Chicken Fried Rice with Fresh Water Chestnuts

Lunch, Wednesday August 20, 2014


  • Chicken (skinless/boneless), cut into stirfry strips (about 1 large breast or 2 thighs)
  • Zucchini, 1 small
  • Carrot, 1 medium
  • Fresh Ginger Root, shredded (about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh Lemon Juice (about 1 tbsp)
  • 8 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
  • Fresh Shiso leaves, shredded (about 1/2 to 1 cup)
  • Cooked Rice (I used brown rice), about 2 cups
  • Oil for frying (I used extra virgin olive oil)
  • Salt to taste

Cut your meat and vegetables into stirfry sized pieces. I like to quarter my long round veggies lengthwise, and then cut into thin slices on an angle. When peeling fresh water chestnuts, I like to put the peeled ones into a bowl of water. This removes a bit of the starch and prevents them from discoloring. I don’t know if it makes a real difference.

You can use any aromatic herbs that go well with your ingredients. Basil would work well. Because I was avoiding soy and a bunch of other classic Asian ingredients, this recipe doesn’t really have an Asian taste. It would work just as well with oregano.

I really like cutting my shiso into a chiffonade, but because of the size and texture of the leaves, they tend to tangle up when cooked. As such, I cut into ribbons and the cross cut so that they mix in well.

You can use canned water chestnuts, or omit water chestnuts entirely. Canned or fresh give a really nice refreshing crunch; fresh have a really nice sweetness.

Once all your ingredients are ready, heat up your pan (I used a carbon steel wok on an induction hotplate) and add the oil. Fry the ginger root for about 30 seconds and then add the chicken. Stirfry until mostly cooked, then add the water chestnuts and a bit of water or chicken stock; cover until the chicken is cooked through. At this point the water chestnuts should be fully cooked. Add in the carrot and stirfry until slightly softened, then add the zucchini. If you need more moisture for cooking, add the lemon juice now (or save it for the end). When the zucchini is almost cooked, add the rice, making sure to break up any lumps. Once the rice is heated through, mix in the shiso and any remaining lemon juice.

Serve and enjoy!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Baked Lemon-Ginger-Almond Basa

Our dinner on Tuesday:


We were in a hurry to eat so I didn’t get a great photo. If I was to do this again, I’d likely add some tumeric to the basa so that it isn’t quite as camouflaged on the brown rice.

  • Roasted Root Vegetables with Basil
  • Basa Fillets marinated in lemon and ginger, with an almond crust on a bed of steamed brown rice
  • Instant Japanese Cucumber Pickles

Roasted Root Vegetables with Basil

  • Sweet Potatoes (4-5 small)
  • Beet roots (4-5 small)
  • Carrots (4-5 small)
  • Basil puree in olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This is a pretty basic recipe. Get some root vegetables. Cut them into bite-size pieces. Toss with salt, then toss with the olive oil.Lay out on a baking sheet and put into a preheated oven and bake/roast until they caramelize.

The quantities and types of roots really depend on what’s available and what your diners prefer to eat. Personally, I don’t really like beets (I usually refer to them as “evil red roots”) and no one in my family likes parnsips. For this meal I had one diner who can’t eat potatoes. You could probably use turnip, rutabaga, or radish, and throw in some onion chunks if you want. The key is to spread them out on the baking sheet so that they aren’t overcrowded: you want them to dry out a bit as the bake rather than steam themselves into a mush.

I preheated my oven on bake mode (conventional, non-convection) to 390F and baked them for 45 minutes in the bottom rack, then moved them to the top rack and raised the temperature to 450F so I could put the fish on the bottom rack. After that it was about another 20-30 minutes of baking and then I took them out and mixed in my basil puree. Baking/roasting time varies on your oven, the size of your pieces, how close they are together, etc. I usually take them out when the sweet potatoes have started to brown.

While they’re still hot, put all the veg into a large mixing bowl and add your chopped herbs. Normally, I use chopped fresh herbs but this time I used a cube of basil that I had made from fresh leaves pureed with extra virgin olive oil and then frozen. It was about 2 tbsp, in a finished ratio of about 2 parts basil to 1 part olive oil. Yes, I defrosted the cube before mixing it in. But since the veggies are hot from the oven this step might not have been necessary. Adjust seasoning. You could also add a bit of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or freshly ground black pepper at this point to round out the flavours, but it really depends on what you have available and how complex a flavour you want for this one dish. I wanted to keep it simple since there were going to be so many other competing flavours on the menu.

Basa Fillets marinated in lemon and ginger, with an almond crust on a bed of steamed brown rice

First, the brown rice. I made this in a rice cooker using standard rice cooker proportions. If you have a rice cooker you should be able to figure this one out. If you don’t have a rice cooker, then I’m sure the internet is full to brimming with instructions on how to cook brown rice. The only thing to note here is that this was plain brown rice: no added salt, oils, herbs, or other impurities added.

