It’s finally time for some warm weather and picnics; we’ve already had our first of the year sitting out under the cherry blossoms for a hanami party. What better food to take on a picnic than Japanese food? Today I’m sharing with you some recipes that are perfect for picnics from the book, A Cook’s Journey to Japan: 100 Homestyle Recipes From Japanese Kitchens.
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Tuttle Publishing kindly helped us out by sending us a copy of A Cook’s Journey to Japan, by Sarah Marx Feldner. As with myself, Sarah hadn’t always had a dream to live in Japan, but through destiny found herself there and fell in love with the cuisine. She returned later to do research for this book, which took four years in total, and I can only imagine the stories she has to tell.
The 100 recipes in this book are not too difficult, but some may be time consuming; particularly the ones where marinating needs to be done. But if you plan ahead for these (always read your recipes before you start so you don’t run into problems), it’s usually easy enough to work around, as I found.
There are 8 chapters in A Cook’s Journey to Japan:
- The Basics
- Snacks and Salads
- Rice and Noodles
- Poultry and Meat
- Vegetables and Tufu
- Desserts and Drinks
This book arrived just as we were pondering what to take with us to a hanami picnic under the cherry blossoms in Belfast with the Japan Society; talk about providence! Kallista was going to be my sous chef, and we were able to prepare our meal using ingredients we had in our cupboards, which was great! The only thing I needed to buy was some fresh chicken, which is easy to find in any grocery shop.
Tsukemono (quick and easy pickles)
We started the night before by marinating the chicken and cooking and shaping our onigiri (rice balls). The morning of our picnic Kallista was ready and happy to help jump around the kitchen mixing our tsukemono (quick and easy pickles). This is a seriously easy recipe, and one that we’ll be making again over the summer. For out two non-cucumber-lovers in the house, it was still a little too much like cucumber for Tristan, but Phil returned for at least a second helping, and Kallista and I enjoyed the rest.
Kallista also made the sauce to smooth over the top of the Miso-Glazed Onigiri. She’s checking out the ingredients in our miso paste and measuring everything out. We only made a half-recipe but it was just enough. The onigiri toasted up in the oven while I worked on making the next item we took with us.
When the Miso-Glazed Onigiri came out of the oven, they looked delicious! There was time for a quick snap of them before we carefully packed them up to take to the picnic. Most times I will shape my onigiri by hand, using the techniques I learned in Japan, but on this occasion, I didn’t have as much time or patience so I used an onigiri mould similar to this one.
Tori Kara-age (Sesame Fried Chicken)
While the onigiri was toasting, I prepared the already-marinated Sesame Fried Chicken (Tori Kara-age) by coating it, resting it, and frying it. It was easy to do, but as I didn’t want to take my eyes off the heated oil, I had Phil take the onigiri out of the oven when it was time. The chicken drained and was soon ready to be packed for the picnic just in time for us to head out of the door….we had just realised that we had miscalculated and should have left the house an hour earlier than we did!
But you can’t rush a great meal, and our Sesame Fried Chicken (Tori Kara-age) were just about perfect and simply couldn’t be rushed. They weren’t heavy or greasy, and the light taste of sesame was just right.
We made it to the picnic, a little late, but we preferred to call it fashionably late. The cherry blossoms were just starting to blossom, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and being surrounded by family and friends took my mind off some sad news I’d received that very morning.
The food was delicious; it travelled well and disappeared in the blink of an eye! Everyone says that the recipes will definitely be made again. The chicken was a little more involved, but the onigiri can easily be made from some left-over sticky rice and finished up the next day as we did here. I’m sure they’ll be accompanying us on picnics and adventures over the summer.
Japanese Egg Salad Sandwiches
On a day that Phil was working from home we decided to make the Japanese Egg Salad Sandwich recipe, which makes 6 full sandwiches so we had enough for lunch and leftovers for Phil to take to work with him the following day. I will tell you that I’m not a fan of egg salad, but these were in fact quite nice; the addition of the marinated cucumber and carrots (placed just so that when cut they show orange on one side and green on the other) really does make this recipe.
This is one recipe that you have to think about ahead of time because you need to hard boil eggs and marinate the veggies. It took me quite a while to get everything done and served. Phil and the kids really liked these and have asked for them again – and yes, even the two who do not ‘like’ cucumbers ate them up and asked for more!
More About The Book
There are more recipes that I’d like to try, such as Fried Potatoes with Miso and Sesame, Sushi Rice With Toppings, Ginger Rice, Banana Chiffon Cake, Ginger Tea, and a few others.
I’m happy to see a few of our favourites also included such as the Polar Bear Snow Cone that the kids enjoyed a couple of years ago at a Japan Society party, Green Tea Ice Cream with Black Sugar Syrup, Yakitori (chicken skewers), and one of the first meals I made for Phil after we were married, Tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets)
Yes, A Cook’s Journey to Japan brings back some lovely memories for me, and creates new ones with my family. This book makes a lovely addition to our Japanese recipe repertoire, and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to try out some new recipes this summer!