Spicy Nanban Marinade Vegetables

Do you feel an urge to eat lots of vegetables sometimes? I do, especially after a long flight or a busy trip. Try this recipe for when you feel that urge.

I chose aubergine and courgette for this recipe because they become tastier when cooked with oil. Adding cherry tomatoes lightens up the dish.

It’s quite a flavoursome and satisfying dish, so you might forget that you’re eating something vegetarian! It’s a great side dish for rice and nibbles for drinks.

The marinade sauce is quite spicy. Please adjust the amount of chilli flakes to your liking.

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  1. You can serve the dish immediately after mixing or keep it in a fridge to cool down, then serve.
  2. Deep fry vegetables in high temperature oil (between 180 and 190 °C) for a short time to prevent them become oily. To check the temperature, put the handle of a wooden spoon or fork into the oil. If rather larger bubbles steadily come out from the handle, the oil is ready for deep frying.

Topic: What is Nanban?

Nanban is a Japanese word which originally means Portugal and Spain. They were the first Western nations to make contact with Japan in the 16th century. They came to Japan after stopping over at their colonies in Southwest Asia and India, so the Japanese thought they came from somewhere south. ‘Nan’ in the word Nanban means ‘south’ for this reason.

There are several dishes whose names contain Nanban in today’s Japan. Nanban dishes typically use chilli, as chilli was introduced to Japan by Portugal in the 16th Century. It’s the very first East-Meets-West dish in Japan!

This recipe uses the Nanban-zuke technique. Ingredients are deep fried and then marinated in Nanban sauce, which usually consists of chilli, vinegar and soy sauce. The key is to marinate the ingredients immediately after deep frying, as they absorb more flavour when they are hot.

Nanban-zuke is a good way of eating deep fried food, because you don’t feel the oiliness thanks to the vinegar. The best-known ingredient for Nanban-zuke is small fish, such as whitebaits. When you marinate them enough, you don’t need to worry about their small bones, as the vinegar in the sauce softens them.

Try other deep fried ingredients with the Nanban sauce in this recipe and make your own Nanban dish!

Reference: (Japanese)

Tofu and Lentil Sprout Salad

You can probably find tofu at your regular supermarket or grocery shop nowadays. Tofu is made from soy beans which is a great source of protein with all sorts of goodness inside.

This is a healthy tofu salad recipe with lentil sprouts: a super food rich in vitamin C, folate and potassium.

The refreshing taste of tofu and lentil sprouts go well with flavoursome soy sauce and sesame oil dressing. Nori seaweed adds a hint of the taste of the sea.

It’s a very simple recipe anyone can have a crack at. It’s vegetarian and vegan friendly, too. With two types of bean, you’ll definitely be full of beans after eating this salad!

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You can get rid of excess water by putting the wrapped tofu in a microwave for 1 or 2 minutes.


Tofu is an indispensable ingredient in the Japanese diet. It’s coagulated soy milk which contains lots of isoflavones. Some studies suggest isoflavones balance hormones for women. It’s a good source of iron and calcium and a great substitute for animal meat as well.

Lentil sprouts is a new face to the superfoods and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Lentil sprouts are healthier than already healthy boiled lentils, as the nutrients in the beans increase as they sprout, as well as no lost nutrients from the cooking process.

Lentil sprouts are available to buy in the salad vegetable section of supermarkets. You can find Nori sheets in oriental grocery shops or at the world food section in supermarkets.

Spinach and Pine nuts with Honey Soy Sauce

I love spinach because of its lively green colour. It’s super nutritious, so I always want to eat lots of it! Blanching leaf vegetables is an easy way to eat them in quantity without losing its nutrition. I added pine nuts which is said to be great for fatigue recovery and nutrition supply. It’s a healthy treat for your body.

The spinach and pine nuts are seasoned with simply soy sauce and honey. There are only four ingredients to make this side dish, however the natural sweetness of the honey makes it something special.

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  1. Do not over boil the spinach. It loses its colour and nutrition when overboiled. Squeeze any excess water out from the spinach.
  2. Adding a little bit of salt in the boiling water will keep the spinach (and any other green vegetables)  bright and green while cooking.

