Poached eggs have an inimitable charm, with half-set yolks and soft, light egg whites. Another plus is that it is quicker to poach eggs than to boil them. "Place a poached egg over vegetables in season and you get a hearty salad that is great as an appetizer or for brunch," says cooking expert Masayo Waki. Vinegar in the cooking water hastens the solidifying of the protein. Serves two.
Add style to your table with Chinese-style stir-fried boiled scallops. Chef and restaurant owner Tomoshige Ichikawa says the key to cooking boiled scallops is to minimize the smell. The first step is to pat them dry. Also, proper heat is important, as stir-fry dishes tend to turn out soft and wet when cooked at home. To prevent this, he says, "Stir-fry the scallops and vegetables separately, and bring them together at the end." Serves four.
"The key is to flour the gizzards with 'katakuriko' starch and mix well," says cooking expert Megumi Fujii who introduces a stir-fry of gizzards and "komatsuna" leaves. The starch keeps the gizzards from toughening and retains the flavor. Fujii cooks chicken liver with honey and ginger. Honey may be replaced by 1 tablespoon each of sugar and sweet mirin sake.
"Asari" clams that are coming into season and rapeseed flowers ("natane" or "nanohana") are a best match in March, when cold and warm days alternate. According to Japanese cooking expert Tatsuo Saito, beaten egg spreads in the stock when it cooks, resembling a field of rapeseed flowers. "It is best if the egg is cooked through instead of half-cooked," he adds.
Time does wonders to the flavor of stews. Beer, preferably the rich kinds from Europe, will be used to cook beef in this recipe. "There are a variety of dishes in the world where alcohol beverages are used to stew meat. It tenderizes the meat and enriches the flavor," says cooking expert Masayo Waki. Chunks of shoulder meat have the right amount of fat and tendon for a stew that should be done in about an hour.
People are seeing fermented food in a new light, and "miso-zuke," or pickling food in miso, is a useful recipe once you get the hang of it. Chef Kimio Tomura, who specializes in Kyoto cuisine, introduces a dish using fish and light-colored "white miso." If butterfish is hard to come by, choose salmon, yellowtail (buri), scallop or Japanese Spanish mackerel (sawara) instead.
"You can remove some of the roots by soaking the sprouts in water and draining them in a sieve by hand," says chef and restaurant owner Tomoshige Ichikawa.
He uses "komochi-karei," or flounder with roe, but separates the roe from the fish. That prevents the fish from becoming overcooked while waiting for the roe to be done.
A much-loved favorite, "nikujaga" (meat and potatoes) is a simmered one-pot meal. "Using a drop-lid allows the simmering liquid to reach all the ingredients, and the flavors will seep in evenly," says cooking expert Atsuko Matsumoto.
The lid also prevents the evaporation of the liquid. Any type of beef may be used, says Matsumoto, who chose reasonably priced cheaper cuts of meat this time.
The bold, black-and-white plates, designed by 24-year-old Mika Tsutai, feature common manga tropes, such as jagged motion lines and written sound effects, to add another dimension to the dining experience.