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 24 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

As a lazy-bum/student, I do most of my japanese cooking using instant ingredients such as curry, soba and sauces.

So I'm still as disastrous when it comes to making real foods from scratch. The only dishes I could manage well are tamagoyaki, onigiri, and kinpira. I still cannot make a proper sushi and tonkatsu although I have made them many times..

My sushis are either too skinny or too chubby, and I often have excess nori wrapping. I think I need to put more rice and filling to make them come together. I often make them with friends and we are only able to put 3 ingredients at max per roll.
For tonkatsu, the taste was already there but not the texture.. I probably need a good deep fryer for them. However, at the luxury of common cheap-skate student, I'd like to stick with shallow pans and oven (T_T)
My okonomiyaki (I've made them 2-3x so far since 2008) seem to have too much vegetables that the batter could barely hold. I should remember to use packaged coleslaw mix instead of chopping my own cabbages and carrots next time.

____________________________________

[black]magic from Dango-kun's kitchen

MitarashiDango
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 28 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 24 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

As a lazy-bum/student, I do most of my japanese cooking using instant ingredients such as curry, soba and sauces.

So I'm still as disastrous when it comes to making real foods from scratch. The only dishes I could manage well are tamagoyaki, onigiri, and kinpira. I still cannot make a proper sushi and tonkatsu although I have made them many times..

My sushis are either too skinny or too chubby, and I often have excess nori wrapping. I think I need to put more rice and filling to make them come together. I often make them with friends and we are only able to put 3 ingredients at max per roll.
For tonkatsu, the taste was already there but not the texture.. I probably need a good deep fryer for them. However, at the luxury of common cheap-skate student, I'd like to stick with shallow pans and oven (T_T)
My okonomiyaki (I've made them 2-3x so far since 2008 based on a very easy recipe I found on the net) seem to have too much vegetables that the batter could barely hold. I should remember to use packaged coleslaw mix instead of chopping my own cabbages and carrots next time.

Pat
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I have the same problem cooking brown rice using rice cooker w/ basic "cook/keep warm" functions. My friend told me to use boiling water in lieu of tap water in the rice cooker, you can try this, but I find that the only method that alleviates this gooey mess is to just cook a smaller portion.

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 32 weeks ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

I had an issue with gluey rice because I was treating it like basmati rice, but now I can make it right most of the time. I also didn't cook some yakitori through once, so now I do it in the oven instead of on the gas.

Jiza
Bento-ing from: Madrid › Spain
Joined: 13 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 1 week ago.
Re: Learning about Japanese cookery - your disasters and ...

- japanese rice. this is how i came across just hungry.
- cold soba noodles (which my husband doesn't like but I adore)
- japanese curry (made it today for the first time and came out DELICIOUS)
- all kind of chicken recipes...

and lots of other things. I find myself wondering how my life would have been without Maki. Really! ;)

aww i can't sleep >_<

____________________________________

My bento blog: http://justbento.com/blog/1305
My art blog: http://jizaacaso.deviantart.com

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