If time allows in the busy schedules of modern city living, one of the most harmonious and revitalizing meals you could possibly enjoy can be found in the traditional Japanese breakfast, or asa teishoku. Built around the structural concept of ichijusansai, meaning one soup and three dishes, the standard spread for a Japanese breakfast includes miso soup, salted grilled fish, a piece of rolled omelette, and a couple of small vegetable dishes, all accompanied by the ubiquitous bowl of rice and plate of pickles. Much like a full English breakfast it contains all of the necessary nutrients and calories for a productive morning’s work, but unlike its British cousin doesn’t make you sluggish or weigh you down with unwieldy amounts of meat, and it even contains a large amount of your daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake.
At first glance, a breakfast feast of nine or more components may seem like far too much work to undertake on a day-to-day basis (and in many respects it is- most modern Japanese people now eat a Western-style breakfast of bread or pancakes more often than a traditional spread) but most of the dishes are served either cold or at room temperature so can be made in advance and kept refrigerated until required, with only the soup and rice really needing to be cooked fresh in the morning. All of the dishes from this typical breakfast also work incredibly well when used in a bento lunch or as side dishes to an evening meal.
- 4x 100g salmon fillets
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- Dry the salmon fillets with kitchen roll, then sprinkle the salt evenly over all sides of the fish, pressing it in to make sure it adheres well. Put the salt-covered salmon into a dish and refrigerate for five to ten hours; the longer you leave it, the saltier the finished shiozake will be.
- After it has cured in the salt for your desired amount of time, pour off any brine from the salmon, rinse thoroughly under running cold water and pat the fillets dry. The salmon can now be left overnight for cooking in the morning if you wish.
- Grill the salmon at a medium-high heat for two to three minutes on each side, until the flesh is cooked and starting to brown, and the skin has crisped up.
Kabocha no nimono ingredients
- 400g piece of kabocha
- 500ml dashi
- 30ml sake
- 15ml soy sauce
- 30g caster sugar
- 15ml mirin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Peel and deseed the kabocha before chopping it into bite sized pieces, chamfer the sharp corners away and place the chunks in a medium saucepan along with the dashi stock. Set the pan over a medium heat and slowly bring to the boil before turning the temperature down and simmering the squash for around twenty minutes.
- Add the sake, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and salt to the dashi, and stir gently to dissolve the sugar, being careful not to break up the pieces of kabocha. Simmer the squash in the seasoned stock for a further twenty minutes, until it is tender but still firm and the liquid has evaporated off slightly, then put a lid on the pan and leave the kabocha to cool down in the sweetened dashi broth.
- 100g green vegetables such as spinach, green beans, broccoli or sea vegetables
- 20g white sesame seeds
- 15ml dashi
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- Place a medium pan of water over a high heat and bring it to a boil. Trim the ends off the vegetables if needed, then blanch in the boiling water for one to two minutes. Drain the greens and rinse under a cold tap to stop the cooking process. Place the cooked vegetables in a large bowl, and set aside.
- Toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan until lightly golden, leave to cool slightly then grind them in a suribachi or mortar and pestle until they have mostly become a fine powder; we like to leave a few seeds whole for added texture.
- Mix the dashi, soy sauce and sugar together and pour this over the bowl of blanched vegetables. Stir well to coat with the dressing, then sprinkle the ground sesame seeds over and stir again to combine.
Hijiki no nimono ingredients
- 10g dried hijiki
- 30g carrot
- 50g cooked soy beans
- 60ml dashi
- 15ml soy sauce
- 15ml sake
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Put the hijiki in a bowl and cover with water- the dried seaweed will expand a lot as it rehydrates, so make sure you choose a big enough bowl to allow this! Leave the black strands to soak for fifteen minutes.
- Whilst the hijiki is rehydrating, cut the carrot into fine julienne strips then pour the sesame oil into a small saucepan and heat gently. Add the carrot strips to the pan and sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften. Drain the liquid off the soaked seaweed and rinse well with clean water, then add this along with the cooked soybeans to the pan with the carrot and continue to sauté for another minute or so.
- Mix the dashi, soy sauce, sake and sugar together then pour this into the saucepan. Turn the heat up to high, stirring constantly until there is almost no liquid left. Put a lid on the pan, remove it from the heat and leave to cool completely.
Dashimaki Tamago ingredients
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon dashi granules
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- vegetable oil
- Add the sugar and dashi granules to 45ml of cold water, and mix thoroughly to make sure they dissolve completely (we use granules rather than homemade dashi here because it creates a strong flavour without making the omelette batter too loose). Break the eggs into a large bowl and stir to combine- stirring rather than whisking will stop the mixture from becoming too frothy, giving your finished omelette a smoother texture. When you have mixed the eggs together, add the soy sauce and concentrated dashi liquid to the bowl, and stir well again before straining the batter through a fine sieve into a jug.
- Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan or square tamagoyaki pan, then wipe out the excess with a paper towel making sure that all the pan has a coating. Pour a fifth of the tamago mixture into the pan and tip back and forth to create an even coating over the base. When the egg has started to set but before it is completely dry, roll up the omelette towards the front of the pan, then push the entire roll to the back of the pan. Wipe the surface of the pan with a little more oil and add another fifth of the egg mixture.
- When the second application of egg has started to set, roll the previous omelette over the top of it towards the front of the pan, then push the now-thicker roll to the back again. Oil the pan and repeat this process three more times until you have built up a thick log of layered egg and all the mixture has been used.
- Remove the dashimaki tamago from the pan and gently press it in a sushi mat to give a pleasing square shape and ridged texture, before leaving it to cool down completely.
- 200g nattō
- 1 spring onion
- karashi mustard to serve
- soy sauce to serve
- Empty the nattō into a bowl and stir it thoroughly with a spoon- the more you stir, the frothier and stringier the beans will become, enhancing their sticky neba neba qualities.
- Divide the nattō between four serving bowls, topping each with a splash of soy sauce, a dab of mustard and a sprinkle of finely sliced spring onion.
Asa Teishoku ingredients
- shiozake from above recipe
- kabocha no nimono from above recipe
- gomaae from above recipe
- hijiki no nimono from above recipe
- dashimaki tamago from above recipe, sliced into eighths
- nattō from the above recipe
- assorted pickled vegetables
- 4 bowls miso soup
- 4 portions cooked japanese rice
- 4 umeboshi pickled plums
To serve the asa teishoku, each person should be given a bowl of rice topped with an umeboshi plum, a bowl of miso soup, a small plate of pickles and a quarter of each of the above recipes.
Serves 4 people.