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Kabocha Squash and Scallion Tempura

Kabocha Squash and Scallion Tempura



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Even though this recipe calls for kabocha squash, you can use acorn squash instead.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil (for frying; about 10 cups)
  • ½ cup cornstarch, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ kabocha squash, sliced into ¼-inch-thick wedges
  • 4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Honey and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)

Recipe Preparation

  • Pour vegetable oil into a large pot fitted with a deep-fry thermometer to come 2" up sides; heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 375°.

  • Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, kosher salt, and ½ cup cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add club soda and whisk just to combine.

  • Working in batches, dust squash and scallions with some cornstarch, shaking off excess, then dip in batter, letting excess drip off. Fry, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve drizzled with honey and sprinkled with red pepper flakes and sea salt.

Nutritional Content

Calories (kcal) 310 Fat (g) 19 Saturated Fat (g) 2.5 Cholesterol (mg) 0 Carbohydrates (g) 35 Dietary Fiber (g) 1 Total Sugars (g) 3 Protein (g) 3 Sodium (mg) 210Reviews Section

Ingredient Substitutions for Japanese Cooking

Do you struggle with Japanese cooking because you don’t have a certain ingredient in your kitchen? Or have you discovered a delicious recipe you wish to make, but do not live near a Japanese or Asian market? Or maybe you’re on a specific diet? In this post, you’ll find suggestions for ingredient substitution and some really useful resources for Japanese cooking.

most basic Japanese essential ingredients to cook Japanese dishes at home. You can also browse my pantry pages to learn more about each ingredient.


The Dish: Chef Ivan Orkin shares Japanese recipes

Chef Ivan Orkin's first exposure to Japan was a lowly one, washing dishes in a Long Island sushi bar when he was just 15. But he fell in love with the cuisine and the culture. After restaurant work in the United States, he moved to Tokyo and took his wife's bold suggestion to open a ramen shop.

The unlikely gamble paid off. His Ivan Ramen became a hit and spawned two locations now open in New York City. He's also co-author of "The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider."

Here are some of his recipes.

Oden Party (serves 4 to 6)

Aubrie Pick
  • 8 cups Dashi (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons mirin

Packaged ingredients (choose three or four):

  • 12 ounces (2 packages) shirataki noodles
  • Chikuwa (cylindrical fish cakes), left whole
  • Satsuma-age (fried fish cakes), left whole
  • Abura-age (fried tofu)
  • Hanpen (white fish cakes), cut into triangles or smaller squares
  • Japanese (arabiki) sausages (or hot dogs or Vienna sausages)
  • Kombu maki (dried seaweed rolls), soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
  • 12 ounces daikon, peeled and sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • Optional: 4 large eggs or soy-marinated eggs (Ajitama) (see below)

For the broth, add the dashi, soy sauce, sake and mirin to a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat and bring to a bare simmer. Meanwhile, if using shirataki noodles, rinse them in a colander in the sink with cold water, then pour 2 cups boiling water over them to help remove any funky odor. Begin adding ingredients to the simmering broth in the order of their cooking times (see below), longer-cooking items. Keep the heat at a bare simmer and work in batches if necessary. With the exception of the daikon and eggs, you're not trying to cook anything, per se. You're mostly reheating and infusing dashi flavor into precooked foods. Distribute bowls and serve people one or two pieces at a time with a splash of broth, a smear of mustard, and a handful of green onions on the side.

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Oden ingredient cooking times:

Shirataki Noodles: 10 minutes

Japanese sausages (or hot dogs or Vienna sausages): 10 minutes

Eggs: 15 minutes peel, then return to the pot for 5 to 10 minutes

Dashi (makes about 7 cups)

Bring 8 cups water to a bare simmer in a large saucepan, then shut off the heat and add the kombu. Let the seaweed sit for 5 minutes, then add the katsuobushi, cover the pan, and allow to soak for 15 more minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and let cool. Use immediately, or pack up and store. The dashi will keep for 2 days covered in the fridge or for a couple months if you freeze it into ice cubes and store them in a zip-top bag with the air squeezed out.

