Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recipe: Shiro Miso and Curry-reisu

This is a blog post that I've been asked to make by... I think just about everyone who's ever eaten at my house and reads my blog regularly. It's also a blog post that I'm a little loathe to make because it takes all the mystery out of how to cook what is essentially a very simple convenience meal that always comes out marvellously. Curry rice is really one of those Japanese family favourites that Mums make to appeal to fussy kids, a family favourite that's more like a spiced stew than what we think of as a curry even the "hot" varieties are very mild.

One note I will make is that because this is a very quick meal to make that actually you should put the rice on to cook before doing anything else; even preparing the vegetables. If you are using a rice cooker generally the rest of the meal will take around the same time as most commercial machines will take to cook the rice.

Miso soup

4 cups of water
1 spring onion
1 packet of bonito dashi (Japanese sardine stock)
4 tablespoons of fresh shiro miso paste
1 pack firm silken tofu

Most of this meal is about "what to buy" when you're in an Asian supermarket. First we start with the dashi; dashi simply means 'soup base' or 'stock' and in our case we are going to use a packet bonito dashi made from Japanese sardines. My favourite brand is Shimaya which is reliable, stores in the cupboard and available in just about any major supermarket in Australia.

Put the water on the heat and add 1 packet (10g) of bonito dashi powder; if you are making dashi or have bought another brand then follow the instructions to make 1L.

While the water is heating then dice the spring onion and tofu. Heat the stock until it is beginning to boil; add the spring onion and take to a full boil.

The brand of tofu that I buy is TLY Joyce which is available in the fresh fridge section of most Coles or Asian supermarkets in Australia. It is vegan, fresh and comes in a variety of textures and flavours of your choosing.

When the water has boiled take it down to a medium heat and then take off 1-2 cups into a bowl or other heat proof container.

I prefer shiro miso - which is white miso paste. Miso paste also comes in a variety of types, red and white are the most common but some come with the dashi "built in," with wakame (seaweed), shellfish, mushroom or about any other Japanese seasoning one could imagine. Shiro miso is much less strong than other miso paste and is often eaten at breakfast time, I find that because it is milder it is better suited to most Western palettes.

You should never buy non Japanese miso paste; even Miso that is made in Australia is never as good, let alone Korean or Taiwanese miso that you can find these days. For "every day" meals I religiously buy this Miko brand. It is available in most good Asian supermarkets in Australia including at Burlington, Miracle and V-Plus supermarket chains.

Also never buy powdered miso, miso is a preserved product that should survive for months on the shelf with proper sealed containers there is no need to buy powdered instant miso.

Add the miso and stir until it's mostly dissolved.

Add the Miso/Dashi mix back into the soup and keep on a medium heat until the miso is well mixed throughout the soup. Add the tofu and warm until heated through; the soup should not boil once the miso is added.

Pour into small soup bowls and serve. Note that the miso will settle if left and form a cloud in the bottom of the bowl - this is normal and does not identify separation or other issue with the food. Stir with chopsticks and drink!


2 cups of uncooked rice

250g lean meat: Pork, beef or chicken as preference
1 brown onion
2 onions
Japanese curry paste
oil to fry

As mentioned earlier, place the rice onto cook before other parts of the meal.

In this case I'm using chicken, traditionally the meat used in curry is pork in Japan. Also excellent is the sauce sans meat poured over katsu schnitzel.

Brown the onions then add the carrot diced, you can add other vegetables at this point if you want. Potatoes and yams are excellent in this dish. Add the meat and stir fry on medium eat until the meat is browned.

I like S&B "Tasty Curry" in either Medium Hot or Hot. There are about 100 different brands you can buy, these are all a matter of taste. S&B and House are the main brands of Japanese curry, for sweeter curry buy Vermont, for hotter curry buy "Jungle Curry".

When you open the packet there are "ice cube" trays of curry paste inside. 1 square is equivalent to about 1 serve, in this case we are making food for around 4 people so will use half a packet. Cut the block into cubes.

Cover the meat/vegetables with hot water and add the cubes, stir until the paste has melted and then put onto medium heat until the rice is cooked.

The stew will thicken quickly until a thick sauce has formed; this will continue to thicken if cooled so you should serve immediately.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: Union Hotel, Newtown

On a Sunday night particularly if I've spent the entire day doing university work; but maybe even because you just don't want to cook, or because it's cold, or because your family are driving you nuts and you need a drink ... it's great to have a local pub with decent food. At my end of Newtown that's The Union.

From the outside it looks a little dodgy like many inner West pubs. The walls are tiled, they're showing sport in the main room and the decor is what you might call... utilitarian. Step inside and through the back and instead you find yourself in a warm friendly family pub bistro, the TVs are showing the Sunday night family movie at muted volume. They're playing The Cure softly as well, because this is Newtown after all, and most of the pub are young families or alternative types talking media analysis. In short I feel pretty at home.

Herb and garlic bread $5

The garlic bread looks a little sad with its burnt corner! If you like that overly soft pizza chain garlic bread you'll like this, though it is thankfully much less oily than most pizza places. Not the best item on their menu.

This month's special - Warm crisp pork belly and apple salad with matched drink $19

Admittedly I am drawn to this dish primarily because it comes with a large glass of Bulmer's cider but on arrival I'm very happy with the results. Sharp but not overpowering balsamic are dashed on sweet fruit that hits the perfect note with the crisped meat and fat of the pork. For pub bistro food this is top notch and I make strange little noises as I chase the last of the crackled pork around the plate.

Sunday night roast with vegies $12
There's something quite homely about a roast counter meal in a pub isn't there? I don't know that there's much to say about this, it's certainly not fancy but the meat isn't overcooked and is fairly moist. The gravy I suspect comes from a packet but there's definitely some induced meat fat in there. The vegetables are well cooked and not overdone either. It's not high class but it does certainly hit the spot especially given the price and certainly not a bad rendition of a pub classic.

Chicken parmiggiana with mashed potato and vegetables $18

Not the cheapest chicken parmiggiana in the inner city but its much better quality than most pubs. The meat is well cooked and moist, the bread crumb not too oily. The sauce is fresh and the cheese is actual fresh mozzarella. This brings a classic pub meal up to the inner ring suburbia lifestyle.

Zucchini and sweet corn fritters with grilled haloumi $14

I have a love affair with sweet corn that I'm well known for, and corn fritters in particular are a favourite of mine. To find out I can have them and call it dinner rather than having to seek out Sunday brunch cafes with it listed on their menu is music to my ears. I suspect when I order that I will get one limp piece of haloumi on the side and am happy to see most of a block cut up and grilled with my food. The fritters are well made and served over a wilted spinach salad with tomatoes and a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon.

I do the happy food dance and vow to return.

The Union really is a classic pub bistro brought upscale just enough to appeal to the professional queers and goths who can still afford King St rent but not so much that it detracts from the rest of the Newtown and Marrickville regulars. The drinks are cheap, the atmosphere is pleasant and unrowdy and the service is pretty fast. For pub food its very satisfying and their regular list of well thought out specials is worth a look over.

The Union Hotel
576 King St
Newtown NSW 2040

Fully licensed, pub atmosphere but children and family groups welcome so long as children are supervised
Walk in, no reservations required