Monday, December 26, 2011

Japanese Christmas Cake

If you don't like fruitcake, try making a Japanese Christmas Cake.  
A light, fluffy sponge with fresh cream and strawberries.  
Japanese christmas cake is usually a gateau, but I will never forget the dome cake we had 
for my first Christmas in Japan eight years ago.  
I was living in Fukushima City with a friend and it was the most beautiful white Christmas eve when we arrived home and found that a dear friend of ours had bought a Christmas cake for us!  
I had never thought of having anything other than fruitcake for Christmas so it was my first time to discover Japanese Christmas cake.
It was one of these dome cakes, from a patisserie and made absolutely perfectly.
So this Christmas I have tried to the best of my memory to re-create that cake we had on my first Christmas in Japan.
Slice open your dome cake and inside the sponge igloo is a centre of fresh cream and whole strawberries. 
The original cake had a diameter of about 15 cm, for about 4-5 slices.  This time my sister and her family have joined us for Christmas so I made a cake with a diameter about 22 cm.  This serves about 10-12, however I've never seen a large one like this in Japan.
The cake we had in Japan had no chocolate, however this time I have piped dark chocolate onto baking paper for the writing and hearts.
How to make a Dome-shaped Japanese Christmas Cake:
  • 1 plain round sponge cake, about 1/4 or 1/3 larger diameter than the bowl
  • 300-600mL (10-20oz) firmly whipped cream
  • 100-200mL (3-6oz) softly whipped cream
  • 250g-500g (8-16oz) fresh strawberries
  • A round bowl

  1. Slice a round sponge cake in half, with slices being about 2cm thick.  (About 2cm(3/4inch) for the dome, and bottom slice 2-3cm (3/4-1inch) for the base.
  2. Line a round noodle bowl or small mixing bowl with plastic wrap.
  3. Place the bowl up-side down on the bottom slice and cut around it to get the right size for the base of the dome.  
  4. Cut 4 thin wedges from the edge of the top slice, cutting about 1/3 to 2/5 of the way into the cake.  Line the bowl with this top slice, using any scraps to fill in any gaps if necessary.  (You may need to adapt this step depending on the exact size and shape of your bowl.)
  5. Place several spoonfuls of firmly whipped cream into the centre, half-way up the sponge.  Place whole strawberries, pointy end down, into the cream.  As you press the strawberries in, the cream will rise up to fill the sponge.  (you may need to add more fresh cream and strawberries to fill to the level of the top of the sponge, if necessary)
  6. Place the base on top.  Refrigerate for about an hour before spreading more firmly whipped cream on the outside, followed by a thin layer of softly whipped cream for a perfect smooth finish.  Decorate with fresh strawberries.
I will re-post these instructions with photographs before next Christmas if I can (^_^)
Also the recipe for light and fluffy sponge cake.

Two things I forgot to do on this Christmas cake (sorry):
  1. Sprinkle a little icing sugar on top of the strawberries, to give it a snowed-on appearance.
  2. Cut the brown edge of the sponge cake from the dome piece, to give a seamless look so you can't see brown joints in the sponge as you see here.

Christmas 2011

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas.  
I love this time of year, but of course it's been very busy.
Sorry for not posting regularly recently, family always comes first of course.
I'll post soon...
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Japanese Grocery Shopping In Brisbane

When you want to make Japanese food and you don't live in Japan, getting the right ingredients can sometimes become an obstacle.  Japanese Ingredients will generally cost more than in Japan, and some ingredients just can't be found in some areas.  So to help everyone's Japanese Cooking around the world, I think it would be great if we could put together an information page listing the best places to shop in each city.  If you have favorite places to shop for Japanese Ingredients, I would love to hear about it!  I'll share the information with everyone in a future post.  
Please email your contribution using this link: Email LittleJapanMama or in a comment to this post.