Soy-marinated eggs (Ajitama) (makes 5 eggs)

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1 cup sake
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup tightly packed katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Carefully lower in the eggs with a slotted spoon or strainer and cook for 7 minutes and 15 seconds (set a timer), then immediately lift them out and plunge into an ice bath. Let the eggs cool completely. Meanwhile, bring the mirin, sake, soy sauce, and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Shut off the heat and add the katsuobushi. Allow to steep for 10 minutes, then strain and cool the liquid. Crack and peel the eggs and place in a large zip-top bag. Add the cooled liquid and seal. Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours before serving. After 24 hours, remove the eggs from the brine and store in the fridge for up to a few days longer.

Tempura Party (serves 4)

Aubrie Pick

Firm vegetables (choose a couple)

  • Carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into ¼ -inch-thick slices
  • Lotus root, peeled and sliced into ¼ -inch-thick-rounds
  • Kabocha squash, quartered, seeded, and sliced into ¼ -inch-thick crescents
  • Sweet potato, peeled and sliced into ¼ -inch-thick rounds
  • Onion, peeled and sliced into ½ -inch-thick rounds and separated into rings

Soft vegetables (choose a couple)

  • Maitake, shimeji (beech), or oyster mushrooms, trimmed and torn into finger-size chunks
  • Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • Asparagus, woody bottoms removed, peeled, and sliced in half
  • Chrysanthemum or dandelion greens, torn into 2-inch pieces
  • Okra (whole)
  • Zucchini, sliced on the bias into ½ -inch-thick pieces
  • Medium or large shrimp, peeled but tail left on (give the back of each shrimp a couple light whacks against a cutting board to break up the muscle fibers and prevent them from curling as they cook)
  • Squid bodies, sliced into rings

4 to 6 quarts vegetable oil for deep-frying

If you want more batter than this, make it in batches. Don't try to double or triple the recipe. This batter is extremely light, not like what you'll find at most Japanese-American restaurants. It will give the seafood and vegetables a gossamer-thin coating of crunchiness.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1.25 cups cake flour, sifted
  • For serving
  • Tempura Dipping Sauce (see below)
  • Ten Don Sauce (see below optional)
  • Steamed rice

Have the vegetables and/or seafood at the ready. Add the vegetable oil to an 8- to 10-quart heavy-bottomed pot. (If you have a deep fryer, more power to you.) Heat the oil to 350 degrees over medium heat, using a deep-fry thermometer to check the temperature. Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a wire rack to receive the fried items. For the batter, it's important that the water be very cold, so begin by making a couple cups of ice water, then straining and measuring out 1.75 cups. Pour the water into a bowl, add the egg yolks, and whisk thoroughly to combine. Add the flour and whisk very lightly. Resist the urge to overmix. It's fine if a few lumps remain, and you will be rewarded with an airy, lattice-like tempura. Meanwhile, set your guests up with individual bowls of sauce(s) and rice, if you're serving it.

Once the oil is hot, start with whichever ingredient you like. Give it a quick dip into the batter, using your fingers or wooden chopsticks, then give it a little shake to let any excess drip back into the bowl. Lower the battered ingredient into the oil and give it a gentle stir. Most items will take somewhere around 90 seconds to cook through and crisp up, but you'll want to test a piece of each one to get the timing right first. Never fry so many items simultaneously that the oil temperature drops dramatically. Remove the fried items from the oil and let drain for a few seconds, then serve while still hot and crisp.

Tempura dipping sauce (makes 1.5 cups)

Combine the dashi, soy sauce and mirin in a bowl, then divide among individual dipping bowls. Set out the grated daikon in a separate bowl so diners can add a couple tablespoons or so to taste.