Topic: Pine nuts

In China, pine nuts have been regarded as a super healthy food for a long time. Legend has it that, about 2000 years ago, a Chinese man called Akuzen who ate pine nuts every day became immortal. No wonder Chinese medical cooking often has pine nuts as an ingredient!

In recent Japan, pine nuts have come under the spotlight as a beneficial food, especially for women. Firstly, they are rich in iron, zinc and folic acid, therefore are expected to prevent or improve anaemia symptoms. Secondly, they also contain a good amount of vitamin A which is essential in keeping your skin and hair looking radiant and healthy. Last but not least, recent studies have revealed that Pinolenic Acid, a fatty acid exclusive to pine nuts, helps your body to produce a hormone called CCK which tells your brain to turn off ‘hungry mode’. It’s said that pine nuts make you feel full therefore are great if you’re trying to lose weight. Well, the researches are still ongoing, but we might hear good news pretty soon!

However, don’t gorge yourself on pine nuts! They are high in calories after all and sometimes leave a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. Remember, a moderate amount is always the best.

Asazuke: Japanese Style Lightly Pickled Cabbage

We have so many varieties of pickled vegetable in Japan with diverse ingredients, techniques, and localities. The main difference from the western pickles is that Japanese pickles is mainly salty and not overly sour.

Asazuke is the quickest and simplest type of pickle, and it’s super easy to make at home. It’ll require only 15 minutes to cook, and will be ready to eat in 3 hours after leaving it in the fridge. Enjoy its freshness and crunchiness like salad. A hint of garlic and ginger gives an interesting twist to this recipe.

Eat asazuke cabbage like a salad, and the great thing is it’s oil free, therefore much lower in calories than a salad dish.

This recipe requires no special ingredient. So, there is no excuse not to try asazuke yourself!

NB: The featured picture shows the asazuke left in the fridge for 3 hours.


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  1. Leaves of pointed or sweetheart cabbage come off easily. Remove the required amount only, and save the rest for next times.
  2. Make sure you squeeze all excess water before serving.
  3. I use the least amount of salt for this recipe for you to eat a lot of asazuke like salad.
  4. Alternatively, you can leave it longer in the fridge, up to overnight. Its texture becomes softer and its flavour develops.


Topic 1: Japanese pickles

Basic Japanese pickles are to pickle cut vegetables with salt, vinegar, sake lees, or anything else. By pickling, vegetables can be preserved for longer, as well as it enhances their flavour.

Pickles are one of the most important side dishes in Japanese food culture. It’s said that people has been making pickles since ancient periods. A written record regarding pickles appeared in the 8th century. During the Edo period, common Japanese people’s eating style was called ‘ichi shiru issai’, literally means one soup and one side dish. The soup is miso soup and the side dish means pickles in this context. This simple eating style is reappraised as a healthy eating style in recent Japan.

Since pickles are necessary on our daily table; there are so many types of pickles all over Japan, and some of them are prized as local delicacies.



Topic 2: Salt

Do you think salt is just salt? Well, there are roughly three types of salt; sea salt, rock salt, and lake salt. They are produced from different sources with different methods, and actually taste different. Recently, people in Japan have taken a keen interest in salt. They try, not only different types of salt, but also flavoured salt including salt and black sesame seeds, salt and dashi stock, and salt and maccha. Why not try an interesting combination of salt yourself?

Kinpira Stir Fried Carrot

Do you know that one small carrot supplies nearly three times of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A? What’s more, carrots are more beneficial when they are cooked briefly with oil. So, this is the perfect recipe to enjoy the benefits of carrots! This is a vegetarian and vegan friendly recipe with full of nutrition.

Kinpira is a traditional Japanese cooking style of stir frying and simmering to enjoy the flavours and crunch of root vegetables. Add plenty of sesame seeds, which is another superfood.

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  1. Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking, so you can cook the dish in good speed to preserve the flavour, crunch, and most importantly, the beta-carotene of carrots.Preparation for Kinpira Carrot
  2. You can find the directions for toasted sesame seeds on this post in the preparation section 3. Pre-toasted sesame seeds can be find in any oriental grocery stores. It’s fragrant and handy to use. You also can find them online.

