Something Like Tom Kha Gai

We definitely can’t claim that this is the traditional way to make the famous Thai soup, but we enjoyed the challenge of creating something that tastes pretty close, using the ingredients that were available to us in Japan. This recipe serves 2 with enough for seconds. On a side note, it’s been snowing all day and covering the ground! This is the first time we’ve seen snow like this since moving to Osaka, so we’re thrilled and so is Arius.

2 TBS. canola oil
2 small shallots, chopped
3 dried chillies, thinly sliced (or more if you like)
1 TBS. fresh ginger, minced
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 bullion cube (we used chicken) dissolved into 1 cup hot water (or 1 cup stock)
6 lemon grass leaves (we bought some that were already trimmed, but we sliced them a few times to bring out the flavor)
a handful of button mushrooms, sliced
1 TBS. fish sauce
juice of half a lime, the other half sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 green onions, sliced

  • In a pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the shallot, and chilli and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant and shallot is soft.
  • Add the ginger and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the stock, coconut milk, lemon grass, mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and a few lime slices, and bring to a gentle boil. Add the chicken pieces, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove lime slices from pot. Divide soup among 2 bowls, garnish with sliced green onion and serve with steamed white rice and extra lime on the side.

Seared Spicy Tuna with Honey-Soy Glaze

Once again we picked up a pristine steak of tuna from the sashimi section, but this time with no recipe in mind; just the intention to wing it. This meal had so many different flavors going on: sweet, spicy and salty. What’s not to like?

  • Season a tuna steak on both sides with salt and pepper, and a generous amount of chili pepper flakes.

  • In a small bowl whisk together about 1 to 1 and 1/2 TBS. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine — looked for a variety called “honmirin” for the best quality), 3 TBS. honey, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds. We eyeballed the measurements, so that’s a general guideline! Taste and adjust to your liking.
  • Preheat your broiler. Then heat a TBS. of sesame oil in a frying pan until very hot. Add the steak and sear on 1 side for about 30 seconds. Remove from frying pan and place seared-side-down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Spoon the honey-soy mixture on top of the tuna and broil for 1-2 minutes until the top looks beautifully glazed.

We served the tuna on a bed of homemade potato chips (thin potato slices fried in vegetable oil and seasoned with salt and garlic powder)…

and some sliced cucumbers and onions marinated in rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and thinly sliced chilies.

Lastly, we opened a bottle of sake that one of my students had given us months ago as a gift.

Seared Wasabi-Sesame Tuna with Avocado Cream and Maple Soy Sauce

We laughed at ourselves as we picked out the tuna in the supermarket today. We got it from the section that sells top-quality fish for sashimi, bite-size slices of fish, eaten raw with only soy sauce and wasabi. We predicted that we were the only people in the store who were buying that fish with the intention to cook it; the outside at least. I think it would have offended the sushi chefs in the back. Oh well. We saw this Asian-fusion recipe in the Readers’ Favorite section of the April 2007 Bon Appetit. The two sauces that accompany the tuna – avocado and maple soy sauce – are brilliant together. It sounds exotic, but it was actually easy to make! It’s meant as an appetizer, but we ate it as a light meal with cucumber salad, bread, and Japanese Beer. East meets West, sort of. This recipe has been featured on

For the Tuna:

2 tuna steaks
wasabi (as much as you want … how adventurous are you feeling tonight?)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3 TBS. canola oil for frying

  • Rub both sides of the tuna steaks with wasabi. Don’t touch your eyes (just kidding).
  • Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate. Press both sides of the tuna into the sesame seeds.
  • Heat the oil over high heat. When it’s hot, sear the steaks, about 20 seconds each side.
  • Slice the steaks into 1/2 inch slices. The middle should be nice and rare!

For the Maple Soy Sauce:

2 TBS. soy sauce
2 TBS. maple syrup

  • Combine the soy sauce and the maple syrup in a small saucepan.
  • Boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is reduced to half, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

For the Avocado Sauce:

1 avocado
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 TBS. water
1 TBS olive oil

  • Puree all ingredients, then pour into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble the Dish:

  • On your plates, spread some avocado sauce in a circle, place the tuna slices in the middle, and drizzle the maple soy sauce on top.

For the Cucumber Salad:

2 cucumbers (1 if they’re large)
rice vinegar
salt & pepper
chili pepper

  • Slice the cucumbers and place in a small bowl. Add the other ingredients, tasting as you go, until you find the perfect combination of tangy and sweet.

Asian Chicken Salad with Crunchy Ramen Noodles and Honey-Sesame Cashews

Today was one of the first hot days of summer in Osaka. We rushed home from our evening kids’ ESL classes and felt like something that was fast and refreshing. After looking over a few recipes for Chinese Chicken Salad on this is what we came up with. The addition of the instant ramen noodles was inspired by a whitewater rafting trip my family and I took a few years ago in Oregon. The cute, young river-guides prepared a salad reminiscent of this one, while the rest of us waded in the water of the Rouge River. Oh, and we made the cashews because I love something sweet and spicy to eat alongside the salad. They compliment the Asian flavors well!

What we drank: 2004 Luna Bianco, Italy

For the Dressing:

2 teaspoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice (or sushi) vinegar

For the Salad:

A little less than half of a head of lettuce, chopped
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, boiled and shredded
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 green onion, chopped
1 small can of mandarin oranges
1 package of instant ramen noodles (discarding the seasoning packet)

For the Cashews:

a few handfuls of salted cashews
sesame seeds
chili powder

  • Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Taste and adjust to your liking and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl place the lettuce, green onion, sesame seeds and chicken. Toss with your fingers. Place in fridge to cool for 10 minutes.
  • While the salad is chilling, spread the cashews onto a cookie sheet. Drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chili powder to taste. Mix with your fingers, coating all the cashews. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for 3-5 min. more or until just barely golden. Remove while hot to a non-stick surface and allow to cool.
  • Take the salad out of the fridge and add the ramen noodles. Dress, toss, arrange mandarin oranges, and serve with cashews on the side (or feel free to sprinkle on top if you desire)!