Ten don sauce (makes 1.5 cups)

Combine the dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about 75% and the sauce is syrupy, about 9 minutes. Cool and store in the fridge for up to a week. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Okinawa-style soba with pork belly and katsuobushi (Soki Soba) (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as an appetizer)

Aubrie Pick
  • 10 ounces skinless pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced into 2-inch lengths, dark green parts sliced thin for garnish
  • One 2.5-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup tightly packed katsuobushi (bonito flakes), plus more for garnish
  • 6 ounces dried udon

Combine the pork belly, white and light green scallion parts, ginger, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the sake, sugar and 4 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Drop the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the pork is tender replenish with water as necessary to maintain the same amount of liquid, about a half cup every half hour. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat out of the liquid. Strain the broth, return to the pot, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and season to taste with salt. Add the katsuobushi and let it stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the udon according to the package directions. Divide the noodles into two or four bowls. Strain the broth and ladle it over the noodles, then top each with a few pieces of pork belly, sliced scallion greens, and a big pinch of katsuobushi.

Grilled peppers with ginger-onion shio tare (serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer)

Aubrie Pick
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 3 bell peppers (or 12 to 15 small, sweet peppers) of various colors

For the shio tare, combine the oil, onion, garlic and ginger in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over low heat and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and barely begun to brown. Remove the pan from the heat and add 5 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. Cool to room temperature, then taste and decide whether or not to add more salt. Prepare a medium fire in an outdoor grill or preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you're using large peppers, stem them, remove the seeds and slice into quarters. Grill over medium heat or roast on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until the skins have begun to blacken in places and the flesh is tender but not completely limp, about 20 minutes. Arrange the peppers on a plate and top generously with the shio tare. Serve warm.

Rice cakes (mochi) (makes as many as you like)

Aubrie Pick

Heat the mochi in one of three ways. Mochi is like napalm when it gets hot and drippy, so be very careful.

  • In an oven (or toaster oven): Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Lay the mochi on a baking sheet, or directly on the oven rack, if it won't slip through, and bake until the mochi puffs up and begins to turn golden, usually 5 to 8 minutes. Remove carefully.
  • On a grill rack set over a low flame: If you happen to have a small wire grate that fits over your gas range, you can grill a piece of mochi for about 2 minutes over very low heat, flipping it often, until it puffs up and begins to turn golden. Remove carefully.
  • In a microwave: This is not the most desirable method because you won't get any crispness, but if you gotta have your mochi in a hurry, place it on a heatproof plate and microwave for about 20 seconds on high power, until it puffs and softens.

Then add the accoutrements. Pick one route, or throw a choose-your-own-mochi party by setting out the various options. All of these ingredients are readily available at Japanese markets and online.


Steaming kabocha squash and Japanese sweet potatoes

Perfectly cooked kabocha squash and Japanese sweet potatoes make pleasing snacks on their own. I usually steam plenty as they can be made into many other dishes.

Steaming kabocha squash

Ingredient
Method
  1. Set your steamer. Wash and dry the squash. Carefully halve the squash and scoop out the seeds and fibers using a big spoon. Cut the halves into large wedges or chunks.
  2. Place the squash you are using in the steamer, skin side down in a single layer. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and cook the squash over medium-high heat for 15 to 30 minutes or until it turns vibrant yellow orange. The squash is done when a bamboo skewer or folk pierced slides easily. Be careful not to overcook the squash until mushy or too soft. Turn off heat. Let it sit uncovered until cool enough to touch.

