Indian Cuisine in Japan…and the Biggest Naan Ever!

I’ve had Indian cuisine in Canada, Japan, and of course, India. Nothing could ever compare to the huge variety of foods and the stunning flavours of actual dishes cooked in India, but the curries in Japan are still delicious and a very neat experience.

I recently went to a nearby restaurant called “Ram”. It’s owned and run by Nepali people, but they serve Indo ryori, which translates to “Indian cuisine”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We opted for a dish of aloo palak (spinach curry with potatoes) and another order of tomato-based veggie curry. Each comes with an option of either naan or saffron rice so we asked for one of each.

Before our order came to the table, they brought over complementary poppadom and a bowl of chutney. I call it chutney, but it seemed to be  onions, garlic, and ginger in a red hot sauce that tasted a lot like the spice used in Korean cuisine. I guess they make the best of what they’ve got! Either way, it was still fantastic…we got three refills!

That’s actually what makes going to an Indian restaurant in Japan so interesting. Some of the ingredients that they use are imported directly from India, whereas others are fashioned out of locally available foods. The saffron rice was cooked with jeera, or cumin seeds, giving it a very authentic taste. But on the other hand, instead of using long grain rice, Indian restaurants here typically use domestic short grain rice, resulting in such an interesting fusion of textures and flavours.

The naan is also made with Japanese flour and very little oil so that it’s almost like dry toast on the outside, but fluffy inside, and with a mildly sweet flavour almost like a pancake! Not to mention, the naan in Japan is always huge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Advertisements

Vegan Chicken Teriyaki

When I was younger, I would pretty much unfailingly order a chicken teriyaki rice bowl any time I went to Japanese restaurant. I tried making a similar style teriyaki dish using yuba, which I have to say was the closest thing I’ve had to chicken teriyaki in a number of years now. Satisfying, healthy, and very simple!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you have never heard of yuba before, it’s sometimes described as “tofu skin”, or in more detailed terms, the film that forms on the surface of soy milk when it is being heated up for the production of tofu. You can find it at most Asian grocery stores, either fresh (in which case you can eat it as is), or dried (in which case you would reconstitute it by soaking in water). There are of course different qualities of yuba, and in my experience the fresh stuff is best for this type of dish.

In Japan, I tried yuba at a tofu restaurant. When served fresh, it usually has no added sauce or flavorings and has a nice mild flavour not too unlike tofu. The traditional style of serving looks something like this.

tofu5

For the teriyaki rice bowl, I made my own teriyaki sauce by mixing together the following ingredients, covering the yuba in the sauce, and then grilling them for a few minutes (flipping frequently to keep them from burning) until they were nice and crispy on the outside.

  • soy sauce
  • agave
  • sesame seeds
  • a tiny bit of ground ginger (if you like ginger)
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • chili sauce of your liking (or crushed chili peppers)

The photo below is an unadon version, with nori underneath and a sprinkling of sanshō (a type of Japanese pepper) on top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Travelling Japan: Bar Food and Hotel Buffet

I took a long train trip out to visit a friend who I had not seen since she moved to Japan about five years ago. The night I arrived she treated me to dinner and drinks at a very popular izakaya (a style of Japanese bar/pub that is known not only for their drinks, but their good food). When I go drinking in Vancouver, pretty much my only veggie option is yam fries — unless I want to dish out a hefty $15 for a chickpea burger… So, I was pleased to find an assortment of steamed vegetables on the menu! There was also mushroom tempura, which I of course had to try.

fukui6

fukui3

fukui5

Japanese sake rice wine with lime juice
Japanese sake rice wine with lime juice

The next morning, back at the hotel, they served up a gorgeous buffet breakfast. There were of course the typical Western style foods like eggs and sausage, but I was pleased to find a generous assortment of plant foods including buckwheat noodles, salads, tofu, rice, pickled vegetables, and fruit.

fukui2

fukui1

And, of course no good Japanese hotel would be complete without the infamous array of very creative vending machines. Among which, I spotted this “hot menu” machine which served up hot dogs, fries, rice balls, fried chicken, takoyaki, and stir fried noodles.

fukui

Aloo Ghobi Wraps with Four-bean Salad

I just cooked up a batch of aloo ghobi  (potato and cauliflower Indian curry) and made them into an awesome pita wrap for dinner.  I also added in chopped cilantro, homemade salsa, and a few jalapenos. For my veggies, I mixed in some four-bean salad with pickled slices of daikon (white radish) and carrot that I made the night before. This dish was definitely a crazy fusion of different food cultures, but somehow it all worked!

samosa wrap

samosa wrap salad

Samosa Squares

I had a lot of potatoes in the house so I decided to cook them into a potato masala with peas and onions. That alone with some rice or chapati is one of my favourite meals, but for dinner I tried baking these really neat little oil-free samosa squares out of atta flour, which is the same kind of flour that I would have used to make the chapati. So, maybe they’re more like chapati squares, or potato paratha squares. I don’t know…what would you call them? Anyhow, with a little chutney on the side, they were fantastic!

samosa bun2samosa bun1

Vegan Mango Sushi <3

I’ve completely fallen in love with mangoes this summer, and while I still think that they are at their absolute best when eaten straight, I’m pretty much game for any dish that has the word mango in it. So, I decided to try out making my own mango sushi, which is found in just about every Japanese restaurant across Vancouver right now. (Do they do this in your city, too?)

It adds a beautiful texture and sweetness, and next to avocado, it’s probably the closest thing to vegan sashimi out there.

mango sushi 2

mango sushi 1

Vegan Chapati Tacos

I’ve been craving tacos over the last month and half, ever since I since I found myself stuck on a bus with the guy next to me talking about the lunch he just had at Chipotle for the whole ride. So, I took matters into my own hands and finally got around to making my own at home from scratch. 😀

taco6

Instead of making actual tortilla shells, which I believe would involve wheat flour and cornmeal, I still had a lot of atta flour lying around so I decided to make Indian chapati bread. It works just as well and adds a neat flavour. For the chapati, I put a few cups of atta flour in a bowl with a pinch of salt, just a few drops of oil, and enough water to knead it into a very firm dough. Then I just roll them out and cook them very briefly in a cast iron pan at high heat, then move them to a metal rack over a second element at high heat, which allows the chapati to puff up into this big ball (ideally!).

taco1

For the filling, I used a mixture of beans that I’d prepared by soaking the night before, plus these huge, incredibly delicious onions and orange tomatoes that I got at a local farm. I also had been sprouting some fenugreek seeds for a few days, so I added those in, along with some jalapenos.

onions and tomatoestaco7taco4taco3