(NEW YORK) — In honor of AAPI Heritage Month the top online retailer for Asian goods partnered with an acclaimed Japanese restaurant owner and chef to bring ingredients and recipes for authentic dishes right to peoples’ doors.
Chef Ivan Orkin fell in love with Japanese cuisine working as a dishwasher in a sushi restaurant at 15 and has honed his culinary focus ever since, creating one of the top ramen shops while living in Tokyo and eventually brought the cult-favorite concept back to his home in New York.
With over 4,000 brands dedicated to bring authentic and trendy Asian goods to U.S. customers, Yami teamed up with the award-winning chef to hand select ingredients to teach home cooks how to make traditional Japanese dishes.
“Fundamentally we share the same goal — bring access to Japanese culture through the food. Chef Orkin is a master of Japanese food,” Yami founder Alex Zhou told “Good Morning America.”
“I’m much less of a Ramen geek and much more of a Japan-ophile,” Orkin explained to “GMA,” adding that he moved to Japan after college equipped with a degree in Japanese language and literature. “I didn’t really decide to open a ramen shop just because I like ramen, it was more about this desire to explore deeply Japanese culture and cooking better. Then when I returned to the U.S. I wanted to expand this vision.”
The pair launched a limited-edition line of curated culinary kits earlier this month that focuses on Japanese pantry staples to make braised pork curry, dashi, tonkatsu — fried pork cutlets — and rice balls, plus it includes full recipes from chef Orikin’s “The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider.”
One of the biggest concerns that fans of his cookbook, or ramen in general, have had is finding the right ingredients for that type of cooking.
“It’s daunting, especially when you decide to be excited about cooking Asian cuisine — or start a new recipe — and you can barely get any of the ingredients, it’s very frustrating when you want to get those flavors,” Orkin said. “Yami has an opportunity to address some of the recipes and flavors and help bring it to customers.”
After a year where people embraced what he called “couch traveling,” Orkin explained that the chef-curated kits are a great way to bring a taste of a new culture to home cooks’ kitchens.
“I’m really driven to have people want to know more about Japan and by extension Asia in general,” he added. “A lot of people are realizing the liberating feeling of cooking — you don’t have to rely on anyone when you’re hungry — and now Asian cuisines are finally getting real exposure and a lot of people want to eat them.”
Another component that Orkin said drives his passion both then and now is that “a lot of people misunderstand Japan and Asia in general.” And this partnership supports Stop AAPI Hate with 100% of the proceeds from the series of themed boxes being donated to help the organization’s work combating racism and hate.
Check out a taste of two of the recipes below that are included in the specialty boxes.
Fried Pork Cutlets (Tonkatsu 豚カツ)
One 1-pound pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup vegetable oil
Bull-Dog tonkatsu sauce
Slice the pork tenderloin crosswise into four equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, place the pork, cut side down, on a cutting board and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the meat into a flat cutlet about 1/2-inch thick. Don’t brutalize the meat — ten to twelve moderately firm whacks ought to do it. Season the cutlets lightly on both sides with the salt.
Set up a breading station by lining up three shallow pans — pie tins work well — and filling them with the flour, egg, and panko, respectively. Lightly beat the egg. One at a time, coat each piece of pork with flour, gently dusting off any excess, then give it a dip in egg and, finally, a coating of panko. Don’t be stingy with the bread crumbs, cover the whole piece of meat and press down gently to ensure a good coating. Transfer to a plate.
Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat to 325 degrees. As a rough guide, the oil is ready when you drop a few pieces of panko in the oil and they immediately sizzle. Fry the cutlets in batches for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack and let rest for a few minutes.
Slice the pork into half-inch-wide strips and serve with steamed rice, a big pile of shredded cabbage, lemon wedges, and a heavy drizzle of Bull-Dog sauce.
Grilled Rice Balls (Yaki Onigiri 焼きおにぎり)
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 rice balls (onigiri), freshly made
2 tablespoons Dashi
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
mentaiko mayo (optional, recipe below)
To make each onigiri, place a 1-foot square of plastic wrap on a cutting board and drop the warm rice into the center.
Use your fingers or a spoon to flatten the rice into a layer about 1-inch thick. Gather the four corners of the plastic wrap together, lift up the rice, and twist the plastic together to force the rice together into a ball. Then use your hands to form the ball into a rough triangle, about an inch thick, twisting the plastic as necessary to compress the rice. This isn’t an exact science. You’re just using the plastic to help you form the rice. Remove the plastic.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, then coat with a little of the vegetable oil. Gently lay the onigiri in the pan and allow to cook while you mix together the dashi, soy sauce, and mirin in a small bowl.
Brush the onigiri lightly with the dashi-soy mixture, then flip them over. Keep brushing and flipping every few minutes until top and bottom are crisp and brown, about 20 minutes, adding more oil as needed. Serve hot with lots of mentaiko mayo, if you’ve made it.
Makes about 1/3 cup
2 ounces mentaiko (cod or pollock roe), gently scraped from the sac
1/4 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
Mix the mentaiko and mayonnaise thoroughly together in a bowl. Serve immediately.
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