Steaming Japanese sweet potatoes

Ingredient

small to medium Japanese sweet potatoes, as needed

Method
  1. Wash the sweet potatoes you are using and trim off the dry ends. Cut the medium sweet potato crosswise in half. Small sweet potatoes can be cooked whole.
  2. Set your steamer and place the sweet potatoes. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 25 to 40 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are cooked through. Sweet potato is done when a bamboo skewer or folk pierced in the middle slides easily. Turn off heat. Let them sit uncovered until cool enough to touch.
Tips & notes

  • Always have some water in the steamer while cooking. Add more water as necessary.
  • Kabocha is an Asian variety of winter squash also called Japanese pumpkin. The skin is forest green and edible. Sometimes I come across orange colored kabocha from fall to winter. To pick out a nice kabocha, pick up medium to large-sized ones. Feel the weight of it and pick the one that feels heavier than expected for its size. Good kabocha is dense and comes out sweet, flaky and dry like chestnuts when perfectly cooked.
  • Japanese sweet potatoes have purplish red skin with whitish flesh that turns golden yellow when cooked. They come out sweet, kind of creamy and filling.
  • Hawaiian sweet potatoes (also known as Okinawan sweet potatoes) are also one of my favorites. They have beige skin and purple flesh that turns vibrant lavender-purple when cooked.

Ethnic/Cultural Info

In northern Italy, many different squash cultivars have been cultivated for hundreds of years, but the use of squash in culinary applications significantly increased during the season of Lent. The soft, dense squash flesh was used as a meat substitute, and over time, many of the meatless lent dishes became frequent everyday meals. In the modern-day, squash varieties such as the Delica are especially beloved and used in the city of Mantua in northern Italy. Mantua is known for its squash cultivation, and the symbol of the city is often a pumpkin. Mantua is also famous for its signature dish, tortelli de zucca, which mixes a filling of parmesan cheese, spices, amaretti, Delica squash, and mustard, and is then stuffed into tortellini. Tortelli de zucca is traditionally served on Christmas Eve in Italy as a cleansing meal before the more substantial, meat-filled Christmas Day feasts.


Directions

1. Simmer chicken stock, water, bonito, anchovies, kombu, dried shiitake, ginger, garlic, and daikon radish together for about an hour, then strain.

Pro Tip: I think the easiest way to make ramen broth is to put all the solids into one of those giant Chinese tea/medicine bags. You can buy disposable ones by the ten-pack at bigger Asian grocery stores, or cloth bags can be found at beer brewing supply stores, of all places. If you don’t want to do that, just pour it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer at the end.

2. Return the broth to the pot and add the sake, soy and mirin, and taste to check for seasoning. Add salt and sugar as needed. You want it to be kind of strong since the noodles are going to soak up some of the flavor. Keep it at a very low simmer while you’re making the tempura.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.

4. Thinly slice the bigger or firmer vegetables such as winter squash, sweet potatoes or carrots. Separate the onion rings. Leave the green beans and mushrooms whole, removing the woody stems of the shiitakes if you are using them.

5. Heat up your oven to its lowest setting, then begin heating the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. While your oil is heating, mix the rice flour and seltzer (it’s okay if there a few lumps) and wash and pat dry your vegetables. You’ll be working in batches, so just do a handful at a time. When the oil is hot, dunk the veggies in the batter and carefully slide them into the oil (chopsticks are a great tool for this job). Don’t overcrowd the oil, and keep an eye on the temp. It will drop once you add the cold food. After about ten seconds, gently stir the items in the fryer, and after about 3 or 4 minutes remove them carefully with your spider or other long-handled strainer, or long chopsticks. (If you’re unsure about it, test one piece for doneness before you pull everything out.) Spread them on a cooling rack laid over a baking tray to drain, hit them with a sprinkle of salt, and put the tray in the oven to keep the tempura warm and crisp while you fry up the rest of the veggies.

Pro Tip:Get your noodle water boiling at the same time as you’re making the tempura. When you’re getting your last batch of tempura out of the fryer, cook the noodles.

6. Tease apart ramen noodles and add to boiling water. Stir and cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain well.

7. Divide noodles into six portions, placing the noodles in the bowl first. Cover with a ladleful of broth (add the broth to the same level as the noodles in the bowl and swish the noodles around to keep loosen then), and then nestle the tempura on top. Add sliced scallions and a spoonful of grated daikon on top and togarashi to taste. Itadakimasu!


