We recently had the pleasure of cooking one evening with our friend Megumi, who shared with us these favorite warm-weather recipes from Japan. Both are very simple and fresh-tasting, perfect for the dog days of summer. Below she describes each in her own words.
Hiyayakko (Cold Tofu)
Tofu was one of the foods we ate almost every day when I was a child. Back then it was not mass-produced, and there were many local tofu makers. My mother bought fresh tofu every morning from a neighborhood grocery store, often using it for miso soup. But on a hot summer day, we had hiyayakko as a side dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
This remains one of the most popular tofu side dishes enjoyed in Japan, especially in the summer. Cut tofu (silken type is preferable) into large cubes and top with grated ginger, chopped scallion, and dried bonito flake (katsuobushi). Pour soy sauce on top of it all. This is so easy to prepare, and has such a clean and refreshing taste.
Hiyashi-Chuka/Reimen (Cold Chinese Noodle)
One of the typical summer dishes served in restaurants in Japan, as well as prepared at home. To make it, put cooked chicken (or ham, roast pork, shrimp, etc.); sliced egg crepe [we made ours with three beaten eggs and a splash of soy sauce and mirin, poured onto a hot oiled pan and cooked one side at a time like a thin omelet); fresh tomato; and julienned cucumber, carrot, and any other vegetable you like [we added blanched asparagus and shitake mushroom, which had been boiled in water with soy sauce and mirin] on top of a ramen-type yellow egg noodle.
For the sauce, mix soy sauce (4 Tbsp), rice vinegar (4 Tbsp), sugar (5 Tbsp), chicken/veg stock or water (8 Tbsp), roasted sesame oil (2 Tbsp), and sesame paste or tahini (3 Tbsp). Pour the mixture on top of the dish, and sprinkle with sesame seed. You can add mustard too, if you like. (Serves 2-3)
Cooking up a Japanese feast