The Basa:

  • 3 basa fillets, thawed (you can use fresh if available; all I had was frozen)
  • Lemon Juice (I used the juice of half a large lemon, maybe 2-3 tbsp)
  • Ginger Root (I used about 1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated)
  • Ground Almonds (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup, I made these in the food processor from raw whole almonds)
  • Salt to taste

Combine the basa, lemon juice and ginger root in a large ziploc bag and marinate in the fridge for a few hours. At some point you might want to flip the bag over so that the marinade gets into all parts of the fish. As an alternative, you could just put your frozen fillets in a ziploc bag with the marinade the night before, and let it thaw overnight. The only issue here is that your marinade will get diluted by the liquids that come ot of the fish as it thaws.

Procedure: sprinkle about a third of the ground almonds on a baking sheet in basa fillet-shaped patterns. Lay each fillet on its own bed of almonds and then sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top. Pat down gently. You’ll likely have some marinade left in the bag. I extracted the remaining ginger from the bag and put it on the fish, but I like things gingery. Then I sprinkled the fish with a bit of salt. I discarded the leftover marinade. You could probably turn it into a nice white sauce if you’re feeling ambitious.

Remember the 420F to 450F oven from the roasted veggies? The basa goes into that oven on the bottom rack for about 20-30 minutes. I can’t remember exact cooking times for fish, but in general fish likes short cooking at a high temperature so I’m probably breaking all sorts of rules. In any case, I baked it until it was done. It was more of an open braise since the fish is pretty wet to start. By the end, the almonds crust over quite nicely but don’t really roast.

After about 15 minutes the root vegetables were ready so I took them out to add the herbs, and left the fish in the oven.

Due to some timing issues all the food was ready about 10 minutes before the diners so I turned off the oven and let the fish sit in the cooling oven. I was lucky that it didn’t dry out.

Once all the food (and the diners) are ready, plate everything up. I put the basa on top of the rice. I had prepared the cucumber pickles earlier in the day.

Prep tip: line your baking sheets with parchment paper for easy removal and cleanup.

Instant Japanese Style Cucumber Pickles


This is based on a recipe I found on the Just Hungry blog for Instant Tsukemono (Japanese Pickling) Seasoning Mix.

  • 3 asian cucumbers (or 1-2 long english cucumbers, seeded, or 2 slicing cucumbers, peeled & seeded)
  • fresh ginger root (approx 1 tbsp shredded)
  • fresh lemon juice (about 1 tsp to 1 tbsp)
  • sea salt (a pinch or two, to taste)
  • fresh green shiso leaf, chopped fine (I used 6 medium sized leaves)
  • toasted sesame seeds (I used about 1-2 tbsp)

Cut cucumbers into quarters lengthwise. The asian cucumbers I used are approximately 3/4 to 1 inch diameter. If you’re using larger-diameter cucumbers, cut into sixths or eighths. Cut diagonally into 1/8 inch slices.

Add shredded ginger. You can manually cut into matchsticks, or use a cheese grater. I used a benriner mandoline. (Time-saving tip: just shred a couple of chunks of ginger all at once. If using within a few days, save in your container of choice. If saving for longterm use, put in a plastic zip top bag, expel most of the air, flatten the mass of shredded ginger then score into 16 squares with a chopstick. Freeze, then just break off as many squares as you need for your recipe.)

Finely chop the shiso leaves. If you don’t have fresh shiso leaves, you can use yukari gohan mix but reduce the salt in the recipe. If you don’t have access to shiso _anything_, use another aromatic herb. Just note that it won’t taste as “Japanese”. Keffir lime, basil (Italian or Thai), mint all work well.

Add the salt and sesame seeds, mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

You can eat it immediately, or you can let it sit for awhile to let the flavours mingle.

Other options:

This isn’t really a pickle as much as it’s a savory salad. It works well with substitutions. The basic idea is a carrier vegetable, something salty, something sour, one or two aromatics, and optionally something sweet. I also usually add kombu (kelp) powder for umami, and sometimes a bit of honey. Adjust proportions of the seasonings depending which flavours you want to dominate. Here are some ideas for alternate versions:

  • Other vegetables: substitute in zucchini, grated carrot or beet, red bell pepper instead of the cucumbers
  • Other flavours: oregano or basil (or both) & zucchini, black pepper, cracked mustard seeds, crumbled feta instead of salt, vinegars or lime juice instead of lemon. Tom yum paste. Tumeric and/or cardamon. Honey. Remove sesame from most of these.

If you want to avoid the liquid that gets drawn out of veggies by the salt, cut them down to size and then sprinkle with salt. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for 1-3 hours. This will draw out the water. Drain and rinse well, then drain again. Mix in the other ingredients; you may have to adjust the salt in the final recipe.

Chicken Ginger/Cardamon Salad on Sweet Potato Noodles

Chicken Ginger/Cardamon Salad on Sweet Potato Noodles
Tuesday, August 19, 2014 (lunch)


  • Ground Chicken (about 350g)
  • 1 Zucchini, juleinned (or are those large matchsticks?)
  • Optional: 1 Small Carrot, grated
  • 1 Fresh Lime, juiced
  • Ground Green Cardamon 1-2 tsp
  • Fresh Ginger, (about 1/4 cup grated)
  • Salt to taste
  • Sweet Potato / Yam Noodles (about 250g)
  • Olive Oil (I used extra virgin, about 3 tsp)

Prepare/cut all the ingredients.