Lightly brush bread with olive oil and toast to desired level of doneness. Meanwhile, mash avocado and soy sauce in a bowl. Top toast with avocado mixture and top with cucumber slices and scallion. Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi to taste and serve.

The volume of each ingredient will depend on the size of your bread and personal preference. Apply to taste. You can order shichimi online, find it in most Asian specialty stores, or simply substitute some ground red chili pepper, black pepper, powdered ginger, and sesame seeds for a comparable, if somewhat less nuanced, seasoning.


Crispy Squash Tempura

Soy Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. minced fresh chiles, or to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. sesame oil, to taste

Assembly
1 kabocha squash, unpeeled or 1 acorn squash, unpeeled
2 egg yolks
2 to 2 1/2 cups ice water
1/4 cup ice cubes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Flour, as needed, for dredging

PREPARATION

Soy Dipping Sauce
Combine rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, chiles, garlic, green onions and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more sesame oil or chiles, if desired.

Assembly
Cut squash in half and seed. Cut into 1/4-inch slices. (You’ll get about 20 slices.) Set aside.

Add oil in deep fryer or pour enough oil into a deep skillet or Dutch oven to come about 2 to 3-inches up sides of pan. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

For the tempura batter: Combine egg yolks, ice water and ice cubes. Add flour and cornstarch. Stir to combine. Avoid over mixing, it’s okay if the batter is lumpy. The batter should be the consistency of whipping cream, adjust with flour or water, as needed. Make sure batter is cold and try to use right away.

Dredge slice of squash in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into batter. Then slowly add to hot oil, frying in batches. Cook, turning once, until squash is golden and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towel to drain.


Tia's Recipe & Photo Journal

Kabocha, also known as Japanese pumpkin, is a sweet and nutty winter squash native to Japan. E’s parents gave us one from their lovely garden to play with, and since I've only had kabocha served as part of the tempura vegetable mix alongside udon noodle soup, I decided to treat it like a pumpkin and made a comforting soup.

This kabocha was relatively young, so I didn't have to remove the skin prior to cooking. However, to achieve the brilliant yellow color of the finished product, you should peel off the green skin.

  • 1 kabocha, seeded & chunked
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 knob ginger, peeled & sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 qt chicken/vegetable broth
  • 2-3 cups water to adjust consistency
  • Toasted sesame seed oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A pat of butter
  • Chopped chives & toasted pumpkin seeds or almond flakes to garnish

Place a soup pot over high heat and drizzle with EVOO and a pat of butter. Toss in onion, ginger and garlic and saute until aromatic and soft. Add broth and water and bring to a rolling boil before tossing in the chunked kabocha. Lower heat, cover and let simmer until kabocha is tender. Take off heat and blend till smooth. I mashed the kabocha with the back of a spoon, but a hand blender would be better if you’d like a really smooth texture. Season with a drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil, a splash of soy sauce, sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.

To serve, ladle some hot soup into a small bowl and garnish with chopped chives, pan-toasted pumpkin seeds or almond flakes and a drizzle of fine olive oil.


The Dish: Chef Ivan Orkin shares Japanese recipes

Chef Ivan Orkin’s first exposure to Japan was a lowly one, washing dishes in a Long Island sushi bar when he was just 15. But he fell in love with the cuisine and the culture. After restaurant work in the United States, he moved to Tokyo and took his wife’s bold suggestion to open a ramen shop. 

The unlikely gamble paid off. His Ivan Ramen became a hit and spawned two locations now open in New York City. He’s also co-author of “The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider.”

Here are some of his recipes.

