Believe it or not, Japanese cuisine, in general, is actually quite vegan-friendly, and many dishes can be made vegan with just a simple substitution or two. You can enjoy the same big, bold, salty-sweet-spicy-rich-umami recipes of modern Japanese soul food without so much as glancing down the meat and dairy aisles. And best of all, it’s super-easy to make!
In Vegan Japaneasy, Tim Anderson taps into Japan’s rich culture of cookery that’s already vegan or very nearly vegan, so there are no sad substitutes and zero shortcomings on taste. From classics like Vegetable Tempura, Onigiri, Mushroom Gyoza and Agedashi Tofu, to clever vegan conversions including Cauliflower Katsu Curry, Rough Night Rice, French Onion Ramen and Mapo Tofu with Ancient Grains, you don’t need to be vegan to enjoy these tasty recipes. Add to that some outrageously good drinks and desserts, like the Watermelon Mojito and Soy Sauce Butterscotch Brownies, and you’ll be spoilt for choice!
With ingredients like tangy miso, savoury shiitake mushrooms and zingy ponzu, to name a few, who needs meat? So if you’re new to veganism, new to Japanese cooking, new to both, or you just want to expand your meat-free repertoire, this is the book for you!
Rough Night Rice
SERVES 2, 3 IF YOU’RE FEELING GENEROUS, 1 IF YOU ARE REALLY VERY DRUNK AND GREEDY
Rice has always been one of my favourite things to eat when I’m blotto. This is mainly because, back in college, I lived in dorms without kitchens, and the only piece of equipment I owned was a rice cooker that was originally given to my parents as a wedding present back in 1979. So, after a night of partying, I’d stumble back to my room and cook some rice. It was ideal for cooking while drunk because all I had to do was dump in rice and water and switch it on.
I still love rice when I’m pickled. However, after so many years in London, I’ve also developed a fondness for drunken kebabs—all greasy and meaty to slow down the effects of the alcohol, but with tangy/spicy condiments and a bit of fresh veg to perk yourself up as well. A few years ago, I decided to combine rice and kebab-like flavours in what I’d hoped would be the perfect drinking food, called ‘Rough Night Rice.’ Not only is it really delicious and filling, but it’s also absurdly easy (it’s all cooked ahead, then microwaved and garnished) so that even the bar staff could make it if we couldn’t get a chef to stay late. So if you’re planning a big night out, do yourself a favour and prep this earlier in the day—it’ll take the edge off both the booze and its after-effects.
2 tablespoons oil
½ red onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 pak choi (bok choi)/¼ cabbage/handful of tender stem broccoli or similar, roughly chopped
3 vegan sausages, chopped up
150 g (5 oz) Kimchi (see below)
200 g (7 oz/generous 1 cup) rice (uncooked weight), cooked according to the instructions below
a glug of soy sauce
a splash of mirin
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, crushed to a coarse powder
1 jalapeño, finely sliced (optional)
2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
a drizzle of hot chilli sauce
a drizzle of vegan mayo
Heat the oil in a frying pan (skillet) or wok over a medium heat, add most of the onion (save a spoonful to use later as garnish) and stir-fry until translucent and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, greens and sausages and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, until the veg are tender and the sausages are browned. Add the kimchi and cook until the kimchi liquid has evaporated, then add the rice, soy sauce and mirin. Break up the rice with a wooden spoon or spatula as you stir-fry, add the sesame and work it through.
Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then pack into microwaveable containers.
Combine the reserved red onion, jalapeño, spring onions and lime wedge in a separate container. Keep the rice and the garnish in the refrigerator until you’re drunk.
Open the lid on the rice a crack, and microwave for 3–4 minutes, until piping hot throughout.
Transfer to a bowl and drizzle over the hot sauce and mayo. Add the fresh garnishes to the top and squeeze over the lime. Give everything a good stir, before shovelling it into your face. Pass out on the couch.
DIFFICULTY So not difficult, you can make it when you’re drunk – in fact, that’s what it’s meant for
HOW TO COOK JAPANESE RICE
DIFFICULTY More difficult than potatoes, but less difficult than bread
MAKES 4 SMALL SERVINGS, 2–3 GENEROUS SERVINGS, OR ENOUGH FOR 5–6 ONIGIRI
The road to good rice is paved with failure: so many chalky grains, mushy pastes and burned bottoms. A while back on Twitter someone posed the question ‘what’s the one thing in cooking you always screw up?’ and numerous (skilled, professional) chefs responded: RICE. Cooking Japanese rice is particularly tricky because it’s steamed, rather than boiled, which means the timings and measurements involved need to be a bit more precise. But once you have those timings and measurements nailed down, it’s really very easy.
When you’re shopping for Japanese rice, you’ll probably come across something called ‘sushi rice.’
