Sunday, 27 May 2012


Yakisoba, literally meaning fried noodles, is the epitome of Japanese junk food. It brings back wonderful memories for me, such as frying up a giant flat pan of them with large slabs of pork on the gorgeous beaches of Okinawa, or going to summer festivals wearing a yukata, watching fireworks while eating a polystyrene box full of the greasy things.
As such, Mr Jax is currently sitting next to me looking at the photos saying “Choose another picture! That doesn’t look like yakisoba!” (even though he requested and shoved them in his face just yesterday.) While living in Japan, they were the easiest food I could make - buy a packet of pre-cut yakisoba veggies, noodles, a bit of pork and a bottle of sauce and chuck it in a pan until done. 
Here, it’s slightly more difficult. The main reason being that the ingredients just haven’t spread here yet. I was going to attempt my own yakisoba sauce, but then Mr Jax surprised me with a bottle for my birthday. He found it at Johannesburg’s Yamato restaurant. It cost a whopping R60, but I guess Woolies’ ‘wok sauce’ is roughly the same. So if you can’t get to Yamato, or just aren’t willing to pay that much, I will definitely try to make my own sauce in the near future.
The other thing you need is the right noodles. This is somewhat easier. I like using the pictured “Kyushu Ramen” noodles - they’re the most similar to what I used in Japan. (You can get them at any Oriental store - they cost around R20 and have enough in them for 5-6 large servings.) You could also grab a few packets of instant ramen (or probably even 2-Minute Noodles) and cook those up without adding the flavourings. 

Left: Otafuku Yakisoba sauce from Yamato in Joburg.
Right: Kyushu Ramen noodles

Then, the meat... in Japan most of the pork and beef is sliced very thinly for use in dishes such as this, sukiyaki, yakiniku, etc. This doesn’t happen in SA. You ideally want some boneless pork belly or shoulder sliced as thinly as bacon (in fact, I should really try it with bacon!) I challenged my butcher to do it, but the thinnest he could get was 3-4mm, and I had to remove all the bones afterwards. It still worked, though.
Once you’ve got all those, this meal is super easy, and completely worth the effort of finding the above! I’ve cut some sauce and added more vegetables, making it much healthier than your standard Japanese version. This is yet another case where experimentation will reward you. Try any and all vegetables, and it’s great with beef too.
Serves 4
200g thinly-sliced pork shoulder/belly
1 onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced or julienned
1/2 large cabbage, roughly cut
1/2 red pepper, sliced
Yakisoba/ramen noodles (3 small packets from the Kyushu Ramen type bag)
Yakisoba sauce
  1. On a medium-high heat, heat a small amount of oil in a large wok (or VERY large pan) and cook the onion until softened.
  2. Throw in the pork and brown. You can add just a little sauce at this stage to flavour the pork.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrots. Add just a little water to help steam and soften the carrots.
  4. After about 5 minutes, add the cabbage and red pepper. Cook until the cabbage starts to go soft, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the noodles (if using the ones suggested, you’ll have to break them up a bit and add a little water.) Mix them in and then start adding your sauce, a little at a time.
  6. Keep adding the sauce while mixing. Taste a noodle or two every so often to see if you like it. I use about a quarter of the bottle - some people like the flavour stronger, some weaker.
  7. Once it’s the flavour you like, remove from heat and serve immediately. Mr Jax likes to add mayo on top, and many people enjoy it topped with a soft fried egg. I personally like it shoved into my face as fast as my chopsticks can carry it.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Chinese Tea Eggs

Undoubtedly the idea of tea and eggs in one product will be a deterrent to most Western people. Don’t knock it til you try it, though - for one, tea is not the dominant flavour, and two, they are delicious. One & a half billion people can’t all be wrong, right? (Although I do draw the line at scorpions and century eggs.) They’re sold on the street all over China, and in convenience stores in Taiwan, and you can find them simply by following your nose - the fragrant spices used in soaking are unmistakeable. 
Pretty, right? Basically, you boil the eggs, crack the shells and then soak them in spices overnight. When you’re done, peel them and find a uniquely beautiful marbled pattern in each one. You can eat them as you would normal boiled eggs - as is, in salads, with ramen... you could even make some scrummy deviled eggs out of them.
Even pretty while soaking!