Oden Party (serves 4 to 6)

  • 8 cups Dashi (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons mirin

Packaged ingredients (choose three or four):

  • 12 ounces (2 packages) shirataki noodles
  • Chikuwa (cylindrical fish cakes), left whole
  • Satsuma-age (fried fish cakes), left whole
  • Abura-age (fried tofu)
  • Hanpen (white fish cakes), cut into triangles or smaller squares
  • Japanese (arabiki) sausages (or hot dogs or Vienna sausages)
  • Kombu maki (dried seaweed rolls), soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
  • 12 ounces daikon, peeled and sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • Optional: 4 large eggs or soy-marinated eggs (Ajitama) (see below)

For the broth, add the dashi, soy sauce, sake and mirin to a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat and bring to a bare simmer. Meanwhile, if using shirataki noodles, rinse them in a colander in the sink with cold water, then pour 2 cups boiling water over them to help remove any funky odor. Begin adding ingredients to the simmering broth in the order of their cooking times (see below), longer-cooking items. Keep the heat at a bare simmer and work in batches if necessary. With the exception of the daikon and eggs, you’re not trying to cook anything, per se. You’re mostly reheating and infusing dashi flavor into precooked foods. Distribute bowls and serve people one or two pieces at a time with a splash of broth, a smear of mustard, and a handful of green onions on the side.

Oden ingredient cooking times:

Shirataki Noodles: 10 minutes

Japanese sausages (or hot dogs or Vienna sausages): 10 minutes

Eggs: 15 minutes peel, then return to the pot for 5 to 10 minutes

Dashi (makes about 7 cups)

Bring 8 cups water to a bare simmer in a large saucepan, then shut off the heat and add the kombu. Let the seaweed sit for 5 minutes, then add the katsuobushi, cover the pan, and allow to soak for 15 more minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and let cool. Use immediately, or pack up and store. The dashi will keep for 2 days covered in the fridge or for a couple months if you freeze it into ice cubes and store them in a zip-top bag with the air squeezed out.

Soy-marinated eggs (Ajitama) (makes 5 eggs)

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1 cup sake
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup tightly packed katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Carefully lower in the eggs with a slotted spoon or strainer and cook for 7 minutes and 15 seconds (set a timer), then immediately lift them out and plunge into an ice bath. Let the eggs cool completely. Meanwhile, bring the mirin, sake, soy sauce, and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Shut off the heat and add the katsuobushi. Allow to steep for 10 minutes, then strain and cool the liquid. Crack and peel the eggs and place in a large zip-top bag. Add the cooled liquid and seal. Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours before serving. After 24 hours, remove the eggs from the brine and store in the fridge for up to a few days longer.

Tempura Party (serves 4)

Firm vegetables (choose a couple)

  • Carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into ¼ -inch-thick slices
  • Lotus root, peeled and sliced into ¼ -inch-thick-rounds
  • Kabocha squash, quartered, seeded, and sliced into ¼ -inch-thick crescents
  • Sweet potato, peeled and sliced into ¼ -inch-thick rounds
  • Onion, peeled and sliced into ½ -inch-thick rounds and separated into rings

Soft vegetables (choose a couple)  

  • Maitake, shimeji (beech), or oyster mushrooms, trimmed and torn into finger-size chunks
  • Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • Asparagus, woody bottoms removed, peeled, and sliced in half
  • Chrysanthemum or dandelion greens, torn into 2-inch pieces
  • Okra (whole)
  • Zucchini, sliced on the bias into ½ -inch-thick pieces
  • Medium or large shrimp, peeled but tail left on (give the back of each shrimp a couple light whacks against a cutting board to break up the muscle fibers and prevent them from curling as they cook)
  • Squid bodies, sliced into rings

4 to 6 quarts vegetable oil for deep-frying

If you want more batter than this, make it in batches. Don’t try to double or triple the recipe. This batter is extremely light, not like what you’ll find at most Japanese-American restaurants. It will give the seafood and vegetables a gossamer-thin coating of crunchiness.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1.25 cups cake flour, sifted
  • For serving
  • Tempura Dipping Sauce (see below)
  • Ten Don Sauce (see below optional)
  • Steamed rice

Have the vegetables and/or seafood at the ready. Add the vegetable oil to an 8- to 10-quart heavy-bottomed pot. (If you have a deep fryer, more power to you.) Heat the oil to 350 degrees over medium heat, using a deep-fry thermometer to check the temperature. Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a wire rack to receive the fried items. For the batter, it’s important that the water be very cold, so begin by making a couple cups of ice water, then straining and measuring out 1.75 cups. Pour the water into a bowl, add the egg yolks, and whisk thoroughly to combine. Add the flour and whisk very lightly. Resist the urge to overmix. It’s fine if a few lumps remain, and you will be rewarded with an airy, lattice-like tempura. Meanwhile, set your guests up with individual bowls of sauce(s) and rice, if you’re serving it. 

