A Modern Japanese Feast and the Importance of Meal Prep

Photo by heftyfoodie (heftyfoodie.com or follow the ig @heftyfoodie)

Just wanted to share a few musings on my kitchen journey today, and will post individual recipes in the coming days.

For my best friend’s birthday, we decided to celebrate with a few close friends (one of them also is celebrating his birthday) at my home. We’re both fans of the Japanese cuisine and naturally, she requested for one of her favorites, Mentaiko pasta for dinner. I decided to create a menu with a modern Japanese theme:

  • Mentaiko Pasta – cod roe pasta, usually spaghetti. This dish originated in the 1900’s.
  • Chizu Korokke (Cheese Potato Croquette)- a Japanese take on the French Croquette
  • Gyoza
  • Wagyu Saikoro Steak Cubes
  • Seaweed Salad

It took me a few days to prepare: I dropped by New Hatchin Japanese Grocery and the regular local grocery store for the mentaiko and a few more ingredients— as well as the takoyaki that was being sold on weekends at the Japanese grocery.

The trip was quite fast because I thought to myself: I have read and memorized the ingredients already and I also have the following at home: seaweed, dried wakame, breadcrumbs, cheese and a few regular pantry items.

So cooking day came. Lucky enough, it was a holiday and there was enough time to cook up a storm before guests started arriving at around 4 pm. I started preparing the mashed potato and the cheese cubes needed in the morning, as well as the ingredients needed for the seaweed salad and the mentaiko pasta.

I was quite sure that because of the preparation, it was going to be smooth-sailing from then on.

Oh boy I was wrong. Because I did not make a list of ingredients and did not check the pantry stock—as I was about to start my korokke, I realized: there are no panko breadcrumbs. So it took me more than half an hour to get to the grocery and buy these.

With more than half hour gone, I rushed through the kitchen scoured through my freezer to get the seaweed, only to find out that the stock I had was expired! No more time to go back again. I decided to botch the seaweed salad and pickled my vegetables instead.

Moving on to the korokke, things sped up since I started preparing earlier.

Potato cheese balls – really glad I started prepping early

But the half hour missed still made me behind schedule–my guests had arrived when I was still on to finishing my Mentaiko Spaghetti. I didn’t have much time to wash up and prepare– and I felt flustered.

Things worked out in the end, and we still had a lovely dinner that we all enjoyed. I will be sharing some of my recipes in the coming days.

Through this experience, realized and remembered the importance of proper planning, meal preparation and mise en place. Because of some of my mistakes in planning and preparing, I felt like I wasn’t at 100% in the kitchen today.

So, homecooks! Don’t forget:

  • Make a checklist and double-check which items are available at home (and their expiry dates!)
  • Prepare early: It is better to chop, measure and line up all ingredients and tools before actually cooking to ensure speed and ease of cooking. This is called Mise En Place in French. The preps I made actually kind of made up for the time lost when I had to run back to the grocery.

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