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Whether it’s Thai red curries, Korean noodles or Vietnamese spring rolls, TV chef, Jet Tila is indiscriminate in his love of Asian food. But he certainly has a soft spot for Japanese cuisine.
I caught up with him to discover his favourite Japanese dish – a much contested prize at Inside Japan – and pick up a new recipe for our repertoire.
“In my next life
I’m going to dedicate a decade
to just eating and learning
In your words you were ‘born into the ‘first family’ of Thai food in Los Angeles, having grown up in your parents’ family restaurants. At what point did you start exploring the distinct flavours of other Asian countries?
Growing up between Thai town, little Tokyo, Chinatown, Filipinotown town and Koreatown I was eating all kinds of Asian food from very young, and I would always help my friends’ moms from different cultures leaning how to cook their food.
After going to sushi school, and working with so many great cooks and chefs throughout my career, I’ve never stopped eating and learning about other Asian foods.
If you had to narrow it down, what would be your favourite Japanese dish?
I love donburi! It’s truly one of favourite things to eat; the dashi married with the egg and meat over warm rice is the perfect food experience.
Have you travelled to Japan?
Yes, Tokyo was my favourite place because of the variety of foods. In my next life (or when I become wealthy), I’m going to dedicate a decade to just eating and learning about Japan.
You’ve smashed three Guinness World Records (including one for the largest California sushi roll at a staggering 422ft), any more on the horizon?
I’m gonna take a little break from world records for a little while…!
You used to run a shirokuma café in Las Vegas, do you have any plans to relaunch?
I always have aspirations to open another Kuma Snow Cream, but it has to be in the perfect place. Still not sure where in the world that will be…
We’ll just have to watch this space and keep our fingers crossed for Colorado!
Jet Tila’s Japanese Noodle Bowl recipe – (Nabeyaki Udon—Noodles in Pot)
For more tasty recipes, check out Jet’s book: 101 Asian dishes you need to cook before you die.
Japanese noodle soups, to me, are the ultimate comfort food. This dish is a large bowl of udon noodles with a savory soy broth, veggies, shrimp and poached eggs. A large lidded earthenware bowl is called a nabe, hence the name Nabe-yaki. Yaki translates to ‘cooked’, so the title simply means ‘udon noodles cooked in a pot’.
It’s an old authentic technique where you make your broth, add all items in the bowl uncooked, then let it all heat up together. This develops the flavors of all the ingredients with the broth.
Noodle Broth (Kake-jiru)
4 cups (960 ml) Dashi Stock (page 169)
2 tsp (10 g) salt
3 oz (90 ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 g) sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) mirin
8 oz (228 g) dried udon noodles
¼ lb (95 g) medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined, tails left on
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2–3 scallions, sliced
For the Broth
Combine all the broth ingredients in a small stockpot and bring them to a boil. Remove it from the heat and reserve it. The broth will keep for up to 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
To prepare the udon noodles, bring enough water to cover the noodles to a boil. Add the noodles and cook them until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Shock them in cold water, rinse them and reserve.
In a donabe (Japanese casserole pot) or a medium saucepan, arrange the noodles on the bottom of the pot. Top the noodles with the shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and scallions. Ladle in enough stock to cover the noodles. Cover the pot and bring the contents to a simmer, about 6 minutes or until shrimp are pink. Crack an egg into the center of the pot, cover, and simmer about 4 minutes or until egg is cooked but soft in the middle. Serve as a one-pot meal.
Photo credit: Myleen Hollero