As almost all of us have been self-isolating and going to Izakaya’s and restaurants has become a distant dream I thought I would share some of my favorite things you can find at the supermarket. Craving crispy gyoza? Refreshing soba? The best instant ramen?! Allow me to introduce you to my faves.
My Favorite Frozen Gyoza
I feel your doubt all the way from here. Can frozen gyoza really hold up to Izakaya standards? Trust me when I say, it can come pretty close. This option is inexpensive, fast, and delicious and you can find it in the freezer aisle.
My favorite frozen gyoza brand is Ajinomoto. The gyoza come equipped with little booties of ice so you don’t need to add water, you literally just throw them on the pan, put on medium heat, and cover. Once the gyoza are finished steaming (the water will be almost gone) you simply remove the cover, wait till the bottom turns light brown and then remove from heat. For dipping sauce I do 1/2 soy sauce and 1/2 Japanese vinegar. Sometimes some chili oil if I’m feeling sassy.
It’s especially great with your favorite Japanese beer. I’m partial to Asahi and Kirin myself.
Types of Soba and How to Prepare It
Soba, or buckwheat noodles, are a delicious and relatively healthy food that can be enjoyed in a hot soup, or by themselves with a cold dipping sauce. I’ll be talking about the cold version here.
When buying soba you may be tempted to go for the cheapest option but one thing to consider is the ratio of buckwheat flour to regular white flour. Cheaper brands will be mostly flour, so it really depends on what you like. I always look for the nihachi written on the package. That means that soba is 20% flour and 80% buckwheat, which is the ideal ratio for me. Once your percentage of buckwheat gets higher than 80% the noodles become more brittle and prone to breakage. Throws off my slurping game.
Preparing dried soba is really easy, you just need to pay attention. Bring a pot of water to a boil, throw in the noodles and boil for 5 minutes and make sure you are stirring. Soba is really sticky, and nobody likes clumpy noodles! After five minutes pass drain, and then rinse a few times in cold water until the soba no longer feels sticky. Then add ice and cool it down quickly so that it retains an al dente appearance.
As an additional note you may want to retain some water from your soba pot as it is thought to have numerous health benefits. Japanese people often combine it with their Soba sauce after their meal and it enjoy it as a drink. Yum!
You can buy a bottle of soba dipping sauce at the store as well, so just toss it into a glass or small bowl and dip away!
How to eat Instant Ramen like a Pro
My neighborhood has a famous ramen shop and I can hear its siren call all the way from my home. Well, If I can’t go out and eat my favorite ramen at least I can still enjoy delicious instant ramen.
While the Cup Noodles brand is really famous I don’t really qualify it as ramen. There is a huge instant ramen section at any supermarket or convenience store so go for literally any of the other ones (the shape will look like a giant bowl) and then TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL.
If the Japanese directions are confusing you, the basic rule of thumb is that dry ingredients (usually labeled with かやく) go in before the hot water, and the liquid ingredients get mixed in after the waiting period has passed.
Elevate your ramen game by purchasing eggs soaked in soy sauce (or just hard boiled eggs if you can’t get that) and additional green onion (negi – I always have some frozen negi for just this reason). Add your bonus ingredients at the end to turn this snacky dish into a full meal.
I hope this modest mini food guide gave you some good ideas about how to make your time at home more enjoyable!