By Natalia Gill, from An Appetite For Joy
Pork ribs are simmered in a ginger-laced broth, then accented with greens and mushrooms and layered with flavors of miso, tamari and umeboshi plum vinegar (or rice wine vinegar). If this isn’t Japanese(ish) soul food, I don’t know what is.
Up until recently we enjoyed this with rice noodles, but lately we’ve loved it with mung bean cellophane noodles or (affiliate link) kelp noodles! Both of these grain free varieties are silky and lovely and totally neutral in flavor. And my kids give the thumbs up for slurpability which – you know – I tolerate, because they are eating such a nutritious meal!
I fell in love with Japanese food in my early 20’s. After graduating college, I worked for a large Japanese company as a project engineer. It wasn’t long until I made a career leap to teaching Pilates and other wellness pursuits, but I was there long enough to get a good glimpse into Japanese culture, get comfortable with chopsticks and even have the opportunity to travel to Japan.
Spending a week in Japan was amazing in so many ways, but the food. Oh the food! It was out of this world.
Bear with me while I reminisce about some of my many food adventures there:
- After a 13 hour flight and landing on soil that was 13 hours ahead of Atlanta, I felt completely upside down. I didn’t really come around until later at night when Tokyo was all lit up and a Japanese coworker and I settled into a sushi boat restaurant (here’s a good photo of one so you get an idea). We feasted on sushi and sashimi washed down with a little cold sake from a sort of miniature sake waterfall.
- The next morning (after waking up bright-eyed at 4a.m. and watching the sunrise) I wandered down to the hotel restaurant and had the choice of an American or Japanese breakfast. I chose the Japanese breakfast which consisted of salmon, miso soup, pickled vegetables and rice. Such a great way to start the day!
- My coworkers and I (both American and Japanese) often ate lunch at the company headquarters cafe. Usually I got the tonkatsu which is a breaded, deep-fried (but somehow light tasting) pork cutlet drizzled with a dark, complex sauce -salty, sweet and tangy. Such delicious food even in a sterile corporate cafeteria.
- Then there was the magical experience I had in a green tea shop. In the interest of time, I’ll send you over to this Matcha-Ginger Scones post to read it if you’d like. (The scones are great too!)
- One misadventure I had was at one of the finer sushi restaurants. I was with a Japanese coworker and we were both so excited about the meal to come. He was looking forward to eating some of the more exotic selections (sea urchin for one) but I stuck to the basics. We both had a “sweet shrimp” sushi and ate it at the same time. This was the first thing I had encountered that I didn’t like. In fact I couldn’t even tolerate it and to my horror, I started gagging involuntarily. But thankfully when I looked up, he had his eyes closed and was quietly moaning with delight so I took advantage and quickly spit it into my napkin. By the time he opened his eyes I was poised and smiling!
One of the popular “fast foods” is the ramen soup bowl. These are large hearty bowls of soup brimming with meat, vegetables and umami that hit the spot for lunch. I found a recipe for a pork ramen soup in (affiliate link) Slow Cooker Revolution and adapted it for the stove top and to make it more nourishing. It is deeply satisfying like the soups I remember in Japan. My husband raves about it and the kids down it without a complaint!
I hope you get a chance to try it and love it as much as we do!
Here are some more Japanese-inspired recipes from The Nourishing Gourmet:
- Japanese Style Avocado
- 3-Ingredient Teriyaki Pan-Fried Chicken
- Miso Brown Rice Congee (A Savory Porridge)
- Cabbage Okazu
Do you love Japanese food? What are your favorite dishes?
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
- 8 cups chicken broth or stock
- 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 2 pounds pork ribs (bone-in baby back or a leaner cut of spare ribs, if using boneless use 1.5 pounds)
- 1 (12 ounce) package of kelp or mung bean noodles
- 6 cups spinach or kale
- 2 tablespoons miso (white or red)
- 1-2 tablespoons tamari (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Ideas for garnishments: scallions, sliced jalapenos, seaweed flakes and/or toasted sesame seeds
- Over low-medium heat saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the coconut oil or ghee, careful not to let the garlic burn.
- Once softened, add in the chicken broth, ribs and mushrooms. (Since my kids don't like mushrooms I usually saute these on the side and serve at the table separately.)
- Simmer for 2 hours if you can (this will make the meat even more tender and the flavors come together better). If not, 1.5 hours is fine!
- Take out the pork ribs and cut the meat into bite-size pieces, removing the fat.
- If you are using spinach and mung bean or kelp noodles, remove the soup from the heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients including the meat. It's ready to serve.
- If you are using the kale and/or rice noodles that need some additional cooking time, you will need to add them in while the soup is simmering until they soften. Then take the soup off the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Serve the garnishments on the side.