2 - 6 eggs
1 cup soy sauce
2 tea bags / 2 teaspoons tea leaves (I used Five Roses, because it’s my favourite. You can use whatever you like)
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1tsp sugar
Optional extras: Orange/lemon rind, Szechuan peppercorns, cloves, fennel, etc
  1. Boil the eggs for about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove eggs from water, leave to cool.
  3. Once eggs are cool, gently crack the shell with the back of a spoon. The more cracks you make, the more marbled the eggs will be. Be careful not to make any big holes in the shell, or you’ll just end up with brown splodges.
  4. Empty about half of the water from the pot, add the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the eggs. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Make sure you watch the pot, as soy sauce tends to overboil very quickly.
  6. Remove from heat and transfer everything to a large bowl. I recommend using a black bowl or a cheap one you don’t care about - this mixture can stain. Also make sure you wipe up any spills immediately.
  7. Cover bowl with clingfilm and leave overnight. The longer you leave the eggs in the mixture, the darker the marbling will be - I left the one on the left in for about 24 hours. The one on the right was in for about 8.
  8. Remove, rinse and peel, revealing the pretty marbling. If you like the spice mixture you used, you can freeze it and use it again.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Cambodian-style Iced Coffee

One of the things I fell head-over-heels in love with when I was in Cambodia last year was the iced coffee. Our over-enthusiastic guide had insisted on taking us to at least three temples before stopping for lunch, so by the time we arrived at the tiny outdoor restaurant next to one of the temples in Siem Reap we were completely exhausted, grubby, sweaty and in dire need of refreshment. This freshly-brewed coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, combined with the hammocks that the restaurant-owners kindly let us melt into (I don’t think they really had a choice in the matter, to be honest) meant that post-lunch we were reinvigorated and ready for the next set of temples.

The picture is awful, but the coffee was heavenly - so good I forgot to take a picture until I was halfway through. 
We know, though, that things this good do not go unpunished, and the ice in said iced coffee was probably what led to me contracting the infamous SE-Asian stomach bug and being out for the count for the next three days or so. Now, however, I appear to have worked out the formula, and can enjoy this magnificence without the after-effects.
In South Africa now it’s probably a little ridiculous to be drinking iced coffee, but it’s just as easy to have hot - just omit the ice and stick the milk in the microwave. I’m sure I don’t even really need to write a recipe for this, but at least the pictures are pretty.
1 shot freshly-brewed espresso
2T condensed milk (or to taste)
100ml milk
A few ice cubes
  1. Pour the espresso into a cup over a couple of the ice cubes to cool down.
  2. Pour milk and condensed milk into a glass. Stir and add ice.
  3. Pour espresso over the top.
  4. Stir it all up and drink it down.
Of course, everyone will have their own coffee preferences. I like mine strong and sweet. You could add more milk, more coffee, or more condensed milk. I hear in Vietnam a lot of people like to drink the Vietnamese coffee super strong with a few tablespoons of condensed milk. Play with it and find the deliciousness that suits you best.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


I felt that, with this blog having a Japanese-food bias, there was no better food for me to start on than the ubiquitous ramen.
Ramen is a type of noodle, originally hailing from China and the inspiration for the South African culinary atrocity, 2-Minute Noodles.
In Japan you can find a ramen shop in any corner, selling the noodles in a variety of broths with toppings as diverse as seaweed, eggs, ham, shellfish and an array of different vegetables. In any grocery store you’ll find at least one full shelf dedicated solely to instant ramen, and convenience stores have special limited-edition varieties, and a hot-water urn next to the counter for businessmen to indulge in a quick lunch.
It’s a crying shame that someone hasn’t yet got hold of the idea in South Africa, as I believe they would make a killing from a decent ramen store catering to South African tastes.
However, thanks to the many Oriental stores here, we can at least partake in a bowl of decent instant ramen.
The best one I’ve sampled from any of the stores in Joburg and Pretoria (and it can be found at almost any of them) is Nissin’s “Demae Icchou” (出前一丁) ramen. 