I live in Brisbane, Australia, and if you live nearby, here are the best and cheapest places I like  to shop for Japanese Ingredients:  (BTW no-one is sponsoring me to share this!)
  • Yuen's: I buy most things (especially Sauces, Dashi, cheap Mirin and Sake, Nori, Hakusai and other vegetables) at Yuen's Asian Supermarket (Market Square, Sunnybank and Chinatown Fortitude Valley)  which I find cheaper than most other Asian grocery stores anywhere else in Brisbane.
  • Fantastic Foods: (Sunny Park, Sunnybank)  A few things I like to get at Fantastic Foods in Sunny Park (Next to Aldi Sunnybank) which has $3/300g bunch fresh Enoki mushrooms, $4/500g bag Chikuwa, and a discount card if you ask for it...  And the best quality Daikon (giant long white radish) I've seen locally.
  • Hanaro Mart Butcher: (Times Square, Sunnybank) Thinly Siced Beef I buy inside the Korean Grocery Store in Town Square (Outside Sunnybank Plaza), $10/kg (This is VERY cheap for Australia!) or $13/kg for even thinner lean and tender shabu-shabu beef. Hanaro Mart is a Korean Grocery store which has a separate Butcher inside.  (Sometimes I buy the chinese hot pot style rolled beef (as you see in the photo above) in Fantastic Foods, $4/300g.)
  • High Fresh: (Market Square, Sunnybank) If you're after Shungiku (Spring Chrisanthemum leaves) for your Sukiyaki, High Fresh (around the back of Market Square) is your best bet, $1.30 for a huge bunch, but only in Spring.  (I sometimes saw it at Yuen's in the Valley, but not anywhere else)
Below are some examples of my favorite Japanese grocery shopping in Brisbane:
Beef Tongue and Heart from Woolworths (after I've prepared them)
Hakusai, Bok Choi, Enoki Mushrooms and Atsuage deep-fried Tofu from Fantastic Foods
$13/kg "Shabu-shabu" beef at Hanaro Mart
$10/kg "Bulgogi" beef at Hanaro Mart

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gyutan Yakiniku

Gyu-tan is one of my favorite cuts for Yakiniku.  Gyutan means beef tongue.  People travel to Sendai (in north-eastern Japan) to eat it as a special delicacy, however it is now popular as Yakiniku in restaurants throughout Japan. 
 (Yes, that's my beloved Sendai that was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in 2011) 

If you've never tried it before, your first question will probably be "What does gyutan taste like?"

The flavour of gyutan (apart from tasting like beef, obviously) I would describe as "buttery".  When cooked just right, gyutan is very tender and moist, and a little chewy at the same time.  
Ok, this description is probably sounding a little vague to you, so maybe you'll just have to try it!

In Yakiniku, gyutan may be sprinkled with salt and pepper during cooking, and/or you may like to dip it in Yakiniku Tare (Yakiniku Sauce) or Ponzu.
I find it equally delicious with Tare or Ponzu.

Click to see more about Yakiniku: How to make Yakiniku
 In my photo below is the sliced Gyutan along with some Beef Heart (Shinzou) marinated with garlic, sake, oil and a little salt.  The gyutan I leave plain as it is delicious on its own.  

In Australia, we enjoy gyutan and beef heart often as at $5/kg for whole tongues from (Woolworths) supermarkets, it's about the cheapest cut of meat.

If you don't feel like skinning and slicing a whole tongue, have a look in the freezer of your Korean grocery store, and you'll pay a little more (around $16/kg) for perfectly prepared, thinly sliced beef tongue.

If you buy a whole beef tongue for the first time (yes, I agree it is a little scary-looking) and you've never prepared beef tongue before it's quite a tricky procedure.  However, there is an easy way for removing the skin and slicing a beef tongue thinly for gyutan as you see in my photo below.
Click here for my Gyutan Preparation Tutorial.
♡ ♡ ♡ 
I first tried Gyutan at a restaurant in Matsushima, one of the great natural wonders of Japan, located near Sendai.

How to Prepare Gyutan

If you can't buy gyu-tan already prepared (or want to save some money) a whole beef tongue can be a little daunting and very tricky to prepare for Yakiniku or other Japanese dishes.  Here is the easy way to skin and slice your gyu-tan perfectly:
  1. Rinse tongue well under cold running water.
  2. Stretch tongue out flat and wrap with plastic wrap.  
  3. Place in freezer for about 4 hours or until semi-frozen (a little stiff but soft enough to slice easily.  Alternately, freeze and then defrost in fridge until semi-frozen)
  4. The skin can now be easily sliced off with a sharpened knife
  5. Slice thinly.
  6. One tongue serves about 3 people for yakiniku, or more if other meats are also used.
Click here to read more about Gyutan and Yakiniku: