May 21 2013

Nara Roots

Chiho cooks this melt in your mouth Japanese Braised Pork Belly (Buta No Kakuni 豚の角煮) and the accompanying crunchy and delicious Burdock Salad (Gobō Sarada ごぼうサラダ) from her mother’s family recipe

WDTD got to spend a wonderful holiday over in Japan for most of April, hence the absence of posts these last few weeks.

One of the highlights of the trip was documenting this beautiful luncheon cooked by Chiho Kobayashi, a good friend and talented florist from Sydney, in her family home in Nara, the old capital city of Japan. A quaint small town that’s famous for its sacred and friendly deer that roam the park of Tōdai-ji temple, the largest and most impressive wooden building in the world.

Star of the luncheon was the melt in your mouth Japanese Braised Pork Belly (Buta No Kakuni 豚の角煮) and the accompanying crunchy and delicious Burdock Salad (Gobō Saradaごぼうサラダ). Burdock might be difficult to come by in your area but you may be able to find some in your local Japanese grocer (in Sydney, they are occasionally available at Tokyo Mart in the suburb of Northbridge). If this fails, you can substitute it with Jerusalem Artichoke as they are of the same family and have very similar taste and texture.

Sadly, Chiho lost her mother in a road accident last year. I had the privilege of photographing Mrs Kobayashi when she visited Sydney. The dishes Chiho prepared are the ones Mrs Kobayashi used to cook for her as she was growing up in Japan. She said Mum was a great cook and often attended cooking schools to learn new dishes. She also enjoyed being a host and cooked many delicious meals for her family and friends. Chiho said, “These dishes are not overly difficult to prepare but for me it’s the ultimate homestyle Japanese cooking.”

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Burdock Salad with carrot, ham, roasted sesame seed and mayo dressing

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To prepare the burdock root, peel the outer skin and grate into coarse strips or julienne then soak in water for about an hour with a bit of vinegar to stop discolouring and enhance the crunchiness after parboiling

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After parboiling the burdock root and carrot, toss with sliced ham and the mayo dressing. Add toasted sesame seeds for extra crunch and flavour. Simple and delicious!

When traveling, WDTD loves to check out the local market/supermarket. Earlier that day we followed Chiho and her baby boy Aki to the local supermarket to get extra ingredients. Everything was SO neatly stacked and nicely presented. You can get sidetracked very easily going through every aisle – before I knew it, my basket was full of things I really didn’t need as a tourist!

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To prepare the Buta no Kakuni: 1) Boil the pork and top half of coarsely chopped leek for about 3 mins then skim out the surfacing fat. At the same time boil the eggs like usual. 2) Drain out the water and add new 6 cup of water, 1.5 cup of sake, sliced ginger then partially cover the pot with aluminium foil and let boil on low heat for 90 mins. 3) Add the peeled eggs, bottom half of chopped leek, soy sauce and mirin mix to the pot and boil for further 20 mins. 4) Lastly put in the spinach until it wilts then transfer the dish to a big serving bowl

To prepare the Buta no Kakuni: 1) Boil the pork and top half of coarsely chopped leek for about 3 mins then skim out the surfacing fat. At the same time boil the eggs like usual. 2) Drain out the water and add new 6 cup of water, 1.5 cup of sake, sliced ginger then partially cover the pot with aluminium foil and let boil on low heat for 90 mins. 3) Add the peeled eggs, bottom half of chopped leek, soy sauce and mirin to the pot and boil for further 20 mins. 4) Lastly put in the spinach until it wilts then transfer the dish to a big serving bowl

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The recipe of Mrs Kobayashi miso soup is available here. Chiho has added firm silken tofu,  enoki and oyster mushroom and sliced tofu puffs for a more substantial version.

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  • Who: Chiho Kobayashi
  • Home is: Nara, Japan
  • Family origin: Japanese
  • I can’t live without: Salsa dancing
  • Occupation: Mother and Florist
  • Dream Job: Flower exhibitor
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Japanese drama
  • Childhood taste: Japanese hamburger and rice & yoghurt cake made by my mother
  • I will always have in my pantry: Senbei (rice cracker)
  • I learnt to cook from: My mother
  • What I’m listening to: Bossa Nova mix CD
  • The one place I must visit: Brazil for the Carnival
  • Go to meal: Sushi
  • The unforgettable meal: Toro Sushi (blue fin tuna belly). It melts in my mouth
  • My piece of Sydney: Flemington Market
  • Guilty Pleasure: Clothes shopping
  • Who does the dishes: I do

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The Kobayashi residence is filled with Mrs Kobayashi’s personal touches. From her Japanese & English gardens to the intricate wood carving, embroidery craftwork and of course her delicious recipes. What she has left behind for us in this world strengthens our appreciation of the harmonious connection between art and life. Whether it be art in gardening, art in craft, or art in cooking. Her memory and legacy will be treasured forever.

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Having watched Mum does flower arrangement since he was a very little boy, Kai seems to have the natural talent in Ikebana too

Having watched Mum flower arranging since he was a very little boy, Kai seems to have developed the talent

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Using the greenery and flowers from her Mother’s gardens, Chiho put together a couple of Ikebana (flower arrangements) to adorn the dining room

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Chiho's Ikebana on her mother's intricate embroidered table cloth

Chiho’s Ikebana on her mother’s intricate embroidery

Camelia flower on the right is from the tree that Chiho's father planted when she was born

The camelia flower on the right is from the tree Chiho’s father planted when she was born

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After lunch we headed to the nearby Tōdai-ji temple, fed the deers and enjoy Nara’s lovely spring afternoon. Since it was the weekend, the temple was flooded with school excursion groups from all over Japan and locals dressed up in kimono embracing the spring season.

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Anyone who is intrigued at the size of the 'Big Buddha' can try passing through the hole which is the same size as the Buddha's nostril as pictured here. If you are able to pass through then good luck is upon you!

The hole in the pillar represents the size of the Buddha’s nostril. If you could pass through it then good luck is upon you!

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Burdock Salad (Gobō Sarada ごぼうサラダ)

Ingredients - Serves 4

  • 1 Burdock root or Jerusalem Artichoke coarsely grated or julienned
  • 1 big carrot coarsely grated or julienned
  • 6 pieces of ham julienned
  • 4 tsp roasted sesame seed
  • 2 tbs Japanese mayonaise
  • 2 tbs sesame seed paste (Tahini)
  • 1 tbs white vinegar
  • 3 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sugar
  1. To prepare the burdock root (or Jerusalem Artichoke), pill the outer skin and grate into coarse strips or julienne then soak in water for about half an hour with a bit of vinegar to stop discolouring and enhance crunchiness after parboiling.
  2. Rinse the soaked burdock root and parboil with the carrot for about 5 mins then drain and toss well with julienned ham.
  3. For the dressing, whisk together the mayonaise, tahini, white vinegar, light soy sauce and sugar.
  4. Mix well with the salad and garnish with roasted sesame seed.

Japanese Braised Pork Belly (Buta No Kakuni 豚の角煮)

Ingredients - Serves 4

  • 450g Pork belly rashes
  • 1 medium size leek
  • 1 bunch of spinach or choy sum
  • 4 – 6 peeled boiled eggs
  • 5 thick slices of ginger
  • 1.5 cup of sake
  • 3 tbs dark soy sauce
  • 4 tbs mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1.5 tbs sugar
  • 6 cup water
  1. Cut the pork belly rashes into big cubes and boil it with the top half of coarsely chopped leek for about 3 mins then skim out the surfacing fat. At the same time boil the eggs like usual.
  2. Drain out the water and add new 6 cup of water, 1.5 cup of sake, sliced ginger then partially cover the pot with aluminium foil and let boil on low heat for 90 mins.
  3. Add the peeled eggs, bottom half of chopped leek, soy sauce, mirin and sugar to the pot and boil for further 20 mins.
  4. Lastly put in the spinach or choy sum until it wilts, season to taste then transfer the dish to a big serving bowl.

11 Responses to Nara Roots

  1. Lucette Doggett

    Nara Roots: Great photo’s Lucy. You have captured the essence of a beautiful woman, and the love she feels for her family.

  2. Kerrie

    Have only just discovered ‘WDTD’. What sensational photography and tempting recipes! Enjoyed this post ‘Nara Roots’; what a beautiful young woman is Chiho.

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