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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Preparing washoku meals can be simple

 •  Principles of washoku

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Gomoku chirashi zushi, a sushi dish with an assortment of toppings, is prepared in classic washoku style with five colors, five flavors, and five cooking methods.

Leigh Beisch

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Go shiki: Include five colors red, yellow, green, black, white.

Go mi: Include five flavors salty, sour, sweet, bitter, spicy.

Go ho: Use five methods simmering, broiling, steaming, frying, raw.

Go kan: Appeal all five senses sight, sound, smell, touch, taste.

Go kan mon: Be mindful of the five outlooks respect food producers, do good works so as to be deserving of the meal, come to the table cheerfully, eat for spiritual well-being, struggle to attain enlightenment.

Source: Elizabeth Andoh, "Washoku: Recipes From the Japanese Home Kitchen" (Ten Speed, hardback, $35)

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When Elizabeth Andoh teaches Westerners about the principles of washoku the philosophy of varied colors, flavors and preparation methods that underlies Japanese cooking she is fond of saying that a sandwich can be a washoku meal, if you choose appropriate ingredients.

In other words, it needn't be a complicated, multicourse menu.

An example is her recipe for donburi, the quick rice bowl meals so beloved of Japanese and of Islanders. San Shoku Donburi rice bowl with three-colored topping was the dish that taught her daughter chopstick dexterity. It requires some skill to be able to pick up the fine ingredients, particularly soboro soy-simmered, fine-crumbed browned meat. Similar to a sloppy joe mix, soboro fillings are great to make ahead and chill or freeze, she writes in her book, "Washoku: Recipes From the Japanese Home Kitchen" (Ten Speed Press, hardback, $35).

San Shoku Donburi can be made with from-scratch ingredients or thrown together with the aid of frozen and bottled products. Although this version calls for ground chicken, you can use any ground meat, or even minced meats. In an e-mail after our phone interview, Andoh noted that you can make a great plum-pork version: In the gingery chicken recipe below, substitute ground pork for chicken and ground plum paste for shoyu. By plum paste, she means Japanese bainiku (pulp of umeboshi, pickled plum), not Chinese plum sauce. Bainiku can be purchased ready-made or you can make it by seeding umeboshi and putting the pulp through a food processor.

You can also vary the garnish. Remember the goal: five flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy); five colors (one of which ought to be black); five ways (different cooking methods, including steaming, frying, simmering, broiling or raw).


  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen green peas

  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels

  • 3 cups freshly cooked hot white rice

  • 1 tablespoon shredded pickled ginger (see recipe below) or chopped fresh tomato

  • 1/2 sheet toasted nori, crumbled, or furikake

    If chicken is freshly prepared, keep it hot. If it has been refrigerator or frozen and thawed, place in skillet over high heat and stir until hot, breaking up meat into small clusters.

    If using fresh peas and corn, bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil, add peas and cook 3 minutes; drain. Repeat with corn. If using frozen vegetables, place peas and corn in separate heat-proof bowls and cover with boiling water; let stand a moment, stir and drain well.

    To assemble the dish, divide the warm rice among 4 donburi or other deep bowls. Place a single chopstick on the rim of the bowl, laying it across the center to serve as a guideline for covering half the rice neatly with cooked chicken. Spread hot chicken over half the rice. Now shift the position of the chopstick so that it is perpendicular to the first position, creating a guideline for diving the uncovered rice in half. Place one-quarter of the peas on one section and one-quarter of the corn on one section.

    Place a cluster of pickled ginger and bits of nori on top. Repeat with remaining three bowls and serve immediately with spoons and chopsticks.

    Makes 4 servings.

  • Per serving: 340 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 4 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 24 g protein

    The original of this recipe calls for ground chicken, but that's not always available. You could use the more readily available ground turkey, but I prefer to mince chicken pieces. Be sure to use both light and dark meat; dark adds flavor and moisture. About two skinless, boneless chicken breasts and one skinless, boneless chicken thigh will give you the 12 ounces you need.


  • 12 ounces ground or minced chicken

  • 2 tablespoons sake

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons shoyu

  • 1 teaspoon ginger juice (grate ginger, squeeze out juice)

    Place chicken in a cold skillet. Add sake and sugar and stir to separate the bit of meat. Place the pan over low heat and cook, continuing to break up the meat, until juices are clear and meat turns white.

    Skim the liquid to remove excess fat and then add the soy sauce. Continue to simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes and then add the ginger juice. Turn up the heat and reduce excess liquid to about 1 teaspoon.

    Keep warm or, if you're making this ahead for use later, remove from heat, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Reheat over low heat, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, stirring to break up clusters.

    Makes 4 servings.

  • Per serving: 120 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 2 g sugar, 18 g protein

    You can use bottled pickled ginger for this recipe, but it might be fun, the next time you come across fresh young ginger at someplace like Marukai or Don Quijote (formerly Daiei), to make your own, without all the chemicals.


  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 piece konbu, 1-inch square

  • 2 knobs fresh new ginger (shin shoga), about 2 ounces

    Combine rice vinegar, sugar, salt and konbu in a small saucepan and let the konbu soak for at least 20 minutes or overnight; the soaking ensures that the natural glutamate of the kelp will mellow the sharpness of the vinegar and enhance the sweetness of the foods that will be pickled in the sauce.

    Place the pan over low heat and, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt, slowly bring to a boil. Cook until sugar and salt are completely dissolved, then remove from heat and let cool in the pan. Remove konbu and reserve. Pour sauce into a glass jar.

    Scrape the thin skin from the knobs of new ginger. Cut into tissue-thin slices with a very sharp knife or mandoline.

    Fill a 2-quart nonreactive pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling oil. Place new ginger in water; blanch for 45 seconds after the water returns to the boil. Drain and transfer to jar holding marinade. With clean chopsticks, press down slices to make sure they're submerged, then place the konbu piece on top. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

    Allow pickled ginger to mature in refrigerator at least 2 hours and up to 1 week before using. Discard konbu. Ginger can be stored in refrigerator for several months.

    To serve, drain and blot away excess liquid. Coax the slices into a cluster or mound to garnish foods.

  • Per serving (1 teaspoon): 5 calories, no fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 1 g sugar, no protein

    Reach Wanda A. Adams at wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.