 They come packaged similarly to 2-Minute Noodles, and the way you make them is similar too, except the part where you empty the broth (and thus all the flavour) out at the end.
They come in myriad different flavours. Some of the ones we currently have at home include Kobe Teriyaki Beef, Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso, Chicken, Prawn, Roast Beef and Satay. There are at least 20 different flavours, though, so get to a shop and check them out yourself, although you may end up like us, just going down the aisle and throwing two of each into the basket. They only cost about R5 each, so it’s a perfect post-latest-petrol-hike meal.

The directions are written on the back of each packet, but it’s simply a matter of dumping the noodles in a bowl, pouring in 500ml of boiling water, sticking it in the microwave for 3 minutes and then pouring in the flavouring packets and stirring.
After that, though, you can make it truly special. For inspiration, follow the packet images as to what to put on top, but really, only your imagination limits you. I’ve done it before with strips of teriyaki chicken, ample slabs of caramelised pork belly and blanched fresh Chinese cabbage.
Today I made a simple lunch of the Kobe Beef Teriyaki flavour (my favourite, although, to be honest, it is a very long way from a Kobe steak) with added fresh coriander, sesame seeds and boiled egg.

Two warnings, though:
First, make sure you gobble it up right as it’s done. Don’t leave it standing or else the noodles will go soggy.
Second, as delicious as it is, it’s not exactly heart-smart. As with a large proportion of pre-packaged “done in 2 seconds” food, it contains a high amount of sodium. So try not to over do it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


My name is Jacqui. I’m a South African who’s just returned to her native Gauteng after living in Japan for five years. While applying for jobs and spending a few hours a week tutoring, I have plenty of free time to spend experimenting in the kitchen. Thus this blog was born, through that experimentation, my love of hearing myself speak, and my passion for photography.
The name of this blog comes from the two identities with which I associate. The first is South African. “Lekker”, in the Afrikaans language, means “nice”, or “good”. Having lived in South Africa for most of my life, I have grown up eating and loving South African food, whether it be Sunday milk tarts on the farm, or a bunny-chow made in a hollowed-out loaf of fresh bread. 
The second part of the blog name, “Oishii”, means “delicious” in Japanese. I spent five years teaching English in Okinawa, a tiny Japanese island closer to Taiwan than Tokyo. There is disappointingly little written about Okinawan food on the net (in English anyway), and I hope to rectify that slightly. Okinawa has a very different culture, including food culture, from the mainland of Japan. Having originally been an independent kingdom with strong trade alliances with China, there is a lot of food similar to Chinese, like the delicious, soft pork-belly dish called rafute. Since the Second World War, there has also been a strong American military presence on the island, giving rise to the innumerable steak houses in existence, and dishes like taco rice.
I currently live with my Japanese partner. Hailing from Tokyo, he has taught me a lot about mainland Japanese food, and is for the moment credited with having made me the best ramen I’ve ever tasted. Together we go rummaging through stores in Chinatown, Johannesburg looking for ingredients we both know and love, or the closest approximations thereof. He has also been known to send me to one tiny shop in Pretoria to buy the specific brand of rice he likes.
In writing this blog I hope to blend all of these cultures and foods (and more if I make/find something particularly good) by writing about both South African and Japanese recipes and ingredients, and the stores and restaurants in South Africa where you can partake in them.
I hope you find my posts informative and enticing or, at the very least, somewhat entertaining.
Here’s to delicious food from ALL cultures!