The World Cup is upon us, and there’s no better time to embrace the cultures of all the competing countries. I’m a huge fan of Japanese food, so I’ve chosen to take a look at the institution of the izakaya.
An izakaya is a Japanese bar that serves a wide range of delicious sharing plates as an accompaniment to alcoholic drinks – a bit like an Italian aperitivo bar. The idea is starting to filter through to the UK and is already pretty big in Australia and the US. To me it looks like the perfect dining companion while watching the football.
If I had to choose just one type of food to eat for the rest of my life it would undoubtedly be Japanese. As well as being delicious, it leaves me feeling nourished and satisfied. This does not just apply to sushi, but all the little delicious hot plates such as gyoza (dumplings), okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake), yakitori (little skewers of meat or vegetables) and tempura (deep fried stuff!), to name but a few. Some of these are harder to recreate at home than others, but I urge you to get some prawn crackers, put some Asahi on ice and create your own izakaya food.
Firstly, sit on the floor. Your coffee table will work just fine; just put some cushions on the floor and get cosy with your guests. Start with some edamame beans, which you can buy frozen in Asian supermarkets. Cook them according to packet instructions and sprinkle with sea salt.
Next, why not try making an okonomiyaki – this is a delicious Japanese-style omelette or pancake that varies in ingredients according to the region it is made in. Jamie came up with a pretty amazing recipe in his latest book, Save with Jamie.
Yakitori are another izakaya classic that are easy to recreate at home. Marinade some bite-sized pieces of boneless chicken thigh in ginger, garlic and oyster sauce for a couple of hours, carefully thread them on to small pre-soaked skewers, then pan fry or griddle them until crisp and cooked through. Of course you can experiment with all sorts of ingredients for your ultimate yakitori.
My absolute favourite izakaya dish, though, has to be gyoza. These gorgeous little dumplings are traditionally part-fried and part-steamed so that they are deliciously crisp on the underside and delicately soft and silky on top. You can buy the dumpling pastry in any Asian supermarket, so all you have to do is fill them; here’s how.
Prawn and coriander gyoza recipe
- 250g raw, shelled prawns
- 1cm piece of ginger, peeled
- ½ bunch coriander
- 4 spring onions
- 20 circular gyoza wrappers
- soy sauce and rice vinegar, for dipping
Place the prawns, ginger, coriander and white of the spring onions in a food processor and blitz until you have a paste. Lay your gyoza wrappers on a work surface and place a teaspoon of the prawn mixture on each. Moisten the edge of each gyoza and fold them over, pushing the air out and making sure no filling can escape. Crimp and fold the edges so you have beautiful little dumplings.
To cook, simply heat a little groundnut oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the gyoza (you may need to do this in batches) and fry for 3 minutes, or until golden and crisp underneath. Add a good splash of water, cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the gyoza are steamed and cooked through. Serve the gyoza with a dipping sauce of soy and rice vinegar and sprinkle over the chopped green of the spring onions.
There you have it; a tasty, football-friendly dinner for you and your mates. C’MON JAPAN!
For more countries from Jamie’s Foodie World Cup, click here.