Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Japanese-style Adobo and Other Delicious Things You Can Cook in a Microwave Oven

Japanese-style spicy adobo of Machiko Chiba
What piqued the interest of the Filipino audience most during the cooking demonstration of chef and inventor Machiko Chiba was her adobo. Aside from being the favorite Filipino dish, it was prepared spicy, Japanese-Korean-style, and cooked just using the microwave oven. Most of the audience don’t really use the microwave oven for cooking dishes, but Chiba showed that many dishes, even traditional ones, can cooked using the modern appliance, which has become almost ubiquitous in home kitchens.
Chiba was brought in by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), which is responsible for promoting Japanese agricultural, forestry and fisheries products, among many other functions, for the culinary event “Taste of Japan in Manila” at Restaurant 9501 in Quezon City on January 21, 2016. The multi-awarded chef works with MAFF in promoting Japanese cuisine in different parts of the world.
Winner of several cooking competitions, Chiba has been conducting cooking demos and has written cookbooks such as Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers (Kodansha International), Cook-Zen Kandou Recipes (Nikkei BP Planning), Denshi Range de Raku Raku Okashi Tsukuri (Sekai Bunka Publications) and Taberu Classic (Gentousha Publications). She’s also known for her kitchen inventions such as the Cook-Zen microwave pot and the Kikurage Essence.
Her Cook-Zen microwave pot became indispensible during her “Taste of Japan” cooking demo, where all dishes were cooked in it. Unfortunately, the polypropylene pot is not currently available locally but it can be purchased online in such sites as Amazon.com.
Chiba’s cooking methods might have surprised many because the Japanese is known for favoring and taking pride in their culinary traditions. Japan, though, is also known for advances in technology.
Chiba herself said she initially disliked using the microwave oven. She studied traditional Japanese cooking under famous chefs of Tokyo and Kyoto. The common thing about traditional cooking, she noticed, is that the preparations of these dishes are time-consuming. She had always thought of ways of making traditional dishes easier to prepare. When she went to the University of Pittsburgh to study and then to New York, she changed her mind about the microwave oven. The oven was popular there. She began using the oven and invented ways to combine tradition and innovation. Eventually, she came up with the Cook-Zen pot, a result of 10 years of experimentation.
You just put everything inside the pot and put on the lid, which has a control system. Like a pressure cooker, the Cook-Zen pot traps the steam, which helps in cooking the dish and prevents it from becoming dry. Cooking time takes about four to 10 minutes. 
Aside from the convenience, microwave cooking is also healthy, said Chiba who is now based in New York and Tokyo. One uses less oil with it and the nutrients are not washed away or destroyed as much as in traditional way of cooking over fire.
You can cook almost anything with the microwave oven, as Chiba demonstrated—from vegetables to meats to desserts. Yes, even adobo. Chiba expressed fondness for the garlic-and-soy-sauce based dish, which she was introduced to by a Filipino friend of a friend in Hong Kong several years. She created a version that is sour and spicy, but still has an unmistakable adobo flavor, perfect on top of steaming rice.
The cooking demo concluded with a simple dessert, the baked apple, which also amazed. The fruit became almost translucent slices of yumminess, chewy and zesty.
Find the recipes of her adobo and baked apple, as well as of other dishes, below:

Green beans and fried tofu
150 grams green beans or string beans
1 sheet fried tofu (50 grams)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dashi stock or water
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
Directions: Wash string beans and cut into five-centimeter lengths. Cut fried tofu in half and julienne them into five-millimeter slices. Place beans, fried tofu and all remaining ingredients in the Cook-Zen pot. Mix well, cover and cook in microwave oven on medium-high for four to five minutes, with the steam holes set to “close.”

Simmered eggplant and chili
3 Japanese eggplants
2 fresh Japanese green chilies
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
Directions: Wash eggplants and cut them in bite-size pieces. Cut chilies in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Put all ingredients in Cook-Zen pot and mix well. Cover and heat in microwave oven on medium-high for five to six minutes, with the steam holes set to “close.”

Japanese clams steamed with sake and garlic
400 grams Japanese clams
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ cup sake or white wine
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Directions: Place clams in a bowl and rinse under cool, running water. Drain well. Place olive oil and garlic in the Cook-Zen pot. Heat on medium-high, uncovered, for 40 seconds. Add clams, sake and soy sauce. Cover and cook in microwave oven on medium-high for six minutes with the steam holes set to “close.” Sprinkle with parsley and mix before serving.

Special spicy pork adobo
300 grams pork shoulder
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup rice vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili pepper (red crushed chili)
1 tablespoon Yanninjan (Korean hot paste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions: Cut pork shoulder into cubes. Put all ingredients in the Cook-Zen pot and mix well. Cover and heat on medium-high for 10 minutes with the steam holes set to “close.” Remove and serve over rice.

4 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¾ pounds pork ribs (about eight single ribs)
4 tablespoons ketchup (with small vegetable pieces)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
Directions: Place olive oil and garlic slices in the Cook-Zen pot. Heat on medium-high for one minute without the lid. Add the pork ribs, ketchup, soy sauce and sugar. Mix well. Cover and cook in microwave oven on medium-high for 10 minutes with the steam holes set to “close.”

Japanese roast beef
300 to 400 grams beef round
3 cloves garlic, sliced
80 cc soy sauce
80 cc rice vinegar
Directions: Put beef, fat-side up, inside the Cokk-Zen pot. Add garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. Cover and heat in microwave oven on medium-high for four minutes (for rare) or five minutes (for medium rare) with the steam holes set to “close.” Immediately remove the beef from the Cook-Zen pot so it does not continue to get cooked. Slice and serve.

Baked apple
1 apple, medium
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Directions: Wash and quarter apple, leaving the skin intact. Remove core by making V shaped incision with knife. Cut apple into one to two millimeter slices and place them in the Cook-Zen pot. Sprinkle them with sugar and lemon juice. Cover and heat in microwave oven on medium-high for one and half minutes with the steam holes set to “close.”

Machiko Chiba with daughter Akiko, a pianist who loves to cook