Friday, 3 October 2008

Japanese Breakfast

In Japan, people don't have the same seperation in the West of what food is suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The meal that most visitors are shocked with is breakfast. Of course, along with the import of Western culture, came Western food so many Japanese people now eat cereal, oatmeal, toast etc for breakfast. However, a traditional Japanese breakfast usually consists of some grilled fish, a bowl of rice, miso shiru (soup), some pickles, seaweed, perhaps some salad, tofu or another side dish such as natto. A raw egg is often also provided in hotel breakfasts, though despite my spying efforts, I've never actually managed to figure out exactly what the customer is intended to do with said egg. Anyway, it usually looks something like this...

Personally, it took me a good few months of living in Japan, before I could even contemplate eating a bowl of rice with salty pickles for breakfast! These days though, I quite often eat my dinner leftovers with rice for the first meal of the day. So would you like to try a very simple Japanese breakfast?

"Anything goes" Miso Shiru

The two essentials:
3-4 cups Kombu dashi (see my post here about how to make this)
1/3 to 2/3 cup Miso paste (I like to use a combination of sweet white miso and saltier red)

Red miso on the left, white miso on right

Your choice of ingredients! Why not try:
Carrots, sliced into rounds
Pumpkin, cubed
Onion, cut into thick chunks
Mushrooms (shiitake are especially good), halved or sliced
Daikon, cut into 1-inch sticks
Potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks or chunks
To serve: Spring onions/scallions, thinly sliced

Tofu time:
1 pack Silken tofu, cubed
1 pack Aburage (deep-fried tofu pouches), sliced into strips or triangles

Good combinations:
- Pumpkin, carrot, onion, aburage
- Silken tofu, spring onions (light miso)
- Potatoes, onions (dark miso)
- Daikon, aburage
- Shiitake, spring onions

Miso Shiru 101:

1) Heat the dashi until it comes to a simmer. Start adding your vegetables (as a general rule, the harder the vegetable, the longer is will take to cook. Thus, adding carrots and potatoes first is a good idea).
2) Once your hard vegetables have started to soften, start adding the rest of the ingredients.
3) Add the tofu (if using) and allow to heat through.
4) Now is the important part - don't kill all the nutritious goodness in your miso!!
When your soup ingredients are ready, turn off the heat. Remove a small amount of stock and make a paste with the miso. Add this back to the main pot and mix through. Continue doing this until the desired depth of taste is reached.
5) Add the spring onions and serve immediately.

My breakfast :)
(pumpkin, carrot, onion, aburage miso and ume/shiso onigiri)
-- Sarah


Bex said...

I am so curious about natto.

Veg-a-Nut said...

More often than not I eat leftovers for breakfast. I am not a cereal kind of girl. It is either fruits or tofu scramble, noodles in broth or just last nights dinner. People at work look at me really strange as they pop donut after donut in their mouth.

B.A.D. said...

Japanese breakfasts are amazing.

Raw egg is often used over curries, rice or noodle bowls.

pavotrouge said...

I like cooked breakfast, though not European-style ones. Rice and miso soup is the very best imho.

Pamela & Sarah said...

Pavotrouge - I totally agree. I think it's quite gentle on the stomach too and Japanese breakfast keeps you filled up for longer.

Thanks for your comments everyone! :)
-- Sarah

Lisa Dempster said...

Thanks for the miso recipe! I just got back from Japan and am lusting to make vegan miso. Also, I did loads of hiking in Japan and I have to say natto is the ultimate breakfast wonder-food - tasty and gives you plenty of energy!

Oh, and the egg thing? Most people crack it into their rice where it gets cooked ever-so-lightly by the rice.

diana said...

ewww natto.
Opinions are polarized on this one. Love it or loath it. I'm the second one.