[Simple] Japanese Dinner Party
もしもし (moshi moshi) = Hello in Japanese.
I love themed dinners! It’s much more fun to plan a meal around a theme – the right music, the right food, the right decorations. Why not make weeknight dinner interesting?! Make it an event…even if there are only 2 of you. As I recently visited “America’s first sake store” in San Francisco, CA (True Sake) and picked up a few bottles to bring home, I was inspired to host a Japanese dinner at my house. I say [Simple] as I’m not about to spend a weeknight after work rolling sushi and frying up tempura shrimp like Iron Chef Morimoto. Who has time for that? In order to properly pull off a [Simple] Japanese Dinner Party, you need a few Japanese-inspired essentials.
1) Select the right music.
I always play music with dinner. Always. No TV. No cell phones allowed. Just music, conversation, and food. Dinner simply isn’t the same without a proper musical selection to enjoy with your meal. And BONUS, playing music during meal time has been shown to aid in digestion AND it’s a free (or super cheap if you are streaming) way to enhance your dinner experience by setting the right ambiance for your dinner theme.
Super easy to pull off…use Spotify or any music streaming device to find the right mix, sync up a small Bluetooth speaker, and hit play. SO, I searched for “Japanese dinner music” on my Spotify app which generated some interesting results – everything from Japanese EDM, Japanese rock (which sounded more like Japanese elevator music – HA!), and traditional Japanese. I settled for the traditional Japanese playlist which was a combo of a nice spa / Geisha house vibe – perfect choice to make your guests feel like they just stepped off a bullet train and landed in a Shojin Restaurant.
For Japanese night, you will need:
- Chopstick holders (Japanese blue carp. LOVE.)
- Soy sauce dishes (Vintage)
- Japanese sake
- Sake cups (I like these for cold sake)
- Japanese inspired napkins (I love the design and technique of these!)
- Candles (These are traditional Japanese candles)
- Japanese slippers – I just like wearing comfy “house shoes” when at home, and these set the tone for the theme. Nice as gifts for your guests or just to wear as the hostess for the evening. This Etsy shop even makes slippers that have been featured on the runway of New York Fashion Week.
Good news is that you can store all of these items in a box and re-use them whenever you need to take another virtual trip to Tokyo. Or, if you don’t feel like ordering a bunch of things online, visit your local Asian market to gather some products – most larger cities have one. For the evening’s beverage, I prefer my sake to be cold and dry. If you don't have a sake carafe that keeps your beverage cold, you can chill your sake in an ice bucket so that it stays cold throughout the course of the meal. This one looks chic on a dinner table or on a cocktail bar (it's also very decorative on my bar cart).
3) Plan the meal.
To keep things simple and healthy, I decided to go for seared tuna, sautéed mizuna, and wild rice for the main meal. For starters, you can serve edamame or Miso soup if you wish. This Miso soup is to die for and is super healthy and organic (you can buy it at Whole Foods in the tofu section or in bulk on Amazon)!
Also, I put the recipes in the proper timing order so you can make sure everything comes out all at once. Great news is that most of the ingredients have a very long shelf life and can be used in many dishes - an investment for your pantry! All in all, this meal took about 45 minutes of prep and cook time – decorating included!
- Rice (wild, brown, white, sticky, jasmine, etc.) – whatever you prefer
- Wild caught tuna
- Authentic wasabi
- Mizuna (or substitute another green of your choice)
- Olive oil
- Salt / pepper
- Soy sauce
- Organic Nori
- Chopped mushrooms
- Chopped green onions
Miso Soup | Recipe
I LOVE Miso soup – it’s easy to make, inexpensive, and satisfying. Typically, Miso soup that you order at restaurants is filled with hidden ingredients and additives, so if you make your own at home, go organic. Miso helps with improved digestion, has anticancer properties, and is a great source of vitamins and minerals. You can make a bunch of it in one batch and then sip on it as a snack during the week before meals to help with digestion. Also, you can make this soup in advance and heat it up just before dinner time.
- Place 4 cups of water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a low simmer over medium heat.
- Chop the nori into small rectangular / bite-sized pieces.
- Add the nori and chopped mushrooms to the sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Before adding the miso paste to the pan, stir 3-4 tbsp of the paste in another small bowl with a little bit of hot water until it’s smooth. This ensures the miso won’t clump when you add it to the sauce pan.
- Add the smoothed miso paste into the sauce pan and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Add salt to taste, top with chopped green onions, and serve!
Wild Rice | Recipe
You’ll want to cook the rice first as it will take the longest. I like to buy whole grain rice from the local Asian market. Oftentimes, whole grain rice is not as processed as other rice and typically still has the husk attached. The husk has a lot of health benefits associated with it, including helping to lose excess water weight and eliminate toxins from the body. But really, you can use any rice that you prefer – white rice, jasmine rice, brown rice, forbidden rice, sticky rice, etc. To cook rice, it is best to use a pressure cooker or rice cooker to ensure the rice cooks perfectly and doesn’t take too much time. This pressure cooker is a great purchase and has a lot of other uses besides rice.
- Using your pressure / rice cooker, measure out enough rice to water for a 1:3 ratio. Typically, I cook one cup of rice with 3 cups of water to serve 2 people.
- Set the pressure cooker for 25-30 minutes.
Sautéed Mizuna | Recipe
Mizuna is a Japanese mustard green that is similar to Arugula. If you can’t find Mizuna, feel free to substitute it with any other green veggie.
- Wash 1 large bunch of mizuna in a strainer.
- Cut the stems off and slice the upper portions into bite size pieces.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat, add 1-3 cloves of minced garlic, and cook for 2-4 minutes.
- Squeeze ½ lemon over mizuna and season with salt and pepper
Seared Tuna | Recipe
When buying tuna, I like to choose ones that are fresh (not frozen) and wild caught (not farm raised). You can use the Seafood Watch website or app to make sure you are selecting the best fish available from your local supermarkets.
- Heat a sauté pan on medium heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.
- The pan is hot enough when the oil starts to sizzle.
- Add the tuna to the pan and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your tuna steaks.
- Remove the tuna from the pan and serve immediately with fresh lemon wedges.
HOW TO BRING IT ALL TOGETHER
After your Miso soup course, serve the wild rice, seared tuna, and sautéed mizuna, a dish of soy sauce, and a small amount of wasabi, if you prefer.
After the meal, you can serve hot tea – green tea is a traditional choice in Japan. Green tea helps lower cholesterol levels and break down fat after a meal. More information / history on tea in Japan here.
いただきます (itadakimasu) = Japanese for “have a nice meal” and said before a meal by those eating it.