Once the oil is hot, start with whichever ingredient you like. Give it a quick dip into the  batter, using your fingers or wooden chopsticks, then give it a little shake to let any excess drip back into the bowl. Lower the battered ingredient into the oil and give it a gentle stir. Most items will take somewhere around 90 seconds to cook through and crisp up, but you’ll want to test a piece of each one to get the timing right first. Never fry so many items simultaneously that the oil temperature drops dramatically. Remove the fried items from the oil and let drain for a few seconds, then serve while still hot and crisp.

Tempura dipping sauce (makes 1.5 cups)

Combine the dashi, soy sauce and mirin in a bowl, then divide among individual dipping bowls. Set out the grated daikon in a separate bowl so diners can add a couple tablespoons or so to taste.

Ten don sauce (makes 1.5 cups)

Combine the dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about 75% and the sauce is syrupy, about 9 minutes. Cool and store in the fridge for up to a week. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Okinawa-style soba with pork belly and katsuobushi (Soki Soba) (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as an appetizer)

  • 10 ounces skinless pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced into 2-inch lengths, dark green parts sliced thin for garnish
  • One 2.5-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup tightly packed katsuobushi (bonito flakes), plus more for garnish
  • 6 ounces dried udon

Combine the pork belly, white and light green scallion parts, ginger, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the sake, sugar and 4 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Drop the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the pork is tender replenish with water as necessary to maintain the same amount of liquid, about a half cup every half hour. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat out of the liquid. Strain the broth, return to the pot, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and season to taste with salt. Add the katsuobushi and let it stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the udon according to the package directions. Divide the noodles into two or four bowls. Strain the broth and ladle it over the noodles, then top each with a few pieces of pork belly, sliced scallion greens, and a big pinch of katsuobushi.

Grilled peppers with ginger-onion shio tare (serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer)

  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 3 bell peppers (or 12 to 15 small, sweet peppers) of various colors

For the shio tare, combine the oil, onion, garlic and ginger in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over low heat and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and barely begun to brown. Remove the pan from the heat and add 5 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. Cool to room temperature, then taste and decide whether or not to add more salt. Prepare a medium fire in an outdoor grill or preheat the oven  to 400 degrees. If you’re using large peppers, stem them, remove the seeds and slice into quarters. Grill over medium heat or roast on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until the skins have begun to blacken in places and the flesh is tender but not completely limp, about 20 minutes. Arrange the peppers on a plate and top generously with the shio tare. Serve warm.

Rice cakes (mochi) (makes as many as you like)

Heat the mochi in one of three ways. Mochi is like napalm when it gets hot and drippy, so be very careful. 

  • In an oven (or toaster oven): Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Lay the mochi on a baking sheet, or directly on the oven rack, if it won’t slip through, and bake until the mochi puffs up and begins to turn golden, usually 5 to 8 minutes. Remove carefully.
  • On a grill rack set over a low flame: If you happen to have a small wire grate that fits over your gas range, you can grill a piece of mochi for about 2 minutes over very low heat, flipping it often, until it puffs up and begins to turn golden. Remove carefully.
  • In a microwave: This is not the most desirable method because you won’t get any crispness, but if you gotta have your mochi in a hurry, place it on a heatproof plate and microwave for about 20 seconds on high power, until it puffs and softens.

Then add the accoutrements. Pick one route, or throw a choose-your-own-mochi party by setting out the various options. All of these ingredients are readily available at Japanese markets and online.