By Mari Nameshida / Special to The Japan NewsIn recent years, the term “tsukuri-oki,” or “tsuku-oki,” has become so popular among busy people that many cookbooks have been prompted to focus on this approach. The term literally means “make and put aside,” so the idea is to cook dishes in advance and eat them in the following days.
When I published my cookbook a few years ago, my editor told me that Japanese people recently tend to buy books on tsukuri-oki or those featuring recipes that have only less than three steps and do not use unfamiliar seasonings such as spices and herbs. She added that such a trend has been triggered by the fact that people had become much busier.
Traditionally, Japanese people cooked fresh dishes every day, three times a day, like my mother did, but nowadays many people often cook several dishes at once on weekends and eat them on weekdays to save on food prep time after work.
The dishes that suit tsukuri-oki are those that retain their flavor for a few days, and, of course, can last for a while, such as meatballs, stews, pickles and cooked vegetables for use as side dishes. Last month, I discussed nanban-zuke, cooked and marinated fish with some vegetables, which is another typical example of tsukuri-oki. Fresh salad or pasta is not usually prepared as tsukuri-oki because they easily get soggy and usually don’t take much time to prepare anyway.
This month’s featured recipe is salad using glass or cellophane noodles, known in Japan as harusame (literally, “spring rain”). Mainly made from the starch of mung beans or certain types of potatoes, these noodles are gluten-free and don’t go limp. They have a smooth, pleasantly chewy texture. The taste is plain like rice noodles, so you can use them for various kinds of dishes. And it keeps at room temperature for many years in your pantry.
From making this recipe, you will have tangles of slippery chewy noodles, sweet egg, salty ham and crisp vegetables, all tossed in a savory and tangy sweet sesame oil dressing. You will love the combination of the texture and the taste.
This dish is often called Chinese-style harusame salad because it uses sesame oil and glass noodles, but it’s a very Japanese dish.
When I lived in China, people used glass noodles in many ways such as in fried dishes, appetizers, and hot pots. You might encounter deep-fried glass noodles as a garnish because they expand almost three times after frying while also getting a crispy texture.
Harusame is often used in Chinese cuisine dishes developed in Japan for Japanese tastes, so you will find them in spring rolls, hot pot dishes or the kind of salad in this month’s installment. This salad recipe is a great way to try glass noodles. It tastes so refreshing in this warm, humid season.
Mari’s recipe for harusame salad
Ingredients (serves 4):
50 grams dried harusame glass noodles
1 Japanese cucumber, julienned
½ carrot, julienned
4 slices ham, julienned
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1. Make scrambled eggs and leave them to cool.
2. Rehydrate the dried glass noodles by boiling them as per the package instructions (usually about 3-5 minutes). Add the carrots to the same boiling water 1 minute before the noodles are done.
3. Drain the contents of the pot and rinse under cold water. Then drain well again and cut the noodles to desired lengths.
4. Combine all dressing seasonings well in a bowl, then add the noodles and carrots. Mix well and set aside.
5. Add all the cucumber, ham and scrambled eggs to the bowl and mix well. Chill the salad in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving. It lasts for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
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