Topic 1: Carrot, the most underrated superfood

Carrot is so underrated and an inexpensive superfood. They are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in our body. In fact, the name beta-carotene derived from the Latin word ‘carota’ which means carrot in English.

In general, vitamins escape while cooking. However, since beta-carotene is more resistant when cooked and fat-soluble, cooking carrots with oil actually helps us to absorb beta-carotene.

Vitamin A gives a lot of benefits to our body, such as maintaining healthy skin, enhancing our immune system, and much more.


Topic 2: What is Kinpira ?

Kinpira is a traditional Japanese cooking style and one of the most prevailing side dishes in Japan. You’ll definitely find one in a pre-packed obento lunch box in a shop. Root vegetables including burdock, carrot and lotus root are stir fried with a salty, sweet sauce, which is the best way to enjoy their unique flavour and crunch. Burdock and lotus root are rarely found in the UK, though you can find them in oriental grocery stores. Burdock contains lots of dietary fibres, as well as calcium, potassium. Lotus roots are also a great source of dietary fibres, as well as vitamin B6, copper and iron. Try cooking kinpira if you manage to find them.

The name kinpira is derived from a son of unarguably the most popular hero in Japanese folktale, Kintaro. Sakata Kinpira, the son of Sakata Kintoki, also known as Kintaro, was, like his father, tough and strong. The dish was named after him because of its crunch and nutritious benefits.

vegetable karaage tempura

Shiitake Kakiage Tempura

Tempura is one of the dishes that represents Japanese food. Kakiage is a type of tempura made with thinly sliced vegetables. In Japan, we love its extra crispness. It often comes with noodle dishes, such as udon and soba. It’s great with rice, or even just on its own.

You might think cooking crispy tempura is a difficult task. The golden rules are keeping the desired oil temperature, following the directions, and staying calm!

For this recipe, I use ingredients which don’t contain much water in them, hence the oil won’t splash. No egg is used for the batter, so it’s lighter than usual tempura and vegan friendly.

The fried onions enhance the sweetness, and the carrots give colour and nutrition, while shiitake mushrooms add a superb flavour.

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To check the temperature of the oil, put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil is bubbling steadily, then it’s hot enough to fry kakiage.
How to check the oil temperature

Deep Fried Aubergine with Yuzu Kosho and Sesame Dressing

Yuzu Kosho is a Japanese condiment made with green chili and yuzu. It can jazz up any dish with its tart taste full of yuzu aroma.

Here, I use yuzu kosho to dress deep fried aubergine. It’s a simple recipe with few ingredients, which is the best way to enjoy yuzu kosho.  

If you don’t have yuzu kosho, you can replace it with wasabi paste. I recommend using a smaller amount than the yuzu kosho, about ½ tsp for this recipe, but it’s totally up to your tastes. Aubergine tastes superb when deep fried. This dish is delicious both when it has just been cooked, or chilled in the fridge. It’s great with rice, as well as a tasty nibble with a drink.

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Level: Easy

Ingredients for 4


1 large Aubergine (about 300g)

Oil for deep-frying

For dressing

1 tbs Soy Sauce

1 tsp Yuzu Kosho (or Wasabi Paste to taste)

30g Spring Onion or Salad Onion (finely chopped)

2tbs Sesame Seeds


  1. Add the oil in a middle-sized pot about 7 – 10cm deep.  Preheat the oil between 180 – 200 .
  2. Cut the aubergine into bite-size chunks and deep fry in the pot. When they’re softened, place the aubergine on kitchen towel to drain excess oil.
  3. Add all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and mix. Place the deep-fried aubergine chunks into the bowl to dress them.


  1. Aubergine needs a higher temperature to deep fry. To check the temperature of the oil, put the handle of a wood spoon into the oil. If the oil is bubbling fast and steadily, then it’s hot enough to deep-fry aubergine. Make sure the handle is totally dry beforehand.
  2. You can pan fry the aubergine instead of deep-frying. Add a good amount of oil and stir-fry the aubergine chunks. When they are softened, add the dressing in the frying-pan and coat them evenly.