Mix the chicken with 1 tsp cardamon and half the lime juice, and about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt.I did this while the water was coming to a boil, and let it sit for all of about 5 minutes.

I started cooking by bringing a pot of water to a boil for the yam noodles since they take the longest.

Once the noodles were in the boiling water, I heated up my wok on medium heat. (Yes, I know that wok cooking usually requires super high heat. I’m using it more as a semi- nonstick frypan.) Add olive oil (I used about 3 tbsp) and shredded ginger. Fry for about 30 seconds then add the chicken. Mix around so the chicken doesn’t clump up. There should be enough moisture in the chicken that it will cook in its own steam, uncovered. Once the chicken is cooked, add in the zucchini. Stir fry until it begins to soften, then add the carrot. I only added carrot to give the dish a bit more colour variety. Adjust seasoning (salt and cardamon) and mix it well, then remove from heat. I cooked this on a single-burner induction hotplate so I just turned off the heat.

While I was working on the chicken/zucchini stirfry, I kept checking the noodles for doneness. When they were done, I drained them and portioned them into bowls without rinsing. After that I mixed the stirfry again and then laid it out on top of the noodles. Finish by pouring on the rest of the lime juice.

Other Notes:

  • I cut the zucchini by hand; carrots and ginger with a Benriner mandoline slicer using the medium comb.
  • This was supposed to be lunch for two people, but neither of us was able to finish; it would probably feed three.
  • This can be served hot, cold, or lukewarm. I didn’t time the cooking perfectly so the stirfry was done before the noodles. We had lukewarm stirfry on hot noodles.
  • From start to finish this took about 30 minutes, not including cleanup time.

Obvious Restaurants

Today was yet another day of exhaustion. We had the first day of our class match at school—all of the homerooms compete against each other in various sporting activities—plus I revised a recommendation letter that another teacher wrote for one of his students, and did some coaching for an interview exam that a few of my students will have on Sunday.

And that was just the morning. I took the afternoon off and, among other things, dealt with a whole bunch of moving-related logistics. Is this interesting? I think not, so I’ll give you a couple of photos to look at.

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Comme Ça Dogs

In yesterday’s post, Pat asked if that really was a dog among the window display mannequins. The question made me realize that I’ve come to see pet mannequins as a normal part of the shopping experience. They just blend in with everything else and seem so unremarkable that I can’t even remember if there are such things back home. Are there?

In any case, for today’s post I made a slightly clearer crop of yesterday’s photo, starring the dog. And then I dug through my photo archives for some more samples.

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Culinary Herbs: Too Rare or Too Dear

Back at the beginning of April, Teresa Nielsen Hayden—co-host with her husband of an excellent blog called Making Light—posted about food, specifically a sole in a panicky green sauce that she’d made. Being the foodie that I am, I read through—and added to—the discussion her post generated, which was full of people talking about the herbal dishes they were concocting.

There were many descriptions of sauces that, for lack of the appropriate plant matter, I’ll be unable to attempt until I get back to Canada. My contribution to the discussion consisted mostly of moaning about the difficulty of finding fresh, affordable herbs in Japan. Let’s just say that as my envy grew, so did the pressure in my salivary glands, and it’s a good thing I knew where my towel was.

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Iron Chef Sighting at 7-11

A while back I wrote about Ogopogo. A few days later, I encountered something Ogopogo-like while out and about. Around the same time—on April 14th—I wrote about my assorted Iron Chef encounters. And the following week Lia told me that she’d seen a poster of the original Iron Chef Japanese, Rokusaburo Michiba, in the window of our neighbourhood 7-11 store.

At the time, I didn’t have a chance to take a photo and by the time I did, the poster was gone. Luckily, the poster reappeared and I was able to hurriedly take some pictures of it on the morning of May 3rd as we began a journey to Hikosan in southeast Fukuoka.

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Foraging for Berries

I’ve been initiated into the grand Japanese tradition of gathering wild seasonal foodstuffs. Or rather, I’ve initiated myself into the tradition. At least every couple of days for the last few weeks I’ve seen one or more people picking plants, fruit, or flowers on public land. There have been broad-leafed greens in shaded woods. Japanese fiddleheads. Edible wild grasses. And so on.

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Ice Ice Baby

A couple of weeks ago, around the time I was starting to think about writing the Kokura fashion report, one of the Japanese teachers at my school received a courier package. That’s Japanese as in literature, composition, and such, since besides me, everyone at my school—students and staff—is ethnically Japanese. The receiving of a parcel isn’t unusual in and of itself, since various teachers often get deliveries: textbook samples, standardized test scores, home ec supplies. The list goes on. I only noticed it subconsciously, absorbed as I was in correcting some second-year student translations—which, coincidentally, were all about fashion—until the teacher in question stopped by my desk and showed me the open box and started gesturing towards its contents. She eventually flagged down an English teacher to translate.

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