Easy Peasy Japaneasy
Posted by Mandy Sacher on May 28, 2017
Posted by Mandy Sacher on May 28, 2017
Japanese is the healthy fast food that both parents and kids love. Most Japanese restaurants and sushi spots have a family-friendly vibe… and it beats chicken nuggets and fries hands-down in the nutrition department. Even fussy eaters can be tempted by the many finger food options available.
But have you have considered DIY sushi, or does the thought of rolling sushi at home make your palms sweaty?
Japanese cuisine is actually a lot simpler than it may appear. Many of the ingredients can be found in supermarkets, or they may already be sitting in your pantry. Clean textures and flavors, as well as a few key ingredients and simple combinations, are the secrets to this nourishing cuisine.
And kids love it too because, aside from the many finger food options (always a winner with children and babies), the food is often served separately, unhindered by intricate sauces. ‘Picky eaters’ can feel overwhelmed when food is mixed together because the textures and tastes become too complex and are no longer familiar. They want to recognize the foods they like and reject the foods they dislike. Japanese food is clean and simple so it works well for fussy little eaters.
Here are two great Japanese inspired dishes for you to try at home… they’re easy, we promise! You can even get the kids involved in the process. The following recipes have the flavor you expect from your favorite Japanese meals but without the added extra sugar and high salt content.
Lunchbox Favorites: Healthy Sushi Roll Wraps
Don’t be put off by trying these at home – you don’t need to be a master sushi chef! We have swapped the white rice for healthier quinoa, but added some coconut milk to bind it together like the sticky rice in sushi. Plus, this adds a natural sweetness that kids love. The tuna ‘mayo’ filling is made with protein packed, Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
Coconut Quinoa and Tuna Nori Wraps
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 tbsp coconut milk
1-2 tsp Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
14 oz can tuna, in spring water or extra virgin olive oil
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
3 baby cucumbers, cut into batons
4 nori sushi wraps
Sea salt to taste (optional)
- In a small bowl, mix together quinoa, coconut milk and tamari. Set aside in the fridge to become ‘sticky rice’.
- Drain the tuna and mix with the spring onion and yogurt.
- Place one nori wrap lengthwise on a bamboo sushi roller (optional) or cutting board.
- Place 3–4 heaped tablespoons of quinoa and spread evenly through the middle of the wrap, leaving some space on the top and bottom.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the tuna mixture along the bottom third of the quinoa. Top with the cucumber slices.
- Roll up tightly with the mat or using your fingers. Tuck the bottom of the wrap in tightly behind the cucumbers, then roll up the rest of the way.
- Dot some water at the top of the nori to seal the roll together.
- Cut on the diagonal half way to make two wrap sandwiches.
Tip: You can play around and add avocado, carrot or capsicum batons, or try grilled mushrooms for an extra savory twist. Replace the tuna with flaked salmon or flathead for a delicious alternative.
Easy Family Dinner: Slurpy Soba Noodles
These noodles are packed full of colorful veggies and tender chicken pieces. Kids absolutely love to slurp up the noodles with the flavorsome broth. This dish is very low in salt and sugar, yet has the most delicious taste – you’d never know! The natural sweetness of the veggies is all it needs.
Sesame Soba Noodles with Chicken, Carrot and Peas
½ lb chicken tenderloins
2 Tbsp Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
2 spring onion
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
½ cup frozen baby peas
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 packet (9 oz) soba noodles
2 cups chicken, vegetable or beef broth
- Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Grate ginger and garlic and finely chop the spring onions. Add to the bowl along with the soy and rice vinegar. Mix to coat and let the chicken marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Cook the soba noodles for 3 minutes in rapid boiling water, then drain and pour over cold water to stop them cooking further. Drain the water and set aside.
- Heat the sesame oil in a large wok or frying pan. Add the carrots and onion and soften for 5–7 minutes. Using tongs, add the individual chicken pieces to the wok but leave behind the marinade. Stir for another 3–5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the peas, the remaining marinade and stock and bring to a simmer.
- Add the noodles to the wok and use the tongs to turn to coat. Once heated through, tong some noodles into serving bowls and ladle the juices over. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- Use any vegetables you and your kids like! We loved using an orange and yellow carrot for the vibrant sunshine-like colors.
- It may seem odd to suggest beef broth with this chicken dish, but in Japanese cuisine a savory broth is often used in noodle dishes, made from various stock bones. The richer and deeper the flavor of the broth, the more umami (savory flavor sensation) it has.