with Donna Sweeny

Quick and Easy Japanese Cooking

Many foreigners residing in Tokyo quickly adapt to eating Japanese cuisine — making it, however, can be another mat­ter. For the beginner, there is a bewildering array of unfam­iliar ingredients, new prepara­tion techniques and even un­known cooking utensils. With cookbooks in hand, and lots of enthusiasm, many try; the results can be  uncertain.

The Ray-Kay Cooking School in Minami Aoyama is setting out to remedy this situation with its Quick and Easy Cook­ing course. What is most re­markable about the course is that the teacher, Madame Oda, shows how to make an authentic Japanese meal with actual preparation time of half an hour. I was certainly skeptical, but in a recent cooking demon­stration, Madame Oda did just that, in 30 minutes flat — a meal benefit for busy Tokyo.

Since Japanese cooking relies heavily on seasonal ingredients, these are emphasized: students learns, for instance, to make yosenabe in winter and somen in summer. Madame Oda stu­died at the prestigious Tokyo Kaikan School of Cooking and, during her three-year stay in the States, at the American Cordon Bleu School; she also spent seven years living in Australia, and is experienced in instructing foreigners. All her classes are conducted in English.

Ms. Masako Endo, head-mistress of the school, ex­plained in a recent interview that she has purposely tried to create a homey atmosphere at Ray-Kay. Each class is limited to a maximum of 16 students; with chairs set very close to the teacher, questions are en­couraged and the ambiance is one of informality. Incidentally, Ms. Endo is no stranger to the pitfalls of cross-cultural misunderstanding, especially where food is concerned. She lived abroad for ten years, and was once invited on a fishing ex­pedition. During the course of the day, her host proffered I freshly caught, still wriggling fish and said. “Here — I know Japanese love to eat raw fish.” Not exactly what we know as sushi!

Some of Madame Oda’s quick and easy recipes appear below, but if you want to sec it done first-hand, or you want more information (there are intermediate and advanced classes, too), call 797-5937.

Bean Paste Soup (serves 4)

  • 20 grams small dried fish (niboshi)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 pack bean curd (kinugoshi)
  • 1/2 pack nameko mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons bean paste
  • Wash the dried fish re­moving the heads and en­trails.
  • Measure 3 cups of water into a pot and soak the fish for 30 minutes or longer. Bring to the boil­ing point, over medium heat, and boil for 5 minutes.
  • While making the broth, rinse the bean curd, being careful not to crush it, and cut it into 1-centimeter cubes. Put the bean curd on a plate to expel excess water.
  • Put the nameko mush­rooms in a colander and rinse well.
  • Remove the dried fish from the broth.
  • Dissolve the bean paste in 1/2 cup of the broth; put the bean paste, the bean curd and nameko mush­rooms into the pot of broth and heat to the boiling point. Serve the soup in individual  bowls.

Rolled Beef (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (or 2 tablespoons sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 300 grams sliced sukiyaki beef (about 8 or 9 slices)
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil
  • Morita shabu-shabu dip­ping sauce
  • Mix sake, mirin and soy sauce in a bowl, and mari­nate the sliced beef for 10 minutes.
  • Wash and dry the chives. Cut off the roots, and slice the chives in half.
  • Lay the beef on a board in 3 portions (2 or 3 slices of beef will make I roll). Put 1/3 of the chives on each portion of beef and roll tightly.
  • Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the beef rolls until they are lightly browned.
  • Reduce the heat and sim­mer 2 minutes.
  • Fake the rolls from the pan, and slice each into 4 pieces. Serve with dipping sauce.

Tofu in Thick Soup (serves 4)

  • 20 grams small dried fish
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 piece kelp, cut into an K centimeter square, cleaned with a damp cloth
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 pack bean curd
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • Wash the dried fish, re­moving the heads and en­trails.
  • Measure 2 cups of water into a pan and soak the fish and kelp for 2 hours or longer. Cook over medium heat just to the boiling point. Strain the broth.
  • Blend the arrowroot with 1/3 cup water. Add this, the soy sauce and mirin to the fish broth. Heat until the soup becomes thick and clear.
  • Rinse the bean curd in water and cut it into 4 pieces. Put the pieces in a pan, being careful not to crush them, and cook over medium for 3 minutes.
  • Put 1 piece of bean curd in each of 4 individual soup bowls, pour the soup over it and top with grated ginger.

Sukiyaki Rice (serves 4)

  • 200 grams sukiyaki beef
  • 1 green onion
  • konnyaku noodles
  • 1/2 pack broiled bean curd
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons salad oil
  • 1 cup Morita Sukiyaki Cooking Sauce
  • 4 eggs, beaten individually
  • Cooked rice
  • Cut the beef slices in half; cut the green onion diago­nally into 1.5 centimeter slices.
  • Wash the noodles and boil them for 2-3 min­utes; drain them and cut into 6 centimeter slices.
  • Rinse the bean curd in water and cut it in half lengthwise. Cut each strip into 1/5 centimeter slices.
  • Wash the mushrooms and cut them in half.
  • Heat the salad oil in a heavy frying pan, and fry the green onion for 3 minutes; push the onion to the side of the pan.
  • Add the beef to the pan and fry it until it begins to change color; pour 1/2 cup of sukiyaki sauce over the beef, add the noodles, broiled bean curd and mushrooms. Cook until heated through.
  • Put 1/2 of this mixture into a small pan, add 2 tablespoons of sukiyaki sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in one beaten egg and cook for 3 minutes. Place the mixture over cooked rice in a small bowl. Repeat this proce­dure for each serving.

Sweet Potatoes in Syrup (serves 4)

  • 200 grams sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon burnt alum
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-centi­meter slices.
  • Combine 1 cup water and the burnt alum in a bowl, and soak the sweet pota­toes for 30 minutes. Re­move the sweet potatoes from the bowl and rinse well.
  • Peel the lemon and slice thinly; cut each slice into quarters.
  • Put 1 1/2 cups water in a pan and add the salt and sugar. Heat until the sugar is disolved. Add the sweet potatoes, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the potatoes are tender.
  • Put the sweet potatoes into individual small bowls, pour the syrup over them and top with lemon slices.