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)

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.

The Ultimately Tasty Celery with Garlic Sauce

I personally think this is the most delicious way to eat celery on Earth. Yes, the best in the world!

Celery tastes good and is inexpensive, so I usually get one when I go grocery shopping. However, celery is usually a main dish outcast and I haven’t had a celery dish which made me surprised about how tasty celery is from the bottom of my heart.

So, I decided to cast Mr. Celery as the main role on the dining table stage. Supporting role will go to Miss. Garlic. Enjoy the joint performance of the two talented ingredients yourself!

celery 1

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  1. This celery dish can be eaten soon after cooked, however it’s best to eat after 2 hours as the celery absorbs all the flavour.
  2. Use toasted sesame seeds instead of Bonito Flakes for a vegetarian and vegan friendly dish.

Topic: Something Smells Like Celery…

Japanese scientist Kikue Kubota and her fellow researchers studied what the subtle, yet distinct smell of celery is. The subject came up because they wondered why celery makes every soup taste better, despite the fact that these soups don’t have the taste of celery. After extensive experiments, they published a study entitled ‘Potent odorants characterize the aroma quality of leaves and stalks in raw and boiled celery’. The study explains that a compound called phthalides is what gives celery its unique smell, and guarantees an improved flavour. Oddly enough, the compound itself smells like celery, but doesn’t have a taste at all.

What’s more, a recent study showed phthalides can relax the muscles around our arteries, therefore, together with the diuretic effect of celery, it can lower blood pressure. Another compound behind the smell of celery called Apiin is said to have a calming effect.

Celery is full of antioxidants and eating celery has so many health benefits: lowering cholesterol, fatigue recovery, fighting cancer, and lots more. What are you waiting for? Let’s cook this recipe and eat lots of celery!

References: (Japanese)

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

vegetable okonomiyaki

Vegetable Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savoury pancake and one of the most popular street food. It’s unpretentious Japanese food and inexpensive to make.

Okonomiyaki literally means ‘grill what you like’ in Japanese, and as its name suggests, you can add a variety of ingredients of your choice to the same base: batter and shredded cabbages. For this particular recipe, I chose sweetcorn to add some sweetness, and spring onions to give an accent. It’s packed with vegetables and kids love it, even ones who hate vegetables. It’s also vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Authentically, dashi fish stock is used for the batter and there are a set of conventional garnishes for it: Okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes, and seaweed flakes, which are quite difficult to find at your local supermarket. This recipe doesn’t require those ingredients, as I created this recipe for anyone who wants to have a go at cooking okonomiyaki outside of Japan. It’s seasoned already, so you can eat as it is, or garnish with mayonnaise and soy sauce if you like.

It’s light and fluffy. Try cooking Okonomiyaki for a light lunch or a healthy snack.

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Level: Easy


Ingredients for 2

100g Sweetheart Cabbage Leaves (shredded)

50g Spring Onion or Salad Onion (finely chopped)

100g Tin of Sweetcorn (drained)

100g Plain Flour

100ml Water

1 Vegetable Stock Cube (dissolve in 50ml hot water)

2 tbs Cooking Oil

Mayonnaise (optional)

Soy Sauce (optional)


  1. Place the shredded cabbage, chopped onion, sweetcorn, plain flour, water, and the dissolved stock cube in a bowl. Mix well.DSC_9818
  2. Place 1 tbs cooking oil in a frying-pan, and heat over a medium-strong heat. Place half of the mixture into the frying-pan, and spread to make a circle with about a 16cm diameter using the back of a spoon. Panfry the mixture for two and a half minutes.DSC_9819
  3. Flip it over, and panfry for a further two minutes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Place the pancakes on serving plates. Garnish with mayonnaise and soy sauce to your preference.DSC_9834



  1. You can replace the stock cube with any cube of your choice.
  2. Alternatively, make bite-sized pancakes to serve as a canapé to your guest.