Saturday, 27 April 2013


A few weeks ago I was very fortunate to be part of a small group that was invited to a ramen cooking experience with Wagamama's head chef and trainer Juan Carlos Manteca. Juan has developed a great passion for Japanese food through his work in Wagamama's restaurants in Belfast, Cork and Dublin over the last 7 years. 

Juan started off with a very interesting presentation on ramen. Ramen was brought into Japan from China and over time has become one of the most loved dishes in Japan. Throughout Japan you'll find thousands of ramen restaurants (called ramen-ya). Japanese people believe that ramen making is like an art so each ramen-ya closely guards their secret ramen stock recipe and method of preparation. This art of ramen making is portrayed in a Japanese comedy film called "Tampopo" and an American film called "The Ramen Girl". 

Ramen is a noodle dish served in a flavoured soup with toppings such as bamboo shoots, boiled egg and seaweed. The four main categories of ramen include:
1. Shio - yellow coloured soup usually made from chicken stock
2. Tonkotsu - cloudy white coloured soup made from pork stock
3. Shoyu - clear brown soup made from chicken/vegetable stock and soya sauce
4. Miso -  miso paste mixed with one of the other flavoured stocks

After learning about ramen we got ready to start cooking in Wagamama's South King St kitchen in Dublin. We were each presented with our own Wagamama hat and apron. Juan explained that we'd have a ramen cook-off where each one of us would make our own ramen and then we'd rate each person's ramen.

It felt surreal to be at the other side of the counter as a chef rather than a customer. We had a quick tour around the kitchen and then started to make our own ramen. I made a salmon ramen with vegetables using pork stock (which Juan had been up the night before preparing) and miso paste.

Here's my Salmon Miso Ramen

My Wagamama pose which believe it or not was not a pose (I was tasting Wagamama's ramen stock)!

Wagamama's cooking experience has been enjoyed by the Irish Rugby team and the Irish Olympic team. I had so much fun with Juan and all the staff there. Thanks so much it's an experience that I'll always treasure.

Patrick Hanlon from RTE Food also attended this, click here to see his article on the ramen experience. 

View Wagamama's selection of ramen dishes at

Friday, 19 April 2013


The wasabi in this salad dressing adds a nice kick and goes really well with smoked salmon. You should be able to find all the ingredients for this salad in the world food section of your local supermarket or your local health store.

Salad ingredients:
100g mixed salad leaves
100g smoked salmon (cut into bite size strips)
200g tofu (drained and cut into small cubes)
2 x peppery radish (thinly sliced)
Freshly chopped mint & basil (optional to garnish)

Japanese dressing ingredients:
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Half tsp sesame oil
1 tsp wasabi paste

Serves 2

1. Toss the salad leaves, smoked salmon and radish together in a salad bowl.
2. Gently add the tofu pieces.
3. Stir all the Japanese dressing ingredients in a small jug.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad just before eating.

5. Garnish with freshly chopped mint and basil if you have some.
Why not:
Add prawns instead of salmon.
Make sure to stir the salad dressing ingredients just before pouring over the salad as the wasabi will sink to the bottom of the jug.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


For this recipe I used the "Farmer to Market" high quality free range chicken which is available in Supervalu. "Farmers to Market" is a group of 12 Irish farmers from the Cavan and Monaghan area who formed a partnership with Manor Farm Chicken processors to provide free range chickens to Supervalu.

Celebrity chef Nevin McGuire interviewed one of the farmers (Kennett Hall) from Cavan as part of his RTE Home Chef programme. During Nevin's interview with Kennett he was told that the chickens roam freely during the day on green pastures and are fed a diet free of antibiotics and hormones. Click here to see the interview on youtube.

A few months ago I heard a very educational interview on the radio between Suzanne Campbell and Pat Kenny about the Irish chicken industry, the complicated supply chain of imported chicken and the issues that surround it. Click here to listen to this interview aired on 29 January 2013 12:00 called "Chicken - do you know if you are getting Irish produced chicken or not".

Serves 4 


A. Chicken Katsu (breaded chicken)
4 x chicken breasts (preferably free range or organic)
Plain flour (for coating the chicken breast)
2 x egg, beaten (preferably free range or organic)
Panko breadcrumbs (can use normal breadcrumbs)
Salt & pepper (to season chicken)

B. Curry Sauce
Large garlic clove (peeled and finely diced)
Onion (peeled and roughly chopped)
Large carrot (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
Large potato (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
4 cubes Japanese curry (half a pack 120g)
700ml cold water
Vegetable oil, for frying and deep frying
Pickled vegetables or ginger (optional to garnish) 

C. Rice
320g uncooked rice

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy based saucepan on medium heat and fry the garlic and onions for a few minutes.
  2. Add the carrots and potatoes. Mix all the ingredients together in the saucepan. Fry for a few minutes on medium heat.
  3. Pour 700ml of cold water into the saucepan, place the lid on the saucepan and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are cooked (about 15 minutes).  Start to boil the rice now.
  4. Cut the curry paste into square pieces and place in a cup and add some of the water from the saucepan and mix using a fork or small whisk removing any lumps. Add to the saucepan and stir using a wooden spoon. Let it simmer until you are satisfied with the consistency of the curry (5 minutes or less). If it's too thick then just add a little water.

    Japanese S&B curry can be bought in Asian markets
  1. Cut the chicken breasts into 2 thin halves like a butterfly cut (this will allow the chicken to cook through faster in the oil).
  2. Coat the chicken breast slices in flour, dip in the beaten egg and cover in panko breadcrumbs.
  3. Heat enough oil for deep frying in a heavy based saucepan to 170 degrees Celsius.
  4. Place a bit of panko into the oil to check if the oil is hot enough. 
  5. Gently place the breaded chicken breast into the oil. Fry for a few minutes until the panko turns a nice golden brown colour and then turn over and fry for another few minutes.
  6. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen towel.
  7. Cut into bite size pieces while it's still hot.
  8. Serve on a plate with boiled rice and curry sauce. 

Click here to see my post on how to prepare and cook Japanese rice. If you don't have Japanese rice you can use another type of rice for this recipe. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


If I ever get a chance to return to Japan I'd love to go during the cherry blossom season. Cherry blossom is called "sakura" in Japanese and is the national flower of Japan. Every spring cherry blossom festivals take place in Japan and around the world to celebrate Japanese culture and the beauty of cherry blossoms.

During the cherry blossom season Japanese people participate in a Japanese custom called "hanami" which means flower viewing. They sit under cherry blossom trees and admire the beauty of the blooming flowers while enjoying their packed bentos

When I was a student in Japan I lived in a beautiful town called Kanazawa. During the spring of that year I visited a park in Kanazawa called Kenrokuen to view the cherry blossoms. I'll never forget how amazed I was by the beauty of the cherry blossoms. It was only later I learnt that Kenrokuen is one of the most beautiful places in all of Japan to view cherry blossoms

You should see if there is a cherry blossom festival near you this year as it's a great way to celebrate the coming of the spring. 


In Ireland, we have a Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday April 7th 2013 in Farmleigh House & Estate in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. This is a great festival with family-friendly Japanese activities, demonstrations and workshops. There are also various other Japanese culture related activities taking place around Dublin in the first 2 weeks of April (further details can be seen on 

You can also view cherry blossoms in the Japanese Gardens in the Irish National Stud in Co Kildare.

All of the photos in this post were taken by my husband and I during our time in Japan. They were taken in various places around Japan.
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