This is just Japanese rice, mislabelled. Sushi rice isn’t a type of rice, it’s Japanese rice that has been cooked and seasoned a certain way for making sushi (page 106). I have no idea why so many manufacturers have gone with such a confusing name, but there it is. Anyway, you’re better off buying Japanese rice at an Asian supermarket if you can, because it will be much cheaper there.
You’ll need a pan with a snug-fitting lid for this.
Or a rice cooker! In fact, if you have a rice cooker, just ignore this recipe and do what the rice cooker says.
300 g (10½ oz/1½ cups) Japanese rice
390 ml/g (13¾ oz/1⅔ cups) water
The ratio of rice to water for any quantity of rice is 1:1.3 by weight (or 1:1.1 by volume). You’ll need about 75 g (2½ oz/generous ⅓ cup) rice per serving—more like 100 g (3½ oz/½ cup) if the rice is the main part of the meal (such as in fried rice or rice bowls), but only 50–60 g (2 oz/¼ cup) if you’re making rice balls or if you are not that carb-hungry. And it is better to do it by weight—scales are more accurate than cups or jugs, and this way you can measure everything directly into the pan you’re using.
Weigh out the rice into a pan and wash it. Fill the pan with water, swish the grains around and massage them gently, then drain the water out.
Repeat this process three or four times. This is to rinse off excess starch, which makes the rice pasty (that starch is basically rice flour, so when it cooks it forms a kind of sticky glue). Pour the measured water into the pan and swirl it around a bit so the grains redistribute and settle in an even layer. If you have time, let the rice soak for 15–30 minutes, which will help them cook more evenly. If you can’t wait, don’t worry—unsoaked rice will still be good.
Place the pan on a high heat* with the lid off and bring to the boil. Place the lid on the pan and turn the heat way down—maybe not all the way down, because the rice should still be bubbling away, but it should be pretty low. As the rice cooks, you should be able to hear it ticking away and see some steam escaping from the lid; if this isn’t happening, turn up the heat a tiny bit. Set a timer for 15 minutes, then leave it to steam. Avoid the urge to remove the lid to check on the rice—it will be fine!
When the timer is up, turn off the heat and fluff the rice with chopsticks or a fork, using a slice-and fold motion rather than a dig-and-scoop motion so you don’t smash the grains. Put the lid back on the pan and wait another 5–10 minutes so the residual steam continues to soften the grains and loosen the stuck rice from the bottom of the pan. Finally, give the rice another gentle fluffing, then serve and enjoy!
KIMCHI / PICKLED CABBAGE
Kimchi is not Japanese, it’s Korean. So what’s it doing in a Japanese cookbook, you ask? Well, it’s been enthusiastically adopted in Japan, finding a home in Japanified Korean recipes like Kimchi Miso Hotpot (page 123) and Kimchi and Tofu Gyoza (page 103). There is a traditional Japanese equivalent, which forgoes the spice for a cleaner, pure cabbage flavour accented by citrus. This is an altogether more delicate, more ‘Japanese’ preparation, but the method is the same.
900 g (2 lb) Chinese cabbage (this is usually about 1 whole head of cabbage, but you should still weigh it), cut into big chunks
20 g (¾ oz/4 teaspoons) salt
25 g chilli powder/flakes (+10,000,000 authenticity points for using Korean chilli, -1,000 for using some other chilli)
3–4 spring onions (scallions), coarsely chopped
20 g (¾ oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated (shredded)
1 sheet of nori, cut into tiny pieces, or 1 tablespoon nori flakes
6 garlic cloves, minced (ground)
Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Leave for 20–30 minutes for the salt to work on the cabbage, drawing out its moisture. Massage the cabbage and squeeze it, getting as much salty cabbage juice out as possible. Leave to sit for another 20–30 minutes and repeat.
Pack everything into a jar really tightly and pour over any remaining cabbage juice. Push the cabbage down into the jar with all your might, so the juice rises above the surface. If there’s not enough liquid, leave it for another 30 minutes or so and then come back and continue to pack it down; the cabbage needs to be fully submerged in the brine or it could go mouldy. Once your cabbage is satisfactorily covered in a good 5 mm (¼ in) of brine, cover the jar – I just screw the cap on so it’s still loose, but you can also use a clothbound with a rubber band or string.*
Leave to ferment at room temperature for about 1 week, then taste it—when it’s nice and sour, it’s good to go. (This could take longer if your house runs a bit cold, or if you live under the stairs like Harry Potter.)
When your kimchi is sour enough to your liking, seal the jar and transfer to the refrigerator, where it will keep more or less forever (honestly – I’ve had homemade kimchi and sauerkraut for years).
WARNING: NEVER seal a jar of kimchi or any other ferment tightly; the gas produced by fermentation builds up within the jar and could cause it to explode.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.